The obsessive fan's favorite player on every team

These are the shirsey All-Stars

July 8th, 2020
Tom Forget /

There are four types of players that fans will fall in love with, pen long odes to on the internet, and wear on the back of their shirseys while they spill nacho cheese down the front.

There's the star player -- the guy everyone knows and who leads the team. There's the fire-throwing reliever who locks down the ballgame. And there's the top prospect, whose ascent promises a bright future to come. These are the three most popular.

But then there's the fourth type. This is the player that the baseball nerds obsess over. This player is a bit more obscure, whose skills may only be revealed upon closer examination. They are the cult heroes and will lead to astonished gasps from fellow fans when they see you wearing the name on the back of your shirt years from now. They are the little-known-band-tee-you-wear-to-a-concert version of a ballplayer.

Today, we are going to look at these heroes and pick the one name from each team that the discerning baseball weirdo would want to rock on a shirsey in 2020.

Angels: Brian Goodwin

On a team loaded with some of the biggest stars in the game -- from the all-time great Mike Trout to the two-way Shohei Ohtani to the acrobatic Andrelton Simmons -- it can be hard to stand out.

But after the Angels picked up Goodwin on waivers last year, the former first-round pick did just that. Though he may lose playing time to the power-hitting Jo Adell this season, Goodwin's blend of power, defense and penchant for coming through in big moments will keep him centered in fans' hearts.

Astros: Josh James

The Astros seemingly run a pitching clinic as they acquire good arms and make them even better. James is perhaps the best example of that.

Drafted in the 34th round, James has proven particularly adept at making batters look foolish, striking out 100 batters in just 61 1/3 IP in 2019.

A’s: Yusmeiro Petit

Petit doesn’t do any of the sexy things like throw hard, start games or close them out. What he does do is pitch -- a lot. Over the last three seasons, no reliever has thrown more innings than Petit’s 213, and yet his ERA is better than that of closers like Sean Doolittle or Raisel Iglesias.

Blue Jays: Wilmer Font

Sure, there are probably some fans who would rock a Font shirsey because of his impressive K/9 totals, burgeoning career as an opener and the hope that he would put it all together one year. More likely, these are the fans who would want to debate the merits of Helvetica vs. Futura. And that’s fine, too.

Braves: Adam Duvall

Look, I'm not sure how one doesn't buy a Ronald Acuña Jr. shirt, but Duvall makes a good case. Called up at the end of last year, Duvall quickly blasted 10 home runs in just 41 games, while showing off the kind of glove that could make him the best defensive left fielder in the game. It may not be true, but it is what a person in a Duvall shirsey would say.

Brewers: Brent Suter

One of only 19 Harvard athletes to reach the Major Leagues, Suter is one part soft-tosser, one part environmental activist and one part impressionist extraordinaire. He’s the Negroni of ballplayers.

Cardinals: Harrison Bader

Who cares that he only hit .205 last year when he can play defense like this:

Plus, Bader's love for tater tots is only matched by someone who has been at the sports bar way too long, and that's something we can all get behind.

Cubs: David Bote

Hitting a walk-off grand slam is the kind of thing that helps you stand out in fans' memories for a long time. But Bote nearly quit the game before his wife made him stick with it, making his emergence on the Cubs' depth chart inspirational, too.

D-backs: Tim Locastro

Fastest guy in the Majors? Check. Ability to make insane diving catches? Check. Penchant for being hit by pitches at a truly unbelievable rate? Check. Using my Shirsey-o-meter, this one is a "must buy."

Dodgers: Enrique Hernández

Super utility players like Hernández are the lifeblood of a list like this, and Hernández ups the ante with constantly changing uniform fits (leading to inspired fan analysis) and being the most photogenic player in baseball:

Giants: Johnny Cueto

Sure, a three-time Cy Young Award finalist would usually be too big of a name to be featured here, but we’ll make an exception for Cueto. How else to honor the truly one of a kind pitcher, who strolls around the bases and regularly incorporates a shimmy into his windup?

Indians: James Karinchak

Karinchak is the superpowered version of the modern reliever. Last year, he struck out an absurd 22 batters per nine innings in the Minors. To put that another way, Karinchak averaged breaking the single-game strikeout record every time he took the mound. In five big league innings, he managed to K eight, too. The whiffs are coming.

