Every team in Major League Baseball has a distinguishable figure who’s one of the better players at his respective niche. At the same time, every team has an impact player that falls through the cracks of the public eye. Here’s every American League team’s best-kept secret.
New York Yankees: Gio Urshela
Urshela had a breakout 2019 season, but with the hopeful returns of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Hicks, the third baseman’s skill set might be taken for granted. Urshela is superb at the hot corner. He’s adept at making plays on his front and backhand and is a steady, contact hitter. Last season he hit .314 while posting an .889 OPS and 133 OPS+ as the Yankees starting third baseman. His well-versed bat and wrapping glove make him one of manager Aaron Boone‘s most reliable players.
Tampa Bay Rays: Yonny Chirinos
Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Charlie Morton headline the Rays pitching staff, and understandably so. That said, Yonny Chirinos has been a vital component to manager Kevin Cash‘s pitching staff, too. Across his two seasons in the big leagues, Chirinos has recorded a 3.71 ERA. That figure is a culmination of appearances as both a starter and reliever. He has stepped in the Rays rotation in the face of injuries, gotten the ball to the bullpen in the late innings, and been a stealthy option.
Boston Red Sox: Brandon Workman
Boston’s bullpen has been a shaky bunch in recent memory, but it’s not as if every reliever in their bullpen is loading the bases when they enter the game. Look at Brandon Workman; the 31-year-old right-hander is coming off a stupendous season. Posting a 1.88 ERA and 1.03 WHIP while logging 104 strikeouts across 73 appearances, he was one of the most efficient relievers in baseball. Workman posted ERAs of 3.18 and 3.27 from 2017-18. With uncertainty ahead, the Red Sox have a lockdown late-innings option in Workman.
Toronto Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez
The Blue Jays have one of, if not the best young positional core in baseball, which has led some to fall under the radar. Exhibit A: Teoscar Hernandez. The 27-year-old has played all three outfield positions over the last two seasons and been a sneaky source of offense. Over the last two seasons he has totaled 48 home runs and 122 RBIs while posting an OPS above .770 and an OPS+ above 100 in both seasons. He has gradually improved over his career, has a level, power swing, and is the sleeper aspect of Toronto’s rebuild.
Baltimore Orioles: Hanser Alberto
Hanser Alberto posted a 160:50 hit-to-strikeout ratio while hitting .305 in 2019. That’s elite efficiency, remarkable contact hitting, and a player a team can build around. The shortstop found himself in Baltimore last season after struggling to catch on with the Texas Rangers from 2015-18. Trey Mancini is the face of the Birds, but Alberto’s bat made just as big of an impact as the versatile homegrown Oriole last season. Alberto may be the AL’s best-kept secret.
Minnesota Twins: Luis Arraez
Arraez isn’t the name that comes to mind when spitballing the Twins’ offensive firepower; he soon could be with a continuation of his rookie season. Arraez was a Swiss army knife for manager Rocco Baldelli‘s depth chart last season. He played second and third base, as well as shortstop and left field while being a contact machine. Arraez hit .334 while posting an .838 OPS and logging 109 hits across 92 games. He provides a home-run hitting offense with a contact hitter who can only improve with time.
Cleveland Indians: Jordan Luplow
Two years of retooling and competing has produced some fascinating products for the Cleveland Indians, one of them being Jordan Luplow. After two seasons as a reserve for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Indians brought in Luplow to be a rotation outfielder, a role he shined in. Slugging .551 and posting a .923 OPS he was one of Cleveland’s standout hitters last season. Luplow also started at all three outfield positions. With more consistent playing time, he could become one of Cleveland’s preeminent hitters.
Chicago White Sox: Michael Kopech
Kopech made his big-league debut in August 2018 but soon after underwent Tommy John surgery and hasn’t pitched since. Consequently, he has become a bit of a forgotten element to Chicago’s future. Kopech, the team’s long-standing top prospect, gets considerable movement and speed on his fastball, dominated in the minor leagues, and has the makeup of a future ace. In a rotation that features Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, and Reynaldo Lopez, a healthy Kopech could propel the White Sox.
Kansas City Royals: Ryan O’Hearn
O’Hearn is coming off a discouraging season at the plate and is overshadowed by teammates Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler, Hunter Dozier, and Adalberto Mondesi. At the same time, O’Hearn is a year removed from totaling 12 home runs and 30 RBIs while posting a .950 OPS across 44 games. He fields his position, first base, well and has the power and skill set to be a reliable everyday first baseman. A bounce-back season for the left-handed hitter would be a welcome addition to an already compelling Royals lineup.
Detroit Tigers: Spencer Turnbull
Matthew Boyd‘s future with the Tigers has been the recurring storyline with the Tigers rotation over the last year. Meanwhile, Turnbull has turned some heads. While he tailed off in the second half of 2019, the right-hander showed some promise before the MLB trade deadline. He was working out of trouble, logging strikeouts at a plausible rate, and holding down a 3.29 ERA after a June 22 start against the Cleveland Indians. With few building blocks, Turnbull could be someone the Tigers hold on to, rather than trade for value.
Houston Astros: Jose Urquidy
Well, the Astros’ secret was let out of the bag, so we have to find something else. Let’s go with Jose Urquidy. The 25-year-old was a late-season emergence for one of the best pitching staffs in baseball last season, posting a 3.95 ERA across nine appearances, seven of which were starts. He also recorded an impressive 0.90 ERA across four postseason appearances, including a scoreless five-inning start against the Washington Nationals in Game 4 of the World Series. Urquidy could be a fixture on the Astros pitching staff moving forward.
Oakland Athletics: Chad Pinder
The A’s have a player who plays four positions and swings for power coming off their bench, which speaks to their depth. Pinder has totaled 13-plus home runs in each of the last three seasons while getting extensive playing time at second and third base and both corner outfield positions. Pinder is a starting-caliber player. If need be, he can fill in for a couple months and produce at a level deemed starting material. His defensive versatility and pop are a godsend for manager Bob Melvin‘s depth chart.
Texas Rangers: Danny Sanatana
Joey Gallo, veteran position players, and starting pitching take up the Texas spotlight. Meanwhile, Danny Santana is coming off a career year. Posting an .857 OPS while totaling 28 home runs and 81 RBIs he was the Rangers most consistent source of offense in 2019. Santana also brings defensive versatility to the table, as he played every position except catcher last season. Coming off a breakout year at the plate, Santana’s growth could propel the Rangers offense.
Los Angeles Angels: Brian Goodwin
When Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Albert Pujols, Shohei Ohtani, and Justin Upton are on your team, chances are humans that go by other names aren’t going to get much attention. In his first season starting on a full-time basis, Brian Goodwin impressed. Hitting .262 while posting a .796 OPS and totaling 17 home runs, he was an underrated source of offense for the Angels. Concurrently, Goodwin held his own starting at all three outfield positions; the left-handed hitter is a keeper.
Seattle Mariners: Daniel Vogelbach
Their catching situation, rebuilding by means of trading veterans, and the rest of the AL West simply being better than them are the prevalent talking points with the Mariners. At the same time, they have a left-handed hitter who flat-out rakes in Daniel Vogelbach. The designated hitter/first baseman blasted 30 home runs while compiling 76 RBIs in his first season as a full-time starter. Vogelbach is a raw power hitter with a long swing. Don’t be surprised if he surpasses 40 home runs the next time a full MLB season takes place.