Everyone plays favorites. We almost never admit that we do. We try not to, but we definitely do. So, why even bother hiding who our favorites are?
With Opening Day fast approaching, here’s a list of our favorite hitters with brief explanations of how they became Ducks on the Pod favorites:
Arizona Diamondbacks – Paul Goldschmidt
America’s first baseman got his second taste of postseason baseball last fall. He’s never looked as bad as he did in that Division Series the Dodgers swept. Before that, he recaptured his MVP form and led his team to that point. He’s just excellent at hitting, and fielding, and running the bases. That’s all.
Atlanta Braves – Freddie Freeman
Canada’s first baseman is a guy you have to feel a little bad for. I mean, he’s been on some really bad Atlanta Braves teams. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re in for more of him trying to lead a team that just isn’t up for the fight. Some young exciting players are coming along though, and they’ll all be glad they got to learn from Freddie Freeman.
Baltimore Orioles – Jonathan Schoop
Schoop (pronounced scope) broke out in a major way last summer, hitting .293 with 32 bombs and 105 driven in. He was a leader on the Netherlands World Baseball Classic team and he continued that in Baltimore. This is a guy who plays hard, plays well, slugs from the second base position. There’s a lot to like.
Boston Red Sox – Andrew Benintendi
Benny’s business is hitting and Benny is all business. Have you ever seen a guy, following a standout rookie season, say that he was disappointed with his performance? That’s what Benintendi did back in January.
Chicago Cubs – Willson Contreras
Willson Contreras is the next great catcher. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Contreras said so himself. It rubbed Yadi the wrong way, but I love it. This is what you want to see. A guy who aspires to be the best is likely to work harder to make sure it happens. Not only does he have the drive, he’s got the game. Check the stats. There aren’t any catchers, outside of Buster Posey, who can match those numbers.
Chicago White Sox – Yolmer Sanchez
Yolmer enjoyed a solid breakout season in 2017, but I can’t lie. 82.67% of the reason he’s on this list is his name, which he only recently started going by. Say it with me, “Yolmer… Yooolllmer.” See, how fun.
Cincinnati Reds – Joey Votto
Home runs are cool, but if you seriously believe Giancarlo Stanton deserved to win last year’s NL MVP award over Votto, you and I are overdue for a long discussion. Votto is the closest replication of Ted Williams we’ve ever seen. Turn on a Reds game, if for no other reason than to watch this man’s turn at the plate.
Cleveland Indians – Francisco Lindor
Smiles are contagious, and I enjoy watching people do the things they love. Francisco Lindor smiles constantly and plays shortstop extremely well at the highest level of competition. If that’s not enough for you, he’s a switch-hitter, a talent which I have always admired. He’s also demonstrated a habit of coming up with big hits when they’re most needed. Just watch him play. I promise you’ll love him.
Colorado Rockies – Gerardo Parra
You might notice a theme as you make your way through this list. I’m a big fan of the unheralded guys. Parra certainly falls into that category. Through a couple trades and a couple injuries, he has maintained his ability to put together a quality at-bat. I have a lot of love for guys like Gerardo Parra.
Detroit Tigers – Miguel Cabrera
Until Lindor debuted, Miguel Cabrera led the league in smiles per game. Not many guys have nearly as much fun as he does on the diamond. I’m lucky to have lived in Detroit during this man’s prime playing years. Truly, he is one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time. Enjoy his uncanny hitting intangibles while he still has the bat speed to show them off.
Houston Astros – Alex Bregman
In a Major League Baseball mock election, Alex Bregman would win most likely to be a cool roommate. He just seems like a good dude, a solid guy. Also seems like he would be fun to hang out with. On top of that, he can rake like few under 25 can. It made me happy to see him earn a World Series ring in his rookie season.
Kansas City Royals – Whit Merrifield
At age 28, Whit Merrifield had a breakout year the likes of which we don’t often see. He became the sparkplug for his team, and the main reason Royals fans are at all excited for this summer. Merrifield adapted his swing to start hitting more homers, and he decided he was going to lead the AL in steals while he was at it. It’s realistic to anticipate his numbers to regress, but it’s hard not to root for him to somehow improve upon them.
Los Angeles Angels – Andrelton Simmons
Quite simply, he’s the best infielder we have right now. He does things that aren’t humanly possible. A quick YouTube search of his name can entertain you for hours. The best part is he took huge strides at the plate last summer. He became a good hitter, instead of a decent hitter. That improvement makes him a great all-around player, instead of just a good one.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Joc Pederson
I had high hopes for Joc coming into last season. He had a rough go of it, to be sure, including being sent down for a spell. But he stuck with it and delivered in some big spots during the postseason. Some people didn’t like the way he rounded the bases during the World Series, but that’s a kid who just got the biggest hit of his life to that point, at the end of a trying season. Cut him some slack and pull for him to turn things around this year.
Miami Marlins – Starlin Castro
Say hello to the new face of the Marlins, and the embodiment of bad luck. Seriously, dude gets traded from the Cubs to the Yankees, and the Cubs win a World Series. Now he gets traded from the Yankees to the Marlins, effectively going to the most exciting locker room to be a part of to the one that now appears to be most lacking. I hope he hits at least 40 homers and 120 RBI every year he’s in Miami.
Milwaukee Brewers – Lorenzo Cain
This guy had never played baseball before he got cut from his high school basketball team and decided to switch. If that hadn’t happened, the Royals likely would not have reached the World Series the year that piece was written, and then won it the following year. Of course, Cain is a Brewer now. It’s going to be fun watching him help lead a retooled team in Milwaukee.
