It bears reminding sports fans everwhere: Baseball is fun. We're here to spotlight the game's most entertaining players.
We asked our MLB crew to spotlight the player they have the most fun watching, with the caveat they could not pick Mike Trout. Watching the game's best player should always be fun. Let's roll.
Nobody as small as Jose Altuve should have that much power. His defense, baserunning and bat to ball skills are a package like nobody else in baseball. The definitive proof that anybody can play this game—at a high level.
Yes, Willians Astudillo currently on the IL, but when healthy, there might not be anyone more interesting to watch. He'll play any position, he has a strikingly unorthodox approach at the plate—no walks, no strikeouts, ever—and he doesn't exactly look like your typical baseball player. Plus, he has a perfect nickname (La Tortuga, or "the turtle"). Astudillo has everything needed to be your favorite player, and then some.
Is this a serious question? It’s Javy Báez, and that’s with Mike Trout included. He does everything you’d ask of a superstar player, and he does it with such swag, flair and obvious joy that you can’t help but feel how much fun he’s having. He makes the seemingly impossible look easy, and is effortlessly smooth while doing so.
The guy is going to hit another 30-plus homers this year while playing Gold Glove shortstop, and he’s the poster child for the “Let The Kids Play” era. This better be unanimous. It’s Báez in a runaway.
It's Lorenzo Cain! He slugs, he steals bases, he plays a showcase defensive position with flair. We'll never know why only the Brewers bid big for him last offseason, but they and the fans of the greater Milwaukee area have to be happy they did.
I mean ... need I say any more?
Pablo Sandoval might not play every day, but he's one of the game's best characters and one of the few remaining bright spots on an elderly Giants roster.
I’m impartial to silky-smooth shortstop play. It's Javy Báez, particularly because I don’t think any of us, as baseball observers, truly understand just how difficult digging out hard-hit groundballs and line drives (in addition to simply being in the right position) is. The players who make it look easy make the sport beautiful to watch. Defensively, everything Baéz does appears effortless. Combine his talent with his exuberant passion, and you have a must-watch player––arguably an MVP-caliber one.
The obvious answer is Javy Baez because he's so absurdly talented. However, this is the perfect question to show José Martínez some love. The Cardinals' rightfielder is one of the most consistently great hitters who nobody talks about—he's slashing .354/.398/.485 this season. He doesn't stop moving in the batter's box and somehow still rakes. Yes, he's a bad defensive outfielder, but somehow that's part of the fun.
On the same play, he can botch a relatively routine flyball, recover in time to pick up the ball and throw a runner out trying to advance an extra base. He's always smiling and kinda looks like Gumby with his 6'6" frame, wild hair and goofy celebration movements. Martinez is so fun to watch because he's so good at what he does, he totally owns who he is and there isn't anyone like him.
Mike Trout’s blend of speed, power and skill makes him arguably the most entertaining player in the game, so why not take those qualities and package them into a player with a bit more, well, flair. Enter Ronald Acuña Jr., a 21-year-old sensation who could one day steal Trout’s designation as baseball’s best player. Acuña Jr.'s rookie-year tear revived playoff baseball in Atlanta (er, Cobb County), pairing with second-base dynamo Ozzie Albies to form one of baseball’s most electric duos. The Braves shoddy bullpen may cost them the NL East, but don’t miss Acuna before October rolls around.
A healthy Shohei Ohtani—who can throw 97 mph and hit 450-foot home runs and probably cure cancer by whistling—is as close as MLB gets both to a legitimate superhero and a figure even more impressive than Mike Trout. But while baseball at least is getting the hitting half of Ohtani back this season, the pitching side will have to wait (damn you, Tommy John surgery). Still, he’s my pick, as much for what he can do as for what’s possible.