The Most Entertaining Player to Watch on Every MLB Team

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2021

The Most Entertaining Player to Watch on Every MLB Team

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    Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

    Over the last few months, I've published a skill rankings article series, which takes a deep dive into advanced metrics in an effort to decide things such as best clutch hitter, best power hitter, best fastball, etc.

    Not everyone loves a statistical deep dive, and that's fine.

    Some baseball fans still prefer the good old fashioned eye test when it comes to determining the best players in the game, or at least the ones who are the most fun to watch.

    That's what this article is about: selecting the most entertaining player on each MLB roster based solely on subjectivity.

    There are no right or wrong answers, but feel free to offer up your own thoughts in the comments where they differ from mine.

    Let's go!

Arizona Diamondbacks: SP Zac Gallen

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The D-backs are at a crossroads after a disappointing 2020 season following an aggressive offseason during which they traded for Starling Marte and signed Madison Bumgarner to a five-year contract.

    Regardless of whether they decide to rebuild or push forward with this core, budding ace Zac Gallen will be a significant part of the present and future.

    The 25-year-old has a deep arsenal of pitches with a mid-90s fastball, a plus changeup, a wipeout slider and a curveball, and he can throw them all for strikes with command that has drawn comparisons to Greg Maddux's.

Atlanta Braves: RF Ronald Acuna Jr.

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    There have been just four 40-40 players in MLB history, and no one has accomplished the feat since Alfonso Soriano did it with the Washington Nationals in 2006.

    In his second big league season and at the age of 21, Ronald Acuna Jr. came awfully close with a 41-homer, 37-steal campaign that earned him a fifth-place finish in National League MVP voting and a Silver Slugger Award.

    The fact that he became a more complete hitter in 2020—raising his walk rate a staggering 8.2 percentage points to post an elite .406 on-base percentage—should scare the rest of the league.

Baltimore Orioles: 1B Ryan Mountcastle

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    When the Cubs began rebuilding under Theo Epstein, there were some lean years when they fielded rosters filled with placeholders. Anthony Rizzo was the first long-term building block to arrive on the scene and provide fans a reason for excitement.

    Freddie Freeman and Jose Altuve were in similar positions during successful rebuilds with Atlanta and Houston, surviving the down years and coming out the other side as key contributors.

    Ryan Mountcastle feels like he could be that guy for the O's after hitting .333/.386/.492 with five home runs and 23 RBI in 35 games in his debut season.

Boston Red Sox: 3B Rafael Devers

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Rafael Devers hit .311/.361/.555 with 54 doubles, 32 home runs and 115 RBI in 2019 while leading the American League with 359 total bases, and he did it all before his 23rd birthday.

    Somewhat lost in the hype of Fernando Tatis Jr., Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto, Devers is one of the game's best young hitters. And there's still plenty of room for him to turn those 54 doubles into more home runs as he taps into his tremendous raw power.

    The fact that he was able to right the ship last year after struggling early also speaks volumes to his ability to make adjustments and handle adversity.

Chicago Cubs: SP Kyle Hendricks

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    A lot of people would no doubt tab Javier Baez as the Cubbies' most entertaining player, and that's a fair take.

    For me, there's nothing quite like watching Kyle Hendricks dominate opposing hitters without touching 90 mph on the radar gun.

    The 31-year-old threw a three-hit shutout on Opening Day last year, striking out nine batters, and he did it while averaging 88.0 mph with his fastball. It takes a next-level understanding of tunneling pitches and attacking the strike zone to befuddle an opposing lineup for nine innings without elite velocity.

Chicago White Sox: SS Tim Anderson

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    From rising five-tool superstar Luis Robert to reigning American League MVP Jose Abreu to ace Lucas Giolito to flame-throwing rookie Garrett Crochet, the ChiSox have no shortage of entertainment value.

    Shortstop Tim Anderson, however, is on another level when it comes to swagger.

    The 27-year-old has unleashed some of the best bat flips in recent history while serving as a dynamic catalyst atop the South Siders lineup, hitting .331 over the past two seasons with an aggressive approach at the plate that rarely results in a walk.

Cincinnati Reds: SP Luis Castillo

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Luis Castillo is one of the most GIF-able pitchers in baseball, and his results back up the eye test.

