Los Angeles Dodgers: Ranking the Most Underappreciated Players on the Team
In the short span of two weeks, Yasiel Puig has become the hottest player in baseball, adding yet another top player to an already star-studded lineup.
Nevertheless, as Puig joins All-Stars and Cy Young winners like Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, there is a cluster of Dodgers whose contributions don’t typically make it to the front page of the LA Times.
The journeymen, the role players, if you will.
Let’s take a look at the Dodgers players who have excelled so far this season and haven’t necessarily gotten the recognition they’ve deserved.
6. Mark Ellis
Prior to suffering a leg injury in late April, Mark Ellis was hitting a team-leading .342 batting average with a .363 on-base percentage and even hit his first multi-home run game in two years.
He hasn’t been quite the same since returning in mid-May—his numbers have since fallen to a .274 batting average and .323 on-base percentage—but he is still one of the most steady second basemen in the National League.
The 10-year veteran is a feisty contact hitter who gets on base for whichever power hitter is slotted behind him in the lineup, be it Andre Ethier or Adrian Gonzalez.
Above all, Ellis is an excellent fielder and is always on top of his game mentally.
5. Jerry Hairston Jr.
Judging by the way Jerry Harry (not a typo, the man deserves a nickname) plays, you’d probably assume he’s three or four years younger than his birth certificate would suggest.
The 37-year-old, 15-year veteran is always one of the hardest-working players on the team, and not only exerts full effort but is also still a good player at the plate and in the field.
Unfortunately for Hairston and the Dodgers, he hasn’t been on the field as much this season due to a pair of injuries. But when he has been on the field, he’s been just as solid as he was in his first season as a Dodger last year.
Hairston’s mediocre start to the season at the plate has been succeeded by a .281 average since he returned from injury on May 27.
Per his persona, Jerry Harry has brought tremendous energy to the team this season by never failing to put forth 100 percent effort every single game.
4. Nick Punto
Nick Punto has as much fire in him playing for the Dodgers this season as he ever had playing for the Twins in his prime.
The 12-year veteran kicked off the 2013 season on a tear, hitting .400 with a .488 on-base percentage in April. Although his offensive numbers have leveled off (.265 BA .343 OBP) as he’s been used on a daily basis, they’re still solid.
As a utility man who can—and has—played every position in the infield (except for first base, which he’d be able to play if required), Punto is a priceless asset for the Dodgers, especially as they continue to jumble around the left side of the infield amid injuries and lackluster performance.
In addition to his versatility, the 35-year-old infielder works his tail off every night for the team, hustling in everything he does.
3. Skip Schumaker
Send Skip Schumaker out to any position on the field and he’ll play it with enthusiasm and intensity.
Schumaker is the definition of a utility man, fielding every position on the diamond from second base to all outfield positions and even pitching a scoreless inning for the Blue Crew when they needed a pitcher in extra innings.
He’s no Matt Kemp and doesn’t have the flare of a power hitter that slugs dozens of homers, but the 33-year-old can hit.
In the 56 games (out of 66) in which he’s played this season, Schumaker has hit .268 with a .350 on-base percentage.
The longtime Cardinals utility man also recently held a notable 15-game hitting streak, which drove up his batting average to as high as .281.
2. J.P. Howell
Howell, who came over from the Tampa Bay Rays this past offseason, has been the Dodgers’ most consistent reliever this season, and given the inferiority of the Dodgers bullpen so far, he should frequently be praised.
With a 2.27 earned run average and 1.07 WHIP, the 30-year-old southpaw has been the Blue Crew’s go-to spot reliever this season.
In 28 appearances (32.1 innings pitched), Howell has only allowed more than one earned run in one game and has notched 16 hitless appearances.
His jersey may not be sold in the team store any time soon, but he’s been a valuable asset to the Dodgers this season.
1. Juan Uribe
Yes, Juan Uribe—the Dodgers’ ever-slumping third baseman who hit a combined .199 in his first two seasons with the Blue Crew—deserves a pat on the back for his contributions to the team this season.
Despite a slow start to the season that seemed a preview to another dull season for him (April: .219 BA), the 34-year-old Dominican is hitting .274 with a laudable .366 on-base percentage, second-highest on the team behind Adrian Gonzalez (barring new addition Yasiel Puig).
Although he still has some ugly at-bats, which is practically unavoidable given his choppy, unorthodox swing, and he has the propensity to strike out (26 SO, 23%), Uribe has been getting on base and coming up with big hits when the Dodgers need it.
Better yet, while witnessing the rest of his teammates struggle to perform with runners in scoring position, Uribe has thrived in pressure situations, hitting .286 with a .448 on-base percentage with RISP.