Here's the most electrifying star at each position

These are the summer blockbusters of ballplayers

July 3rd, 2020
Tom Forget /

With the baseball season on the way, there are so many things one has to do to prepare -- whether that's setting up a fantasy league or figuring out which brand of hot dogs you want to eat on Opening Day.

But the most important is figuring out how to structure your work-from-home schedule so you can maximize every second you spend watching baseball.

Many fans will likely follow their favorite club and the players on their fantasy rosters, but the golden era of television has also taught us to revel in the unexpected, the wild, the sublime. When you turn on a baseball game, you don’t just want to see a good game. If that were the case, we’d all be watching Criterion Collection films, and we’d never tune in for “Too Hot to Handle.” No, we want the excitement and the unexpected at all moments.

This is the lineup of those players, those who make our jaws drop as they do things that defy belief and bring a smile to our faces on the regular.

C: Gary Sánchez, Yankees

It's hard to stand out as a catcher. After all, they're weighted down in gear and have to squat some 300 times per game. They can't leap into the fray to run down a line drive.

But Sánchez makes himself known thanks to his secret weapon: his arm fires lasers. Sánchez has one of the hardest-throwing arms in the sport, and one of the best pop times, too. Pitchers can relax a little when a speedster is on base because Sánchez can make up for a slow delivery ... or a ball that gets away.

When he’s at the dish, Sánchez takes a mighty cut, too, fully earning his nickname of The Kraken. Over the past three seasons, he's cracked 11 more homers than any other catcher -- despite playing in 105 fewer games than the second place Yasmani Grandal.

1B: Pete Alonso, Mets

He’s a big kid in a dad bod. The Polar Bear broke out with a record-setting 53 home runs as a rookie last year, but he was much more than simply a slugger. Few rookies can inspire a city, but Alonso pulled it off, turning thousands of New Yorkers into raving Mets fans. He united the clubhouse around a brand new Mets catchphrase: Phil Mushnick may not like it, but LFGM propelled the team on a late winning streak and it's here to stay.

He wears a big smile and no shirt after significant wins, he rocks polar bear sneakers and dangles massive Home Run Derby jewelry, and his home runs seem to float forever.

There seems to be an endless well of pure joy he calls upon when playing, and that translates to pure joy when we're watching from the couch.

2B: Kolten Wong, Cardinals

Most of the time, second basemen are guys who couldn't quite cut it at short. That's not the case with Wong, who regularly shows off acrobatic skill and the softest hands in baseball at the keystone. He handles strange hops with a kind of Omar Vizquel-like smoothness, and makes leaping grabs in the hole with superheroic grace.

Wonder why the Cardinals always seem to do well? Look no further than their infield defense:

He doesn't take a play off, either. This is what he was doing during Spring Training -- you know, the time when most guys are just limbering up their muscles after winter hibernation:

Wong's a true five-tool stud, with a good batting eye, some decent power, and plenty of speed to burn. His 24 stolen bases led the Cardinals last season.

SS: Fernando Tatis, Jr., Padres

With apologies to Javier Báez -- the literal El Mago -- Tatis demands just as close attention.

With his flowing locks flecked bleach blond, Tatis is youthful exuberance personified. He dives and leaps and fires rocket throws that, well, maybe he should pocket. Tatis committed 18 errors last season in just 83 games -- and 14 came on his throws. But those tended to come when he was trying to make the impossible possible.

He carries that love for danger into all facets of his game, like when he decided to race for home on a popup to second base.

He swings like he's one of the game's elite sluggers and seems destined for a lifetime of 30-, if not 40-, home run seasons. Sure, like many young stars, there's some miss in his swing -- he ranked third in whiff rate on breaking balls last year -- but if he can close that hole, there will be no place for pitchers to hide.

3B: Matt Chapman, Athletics

It takes but a glance to know Chapman is one of the best defenders in the game. Everything he does is smooth, and his reactions are so quick, he's already at the ball long before it ever reaches him.

