Most of the attention usually falls on the top stars, but every team has one or two players who fly under the radar while providing a huge boost for their respective teams.
Let’s take a look at a player who could serve as a secret weapon for every team in the American League East this season.
Blue Jays: RHP Matt Shoemaker
The starting rotation was supposed to be Toronto’s biggest weakness this year, but instead it has turned into the club's biggest strength. The Blue Jays entered play on Wednesday with a 3.04 ERA from the rotation, which trailed only Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh for the best mark in the Major Leagues. The biggest surprise of all has been Shoemaker, who looks completely healthy after missing most of the last two years because of right forearm soreness. He is one of just six pitchers to win each of his first three starts for the Blue Jays, and he has yet to surrender more than three earned runs in an outing.
The Blue Jays are going to struggle to score runs, at least until Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is promoted from the Minors, but the starters are doing enough to keep them in most ballgames. Most of the rotation talk centered around Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, but Shoemaker might be Toronto’s biggest secret weapon, at least for now.
Orioles: Catchers Jesus Sucre and Pedro Severino
Through 18 games, Sucre and Severino have combined for just 13 hits in 64 at-bats, but they have made their presence felt on the defensive side. In 2018, Sucre ranked 10th in the Majors with a 84.5-mph average on throws from behind the plate. Severino wasn't too far behind, ranking 12th with a 84.3-mph average. Both Sucre and Severino have done a great job of limiting the opposing team's running attack, having allowed just four stolen bases, which is the fewest in the AL and tied for fewest in the Majors.
Sucre and Severino have caught six attempted basestealers, and their combined 63.6% caught-stealing percentage is the best in the Major Leagues. With a lot of young pitchers on the roster, holding the running game in check will help keep the Orioles in games.
Rays: RHP Yonny Chirinos
Chirinos struggled in his last outing against the Blue Jays, allowing six runs in 2 1/3 innings, but the right-hander has been a pleasant surprise for the Rays. Chirinos has the ability to start -- he has allowed just one run in two starts this season -- but he can also be used in relief following an opener. A sinker-splitter combination, combined with added confidence, have propelled Chirinos to a good start in his second big league season.
Don’t expect him to be named a starter this season, as the Rays want to keep their pitching flexible, and that’s what makes him such a valuable piece to the puzzle for Tampa Bay.
Red Sox: RHP Matt Barnes
For all the talk about the Red Sox jeopardizing themselves by not bringing back Craig Kimbrel, perhaps it was underrated how versatile Barnes could be out of the bullpen. Not only can he handle the ninth inning, but he remains adept at coming in the seventh and eighth innings with traffic on the bases and the meaty part of the order due up. Barnes has two dominant pitches -- a curve and a fastball in the mid to upper 90s.
The fear of Barnes moving to the closer’s role is that the Red Sox would miss him as a setup man. Manager Alex Cora has been able to manipulate how Barnes is used, and when he needs a closer on days Barnes pitches in the setup role, Ryan Brasier can do the job in the ninth.
Yankees: RHP Domingo German
Due to a plethora of injuries, German started in his first two outings of the season and performed well. German won both games, allowing just two earned runs in 11 innings. But with the Yankees starting to get healthier, German's value could really come into play when he's being used as a reliever.
In his last relief outing, against the White Sox, he struck out four and pitched two perfect innings in a win. German could be a starter whenever the Yankees need him to be, but he could also be a reliable reliever who Aaron Boone can go to at any point of a game.