MLB Team of the Week: Gary Sanchez, Bryce Harper and David Ortiz Star
This is the final edition of Bleacher Report's MLB Team of the Week before September.
That's significant. September means something in baseball.
Pennant races suddenly become real. Standings matter. Yes, the season bleeds into October, and every game technically counts as much as any other from April onward.
But the end of August, inevitably, ushers in a newfound sense of urgency.
With that in mind, here are 10 players—one per position, including a designated hitter and starting pitcher—who busted box scores over the past seven days.
To qualify, a player needs to have made at least two starts at the position in question or one start in the case of pitchers. And while this is mostly about individual output, we award bonus points for gaudy stats that translated to ticks in the win column.
Put on those fall colors and proceed when ready.
Catcher: Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
I already made the case for Gary Sanchez as the cornerstone of the New York Yankees' suddenly glistening future.
Suffice it to say he's been smacking the cover off the ball and flashing elite skills at a premium position since his early-August call-up.
We're concerned with what Sanchez did over the last week, however. The short answer: He raked.
The 23-year-old tallied 10 hits in 22 at-bats, including three doubles and four home runs, while notching an absurd 1.692 OPS.
Sanchez has been so good, he drew straight-faced American League Rookie of the Year speculation out of the New York Post's Joel Sherman.
Sherman's conclusion that Sanchez "almost certainly cannot win" against the likes of Detroit Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer is correct. But it's amazing the Yanks' young receiver is even in the discussion.
Honorable Mention: Evan Gattis (HOU): 6-for-16, 2B, 2 HR, 5 R, 3 RBI
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ace Clayton Kershaw is on the shelf with a bad back. Former lineup cog Yasiel Puig is languishing in Triple-A.
Yet the Los Angeles Dodgers hold a two-game lead in the National League West entering play Friday.
How, you ask? Adrian Gonzalez, for one thing.
The veteran first baseman has caught fire at exactly the right time for L.A. This week, he went 9-for-24 with a double, three home runs and 11 RBI. All of his homers came in an 18-9 thumping of the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on Monday.
Gonzalez has been swinging it everywhere. But as he accurately exclaimed at the time, per Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times, "I love this ballpark."
Honorable Mention: Jose Abreu (CWS): 9-for-21, 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI
Second Base: Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs
It isn't easy to get noticed in the Chicago Cubs lineup.
For one thing, you've got to vault past Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the duo that manager Joe Maddon dubbed "Bryzzo" in casting his theoretically split NL MVP vote.
This week, however, Ben Zobrist stood out.
The veteran switch-hitter went 10-for-23 with two doubles, a triple, a home run and six RBI. And the Cubs cruised to a 5-2 week to maintain control in the NL Central.
"It's almost like he swings at every strike that he wants to and takes every ball that he wants to," Bryant said of Zobrist, per Manny Randhawa of Sports on Earth. "It's unbelievable watching that, and I can learn a lot from him."
Honorable Mention: Daniel Murphy (WSH): 9-for-24, 2 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI
Shortstop: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
From a historical perspective, Corey Seager's biggest accomplishment this week was muscling a bloop single to right field Thursday.
The hit in question came in the ninth inning with two outs. San Francisco Giants left-hander Matt Moore was working on a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium.
Seager broke it up. And even though Los Angeles went on to lose 4-0, the rookie shortstop prevented Moore and the rival Giants from turning Chavez Ravine into a celebratory playpen.
In the end, the Dodgers took two of three games from San Francisco. Seager, meanwhile, had himself a week, going 13-for-24 with a double, a home run and five RBI.
Honorable Mention: Addison Russell (CHC): 7-for-24, 2B, 5 HR, 9 RBI
Third Base: Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
Nolan Arenado isn't going to win the NL MVP award. Yes, his offensive numbers are off the charts, and he's among the best defensive third basemen in baseball.
But he plays his home games at hitter-happy Coors Field, and the Colorado Rockies aren't going to make the playoffs. That's all you need to know.
Still, it must be said: Arenado is damn good at his job.
Witness his output for the week: 10 hits in 24 at-bats with a double, four homers and 11 RBI. MVP or no, that's eye-popping production.
Honorable Mention: Kris Bryant (CHC): 10-for-26, 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI
Left Field: Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers are scratching and clawing for an AL wild-card slot. A scalding Justin Upton sure would help the cause.
Upton has been a letdown for most of the year after signing a nine-figure deal with Detroit over the winter. During the last week, however, he's gone 8-for-20 with two doubles, three home runs and nine RBI.
Detroit, not coincidentally, went 4-2 over the same stretch.
"Upton has long had the reputation of being streaky, fickle, a bit inconsistent...you name it on this front," CBS Sports' Matt Snyder noted. "One thing he's mostly always been, however, is productive."
Honorable Mention: Khris Davis (OAK): 9-for-23, 2 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 7 RBI
Center Field: Ender Inciarte, Atlanta Braves
Arizona Diamondbacks fans don't need another reason to regret the disastrous Shelby Miller trade.
But, well, what are you going to do?
We won't dwell on all the pieces the D-backs gave up for Miller (cough, Dansby Swanson). Instead, let's zero in on Ender Inciarte.
The 25-year-old Venezuelan went 13-for-29 with three doubles, a triple and a home run this week. Plus, he's displayed exemplary defense, including a howitzer arm.
"Ender, he's something else," interim skipper Brian Snitker said, per David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He throws guys out—he's way deep in the outfield and I'm thinking, no way he's got a play here. And man, he charges the ball, and his accuracy from that far away is crazy. He's about as good as I've seen."
Honorable Mention: Trea Turner (WSH): 14-for-31, 2 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 2 SB
Right Field: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Maybe it was the mojo bestowed by Katie Ledecky's gold medals. Or maybe it was simply a good baseball player doing good baseball player things.
Whatever the explanation, this week, Bryce Harper hit like the man the Washington Nationals want, need and expect him to be.
The reigning NL MVP banged out 11 hits in 30 at-bats, including a double and a homer, and collected eight RBI.
His overall numbers are still way down. But a blazing final month-plus would do wonders for his stat sheet and the Nats' late-October aspirations.
Honorable Mention: J.D. Martinez (DET): 10-for-26, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Stop us if you've heard this before, but David Ortiz is really good for an old guy.
This week, the 40-year-old Boston Red Sox slugger became the oldest player in MLB history to reach 30 home runs. In all, he went 11-for-25 with two doubles, three home runs and seven RBI.
"It's good. We need that," Ortiz said of his historic homer, per MLB.com's Sam Blum. "We need offense. We've had a good offense this year, and that's what's keeping us alive. Hopefully it continues."
Boston fans are surely hoping his career continues, too, despite Big Papi's insistence that this is his swan song.
Honorable Mention: Albert Pujols (LAA): 11-for-24, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI
Pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees
With all the justified emphasis on the Yankees' youth movement, Masahiro Tanaka is quietly doing excellent things.
They might even be Cy Young Award things, according to Jake Devin of Pinstripe Alley.
That's probably a stretch, even in the wide-open American League Cy Young scramble. Then again, this week, Tanaka looked like a man deserving of some hardware.
The Japanese right-hander twirled 14.2 scoreless innings over two starts, striking out 14 and walking just one.
"That's satisfying to a certain extent, but right now is not the time to reflect," Tanaka said of his recent success and the 168 frames he's thrown overall this season, his highest total since coming to the major leagues, per Dan Martin of the New York Post. "The season's not over."
Honorable Mention: Cole Hamels (TEX): 15.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 18 SO