In the age of social media and handheld devices that provide access to the entirety of human knowledge at a moment's notice, it's difficult to be overlooked when you're good at something. That's especially true for professional athletes. If you're good, people know about it, and players who are underrated will be properly rated before long.
That won't stop us from trying to identify overlooked played have great seasons though. Overlooked by whom? I'm not really sure, calling a player overlooked is highly subjective, but saying a player is having a great season is very objective. Our eyes and a mountain of stats tell us who's having a great year. We'll try to thread the needle between overlooked and great.
For this exercise, I'm setting one simple ground rule: no 2023 All-Stars. If you were selected to the All-Star Game this season, sorry, you don't qualify as overlooked. You are the exact opposite of overlooked. You have been recognized by the fans and/or your peers for your great season. Tough luck, 2023 All-Stars. Everyone else is eligible, including past All-Stars.
Here now are six overlooked players -- one from each division -- having a great season in 2023, plus a few honorable mentions thrown in for good measure.
AL East: Jarren Duran, Boston Red Sox
A year ago at this time it appeared Duran was playing his way out of Boston. He had a Quad-A thing going on -- .855 OPS in Triple-A and a .622 OPS in MLB from 2021-22 -- and was especially susceptible to elevated fastballs, but Duran closed that hole in his swing this season, and he's slashing .297/.348/.488 with eight home runs. He's used his game-changing speed to steal 23 bases in 25 attempts and wreak havoc on the bases in general. Statistically, the defense isn't amazing, though Duran has broken through as a quality hitter and impact baserunner. He has a dynamic skill set.
AL East honorable mention: Kyle Bradish, Baltimore Orioles. The prize of the Dylan Bundy trade, Bradish has made 22 starts and thrown 121 2/3 innings with a 3.18 ERA this season. He entered play Wednesday sixth in the AL in pitching WAR (3.0) and trailing only Gerrit Cole among AL East hurlers. Shoutout to Brandon Belt too. Even with a slow start, he's had a fine year crushing righties (.845 OPS) with the Toronto Blue Jays.
NL East: Brandon Marsh, Philadelphia Phillies
It is not Nick Castellanos nor Bryce Harper nor J.T. Realmuto nor Kyle Schwarber nor Trea Turner who leads the Phillies in OPS and OPS+. It's Marsh, , and owns a .281/.367/.460 (125 OPS+) batting line. He hasn't provided much over-the-fence power (only eight homers), though 20 doubles and six triples will play, especially when paired with very good center field defense. Marsh has made progress against lefties too. Given all the trade deadline hoopla, Washington Nationals outfielder Lane Thomas isn't overlooked enough for this exercise.
NL East honorable mention: Tanner Scott, Miami Marlins. For most of his career Scott has thrown very hard with little idea where it was going. He still throws very hard, though this year he's cut his walk rate to an acceptable 10.1% while posting a career high 35.7% strikeout rate. He's among the league's best at limiting hard contact too. Scott has quietly emerged as one of the game's most dominant relievers.
AL Central: Riley Greene, Detroit Tigers
In Tigersland, 2023 will be remembered as the final season of Miguel Cabrera's Hall of Fame career. It will also be remembered as Greene's coming out party. The No. 5 pick in the 2019 draft is slashing .303/.365/.472 with 10 home runs in 83 games, and he's whittled his strikeout rate down from 31.9% in April to 22.6% in August. The number do not love Greene's center field defense, so maybe he's a corner guy moving forward, but the bat is legit. Greene, who turns only 23 in September, has a 129 OPS+ and has a chance to be the first Tigers outfielder with a 130 OPS+ since Justin Upton in 2017 (minimum 350 plate appearances).
AL Central honorable mention: Ryan Jeffers, Minnesota Twins. Catchers who hit .280/.382/.480 should not overlooked, but Jeffers isn't even his own team's starting catcher. Free agent signing Christian Vázquez has more starts behind the plate (70 to 51) and more innings caught (609 to 470 1/3). Jeffers has been getting more and more playing time the last few weeks, and the ball-tracking data (exit velocity, etc.) suggested there was more coming from the bat earlier in his career. Chicago White Sox rookie reliever Gregory Santos is the honorable mention to my honorable mention.
