The aging, high-priced slugger has become an archetype many franchises seek to avoid in free agency, after scores of talented hitters tailed off in their 30s. That day may come for first year Seattle Mariners member Nelson Cruz, but it seems far away now.
Signed to a four-year, $57 million deal in the offseason, Cruz brought the power that it seems Seattle is always seeking in their monstrous ballpark. He’s raking in his new home. As of press time, he leads the majors in total bases and is sitting atop the home run scoreboard with 18 long flies. The Mariners have struggled in a highly-competitive division, but that’s not due to Cruz, the 34-year-old bruiser defying conventional wisdom.
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Speaking of that division, our final guy is a big reason the Houston Astros sit atop the AL West as of press time. Keuchel broke through last year, registering a snazzy 2.93 ERA across 29 starts, but he’s making opposing hitters look foolish in 2015.
A big part of Keuchel’s AL-leading win percentage comes down to minimizing hits. That sounds like a “well, duh” observation about a pitcher, but Keuchel has been the best overall pitcher at preventing them, not just the best starter, allowing just 5.8 hits per nine innings. His WHIP–which measures walks and hits per innings pitched–is also best in the AL, showing that he’s not allowing a ton of hitters on via free pass either.
The Astros have been one of baseball’s best surprises this season, and Keuchel has been a figurehead in their success.
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We’re quickly approaching the dog days of summer, which means the award races are starting to crystalize a bit. Too many games have been played to categorize dominance as a “hot streak” or a blip on the radar. If the numbers are looking good into early June, chances are they’re for real.
Major League Baseball is at an interesting point with regards to its leading talent; the familiar faces that a generation of fans grew up with have almost all but moved on. The Derek Jeters of the world are no longer front and center, which gives the next crop of stars their time and space to shine. Even the teams many fans expect to be bad have risen to a higher level–though we told you in the offseason the Cubs were going to go for it!
Not all of this season’s brightest talents followed the same path to success. Some were anointed as the next big thing long before they made MLB debuts, eventually cashing in on that. Others have risen from parts unknown and won fans over with sheer production, rather than preconceived reputation.
Regardless of how they got here, we’re here to shout out the guys who have reached a level the rest of their peers haven’t. When you eventually look back at the 2015 season, these are the guys that will come to mind first. They’ll be the ones duking it out for hardware, a la Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera in years past.
These are 5 Baseball Players Who Are Playing Out of Their Minds This Year.
Follow Kyle on Twitter at @kyleneubeck
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