1 Player on Each MLB Team You Should Drop Everything to Watch
There are certain people who do their jobs so well that you just can't help being amazed. Watching Daniel Day-Lewis act, hearing Adele sing or President Obama orate all fall into this category.
But on B/R, we'll stick to sports. Regardless of how much you love or hate certain athletes, you have to appreciate the greats. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant in the NBA. Adrian Peterson in the NFL. Michael Phelps in the pool. All these guys make the world stop turning when they are playing.
So which MLB players could conceivably be on this list? There may not actually be a representative from each team who is worthy here, but we're giving it a shot.
Without further ado, here is a list of the one player on each MLB team who is so good that you should drop everything to watch him play.
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Gerardo Parra, CF
I'm not Parra's biggest fan, but I can't help being transfixed by the guy when he has a bat in his hands or when he's roaming the outfield. Parra packs a lot of punch and attitude into a little frame and can pop one off the 407-foot center field wall at Chase Field or lay down a perfect bunt.
Guys like Parra—who combine power, speed and defense—keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Any time a ball is hit in the vicinity of center field when Parra is out there, you might be seeing a diving catch or robbed home run. He's a career backup outfielder, but he makes every chance memorable.
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Craig Kimbrel, RP
The Braves have been baseball's most ferocious team so far in 2013. Everybody is mashing home runs, and they have the feel-good story of the season, Evan Gattis, hitting in the heart of the order. The pitching has been fantastic, and newly acquired Justin Upton leads the world in homers.
So why a relief pitcher?
Kimbrel is the best closer in baseball. He's just as exciting to watch as Aroldis Chapman and his triple-digit fastball. Kimbrel has pinpoint location, throws in the upper-90s and can break off a filthy curveball, too. There's a reason Braves fans know it's game over when Kimbrel enters.
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Adam Jones, CF
Chris Davis may be taking this spot from Jones as he tears through MLB pitching this April. Also, third baseman Manny Machado may be eyeing this spot as his game continues to develop.
But for now, it's the fan favorite outfielder, Jones.
As one of the more toolsy outfielders in baseball, Jones can play some great defense and cover a lot of ground. But he's come a long way with the bat in recent years, too. In the Orioles' most recent game, he hit a mammoth homer into left-center and made it look easy.
Boston Red Sox
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David Ortiz, DH
Big Papi is getting on in years and likely won't play much longer. But fans should enjoy the time they do have left with one of the most passionate, lovable, clutch players of our generation. Ortiz made a fantastic speech after the Boston Marathon bombings that really riled up the fans at Fenway Park.
Though Ortiz doesn't really play defense anymore, his intimidating presence at the plate is enough to keep a viewer glued to the game when he strides up there. Ortiz can knock one out of the park at any given moment, but he also has a knack for coming up in the most pressure-filled situations.
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Jeff Samardzija, SP
Before this season, my pick might have been Anthony Rizzo or Starlin Castro. And in the future, it could be Brett Jackson.
But for now, I'm going with the ace of the rotation who has shown a flair for the dramatic and a knack for racking up strikeouts.
So far, Samardzija has been the brightest spot on a surprisingly good Cubs pitching staff. He throws hard, has the long hair and fiery attitude and can absolutely dominate a game. He may not be quite at "drop everything and watch" levels yet, but he will be by the time the season ends.
Chicago White Sox
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Chris Sale, SP
The city of Chicago has a bright future in the pitching department with Samardzija on the hill at Wrigley and Sale representing the South side. Sale is very young, throws hard and is reminiscent of another lefty with a slot-arm delivery by the name of Randy Johnson.
Before tailing off at the end of 2012, Sale was a legitimate Cy Young contender in the American League, which is unheard-of for a pitcher in his first full season starting at the big league level.
Keep an eye on the kid, because he's going to be the next great one. Once you do take a look, you won't be able to keep your eyes off him.
