Something interesting--and even somewhat refreshing--is happening in the American League these days with the influx of "Who are these guys?" rookies in 2014.
Mind you, there are always those pleasant "against the odds I've paid my dues" players like Mike Aviles and Brad Ziegler: players with what seemed to be marginal Major League skills who arrived at the Show after paying their minor league dues and suddenly break through to a reasonable career at the highest level.
Not that the bulk of players I am thinking about really match that profile, as much as they conform to "Where did this guy come from?" collection of rookies to emerge.
But, of course the hype goes to Jon Singleton and George Springer in the AL. The problem though is that prospects of their stature are usually either owned in keeper leagues, or picked up late in a draft or auction in throw back formats. Meaning no one in the league has a chance to bid a FAAB buck and take a chance.
It does seem, however, that this year there is a move to teams being deeper in multi-positional players who can slide onto a bench, then the lineups, and plug an unforeseen hole or two (I personally think the Athletics model of this is the perfect answer to high priced free agents, allowing franchises to build what my partner Todd calls "the perfect on-field Strat-O-Matic team").
Anyway, I also find it interesting that while the NL can counter Singleton and Springer with Oscar Taveras and Gregory Polanco, there have been relatively few $1 out-of-nowhere finds to counter in the Senior Circuit. Which is kind of a shame, as those lesser known producers are indeed making a difference in the AL.
So, just what players am I talking about? Well, let's look at my five favorites.
Yangervis Solarte (Yankees): Pressed into play simply because of injuries and suspensions, Solarte does wear the Mark Grudzielanek prize for playing in the Minors for awhile, having a decent spring, making the club and then being a team leader prize this year. His .299-6-28 line, with a very nice .369 OBP (22 walks, 25 whiffs) makes it possible for Solarte's, not Alex Rodriguez' beak gracing the cover of the Yanks 2015 media guide. Plus, the 26-year- old plays second, third, and short, a position flexibility bonanza. Solarte went for $16 of Tout Wars FAAB.
Brock Holt (Red Sox): Boston is good at pulling these guys out of nowhere, think Daniel Nava, but among all these "surprises", I like Holt's future chances the best. Holt has an .855 OPS to go with a .339-1-13 line that includes three swipes over his first 29 games. He has played first and third and will shortly qualify in the outfield as well, and I like him a lot better than Will Middlebrooks at third anyway. Holt went for $4 of FAAB (as opposed the $13 Middlebrooks cost during the Tout auction).
Kevin Kiermaier (Rays): Struggling nearly as much as the Rangers with the injury/luck whammy, the Rays still really did not have a guy in the wings a la Rougned Odor or Jurickson Profar. But, the Rays have needed outfield help in deference to their own hot youngin' Wil Myers getting hurt. Well, hello Kiermaier, who is hitting .357-3-4 over his first 16 games, with eight of his 15 hits going for extra bases. That was enough to prompt a $16 winning FAAB bid in Tout.
Danny Santana (Twins): Talk about unassuming, Santana was hitting .267-0-7 at Rochester when summoned to help after Sam Fuld, whom the team acquired off waivers from the Athletics, was hurt. Maybe this month will be the only fruitful one the kid ever has in the Majors, but so far he is .364-2-11 with four swipes at Target over 23 games, and qualifies at short and the outfield. He went for $1 in FAAB.
Eugenio Suarez (Tigers): First there was Jose Iglesias, and he got hurt. Then there was Alex Gonzalez, and he couldn't do it any longer. Then Andrew Romine, who apparently cannot do it yet. But Eugenio Suarez? Hello? Well, Suarez is .364-2-4 over his first week manning short for Detroit, and that is one more dinger than Romine and Gonzalez combined.