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Under-the-radar performers in the American League

Baltimore Orioles
Mychal Givens – Mychal Givens – a reliever – is currently 13th in the MLB in wins amongst all pitchers. His stuff has been electric, limiting hitters to only a 22% line drive rate so far this season. His velocity is up across all three pitches, and is using his great changeup more than ever before. Look for the Givens to play a big role in the O’s bullpen moving forward.

Boston Red Sox
Christian Vazquez – The biggest question heading into the 2017 season was how the Red Sox would fill the offensive void left by David Ortiz. So far, it’s come from a very unlikely place. Vazquez currently leads the Red Sox in pretty much every advanced metric possible except for ISO. Known for his defensive prowess, Vazquez’s early production at the plate has put him ahead of Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart on the catcher depth chart.

Chicago White Sox
Avisail Garcia – The White Sox might be the real surprise in the AL so far this season, and helming the offensive reins has been Avisail Garcia. Through 25 games, Garcia is batting .370/.420/.609 with 5 HRs and 21 RBI to lead all White Sox hitters. Garcia also has the league’s second best BABIP, trailing only Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals.

Cleveland Indians
Jose Ramirez – A lot of the focus in Cleveland lands on the bats of Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnacion, but it’s been Ramirez who’s leading the charge for the Indians. He broke out in 2016, and has continued to look impressive into 2017. He currently ranks top five in almost every category at the position, and leads his team in both RBI’s and batting average.

Detroit Tigers
Alex Avila – Avila has been in and out of the lineup for the Tigers this season, but when he’s in he’s been on. Currently with the second best BABIP in the league, has been mashing the baseball, seeing his hard-hit ball % rise to 56.3% from his 32.6% in 2016. His defense is average, but James McCann has been dreadful at the plate this year, and with the Tigers slipping in the AL Central, it might be time for Avila to take the reins.

Houston Astros
Chris Devenski – Through the first month of the season, the Astros have one of the best offenses and pitching staffs in the majors. Holding up their pitching numbers is arguably the best bullpen in the league. Devenski has been one of the drivers for this unit, leading the team in innings pitched from the pen, strikeouts per nine innings, and opponent BABIP. He’s been efficient and versatile – a key element missing from recent years Astros teams looking to contend.

Kansas City Royals
Jason Vargas – The Royals are an empty shell of offense lately, but they have found a bright spot in that of Jason Vargas. The 34-year-old is currently second in the league in wins, has a 1.42 ERA, and is essentially at his career best in strikeouts per nine innings (8.24). He’s not over powering but is hyper-efficient. This was clear when he pitched back-to-back scoreless outings against Oakland and San Francisco earlier in April.

Los Angeles Angels
JC Ramirez – The Angels have been fun, in a “this is thrilling but I’m bored” kind of way this season. JC Ramirez might be the pitching version of this statement. He leads the Angels in strikeouts, wins, and runs allowed amongst Angels starters. His 4.23 ERA is not great, but his 3.19 FIP suggests that number should improve over the season. He isn’t a cy young candidate, but he’s giving the Angels rotation strong innings to start the season.

Minnesota Twins
Ervin Santana – Santana is far from an unknown in baseball, but at age 34 he leads the majors in wins, ERA, opponent BABIP, and WHIP. He’s not a power pitcher, but he’s used his pitches efficiently, and has been lights out for the Twins this season. If he keeps this pace up, he’s in the mix for a Cy Young consideration.

New York Yankees
Aaron Hicks – Hicks has been a forgotten man amidst his team’s offensive surge so far this season. He’s second on the team in ISO, OBP, and slugging, and has come on over the last few games since Jacoby Ellsbury’s injury. In 2016 it took Hicks until August to reach 5 HRs. He has five in just 20 games so far this season. If he keeps this up, he is going to shatter his career highs in almost every category.

Oakland Athletics
Yonder Alonso – Finally, Yonder is getting his well-deserved due. He’s putting up stellar numbers for the A’s – slashing .307/.381/.600 line, with 6 HRs, and 17 RBI, good for being tied with Khris Davis for the team lead. Alonso’s strikeout rate has climbed significantly this season, but if he stays healthy, he’s poised to break double-digit home run numbers for the first time in his career.

 


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