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Aroldis Chapman, RP
We mentioned Chapman earlier, and it only stands to reason that he would represent the Reds on this list. There are a lot of elite players in Cincinnati these days, but nobody is as captivating as the side-arming Cuban lefty.
Chapman shuts down the ninth inning with a fastball that can reach 103 miles an hour and a devastating slider. Perhaps the scariest part of Chapman's game is that he can get better. He's in his second full season of closing, and he still has quite a bit of potential to fulfill.
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Carlos Santana, C
For my money, Santana is the most important player in Cleveland right now. He's still somewhat unknown, definitely under-appreciated and fully underpaid.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take my advice and tune in right now to each one of this guy's at-bats.
Even though he can hit with power from both sides of the plate, the thing that interests me about Santana is his insane eye at the plate. He has an uncanny ability to draw a walk and get on base, which is something all aspiring ball players should really learn how to do.
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Carlos Gonzalez, LF
You could conceivably go with Troy Tulowitzki here, but I'm taking the five tools (and better health) of CarGo. He is a legitimate 30-30 threat and has won two Gold Gloves so far.
Nothing captured the magic of Gonzalez's game better than a game in the second half of 2010.
Needing just a home run to hit for the cycle, Gonzalez led off the home half of the ninth inning in a tie game and hit the first pitch he saw into the upper deck of Coors Field. It's a moment nobody who witnessed it will ever forget. And a guy that we can't take our eyes off of.
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Miguel Cabrera, 3B
This was an incredibly difficult decision to make.
In the rotation, the Tigers have the best pitcher in baseball. In the lineup, they have the best hitter in baseball. Normally, I'd lean toward the pitcher. But I can't turn down the 2012 Triple Crown and MVP winner.
Cabrera has been a force in this league since he came up as a 20-year-old for the then-Florida Marlins. Since then, he's been hitting with power and average to all parts of the field. His swing, especially when he hits it to the opposite field, is a beautiful sight.
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Jose Altuve, 2B
Oh, come on. You know I'm copping out here, but what do you expect?
Altuve is the closest thing to a star player that Houston has right now. And Altuve is no slouch—he's just not someone that you can't really tear your eyes off of. This is the problem with being a last-place team.
Some guys do have the potential to be that jaw-dropping player the Astros need. Justin Maxwell has shown flashes of great talent and is extremely athletic. Bud Norris can weave together a nice gem on the hill. And Chris Carter has immense power.
But for now, the little guy is Houston's most exciting player.
Kansas City Royals
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Mike Moustakas, 3B
Forget the fact that Moustakas is off to a terrible start—this kid can really play. Moustakas played in his first full season last year and put up solid numbers on both sides of the ball. Even though there are more notable players (James Shields, Billy Butler, etc.) in Kansas City, Moustakas is the most exciting one.
He's struggling so far in 2013, but when he's on, he seems unstoppable. Moustakas plays with a lot of grit and cleans up everything at the hot corner. His bat will come along, but watching him hit is already fun in itself. He can spray the ball anywhere with power and plays every day like it's his last.
Los Angeles Angels
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Mike Trout, LF
I was so tempted to put Albert Pujols here, because I think he has the best right-handed swing in the game, and you know you're watching a living legend every time he comes to the plate.
But for me, the torch has been passed.
The new king of Anaheim—of baseball, really—is Trout. Last year's AL Rookie of the Year is embarking on another season full of diving catches, long home runs and stolen bases. Trout might not just be the Angels representative on this list. He might be the most exciting player in all of baseball.
Los Angeles Dodgers
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Clayton Kershaw, SP
The Dodgers spent heavily in the second half of last year and this winter to acquire some top-of-the-line talent. But none of those names crack this list. Kershaw, the 2011 Cy Young winner, is by far the best pitcher in the National League, and he does it in a way that's breathtaking.
Comparisons to Sandy Koufax go deeper than just the team affiliation. Kershaw is a young, hard-throwing lefty with impeccable control, a good repertoire of pitches and a high level of intelligence. Every fifth day when Kershaw takes the mound, fans should have their eyes on him.
