The Most Underrated Player on Every MLB Team
From Nelson Cruz to Felix Hernandez, there are a lot of MLB players who simply don't get the respect they deserve.
What follows is a rundown of the most underrated player on every MLB team. As you'll notice, there are a ton of relievers on the list whose contributions are often overlooked. However, there are also aces who are overshadowed by more prominent teammates.
Now, let's take a look at the most underrated player on every MLB team.
Most Underrated Player: Brad Ziegler, RP
The 2014 season has been an utter disaster for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Still, that hasn't stopped reliever Brad Ziegler from turning in a strong start to the campaign. The 34-year-old right-hander owns a 1.04 ERA and has worked in 19 games already, which is tied for the most of any pitcher in baseball. Last year, Ziegler made 78 appearances, which also led MLB.
Most Underrated Player: Julio Teheran, SP
It's easy to forget that Julio Teheran is still just 23 years old. After all, the right-hander debuted for the Atlanta Braves back in 2011.
Last year, the Colombian posted an impressive 14-8 record with a 3.20 ERA in 30 starts. However, this year, Teheran has been one of the top pitchers in the entire National League. Through his first seven outings, the starter has a 1.80 ERA, which ranks fourth in the NL.
Most Underrated Player: Nelson Cruz, DH/OF
It's truly remarkable that the Baltimore Orioles were able to sign Nelson Cruz to just a one-year, $8 million deal.
Cruz has crushed at least 22 home runs in each of the past five seasons and is on the path to doing so again in 2014. For the Orioles, the right-handed slugger has already totaled nine home runs, which is tied for No. 4 in baseball. The 2013 All-Star also owns a .588 slugging percentage, which ranks No. 9 in MLB.
Boston Red Sox
Most Underrated Player: A.J. Pierzynski, C
Suffice it to say that A.J. Pierzynski is not a popular player.
There are all sorts of reasons for the veteran's lack of popularity around the game. However, one factor that is often not pointed out is that Pierzynski is actually really good. The backstop is highly durable, as he has appeared in at least 128 games in 12 consecutive seasons; he's also highly productive.
In his MLB career, Pierzynski is a .283 hitter and an accomplished defender behind the plate. In 2014, it's been no different. In his first season with the Boston Red Sox, the catcher is batting .275 and is third in the club with 15 RBI.
Most Underrated Player: Hector Rondon, RP
Hector Rondon has come a long way since the Chicago Cubs snagged him in the Rule 5 draft back in December 2012. This season, the 26-year-old right-hander has recorded a 1.69 ERA in 15 outings for the Cubs.
The 6'3" reliever has been effective against both right-handers (1.86 ERA) and left-handers (1.42 ERA). Plus, Rondon is now 3-for-4 in save opportunities.
Chicago White Sox
Most Underrated Player: Adam Dunn, 1B/DH/OF
Adam Dunn has always had power.
However, in parts of four seasons with the Chicago White Sox, the left-handed batter is just a .201 hitter. In 2014, though, his average has shot up to .269. The 34-year-old has also been providing just as many home runs as ever.
This year, Dunn has gone yard five times and owns a .495 slugging percentage along with a .900 OPS. The veteran also leads the White Sox with 21 walks.
Most Underrated Player: Brayan Pena, C
Backup catchers generally don't get much attention. That's certainly true of Brayan Pena of the Cincinnati Reds. However, with starter Devin Mesoraco sidelined with a hamstring injury, Pena has been a key contributor for the Reds.
In 20 games, the switch-hitter is batting .328 with a .923 OPS. The 32-year-old's strong start at the plate is not a complete shock considering that he hit .297 for the Detroit Tigers in 71 games a season ago.
Most Underrated Player: Cody Allen, RP
According to Zack Meisel of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cody Allen is "manager Terry Francona's troubleshooter."
The right-hander has been doing an excellent job in that role in 2014. Through his first 16 outings, Allen has posted a 2.03 ERA and totaled 20 strikeouts in 13.1 innings. Allen was also highly reliable for Cleveland a season ago with a 2.43 ERA and 88 punchouts. His strikeout total ranked No. 9 among all relievers in baseball.
Most Underrated Player: Charlie Blackmon, OF
Hitting .358 in his first 33 games, Charlie Blackmon is off to a monster start in 2014. While the numbers have been remarkable for the outfielder this season, it's not as though the 27-year-old came out of nowhere.
Last year, Blackmon hit .309/.339/.467 with an .803 OPS in 82 games. In six seasons in the minors, Blackmon also posted a .309 average. That track record suggests that Blackmon will continue to enjoy plenty of success as the season wears on.
