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 National League team’s best-kept secret.
Washington Nationals: Tanner Rainey
Sean Doolittle, Daniel Hudson, and Will Harris headline the Nationals bullpen, but the reliever with the highest upside is Tanner Rainey. In his first full season relieving at the big-league level, Rainey showed a lot of promise. He consistently hit the high 90s/low 100s with his fastball and got considerable movement on his slider. The right-hander posted a 3.91 ERA and totaled 74 strikeouts across 48.1 innings. He has the makings of a closer and is the fourth-best reliever in his team’s bullpen.
Atlanta Braves: Johan Camargo
Camargo got close to no press in 2018 and continues to get the same treatment; he’s a capable everyday third baseman. In 2018 Camargo posted an .806 OPS while totaling 19 home runs and 76 RBIs. He’s a line-drive hitter with pop and fields his position well. Camargo has also started at second base, shortstop, and both corner outfield positions. The Braves can’t guarantee Camargo a starting role as they also have Austin Riley and a handful of productive outfielders. That said, Camargo’s a better option than most of them.
New York Mets: Brad Brach
The first thing that comes to mind with the New York Mets is their chronic bullpen woes; Brad Brach could help in that regard. Prior to a tumultuous 2018 season, Brach was an extremely serviceable backend reliever. He interchangeably closed and served as a setup man and recorded an ERA below four from 2012-17; he got back on track with the Mets. Posting a 3.68 ERA across 16 appearances in the final two months of the 2019 season, he began to look like the reliever of old, so much so that New York re-signed him.
Philadelphia Phillies: Scott Kingery
Last season was highlighted by the arrival of high-profile players and low-lighted by finishing in fourth place in the NL East for the Phillies. Meanwhile, Scott Kingery had an encouraging season. A primary shortstop, Kingery ended up taking a lot of reps at third base and center field and held his own. Offensively, he posted a .788 OPS while totaling 19 home runs and 55 RBIs. Kingery’s defensive versatility and notable 2019 production make him the Wild Card of the Phillies depth chart moving forward.
Miami Marlins: Jordan Yamamoto
The Marlins get relentlessly trolled, and when they get praised it’s typically about one of their starting pitchers. However, Jordan Yamamoto isn’t typically one of them. Last season the 24-year-old made 15 starts and gave the Marlins reason to be optimistic, specifically holding opponents to a .191 batting average in an NL East division with offensive firepower for days. Yamamoto has been one of Miami’s top prospects, but with negative pub dominating the organization, the development of young arms such as the soon-to-be sophomore fly under the radar.
St. Louis Cardinals: Giovanny Gallegos
The Cardinals acquired Gallegos in a trade that, most notably, sent Luke Voit to the New York Yankees. That said, the Cardinals return on the first baseman is beginning to come to fruition. Last season Gallegos was one of their best relievers. Posting a 2.31 ERA and 0.81 WHIP while totaling 93 strikeouts and throwing a nasty slider, the right-hander was a lethal late-inning option. He doesn’t have Jordan Hicks‘ 100-plus mph heater or Andrew Miller‘s resume, but Gallegos has the makeup and consistency to be just as good if not better.
Milwaukee Brewers: Eric Lauer
The Brewers flipped roughly half their roster this offseason. One of their more underrated pickups was Eric Lauer. The 24-year-old southpaw comes to the Brewers after two seasons starting for the San Diego Padres, where he was respectable pitching in an NL West division that includes a multitude of big swingers. A former top pitching prospect, Lauer is a sleeper candidate to emerge as a top-of-the-rotation force for the Brewers in 2020; he has the experience and poise to take the next step.
Chicago Cubs: Tyler Chatwood
Tyler Chatwood has nothing to lose and everything to gain. The right-hander has fallen off the map given his inconsistencies starting. That said, he had a bit of a bounce-back campaign with the Cubs last season, recording a 3.76 ERA and 119 ERA+ across 38 appearances, five of which were starts. Chicago could use someone from the inside stepping up to be a rotation fixture. Chatwood has starting experience and resides in the team’s bullpen. Given a full season to start, he could get back to being a reliable starter.
Cincinnati Reds: Jesse Winker
Nick Senzel‘s defense, Aristides Aquino‘s power, and Nicholas Castellanos‘ savvy play are more exciting storylines for the Reds outfield, but don’t sleep on Jesse Winker. The left fielder is coming off a career year at the plate. Posting an .830 OPS while totaling 16 home runs, he was a steady source of offense for manager David Bell. Winker provides them with a fresh, left-handed bat, and he has started at all three outfield positions. His emergence deepens an already vibrant offense.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Bryan Reynolds
A monotonous forecast and Josh Bell‘s power are the big stories in Western Pennsylvania. A story that isn’t getting much attention for the Pirates is Bryan Reynolds’ rookie season. The now 25-year-old outfielder was a force to be reckoned with in the batter’s box last season. Hitting .314, posting an .880 OPS and a 131 OPS+, and totaling 16 home runs and 68 RBIs he was one of the Pirates’ preeminent offensive contributors. He was an extra-base hit machine and likely part of the reason why the organization felt comfortable trading Starling Marte this offseason; Reynolds is someone to build around.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Ross Stripling
Added onto requiring position players to be proficient at five positions, the Dodgers have a handful of pitchers adept at both starting and relieving; Ross Stripling has mastered this role. Across four seasons with the Dodgers (136 appearances) Stripling has recorded a 3.51 ERA and performed well in whatever capacity the Dodgers have asked. He has been asked to start on a more consistent basis over the last two years and answered the bell, providing length and reliability. He’s one of the Dodgers’ best pitchers and one of the best at his niche in the sport.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Zac Gallen
The D-Backs have done a lot of wheeling and dealing over the last two years, and one of their more under-the-radar moves was acquiring Zac Gallen from the Miami Marlins last season; the right-hander might be an integral part of their rotation’s future. Across 15 starts with the Marlins and D-Backs last season, Gallen posted a 2.81 ERA while holding opponents to a .212 batting average and logging 96 strikeouts. He was efficient, performed like a top-of-the-rotation starter, and looked like an ace in the making; he’s just 24.
San Francisco Giants: Reyes Moronta
The Giants have been held in high esteem for grooming reliable relievers. One of those hurlers is Reyes Moronta. Prior to suffering a shoulder injury towards the end of last season, the right-hander was a steady force out of the Giants bullpen. From 2018-19 he recorded a 2.66 ERA and 149 strikeouts. He has seamlessly worked out of trouble, been a cog in the late innings, and, when healthy, will be an essential part of the team’s bullpen.
Colorado Rockies: Scott Oberg
Pitching and the Rockies don’t necessarily mix well given that Coors Field is like 100 miles above sea level or something like that. Nonetheless, Scott Oberg has quietly been a comforting presence in the late innings for the Rockies. Over the last two seasons he has recorded a 2.35 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. Oberg has made quick work of opponents, kept runners off base, and been one of the best backend relievers in the sport in recent memory. His success has been a bit of a relaxer for Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw‘s struggles.
San Diego Padres: Jake Cronenworth
The Padres acquired Cronenwoth in a multi-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays in the offseason which, most notably, saw Tommy Pham and Hunter Renfroe swap homes. Cronenworth is an intriguing player. He raked in Triple A last season, hitting .334 and posting a .949 OPS and has extensive experience playing both second and third base. Oh, and he pitches. Last season Cronenworth made seven appearances on the hill and was a pitcher at the University of Michigan. The Padres have a compelling position player who pitches; that might be just a wee bit intriguing.
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