The righty was listed first in the
On Jan. 20, Aardsma was traded from the Red Sox to the Mariners for minor league lefty
The Mariners lost 101 games in 2008 and so they were the latest team in need of talent who saw Aardsma's arm and essentially said, "Why not?"
After all, Aardsma was a first-round pick in 2003 by the Giants, selected 22nd overall, two spots ahead of
Zduriencik believes that Aardsma was helped from the start by simply knowing that the Mariners were committing to him as part of their major league bullpen. Seattle had traded closer
For the season Aardsma has 17 saves in 18 tries, a 1.41 ERA and a .165 batting average against. Since June 1 he has appeared in 13 games, going a perfect 9 for 9 in saves with no runs allowed in 13 innings and four walks against 22 strikeouts.
"I think our coaching staff has helped, especially having an experienced, excellent major league closer in
That maturation has helped propel Aardsma -- first in the Encyclopedia -- to the closer's spot on SI.com's 2009 All-Unexpected Team. Midway through the season, here are the guys who have gone from nowhere to, at the least, half good:
The season began with two general managers who attended Division II Rollins College (Colorado's
Never viewed as much of a prospect because of his lack of power, Hanigan nevertheless climbed through the system because he could catch and throw, and because he could hit and had a good eye. Still, the Reds traded for veteran
Kind of the hitting version of Aardsma, right down to finding his best success as a major leaguer in Seattle. Branyan had flitted through five organizations over the previous three years because he was a left-handed
It was a risk worth taking. Branyan is still striking out a bunch, but he has toyed with a .300 average and his 21 homers are already the second-best mark of his career. Zduriencik saw awesome power, and as if to prove it Branyan became Bunyan: He's the first man to hit the Mohegan Sun Bar at the new Yankee Stadium.
What if you had a guy who could produce at about the level of
But even if you knew that, nothing would have prepared you for Zobrist to sock 16 homers in his first 227 at-bats this year while drawing 46 walks (five more than Morneau in about 100 fewer plate appearances) and stealing nine bases.
It would be easy to pick Zobrist's double-play partner
He was a .205 hitter last year trapped between being a catcher and a third baseman. This season, liberated from the tools of ignorance, Inge has 19 homers. His .267 average might not sound staggering, but at .223 he had the fourth-worst average in the majors over the 2007-08 seasons (minimum 750 plate appearances).
This falls into the "we knew he was good, but not
Technically Pierre did his best work in left, but he still has played about 10 times more games in center in his career. In the 50 games that
Before this season Cruz had 22 homers and six steals in parts of four seasons. The wonder was whether he was just a minor league monster who would never have the consistency to hit in the majors. But given a full-time opportunity in a home stadium that enhances his power, Cruz is tied with
There are some interesting choices here, including Houston's
He has 12 quality starts -- the same amount as