Wednesday, December 28, 2016

1991-2016 All-Underrated Team: Infield

I have been watching baseball for 26 years now. In that time, I have been obsessed with under-the-radar players. These are my picks for an All-Underrated Team. I have picked one player for each position and their best season.
John Valentin's 1995 season was a terrific season that did not receive the attention that it deserved, but he at least received the Silver Slugger Award and placed ninth in the MVP voting.  His 1997 was another very good season, but it pretty much went completely under the radar. 
It started with a change in positions.  Nomar Garciaparra, Boston's top prospect, was ready to take over at shortstop.  Boston already had John Valentin at the position, but since Nomar was such a special player and had never played another position, the organization asked Valentin to move.  Valentin was not happy and requested a trade.  Boston explored several options, particularly with the Padres but was not able to get an appropriate return and ended up keeping Valentin.  At the beginning of the season, Valentin played second base and appeared in 79 games at the position.  But later on, third-baseman Tim Naehring went down with a career-ending injury and Valentin moved to the hot corner for 64 games.  He would end up playing third for most of the rest of his career.  Jeff Frye took over at second for the rest of the season.  Valentin was an impressive fielder at both positions.
But it was on offense that Valentin was really impressive.  For the first time in his career, he led the American League in a traditional offensive category, doubles.  Valentin hit 47 doubles, his second season with more than 40.  He also hit over .300 for the second time, something he did not do in his phenomenal 1995 season.  For the season, Valentin hit .306/.372/.499 with 18 home runs, 95 runs, and 77 RBIs.  He also stole seven bases and had a career-high 176 hits and five triples.  It was a very impressive season that went by unnoticed because of the huge seasons by Nomar and Mo Vaughn.
Unfortunately, 1997 was Valentin's last great season, though he still had a good year in 1998.  Valentin quickly declined after that.  It must be remembered though that for a six-year stretch from 1993 to 1998, Valentin was a very good player with a lot of great moments.  He played in relative obscurity though. 

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