8 Underrated Player Performances To Begin The MLB Season

by John Pagnotta | Jun 4, 2024 | General | 0 comments

Photo: MLB.com

As the MLB season has reached the end of May, there have been some very surprising performances this season. The expected players, such as Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, Zach Wheeler, and many more are all having exceptional beginnings to their seasons. However, there have been many breakout performances that have been shown in the first 2 months of the young season. With that in mind, here are 8 players that have caught my eye and deserve a little more recognition than they have been receiving! Keep in mind that current league leaders (such as Betts, Ohtani, Ramirez, Suarez) won’t be in this because their seasons aren’t underrated!

*This article was made on May 29, so some stats may be outdated

Jurickson Profar – LF (SD)
Stats: 58 G, 10 2B, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 30 BB, .323/.419/.497, 2.0 WAR

The first player that will be recognized for his hot start is Jurickson Profar. Profar has broken out in a huge way for San Diego. He has 8 HR already, after only hitting 9 in 125 games last season, and nearly has the same amount of RBI. Profar also started the season batting in the 6th spot, but he has moved up to the top 4 throughout the month of May. Lastly, Profar’s eye has been a pleasant surprise, as his improved discipline has him on pace for 84 BB, which would be a career high. In addition, he’s matched his best WAR in a season (2.0 in 2018). Lastly, Profar is on pace for his first 100 RBI season, which would easily pass his career high. Ever since Dodgers catcher Will Smith called Profar “irrelevant’, it’s safe to say that Profar has been very relevant for a Padres squad that is around the .500 mark during this time.

Photo Credit: eastvillagetimes.com

William Contreras – C (MIL)
Stats: 54 G, 15 2B, 44 R, 8 HR, 43 RBI, .324/.396/.514, 2.5 WAR

The next breakout bat to open the season has been William Contreras (not Wilson). William has
always been an amazing offensive catcher, as he hit 20 HR as a backup in 2022 and 17 HR in
2023 as the Brewers’ starter. This year has been a whole different story, as Contreras has gone
a level up in his offensive game. His OPS has gone up nearly 100 points, his WAR is 2.5 (it was
3.7 in 141 games last season), and his AVG has gone up 35 points (.289 to .324). Throughout
the first 2 months, Contreras has been one of the best offensive catchers in baseball, and has a
big opportunity to make the ASG in July.

Jordan Westburg – 3B (BAL)
Stats: 51 G, 11 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 5 SB, .291/.351/.508, 2.3
WAR

On a high-powered Orioles team, MLB fans may not know much about Westburg because of Gunnar Henderson’s MVP-level start. Westburg has been very valuable himself for Baltimore, as he has contributed plenty on offense and defense with his versatility. Westburg has also shown much improved offense from his rookie season, and he has nearly doubled his WAR from last year in 12 less games. He’s on pace for a 100 RBI season and over 60 XBH, which would be an incredible way to prove himself in his first full season in the major leagues.

Photo Credit: wmar2news.com

Josh Naylor – 1B (CLE)
Stats: 52 G, 8 2B, 30 R, 15 HR, 40 RBI, .234/.321/.510, 1.3 WAR

The last batter that will be given his flowers is Josh Naylor. Naylor has also been overshadowed by Jose Ramirez, who is currently leading the league with 56 RBI, and is having an incredible season. Naylor has also been amazing for Cleveland, as he is one of 7 MLB players to hit 40 RBI. The slugger had a solid year in 2023, as he hit .308 with 97 RBI as the starting first baseman. As his average has gone down, he has nearly tied his amount of HR in 2023 (17) in only 52 games. Naylor’s slugging has gone up 21 points, and he is on pace for more walks than last year (33 BB). Furthermore, Naylor is also on pace for 44 HR and 118 RBI, which would easily surpass his career highs (20 HR in 2022, 97 RBI in 2023)!

