Identifying the Face of Every MLB Franchise

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2015

Identifying the Face of Every MLB Franchise

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    While certain figures around Major League Baseball carry more name recognition on the national stage than others, every MLB team has its face of the franchise.

    What exactly does it mean to be the face of the franchise?

    To put it simply, it's the first person who jumps to mind when thinking about that respective team, whether it be a player, coach or front office figure.

    Often that means the best player on a team, but it does not necessarily have to be.

    Many times, the face of a franchise is an aging veteran who has spent most or all of his career playing for one team and has been a big part of their past success.

    On the other hand, sometimes when an organization goes through significant chances, it's a new arrival who winds up representing the franchise and serving as a symbol of what's to come.

    A big commitment by the team both in years and dollars can also earn a player the distinction.

    What follows is a look at who checks in as the face of the franchise for all 30 MLB teams here in 2015.

Arizona Diamondbacks: 1B Paul Goldschmidt

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    The Arizona Diamondbacks find themselves in a transition period right now as they look to return to contention under the new front office tandem of Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa.

    There is some quality young talent on the roster, but the cornerstone of the present and future is undoubtedly first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, and he's an easy choice as the face of the franchise.

    The 27-year-old was an MVP candidate in 2013 when he hit .302/.401/.551 with 36 home runs and 125 RBI, and he was on his way to similarly lofty numbers last season when a fractured hand abruptly ended his season in August.

    The Diamondbacks locked him up with a five-year, $32.05 million extension prior to the 2013 season, and with an option year tacked on to the back, he could be in Arizona through 2019.

Atlanta Braves: 1B Freddie Freeman

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    It was tempting to go with Andrelton Simmons here, as he has spent plenty of time in the national spotlight thanks to his phenomenal defense, but Freddie Freeman has to be the pick.

    Seemingly the last man standing in the Atlanta Braves lineup after the team shipped out Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis in the offseason, Freeman has quickly established himself as one of the top young talents in the game.

    Still just 25 years old, Freeman broke out in a big way in 2013, hitting .319/.396/.501 with 23 home runs and 109 RBI to finish fifth in NL MVP voting.

    The Braves front office certainly cast its vote for Freeman as the face of the franchise when it handed him an eight-year, $135 million extension last year, keeping him in Atlanta through 2021.

Baltimore Orioles: CF Adam Jones

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    The Baltimore Orioles struck gold when they sent Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners ahead of the 2008 season, acquiring both Adam Jones and Chris Tillman in the process.

    While Tillman has emerged as the ace of the staff over the past couple of seasons, there is little question Jones is the face of the franchise.

    Over the past four seasons, the 29-year-old has averaged a line of .283/.321/.484 with 30 home runs, 92 RBI and 12 stolen bases, earning three All-Star trips and three Gold Glove awards in that span.

    His hot start this season has gone a long way toward offsetting the losses of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, and the Orioles have him locked up through the 2018 season thanks to a six-year, $85.5 million extension signed in 2012.

Boston Red Sox: DH David Ortiz

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    This may finally be the year David Ortiz starts to show his age, as he's hitting just .218/.307/.370 with four home runs and 13 RBI in his first 32 games.

    However, the 39-year-old is a Boston institution at this point in his career, and he'll be the face of the Red Sox franchise until he decides to hang up his spikes.

    "Ortiz’s legacy is based upon commanding and demanding the spotlight with sheer force of personality and forceful and fateful swings of the bat, especially in October," wrote Christopher L. Gasper of the Boston Globe.

    Big Papi is in his 13th season with the team, and he's undoubtedly established himself as one of the greatest clutch hitters the game has ever seen.

    He's closing in on 500 career home runs, needing just 30 more to reach that milestone, but it's his work in the postseason (82 G, .939 OPS, 17 HR, 60 RBI) that has truly earned him a place in Red Sox lore.

Chicago Cubs: Manager Joe Maddon

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    A case can be made for Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Jon Lester or even super-hyped prospect Kris Bryant as the face of the Chicago Cubs right now, but the correct answer here is first-year manager Joe Maddon.

