When asked who the best players are up the middle on the infield a few names come immediately to mind. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and second baseman Robinson Cano are two at the top and are surely as good as advertised, but it’s time we stop neglecting some of the other players around Major League Baseball who deserve recognition.
Shortstop Erick Aybar has been with the Los Angeles Angels since 2006. In that time he has never established himself as one of the best. Justifiably so, he is more of a second-tier shortstop than one of the elite. He has never made an All-Star team and other than his Gold Glove in 2011 no major awards have been given to him. What makes Aybar underrated is that he has still managed to hold a steady batting average. A career .277 hitter, Aybar is well above the average shortstop. He may not have any standout numbers, but his consistency should not be denied. So far in 2014 he has outperformed expectations and may be on his way to having a career year.
It has taken shortstop Alcides Escobar a few years to adjust to major league pitching and in 2014 he appears to have finally found some comfort. Coming off the 2013 season where he had a miserable .234 batting average, Escobar looks ready to surpass several career highs while hitting in the .270s or .280s. Playing for the Kansas City Royals, Escobar dwells in obscurity with many of his teammates. If he can keep up what he’s doing he has a chance to standout. At only 27-years-old he still has a lot of baseball left to play.
On a team that appears to be made up of David Wright, Matt Harvey, and everyone else–it’s time we add second baseman Daniel Murphy as a name with the other top two players on the New York Mets. A guy who can do a little bit of everything and is capable of also playing first base and left field if called upon, Murphy is one of the most underrated second basemen in baseball. Primarily Murphy is a doubles hitter who spends a lot of time hitting second in the Mets’ order. Murphy has a realistic chance to hit .300 in any given season and may do just that in 2014.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are fortunate to have a second baseman like Neil Walker. Clearly not the best in the league, the switch hitter is still someone who compliments the rest of the lineup perfectly. Walker is everything you could want from a second baseman. He has some power, he has the capability to hit .280, and he gets on base. Even in 2013 when his batting average sunk to .251 he managed to maintain a .339 on-base percentage. Before hitting the disabled list in 2014 due to an Appendectomy it appeared Walker was poised to shatter his career highs. He still may do it, although there will be a slight delay.