Every pitching staff and bullpen needs a capable offense and defense backing them up. Today's edition of the 2008 MLB All-Underrated Team goes 'round the horn with a unique bunch that can both hit and field with the best of 'em.
Ryan Doumit, Catcher, Pittsburgh Pirates – Something about Ryan Doumit’s deep set, beady eyes reminds me of an alien. And maybe I am right; maybe Doumit is an alien. His skills are otherworldly.
In 2008, the Pirates scrapped the idea of utilizing Doumit as a glorified fourth outfielder/catcher backup, and gave him the chance to win the team’s starting catcher job.
Doumit rewarded the hopeless Pirates by batting over .300 for the first five months of the season. By late June, Doumit had stolen the job from the struggling Ronny Paulino.
Doumit, who bats switch and can play first base and the outfield, finished the season batting .318 with 15 long balls and 69 runs batted in. Unless Doumit decides to “phone home,” the job will be his to lose in 2009.
Honorable mentions: Kelly Shoppach (Cleveland), Chris Iannetta (Colorado), Mike Napoli (Anaheim)
Kevin Youkilis, First Base, Boston Red Sox – Yes, I am well aware that Kevin Youkilis may win the American League’s Most Valuable Player award tomorrow. Sometimes it takes a year in which nobody whacks 40 home runs for a player of Youkilis’ caliber to get noticed.
In no way does Youkilis scream “franchise player.” He doesn’t have the marketability of A-Rod. He doesn’t hit home runs like Miguel Cabrera. He isn’t the underdog like Dustin Pedroia. Youkilis quietly does so many things above average, but below eye-popping, that he never gets the credit he deserves.
Truthfully, it is hard to keep a guy like Youkilis on an underrated list after his 2008. What keeps him here is the unrecognized things: his ability to play first base, third base, and the outfield and to play them extremely well, his hustle and grit, his ability to hit in the clutch and most spots in the batting order. The list goes on and on…
If I were GM, I would start a team with Youkilis at the helm. That is how underrated I think he is, and how confident I believe he can outperform 2008.
Honorable mentions: Aubrey Huff (Baltimore), Adrian “If I Were On a Good Team, I’d Be Even More Of a Monster” Gonzalez (San Diego), Jorge Cantu (Florida)
Placido Polanco, Second Base, Detroit Tigers – When a team signs Placido Polanco, they know what they’re getting. He’s a lock to bat right around .300 with a handful of home runs and 50-60 RBI while missing a few games along the way. He’s also an above-average fielder, having won a Gold Glove during his 2007 campaign.
This year, Polanco played in 141 games and compiled another no frills and solid campaign for the surprisingly lackluster Tigers.
Second base is an interesting position. It seems like the players are either amazing or somewhere right in the middle. Placido plays the middle slightly better.
Honorable mention: Kelly Johnson (Atlanta)
Jhonny Peralta, Shortstop, Cleveland Indians – Jhonny Peralta is a walking LASIK surgery advertisement.
After bursting onto the scene in 2005, Peralta’s production decreased his sophomore year, with vision problems cited as the main cause.
However, for the past two years, Peralta has posted incredible numbers from a generally popless position. This year, he ranked third among shortstops in runs scored (104) and home runs (23) and first in RBI (89).
Those numbers place Peralta in the top tier of shortstops with only Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes, but I don't see any video game developers knocking on his door.
Honorable mentions: Hanley "Why the F Can't I Buy An MVP Vote" Ramirez (Florida), Orlando Cabrera (Chicago)
Melvin Mora, Third Base, Baltimore Orioles – People shouldn’t forget a name like Melvin. But unless you live in Baltimore, chances are you have.
After a couple down years by his standards, Mora bounced back in 2008, nearly replicating his 2004 season, in which he earned an All-Star nod and even a few MVP votes.
In an Orioles season which saw very little positives, Mora mashed 23 homers, knocked in 104, and played in more games than 2007. Third base was a generally weak position this year with the usual players making contributions and those mid-tier guys taking a step in the wrong direction.
Honorable mentions: Edwin Encarnacion (Cincinnati)
As usual, please leave your comments and suggestions. Who would you have picked? What on earth was I thinking by choosing Kevin Youkilis? Where'd I go wrong?
Next edition: The 2008 MLB All-Underrated Outfield and Reserves.