    After nine seasons at the helm in Tampa Bay, where he turned the Rays from an also-ran into a perennial contender, Maddon signed on to be the face of the Cubs' dramatic youth movement.

    The early returns have been as good as anyone could have hoped, with the Cubs putting themselves in position to earn a wild-card spot.

    With a big personality and a unique managing style, the 61-year-old looks like the perfect man to be entrusted with shaping a talented young roster on the North Side.

Chicago White Sox: 1B Jose Abreu

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    A flip of the coin here between ace Chris Sale and slugger Jose Abreu, but with Sale off to a slow start we'll go with the Cuban-born first baseman who took the league by storm last season.

    The White Sox signed Abreu to a six-year, $68 million deal prior to last season, unsure exactly how well his bat would translate to the big league level after a terrific career in Cuba.

    The 28-year-old quickly answered those questions, posting a .953 OPS with 10 home runs and 32 RBI in April to win AL Player of the Month honors.

    He didn't slow down from there, finishing the season with a .317/.383/.581 line that included 35 doubles, 36 home runs and 107 RBI, as he ran away with AL Rookie of the Year honors.

    Abreu is off to a nice start in an otherwise underperforming White Sox lineup this year, and if he can get some help around him, similar numbers could be on the way in his sophomore season.

Cincinnati Reds: 1B Joey Votto

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    You can argue that Brandon Phillips is the bigger personality in Cincinnati, but face of the franchise honors for the Reds have to go to first baseman Joey Votto.

    The 2014 season was a trying one for Votto, as a pair of quad injuries limited him to just 62 games, and his absence was a big reason why the Reds suffered through an 86-loss season.

    Prior to that, he was undoubtedly one of the game's elite offensive talents, leading the NL in on-base percentage for four straight seasons and posting an impressive 25.7 WAR during that span.

    He's back healthy this season and has again been producing at an MVP-caliber rate, hitting .298/.404/.516 with seven home runs and 21 RBI.

    The Reds gave him a massive 10-year, $225 million extension in 2012 that finally kicked in last year. That will keep him in Cincinnati through at least 2023, so the 31-year-old figures to be the face of the team for the foreseeable future.

Cleveland Indians: SP Corey Kluber

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    Manager Terry Francona here got serious consideration here, as he took over a struggling Cleveland Indians organization and quickly turned it into a contender, but reigning AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber gets the nod.

    For the record, Michael Brantley is probably the best player on this team, but he remains largely overlooked and underrated on a national level.

    The 29-year-old Kluber is a late bloomer of sorts, but he built off a strong 2013 season to edge Felix Hernandez for Cy Young honors in 2014.

    All told, he finished the year at 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA, 1.095 WHIP and 269 strikeouts in 235.2 innings of work, helping lead a second-half charge that left the Indians just short of reaching the playoffs.

    After a slow start to the 2015 season, he broke out in a big way Wednesday night, striking out 18 St. Louis Cardinals hitters over eight innings of work.

Colorado Rockies: SS Troy Tulowitzki

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    Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    There is little question Troy Tulowitzki remains the face of the Colorado Rockies, but for how much longer has become a legitimate question after what feels like years of baseless trade speculation.

    With the Rockies crashing back to earth with an 11-game losing streak after another unexpectedly hot start, a fifth straight losing season looks to be in the works.

    After going to the World Series as a rookie in 2007, Tulowitzki has participated in the postseason just one other time (2009) and been part of a winning team just twice (2009, 2010).

    Tulowitzki recently met with his agent to discuss the idea of requesting a trade, opting to hold off on that for the time being, according to Thomas Harding of How much longer before he changes his tune, though?

    The 30-year-old is owed $98 million through the end of 2020, and with a lengthy injury history, convincing another team to give up high-end talent and take on that kind of salary commitment could be tough.

Detroit Tigers: 1B Miguel Cabrera

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    December 4, 2007, will go down as a franchise-altering day in Detroit Tigers history, as that is when the team acquired Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins in an eight-player blockbuster deal.

    Just 24 years old at the time of the trade and already one of the game's elite offensive players, Cabrera would soon surpass Albert Pujols as the consensus best hitter in baseball.

