When talking about whether a player is underrated in sports, you have to first think about why exactly they are underrated. Do they not have a big personality? Do they play for a team in a small market? Have they been consistently good but never great? Usually its a combination of things. Sometimes players who are considered to be elite can even be underrated due to the fact that the rest of their team is unsuccessful. Some players have never had a chance to become household names because their team could never find championship success. There have been great players who were spectacular in the regular season but had very limited, if any time to play in the playoffs under the national spotlight.
Another important factor in how a lot of players become underrated is their actual journey to the big leagues. We see so many young pitchers considered to be "phenoms" who never pan out. Yet in spite of their early struggles, we still consider them to be elite simply because of their potential. Meanwhile, some pitchers drafted in later rounds make it to the MLB by pitching consistently through the minors and then continuing to do so in the majors. The New York Mets' pitching staff has received a ton of buzz from having top pitching prospects rise through their system in Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz. Yet, you could make the argument that Jacob deGrom, a ninth round draft pick who was converted from shortstop to pitcher, is the most consistently effective pitcher on the entire staff.
In baseball, the most underrated players are the quiet guys who are fundamentally sound. They're guys who can play multiple positions, are situational hitters, and give protection for the high profile bats in the lineup. They're the pitchers who will always give you quality starts and know how to get out of jams. Essentially, these are all players you want on your team.
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15 Josh Reddick
Josh Reddick is a threat in multiple areas of offense. He has shown that he has good power, averaging 24 home runs per 162 games since joining the Oakland A's in 2012. He has the ability to swipe a base and is also a tough hitter to strike out. He finished last season in the top 15 in walk to strikeout ratio. He has great discipline at the plate and knows how to get on base. He did have a low batting average in his first couple of years in Oakland, but has been able to find a good balance between hitting for both average and power in recent seasons.
14 Kole Calhoun
The Los Angeles Angels right fielder began to get some recognition last year when he won a Gold Glove. He led all right fielders in putouts and finished sixth in fielding percentage and fourth in assists. He also had the highest range factor of any right fielder in the MLB. His defense is clearly stellar, but he also proven to be a good hitter. Last year he slugged 26 home runs and 83 RBIs, good for 17th and 22nd in the league. This season, he has improved even more on his hitting and now is batting over .300 on the season.
13 Carlos Carrasco
Since 2014, Carlos Carrasco has had a 3.20 ERA and a 1.042 WHIP. The 6'4", 210 pound Venezuelan righty has a fastball that consistently clocks in at the mid-upper 90s along with a devastating slider. He struggled in his first couple years in the majors, but over the last couple of seasons he has found elite form. He had his largest body of work last season where he pitched 183.2 innings for the Cleveland Indians. He has flown under the radar by pitching behind the Indians Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. The four-year, $22 million dollar extension Carrasco signed last season is beginning to look like a steal for the Indians.
12 Alex Gordon
Alex Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft and initially looked to be a bust. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals, a team that had endured many years of failure since their last World Series title in 1985. Initially a third baseman, he failed to have any success and was demoted to Triple-A, where he began to play left field. Gordon immediately began to show promise while playing left field, was called up again and hasn't looked back since. He could very well easily be baseball's best defensive left fielder, having won four Gold Gloves at the position. He has become a productive hitter who draws a lot of walks and was a key member of the Royals team that won the 2015 World Series.
11 Michael Brantley
Michael Brantley has been one of the best hitters in the MLB over the past few seasons. He batted over .280 in 2012 and 2013, but has improved even more in recent seasons. In 2014 and 2015, Brantley batted over .300 and had 45 doubles in both seasons. He finished third in MVP voting in 2014 behind Victor Martinez and Mike Trout. In spite of all of his consistent hitting success, Brantley still manages to fly under the radar playing for the Cleveland Indians. Brantley is one of the of the toughest guys in the entire league to get out and has finished top five in the American League in walk to strikeout ratio over past two seasons.
10 Marco Estrada
Marco Estrada is considered to be the ace of the Toronto Blue Jays' pitching staff, but he still doesn't get enough credit. Estrada pitches in the AL East, which may be the most lethal offensive division in baseball. Last season he posted a 3.13 ERA and finished second in the American League with a 1.04 WHIP. Estrada is not a strikeout pitcher, but has great instincts and command over his pitches. He has even built off of his success from last season and has an even better ERA this year. Don't be surprised if he makes his first All-Star team later this year.
9 Shelby Miller
It's hard to believe Shelby Miller is only 25 years old. He was just 21 when he made his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012. He has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since coming into the league. He is also a pitcher who seems to suffer from awfully bad luck. Last season, Miller led the league in losses with 17, but finished with a terrific 3.02 ERA in 205.1 innings pitched. Miller has struggled this season, playing his first year on the Arizona Diamondbacks, but look for him to regain his form soon.
