Baseball has no salary caps or luxury taxes and teams like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers spend plenty of money to try and field the best possible teams. Baseball has more than its fair share of underdogs who defy the odds with unexpected productivity, and that is what makes the reckless spending such an acceptable part of the sport.
Fans love the gritty players who come up from the minor leagues to fulfill their lifelong dreams and so often these players outshine the well paid veterans who have played many years in the big leagues. Each year this influx of new inexpensive talent is inevitable, allowing the teams with lower payrolls to have a realistic chance. It is part of baseball and a big reason the fans in cities like Oakland, Houston, Miami and Pittsburgh even come to their stadiums on opening day.
This season, baseball has its share of undervalued talent. The following 20 players are currently some of the most undervalued players in Major League Baseball and even in sports. Of course, the A's, Astros, Marlins and Pirates have some players who happen to be on this list. After all, baseball wouldn't be baseball without some underdogs to make many high priced veterans appear to be overpaid.
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20 Ben Revere, CF (Phillies) - $1,950,000
Ben Revere is a center fielder who has plenty of speed to burn. He will not scare many pitchers with his power (1 career home run), but his speed makes him a threat if he gets to first base. This year, his current batting average of .311 has put him in position to make good use of his speed. Revere has 39 stolen bases, has only being caught 5 times, has scored 59 runs and has legged out 10 doubles. Revere's true value is his energy, defense and ability to take over a game when he gets on base. He might struggle to hit the long ball, but is a contact hitter who can hit balls low and away and make pitchers think.
19 Conor Gillaspie, 3B (White Sox) - $512,000
Conor Gillaspie has made appearances in five straight seasons but has only been an everyday player over the last two. This year, Gillaspie has better numbers in just about every offensive category despite currently playing in 30 fewer games when compared to last year. He is hitting .303, has 48 runs scored, 48 RBI and has hit 30 doubles. Although Gillaspie only has 6 home runs, he still has a slugging percentage of .449 to go along with his .356 on-base percentage. Considering Gillaspie batted .245 last season, he is having a breakout season in 2014 and has managed to land on this list.
18 Lucas Duda, 1B (Mets) - $1,637,500
Lucas Duda is a big guy who can put up some big numbers from the left side of the plate. Duda is batting .258 with 26 home runs, 76 RBI and 61 runs scored. He also has 22 doubles and a slugging percentage of .504 as well as a .352 on-base percentage. He can get fooled at the plate (101 strikeouts), but when he doesn't, he is sure to make opponents pay. Duda is having the most productive season of his career and is looking more and more like a player who is underpaid. If he can keep his average up, he has the size and power to make sure his production and value rises as well.
17 Chris Carter, DH (Astros) - $510,000
At first glance, it would seem like any player batting .227 would be overpaid at $500K. Chris Carter has his troubles making contact at the plate but when he does the ball, it often sails over the fence. In 93 hits this season, Carter has 52 extra base hits and a .513 slugging percentage. His 32 home runs are third in the American League while his 77 RBI and 58 runs are solid numbers for a guy who struggles to hit for average. Carter struck out 212 times last year and has struck out 143 times this year, yet despite the Dave Kingman numbers, Carter is well worth his current salary.
16 Josh Donaldson, 3B (A's) - $500,000
Josh Donaldson carries a big productive bat for the A's. Despite a batting average of .252, Donaldson is among the league leaders in runs (79), RBI (87), home runs (25) and even bases on balls with 61 so far this season. He is on pace to eclipse 30 home runs and 100 RBI in 2014. He can certainly work on his batting average, but his power and production are among the league's elite. Donaldson is a career .268 hitter and has a decent .346 on-base percentage, so he is more than capable of having better patience at the plate. There is room for Donaldson to grow and his salary has plenty of room to grow as well.
15 Josh Harrison, 3B (Pirates) - $513,000
Josh Harrison has played six different positions for the Pirates so far this year. All he has done is responded by batting .302 with 12 home runs, 44 RBI and 61 runs scored. On top of that, Harrison also has 29 doubles, 6 triples and 17 stolen bases in only 116 games played so far. The utility player for the Pirates has a slugging percentage of .494, an on-base percentage of .336 and made an all-star appearance earlier this year. All this production and Harrison is still paid less than $1 million this year. A big increase in his power numbers has led to a breakout season so far this year, as well as a secure spot on this list.