    He won back-to-back AL MVP awards in 2012 and 2013, claiming Triple Crown honors along the way in 2012, and he has helped lead the Tigers to an impressive four straight AL Central titles.

    While last year was a down year by his standards, he's back to slugging at an elite level so far here in 2015, hitting .328/.437/.568 with eight home runs and 26 RBI.

    With an eight-year, $240 million extension set to kick in next season, the 32-year-old figures to reach some impressive milestones while donning a Tigers jersey.

Houston Astros: 2B Jose Altuve

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    The Houston Astros are a team on the rise, and they have some terrific young talent already at the major league level and more on the way, with Jose Altuve ranking as the best of the bunch right now.

    Still just 25 years old, Altuve already has three full big league seasons under his belt, during which time he's made a pair of All-Star appearances and emerged as a bona fide superstar with a huge 2014 season.

    The 5'6" spark plug captured the AL batting title last season with a .341 average, setting a franchise record with 225 hits in the process. He also led the league in stolen bases with 56, making him one of the game's elite table-setters.

    He's off to another terrific start this season, hitting .333 and leading the AL in hits (48) and steals (13).

    The Astros locked him up early with a four-year, $12.5 million deal that kicked in last season, and with option years he could be in Houston through 2019 at the low cost of just $20.5 million over the next four years.

Kansas City Royals: 1B Eric Hosmer

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    Alex Gordon is still probably the best all-around player on the Kansas City Royals, and Lorenzo Cain was the breakout star of the team's postseason run last year, but when I think of the team I think of first baseman Eric Hosmer.

    The 25-year-old burst onto the scene in 2011 with a .293/.334/.465 line that included 19 home runs, 78 RBI and 11 stolen bases to finish third in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

    In the three seasons since there's been more good than bad, but he's yet to take that next step forward and break through as a legitimate star in the league.

    That changed during the postseason when he hit .351/.439/.544 and drove in 12 runs in 15 games, and it was his enthusiasm and big personality that wound up being the face of the team's unlikely postseason run.

    A .333/.404/.580 line so far in 2015 with seven home runs and 29 RBI could be the start of the breakout season we've all been expecting since his strong rookie campaign.

Los Angeles Angels: CF Mike Trout

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    Our 2015 B/R MLB writers poll was published back in April, and of the 32 writers participating, 22 voted for Mike Trout as the current face of Major League Baseball.

    Unfathomably still only 23 years old, Trout has been as dynamic in the first three seasons of his career as any player who has ever played the game, and we are truly witnessing a once-in-a-generation talent in the Los Angeles Angels center fielder.

    Detractors will point to his AL-high 184 strikeouts last season and call him overrated, but to put it simply that's an ignorant and close-minded summation of one of the game's truly elite talents.

    The Angels handed Trout a six-year, $144.5 million extension prior to him even reaching arbitration, and they will no doubt do everything in their power to keep him in an Angels jersey for the duration of his career.

Los Angeles Dodgers: SP Clayton Kershaw

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    He's off to a slow start this season, but Clayton Kershaw is coming off a historically good 2014 campaign, and while guys like Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez warrant some consideration, Kershaw has to be the pick as the face of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    The left-hander entered last season working on a string of three consecutive NL ERA titles but took his game to another level, going 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA, 0.857 WHIP and 239 strikeouts in 198.1 innings of work.

    That won him his third Cy Young award in four years and also made him the 10th pitcher in MLB history to win MVP honors.

    A seven-year, $215 million deal will keep the 27-year-old in Los Angeles through the 2020 season, provided he does not opt out after 2018, and he will continue to be the game's premier arm until someone unseats him.

Miami Marlins: RF Giancarlo Stanton

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    Nothing says face of the franchise like the record-setting 13-year, $325 million extension signed by Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton this past offseason.

    Still just 25 years old, Stanton entered the 2015 season with an impressive 154 home runs to his credit already, and he took his game to another level this past year.

    Were it not for a gruesome facial injury on a hit-by-pitch costing him the final 17 games of the season, he may have edged out Clayton Kershaw for NL MVP honors.

