Top 10 MLB characters worth paying to see
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons gets ejected in the 9th after questioning a call as the Toronto Blue Jays lose to the Boston Red Sox at the Rogers Centre in Toronto on September 11, 2016. (Stan Behal/Toronto Sun)
One look around baseball will tell you there’s no shortage of bright, young stars making things easy on marketing departments.
But there are certain players who don’t need a campaign for the paying public to be interested, because some are already worth the (significant) price of admission all on their own.
Here’s a cast of 10 characters who will be worth paying to see during the 2017 Major League Baseball season:
10. Manager John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays
We’re starting you off with a curveball. Gibbons tied a somewhat dubious franchise record with eight ejections last season, an event that never ceases to entertain. He’s no Bobby Cox just yet (161 ejections in his career), but when Gibbons isn’t kicking back with his trademark Texas drawl, he’s getting run by umpires to the delight of those in attendance.
9. LHP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
When you get a chance to see the best starter of this era take the mound, you do it. Each and every time the 29-year-old gets the ball, there’s a chance something special will happen. He’s already got six all-star nods, three Cy Youngs, one NL MVP and he also spun a no hitter on June 18, 2014.
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8. OF Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays
Two of the best defensive centre fielders in the game reside in the AL East — we see you, Kevin Pillar — but Kiermaier is not only on another level with the leather, this left-handed hitter’s bat has been improving over the years, too, leading to the Rays handing him a six-year, $53.5-million contract extension over the off-season. After hitting 12 homers with 21 stolen bases last year, Kiermaier might be known for more than just defence in the near future.
7. LHP Rich Hill, Los Angeles Dodgers
It’s been an amazingly odd career for Hill, a fourth-round pick of the Chicago Cubs way back in 2002. Mainly due to injuries, Hill has bounced back and forth between starting rotations, bullpens, and being unemployed, before converting back into a starter late in the 2015 season with the Boston Red Sox. It worked. Hill’s big breaking, 12-to-6 curveball was one of the best in the game last season for the Dodgers, as he put up ace-like numbers (12-5, 2.12 ERA), albeit in only 110.1 innings between DL stints. Due to his long, winding journey and looping deuce, Hill is fun to watch.
6. C Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
Called up by the Yankees in August, Sanchez went on to hit 20 home runs in less than two months, putting him on pace for 60 or so in a full season. While the 24-year-old catcher with the rocket arm isn’t going to come close to that pace again, what Sanchez did do was help speed up the pace of the Yankees’ rebuild. Everyone wants to see him do it for 162 games, but sure looks like the Bronx Bombers have their next star.
5. 2B Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
With David Ortiz and his gold chains retiring, Pedroia is next on the AL East’s list of retirement tours, whenever that may be. Pedroia is heading into his 12th MLB season, but he won’t turn 34 until August, so there’s still a few more good years left in his 5-foot-9, 180-pound tank. After enduring a couple of injury riddled campaigns, Pedroia bounced back by hitting .318 and piling up 5.2 wins above replacement in 2016. Like Ortiz and Derek Jeter before him, it’s time to start appreciating Pedroia’s stellar career while he’s still producing.
4. SS Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
Baseball fans got an up close look at Lindor’s brilliance in the post-season, as he hit .310 with a couple of homers and brilliant glovework from start to finish. Not only that, Lindor’s charisma, smile and love for the game are sure to make the 23-year-old one of baseball’s biggest stars, even at a loaded shortstop position. Blessed with speed and enough power, Lindor will threaten the 20/20 thresholds with regularity.
3. 1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
The amazingly consistent Miggy was just that once again in 2016, hitting 38 home runs, driving in 108 runs, and finishing with a .316/.393/.563 slash line in his 14th MLB season. Similar to Albert Pujols out in Anaheim, Cabrera is a lock for Cooperstown and it’ll be fun to watch the 34-year-old polish off that resume over his final few seasons. With 446 homers in his career, Cabrera could crack the top 30 all-time this year and track down Stan Musial and Willie Stargell, who both hit 475 in their HOF careers.
2. OF Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
Checking in at 6-foot-5 and 242 pounds, Stanton looks like he’s made from steel and gunpowder rather than flesh and blood. But it’s that same flesh and blood that’s become the 27-year-old’s only weakness, as injuries are the only thing stopped the big right-handed bat from putting up monster numbers. Even though he’s never failed to hit the 20-homer plateau in any of his seven seasons, Stanton has played more than 123 games just once since 2011. He’s a moonshot waiting to happen every time he steps into the box.
1. OF Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Let’s have some fun with statistical comparisons. Over his first five full seasons, Trout has produced exactly 47 WAR. Babe Ruth’s first five as a full-time hitter checks in at 58.1 WAR. Ted Williams piled up 48.2 WAR. Mickey Mantle posted 39.5 in his first five. What we’re trying to say is Trout, who lasted until the 25th pick in the 2009 MLB Draft — the Blue Jays took right-hander Chad Jenkins 20th overall — is not only on a Hall of Fame trajectory, he’s in line with the cream of the Cooperstown crop. Whatever the face value on the ticket says, witnessing one of Trout’s best days first-hand is worth it.