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30 extremely exciting players -- 1 for each team

April 17, 2018

What a baseball fan finds "exciting" is, in many cases, a matter of taste. Some people prefer the homer, some the steal, some the strikeout, some a diving stop deep in the hole at third followed by a cannon of a throw. Some people love quick action; some people love

What a baseball fan finds "exciting" is, in many cases, a matter of taste. Some people prefer the homer, some the steal, some the strikeout, some a diving stop deep in the hole at third followed by a cannon of a throw. Some people love quick action; some people love a 15-pitch at-bat. If you ask me, it's all pretty exciting, but there's no question that some plays, and some players, stand out more than others.
So today we attempt to figure out the most exciting player, right now, on every Major League Baseball team. These aren't necessarily the best players on each of these teams, though some of them are. They're just the ones that make you rush back to your seat when they're batting, to schedule your trips to the ballpark based on their starts, to nudge your friend when they're called in from the 'pen, saying, "You gotta see this guy." These are the can't-miss guys. This is one man's opinion of the most exciting players on each team, right now.
Blue Jays: Yangervis Solarte

Solarte has never hit more than 18 homers in a season, but the way 2018 is starting out, that's going to change quick. He has already hit two of the longest 10 homers of the season, and he has been the elixir to a lineup that needed one or two extra ingredients. Of all the power hitters on this team, Solarte is the one who hits the ball the farthest … and it's not particularly close.
Orioles: Dylan Bundy
It's difficult to put your finger on exactly when a pitcher takes that leap to become a true ace, but it is possible that very thing is happening to Bundy right now. The oft-injured former phenom -- and it's worth pointing out that he's still only 25 -- looks like he's becoming the star the Orioles were waiting on. The O's aren't known for transforming their pitching prospects into MLB production … but Bundy appears, at long last, to be the exception.
Rays: Mallex Smith
The Rays' offense has had some monumental struggles so far, but you can't blame Smith for not trying to make something happen. In his world, it's 1985 forever. Smith has reached base 18 times and tried to steal five times; if he's on base and there's no one in front of him, he's going. It hasn't always worked out -- Smith leads the Majors in times caught stealing -- but you gotta love him for always trying. (Portly left-handed flamethrower Jose Alvarado was a close second here.)

Red Sox: Mookie Betts
It's probably best not to overthink some of these. You've got a 25-year-old who is a 30-30 threat, hitting .353, leading MLB in runs and one of the better outfielders in the game. Again: Only 25. Also, his name is Mookie.

Yankees: Aaron Judge
There is a certain level of excitement wrapped up in a Giancarlo Stanton at-bat these days, considering there's always a possibility the Yankees fans will start booing him. (Tape all those boos, we'll get to make fun of Yanks fans for them later.) But Judge is not only off to a better start than Stanton (even his exit velocity and home run distance is better), but he's Aaron Judge: There's no special seating section called Giancarlo Land at Yankee Stadium, let's say that. "All Rise" remains one of the few perfect baseball catchphrases: You can't help but do it when Judge comes up.

Indians: Francisco Lindor

Key to any exciting player is an unabashed exuberance for the game, and few exemplify how truly joyous the game of baseball can be to play than Lindor, who will look like a kid out there on the field even when he's 41. Oh, and he hits homers now, too.
Royals: Whit Merrifield
The 2017 cult hero -- and I continue to insist that if Merrifield had been the player he was last year on the 2015 World Series team, there'd be a statue of him outside Kauffmann Stadium -- remains the ball of energy you'd expect from a guy who never got his chance until his late 20s.
Tigers: Niko Goodrum
The fantastically named Goodrum is only 26, but he has been rattling around the Minor Leagues since 2010. He had a cup of coffee with the Twins last year but has become a semi-regular starter for the rebuilding Tigers, and he's a jolt of energy every time he's in the lineup. Goodrum has stolen three bases, hit a dramatic homer in a comeback win against the White Sox the first week of the season, and definitely knows how to slide. He is impossible not to cheer for.
Twins: Jose Berrios
Byron Buxton is a fine candidate, but his bat still needs a little work, so for now, Berrios will more than suffice. He appears to have matured into the No. 1 the Twins desperately needed him to be, with a kinetic energy that is contagious. Minnesota hasn't had a pitcher who can dominate like him since Johan Santana.

White Sox: Avisail Garcia
Yes, yes, there is Yoan Moncada, and one assumes Eloy Jimenez has this spot as early as September. But right now, don't sleep on Garcia, who took a big step forward last season and, despite a somewhat slow start this year, still has the longest-hit homer of the 2018 season so far. It's his only homer … but what a homer it was.