    All told, he finished with a .288/.395/.555 line that included 37 home runs, 105 RBI and 13 stolen bases for a 6.5 WAR.

    The massive 6'6", 240-pound right fielder has the best raw power in the game, and nothing endears a player to a fanbase like towering home runs.

Milwaukee Brewers: RF Ryan Braun

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    For better or worse, Ryan Braun is the face of the Milwaukee Brewers.

    Still booed everywhere he goes for his performance-enhancing drug use, and nowhere near the player he was pre-suspension, Braun is still for the most part beloved in Milwaukee.

    From 2008 to 2012, his first five full seasons in the league, Braun averaged a line of .312/.375/.558 with 34 home runs, 109 RBI, 105 runs scored and 22 stolen bases as one of the most dynamic offensive threats in baseball.

    His performance peaked in 2011 when the first 30-30 season of his career earned him NL MVP honors over Matt Kemp, but controversy would set in from there.

    A five-year, $105 million extension won't kick in for Braun until next season, and with the 31-year-old producing at a significantly lesser clip, he likely won't be going anywhere even as the team begins to rebuild.

Minnesota Twins: 1B Joe Mauer

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    Despite spending just 920 total games behind the plate, Joe Mauer did enough to establish himself as one of the greatest offensive catchers of all time.

    Only seven times in the history of the game has a catcher won the batting title in his respective league, and three of those belong to Mauer, as he did it in 2006 (.347), 2008 (.328) and 2009 (.365).

    The 2009 season was his peak, as he not only hit a career-best .365, but also led the AL in on-base percentage (.444) and slugging (.587) while hitting a career-high 28 home runs and driving in 96 on his way to AL MVP honors.

    Injuries slowed the former No. 1 overall pick from there, though, and he's since moved to first base in an effort to prolong his career.

    Owed $23 million in each of the next three seasons, the 32-year-old figures to pass the torch to top prospect Byron Buxton at some point, but for now he remains the face of the franchise.

New York Mets: 3B David Wright

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    The New York Mets made it clear who they viewed as the face of their franchise when they let Jose Reyes walk in free agency in 2011, then locked up David Wright with an eight-year, $138 million extension prior to the 2013 season.

    When he's 100 percent, the 32-year-old remains one of the game's premier all-around players, but he has enjoyed just one fully healthy season in the past four years.

    He played 134 games last season, but his production was down as he dealt with a nagging shoulder injury. It took just eight games this season for him to land on the disabled list again, this time with a strained hamstring.

    Getting Wright back healthy and productive will go a long way in determining whether the Mets can legitimately contend this season, as his bat has been sorely missed in the middle of the lineup.

New York Yankees: DH Alex Rodriguez

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    With Derek Jeter gone, the face of the New York Yankees is Alex Rodriguez, whether or not the team is willing to admit it.

    At this point there is no salvaging his reputation, but with a $22 million salary this season and being owed $42 million over the next two years, the Yankees will do everything they can to get some useful production out of the money they are spending.

    To his credit, the 39-year-old said all the right things during spring training, and he's done his best to keep his head down and focus on baseball since the regular season began.

    The results have been surprisingly good, as he's hitting .250/.355/.552 with nine home runs and 21 RBI as the everyday DH, and as long as he keeps producing, fans will put his past indiscretions on the back burner.

Oakland Athletics: GM Billy Beane

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    Once you've been played by Brad Pitt in a movie, it's hard to fly under the radar.

    The Oakland Athletics have seemingly been a faceless franchise since Beane took control of the team, for the simple fact that players are not around long enough to establish themselves.

    As it currently stands, reliever Sean Doolittle is the team's longest-tenured player after being selected in the first round of the 2007 draft, though he did not debut until 2012.

    Coco Crisp, signed a a free agent in 2009, has been playing for the big league club the longest.

    Josh Donaldson seemed to be on his way to becoming "the guy" before being shipped to Toronto this past offseason, and now the most recognizable player on the team is either outfielder Josh Reddick or ace Sonny Gray.

    How long will those two be around? Who knows, but Beane is still standing in his 18th season as general manager, and he's the clear face of the franchise at this point.

