Here's a player to be thankful for on each team

November 21st, 2018

Even if the Red Sox aren't your favorite team, you can still be thankful for having witnessed a season in which Boston won 119 times. In a season of spectacular turnarounds -- the A's improving by 22 games, Braves by 18 and Phillies by 14 -- the Red Sox had a season that's likely to be Major League Baseball's gold standard for awhile.

You don't need 119 wins to appreciate your favorite team. Every fan has plenty to be thankful for, and on this Thanksgiving week, here's one player from each team we feel that way about:


Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr. had turned 20 a few months earlier when he made his debut last April. Few prospects were more hyped. Few have ever delivered more completely. He's now the face of a brand new era of Atlanta baseball.

Marlins: Brian Anderson's first full Major League season was a smashing success, as he led all qualifying rookies by hitting .367 with runners in scoring position and was second with 49 extra-base hits. His 161 hits were the most by a Marlins rookie in nine years.

Mets: Perfection? Jacob deGrom was close. He's the 10th pitcher since 1920 to toss at least 200 innings with an ERA of 1.70 or lower, and the first to have an ERA below 2.00 with at least 260 strikeouts, 50 or fewer walks and 10 or fewer home runs.

Nationals: Max Scherzer is that guy who comes along every generation or so and sets a nearly impossible standard for every future generation. In four seasons with the Nationals, he has averaged 220 innings and 282 strikeouts with a 0.926 WHIP.

Phillies: Aaron Nola and Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander are the only two Phillies pitchers in the past 110 years with at least 200 strikeouts and an opponent's batting average of .200 or lower.


Brewers: Christian Yelich was on his way to a very nice season when something clicked around the All-Star break that propelled him to the NL MVP Award and the Brewers to the NL Central championship. He batted .367 with 25 home runs in his last 65 games and won the Brewers' first league batting title.

Cardinals: Yadier Molina has become the face of the Cardinals during one of the best stretches the franchise has ever had. That's nine postseason appearances and two World Series trophies in 15 seasons. His resume includes nine All-Star appearances and nine Gold Glove Awards behind the plate. This year, he was honored with the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award.

Cubs: Anthony Rizzo may be the prototype for what every team would like all of its players to be. Besides being the face of the best era of Cubs baseball in the past 110 years, he's been a three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner while playing an average of 154 games the past six seasons.

Pirates: Jameson Taillon gave all of us lessons on courage and perseverance while working his way back from cancer in 2017. This season was about fulfilling the promise the Pirates have had for him. His 2.63 ERA was MLB's fifth-lowest after June 1, and he allowed three earned runs or fewer in his final 22 starts.

Reds: Is there anything better than watching Joey Votto at home plate? He just led his league in OBP for the seventh time, joining an elite list of six players, including Ted Williams (12), Babe Ruth (10), Barry Bonds (10), Rogers Hornsby (seven) and Ty Cobb (seven).


D-backs: The best player in the game? Paul Goldschmidt is in that conversation almost every season. He was also Arizona's Roberto Clemente Award nominee for the fifth straight year in recognition of his community work, philanthropy and positive contributions on the field.

Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw is the prototype of a Hall of Famer: three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, seven-time All-Star, five-time ERA champion. Take a good look at him, Dodger fans. You may not see one as good as him again.

Giants: San Francisco fans may one day remember Buster Posey alongside franchise greats Willie Mays and Willie McCovey. Posey doesn't have their slam-dunk Hall of Fame credentials, but since his arrival in 2010, he's been one of the faces of a franchise that has won the World Series three times.

Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr. is just 19 and has yet to make his big league debut. But he's MLB Pipeline's No. 2 overall prospect and represents the Padres' optimism about the future.

Rockies: Who says you can't have dominant pitching at Coors Field? In his second Major League season, Kyle Freeland established himself as one of baseball's best starters, with 202 1/3 innings and a 2.85 ERA. At Coors Field, he was close to dominant, posting a 2.40 ERA and allowing three earned runs or fewer in 14 of 15 home starts.


Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will make his big league debut sometime early next season, and in doing so, kick off an exciting new era of Blue Jays baseball. MLB Pipeline ranks him its No. 1 overall prospect, and he's part of a wave of kids about to transform baseball in Toronto.

Orioles: Yusniel Diaz was the highest-rated prospect acquired in the Manny Machado trade with the Dodgers, and he is the player who represents an exciting new era in which the Orioles will invest in youth and a restructuring of both their philosophy and baseball operation.

Rays: All that 25-year-old Blake Snell did in his first full Major League season was lead the AL in ERA (1.89), ERA+ (219) and hits per nine innings (5.6). He was ninth in AL MVP voting. And, oh yes, he was also the AL Cy Young Award winner.

Red Sox: Mookie Betts is the new face of the Red Sox. He was never the highest-rated prospect as he made his way through the Boston farm system. He was the guy who needed a shot to be completely appreciated. Only 26, he's the reigning AL MVP Award winner and also a three-time Gold Glove Award winner and three-time All-Star.

Yankees: Aaron Judge has become the face of the most famous sports franchise in North America. At 26 and with two full big league seasons under his belt, he could get even better. Judge was just the second Yankee with at least 25 home runs before the All-Star break in back-to-back seasons.


Indians: Francisco Lindor has been everything the Indians hoped he'd be -- not just in production at the plate and slick work on defense, but also in a resplendent smile that has made him one of the faces of an entire sport.

Royals: Salvador Perez led the wave of touted prospects that arrived in 2011 and eventually helped the Royals to reach the World Series in consecutive seasons (2014-15). He's still around, beloved by fans and teammates alike, hopeful of leading the Royals back into contention.

Tigers: Christin Stewart, the Tigers No. 1 prospect, made his debut in September and held his own with a .792 OPS in 17 games. A first-round pick in 2015, he represents the makeup of the team going into 2019 and beyond.

Twins: Byron Buxton's skillset is off the charts, and that's why, even after a difficult 2018 season, he'll have every opportunity to get back on track. Once baseball's No. 1 prospect, he could still help transform the Twins, and quickly.

White Sox: Eloy Jimenez's time has arrived. Despite being limited by injuries to 108 Minor League games in 2018, the slugging outfield prospect still showed the White Sox that their belief in his being a franchise cornerstone is justified.


Angels: So you didn't see Mays or Ted Williams? Someday, you'll tell people you got to watch Mike Trout in his prime, and that'll carry about the same weight. That's where his career arc is taking him.

Astros: George Springer represents everything the Astros hope to be in terms of production, energy and, yes, laughter. In these last four seasons -- the best the Astros have ever had -- no player has been more important.

Athletics: Matt Chapman makes plays at third that take your breath away, and he does it so often that his teammates admit to losing perspective on just how good he is. He's the face of a team that just won 97 games and is poised to be one of baseball's most interesting in 2019.

Mariners: Edwin Diaz's numbers are so good that the first reaction is, "Wait, what? Are you sure?" He led the Majors with 57 saves and is the biggest reason the Mariners were 77-0 when leading after eight innings. Diaz was 27-for-30 in one-run save chances, and he averaged 15.2 strikeouts per nine innings with a 0.89 ERA.

Rangers: Joey Gallo hits home runs that become conversation pieces. That is, towering moonshot balls that seem to vaporize somewhere over the outfield. His 93.9-mph average exit velocity trailed only Judge and Nelson Cruz in 2018.