B/R Community Picks Their Favorite MLB Players Right Now

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2021

B/R Community Picks Their Favorite MLB Players Right Now

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Welcome to the Bleacher Report MLB community article.

    For this week's topic, we asked app users a simple question: Who is your favorite MLB player and why?

    The responses were all over the place, ranging from current stars to past greats to guys who were never more than role players on their respective teams.

    The beauty of this question is that there are truly no wrong answers!

    Below, you'll find a wide variety of answers from readers who managed to follow both the "who" and "why" of the question request. In other words, if you just gave a name, you didn't make the cut.

    Below each response, I've given my two cents and provided some context for each player.

Deep Cuts

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    Willie Bloomquist
    Willie BloomquistIcon Sports Wire/Getty Images

    "I know he's a free agent right now, but for some odd reason I love Joey Rickard with a passion." (@turnerhare)

    No judgement here! I grew up in the Chicago area in the 1990s, and my favorite player wasn't Sammy Sosa or Mark Grace. It was pinch-hitting slugger Glenallen Hill.

    Rickard, 30, made good as a Rule 5 pick with the Baltimore Orioles in 2016. He hit .246/.300/.371 with 20 home runs, 71 RBI and 1.4 WAR in 347 games over the last five seasons.

            

    "Willie Bloomquist. I grew up watching a perennially hopeless, 90-loss team. I needed a hero. And from the twilight of Edgar to the dawn of Felix, that hero was Willie Bloomquist." (@joshuag71)

    My enduring memory of Willie Bloomquist was his inclusion on the Team USA roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic, serving as a utility infielder behind Brandon Phillips, Jimmy Rollins and Ben Zobrist at the middle infield spots.

    The 14-year MLB veteran is now the head baseball coach at his alma mater Arizona State.

             

    "Nelson Cruz and Robinson Chirinos. As a Rangers fan, those guys were good for us on and off the field." (@derekulloa)

    It isn't surprising to see a Rangers fan still fondly remembering Nelson Cruz. However, catcher Robinson Chirinos was definitely one of the more out-of-the-box names thrown out in the crowdsourcing thread.

    With that said, he quietly averaged 13 home runs and 39 RBI with a 104 OPS+ during the five-year span from 2014 through 2018 in Texas. His 9.3 WAR during that span ranked ninth among all catchers.

Retired

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    Andre Dawson
    Andre DawsonSPX/Diamond Images/Getty Images

    "Will The Thrill" (@poodle)

    The face of the San Francisco Giants during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Will Clark is still a popular figure in the Bay Area. The team will retire his No. 22 jersey during the 2022 season.

    He was a five-time All-Star and hit .299/.373/.499 with 176 home runs, 709 RBI and 35.8 WAR in eight seasons with the Giants to start his career after going No. 2 overall in the 1985 draft.

              

    "Andre Dawson. Loved watching The Hawk play right field for the Cubs back in the day. Can remember trying to emulate his stance playing wiffle ball. Lol, great times." (@Hitty1776)

    Dawson famously signed a "blank check" contract with the Chicago Cubs amid owner collusion prior to the 1987 season. He then promptly won NL MVP honors when he led the league in home runs (49) and RBI (137) for a 75-86 Cubs team.

    Had it not been for the recurring knee issues brought on by the artificial turf he played on at Olympic Stadium in Montreal early in his career, his Hall of Fame numbers would have been even more impressive.

             

    "Joel Zumaya. Threw absolute gas and has the same name as @JoelReuter." (@QRcode)

    Terrific logic!

    Zumaya is one of the first pitchers I remember consistently hitting 100 mph on the radar gun. Arm issues kept him from developing into the elite closer many expected him to become, but he was fun to watch for a short time nonetheless.

Old Faces, New Places

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    Mookie Betts
    Mookie BettsMaddie Meyer/Getty Images

    "Mookie Betts. I'm a Red Sox fan and will forever love Mookie." (@TRC21)

    Respect. Baseball is a business, and Mookie Betts turning down a 10-year, $300 million extension offer from the Boston Red Sox to ultimately sign a 12-year, $365 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers is no reason to hate him.

    Betts won an MVP award, helped the Red Sox win a World Series title in 2018, and piled up 42.2 WAR in six seasons with the team that drafted him in the fifth round in 2011. Trading him hurt, but it allowed the Red Sox to unload David Price's contract and brought back a player in Alex Verdugo who looks like a future star.