8 Jonathan Lucroy
Jonathan Lucroy is a player who's popularity definitely suffers from his team's lack of success. Lucroy has played catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers his entire career, a team that has not made the playoffs or seriously contended for a division title since 2011. Lucroy has been a consistent and durable catcher over the past couple of seasons. He has batted over .300 in multiple seasons and has the ability to hit for power. He has hit double digit home runs in four seasons and even led the entire league in doubles in 2014 with 53. Lucroy is also a very solid defensive catcher and it would be a shame to see a great all-around player like Lucroy continue to play for unsuccessful teams.
7 Martin Prado
Now 32 years old and playing in his 11th season, Martin Prado has been one of the most underappreciated players in the league. He is someone that could fit in anywhere on any team. He started his career on the Atlanta Braves where he played seven seasons and had his lone All-Star appearance in 2010. He is a very versatile player who can effectively play multiple infield and corner outfield positions. Not only is he a versatile defender, but he is a reliable hitter, with a .292 lifetime average. If you need to advance a runner, Prado will make sure it happens. If you need to score the runner from third, he will make sure he at least gets a sacrifice fly. He is someone you always want at the plate in key situations.
6 Brandon Crawford
The 29 year old shortstop has been a key cog on the last two World Series champion San Francisco Giants teams in 2012 and 2014. Crawford had the best season of his career last year and won both a Silver Slugger and Golden Glove award. Playing at arguably the most important defensive position in baseball, Crawford is one of the best in the business. In 2015, he finished top three in the National League in both defensive WAR and range factor. Crawford embodies everything that the San Francisco Giants teams have been focused on over the past couple of years: Smart, good fielders who can come through in the clutch.
5 Neil Walker
A native of Pittsburgh, Neil Walker played second base for his hometown Pirates for his entire career until joining the New York Mets this past off-season. He has been one of the most consistent second baseman in the entire league. Defensively, Walker is as sound as they come. In five of his six full seasons with the Pirates, he finished top five in fielding percentage for National League second baseman. He has the ability to draw a lot of walks and hit for both average and power. He has hit double digit home runs in every full season he has played. Now a member of the Mets, Walker has typically been hitting in the heart of their lineup.
4 Jose Quintana
Only six pitchers have thrown over 200 innings with an ERA below 3.50 in each of the past three seasons. Those pitchers are Max Scherzer, Cole Hamels, Jon Lester, Felix Hernandez, Madison Bumgarner, and Jose Quintana. Quintana is one of the elite pitchers in baseball, yet he gets overshadowed by the other ace on his team, Chris Sale. The Venezuelan lefty and Sale have become a lethal one-two punch for the Chicago White Sox at the front end of their rotation. Quintana has a variety of plus-pitches, great command of the strike zone, and rarely gets rattled.
3 Ben Zobrist
Described by his Manager Joe Maddon as an "All Star utility player," Ben Zobrist is exactly that. He is an incredibly gifted athlete who could play just about anywhere. Not only can he play multiple positions all around the field, but he can play them all at an above average level. He had multiple 20 home run seasons when he was an everyday starter with the Tampa Bay Rays. Now playing for the Cubs, Zobrist has become their super utility man. Zobrist can hit for both power and average, and always seems to have long at-bats while definitely thriving with his new team.
2 Sonny Gray
The Oakland Athletics seem to always have great pitchers come up through their farm system and they have found yet another elite pitcher in Sonny Gray. Gray is not a big guy by any means, standing at 5'10" and weighing 190 lbs. His fastball usually sits in the lower-mid 90s, but it is his command of the strike zone that makes him so effective. Just 26 years old, Gray has finished top 10 in the American league in ERA in each of the past two seasons. Gray does not garner as much attention as other young pitchers, which is probably due to a combination of him pitching on an average team and not having the same stature as some of the young power pitches in the game. Make no mistake, Sonny Gray will be, if he is not already, one of the best pitchers in the game.
1 Eric Hosmer
Eric Hosmer is a leader on the feisty Kansas City Royals who just won their first World Series title in 30 years. He is one of the best all around players in the game and doesn't get enough recognition because he doesn't hit for that much power, which is something you come to expect out of a first baseman. We'll take a Gold Glove caliber defender who hits for great average and on base percentage over a lumbering, nonathletic power hitting first baseman any day. Hosmer is very similar to Keith Hernandez, as he is an incredible defender, having won three straight Gold Gloves. Not only is he a great hitter, but he is incredibly clutch. His ability to deliver in the big moments of a game is a huge reason for the Royals' recent success.
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