OK, nobody’s making me cut out the Salt. Saltalamacchia, that is. I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do, like eating oatmeal (thanks, Mr. Brimley!). Salty had a good rookie campaign, but he simply never saw enough at bats. He still hovers well below 200 plate appearances on the season, which puts him way off the pace established by some of the other budding stars in our lineup.
He wasn’t helped by the fact that he shared catching duties with McCann in Atlanta, or by the sudden trade to the AL in the late part of the season. He’s going to be a great player, but Jarrod does not smell like Pujols in his rookie season.
So who does? The usual suspects. Ryan J. Braun (damn you, Ryan Z. Braun! I am tired of having to use that middle initial!) has dropped a little ways, but hit his 30th home run a couple of days ago. His Brewers are atop the league with insanely young talent on the field.
Hunter Pence keeps playing well, though he is firmly lodged in Braun’s shadow. Playing in the same division can’t be helping, but playing for a crappy team is making it much worse. Cincinnati’s Josh Hamilton has had a recent resurgence, and is on the verge of cracking the 900 point barrier for the first time since the first few weeks of the season, when he was on an ungodly power-hitting tear.
The next tier finally leads us to an AL worthy, in the person of pint-sized Dustin Pedroia, who is playing fine offense and defense in his season-long slog. Who knows where he would be in the standings if he hadn’t started the season so weakly? Troy Tulowitzki recently broke a record previously held by Ernie Banks. He is going to be great to watch in Colorado for years to come.
Chris B. Young (Damn you, Chris R. Young!!!) is not really Pujols-like, but his undervalued Diamondbacks club is on the verge of cruising into the playoffs at the expense of the Padres, who employ the paler version of Chris Young. Delmon Young (confused yet?) has done yeoman’s work for Tampa Bay this year, amassing over 550 at bats and counting in a hideously drawn-out losing effort. Ditto Akinori Iwamura, who lost some time due to injury in mid-season.
Bringing up the bottom are Alex Gordon, who has neither saved the Royals nor flamed out in his debut, so he’s done about all you can ask. His numbers have risen steadily throughout the season, and he can team up with fellow youngsters like Brian Bannister, Tony Pena, Jr., and Billy Butler to bring some hope to Royal Blue diehards next year. There’s always next year…
Finally, Kevin Kouzmanoff, the Mashin’ Macedonian, has used his massive forearms to great effect, helping Jake Peavy and Chris Young to keep the Padres in the wild card hunt down to the last.
Those are our contenders. I might still let one or two more go over the remainder of the season, and our final post will be the crowning of our first ever Pujols Smell-Alike and a statistical breakdown that will surely interest literally dozens of people.