              

    "Andrew McCutchen. Was the face of the brief turnaround for the Pirates and 20 years of futility boiled into an outpouring of love for that man from the city." (@nahttodaydeath)

    There's no question that McCutchen was a central figure in the Pirates' back-to-back-to-back playoff appearances after they spent the previous 20 years watching from home in October.

    Outside of Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell, you can argue he's the best player to suit up for the Pirates in the modern era. It also doesn't hurt that Pittsburgh acquired its best player right nowcenter fielder Bryan Reynoldsin the deal that sent McCutchen to San Francisco in 2018.

               

    "All-time: Albert Pujols. One of the five greatest right-handed hitters of all-time. Really rooting for him to get to 700 next season." (@RaptorJesus1290)

    With 10 straight .300/30/100 seasons to start his career, 3,298 hits, 679 home runs, 2,149 RBI and 99.8 WAR, there's a real case to be made that Pujols is indeed the greatest right-handed hitter in MLB history.

    A 21-homer season next year might be a stretch considering he's no longer an everyday player right now and he's unlikely to find an everyday role. However, teams will continue giving him a bench job and playing time against left-handed pitching as long as he wants to hang around.

A 2021-22 MLB Free-Agent Class Filled with Favorites

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    Javier Baez
    Javier BaezRich Schultz/Getty Images

    "Kris Bryant. He became my favorite player before he was even drafted. Also the first baseball jersey I ever got." (@j_slime)

    I'm curious for some background on why he was your favorite player before he was drafted. Are you from the San Diego area, where he hit .329/.493/.820 with 31 home runs and 62 RBI in 62 games during his junior season at the University of San Diego?

             

    "Nick Castellanos brought a much-needed swag to the Reds." (@CincyVols)

    "I hope he doesn't take it with him when he leaves." (@bbosu)

    An excellent pile on here by @bbosu, though I'm not 100 percent convinced the Reds are going to let Castellanos walk when he inevitably opts out of the final two years of his contract this winter. Aside from Jesse Winker, their future outfield is full of questions, and the universal DH looks like an inevitability for the back end of a new long-term deal.

              

    "Chris Taylor because he treats every at bat like it's his last." (@BevJedi3)

    Even in an everyday role, Taylor brings the energy of a bench player who is looking to make the most of a limited opportunity. He'd make any team better thanks to his versatility, and I think the contract he ultimately gets this offseason is going to surprise a lot of people.

           

    "Javy Baez. So electric." (@chaimsimon)

    He's also quietly rebuilding his free-agency stock in a big way by hitting .310/.385/.603 with nine home runs and 18 RBI in 33 games since he was traded to the New York Mets. I'm all-in on the idea of him and Francisco Lindor being teammates until the end of time.

         

    "This year it's Marcus Stroman. One of the Mets few bright spots in 2021 and with some flair. Plus, he's thoughtful and open." (@Smoyer)

    After suffering a torn left calf muscle and then opting out of the 2020 season, Stroman has returned in a big way with a 2.88 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 169 innings. The 30-year-old is going to be a huge addition wherever he lands this winter.

            

    "Corey Seager. He was the first one I remember the Dodgers drafting, and was the first guy deemed untouchable when I started following trade rumors. And then he came up and has always hit the ball hard. Not the flashiest guy, but does his job, and does it well. An absolute joy to watch. I will always remember his 3-HR game and him just missing the home run cycle by about 10 feet." (@ryty4)

    What more can you ask of a homegrown star than what Seager gave the Los Angeles Dodgers last postseason? He hit .328/.425/.746 with eight home runs and 20 RBI during the playoffs, and he took home both NLCS MVP and World Series MVP honors. Will the Trea Turner trade spell the end of his time in Los Angeles?

Veteran Faces of the Franchise

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    Ron Vesely/Getty Images

    "Jose Abreu. Loyal to us throughout the entire rebuild and is as tough as nails. Always plays with 100 percent energy, and when he gets injured he always fights through and won't miss games. One of the only constant presences on the White Sox this year." (@Anjan)

    The six-year, $68 million contract that Jose Abreu signed with the White Sox after he defected from Cuba will go down as one of the greatest deals in franchise history. He tacked another three-year, $50 million extension onto the back end of that contract following the 2019 season, and he has been one of baseball's most consistent run producers while leading a young clubhouse on the rise.

           

    "Freddie Freeman because he plays the game the right way and enjoys baseball." (@betheljr)

    There's no way the Braves let Freddie Freeman walk this offseason, right? The two sides have yet to come to terms on an extension, but it's no secret that there is mutual interest, and the PR hit of letting him get away alone is worth ponying up. Aside from the on-field production, is there any more wholesome MLB content right now than his son, Charlie Freeman?

