Most Captivating MLB Players of 2016: Part 1

By James Mauldin – Last Word On Baseball

As the 2016 calendar year comes to an end, the LWOS MC50 series captures the 50 most captivating athletes from 2016 in each sport. LWOB takes a look at the 50 MLB players who drew headlines this past year, whether it be for on-field accomplishments, off-season drama, or happenings away from the ballpark.

Most Captivating MLB Players of 2016: Part 1

50. Julio Teheran

As one of the arms that will turn around the Atlanta Braves, the 25-year-old Colombian-born starter continued to show he has some nasty stuff. Teheran finished the year with a K:BB ratio of 4.07 and a top-ten rank in WAR for pitchers in the National League. Teheran saved his very best for his last start of the season.

In front of Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, and 51,220 Braves fans that came to see the closing of Turner Field, Teheran tossed a game that confirmed to the fan base that this team is on the way. Matched up with CY Young Award contender Justin Verlander, Teheran threw a masterful seven innings.

With 100 pitches, he struck out 12, walked just one batter, and surrendered three hits. He out-dueled Verlander, who also threw seven strong and gave up one run on a sac fly. The game ended 1-0. Teheran has the chance to be a pivotal piece in the success of this Braves franchise long term.

49. Starling Marte

Thanks to injury, Marte’s All-Star 2016 campaign was limited. It was Marte’s first career All-Star nod, and it came in what was clearly going to be his best season. In just 129 games, Marte set a career-high with 34 doubles and showed surprising opposite field power. Marte hit four of his nine home runs to right-center field.

Marte is the guy the Pirates like as the future in that outfield. He’s one of the reasons Andrew McCutchen’s name keeps popping up in trade rumors. He is two years younger than McCutchen, won back-to-back Gold Gloves, and finished the season hitting .311. Signed to an affordable contract through 2022, Marte may open up this season playing CF for Pittsburgh.

48. Mark Melancon

What a year it was to be a closer on the free agent market. Whether it was dumb luck or the maturing of his craft, Melancon entered this offseason coming off his best two seasons as a pro. He has blown just six saves over the past two seasons and has 98 saves in that span.

The San Francisco Giants were a closer away from potentially moving on to the 2016 NLCS. The bullpen was an obvious area of need for the Giants, as seen in their series against the Chicago Cubs. Melancon has playoff experience, is coming off two terrific seasons, and is coming to a team full of proven winners and one of the best managers in the game.

After having the best record through the first half of the season and one of the worst in the second half, the Giants feel they have found the guy to help solve their problems. Pressure is on Melancon to perform; he’s now in the same division as Kenley Jansen and will be playing for a team expected to compete for a championship.

47. Carlos Correa

This time next year, Correa has the ability to be in the top 20 on this list of Most Captivating Players. The 22-year-old former first-overall pick set the world on fire en route to winning Rookie of the Year two seasons ago. A slightly quieter second year should not discourage Correa fans.

At 6’4” 215lbs, the natural athletic talent he has shown in the field making and on the bases is freakish. He is the size of a football wide out or safety and his hand-eye skills are through the roof. He improved his eye at the plate in his second season, nearly doubling his walk total from his rookie campaign. He has the ability to hit to all parts of the field and he tallied 36 doubles last season.

At such a young age, this superstar has the potential to be talked about among the faces of this game, with names like Mike Trout and Manny Machado. Be on the lookout for Correa and his partner in crime Jose Altuve. Houston will be good for a long time with those two manning the middle of the infield.

46. George Springer

Springer and two other players (Alcides Escobar and Jonathan Schoop) were the only big leaguers in 2016 to play in all 162 of their team’s games. Springer had a year of growth and improvement, hitting 29 home runs and scoring 116 runs.

Up the middle of the diamond for the Houston Astros, there is Brian McCann, Altuve, Correa, and Springer. That maybe the best four in baseball.