NL Central: Andrew Abbott, Cincinnati Reds
This came down to Abbott and outfielder Will Benson, his Reds teammate. Benson has been a platoon beast this year -- .311/.415/.567 against righties and 2 for 21 against lefties -- though I decided to go with Abbott, who entered Wednesday's start ranked eighth among NL pitchers with 2.8 WAR despite not being called up until June 5. He allowed no more than two runs in nine of his first 13 starts and seven times he's completed six innings. On three other occasions, Abbott went 5 2/3 innings. Cincinnati's young hitters -- Benson, Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Spencer Steer, etc. -- get the attention and understandably so, but Abbott has been outstanding. Sneakily one of the best pitchers in the league.
NL Central honorable mention: Joel Payamps, Milwaukee Brewers. Falling in love with journeyman relievers -- Payamps is on his fifth team in the last four years -- is a dangerous thing, though there's no denying Payamps has been lights out this season. A 1.79 ERA and 0.87 WHIP with 62 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings speaks for itself. He ranks third among all relievers in win probability added, so Payamps has throwing impactful high-leverage innings. Chicago Cubs righty Mark Leiter Jr. is another journeyman reliever having a fine season for an NL Central squad.
AL West: Chas McCormick, Houston Astros
The ability to unearth hidden gems has separated the Astros from the rest of the American League the last half-decade or so. Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier were $10,000 signings out of the Dominican Republic. Luis Garcia got $20,000 and Bryan Abreu $40,000. Jeremy Peña was a third-round pick, Hunter Brown was a fifth-round pick, and J.P. France was a 14th-round pick. Houston has dug up so many quality contributors with small international bonuses and later-round draft picks.
McCormick was a 21st-round pick in 2017 -- the 21st round doesn't even exist anymore -- and he spent 2021 and 2022 as a fourth outfielder and platoon guy. It wasn't until about late May/early June this season that he began playing just about every single day. McCormick has started 35 of the team's last 41 games and he's hitting .284/.371/.526 with 16 homers and 13 steals overall this year. The numbers like his defense too. That's a nifty find in the 21st round.
AL West honorable mention: Dane Dunning, Texas Rangers. Even after spending all that money on pitching last offseason, it is Dunning who leads the Rangers in innings, even after he began the season in the bullpen. He moved into the rotation in May, after Jacob deGrom got hurt, and he has a 3.35 ERA in 18 starts. Dunning has allowed two runs or fewer in 10 of his 18 starts, and after coming into the season having never struck out more than 10 batters in a game, he has starts with 11 and 12 strikeouts in August.
NL West: Ha-Seong Kim, San Diego Padres
Do you know who sits at the top of the WAR leaderboard for positions players right now? Well, yeah, it's Ronald Acuña Jr. followed by Mookie Betts. But do you know who is third? It's Kim. Kim has authored a .285/.377/.446 slash line with elite defense at second base (elite as in plus-12 defensive runs saved and plus-8 outs above average). Since the admittedly arbitrary date of June 15, Kim is hitting .342/.429/.544 with 10 homers and nearly as many walks (28) as strikeouts (36) in 52 games. No, I don't actually believe Kim has been the second-best position player in baseball this season. WAR has trouble with guys who play multiple positions and Kim has seen a good amount of action at shortstop and third base. There's no denying he's been excellent though. Kind of hard to believe the Padres have underperformed as much as they have with Kim being this good.
NL West honorable mention: Jason Heyward, Los Angeles Dodgers. There are many great candidates in the NL West, including Ketel Marte and Christian Walker of the Arizona Diamondbacks and LaMonte Wade Jr. of the San Francisco Giants, but I'll go with Heyward, who's play has contributed to Betts spending so much time on the infield. The Dodgers have to keep Heyward in the lineup. He's hitting .250/.343/.465 overall and .265/.356/.481 against righties. What a nice bounce-back year for him.