             

    "Joey Votto. Been a true professional since entering the league. One of the best plate visions we've seen in the last 10-15 years." (@dvargas4)

    With a 98 OPS+ in 831 plate appearances in 2019 and 2020, it looked like 38-year-old Joey Votto was coming down the homestretch of his terrific MLB career when the 2021 season began. Instead, he has put together the third 30-homer season of his career, and he continues to be an elite on-base threat with a 13.2 percent walk rate and a .366 on-base percentage.

Young Stars on the Rise

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    Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
    Vladimir Guerrero Jr.Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    "Vladdy Jr. Exciting as hell and has a great attitude!" (@bEaUdS44)

    "Gotta go with Vladdy Jr. was a big fan of his dad, so it's only right I rock with Vladdy. BIG bat and just love his love of the game." (@GoGators954)

    There seems to be a strong contingent of fans who loved Vladimir Guerrero during his playing days and have since carried over that support to his son now that he's also starring north of the border. What's not to love about an enthusiastic young player who is still on the come up?

             

    "Juan Soto. He has such a great swing, power and the best plate discipline in the league. I still don't think he gets the recognition he deserves." (@jake_zuza)

    It could be a long road ahead for the Washington Nationals as they embark on a full-blown rebuild following their fire sale at the trade deadline. Since he's under club control through the 2024 season, Soto is part of it for better or worse. The 22-year-old is quietly having the best season of his career so far with 6.1 WAR and an absurd 120 walks against 83 strikeouts for an NL-leading .457 on-base percentage.

             

    "Luis Robert because he plays hard and he is fun to watch." (@vanpritchartt)

    The sport of baseball was dealt a blow when Luis Robert suffered a hip injury that wound up sidelining him for 85 games earlier this season. A dynamic five-tool talent who is just scratching the surface of his immense potential, Robert is hitting .375/.409/.633 with 17 extra-base hits in 28 games since returning to action on Aug. 9.

High-Profile Superstars

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    Bryce Harper
    Bryce HarperCody Glenn/Getty Images

    "Bryce Harper because I love the power he puts into every swing, despite the constant criticism I'll always defend him." (@marco25)

    If you're still calling Bryce Harper overrated, you're just embarrassing yourself at this point. The expectations that came with being on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high schooler have followed him throughout his career, and he's been under a microscope as a result. But anyone who actually takes a peek through the lens of that microscope sees a 28-year-old with 264 home runs and 39.2 WAR on his resume, and he might add a second NL MVP award in 2021.

                 

    "Aaron Judge -- next captain." (@chridh)

    Aaron Judge has been healthy and productive this season, but he played in only 63 percent of the New York Yankees' games in the three years prior. That's something the front office will have to consider when pondering the length and value of a potential extension offer with free agency looming after the 2022 season. If they do ultimately lock him up long term, I'm all for slapping the "C" on his jersey.

                

    "Francisco Lindor because he's got swag and plays the game with a smile. Fun to watch hit and even more fun to watch play short." (@Lindy12)

    It's been a trying season for Francisco Lindor in his first year with the New York Mets, but he has never let his struggles at the plate impact his upbeat personality. Even in a down year by his standards, he's still a 3.0 WAR player, and it would be unwise to bet against him bouncing back in a big way in 2022.

The No. 1 Answer: Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants

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    Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

    "I've got to say Brandon Crawford. His bat has come along the last few years, but for me watching him in the field is magic." (@kingspoonie)

    "Brandon Crawford. Defense is a lot more valuable than people may think. Plus his wild card grand slam was wild." (@zhunt05)

    "He's in my top five favorite and I'm not even a Giants fan." (@marco25)

    "Craw. Who else? Heart and soul since he was born. Should never wear any other uni and he does it all...with style." (@mikechesher)

    In this completely unscientific crowdsourcing survey that was live for the better part of 24 hours, Brandon Crawford was a surprise winner as the most common answer.

    Then again, what's not to like?

    The 34-year-old is a homegrown star for the San Francisco Giants. He was born in California and attended UCLA before the Giants selected him in the fourth round of the 2008 draft.

    It looked like he might be a candidate to have his salary dumped in a trade or at the very least benched after he hit .228/.304/.350 for a 74 OPS+ and minus-0.5 WAR in 2019, but he has bounced back in a big way.

    With 20 home runs, 80 RBI and a 137 OPS+ to go along with solid defense at shortstop and 4.8 WAR to lead all Giants position players, he has been an integral part of San Francisco's unexpected surge to the top of the NL West standings.

                

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, and accurate through Tuesday's games.

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