Philadelphia Phillies: SP Cole Hamels

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    The easy answer here would probably be Chase Utley.

    The 36-year-old has spent his entire 13-year career with the Philadelphia Phillies, the team that drafted him with the No. 15 overall pick back in 2000, and he's remained loyal through some tough times in recent years.

    However, the biggest storyline in Philadelphia baseball these days is the seemingly inevitable trade of Cole Hamels, and that has made him the face of the franchise on a national level.

    To his credit, the 31-year-old is also the team's best player, and he too is a homegrown talent, as this is his 10th season with the Phillies after being taken with the No. 17 pick in the 2002 draft.

    Sooner or later in 2015, this face of the franchise figures to be taking his face elsewhere.

Pittsburgh Pirates: CF Andrew McCutchen

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    Despite a slow start to the season, Andrew McCutchen remains probably the best all-around player in the National League, and he is the face of a Pittsburgh Pirates team that has taken a huge step forward over the past few seasons.

    While Pittsburgh went without a winning record from 1993 to 2012, McCutchen has now led the Pirates to consecutive playoff appearances.

    He has a pair of third-place NL MVP finishes sandwiched around winning the award in 2013.

    Over that three-year span he's hit .320/.405/.534 while averaging 35 doubles, 26 home runs, 88 RBI, 98 runs and 22 stolen bases.

    The 28-year-old is a legitimate five-tool talent, an active part of the Pittsburgh community and is locked up through 2018 on one of the most team-friendly deals in all of baseball.

San Diego Padres: RF Matt Kemp

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    There was no shortage of high-profile additions to the San Diego Padres roster this offseason, as new GM A.J. Preller set to work retooling the roster with an eye on legitimately contending this season.

    An argument can be made for Justin Upton or James Shields being better players, but in terms of sheer star power, Matt Kemp is the face of the new-look Padres.

    After dealing with a bevy of injuries following his monster 2011 season, the 30-year-old was finally healthy enough to play 150 games last season, and the result was a solid rebound in his production.

    He's managed just one home run in an NL-high 144 at-bats so far this year, but again, the question here is not who has been the team's most productive player, but who is the face of the franchise—and the answer is Kemp.

San Francisco Giants: C Buster Posey

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    Buster Posey won the "Face of MLB" bracket-style competition on during the offseason, which is really nothing more than a popularity contest that gauges which fanbase is most active on Twitter, but he's a solid choice nonetheless.

    While pitching has been the hallmark of the San Francisco Giants' impressive run to three World Series titles in a five-year span, it's Posey that has been the face of the franchise during that span.

    The first time around in 2010, he was a rookie being asked to shoulder the offensive load, hitting in the middle of the lineup throughout the postseason. He did exactly that, and his season ended with NL Rookie of the Year honors.

    By 2012, he was the NL MVP thanks to a .336 batting average that made him just the fourth catcher to ever win a batting title.

    For their third title this past year, Posey caught fire during the second half of the season to help the Giants secure a wild-card spot, hitting .354/.403/.575 with 12 home runs and 43 RBI in 62 games after the All-Star break.

    A quiet superstar, the 28-year-old has played a pivotal role in all three titles, and a case can certainly be made for him being the face of not only the Giants but the sport in general.

Seattle Mariners: SP Felix Hernandez

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    Seattle Mariners average attendance in four home starts by Felix Hernandez: 39,243.

    Seattle Mariners average attendance in their other 14 home games this season: 24,742.

    Now those numbers are skewed a bit by the fact that he pitched on Opening Day and two other times on the weekend, but that is still a significant gap.

    To put it simply, King Felix is worth the price of admission.

    All due respect to Corey Kluber, but Hernandez probably should have won his second Cy Young award last season, as he went 15-6 and led the AL in ERA (2.14) and WHIP (0.915).

    He's well on his way to another Cy Young-caliber season so far this year, going 6-0 with a 1.85 ERA and 0.842 WHIP over his first seven starts.

    Still in his prime at the age of 29, Hernandez signed a seven-year, $175 million extension prior to the 2013 season that will keep him in Seattle through at least the 2019 season.