Tanner Houck – SP (BOS)
Stats: 11 GS, 4-5, 71 IP, 69 K, 1.90 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 1 HR, 1 CG, 2.7
WAR

The first pitcher that has been criminally underrated this season has been Tanner Houck. Houck was a solid pitcher through his first 3 seasons, but struggled last season with a 5.01 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. In his first 11 games, Houck has been a revelation for the Red Sox, as he has only given up more than 4 runs once, and has posted 7 starts with only 1 ER given up. In addition, he has been an innings eater, as he has only gone less than 6 innings in 1 start so far. Houck has also improved his control and pitches, as hitters are only batting .215 off Houck with 13 BB. The only negative on his amazing start is his record (4-5), as he is experiencing Jacob Degrom-like run support from the Red Sox. So far, the Red Sox ace is definitely on track for a Cy Young finish if he can maintain his current pace and get more run support.

Chris Sale – SP (ATL)
Stats: 10 GS, 8-1, 63.2 IP, 78 K, 9 BB, 2.12 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 2.4
WAR

With the incredible starts in the NL by starters Ranger Suarez (9-1, 1.75 ERA, 0.82 WHIP) Tyler Glasnow (6-3, 3.04 ERA, 95 K) and Shota Imanaga (5-1, 1.86 ERA, 59 K), they have been the most talked about starters in the NL, deservingly. However, Chris Sale has looked like his prime self, having his best ERA, WHIP, and WAR since 2018. In addition, his health has prevailed so far, as he hasn’t missed a start or required an IL stint yet. Sale had an amazing May, going 5-0 with a 0.56 ERA, 45 K, and only 2 walks allowed. The 35 year old has looked reborn, as his pitches have been nasty, his velocity is up, and he’s been an innings eater for Atlanta so far, as he is averaging 6 IP per start. With a Braves team that will be without Spencer Strider for the season, Sale and co. have really stepped up!

Photo Credit: bostonherald.com

Erick Fedde – SP (CHW)
Stats: 11 GS, 4-1, 64.2 IP, 58 K, 2.80 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .211 OBA, 2.7
WAR

On a Chicago White Sox team that has been the worst team in baseball (15-41), they have at least 1 positive to show this year: Erick Fedde. The White Sox signed Fedde to a 1 yr deal in the offseason, as he was coming back to the MLB after a successful season in the KBO. Fedde has done nothing but deal for the Sox, as he’s been pretty forgotten on a horrendous team. Fedde’s on pace for his best season in nearly every stat so far, such as ERA, WAR, strikeouts, WHIP, OBA, IP, and FIP. The one problem with Fedde has been the home runs given up (8 HR in 64.2 IP), but he has been exceptional in every other pitching statistic. He will certainly be a suitor for buyers at the trade deadline, as the White Sox should get a solid return for the impressive pitcher.

Luis Gil – SP (NYY)
Stats: 11 GS, 7-1, 63.1 IP, 79 K, 1.99 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, .136 OBA,
2.4 WAR

The final pitcher that deserves his flowers for his exceptional start has been Luis Gil. Gil was originally supposed to take the #5 spot in the rotation when ace Gerrit Cole got injured, but Gil has exceeded expectations as every start goes by. He has been virtually unhittable (29 hits allowed in 63 IP), while only allowing 4 HR this season. The budding star especially had an incredible May, going 6-0 with a 0.48 ERA, while striking out 44 batters in 38 innings. Gil had a historic game vs the White Sox, striking out 14 batters without issuing a walk! The only issue that Gil has had is his control, as he’s already issued 29 BB this season and is on pace for over 70. Through his first 11 starts, Gil has been nasty for the Yankees without Gerrit Cole for the first 2+ months this season, and could be on his way to his first ASG appearance!

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My name is John Pagnotta and I live in Queens, NY. I am a sophomore at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School. I am a huge fan of the Jets, Mets, Islanders, and Knicks. I started following sports when I was around 7 years old and I have not lost love for it ever since!

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