Who?? Part-2 The National League
These three players may not be the "usual suspects" that drive your teams success rate, but they may be poster material very soon.
1.) Melky Cabrera - Much like Mark Trumbo, Cabrera is not necessarily an unknown talent. However, like the earthquakes in the San Fran area, the impact players in the N.L and A.L West are not always news in the rest of the country. This is a mistake and Cabrera is worthy of notice. If you're team is betting on a Wild-Card this season, or calls the N.L West home, then pay attention. Melky is second in the league with 52 runs scored and is top-five in batting average at .351. While the Dodgers are running out of trainers-tape in Los Angeles, the Giants have quietly stepped into first place. If Lincecum's form, moving forward, repeats his last start, or even comes close, and Zito can remain more than just a body, the pitching staff will be scary. That will leave only hitting in the way of the Giants carrying the West crown, again. Having spent time in the Bronx pin-stripes, Cabrera has the knowledge and game-sense of what it takes to stay sharp as the season progresses. Now, unlike the multiple worms being covered in the 'Big Apple" , it is only Melky's way in the Bay area. If he continues to hit in the second half, like he did in the first, the Giants could be the team to beat as fall-ball nears.
2.) Kirk Nieuwenhuis - Who's new-in-the-house? Kirk is! As a rookie, he has quickly become a solid and reliant player for the Mets, hitting .277 with 7 homers and 25 RBI., not to mention a points-giant in the game of Scrabble. The N.L East does not have any definite "locks" thus far, and any of the teams stand as much a chance of winning the division, as they do collapsing. New York stands third, currently, and may have the makings of a Cinderella, as long as the pitching doesn't turn into a pumpkin and rot. In a town such as New York, with difficult media and even more difficult fans, sometimes the lesser-known role players can have a big part in the teams success. The Mets, while the big names continue to be ridiculed for not being the Yankees, have got players like Nieuwenhuis to help add wins to the column, without being in the column. Kirk has added a youthful spark back to a team that hasn't had two sticks to rub together since Reyes and Wright were considered "the next thing" by Peter Gammons. Perhaps Wright's success this year can be a result of Nieuwenhuis? It is hard to predict. He may not be the entire "saving grace" like other players, but he may be the vibrant energy needed in a "stale bread" clubhouse from years past. Relying on rookies rarely means a team is sitting pretty in their division, and there are better teams in the N.L East, but, Strasburgh's inning's visa is about to expire, and the Braves have injuries to mend. The Mets and Nieuwenhuis, fluttered by R.A., might be a story everyone is watching come September.
3.) Lance Lynn - World Champions is one thing, repeat-World Champions is another. Especially if you don't have any arms. The Cardinals would gladly take Albert Pujols back....if he could pitch. With pitchers Garcia and Carpenter not on the hill to provide quality innings, it's amazing Matheny's boys have not changed their name to the Cubs this year and called it quits. The cliche is simple, "Someone has to step up." Enter Lance Lynn. The righty has racked up a 10-3 record so far this season, and with an e.r.a sub-3.30, has proven he doesn't need 900 runs of support to win. Albert who? Funny enough, the Card's have provided a solid offense this year, and hitting has not been an arrow through the Achilles, just yet. The top two teams in the N.L Central spend more time looking in the rear-view mirror, waiting to be passed, than they do hitting the gas and securing a lead. Much like the East, it can go to any team - Again, except for the Cubs...and Houston (Texans football will be here soon). If Lynn stays on track and gives quality starts down the stretch, then the experience in the offense will be enough to get the Cardinals back in the playoff's.
The halfway point is here, and the MLB season looks to be on the right track for a strong finish. While the ballots are punched and the "usual suspects" get their recognition for services provided, thus far, don't forget to give a beer-chug to the players, unrecognized and unusual, for their contributions, deservedly so.
Remember, the cream can't rise to the top if the cup is just full of cream.