Because Chapman is such an elite defender, the A's can have Chapman play closer to the bag than any other regular third baseman. That lets him rob hard-hit balls down the line that other teams have to watch roll for extra bases.

The A's can play him so far over because he has the range to snag a ball like this:

Chapman's no slouch at the plate, either. The third baseman has improved upon his home run total every season, blasting 36 last year.

LF: Juan Soto, Nationals

There are two Sotos. One is the fun-loving, smiling phenom, the guy who looks like he’s out there having the time of his life:

And then there’s the other Soto, the one pitchers have to face. This Soto looks more like the villain in a 1990s baseball movie. He practically stalks the plate, his eyes gleaming, licking his lips. He shuffles in the box like a baseball matador, just daring the pitcher to throw.

He has reason to be confident because when he swings the bat, he demolishes the baseball. In his first two big league seasons -- played when he was just 19 and 20 years old -- he posted a .937 OPS. That was ninth-best in the game, ahead of Cody Bellinger, Ronald Acuña Jr. and the man he replaced in Washington, Bryce Harper.

CF: Byron Buxton, Twins

Yes, you were expecting Mike Trout here. But 1) Trout is so insanely good at absolutely everything that he, unfortunately, has made perfection seem routine, and 2) you are already watching Trout at every free moment you have. It’s time to spotlight someone else.

Enter: Buxton.

The two-time top prospect in the game glides like he’s on skis in the outfield. He can race down balls that seemed destined to reach dirt. He makes other great outfielders look like they’re trapped in quicksand.

That's not new -- Buxton's been doing that from his very first days in the big leagues.

But last year, Buxton finally showed that he could hit. He posted career highs in batting average (.262) and slugging percentage (.513), and hit 30 doubles in just over half a season of play. He may not be Trout at the plate, but this was a guy who could put some fear into pitchers.

Unfortunately, as has often been the case, he got hurt again and played in only 87 games. When he's on the field, though, anything is possible.

RF: Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves

It’s fitting that the Braves often bat Acuña at the top of the lineup because the outfielder knows how to start a game right. Acuña has hit 15 leadoff home runs already in his career, and when he hits them you know it. These balls are hit with a thunderous boom -- almost like they should come with a comic book sound effect.

There may be no one better at celebrating his home runs, too. Acuña can flip his bat with the best of them, and few seem as happy to be playing baseball than Acuña. That's especially true when he’s with best friend and teammate Ozzie Albies.

DH: Nelson Cruz, Twins

Cruz hits a ton of home runs. That's important when his job is professional hitter. Since 2014, the slugger has hit 244 home runs -- more than any other hitter in the league. Yes, he’s ahead of Trout, Edwin Encarnación and the Coors Field-aided Nolan Arenado.

What makes Cruz the most exciting DH in the game isn't just his tape-measure home runs, but how charming he is, too. Players around the league simply want to hang out with Cruz -- even umpires in the middle of the game are happy for a pic -- and that doesn't end at the ballpark. Cruz won the 2020 Muhammed Ali Award for his humanitarian efforts.

He was the heart of the Twins' Bomba Squad -- named during their record-setting home run season -- and his home run celebrations are magical. Just ask former Seattle teammate Kyle Seager, who Cruz used to pick up for a quick bear hug after every home run.

P: Shohei Ohtani, Angels

OK, maybe this is cheating, but admit it: The pitcher you need to watch is Ohtani. And why not? He's doing what no other player has done since Babe Freakin' Ruth.

When we last saw Ohtani on the mound before Tommy John surgery made him a one-way player last season, he looked every part of an ace. In 10 starts, he posted a 3.31 ERA and struck out 11 batters per nine innings -- both of which would have led the Angels staff had he pitched a full season.

In just his second start in a brand new league, he struck out 12 A's and gave up only one hit in seven innings of work.

He fired a 101 mph fastball and kept on trucking.

If he were just a pitcher, you'd go out of your way to watch every start, and instead, this is what he does in between DHing. Ohtani is a pitcher to re-arrange your schedule for.