Dustin Pedroia, Jimmy Rollins and Major League Baseball's 15 Scrappiest Players
Major League Baseball has all sorts of different players. You have the speedster outfielders who usually lead off the lineup, the power hitting middle-of-the-order guys who usually stick to first base because they can't field, the power and finesse pitchers and once in a while, the five-tool player.
Aside from these, most teams also have one or a handful of scrappy players. As for what a scrappy player is, the accepted definition is one who makes the most of limited talent. There's no way to quantify scrappiness, it's merely a situation of knowing it when you see it.
Because it can't be quantified, many consider the variable of scrappiness to be entirely useless. Nonetheless, gaining this label has helped many have nice careers over baseball's history. Here are the top 15 current scrappiest players in baseball.
15. Craig Counsell, Infielder, Milwaukee Brewers
Counsell is 40 yet is still in the league, so that tells you something right there. Counsell always finds a way to contribute to a team nearly every day, yet he only put up big numbers for a couple seasons in Arizona. He also got his start as a member of the 1997 Florida Marlins, so he knows how to fight back when no one's expecting your team to do well.
14. Jeff Keppinger, Infielder, Houston Astros
Keppinger embodies a different type of scrappiness than most on the list. While others make their mark with their drive and perseverance, Keppinger uses his ability to the fullest with the best plate discipline this side of Kevin Youkilis.
In nearly 2,000 plate appearances, Keppinger has struck out 118 times. Mark Reynolds, by contrast, strikes out twice as much with a fourth of the appearances. He led the league in at-bats per strikeout twice, and could easily continue to do so.
13. Nyjer Morgan, Center Fielder, Washington Nationals
Morgan seems to have the limited talent part down, and his attitude is far worse than most scrappy players on the list. Nonetheless, if he thinks he can get a stolen base, or a fly ball that might be out of reach, he's going to try his hardest to get to it, and his energy does help when he uses it positively.
12. Scott Podsednik, Outfielder, Free Agent
I'm surprised no team has claimed this guy as someone who could potentially lead off games, given that he's one of the scrappiest players in the league. He can still steal 30 bases in a year while hitting .300, and while he's not flashy (then again, no one is on this list; the two are quite exclusive), he definitely provides some good ability for any team that wants him.
11. Augie Ojeda, Infielder, Chicago Cubs
You notice how many of these scrappy players can play pretty much any infield/outfield position? They don't play spectacular in any, but they're good enough that they don't need to be replaced. Many utility players can be argued as scrappy.
In Augie Ojeda's case, he had four decent years in Arizona before just being signed by the Cubs as a possible major league option. He stats aren't very good, but he uses all the ability he has to make plays and remain on a roster. That is, after all, the definition of a scrappy player.
10. Aaron Rowand, Center Fielder, San Francisco Giants
One thing you never want to do is give a scrappy player an eight-figure contract. Yes, they make the most of limited talent, but the second part is the key word. Yes, the Giants won a World Series title, but that was in spite of Rowand's year, not because of it.
Nonetheless, before falling apart in 2010, Rowand was one of the game's best scrappy players. He had a career year for Philadelphia in 2007 after spending many seasons with the White Sox and Phillies making the most of the talent he did have.
9. Willie Bloomquist, Utility Player, Arizona Diamondbacks
Guys named Willie always seem to be scrappy players. Wee Willie Keeler, Willy Aybar, heck even Wily Mo Pena was scrappy at times. The current man that fits this, though, is Willie Bloomquist.
Bloomquist played with the Seattle Mariners for seven years, always playing between 70-100 games. When he got a starting gig for Kansas City in 2009, he did the best he could and had a pretty good year. Now, he's joining the Diamondbacks, and given his scrappiness so far, he'll make the roster and find a way to start at times.
8. Jimmy Rollins, Shortstop, Philadelphia Phillies
I was considering adding in Chase Utley, because many seem to consider him scrappy, but he has far too much talent to fit that definition. His infield partner, Jimmy Rollins, fits the definition of a scrappy player more closely, though you could argue he may be too talented for the definition as well.
Rollins, one of two MVPs in the list (recently writers have loved to select scrappy players for this), has led the league in leadoff at-bats many times, as well as triples or steals. Despite this, never having a full season batting average of .300 implies that he is playing beyond his ability in racking up all these stats.
7. Jacoby Ellsbury, Center Fielder, Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox always seem to have a couple scrappy players on their roster they rely on. One could argue Kevin Youkilis is a scrappy player, for example, but I think he plays with his talent, not beyond it.
A rising scrappy star with the Red Sox is center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who burst onto the scene with 120 stolen bases in 2008 and 2009. He was one of the many injury casualties for the Sox in 2010, but is looking to make a strong return this year.
6. Brett Gardner, Left Fielder, New York Yankees
Before you say that being on the Yankees and being a scrappy player are mutually exclusive, I have two words for you: Phil Rizzuto. While Brett Gardner is no Rizzuto, he is the scrappy player who can keep the raw talent, and by extension egos, of most of the Yankees' staff in check.
As a starter, his stats are not flashy on the hitting or fielding end, but he steals enough bases and makes enough good catches to be an asset to the Yankees' lineup.
5. Shane Victorino, Center Fielder, Philadelphia Phillies
When Shane Victorino became an everyday starter for the Phillies in 2006, there wasn't anything to suggest he'd be an elite player. Nonetheless, he made an immediate impact and has been a staple of the team since.
Thanks to his speed and drive, the Flyin' Hawaiian has had very well-rounded hitting stats, as well as three straight Gold Gloves, and could very well end with the best career numbers of anyone on this list. He just has that kind of drive.
4. Reed Johnson, Outfielder, Chicago Cubs
Johnson's the second scrappy guy who the Cubs signed on this list during the offseason. Maybe they're looking to develop an identity of being the scrappy team. Nothing wrong with that, it helped get Philadelphia a World Series ring.
As for Reed Johnson, he worked well as a fourth infielder for the Dodgers this past season, after having served that purpose for the Cubs the previous two years. Defensively he's not all that good, but he can make enough happen with his bat that he's able to stay on rosters.
3. Chone Figgins, Utility Player, Seattle Mariners
Chone Figgins is suffering from a similar problem as Aaron Rowand. He was a great scrappy player when making $4 million a year, but now that he makes $9 million for the Mariners he's suddenly not that good.
When he was a scrappy player on the Angels for several seasons, he was one of the best in the game, stealing bases, drawing walks and just playing a great all-around game seemingly beyond his abilities. Hopefully his can channel the scrappy player within again.
2. Dustin Pedroia, Second Baseman, Boston Red Sox
The second of two MVP winners to make the scrappy list, Pedroia fits the definition of this kind of player perfectly. Despite his stature and having many doubters, he not only proved people wrong by winning the Rookie of the Year Award, but he led the league in hits and won the MVP Award the following season.
He only played 75 games in 2010, and without him and Ellsbury in the lineup, the Red Sox were clearly not the same team, and ended up out of the playoff picture. With him back in the lineup for 2011, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
1. David Eckstein, Shortstop, Free Agent
If there was an award for scrappy players, or a sabrmetrical equation to determine how scrappy a player is, it would be called the Eckstein Award or the Eckstein Equation, because David Eckstein is the definition of a scrappy player; that's how he has made his living.
Not only is Eckstein just good enough with his bat and glove to make an impact without being dominant, but he seems to have some good luck; he won a World Series ring with Anaheim in 2003, and St. Louis in 2006. If any team needs that one more piece to win a title, he's right under your nose, waiting for that contract.