Every year, there are players that go under the radar, mostly because they are in the shadow of a much bigger name or are stuck in a small market. Some are just stuck on a bad team and look worse because of it. These players deserve recognition for the numbers they put up.
Big names are sexier, but the little man can make the difference. Cody Ross came from obscurity in Florida to lead the San Francisco Giants to victory in 2010, a perfect example of a small market player that flew under the radar and over-achieved.
Here are 10 players that have flown under the radar so far in 2011.
When you look at Jeremy Guthrie's numbers, nothing really screams ace. The Stanford alum was thrust into the role as Erik Bedard departed to Seattle and has seen his win totals take a hit because of the matchup difficulties, but it's been pretty impressive what he's done.
The fanfare lately in the Orioles rotation has been going to their rookie phenom, Zach Britton. While the praise is well-deserved, Jeremy Guthrie deserves some of it too. In 11 starts, Guthrie has seven quality starts, which is the same amount as C.C. Sabathia, Jon Lester and David Price. Each of those pitchers has at least six wins. Jeremy Guthrie has two.
The sad thing about Guthrie is that he has done what he needs to get wins, but gets stuck with losses. Guthrie is 2-7 this year, but deserves better. He hasn't had any offense to support him, ranking among the league's worst in run support.
Guthrie deserves to be recognized most for his contributions to the bullpen. Guthrie consistently logs innings and has thrown two complete games this year. Unfortunately, both were losses. On a team that has young starters, it is incredibly valuable to have at least one guy that can relieve the strain on the bullpen.
There's one reason that Laynce Nix is flying under the radar. Nobody knows who Laynce Nix is.
Laynce and his brother, Jayson, have both been bench players for the most part, but Laynce has finally started to blossom and is forcing his way into the lineup for the Nationals on a more consistent basis.
The Nationals started 2011 with a pretty good outfield on paper. Jayson Werth signed a big deal to play right and Rick Ankiel was signed to bring his power and defense to center. Michael Morse mashed the ball all spring, so left field was his, but the regular season was a challenge for him and Nix crept into the mix.
Nix is still not getting all of the playing time in left because he doesn't hit lefties well, but he has taken most of the starts against right handed pitching and has thrived. Nix is hitting .303 in 45 games, but more surprisingly, Nix has hit nine home runs and has an OPS of .921. The bench player has turned into a big bruiser for the young Nationals club.
Nix really cemented his status as an underground hero by winning the game against the Phillies on his own on Wednesday. After hitting a go-ahead home run off Roy Oswalt, Nix made a full extension dive to rob Domonic Brown of what would have been a two run single to take back the lead. The team held on to win the game thanks to Nix's heroics.
With Adam LaRoche sidelined, Michael Morse will take over first and that leaves a majority of the playing time in left to Laynce Nix. If he keeps getting pitches, people will know his name soon.
When Grady Sizemore hit the DL twice this season, Cleveland collectively groaned. If you don't know much about sports, Cleveland is pretty well known for losing superstars. Luckily, nobody took their talents to South Beach, but there was still a big gap to fill in center. Enter Michael Brantley.
Like almost every player on the Indians, Brantley was acquired via trade. He was a piece of the blockbuster CC Sabathia deal that put the husky lefty in a Brewers jersey. In his first two seasons, Brantley was okay, but not impressive enough to hold a starting job. In 2011, Brantley has started to show signs of being a great player.
Brantley's defense has been solid in center. He is very fast and has stolen seven bases in nine chances. The most impressive is that he's hit four home runs in 52 games this year. In his previous 100 games, he had only hit three. Brantley's .349 OBP has been key for the Indians because it is very difficult to find a quality leadoff hitter, but Michael Brantley has filled that role perfectly.
Brantley's impact on the team is reflected more in the team's numbers than his own. There is no way that the Cleveland Indians would be the best team in the AL without the play of Michael Brantley.
Anibal Sanchez isn't really under the radar because he keeps shooting to the front of sports websites by throwing near no-nos. Unfortunately, it seems that he is quickly forgotten because he is a pitcher for the Marlins that is not named Josh Johnson.
Sanchez has been great this year, with a 5-1 record and the sixth best ERA in the NL at 2.57. Getting back to the near-history, Sanchez threw a one hitter against the Rockies and got deep against the Nationals before allowing a hit in the final third of the game. He's gone at least seven in his last five starts and has been a big part of the Marlins success this year.