    The 28-year-old is armed with the best off-speed pitch in baseball—an elite changeup that has accounted for 205 of his 315 strikeouts since the start of the 2019 season.

    With a velocity differential of nearly 10 mph relative to his fastball, and an absurd 9.3 inches of horizontal break on the pitch, his changeup makes opposing hitters look foolish on a regular basis.

    The departure of NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer means Castillo will be counted on to lead the rotation along with Sonny Gray.

Cleveland: RP James Karinchak

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Shane Bieber is one of the best pitchers in baseball. When Jose Ramirez is swinging a hot bat, there are few hitters in the game capable of matching his production.

    But in terms of sheer entertainment value, give me Cleveland reliever James Karinchak.

    The 25-year-old struck out 53 of the 109 batters he faced last season, a year after he rang up an absurd 59.2 percent of the batters he faced in the minors over 30.1 innings.

    That no doubt contributed to Cleveland's decision to cut ties with All-Star closer Brad Hand. Karinchak will be counted on to close games with his upper 90s fastball and hammer curveball.

Colorado Rockies: RF Charlie Blackmon

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Trevor Story is really good on both sides of the ball, and German Marquez gets my vote for most underrated pitcher in baseball, but Charlie Blackmon is a delight to watch.

    Terms like "gamer" and "grinder" and "ballplayer" get thrown around all too often in reference to young talent, and Blackmon is the type of star everyone hopes those players become.

    Sure, his home-road splits are significant, and he's not the best defensive outfielder, but he can flat-out swing the bat. For a 14-game stretch last season, he was the best hitter on the planet, posting a ridiculous .589/.613/.857 line with 12 multihit games and 33 knocks.

Detroit TIgers: DH Miguel Cabrera

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    There's something to be said for a living legend finishing their career while still performing at a high level.

    Miguel Cabrera is no longer a 30-homer threat or an MVP candidate, but he's also far from washed up.

    The 37-year-old posted a 102 OPS+ with 10 home runs and 35 RBI in 57 games last season, and he made elite contact, ranking among the leaders in exit velocity (97th percentile) and hard-hit rate (91st percentile).

    Alongside fellow legend Albert Pujols, Cabrera will go down as one of the greatest right-handed hitters in history.

Houston Astros: SP Zack Greinke

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    Still going strong entering his age-37 season, Zack Greinke has always been an eclectic character. That was on full display last season—from his calling out his pitches to sitting among cardboard cutouts.

    My fondness for him dates back to his early days with Kansas City and the iconic video game MVP Baseball 2005.

    His eephus curveball in that game—a pitch he still uncorks from time to time today—made him one of my favorites to play with, and I've been a fan ever since.

Kansas City Royals: SS Adalberto Mondesi

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    In 2019, there were only eight players who tallied at least 30 steals.

    Compare that to 17 players during the 2009 season and 26 players during the 1999 season, and it's clear the stolen base is becoming a lost art.

    Not for Adalberto Mondesi, who led the majors with 24 in 59 games last season and has 99 thefts since the start of 2018. The 25-year-old still has work to do to refine his approach and improve his on-base skills, but his elite wheels and standout defense make him a steady source of entertainment value.

Los Angeles Angels: CF Mike Trout

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Several years ago, despite the fact that I'm not a big NBA fan, I paid a premium to watch LeBron James play when he was still a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and they came to town to face the Chicago Bulls.

    I wanted to be able to say years from now that I saw him in person during his prime.

    Mike Trout is that same type of generational talent who is worth the price of admission, just to witness the legendary career he's building while it's still in progress.

Los Angeles Dodgers: RF Mookie Betts

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Lots of choices here.

    Trevor Bauer is must-see TV every time he takes the mound, Walker Buehler would be my pick to build a rotation around for the next decade, and Cody Bellinger is just a year removed from NL MVP honors.

    That said, there's not a more complete player in the game than Mookie Betts, and his passion and enthusiasm on the field are contagious for players and fans alike.

    How many titles will he help bring to Los Angeles over the next 11 years of his contract?

Miami Marlins: SP Sixto Sanchez

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Watching a roster get stripped to the studs by ownership to start a rebuild is always hard for a fanbase, but sometimes it brings back a player such as Sixto Sanchez.