Minnesota Twins – Byron Buxton
Byron Buxton is what we wish Billy Hamilton was. He’s just as fast, if not faster. He’s got better range in centerfield. He’s most certainly a better hitter. Buxton is developing into one of the most electric players in the game. This summer is going to be a big step for him.
New York Mets – Jose Reyes
I don’t know if we caught him on a good day or what. But man did we have some fun with Jose, as my friends and I sat two rows behind the Mets dugout at Comerica Park on June 30, 2011. If you look closely, you can see him turn, look right at us, and smile after taking this walk. You wouldn’t know it to watch him now, but there was a time when Jose Reyes was the most exciting player in baseball. That day, in my mind, he also became one of the coolest.
New York Yankees – Didi Gregorius
I would argue that there is no player in Major League Baseball who has improved his overall game more in the past three seasons than Sir Didi has. He went from being an extra shortstop with the Diamondbacks to the anchor of an ALCS infield. Gregorius has not only learned how to play his position more effectively, he’s really come along offensively. His numbers have steadily increased since coming to New York. If you ask me, he’s the real captain of this Yankee team.
Oakland Athletics – Dustin Fowler
Fowler’s place on this list is a result of two things. First, to be honest, the A’s don’t have many guys I’ve ever heard of. Second, and much more importantly, Fowler suffered a gruesome injury in his MLB debut. In true Moonlight Graham fashion, he didn’t even get an at-bat. Here’s hoping he comes back strong and can stay healthy this year.
Philadelphia Phillies – Odubel Herrera
I’m not big into bat flips. It’s a fad that screams, “Look at me trying really hard to be cool.” But, when you chuck your lumber as often and as effortlessly as Odubel does, it becomes more normal and much less annoying. Herrera is also well on his way to solidifying himself as the best Rule 5 draft pick ever. It’s a short list of contenders but still.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Josh Bell
If you like homers, you like Josh Bell. He belted 26 of them in his first full season last summer. I’m willing to bet he’ll reach 30 this time around. He’s a legitimate switch hitter who can bring it from both sides of the dish. With Andrew McCutchen gone, the Pirates may be Bell’s team to lead now.
San Diego Padres – Wil Myers
In the surprise move of the offseason, the Padres signed Eric Hosmer last month. That means Wil Myers is headed back to the outfield. A position change is tough, regardless of who you are or where you play. In this case though, I think the move might rejuvenate Myers, who spent most of 2017 battling prolonged slumps. Not having to shoulder the entire load for San Diego’s offense should have a freeing effect on Myers. Watch out for this guy. He’s still got 30/30 potential.
San Francisco Giants – Brandon Crawford
This man is quite possibly the most underrated player in Major League Baseball. His numbers don’t jump at you, but if you’ve ever watched him play, you know what I mean. Crawford is as smooth as it gets at short, which is why he’s won the past three Gold Glove awards. He can also swing the stick much better than your average defense-first middle infielder. Crawford is the guy you want on your team. He keeps his head down and gets the job done.
Seattle Mariners – Robinson Cano
Robby Cano, don’t ya know? He’s the smoothest at second. He rakes, with the prettiest left-handed stroke since Ken Griffey, Jr. He’s well-respected all around the league. You never hear anything bad about him. He performs up to par every year. I don’t know how you can possibly not love Robinson Cano.
St. Louis Cardinals – Yadier Molina
When he started out, Yadi was just another Molina catcher, following his brothers, Bengie and Jose. He has since proven to be a much better player than both of his older siblings combined. You have to show love to the vets. At this point, Yadi is an OG, on top of being the best catcher of his generation.
Tampa Bay Rays – Kevin Kiermaier
Kiermaier is to the outfield grass what Andrelton Simmons is to the infield dirt. They’re the best at what they do. Kiermaier is scary fast and he tracks the ball shockingly well, considering he plays half of his games in a glorified storage warehouse. As of last year, he’s no longer a defense-only guy, which means he should be around for a while. It’s hard to blame him for expressing his frustration with the Rays front office following that series of roster moves which saw them ship out a majority of their good players. The Rays may look different this year, but they will have the same old Gold Glove winner in centerfield.
Texas Rangers – Jurickson Profar
I have no idea what the Rangers are doing with Profar. Then again, it doesn’t seem like they know what the hell they’re doing either. The way they’ve handled this situation has been downright infuriating. Here’s a guy who was once the top prospect in baseball. Injuries sidelined him for essentially all of 2014 and 2015. And ever since he’s come back, it’s like the Rangers have moved on from him. At the same time, they remain unwilling to trade him, despite widespread interest. I want to see this guy get a real shot at playing every day. Unfortunately, it’s starting to look like he may never get that chance.
Toronto Blue Jays – Curtis Granderson
The Grandy Man is a fan favorite in every city he’s played in. From Detroit, to the Bronx, to Queens, out to Los Angeles, and now Toronto, he is loved for his play on the field, and more importantly, his contributions to the community. Curtis Granderson is one of the very rare professional athletes who is actually a good role model for kids. Plus, his is the first autograph we got on our sticker.
Washington Nationals – Daniel Murphy
All this guy has done over the past two-plus years is hit. Still, he doesn’t receive the credit he’s due. It all started with that monster 2015 postseason, leading the Mets to the World Series. He signed with the Nationals that offseason and hasn’t looked back. Over the past two seasons, Murphy has a .334 batting average, 48 homers, 197 RBI, and an absurd 90 doubles to top it off. Here’s the list of second basemen who’ve been able to match that production: Jose Altuve.