PHOENIX -- First impressions last. Sometimes a quick glance at a player’s overall numbers doesn't tell the whole story.
So here we are this week, taking a look at five players in the National League East who are playing better than most people seem to realize, especially if you aren’t watching that player on a daily basis. These are five guys who after the season you might look up and say, “Wow, I didn’t realize he had such a good year.” They did.
Braves: Josh Donaldson, 3B
Donaldson is having a good season, if you look at his overall numbers. In fact, it is a wonder more teams did not push harder for his services during free agency last offseason, particularly on a one-year contract. But Donaldson has been absolutely crushing the baseball for two months now. He was batting a relatively ordinary .236 with nine home runs, 27 RBIs and a .769 OPS in 269 plate appearances through June 13. But look at what he has done in 201 plate appearances since then (through Tuesday): .299 with 17 homers, 41 RBIs and a 1.084 OPS. His power surge has helped propel the Braves to the top of the National League East.
Marlins: Miguel Rojas, SS
Rojas, who landed on the IL Wednesday with a right hamstring strain, entered Spring Training expecting to split time with JT Riddle at shortstop and to play all over the infield as a utility player. But Rojas won the everyday job at shortstop, earning Marlins manager Don Mattingly’s endorsement to be their All-Star. He has developed into a clubhouse leader as the Marlins build for the future. He also has improved his plate discipline – his OPS is 85 points higher than last season – and hits leadoff regularly.
Mets: Noah Syndergaard, SP
Syndergaard started the season slowly and it seems like that has remained stuck in most people’s minds. He carried a 4.68 ERA through 17 starts, but he has been dominant since the All-Star break. Syndergaard is 2-1 with a 1.78 ERA in five starts in that span. He has struck out 39 and walked eight in 35 1/3 innings. He is a big reason why the Mets are surging into contention for a NL Wild Card spot.
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, SP
Nobody really seems to be giving Strasburg the love he deserves, but if you closely examine his numbers, there is a legitimate NL Cy Young Award candidate there (even after he got hit hard in his last start against the D-backs). Strasburg leads the NL with 14 wins. He has a 3.72 ERA, but his 3.21 xFIP is second in the league behind Max Scherzer (2.81) and his 4.0 WAR, according to FanGraphs, is third among NL pitchers behind Scherzer (5.6) and Jacob deGrom (4.6). If the Nationals win an NL Wild Card berth, and then win the elimination game, their pitching could cause the Dodgers fits in the NLDS.
Phillies: J.T. Realmuto, C
Realmuto’s offensive numbers are a tick below last season’s strong campaign with the Marlins, but he quietly has been one of the better players in the National League. Realmuto entered Thursday with a 3.7 WAR, according to FanGraphs, which is tied with Yasmani Grandal for the best mark among NL catchers. It also ranks 11th among all NL players. The Phillies have not had a position player finish in the top 10 in the NL in WAR since Shane Victorino (5.6). The Phillies have not a catcher finish in the top 10 in the NL since Darren Daulton in 1992, when he finished third with a 7.2 WAR.