Los Angeles Dodgers
(Richard Mackson/USA Today Photo)
He broke out early in 2015, slumped in the second half, and everyone forgot about him. Outside of Los Angeles, I don’t think people realized how good Joc was in 2016. He posted a better OPS (.847) than Justin Turner (.832), but Turner finished 9th in MVP voting, and Pederson didn’t get a single vote. He also cut down on his strikeouts, had more total bases, and hit one less homer than he did in 2015, all in 109 fewer plate appearances.
Hopefully Joc will garner more attention in 2017.
San Francisco Giants
(Brad Mangin/Getty Images)
As a rookie in 2016, Derek Law posted a 2.13 ERA (2.53 FIP). A single season can be deceptive, especially as a reliever; however, outside of San Francisco circles, Law got no attention. If you’re a Giants fan, you know that he was certainly the most consistent arm out of an otherwise tumultuous bullpen.
It’ll be interesting to see if he can open more eyes with a solid sophomore campaign.
(Russell Lansford/Icon Sportswire Photo)
After posting a .911 OPS and winning the batting title in 2016, you’d think DJ Lemahieu would be one of the most talked about players in the game, yet, his name almost never comes up; Bleacher Report ranked him the 9th best second basemen, which is heinous. MLB Network’s “shredder” ranked Lemahieu the 7th best second basemen, ahead of Brian Dozier, Logan Forsythe and Ben Zobrist, two of whom were higher on BR’s list.
He definitely gets a bad wrap because he plays at Coors Field, but his home/road splits were decent last year; Lemahieu posted a .303 average on the road, albeit his slugging percentage was low (.395). He’s no schlub on defense either, posting six wins above replacement over the last five seasons.
(Ben Margot/AP Photo)
Following a brief stint with the club in 2015, Drury became a fixture in the Diamondbacks 2016 lineup. In his age 23 season, Drury posted a .786 OPS and hit 16 home runs in 461 at bats. If he can cut down on his strikeouts in 2017 (100), Drury could become a real force in the Arizona lineup.
He’s a bit of a defensive liability, though, as he made four errors in just 103 chances at second and third base. He wasn’t fantastic in the outfield either, but he was better. The Diamondbacks should stick him there to avoid another -1.7 defensive WAR season.
San Diego Padres
(Joe Camporeale/USA Today Photo)
Although he missed a decent chunk of last season, in his 443 plate appearances, Solarte was phenomenal, posting an .808 OPS. If you discount the fact that he didn’t register the 502 at-bats needed to qualify for a batting title, Solarte’s OPS puts him above Xander Bogaerts, Elvis Andrus, Stephen Piscotty, Francisco Lindor, Mike Napoli, etc. He’s ahead of plenty more “bigger” names, too. He also hit 15 home runs in his limited at bats.
Solarte was the guy who inspired me to write this. When I looked up his stats a couple days ago, I was shocked by how good he was and how little I heard his name. The last time he was getting a lot of publicity was when he broke onto the scene with the Yankees in 2014. Hopefully more people take notice of him this season.