Angels: Shohei Ohtani

What a world we live in that the most exciting player on the Angels isn't Michael Trout. (Or for that matter, Jose Pujols, one of the greatest hitters of the past 30 years.)
Astros: Jose Altuve
So many to choose from here, but again: No need to overthink it. Altuve is a walking smile of a baseball player, the physical embodiment of the game's enduring charm. People say the simple base hit is losing influence in the game. Maybe Altuve is just keeping all of them to himself.

Athletics: Matt Chapman
The A's have been waiting for their next cornerstone star for a while now, and they might just have him in Chapman, who has taken a massive step forward after a promising rookie season. The guy just plain hits the ball hard, and he plays third base like a dream, like the position was specifically invented for him.
Mariners: Edwin Diaz
There is closer dominance, and then there is Diaz, who struck out 14 of the first 26 batters he faced while allowing only one hit and one walk.

Rangers: Joey Gallo
Is Gallo going to hit it 40,000 feet? Or is he going to swing and miss so hard he digs a tunnel to the earth's molten core? Gallo is always an adventure, and always unmissable.

Braves: Ozzie Albies

Until Ronald Acuna Jr. gets here, how about the other 21-year-old wunderkind? Albies is playing splendid defense, hitting for surprising power and even taking the opportunity to embarrass Bryce Harper by reaching second on a routine groundball. It looks exhausting to play against Ozzie Albies. And his opponents are taking notice.

Marlins: Tayron Guerrero
So here's a fun guy you've probably never heard of. Guerrero is 6-foot-8, he's 27 years old, he hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2016 with the Padres and, according to Statcast™, he's the third-hardest thrower in the Majors. It must be absolutely terrifying to stand in the batter's box and face down this tall drink of water.
Mets: Noah Syndergaard
The embodiment of what is humanly possible when a person throws a baseball. There are times you wonder how anybody is expected to even see Syndergaard's pitches, let alone hit them. But how long can he keep it going and stay healthy, throwing like that? It's a new drama every time Syndergaard takes the mound.

Nationals: Bryce Harper
The best? Maybe. The most polarizing? Probably. The most viscerally thrilling to watch, no matter what happens? Without a doubt. You'll remember watching Harper for the rest of your life … whatever he does.

Phillies: Rhys Hoskins
Almost as much fun playing in MLB The Show as he is playing real baseball. Almost.
Brewers: Eric Thames

I know the novelty has worn off for some people, but we really shouldn't look past a massive, impressively tattooed, affably goofy, hyper-intense dude who ran off to Korea for a few years and came back an absolute monster. Thames is off to another terrific start. Enjoy the ride while you can.
Cardinals: Jordan Hicks
The kid was just drafted in 2015 and hadn't played above high Class A ball before this season. But the Cardinals, surprising everyone (including Hicks), put him on the Opening Day roster at the last possible second. He has rewarded them by … breaking the Statcast™ Chapman Filter. The eight fastest pitches in baseball in 2018 have all been thrown by a 6-foot-2, 185-pound kid from Texas. Hicks has a nasty slider too. You're old news, Chapman!

Cubs: Javier Baez
ESPN's Sam Miller once posited: If there were no baseball statistics, would you be able to tell, watching just one game, who the best player in baseball was? My nominee has always been Baez, whose power/speed/defense combination strikes me as unmatched. Now, about that strike zone discipline …

Pirates: Gregory Polanco
There was a time when he was considered one of the most exciting up-and-coming prospects in the sport. Polanco is starting to put it together at the age of 26. Look out.
Reds: Joey Votto
The correct answer to any question about the Cincinnati Reds is always Votto.
D-backs: Archie Bradley

You have your new Andrew Miller. The D-backs have decided that Bradley is too important to be a closer. If you see him, it's too late: Your rally is already over.
Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw
For me, watching the greatest pitcher of the past 30 years in his absolute prime is exciting. Perhaps you are different.

Giants: Andrew McCutchen
Old is not particularly exciting, and no team is older than the Giants. But if you've gotta pick somebody, how about the guy who had six hits, including a face-melting walk-off, in one game and is still capable of making your jaw drop on any given night.
Padres: Luis Perdomo
Perdomo is now notorious for his role in a brouhaha with Nolan Arenado and the Rockies last week, but this Statcast™ folk hero has the highest strikeout rate on the Padres, and you never know when he's going to spring a triple on you out of nowhere. (Remember, he had four last year, somehow. The most by a pitcher since Robin Roberts in 1955.)
Rockies: Charlie Blackmon
You really can't go wrong with Blackmon or Arenado here. The beard breaks the tie.

Will Leitch is a columnist for