Dylan Bundy has been sensational this year. So have Trevor Bauer, Billy Hamilton, and Anthony Rizzo. The reason? They are very good at baseball (or in Hamilton’s case, at running very very fast).
But there are other players who are good at baseball too, players who are less heralded but having seasons nearly as good as or better than the buzzy names above. This list highlights six excellent half-seasons by lesser-known and less well-regarded hitters. I will post the pitchers early next week.
Eugenio Suarez, SS/2B, DET (A)
Recently profiled in this piece, the nearly 21-year-old Suarez has emerged as a top 10 prospect for the Tigers after a first half in which he slashed .311/.401/.449 at West Michigan and was named to the Midwest League All-Star Team. Potential plus offensive contributors from the middle infield are few and far between and it would not be surprising to see Suarez at High-A by the end of the season.
Alen Hanson, SS, PIT (A)
Another shortstop who has flashed unexpected skills with the bat, the 19-year-old Hanson has annihilated Sally League pitching this year with a .330 average, 15 home runs, and 22 steals. Add in Hanson’s solid walk rate and the Pirates may have stumbled upon a future starter, though his future may not be at short–an astonishing 30 errors in 67 games leaves justifiable questions about whether he can handle the position. If he continues to hit like this, however, Hanson’s bat will play anywhere on the diamond.
Wilmer Flores, 3B, NYM (A+/AA)
Flores has been on prospect lists for a few years already but has consistently disappointed until this season, when he hit .289 with 10 homers in 42 games for St. Lucie before getting promoted in late June. It’s only been 15 games, but Flores has actually elevated his performance for Binghamton, hitting .360, walking more, and striking out less than he did at the lower level. Still only 20, the shortstop-turned-third baseman is representing the World in the futures game and may finally be fulfilling the promise that once ranked him among the top 50 prospects in baseball.
Travis Shaw, 1B, BOS (A+)
Shaw, 22, was drafted in the 9th round out of Kent State in 2011 and performed well in short season A ball. Pushed aggressively to High A at the start of 2012, Shaw has rewarded Boston’s confidence in him by posting a .965 OPS with 12 home runs in 78 games for Salem. Though slumping a bit of late–he’s hit only .216 over his last 10 games–Shaw has become someone to watch over the second half of the season.
Alfredo Marte, OF, ARI (AA)
A five year veteran of the minor leagues, Marte is still only 23 and putting together his best season–.294/.365/.579–for the Mobile BayBears. Signed out of the Dominican Republic all the way back in 2005, Marte is finally seeming to make good on the potential the Diamondbacks saw in him and has been especially productive lately, putting up an absurd 1.307 OPS in his last 10 games. He will play for the World in the futures game, and if all goes well Marte may be due for a promotion sometime soon after.
Ryan Wheeler, 3B, ARI (AAA)
Runs Batted In is an overemphasized statistic that is based to a large extent on external factors, but it’s impossible to completely ignore the soon-to-be 24-year-old Wheeler’s 83 RBIs in 82 games thus far. Accompanied by a .356 batting average and .964 OPS, Wheeler has some of the gaudiest numbers in the minor leagues. Wheeler does play in Reno–or as I call it, Coors light–and in the notoriously hitter-friendly PCL, inflating his numbers significantly. Nevertheless, if Wheeler can rediscover the patience he showed at lower levels, he may get a cameo in Arizona this season.