We are continuing to get deeper into this baseball-less period, which means it’s becoming more difficult to come up with questions for this here roundtable exercise. So, I went back to a tried and true topic that never goes out of style: “Who is your favorite current player who has never played for the Red Sox?”
Without question, Bryce Harper. The intensity with which he plays, the chip on his shoulder, and the respect he commands at the plate are things to enjoy when watching Bryce Harper. The only player in baseball who really comes close for me for non-Red Sox players is Juan Soto, who also plays with a lot of energy and passion. But I tend to find Soto’s little dance thing more annoying than fun, so I had to give the nod to my main man, Bryce Harper. So glad he never went to the Yankees.
This may seem like treason, but Giancarlo Stanton will always be my favorite non-Sox player to watch. Growing up in south Florida, Stanton was a god. I went to a number of Marlins games in his 59-homer season, and was in awe of his power. Most memorable was his 122 mph grand slam that broke the scoreboard in left field back in 2012. When he signed the big 13-year contract, I was excited to see a superstar stay in a small-market town, especially one so close to home. As you’d expect, I was heartbroken when he was traded to the Yankees, but I’ll never get sick of seeing him mash.
Without a doubt it’s Juan Soto. I was in on Soto super early, drafting him in my fantasy leagues years before he came up. The Nationals are my second favorite team from years of living in D.C. and his approach at the plate just blew my mind. Who walks more than they strike out as a teenager in High-A while posting an ISO of over .400? No one does that. When he was called up to the big leagues at just 19 he posted a 145 wRC+. That’s the best mark in baseball history (min 400 PA) at 19 or younger. He followed up that performance by leading his team to the World Series as a 20 year old in 2019. The confidence he has at the plate in big moments is unlike anything I’ve seen since David Ortiz. If that sound’s crazy, it’s not. Soto’s cWPA from 2019 already ranks in the top 15 of all playoff performances by a batter in baseball history. That mark is higher than Ortiz’s 2013. He already has kids from D.C. to the D.R. mimicking his swing change from his regular stance to his two strike approach. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for young Soto. I know I’ll be watching, wearing my Soto shirsey.
Nick Markakis. Why? I was drawn in by his six-place finish in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2006 while he played a large role on my fantasy team. He became such a fantasy staple for me that friends would wait for me to take him and speculate drafting him just to get me to take him early. And it worked.
Markakis just kept putting up solid seasons in Baltimore and Atlanta on his journey to always miss the All Star Game - until he finally made it in 2018.
He’s the only non-Sox player I have a shirt for. And I wear it proudly for the joy he brought me so many summers. It helped the the Orioles were never really that good. He may never make the Orioles Hall of Fame but he’s a Ghost Man on Third legend.
I’m a huge pitching nerd so my favorite player to watch that has never played for the Red Sox is the best pitcher in the league, Jacob deGrom. Yes, I know Gerrit Cole had an amazing 2019 season and got paid by the Yankees but give me a deGrom start any day of the week. I love how he moved from shortstop, a position he played in college, to the mound and then won back to back NL CY Young Awards. Not surprising but he is my pick to win another CY Young Award if the season starts up again.
I’ve been on the Luis Castillo bandwagon for a while now. My favorite pitch is the slider and Castillo uses his to make batters look foolish. Even when he had a bit of a sophomore slump in 2018, I still believed and that faith was rewarded in 2019. Castillo posted a 76 ERA- and struck out 226 batters in 190 ⅔ innings for the Cincinnati Reds last season.
This is so easy. It’s Mike Trout! People are finally catching on to him being the greatest player of all-time, but not enough. I’m not going to regurgitate a bunch of Mike Trout fun facts that you’ve heard before, but go and watch a highlight video of his on YouTube and take a gander at his B-Ref page and get back to me on how you pick anyone else for this. It’s like if God pulled up in a taxi and offered you a lift but you turned him down because your Uber was on the way. It’s spitting in the face of everything logical and good to pick anyone else. So what about personal preference? The Lord is playing right now and to pick anyone else is blasphemous.
There is no more fun position in baseball to watch than third base. I don’t feel this is an opinion, but rather objective fact. The combination of reflex, nimbleness and arm strength makes it an absolute delight to watch someone who can really flash the leather there. I’m definitely not just saying this because this is where I played growing up. Anyway, Nolan Arenado is the kind of third basemen. I know Matt Chapman is probably objectively better, but the flair that Arenado has at the hot corner puts him on a different level. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s one of the best hitters in the league, and from a purely aesthetic perspective Coors Field only serves to help out. Arenado is the total package, and while he certainly gets plenty of respect I do wish he got to play in a little bit of a bigger market to really get his talent out there.
Ichiro. That’s the post.
(Editor’s note: Bryan was busy this week and only had time for this. He has a busy house at the moment, so I’m going to give him a pass for both the lack of words and also ignoring the word “current” in the question.)
This was an easy one for me, Javier Baez. Dude is a stud on both sides of the ball. He’s my favorite defensive player to watch in the entire league and at the plate he swings so violently that even his swings and misses are entertaining. Baez even makes a show of the mundane things, too, with some entertaining tags. He’s even dropped the Pedroia swim moves a few times to avoid tags which are always entertaining. Just everything he does on the field he does with 100% enthusiasm and you can tell he really enjoys the game. He just puts on a show for everyone. It’s very enjoyable to watch. He even has the best hands off the field too.