St. Louis Cardinals: C Yadier Molina

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    He may not be the same offensive player he was a few years ago, but there is still no player in baseball who means more to the success of his respective team than St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.

    The gold standard at the position defensively, evidenced by his seven straight Gold Glove awards, Molina is essentially a second coach on the field and he does an unparalleled job handling his pitching staff.

    He took his offensive game to another level from 2011 to 2013, hitting .313/.361/.481 and averaging 35 doubles, 16 home runs and 74 RBI per season. That earned him a pair of top-five finishes in NL MVP voting and three of his six career All-Star appearances.

    The 32-year-old is hitting .277/.322/.339 this season and still looking for his first home run of the season, but he is batting .357 with runners in scoring position.

    So far this year, Cardinals pitchers have a 2.51 ERA with Molina behind the plate, compared to a 3.86 mark with Tony Cruz doing the catching.

Tampa Bay Rays: 3B Evan Longoria

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    With guys like David Price, Ben Zobrist and manager Joe Maddon all suiting up elsewhere this season, Evan Longoria is really the only nationally recognizable face on the Tampa Bay Rays roster.

    That being said, he was the face of the franchise even before those guys left, and the Rays made that clear when the usually tight-fisted organization handed him a six-year, $100 million extension prior to the 2013 season that will not take effect until 2017.

    Injuries have been an issue in the past, but he played 162 games last season and led the team with 22 home runs and 91 RBI while again providing plus defense at the hot corner.

    The 29-year-old is already the franchise's all-time leader in WAR (40.5), home runs (188) and RBI (649), and he figures to pass Carl Crawford in pretty much every other significant category by the time his tenure with the team comes to a close.

Texas Rangers: 3B Adrian Beltre

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    Truth be told, head trainer Kevin Harmon received serious consideration for this spot.

    After all, he's spent more time on the field the past two seasons than many of the team's high-profile players. That felt like a cheap shot, though, so instead we'll go with third baseman Adrian Beltre.

    While this is only his fifth season with the team, Beltre has been a consistent force in the middle of the Texas lineup.

    Over his first four seasons, the 36-year-old hit .315/.364/.530 and averaged 33 doubles, 29 home runs and 94 RBI, while also winning a pair of Gold Glove awards for his work at third base.

    Beltre has been at his best late in his career, and in the process he's put together a fairly convincing Hall of Fame case. He's signed through next season, and with a couple more productive years he could be a lock for enshrinement.

Toronto Blue Jays: RF Jose Bautista

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    A nagging shoulder injury has Jose Bautista off to a rough start here in 2015, but he remains one of the most popular players in the game and is an easy choice as the face of the Toronto Blue Jays.

    Fans won't soon forget his out-of-nowhere breakout in 2010. The then-29-year-old was entering his seventh big league season and second full year with the Toronto Blue Jays but had never been more than a useful utility player.

    That changed with a 54-homer, 124-RBI campaign that earned him a fourth-place finish in AL MVP voting. He proved his breakout was no fluke by again leading the AL in homers with 43 the following year, and he's been an absolute force ever since.

    Injuries have been an issue, costing him a total of 114 games in 2012 and 2013, but he was healthy and productive again last year, and the Blue Jays need to get him back to 100 percent if they're going to make a run at the AL East title.

Washington Nationals: RF Bryce Harper

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    Call him overrated if you like, but it's easy to forget Bryce Harper is still only 22 years old and has plenty of time to reach what looked like a limitless ceiling when he broke into the league as a 19-year-old back in 2012.

    His all-out style of play has cost him some games to injury the past two seasons, but all the tools are still there for him to be a perennial MVP candidate and the driving force in the middle of the Washington Nationals lineup.

    While the Giants ousted the Nationals in the National League Division Series last year, Harper managed a double and three home runs in four games, and at the time you couldn't help but think that might be the beginning of something big.

    A monster start to the 2015 season has only furthered that notion, as he's leading the National League in home runs, runs scored and walks thanks to a more disciplined approach at the plate.

    The best is yet to come from Harper; there is little doubt about that. It will just be a matter of him avoiding injury moving forward.

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.

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