Of Springer’s 29 home runs last season, 12 went to the opposite field. He finished with a .994 fielding percentage and finished tied for seventh with 12 outfield assists. The future of his team looks bright. He is a major part of it, and fans should anticipate big numbers for Springer going forward. He will have plenty of protection throughout the lineup, namely from Carlos Beltran, Evan Gattis, and probably number 47 on this list, Carlos Correa.

45. Jose Quintana

For the last month or so, Quintana’s name has come up in trade rumors. Quintana is coming off his best season as a starter. He won 13 games for the Chicago White Sox, threw a career-high number of innings, and posted a 3.20 ERA, the lowest of his career. With the Sox going into more of a rebuild phase, Quintana, who will be 28 by the time the 2017 season gets underway, is a name we will be hearing for the next few months until a deal is completed.

His friendly contract makes him a desirable asset for teams in need of starting pitching. Quintana has two, maybe three good pitches (4-seam, changeup, and an occasional cutter), but he has no great pitches.

Here is Quintana’s most impressive number: in 32 starts for the White Sox, Quintana delivered 23 quality starts. That’s consistency. Quintana has the potential to be a two or three in any rotation, and a new coach might bring something more out of Quintana.

44. Josh Donaldson

Remember Joakim Noah when he was on the Bulls? He was a good player because he did all the little things right. He constantly hustled, and was the source of the Bulls energy by doing the things that made the opposing team and fanbase just hate him.

That’s what Donaldson has become. This guy has been a flat out stud the last two seasons and has finished fourth, eighth, first, and fourth in the MVP race the last four seasons. At 31, Donaldson has a few prime years left to terrorize opponents. The energy and attitude he brings to the ballpark everyday is unique and makes him that much more important.

While his average dipped slightly last season from his MVP campaign, Donaldson became a more complete hitter at the plate. He became disciplined. He walked over 100 times for the first time in his career, boosting his OBP 33 points.

He will be up for arbitration next offseason, so expect big things from Donaldson manning the hot corner for the North.

43. Masahiro Tanaka

In his first three seasons since coming over from Japan, Tanaka has won 39 games and has yet to have a season with double digit losses. Tanaka’s biggest question is if he can stay healthy over the course of 162 game schedule. He hasn’t managed that his in first three campaigns.

This year, his best, saw him pitch 199 innings over 31 starts. Yet, Tanaka is that he is a ticking time bomb. There’s no way to know when something will happen. He may end up being just fine, but after his decision to skip Tommy John in 2014, there has been a feeling around New York of it being a matter of when, not if, his elbow will blow.

The wear and tear put on pitchers that come over from Japan as they are growing up had been well documented. The Yankees have been cautious with Tanaka; with a team seemingly not ready to win yet, all eyes will be on Tanaka’s health. Perhaps he can help prove the doubters wrong with this Yankee team.

42. Jose Bautista

For the remainder of this offseason, the most captivating name to watch may be Bautista. Remember when he said this about a home town discount: “That doesn’t exist, in my eyes I’ve given them a hometown discount…”.

Now, near Christmas, Bautista fate remains uncertain. His streak of six straight seasons of being named an All-Star was snapped in 2016. A toe injury played a big part in that.

Bautista is a spectacle. He has been a story waiting to happen the last three seasons, and has delivered moments ranging from bat flips, to getting nailed in the face, to being one of the best right fielders in the game. Wherever he lands, he will entertain.

41. Michael Fulmer

Man, did the Detroit Tigers ever get a good pitcher out of their their trade with the New York Mets. In 2015, Detroit sent a pricey slugger to New York in exchange for two prospects. After seeing one of them rise so far in 2016, the Mets might be regretting that right about now.

To be fair, there really is not much room in that Mets rotation. However, Fulmer is a future CY Young Award candidate and is now the American League Rookie of the Year. But hey, the Mets played in the World Series in 2015 thanks to Yoenis Cespedes, so maybe both sides win this one.

Fulmer just has the potential to be around longer. At just 23 years old, he brings a powerful fastball and slider combination, one similar to a former teammate of his, Noah Syndergaard. Fulmer is the future of the Tigers rotation, and bears watching for years to come.

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