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MLB Top 10s: Most underrated? How about Mariners' Seager, Nats' Roark

by | Baseball Writer
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In the Eye On Baseball Top 10s, here's what we do: rank players according to criteria. Those criteria change depending upon week and whim, but the Top 10s will always be informed by some angle or another, painfully contrived or otherwise.

And that brings us to this week's guiding query: Who are the most underrated players of 2014?

In other words, we're listing players who have delivered in 2014 but don't seem to be getting enough credit for having done so. Important note surely to be ignored: These players aren't ranked according to their overall value; rather, they're ranked according to overall value relative to the imprecise amount of ink/bandwidth/oxygen they're receiving. Underrated, you see. Yes, this is a highly subjective exercise. You are hereby encouraged to deal with it.

As always, we list these players with no regard for their pre-2014 histories and no regard for whether or not these performances are sustainable. This is about performance in 2014 to date and nothing else. As for position players, defense and base-running are very much part of the calculus.

And now let us recite baseball names for the dual purposes of SEO and making you angry. Feel free to brandish your incorrect opinions and make idle threats in the comments section.

Weapons-grade complaints and spleen-venting? By all means, reach out to the author at hotmail@hotmail.jpg.

Batters
1. Kyle Seager, 3B - Seattle Mariners
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 11
Tanner Roark Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez are MVP candidates and deservedly get the press. But Seager has been a highly-productive member of the contending M's this season. He's batting .277/.345/.473 in a down year for offense and despite playing in a home park that smothers it. He also grades out as a plus defender at third.
Key Stats: 451 AB, 18 HR, .277 AVG, 77 RBI, 51 R, 5 SB
2. Michael Brantley, LF - Cleveland Indians
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 11
Danny Duffy Very quietly, Brantley's been one of the most productive hitters in the AL this season. His 2014 slash line of .319/.378/.513, which comes to an OPS+ of 153, is good for sixth in the AL. As well, Brantley's swiped 14 bases in 15 attempts.
Key Stats: 464 AB, 18 HR, .319 AVG, 80 RBI, 78 R, 14 SB
3. Anthony Rendon, 3B - Washington Nationals
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 4
Corey Kluber Future superstar? Quite possibly. The 24-year-old Rendon owns an OPS+ of 118, he adds significant value on the bases, and he grades out as a substantial defensive asset at third base. Complete player, this one.
Key Stats: 488 AB, 16 HR, .275 AVG, 67 RBI, 86 R, 12 SB
4. Lucas Duda, 1B - New York Mets
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 32
Rick Porcello The former caddy to Ike Davis has emerged as a real power threat in 2014. Duda is batting .255/.354/.484, and he's on pace for 28 homers and 68 walks. Keep in mind that he plays his home games at power-suppressing Citi Field.
Key Stats: 384 AB, 22 HR, .255 AVG, 66 RBI, 55 R, 3 SB
5. Brandon Moss, 1B - Oakland Athletics
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 14
Garrett Richards The 30-year-old lefty slugger is once again proving to be the A's most reliable power source. At present, Moss boasts an OPS+ of 131, and he's on pace for his second straight 30-homer season.
Key Stats: 414 AB, 23 HR, .254 AVG, 76 RBI, 56 R, 1 SB
6. Howie Kendrick, 2B - Los Angeles Angels
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 18
Dallas Keuchel Talk about a steady performer. Kendrick is batting .283/.342/.378 (107 OPS+) with 24 doubles and 12 stolen bases. Also, he leads all second basemen in defensive innings this season.
Key Stats: 478 AB, 5 HR, .280 AVG, 51 RBI, 65 R, 12 SB
7. Seth Smith, LF - San Diego Padres
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 75
Henderson Alvarez Petco, of course, is murder on offense in all its forms. Yet even though Smith has logged the majority of his 2014 plate appearances at home, he's still hitting .296/.394/.507, which comes to an OPS+ of 159. Among NL qualifiers, just Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton have higher OPS+ marks.
Key Stats: 341 AB, 12 HR, .296 AVG, 39 RBI, 48 R, 1 SB
8. Anthony Rizzo, 1B - Chicago Cubs
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 8
Hisashi Iwakuma Perhaps it's the glut of Cubs position prospects in the queue that's causing Rizzo's breakout season to be given short shrift. Whatever the reasons, know that Rizzo's age-24 season is shaping up thus: .274/.374/.498 and on pace for 37 homers.
Key Stats: 460 AB, 28 HR, .276 AVG, 67 RBI, 79 R, 3 SB
9. Jose Altuve, 2B - Houston Astros
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 3
Jake Arrieta Sure, Altuve made the All-Star team, but there's still a bit of a notion that he's just an adorable novelty act -- a 5-foot-6 professional athlete. Make no mistake, though: Altuve is one heck of a ballplayer. This season, he's batting .339/.374/.447 with 46 stolen bases in 53 attempts. All while manning an up-the-middle position.