Josh Johnson's injury may hurt the Marlins, but it only helps Anibal. Maybe now, people will stop talking about Miami's Holy Triumvirate and will begin to talk about the other big three (Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco).
Who would have thought that, in a rotation that includes Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle and John Danks, Philip Humber would be the best starter? Maybe the Twins because they traded Johan Santana to get Humber, but they gave up on him and their loss is their rival's gain.
Humber has toiled in the minors to finally get his chance and it hasn't come easily. He has had tastes of the majors in the past few years, but hasn't been able to stick. It seems he's stuck now.
The union between Humber and the White Sox is perfect. He's been in the AL Central for the majority of his career and the White Sox desperately needed a fifth starter. They got a pretty good one.
Humber isn't lighting up the league. His ERA is 3.06, which leads the team and ranks 14th in the AL, right after Felix Hernandez. The thing that impresses me the most is his WHIP, which is .98. Anybody that can carry a WHIP below one has an advantage and deserves to have a low ERA.
The fact that the White Sox are now carrying six starters is enough to say that Humber has made an impact. Let's hope he can hold on when the staff shrinks back to five.
There are a lot of Pittsburgh Pirates that are flying under the radar. Pittsburgh is a really young team that doesn't really get credit for their talent because they've had trouble converting it to wins, but Charlie Morton has stuck out as a great starting pitcher.
Charlie Morton deserved to be unnoticed for a little because people must have known everything about him in 2010. Major League hitters embarrassed him; Morton ended the season with a 7.57 ERA and a 2-12 record.
This year, he's evolved his sinker into a really special pitch and rewarded the Pirates for sticking with him to the tune of a 5-2 record with a 2.51 ERA. He and Kevin Correia have made the Pirates relevant again after 18 straight years of losing. Unfortunately, they might not be enough to completely right the ship in Pittsburgh.
Brett Wallace's career has been pretty incredible when you think about it. Wallace was a top prospect for the Cardinals that was expected to mash at the major league level, but then he never had a chance to unpack his bags, as he was traded all over the place. After stops in Oakland and Toronto, Wallace found a home in Houston and he should be there for a while.
Wallace hasn't been among the top first basemen in the NL, especially because he's in a division with three of the best in the majors, but he has become a big part of the Astros offense. He struggled with his average when he was called up in 2010, but has drastically improved this year. He has also improved his patience, so his strikeouts are down and his walks are up.
Wallace won't get notoriety yet because his power and run production aren't eye-popping, but he's on the horizon as one of the next guys to make a big splash. He'll just need some more seasoning.
Dustin Moseley has struggled a little recently, but was one of the best bad-luck pitchers of the first month and a half of the season. The Padres don't score, so Moseley's 3.18 ERA in the first two months of the season has left him 1-6.
It's pretty easy to miss Moseley. Mat Latos is the high profile, young gun that leads the rotation and Aaron Harang is the veteran that has reclaimed former glory. Moseley is just a good pitcher that is pitching on a young team without a lot of help.
Moseley's gotten away with a few mistakes, but he has been everything the Padres could have asked for and has outperformed any expectations. He's clearly a different pitcher than the spot starter that he's been for the past few years. He reminds me of a poor man's Justin Duchscherer, which is a compliment because at least Moseley is healthy.
Howard Kendrick started using his formal name instead of the nickname Howie and he has finally started to develop into his potential. He finally played a full year in 2010, which has let him develop into a great player.
The Angels lineup is supposed to be led by Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter, but Kendrick has been the star. He leads the team in the percentage triple crown, with the best average, OBP and slugging percentage. Kendrick has started to evolve his game to include power to the gaps and getting the ball out of the park. He is three home runs away from reaching his career high for a single season.
With a disappointing offseason and the loss of Kendrys Morales, Kendrick has been just what the Angels need. He has been a perfect compliment to the terrific pitching staff.
Casey Blake got off to a pretty good start this year after missing the first five games of the season due to injury. Unfortunately, the 38 year old third baseman injured his elbow after 14 games and had to miss a month.
Blake has only played five games since coming off the DL for the second time, but has done very well. He picked up right where he left off in April, maintaining an average over .300. Blake has lit up the diamond lately, with five RBI in his last three games.
It's easy to see why Blake isn't the topic of many conversations. He is old and frail. He has been out for a while. He plays with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, who get their share of the Hollywood spotlight. It's also easy to see that Blake can be a key contributor to the Dodgers. The veteran's presence should help to guide the fairly young team. For now, he can just be the quiet hero in the lineup.