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Giancarlo Stanton, RF
I don't care how poorly he's started this season. Stanton had my (and the world's) attention last season when he broke the new scoreboard at Marlins Park by hitting a line-drive home run off it.
The young, strapping slugger has the most power in the league and hits the ball at ridiculous speeds. In fact, some players and managers have expressed half-joking concern that one of Stanton's line drives might physically injure a player trying to field it in the near future.
Every time he hits, you should shush your friends and make sure everybody tunes in to each pitch, because he might just hit it from Miami to Atlanta.
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Ryan Braun, LF
Braun is similar to Stanton, except that the 2011 NL MVP is more polished all-around. Braun can hit for average and power, swipe a base and play excellent defense. There's a reason that he snagged the NL MVP award despite a historic season from Dodgers' star Matt Kemp.
Though that last point's merits can be debated, there is no questioning that Braun is an elite hitter in today's game and the one guy in the Brewers lineup who everyone will stop to watch in any situation. That's what long home runs and a clutch gene will get you.
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Joe Mauer, C
While I don't think Mauer necessarily is a "must-watch," he is the best player on the team. That alone earns him this title. Mauer will never hit 30 home runs or drive in 120 runs, but he's going to hit in the mid-to-high .300s every season and play good defense.
There isn't a much quieter star in baseball than Mauer. You'll never hear him complain about his team languishing in the division cellar. You'll just hear the crack of the bat as he adds another hit to his resume. If nothing else, Mauer is a fantastic role model for any aspiring baseball player.
New York Mets
Matt Harvey, SP
With all apologies to David Wright, Harvey is the new kid on the block—and he's really fun to watch. The young hurler can hit in the high 90s with his fastball and has off-speed pitches that are scary good for someone his age.
Harvey has been a revelation in 2013, meaning that everyone knew he had the skills but didn't realize he was ready to dominate this soon. After out-dueling Stephen Strasburg in his last start, Harvey has officially arrived, and I don't plan on missing his televised starts from here on out.
New York Yankees
Robinson Cano, 2B
If you change the channel—or even get up to grab another beer—when Cano steps into the box, chances are you've missed something awesome. Cano has been tearing it up for years in the American League and is likely on track to earn himself a big chunk of change in free agency before the 2014 season.
Not only can Cano hit long home runs and drive the ball to the gap, but he plays a stellar defensive second base and does it all with a relaxed flair that can only be described as "swag." With all the talent that comes through the Bronx every year, Cano might be the best we've seen since the mid-90s.
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Yoenis Cespedes, LF
The Cuban slugger is on the DL right now, but when he's healthy, Cespedes is one of the most exciting hitters in the game. We've seen him pull sliders low and away into the second deck in left field. We've seen him hit a line drive to right center and turn it into a triple.
But what we haven't seen on full display quite yet is his ridiculous range, good arm and defensive intelligence. Right now, people may be tuning in for Cespedes at-bats in hopes that he hits one 500 feet. Soon enough, they will keep the A's game on to watch him patrol the outfield.
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Cliff Lee, SP
When Ryan Howard, Michael Young, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley or Roy Halladay were in their primes, they may have snagged this spot. But for now, we'll go with the starter who is masterful with off-speed pitches and location.
Lee, who rarely walks a batter, has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for the better part of five years now. Even with guys like Halladay and Cole Hamels in the rotation with him, Lee is the most reliable option in Philly right now. His pitching performances are usually like watching a masterpiece being painted.
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Andrew McCutchen, CF
This one is a no-brainer. McCutchen is by far the most exciting player to watch in Pittsburgh, but also one of the best in baseball. He was in the running for an NL MVP award last year, despite his team not sniffing the playoffs.
That's how big of an impact McCutchen has on viewers. He's a likable guy as it is, but when he hits .300 with some monster home runs and is covering the whole outfield making diving plays, you can't help but love a guy who comes off the field smiling every day, win or lose.