Most Underrated Player: Anibal Sanchez, SP
On just about any other team in baseball, Anibal Sanchez would the undisputed staff ace. On the Detroit Tigers, though, the right-hander is just the No. 3 starter.
Last season, Sanchez turned in a 2.57 ERA, which was the lowest in the AL. The Venezuelan also totaled 202 strikeouts. This year, Sanchez, who is currently on the DL, has posted a more than respectable 3.13 ERA. Nonetheless, that's a higher figure than that of both Max Scherzer (1.72 ERA) and Justin Verlander (2.68 ERA).
Most Underrated Player: Chris Carter, 1B/DH
Chris Carter is widely known for his ridiculously high strikeout totals. Last season, the right-handed batter punched out 212 times, which was the most in all of baseball. However, the 27-year-old also provides the Houston Astros with substantial pop.
In 2013, Carter swatted 29 home runs, which tied for No. 11 in the AL. This year, Carter has gone yard four times and also added seven doubles. Of course, he's also struck out 40 times.
Kansas City Royals
Most Underrated Player: James Shields, SP
James Shields is one of the most consistent starters in all of baseball.
The right-hander has pitched at least 200 innings in seven consecutive seasons and appears to be well on his way to continuing that streak in 2014. The 32-year-old has worked six innings or more in six of seven starts this season and has been highly effective in the process. Shields has posted a 3.11 ERA, 138 ERA+ and a 8.5 K/9 ratio.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Most Underrated Player: Dee Gordon, 2B
On a roster filled with superstars, the unheralded Dee Gordon has been one of the top contributors for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014.
The club's table-setter leads all of baseball with 19 steals and has also excelled at the plate. Gordon is hitting .344 with an .832 OPS and three triples. The 26-year-old is also second on the squad with 17 runs.
Los Angeles Angels
Most Underrated Player: Michael Kohn, RP
Michael Kohn has been a rare bright spot in a bullpen that has struggled consistently for the Los Angeles Angels in 2014.
The right-hander has posted a 1.15 ERA, and opponents are hitting just .113 against him. Recently, the 27-year-old has been nearly unhittable. During his last 10 outings, Kohn has allowed zero runs on just three hits.
Most Underrated Player: Steve Cishek, RP
Steve Cishek doesn't create a ton of buzz, but the right-hander has quietly become one of the top closers in the NL. Last season, Cishek was 34-for-36 in save opportunities. This year, the right-hander is 6-for-7 and has recorded a 2.08 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 13 innings.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is also worth a mention. The 29-year-old is third among all catchers with six home runs in 2014.
Most Underrated Player: Carlos Gomez, CF
Carlos Gomez is one of the best all-around position players in baseball.
The center fielder was tied for the highest WAR (8.9) in MLB a season ago, per Baseball-Reference.com. In 2013, the right-handed hitter collected 24 home runs and also stole 40 bases. This year, Gomez is once again off to a fast start. The 28-year-old has nine doubles, eight home runs and is 4-for-5 on stolen-base attempts.
Most Underrated Player: Chris Colabello, 1B
Chris Colabello isn't just underrated. For years, the right-handed hitter was outright ignored.
The first baseman languished in independent ball for seven seasons before finally getting his shot with the Minnesota Twins. This year, the 30-year-old has totaled 10 doubles and four home runs. He's also collected 28 RBI, which ranks No. 5 in baseball.
New York Mets
Most Underrated Player: Dillon Gee, SP
With a 2.51 ERA, Dillon Gee has played a key role in the New York Mets' surprisingly strong start in 2014.
The right-hander has worked at least six innings in all but one of his outings and allowed three earned runs or less in all but two. The early-season success for the 28-year-old is a carryover from the end of the 2014 season. Last year, the starter turned in a 2.74 ERA in his final 13 starts.
New York Yankees
Most Underrated Player: Alfonso Soriano, DH
It's not easy to be underrated in New York.
However, Alfonso Soriano falls into that category. The 38-year-old doesn't hit for high average, but he provides a constant source of power. In 2014, the designated hitter has already connected on seven doubles and five home runs. His home run total is tied for second on the club. Soriano is also tied for second on the Yankees with 15 runs.
Most Underrated Player: Jesse Chavez, SP
Jesse Chavez has been all over the place.
The right-hander has been traded four times and has pitched in the big leagues with five different teams. Now settled with the Oakland Athletics and pitching in the club's starting rotation, the 30-year-old is making excellent use of his opportunity.
Through his first seven starts, Chavez has produced a 2.47 ERA and has totaled 44 strikeouts in 43.2 innings.
