There are a lot of things that go unnoticed in the game of baseball and don’t truly get the recognition they deserve. There is also a laundry list of players in the MLB that are underappreciated by a majority of MLB fans. This blog aims to bring some light to a few players that don’t always get the recognition or appreciation that they oftentimes deserve.
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If you know me, you know I’m a diehard Red Sox fan. Saying that, I truly believe that MLB fans outside of the New England area do not appreciate what Xander Bogaerts has done in a huge baseball market. Red Sox fans remember him in 2013 during the World Series run rocking a number 72 jersey. But many MLB fans forget that he even played in that series let alone making a huge impact. He has been a pillar of consistency at an ever changing position within baseball and has the stats to back it up. Now I’m not saying he should be in the Hall of Fame, but when you ask a casual fan who they think is in the top 5 of shortstops in the game, he never gets the love he should. People forget he finished in the top 5 of MVP voting in 2019 with a ridiculous season hitting .309 with 33 bombs and 117 RBI’s. Now in 2021 he finds himself leading the entire league in hits and is the unquestioned leader for one of the best teams in baseball. The appreciation is starting to come for Xander, but it is nowhere near the level it should be.
You can make a case that the entire San Francisco Giants team is underappreciated considering what that team has done to start the 2021 season. But Gausman has taken his game to a whole different level this year and the appreciation hasn’t matched that. Gausman was a high draft pick out of LSU who fell into a terrible situation trying to pitch in the AL East with Baltimore. He made his way to the National League in 2018 via a trade to Atlanta and made a stop in Cincinnati before finding his most recent landing spot in San Francisco. So far in 2021 Gausman is 4-0 with 8 quality starts to go with a 1.66 ERA in 59.2 Innings, and hardly anyone is talking about it. He is also pitching in a loaded NL West division where he has faced the Padres 3 times already and guess what, the Giants have won all 3 of those games. Another big factor that is now becoming more and more relevant given the new pitching analytics is that he has thrown at least 6 innings in every start this year. Going that deep into games as a starting pitcher is huge for your team and saving the bullpen. We will see if Gausman can continue this tear in his age 30 season.
There has been a lot of talk this year about Corbin Burns and the tear he went on to start this year (52/0 K/BB). Not a lot has been talked about with Brandon Woodruff and that needs to change. Woodruff has a lower ERA and more wins on the year then Burns but you wouldn’t know it by the amount of media attention Burns has gotten over Woodruff. When you dive deeper into Woodruff’s stats you see that his last two losses on the year he got 0 run support from his offense in a 2-0 ballgame. If you take away his first start of the year against the Twins where he gave up 3 runs in 4 innings, he has thrown at least 6 innings and given up less than 2 runs in every start since. That is an absolute tear and deserves more recognition from the national baseball fanbase. Woodruff is also relatively young at 28 years old and has only been in the bigs since 2017. He has room to grow and appreciation to develop but he is far ahead of schedule for that.
Mitch Haniger is another player who gets limited exposure due to the location of the team he plays for. Regardless, Haniger is starting to show fans around the league that he has an elite hitting tool set and is a problem at the plate. His 12 home runs so far in 2021 put him in a top 5 tie with names like JD Martinez, Aaron Judge, and Jose Ramirez. If you see all the love and appreciation those players get, you see why Haniger is criminally underappreciated by a majority of fans. His .257 batting average isn’t sexy but he has as many hits (43) as he does games played and if you can do that, you are a pretty decent player in my book. I think if Haniger can continue to produce at the level he is at, he will be making an All-Star team in the coming years if it doesn’t happen in 2021.
I will be the first to admit that I was someone who was calling for the Reds to move on from Winkler if they ever wanted to get back to the playoffs before the season started. Who knows how bad of a record this Reds team would have if Winkler hadn’t put the team on his back like a Jansport backpack. Winkler is hitting .355 with an OPS of 1.096 to go along with his 13 bombs on the year. In the last week he has hit over .400 with 6 bombs! The man is white hot and continues to out produce his season expectations. He has gotten a little love on social media but the guy should be getting A LOT more love. If he can stay healthy, and the Reds pitching staff can turn things around, Winkler could be a dark horse MVP candidate with the way he is going.
Honorable Mention: Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Isiah Kiner-Falefa is another relatively young (just turned 26-years-old) player who doesn’t have a lot of flashiness to his game, but brings a lot of value to his team. The 2020 gold glove winner at third base is a spark plug for the Texas Rangers team. The first time I remember seeing his name was in fantasy baseball since he used to carry a Catcher eligible designation. He has since grown into a super utility role that is becoming more common around the league. If you have had him on your fantasy team you know that he is a 5 tool player and is a savage on the basepaths. He doesn’t have the top end speed but he finds ways to capitalize on situations and be a productive base stealer. As it stands now, he is currently 2nd in the entire MLB in steals with 10 which is also a new career high. His gold glove solidifies what he brings on the defensive side of the game, and he also has a decent offensive game as well. He hits for a solid average and we will see what kind of power output he can muster this year. While that is not a focal point of his game he does have 5 long balls in 2021 which is also another career high for him. I really like Kiner-Falefa’s game and think he is very undervalued around the league.