Michael Trout does everything well. He's that rare player who does not need to collect a hit to help his team win. Even better, Trout gets it. He understands that running down a ball in center field or throwing out a runner can impact a game as much as hitting
Michael Trout does everything well. He's that rare player who does not need to collect a hit to help his team win. Even better, Trout gets it. He understands that running down a ball in center field or throwing out a runner can impact a game as much as hitting the ball over the fence.
Also important is his attitude. He plays with a joy and energy that is captivating. To watch him play is to be reminded again and again of the greatness of this sport.
When I set out to come up with baseball's 10 most exciting players, I used Trout as one of the gold standards. These are the players you subscribe to MLB.TV to watch.
What matters? Power certain does. Speed matters, too. That is, players who do things that bring you out of your seat and make you think, "Did he really just do that?"
Defense and baserunning matter, too.
In the end, something like this comes back to the pure pleasure of watching someone play. For pitchers, that means emotion and stuff and a raging competitive fire.
When the Braves were putting together a game-winning six-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, it was impossible not to look at their dugout and see all those happy players hanging onto the railing and cheering for one another.
If there was a "Most Exciting Moment" for a young season, the Braves' rally would be high on the list.
After the World Series last fall, that's the sort of question I got most about the Astros: "Are they really like that? Are they that happy?"
Yes, they really were that happy. That was true in 2017, and it's also true this year.
So with all those intangibles in mind, here's one man's list of baseball's 10 most exciting players. No team is represented more than once, which took some deserving players out of the running. We'll offer a hat tip to them after the Top 10 list.
Your cards and letters -- via Twitter, e-mail, Facebook, comments below, etc., -- are welcome. Here goes:
1. Mike Trout, Angels, CF
Many of us did not see Ted Williams or Willie Mays play. But we saw Mike Trout, and someday baseball fans who missed out will wonder if he was really that good. Yes, he was.
2. Mookie Betts, Red Sox, RF
If the season ended today, Trout would not be the American League MVP Award winner. Betts would be honored for a season in which he's putting power, speed and plate discipline on display. Did we mention his Gold Glove Award-worthy defense?
3. Ozzie Albies, Braves, 2B
Word began getting around four years ago, when Albies hit .364 in Rookie League ball. He was 17 at the time, and Braves officials would say things like, "Wait until you see Albies." He's all that and then some, especially after adding power to a game that had been built primarily around speed. The 21-year-old quickly has become the happy, energetic face of the Atlanta turnaround.
4. Odubel Herrera, Phillies, CF
Now that the Phillies are winning again, it's easier to appreciate all this 26-year-old All-Star brings to the table. His defense remains a work in progress, but his passion, smile and production have become the symbols of the return of competitive baseball in Philadelphia.
5. Aaron Judge, Yankees, RF
How could a larger-than-life figure on a larger-than-life franchise not make a list like this one? Judge's size and power, combined with his humility and demeanor, make him as compelling as any player on the planet.
6. Max Scherzer, Nationals, RHP
His every start is an event as he piles up strikeouts, flirts with no-hitters and thoroughly entertains with all those emotions bubbling to the surface. Scherzer has 71 games of at least 10 strikeouts, five of at least 15. In four seasons with the Nationals, he has taken a no-hitter into the sixth inning 11 times (and finished two of them).
7. Josh Hader, Brewers, LHP
Take a look at this guy. Hader is a slightly built 6-foot-3 with a whip-like delivery and hair streaming from beneath his cap. Hader's game is simple: power. His fastball averages 94 mph, and he's terrific working the corners, then finishing off hitters with sliders. In his first full Major League season, Hader has emerged as one of baseball's most unhittable relievers, having struck out more than half the hitters he has faced.
8. Manny Machado, Orioles, SS
During Machado's six seasons at third base, Orioles fans found themselves doing something they never thought possible: they dared compare someone to Brooks Robinson. That's how electric Machado was as he almost routinely stabbed balls down the line and threw out runners while he was falling toward foul territory. Machado is back at shortstop -- where he played in the Minors -- and he is having his best offensive season.
9. Francisco Lindor, Indians, SS
He joined the Indians a few days after the Astros summoned Carlos Correa to the Major Leagues, and the two of them probably will be compared to one another forever. Lindor's smile is his trademark -- and it is reflective of his attitude about pretty much everything -- but the rest of his game is pretty good, too.
10. George Springer, Astros, CF
He symbolizes everything the Astros have accomplished these past four seasons. Springer does that by playing 100 mph all the time, from defense in the outfield to running the bases to hitting cannonball shots out of the park. Perhaps the greatest tribute to his contribution was Astros manager AJ Hinch asking Springer to stay with the club even when he was on the disabled list. Hinch thought Springer's presence would not be a small thing.
ALSO DESERVING OF MENTION: Tommy Pham, Cardinals, CF; Jorge Alfaro, Phillies, C; Shohei Ohtani, Angels, RHP/DH; Andrelton Simmons, Angels, SS; Justin Verlander, Astros, RHP; Bryce Harper, Nationals, RF; Ronald Acuna, Jr., Braves, LF; Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees, DH.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.