Most Underrated Player: Neil Walker, 2B
Neil Walker provides a lot of pop for a second baseman.
In 2012 and 2013, the switch-hitter connected on 14 and 16 home runs respectively. This year, the 28-year-old is on pace for his best output yet. Walker has already gone yard six times, which ranks second on the team.
Most Underrated Player: Carlos Ruiz, C
When the Philadelphia Phillies signed Carlos Ruiz to a three-year, $26 million deal in the offseason, the move was widely lampooned as yet another blunder by general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
Instead, the 35-year-old has been one of the most productive catchers in all of baseball in 2014. Ruiz has already connected on 10 doubles and has put up an .880 OPS. The veteran has also demonstrated a discerning eye at the plate with more walks (16) than strikeouts (13).
San Diego Padres
Most Underrated Player: Alex Torres, RP
The San Diego Padres acquired Alex Torres in a seven-player swap with the Tampa Bay Rays in January. So far in 2014, the 26-year-old left-hander has been a shrewd pickup for the club.
In his first 16 appearance, the lefty has posted a 0.64 ERA, allowing just seven hits in 14 frames. Torres has found success against both right-handed and left-handed hitters. He's held lefties to a .133 average and righties to a .161 clip.
San Francisco Giants
Most Underrated Player: Brandon Hicks, 2B
Back in November, the San Francisco Giants inked Brandon Hicks to a minor league deal. As it turns out, the seemingly insignificant move was yet another stroke of genius by GM Brian Sabean.
With Marco Scutaro sidelined with a chronic back injury, Hicks has filled in as the club's everyday second baseman. The right-handed batter is only hitting .208, but he owns a .330 OBP and has contributed five home runs including a walk-off. The 28-year-old has also played standout defense at second base.
Most Underrated Player: Felix Hernandez, SP
Perhaps it's because he's the ace of a team that hasn't enjoyed a winning season since 2009, but Felix Hernandez never gets the respect he truly deserves.
The right-hander has thrown over 200 innings in six consecutive seasons and during that stretch has never posted an ERA higher than 3.45. In 2014, the 28-year-old is dominating once again. Hernandez owns a 2.53 ERA and a 10.3 K/9 ratio.
St. Louis Cardinals
Most Underrated Player: Pat Neshek, RP
Back in February, the St. Louis Cardinals signed Pat Neshek to a minor league deal that guaranteed him $1 million if he landed a spot in the bullpen.
Neshek not only made the Cardinals, but has been one of the club's top bullpen arms. In 17 outings, the right-hander has posted a 1.23 ERA and recorded 18 strikeouts in 14.2 innings. The 33-year-old has been particularly effective against right-handed hitters, who are hitting just .135 against him.
Tampa Bay Rays
Most Underrated Player: Ben Zobrist, 2B
Simply put, Ben Zobrist is a highly versatile player.
The switch-hitter sees most of his action at second base for the Tampa Bay Rays, but he's also capable of filling in at shortstop and in the outfield. While he doesn't hit for high average, Zobrist always produces a healthy OBP. During the course of his MLB career, Zobrist has reached base at a clip of .354.
Most Underrated Player: Martin Perez, SP
Despite the fact that he's still just 23 years old, Martin Perez is already pitching in his third season for the Texas Rangers.
In 2014, Perez has already recorded two shutouts and reeled off a 26-inning scoreless stretch. However, the left-hander has now been tagged in back-to-back outings. His most recent poor performance came on May 5 when he served up five runs in five innings while pitching against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
Toronto Blue Jays
Most Underrated Player: Mark Buehrle, SP
Mark Buehrle is just a workhorse.
The left-hander for the Toronto Blue Jays has pitched at least 200 innings in 13 consecutive campaigns. In 2014, the 35-year-old is off to an impressive start for Toronto. Through his first six outings, Buehrle has posted a 5-1 record with a 2.25 ERA, which is fifth-best in the AL.
The veteran starter could ultimately prove to be a trade chip if the Blue Jays end up toppling out of the race. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reports that "scouts view Buehrle as a top target of contending teams."
Most Underrated Player: Jordan Zimmermann, SP
With such a talented starting staff in Washington, it's inevitable that somebody is going to get left out. Oftentimes, the forgotten ace of the Washington Nationals is Jordan Zimmermann.
Entering 2014, the right-hander has produced a 3.25 ERA or lower in each of the past three campaigns. In 2014, he's once again on a similar pace. Through seven outings, the 27-year-old has recorded a 2.92 ERA and posted a 9.2 K/9 ratio, which is the best of his career.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.