Sunday, August 5, 2012

Quietly Awesome (AL Hitters)

To see the NL edition, scroll down or go here.

Austin Jackson (.316/.405/.500)
The 2010 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up endured a brutal sophomore slump last season, but he's made adjustments and his numbers have improved accordingly.  He's been much more selective this year (walking more, whiffing less) and the new approach is paying off, as the 25 year-old has already posted career bests in home runs and RBI.  All three of his triple slash stats rank in the top ten among American Leaguers.  Had he not missed three weeks of action earlier in the season, we'd probably be throwing his name around in the MVP discussion.  Hard to believe the free-swinger is getting on base at a 41 percent clip, but he'll keep scoring plenty of runs setting the table for Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.  He's also one of the more underrated defensive centerfielders and seems destined to win multiple Gold Gloves.

Cody Ross (.264/.335/.516)
By some measures Ross has been the best position player on the Red Sox this season. At least offensively.

Alejandro De Aza (.292/.354/.416)
The 28 year-old centerfielder has flourished in his first season as an everyday player, but that shouldn't surprise anyone who paid attention to his robust .347/.423/.562 line during the final six weeks of last year.  ADA has been a force at the top of Chicago's lineup all season long by getting on base, swiping bags (his 20 steals rank seventh in the AL) and scoring lots of runs (69-fifth).  With 34 extra base hits to date, he also has solid pop for a speedy leadoff hitter.

Alex Rios (.317/.349/.541)
Following an abysmal 2011 (you can argue he was worse than Adam Dunn. Seriously), the notoriously streaky Rios is putting together a career year here in 2012.  He hasn't batted .300 or slugged .500 since his breakout campaign in 2006, but barring a Josh Hamilton-esque two month stretch to close the season he should surpass both benchmarks with relative ease.  He's also on pace to enjoy his first 100 RBI season, but he has no shortage of opportunities batting behind De Aza, Kevin Youkilis, Dunn, and Paul Konerko

Yoenis Cespedes (.310/.370/.531)
Cespedes had the misfortune of making his American debut in a season ripe with rookie talent.  Mike Trout, Yu Darvish, Bryce Harper, Matt Moore, Wade Miley, Lance Lynn, and Will Middlebrooks, among others, have all made waves, pushing Cespedes' impressive campaign to the back burner. Health has been an issue for him as well, whereas the aforementioned youngsters have all been able to stay on the field.  But since the All-Star Break nobody can hold a candle to Cespedes, who's batting a ridiculous .430/.483/.696 over the last 20 games, a dozen of which have been multi-hit efforts.  Obviously he (and his team) can't stay this hot much longer, but at least he's lived up to the hype that preceeded his arrival in the States.  Also have to give a shout out to Josh Reddick here.

Matthew Joyce (.270/.371/.477)
More of the same from Joyce, who's essentially repeating 2011's rock solid .277/.347/.478 batting line.  His counting stats are unimpressive because he missed a quarter of the season, but he leads the Rays in OPS and boasts a stellar 138 OP+.  Much like teammate Ben Zobrist he flies under the radar while guys like B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings make flashier plays and wind up on ESPN.

Billy Butler (.301/.370/.492)
If Country Breakfast goes .300-30-100 in Kansas City, and nobody's there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Shin-Soo Choo (.289/.375/.475)
A great bounceback season for Choo, who's always been one of the more underappreciated players in the game (how he failed to make the All-Star team in either 2009 or 2010, when the Tribe averaged 95 losses, is beyond me).  Could go 20/20 with 100 runs scored and 50 doubles, and even with his increased strikeout rate he remains a threat to bat .300.

Joe Mauer (.320/.416/.442)
Another exceptional season from the three time batting champ, who's leading the AL in on-base percentage and has returned to form after a dismal, injury plagued 2011.  Unfortunately the Twins are the second worst team in the Junior Circuit, so few outside of Minnesota seem to care.  Same goes for Josh Willingham, who could swat 40 long balls, and Justin Morneau, who's been much better than last season.

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