Avisail Garcia (Chicago White Sox)
It might have taken a little longer than expected, but Mini-Miggy looks to have finally found his footing in the bigs. He’s spraying the ball around the diamond to the tune of a .342 batting average, good for fourth in the AL. The power stroke looks to be making it into Garcia’s arsenal, too.
The guy is listed at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds; hitting 20 bombs shouldn’t be too much to ask. He’s yet to clock even 15 home runs in a season, but with five already this year, a 22-23 HR campaign looks to be very much in play. The Tigers are obviously happy with the return they got in that mid-summer 2013 trade - netting defensive wizard Jose Iglesias - but when you see the franchise trying to squeeze production out of the Mikie Mahtooks of the world, it does make you wish they'd have found a way to keep Garcia in Motown. At 25, he’s one of the game’s rising stars.
Mike Pelfrey (Chicago White Sox)
If the MLB ever thinks about expanding again and adding to its already gluttonous 30-team lineup, they ought to take a look at the fact that Mike Pelfrey is still starting games. If Pelfrey can find work in the current baseball climate, I’d be more than terrified to find out what arms would come back from the dead with 32 or 33 big league clubs.
He’s made a handful of starts for the White Sox, with the results nearly identical each time out: about four innings pitched, three runs allowed, and a disturbing lack of whiffs. How do you make four starts at the big league level and strike out just six batters? It’s a real brain teaser, but one Pelfrey seems to have figured out. Not that win-loss records always tell the story for a starting pitcher, but in the last five years, Pelfrey has tallied 15 wins against 40 losses. With a few months to work out and strengthen my arm, I honestly think I could do better.
Rajai Davis (Oakland Athletics)
Last year’s World Series hero for the Indians hasn’t yet been able to carry that momentum into the 2017 campaign. Davis is scratching and clawing just to keep the batting average (.207) above the Mendoza Line and he’s already spent a couple of weeks on the disabled list. Amazingly, last year at age 35, he led the AL in stolen bases (43 SB), the first such achievement of Davis’ career. That’s not a category you typically start leading the league in at such an advanced baseball age.
Despite his slow start to this season, he should be chasing down the AL steals leaders again in short order. He’s swiped only four bags, but the top guys (Altuve, Cain, Dyson) are within shouting distance at nine. Interestingly, Rajai’s 12 homers last year for Cleveland also represented the first double-digit HR effort of his career. He seems to be getting faster and stronger as the miles rack up on his odometer.
Matt Joyce (Oakland Athletics)
Somewhere, Brennan Boesch is watching the world turn and thinking to himself, “Hey! Somebody grab that Matt Joyce guy! He stole my career! That should be me!” Boesch got called up to the bigs late April of 2010 and immediately took the baseball world by storm. He was named AL Rookie of the Month for both May and June. He followed it up with an impressive sophomore effort. Then things just kinda went downhill from there.
The infamous series in Tampa Bay - where Joe Maddon kept ordering intentional walks of Miguel Cabrera to instead face the increasingly terrified Boesch - is where many baseball insiders believe young Brennan had his soul removed for good.
He bounced around a few more years, one each as a Yankee, Dodger, and Red; and that was it. Out of the league at 30 years of age, left to wonder where that rookie magic had gone, and why his clone, Matt Joyce, continued to pick up an MLB paycheck for being that occasionally threatening lefty bat off the bench.
They’re basically the same age, with essentially the same skill set; yet there is Joyce rounding out a decade of service time while Boesch turned into a mostly forgotten man after his third year in Detroit. Somehow, this Matt Joyce portion of the article was devoted entirely to Brennan Boesch. Joyce stole his life. Donating a couple paragraphs of local press is the least he can do to make up for it.
Joaquin Benoit (Philadelphia Phillies)
The Tigers have obviously had their share of bullpen woes in the early part of this season, but don’t feel like our old friend Joaquin Benoit could provide any relief. His most recent outing against the Mariners consisted of one out being recorded while five men crossed the plate.
The 39-year-old Benoit is now at the stage of his career where he basically signs up to play with a new organization every year. Since 2013, he’s suited up for five different teams. If he plays til he’s 44 or 45, it’s likely that he’ll wind up throwing that Hall of Fame changeup for every club in the world. Not just the majors; Korea, Japan, the Mexican League, too. All of them. Benoit is a true baseball lifer. If he figures out a way to take the mound 73 more times, he’ll become just the 50th hurler in baseball history to make 800 appearances.
Ryan Raburn (Charlotte Knights)
Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of the Charlotte Knights. They’re the AAA outpost for the White Sox organization. That’s where Ryan Raburn lives now. He’s 36 and just looking for one more cup of coffee in the show. For sheer statistical purposes, let’s hope he finds a gig. His all-time numbers reveal a home run total of 91. Not that reaching 100 is a SportsCenter-worthy milestone, but it’d be nice to see the former Tiger utility man get there. Whether or not that happens, Raburn will always be remembered for one of the most clutch defensive plays in Tigers’ history. (If you need a reminder. Pay attention to Chip Caray's call on that climactic sequence. One of the more bizarre and premature play-by-play moments you'll ever come across.)
Andrew Miller (Cleveland Indians)
A 2-0 record, 16.2 innings pitched, 22 strikeouts to just four walks, and not a single run allowed. I’m no sabermetrician, but those numbers are good, right? If Miller remains unhittable on that elite level and the Indians get back to the playoffs, you could be looking at the first middle reliever to win the Cy Young Award.