San Diego Padres
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Chase Headley, 3B
I wish that relief pitcher Andrew Cashner would get his game together, because someone that big who throws that smoothly and still touches triple digits would definitely have a case here. Alas, it is the team's best player, Headley, who gets the nod.
He really came into his own in 2012, putting up huge numbers and being arguably the best player in baseball during the second half of the season. He can play a good third base and hits for power and average to all fields.
Keep an eye on Headley—he's just getting started.
San Francisco Giants
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Pablo Sandoval, 3B
You may be surprised not to see Buster Posey's name here, but Sandoval is the more dynamic hitter. Posey, last year's NL MVP, is definitely the better player. But you never know what you're going to get with Sandoval.
When you turn on a Giants game, the most exciting player on offense and defense (heck, even in postgame interviews) is going to be the chubby, lovable corner infielder they call "Kung Fu Panda." If you take your eyes off him for one instant, you might miss a splashdown in McCovey Cove.
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Felix Hernandez, SP
I love the moves Seattle made this winter, and I fully expect them to pay off sooner rather than later. But old faithful Felix Hernandez is the guy you want to watch, regardless of who the M's bring in. You feel like King Felix has a chance to throw a no-hitter every time he takes the mound.
Somehow, though it seems like he's been pitching for 15 years, Hernandez is just hitting his mid-20s. That means fans get a lot more Hernandez in the next 10 or so years, and that's something we shouldn't take for granted. Tune in to this man's starts—you won't regret it.
St. Louis Cardinals
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Yadier Molina, C
There are better hitters, like Matt Holliday, on the Cardinals, but watching that goofy outfielder try to run the bases is like watching a newborn baby deer get its legs under it for the first time. I prefer to stay glued to the best catcher in baseball, Yadi Molina.
Not only has the five-time Gold Glove winner been on top of the defensive rankings for MLB catchers for years now, he's a .300-hitting machine since honing his batting skills over the last few seasons.
Even with a stacked roster, good luck tearing your eyes away from the youngest Molina in St. Louis.
Tampa Bay Rays
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Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF
I know, I know. David Price is the reigning Cy Young winner and Evan Longoria is the best all-around player on the team.
But the guy who makes you drool as a fan is Zobrist. He can play any position and hits for power and average at the plate.
As a young player who hasn't settled on a position yet, Zobrist is the model of consistency at multiple spots. He's the one you want to model your game after and make sure you learn the fundamentals from. It may be a dark-horse pick, but Zobrist is my guy on the Rays.
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Adrian Beltre, 3B
How can you resist a guy who goes down on his back knee on home-run-swing follow-throughs? It's absolutely baffling how some balls that Beltre hits clear the fence, but the man has good mechanics and a quick swing.
Believe it or not, Beltre is on pace for a fringe Hall of Fame career. If he stays healthy, you could be telling your kids how you watched one of the best players of all time during your day. Beltre, whether with the bat or his golden glove at third, is a player I can't look away from.
Toronto Blue Jays
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Jose Reyes, SS
Unfortunately, we won't be watching much more of Reyes this season after he injured his ankle sliding into second base recently. Reyes has been placed on the DL and likely won't return until the middle of the summer.
But when he is playing, Reyes is the most electric leadoff hitter in baseball. He can hit for power and has incredible speed around the bases. Plus, he plays with an intensity most people will never match.
Even with all the big hitters and characters in Toronto, Reyes is the one guy I have to watch every time he plays.
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Bryce Harper, LF
Sorry, Stephen Strasburg. You only play every five days. Harper is the NL's answer to Mike Trout, and he's actually proving to be better in 2013. That doesn't mean he is better, mind you, but last year's NL Rookie of the Year is showing why the Nats took him first overall in the 2010 draft.
Harper has a picture-perfect left-handed swing, and the results show. He is prone to hitting balls very, very far and plays with a Pete Rose-esque hustle every day. Speed, defense, power and average complete the package for the young star. Luckily, us fans have a solid 15 seasons of greatness to look forward to with Harper.