Mariners: Shed Long

Long was traded twice before he ever reached the Majors, and he became a fan favorite at every stop thanks to his solid defense, power and perpetually energetic attitude. He even let fans get to know him and let them in to the Minor League grind like few have before thanks to the in-depth podcast he recorded with Reds beat writer C. Trent Rosecrans.

Just don’t offer Long any water -- he doesn't drink it.

Marlins: Miguel Rojas

You want jaw-dropping defense? You’ve come to the right place. With plays like this, it’s hard not to fall in love:

Mets: Seth Lugo

“Yes, you’ve told me about his curveball’s spin rate before. Yes, you h-- I can promise you that you have lectured me for hours on the glory of Seth Lugo’s curveball. … fine, you can tell me again. It appears you really need to.”

Nationals: Victor Robles

While everyone else in Washington is sporting a Juan Soto jersey, there are those intrepid souls rocking their Robles tees and reminding everyone that he led the Majors in Outs Above Average last season.

Orioles: Richard Bleier

What’s more exciting than a soft-tossing side-arming reliever who induces ground balls by the bushel? Exactly -- nothing.

Padres: Franchy Cordero

A Padres fan will happily tell you that Cordero’s unique blend of 70-grade speed with 70-grade power means it’s only a matter of time before he starts putting up 40/40 seasons. He is hope personified.

Phillies: Josh Harrison

You only need to watch Harrison get into one rundown to understand why it will take about two weeks of him in a Phillies uniform before he’s everyone’s favorite player.

Pirates: Steven Brault

Because of the universal DH this season, Pirates fans won’t be able to bring up one of Brault’s best skills -- his ability to swing the bat. The left-hander became the first pitcher since the 1930s to put the ball in play for more than 30 consecutive plate appearances before his first K in 2018. Instead, they’ll have to focus on his abilities as a swingman and his melodious pipes.

Rangers: Jeff Mathis

Mathis is like the baseball equivalent of a pungent cheese. Those lacking refined palates will turn their nose up at his lifetime .552 OPS. But to enthusiasts, they’ll note his exemplary pitch-framing and work with the pitching staff that catching metrics still can't quantify.

Rays: Ji-Man Choi

Power, a patient batting eye, a lifelong respect for ghosts and the kind of joy that we all assume we'd have if we were baseball players makes Choi the appropriate choice.

Just watch as his teammates helpfully gave him CPR following his race around the bases:

Reds: Amir Garrett

A tall left-hander with a killer fastball is enough to make anyone a fan, but Reds fans will likely remember him from his turn as the one-person army against the Pirates. If you’re willing to fight for your team like that, well, you’ve earned devotion from the crowd.

Red Sox: Jackie Bradley Jr.

When he’s hot, everything looks right. Even in the midst of his annual slumps, Bradley's defense is one of America's most beautiful sights.

Rockies: Tony Wolters

Wolters may not always get a hit, but his 2018 NL Wild Card Game single against the Cubs means he’ll remain a fan favorite and trivia answer long after his playing days are done.

Royals: Richard Lovelady

What choice do you have when there's a player whose name is closer to a Bond character than anything Ian Fleming ever managed to write?

Tigers: Cameron Maybin

Not only is this a way to honor the fan-favorite veteran, but it’s the budget option, too. Chances are Tigers fans already have one in the closet from his first two stints with the team.

Twins: Willians Astudillo

He’s got the nickname (La Tortuga), the contact skills, the ability to play literally every position on the field, and when he races around the bases, he reminds us what it’s like to feel again.

White Sox: Yermin Mercedes

Catchers generally don’t do a lot of bashing. But Mercedes is a different story. The dude can absolutely rake -- he hit 23 homers with a .968 OPS across Double- and Triple-A last season -- and when he goes deep he likes to revel in the attention.

This was his extraordinarily slow trot in the Dominican Winter League in 2017:

Yankees: Mike Tauchmann

Last season, the Yankees won over 100 games thanks to an entire roster of these types of players emerging from the ether and revealing themselves to be stars. While Gio Urschela turned his magical season into a starting job, Tauchmann is currently slated for bench duty, meaning Yankees fans will be extolling his virtues to anyone who will listen all summer long.