14 Matt Adams, 1B (Cardinals) - $516,000
The Cardinals were probably not expecting Matt Adams to have one of the highest batting averages in the National League (.303) when they selected him in the 23rd round of the 2009 MLB draft. He got his call in 2012 and came into his own in 2013 with a .284 average and 17 home runs in 108 games played. This season, Adams is doing much more than that with his .303 batting average, 29 doubles, 13 home runs and 56 runs batted in. Adams can sometimes be a little reckless at the plate, only walking 19 times versus 92 strikeouts, but his consistent production is well worth his current pay.
13 Sonny Gray, P (A's) - $505,000
Sonny Gray has been having a big season. His 13-7 record and 3.00 ERA are very solid for any pitcher who starts in this league, but his 26 starts and 171 innings pitched might be even more of a surprise to the A's. Gray did prove he could pitch last year with a 5-3 record and 2.67 ERA, but the way he has pitched in 2014 really proves he can sustain this kind of effort. Gray also has 143 strikouts, has held opponents to a .233 batting average and has a WHIP of 1.21. Gray even has a complete game and shutout to his credit this season. Sonny Gray looks ready to be a star or at least get paid a little more like one.
12 Anthony Rizzo, 1B (Cubs) - $1,535,714
Anthony Rizzo is among the league leaders in several different categories and is having a monster season. Rizzo, so far, is batting .278 with 30 home runs, 71 RBI and 81 runs scored. He also has a slugging percentage above .500, a .375 on-base percentage and 23 doubles. These are some good numbers for a guy who hit .233 last season. This season, Rizzo has done a great job of getting on base, but must still work on being a more patient hitter at the plate. He has 105 strikeouts in 128 games this year but still has an on-base percentage of almost .380 and is 7th in the National League with 65 walks.
11 Henderson Alvarez, P (Marlins) - $525,400
Henderson Alvarez throws his share of strikes and has managed to have some good results. Alvarez is 10-5 with a 2.57 ERA in a little over 150 innings of work, issuing only 28 bases on balls in the process. On the other hand, Alvarez has given up 156 hits and allowed opponents to hit .271 against him. Amazingly, with only 15 decisions and an average amount of innings worked, he has managed to log 3 complete games and 3 shutouts to be among the league leaders in both categories. At least Alvarez has managed to keep balls in play as he surrendered 29 home runs in 2012 and dropped that to only 10 so far this year.
10 Michael Brantley, LF (Indians) - $2,375,000
In 2014, Michael Brantley has had a breakout season. He is batting .310 with 18 home runs, 82 RBI and 79 runs scored, while also stealing 15 bases and only getting caught once. Brantley has only struck out 45 times, has a .370 on-base percentage, and even has a slugging percentage of .497. He is on pace to hit 22 home runs and 40 doubles and play in 156 games. He is among the league leaders in several statistical categories and thankfully for the Indians, salary is not one of them. Brantley has a great future ahead of him if he continues the display of power he has had in 2014.
9 Zach Britton, P (Orioles) - $521,500
Zach Britton is a left-handed pitcher with a 1.98 ERA who incredibly is making just over $500,000 this season. He is a relief pitcher, but does have 28 saves and a WHIP of 0.88. In about 63 innings pitched, Britton has 55 strikeouts and only 18 walks while holding opponents to a batting average of just .176. Since Britton was moved to the bullpen, things have come together for him and his salary is starting to look pretty low. Now if Britton could play every game at Camden Yards (1.04 ERA), he might even win a Cy Young award and be worth way more than his current pay.
8 Wily Peralta, P (Brewers) - $515,000
Wily Peralta has been more than just a steady starter for the Brewers. His 15-8 record is solid and his 15 wins put him at the top of the National League. He has a solid 3.56 ERA and 1.30 WHIP and if he could reduce the mistakes he leaves right over the plate (22 home runs allowed), he could be downright dominant. Peralta throws strikes (121 strikeouts versus 49 walks) and is on pace to log 200 innings pitched, but he must do more to fool opposing hitters. For the second straight season opponents are batting at least .260 against him and he has allowed an average of over 20 home runs the last two seasons. At this price, he is still a bargain that many of teams would gladly enjoy.
