5 Standout MLB Players of the 2018 Season
Even though we’ve already passed the midway point of the season, it’s tough to imagine that Major League Baseball’s season is slowly winding down. The first half of the campaign has given us some outstanding performances from under-the-radar players and stars alike.
We’ve dug through the stats to come up with a list of players whose performances in the first half stood out. Let’s get into it!
Jose Ramirez – 3B – Cleveland Indians
Hot off the heels of a 2017 campaign which saw him hit 29 home runs and end the season with a .957 OPS, Cleveland Indians infielder Jose Ramirez has taken his game to the next level in 2018. Despite having played just 97 games so far this year, Ramirez has already eclipsed his 2017 home run total.
His 2018 slashes are .304/.404/.647, which are out-of-this-world. In addition to his league-leading 30 home runs, the 25-year-old has also swiped 20 bases. Given the fact that he’s done a bit of everything for the Indians this year, he should be a strong contender for AL MVP should he continue at his current pace.
J.D. Martinez – OF – Boston Red Sox
The Yankees offseason acquisition of slugger Giancarlo Stanton got plenty of media attention in the offseason but as of right now it looks as though the Red Sox one-upped the Yankees with their offseason signing of J.D. Martinez. The 30-year-old outfielder signed a five-year contract with Boston in late February and has absolutely torn the cover off the baseball ever since.
Martinez has 29 home runs and 81 runs batted in so far in 2018 and his 1.021 OPS is fourth-best in the Majors. His steady presence in the Red Sox lineup, when coupled with the performance of Mookie Betts, has been one of the major reasons for Boston’s incredible first-half success.
Max Muncy – 1B/2B/3B – Los Angeles Dodgers
Coming into the 2018 season, it’s safe to say that few people outside of baseball diehards had ever heard of Max Muncy. The 27-year-old had only played 86 career games at the Major League level and he struggled so badly that he was released by the Athletics after Spring Training in 2017. Muncy signed with the Dodgers and had to wait a full year before returning to the big leagues.
The Texas native seized his opportunity with Los Angeles and played his way into an everyday role on the team. In just 237 at-bats this season, Muncy has swatted 22 home runs and 11 doubles, which put his OPS at a whopping 1.009. The Dodgers infielder has been one of the best stories in baseball this year, and his home run hitting prowess earned him a spot in this year’s Home Run Derby.
Gerrit Cole – SP – Houston Astros
After winning the World Series, the Houston Astros could have easily rested on their laurels going into 2018 – but they didn’t. Houston was aggressive in the trade market and acquired former Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole in an attempt to boost their already fantastic rotation. Cole has made an immediate impact in Houston, posting a 10-2 record with a 2.52 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. The 27-year-old has also been one of the most potent strikeout pitchers in baseball in 2018, recording six games with 10+ strikeouts.
Aaron Nola – SP – Philadelphia Phillies
One of the most surprising teams in baseball this year must be the Philadelphia Phillies. Under rookie manager Gabe Kapler, the Phillies find themselves atop the NL East standings with a record of 55-43. Philadelphia made a big splash by signing free agent pitcher Jake Arrieta this offseason but Arrieta has been upstaged by fellow starter Aaron Nola in 2018. Nola has been fantastic for Philadelphia, posting a 12-3 record with a 2.30 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP with a K/9 of 9.14. At just 25 years old, it appears as though Nola has turned a corner in his development, which is great news for Phillies fans as he should be a key piece in their rotation for years to come.
(Image courtesy of Erik Drost courtesy of Flickr.)