Key Stats: 510 AB, 6 HR, .339 AVG, 41 RBI, 67 R, 46 SB
10. Jhonny Peralta, SS - St. Louis Cardinals
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 19
Julio Teheran Actually, Peralta is terminally underrated, not underrated only in 2014. The numbers say he's been a plus defender for years, and this season he's batting .266/.340/.453, while the average MLB shortstop has a line of .254/.312/.367. Peralta's on pace for 21 homers and 42 doubles.
Key Stats: 428 AB, 16 HR, .266 AVG, 55 RBI, 46 R, 2 SB
Pitchers
1. Tanner Roark, SP - Washington Nationals
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 74
Tanner Roark Roark, mind you, wasn't even supposed to be in the Washington rotation, but injuries pressed him into recurring duty. The results? In 153 2/3 innings of work, Roark has notched a 127 ERA+ and struck out more than three times as many as he's walked. He's been quietly essential to the success of the first-place Nats.
Key Stats: 153.2 IP, 12-7 W-L, 0 SV, 2.93 ERA, 116 Ks, 35 BB
2. Danny Duffy, SP - Kansas City Royals
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 73
Danny Duffy Duffy began the season in the bullpen, but by May he'd pitched himself into the rotation. Overall, the lefty has worked 121 innings and pitched to a 2.60 ERA over that span. Opposing hitters this year have managed an OPS of only .591 against Duffy.
Key Stats: 121.0 IP, 8-10 W-L, 0 SV, 2.6 ERA, 92 Ks, 44 BB
3. Corey Kluber, SP - Cleveland Indians
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 14
Corey Kluber Barring a collapse, Kluber's going to wind up in the top three or four in the AL Cy Young balloting. So how's he underrated? Well, with King Felix and Clayton Kershaw sucking much of the oxygen out of the room, it's easy to overlook that Kluber has pitched like a frontline ace in 2014. He's got a 2.41 ERA after 179 1/3 innings, and he's struck out an impressive 27.4 percent of opposing batters. That's dominance.
Key Stats: 179.1 IP, 13-6 W-L, 0 SV, 2.41 ERA, 197 Ks, 38 BB
4. Rick Porcello, SP - Detroit Tigers
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 66
Rick Porcello In a big-name rotation like Detroit's, it's easy to overlook Porcello's ongoing maturation. In 156 1/3 innings of work, Porcello owns an ERA of 3.28 (127 ERA+), and he's struck out three times as many as he's walked.
Key Stats: 156.1 IP, 13-8 W-L, 0 SV, 3.28 ERA, 96 Ks, 32 BB
5. Garrett Richards, SP - Los Angeles Angels
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 6
Garrett Richards Richards added velocity this season, and the results have followed: 2.53 ERA and only two unearned runs allowed in 167 innings, and he's given up just five home runs all season. Just five times has he allowed more than three runs in a start.
Key Stats: 167.0 IP, 13-4 W-L, 0 SV, 2.53 ERA, 164 Ks, 50 BB
6. Dallas Keuchel, SP - Houston Astros
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 31
Dallas Keuchel Twenty-three starts in, and Keuchel boasts a 3.11 ERA. The key to his success? Some of the best ground-ball tendencies in the game today. This season, Keuchel's induced 283 grounders against only 94 fly balls and 81 liners. Unlike most ground-ballers, he's also shown a knack for inducing infield pop-ups.
Key Stats: 156.1 IP, 10-8 W-L, 0 SV, 3.11 ERA, 120 Ks, 40 BB
7. Henderson Alvarez, SP - Miami Marlins
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 53
Henderson Alvarez Maybe it's the "spectral" presence of Jose Fernandez, or maybe it's that he plays for Miami. Whatever the reasons, not enough observers are taking note of Alvarez's strong campaign (2.43 ERA after 23 starts). He doesn't miss bats, but his sinker-heavy approach and strong ground-ball tendencies help him keep runs off the board.
Key Stats: 144.2 IP, 9-5 W-L, 0 SV, 2.43 ERA, 89 Ks, 28 BB
8. Hisashi Iwakuma, SP - Seattle Mariners
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 21
Hisashi Iwakuma Felix Hernandez's "sidecar" in Seattle is again providing excellence. Don't get predictable when it comes to pitch selection, limit walks, keep the ball on ground. Thanks to that recipe, Iwakuma is running a 2.72 ERA and 9.08 (!) K/BB ratio.
Key Stats: 139.0 IP, 11-6 W-L, 0 SV, 2.72 ERA, 109 Ks, 12 BB
9. Jake Arrieta, SP - Chicago Cubs
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 16
Jake Arrieta Arrieta toils for a last-place team and missed time with an early season injury. Still, he owns a 2.61 ERA after 19 starts. He's limiting fly balls, and for the first time in his career he's better than the league mean in terms of getting swinging strikes and getting hitters to swing at pitches outside the zone.
Key Stats: 117.1 IP, 6-4 W-L, 0 SV, 2.61 ERA, 122 Ks, 31 BB
10. Julio Teheran, SP - Atlanta Braves
Fantasy Ranking by Position: 12
Julio Teheran Teheran's the ace of a contending staff, but it seems he doesn't get recognized as such. Maybe it's owing to his youth? This season, the 23-year-old right-hander has pitched to a 3.06 ERA and 3.73 K/BB ratio in an MLB-leading 26 starts. As well, he's notched an impressive quality start percentage of 76.9.
Key Stats: 176.2 IP, 11-9 W-L, 0 SV, 3.06 ERA, 153 Ks, 41 BB
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