When people first think of Nick Markakis‘ career, they visualize him in a Baltimore Orioles uniform — which is where he spent the first nine years of his career. But in 2018, his fourth season with the Atlanta Braves, the right fielder is putting together arguably the best season of his career, and he continues to be one of the more underappreciated players of his era and in Major League Baseball today.
This season has been some of Markakis’ finest work. Hitting a career-high .325 to go along with 14 home runs and 76 RBIs, he’s been the Braves’ number-one source of offense. He leads the team in average, hits, and RBIs, and he has recorded just 57 strikeouts — which is the fifth-lowest in Major League Baseball amongst players with at least 450 plate appearances. The 34-year-old has held a steady and consistent bat in manager Brian Snitker‘s order in his three and a half years with the team and has been a machine in the heart of their order. In fact, he’s been so effective at the plate to the point where he was chosen to be a starter for the National League in this year’s All-Star Game.
The Braves’ success is generated a great deal by their lineup. With Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte, Ozzie Albies, and Ronald Acuna, among others in place, they have one of the game’s most productive offenses. But if you remove Markakis from their order, the 66-51 Braves would be faced with the task of replacing their most productive bat; he’s been that crucial to their success in 2018. But it’s not just Markakis’ production in the batter’s box that defines his game.
Over the duration of his career, Markakis has been an elite fielder. He has a great arm, can get behind any flyball, and is one of the better all-around outfielders in recent memory; he’s a vacuum who has always been a reliable player at the corner outfield position. An underrated part of Markakis’ game is his durability. Ever since he came on the scene in 2006, the right fielder has only played fewer than 147 games in a single season once (2012).In the midst of a career-best season, Nick Markakis continues to show that he is one of the game's most underrated players of the generation.Click To Tweet
In his time with the Orioles, Markakis was always categorized as one of the best outfielders in the game, despite playing for a team that was not in playoff contention often. He hit over .290 in six of his nine seasons with the Orioles and was in his prime defensively. Then, he went to the Braves, and after management lost and traded away a handful of prominent players, they entered a rebuild. From there on out, many disregarded the Braves and the high-octane players that remained in place, or ones who were added — such as Markakis.
In his first three years with the Braves, Markakis was not stellar, but he was productive at the plate, reliable in the field, and stayed healthy — which has been the story of his career. Recording averages of .296, .269, and .275, he didn’t wow or disappoint anyone mostly because management inked him to a relatively team-friendly four-year, $44 million deal. This year, he’s having arguably the best season of his career, and with the Braves being relevant again, the baseball world is being reminded of the player Markakis can be.
This offseason will be an interesting period of time for Markakis. The 2018 season is the last year of his four-year deal with the Braves, and he will enter one of the deepest free agent classes in league history. With Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Michael Brantley, DJ LeMahieu, Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel, Patrick Corbin, Craig Kimbrel, and Andrew Miller, among many others, headlining a stacked free agent class, Markakis will fall under the radar. Whether he will stay in Atlanta, or go elsewhere isn’t fully known, but wherever he goes, Markakis will provide a reliable veteran presence.
Markakis is a model of consistency and longevity which are two attributes to a player’s game that are, at times, taken for granted. Sure, he’s never been a player who’s known for his power, nor has he ever recorded 200 hits, but the Glen Cove, New York native is one of the best all-around hitters and outfielders of his era. He just so happens to be a player who has made little to no playoff appearances. The only year Markakis was able to showcase his talents in October was in 2014 when the Orioles made it to the American League Championship Series. And while nothing is a certainty, the Braves have a very good chance at making their first playoff appearance since 2013 whether it be in the National League Divisional Series, or the NL Wild Card Game.
Others prominent players who made their debut in 2006 include, but are not limited to: Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Troy Tulowitzki, Jon Lester, Adam Jones, Ben Zobrist, and Cole Hamels. While those seven individuals have endured successful careers, they’ve all been given more attention than Markakis. Meanwhile, he’s been just as good, or slightly better than most of them.
He likely won’t have a plaque that he can call his own in Cooperstown 20 years from now, but Markakis is one of the most underrated and forgotten players of his generation.