7 Jonathan Lucroy, C (Brewers) - $2,100,000
It is hard enough to find a catcher who is a .300 hitter, but finding one with some pop in the bat is another story. Right now, Lucroy is in the midst of a solid season with a .302 batting average to go along with 13 home runs, 65 runs scored and 60 RBI. Lucroy has almost as many walks as strikeouts to go along with a solid .370 on-base percentage. He has even shown that he can drive the ball into the alleys with a National League leading 44 doubles so far this season. Sure Lucroy makes over $2 million, but any catcher with his kind of numbers is worth considerably more.
6 Lance Lynn, P (Cardinals) - $535,000
Lance Lynn has been extremely consistent his last three seasons with a record of 47-25 during this time. In his third season of steady work, Lynn is 14-8 with a 2.79 ERA and 147 strikeouts. In over 164 innings of work, he also has managed a complete game and shutout while only surrendering 8 home runs. Lynn has been even more dominant this season, holding opponents to a .240 batting average. It is hard to understand how a player who has three seasons in a row with at least 14 wins and an ERA under 4.00 each year can still be paid under $1 million a year. The Cardinals have been enjoying a bargain!
5 Corey Kluber, P (Indians) - $514,000
The workhorse pitcher for the Indians is having a terrific season. Third in the A.L. with 186.1 innings pitched, Kluber is also near the top of MLB with 205 strikeouts, a 2.46 ERA, a 13-7 record and a WHIP of 1.08. On top of that, Kluber has only walked 42 batters and has two complete games and one shutout to his credit. He has improved each year he has been in the majors and had an 11-5 record with a 3.85 ERA last year. Kluber has had two stellar seasons in a row for a pitcher who has yet to make more than a million a season. His production so far this season is pretty hard to overlook.
4 Paul Goldschmidt, 1B (Diamondbacks) - $1,083,333
Goldschmidt might still be an unknown commodity to some, but the numbers he has been putting up playing for the Diamondbacks should make people around the nation take notice. In 2014, Goldschmidt is batting .300 with 19 home runs and 69 RBI while also logging a .396 on-base percentage and a .542 slugging percentage. He even has 39 doubles, 74 runs and 9 stolen bases so far this season. Goldschmidt didn't exactly go unnoticed in 2013, winning the Gold Glove award at first base while hitting .302 with 36 home runs (NL leader), 125 RBI (NL leader) and 103 runs scored. His season was cut short this year by a broken hand, but he'll likely come off this list in the next few years, as he just signed a 5-year, $32 million dollar contract. Relative to other sluggers, that's still a bargain.
3 Jose Altuve, 2B (Astros) - $1,437,500
The Astros second baseman has put up numbers that starting to gain plenty of attention. He tops all of MLB with a batting average of .333 with 34 doubles, 70 runs and 47 stolen bases so far this year. Altuve has an on-base percentage of .371, has only 45 strikeouts and has only been caught stealing 7 times. Altuve, in his fourth MLB season, has had 30 or more doubles and stolen bases for three consecutive years. He also has a career batting average just under .300 (.298) and has been pretty consistent in the field as well. His salary is quite low for a player who is working on his third solid season.
2 Garrett Richards, P (Angels) - $520,000
Garrett Richards just sustained an injury to the patellar tendon in his left knee, but that shouldn't detract from the season he has had up to this point. Richards has a sterling 13-4 record to go along with a 2.61 ERA in 25 starts. He also has 164 strikeouts, a WHIP of 1.04 and has held opponents to a .201 batting average. In 168 innings of work, Richards has only given up 5 home runs and 124 hits. The injury effectively ends Richards' season but his production to date does plenty to substantiate his $520,000 salary. The undrafted right hand pitcher certainly was having a breakout season.
1 Mike Trout, OF (Angels) - $1,000,000
While Mike Trout awaits the rewards of his new contract, $1,000,000 for 2014 is a bargain of epic proportions. In 127 games, Trout has hit 29 home runs, has 35 doubles, has scored 89 runs and has 92 RBI. He has been struggling lately, batting only .221 this month, but still has a respectable .289 batting average. Trout can field, run (98 career steals, 14 times caught) and is the type of player that any team would love to have in their clubhouse. In 2014, he might even capture that elusive MVP award that has gone to Miguel Cabrera the last couple of seasons. He'll be off this list in a few years, as he recently signed a six-year, $144.5 million contract, that will kick in next year.
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