    The young right-hander was the centerpiece of the return package in the trade that shipped J.T. Realmuto to the Phils, and if his debut season was any indication, he has a chance to anchor the Miami rotation for a long time.

    The 22-year-old posted a 3.46 ERA in seven starts after making his MLB debut Aug. 22, and he blanked the Cubs for five innings in his postseason debut in Game 3 of the NL Wild Card Series. The comparisons to Pedro Martinez set a high bar, but they may not be unfounded.

Milwaukee Brewers: RP Devin Williams

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    For a team that already had Josh Hader in the bullpen, the breakout season Devin Williams put together on his way to NL Rookie of the Year honors was borderline unfair.

    The 26-year-old struck out 53 of the 100 batters he faced, posting a 0.33 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and 17.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 22 appearances last season.

    His success stems from an otherworldly changeup.

    Throwing the pitch 52.7 percent of the time and 227 times total, he allowed just two hits—both singles—while racking up 41 strikeouts and generating a ridiculous 30.4 percent whiff rate with an average of 10.5 inches of horizontal break.

Minnesota Twins: DH Nelson Cruz

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Nelson Cruz just keeps raking.

    The 40-year-old hit .303/.397/.595 with 16 home runs and 33 RBI to finish sixth in AL MVP voting in 2020, matching his highest finish in the balloting.

    He's hit 260 home runs over the past seven seasons, and he has arguably gotten better as his career has progressed.

    A violation of the MLB policy on performance-enhancing drugs will always hang over him, but from an entertainment standpoint, it's been awfully fun to watch Cruz launch home runs over the last decade.

New York Mets: SP Jacob deGrom

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Simply put, Jacob deGrom is the best in the world at what he does.

    He may not have won the NL Cy Young Award in 2020, but he remains the consensus best pitcher in baseball and has been virtually untouchable over the past three seasons with a 2.10 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings in 76 starts.

    Few starters throw harder, and even fewer can match his arsenal of off-speed pitches: a slider and changeup that are both elite. A late bloomer who won NL Rookie of the Year honors in his age-26 season, deGrom should age well as he enters his mid-30s.

New York Yankees: RF Aaron Judge

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    There's just something about someone built like a defensive end crushing home runs that reminds many fans why they love this sport in the first place.

    Aaron Judge has to find a way to stay on the field if he's ever going to live up to expectations and to his own vast potential, but he can annihilate a baseball like only his fellow oft-injured teammate Giancarlo Stanton.

    At 6'7", 282 pounds, Judge simply stands out in the batter's box. When he connects, the only question is where it will land.

Oakland Athletics: 3B Matt Chapman

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    If you appreciate good defense, Matt Chapman has a case for being the most entertaining player in baseball.

    The 27-year-old has piled up 81 defensive runs saved in four seasons, and two of those campaigns were shortened by a late debut in 2017 and the abridged schedule plus an injury last year.

    Far from a one-trick pony, Chapman is also a dangerous middle-of-the-order slugger with one 30-homer season already under his belt and plenty more on the way. The fact that he has developed into a homegrown superstar for a team that relies so heavily on in-house talent only adds to the story.

Philadelphia Phillies: 3B Alec Bohm

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Alec Bohm is going to be a star.

    The 24-year-old played just 165 games in the minors before making his MLB debut early last season, and he finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting on the strength of a .338/.400/.481 line in 180 plate appearances.

    Beneath the surface, he hit .452 with runners in scoring position, and his four home runs were just the tip of the iceberg for a player who was selected third in the 2018 draft for his tremendous raw power above anything else.

Pittsburgh Pirates: 3B Ke'Bryan Hayes

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Dark times lie ahead for a team that was already the worst in baseball before it traded Josh Bell, Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon this offseason.

    Ke'Bryan Hayes is the one player who could make the Buccos even remotely watchable.

    The 24-year-old hit .376/.442/.682 with 14 extra-base hits in 95 plate appearances while living up to his billing as an elite defensive third baseman, racking up 1.9 WAR to lead all rookies despite playing just 24 games.

San Diego Padres: SS Fernando Tatis Jr.

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    There might not be a more exciting player in the sport than Fernando Tatis Jr.

