(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Being a backup catcher isn’t the most desirable big league job, but Chirinos is arguably the best in baseball. With Lucroy ahead of him, Chirinos’ at-bats are limited, but when he does get to hit, he does real damage. Last season, Chirinos hit nine home runs in only 147 at-bats, posting a .483 slugging percentage (.797 OPS). In 2015, he hit 10 in 233 at-bats, posting a .762 OPS.
He’s a solid defender, too, putting up 1.4 dWAR over the past two seasons. When the Rangers want to rest Jonathan Lucroy, they need not worry, because Chirinos is an excellent backstop.
(Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times Photo)
A guy who can play all over the field, Danny Valencia has quietly put up back to back great seasons. In 2015, betweens two teams (Toronto and Oakland), Valencia hit 18 home runs in 345 at-bats, and posted an outstanding .864 OPS. Probably a career year for him, Valencia’s slugging percentage fell from .519 in 2016 to .446 in 2015. His OBP was almost identical, though (.345 in 2015; .346 in 2016). Danny Valencia’s OPS should hover right around .800.
Trading for Valencia in the offseason was a solid move by GM Jerry Dipoto.
(Thomas B. Shea/USA Today Photo)
The Houston Astros have a lot of star power, which might be the reason Evan Gattis is overlooked. I’m sure fans of AL West teams know all about him, but around baseball he’s under-appreciated. Gattis put up the best numbers of his career last year, hitting 32 home runs and slugging .508. His .826 OPS was also a career high. His strikeout percentage rose from 2015, but his walk rate did, too. Bonus: He doesn’t wear batting gloves.
El Oso Blanco has quietly become one of the most productive hitters in baseball.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
(Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo)
It’s hard to stand out when you’re playing next to Mike Trout, so it’s understandable that when people think about the Angels, Kole Calhoun doesn’t come to mind. After setting career highs in a number of categories in 2015, Calhoun only got better. He hit fewer home runs in 2016, but his OPS rose to .786, he slashed his strikeout rate from 23.9% to 17.6%, and his walk rate rose from 6.6% to 10%.
Kole Calhoun is such a solid player.
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Outside of the division, most people haven’t heard of Liam Hendriks. The Australian was one of the Athletics’ most reliable bullpen arms in 2016, building on his excellent 2015 season with Toronto in which he posted a 2.14 FIP. Last season with the A’s, his FIP was 2.85. Hendriks’ run prevention is obviously excellent, but he’s dependable, too. He led the Oakland bullpen in innings pitched with 62 ⅔.
Hendriks should be the Athletics go to reliever in 2017.