10 Players Who Can Carry Their Teams
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With a less-than-spectacular supporting cast surrounding them, these 10 players will be looked upon by their respective teams to carry the offense workload during the 2011 MLB season.
Whether its injury, age or just flat-out underproduction, any team is prone to struggle at some point in the season and that’s when they'll need their offensive stars the most.
Offensive consistency over a 162-game stretch is an underrated stat in today’s game and for these 10 players to be viewed as their team’s offensive catalyst is a true honor in its own right.
Prince Fielder: 1B, Milwaukee Brewers
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There’s no doubt Brewers’ first baseman Prince Fielder will continue doing what he does best: Knock the cover off the ball.
In his first five full seasons at the MLB level, Fielder has mashed 190 homers to go along with a .922 career OPS. There’s no question that the Brewers expect much of the same in 2011.
Fielder has restored the long-ball admiration in Milwaukee and, if the Brewers win the NL Central, you can bet that Fielder will be in NL MVP considerations.
While his supporting cast is stronger than others, Fielder will be a main source of the Brewers offense along with outfielder Ryan Braun and third baseman Casey McGehee.
David Wright: 3B, New York Mets
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Despite widely publicized struggles at the plate in 2009, when he smacked only 10 home runs in Citi Field’s inaugural season, Wright has seemed to get back on track in 2010 and ’11 by hitting a combined 31 home runs.
As the Mets continue to struggle in the competitive NL East, Wright’s supporting cast will need to show up if the team has any postseason hopes.
Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran have looked good so far this season, but Angel Pagan and injured Jason Bay will also need to show some offensive pop to create a well-rounded lineup in the Queens.
For now, the Mets and their fans turn to lovable David Wright as their main source of offensive production in hopes of him having an MVP-caliber season.
Hanley Ramirez: SS, Florida Marlins
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Despite consistently being on a losing team in a competitive division, Marlins’ shortstop Hanley Ramirez is the offensive spark plug in South Florida.
Belting 124 home runs in his five-year career, Ramirez seems to be the one solid mainstay in a constantly fluid lineup.
Ramirez is more known for his ability to use spacious Sun Life Stadium to his advantage by hitting over .300 and belting over 200 doubles in his career, but the lack of candidates to knock him in on the Marlins’ roster is what really hinders this squad.
As the Marlins continue to attempt to prove people wrong, expect Hanley Ramirez to shoulder much of the Marlins’ offense in 2011.
Carlos Pena: 1B, Chicago Cubs
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In spite of playing at hitter-friendly Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs and offensive powerhouse have never really been synonymous phrases.
Unloading aging star Derrek Lee for a career sub-.250 hitter in Carlos Pena may have answered a couple of questions in the Cubs’ clubhouse, but it only partially answered their power outage issue over the past few years.
Hitting a career 230 homers, Pena will certainly spark some offensive output in Wrigley, but it’ll be up to his supporting cast to get the job done.
Guys like Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Geovany Soto will also need to get hot in order for the Cubbies to stay relevant over the course of the season.
Ryan Howard: 1B, Philadelphia Phillies
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With Jayson Werth’s departure from Philly, Chase Utley’s extended stay on the DL, Raul Ibanez’s age and Jimmy Rollins’ nagging injuries, Ryan Howard seems to be the lone man in the Philadelphia Phillies’ lineup with the ability to spark their offensive production.
With the Phillies offensive output placed on Howard’s broad shoulders, he will need to continue the plate dominance that saw him hit over 45 home runs in each season between 2006-2009.
Belting 31 homers in what was could be seen as a down-year for Howard in 2010, he still managed to take his team to within one out of reaching the World Series and it would be wise to expect this same dominance in 2011.
Carlos Quentin: OF, Chicago White Sox
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Much like their cross-town rivals, the Chicago White Sox will also need some production offensively to remain significant in the AL divisional race.
Former first-round selection, Carlos Quentin now has nagging injury questions placed in his past and is looking to get back to the 36 homer, 100 RBI season in 2008 that landed him fifth in AL MVP voting.
Quentin’s power stroke is still alive and well and if he can pull off a few hot streaks down the road, we may just see Quentin’s name pop up again in MVP voting.
Shin-Soo Choo: OF, Cleveland Indians
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In my opinion, Shin-Soo Choo may be the most underrated player in the history of the MLB, but I’m pretty sure he has the dismal Cleveland Indian franchise to thank for that.
As the Indians continue to play respectable baseball, Choo is more or less their best player on the field and is viewed as their main source of production outside of Matt LaPorta or Travis Hafner.
Coupled with his above average defense in the outfield, Choo has also maintained a .300 batting average and a 20-20 season the past two years.
Due for a raise in the near future, the Korean outfielder is a shining star among the relatively unknown in Cleveland.
Carlos Lee: OF, Houston Astros
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Having a down year in 2010 after hitting just .246 with a .708 OPS, the Houston Astros hope El Caballo gets back on track in 2011 after already belting a home run and two triples.
A career .287 hitter, Carlos Lee has impressed by hitting over .300 in six of his 12 major league seasons and hopes to capitalize on his past success in 2011.
With improved plate discipline heading into this season, Lee will look to be an offensive catalyst for the Astros as guys like Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn and Brett Wallace continue to come into their own.
Ryan Zimmerman: 3B, Washington Nationals
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Despite his immense upside, I still believe Ryan Zimmerman is the second best third baseman in the NL East behind David Wright, but that’s beside the point.
Zimmerman has been the heart and soul of the Washington Nationals’ offense since he made his debut in 2005 and is only now considered to be entering his prime.
With an outstanding glove at the hot corner and a quick bat that can blast a ball out of roomy RFK Stadium, Zimmerman will continue to be the Nats’ best option for offensive production in 2011.
Albert Pujols: 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
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Despite his poor start to the 2011 season, Albert Pujols has been one of the most consistent players in Cardinals’ history.
Owning a career .333 average along with a 1.048 OPS, Pujols will be the life-support of the Cardinals’ offense as he begins to heat up this summer.
With his contract up at season's end, Pujols will be playing for his next contract in 2011, so don’t expect this slow start to extend deeper into the season.
Pujols has proven before, and will prove it again, that he is one of the greatest right-handed hitters of our generation and will continue to be St. Louis’ main source of offensive production.