    The 22-year-old is a walking highlight reel, from his general disinterest in baseball's unwritten rules to his rare mix of power and speed to his cannon arm and incredible range at shortstop.

    He has played 143 games, roughly the equivalent of one season. During that time, he's hit .301/.374/.582 with 24 doubles, 39 home runs, 98 RBI, 111 runs and 27 steals en route to 7.0 WAR.

    If he can come close to those numbers over full slates of games, he will be a perennial MVP candidate and well worth the massive 14-year, $340 million extension he just signed.

San Francisco Giants: RP Tyler Rogers

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    There are a handful of pitchers who throw from a low arm slot, including Darren O'Day, Adam Cimber, Joe Smith and Tim Hill, but the submarine pitcher is nearly extinct.

    Tyler Rogers is keeping the tradition alive as the pitcher with the most knuckle-scuffing potential.

    The 30-year-old twin brother of Minnesota Twins standout Taylor Rogers led the NL with 29 appearances last season, tallying three saves and 10 holds with a 4.50 ERA and 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings in his second season with the Giants. The different look he provides is what makes him both effective and entertaining.

Seattle Mariners: 1B Evan White

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    All due respect to Kyle Lewis, who was fun to watch as a rookie, but Evan White gets my vote for M's.

    It's easy to spot a good defensive shortstop or center fielder, as those positions provide ample opportunity for highlight-reel plays. It's a bit trickier for a first baseman to stand out, but White is an 80-grade fielder.

    The seven defensive runs saved he tallied in just 54 games in 2020 were more than all but three first basemen compiled in the full-length 2019 season. White is also capable of far more than he showed at the plate, making him an under-the-radar breakout candidate.

St. Louis Cardinals: C Yadier Molina

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    At 38 years old, Yadier Molina is no longer the impact hitter he was in his prime.

    He's slashed .268/.312/.419 for a 94 OPS+ over the past four seasons while tallying just 5.0 WAR, a total that ranks 14th among all catchers.

    Molina, however, controls the game from behind the plate in a way that no other catcher in baseball can and in a way that doesn't show up in the box score, serving as a second coach on the field. The fact that he still plays the game with such joy and enthusiasm after 17 seasons makes him an easy choice to rally around.

Tampa Bay Rays: SP Tyler Glasnow

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Aside from the whole Disney prince vibe he has going for him, Tyler Glasnow is also fun to watch.

    The 6'8" right-hander had some trouble keeping his mechanics in sync during his time as a prospect with the Pirates, but now everything flows smoothly.

    With a fastball that clocked in at 97.5 mph last season and a big curveball that averaged 11.8 inches of break, he can be unhittable. He'll now also be counted on to lead the Tampa Bay rotation following the departures of Charlie Morton and Blake Snell.

Texas Rangers: RF Joey Gallo

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    When he squares up a pitch, there may be no one on the planet who can hit a baseball farther than Joey Gallo.

    That alone is enough for him to claim the title of most entertaining on a roster that is lacking in star power in the early stages of a rebuild.

    Gallo has also turned himself into an excellent defensive right fielder, winning a Gold Glove last season, but his light-tower power and the flickers of a more well-rounded game he's shown over the past few years drive the excitement.

Toronto Blue Jays: SS Bo Bichette

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Bo Bichette has 44 extra-base hits in 75 games.

    He may never be more than an average defensive shortstop, and it remains to be seen if his base-stealing ability will carry over to the majors, but in terms of hit tool, there are few young hitters who stack up.

    The 22-year-old was slashing .361/.391/.672 through 64 plate appearances when a knee injury cost him a month, and he struggled a bit when he returned. That has only fueled the hype, though, and his first full season could end in superstardom.

Washington Nationals: SP Max Scherzer

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    Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

    Juan Soto would likely be the popular answer, and it's not hard to see why after he won the NL batting title as a 21-year-old last season.

    That said, there's still nothing quite like watching Max Scherzer.

    It takes a certain level of intensity, focus and determination to make it as a pitcher in the big leagues, and Scherzer is overflowing with all those intangibles.

    For my money, he's the fiercest competitor in the game, and the way he struts around the mound following a strikeout is legendary.

              

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.