Let’s take a look at some established players who stepped up their game in 2016. We are not talking about the Bryce Harpers or the Mike Trouts of the baseball world. These are veteran players took their game to the next level, and they should be on everyone’s radar for the 2017 campaign.
Jean Segura – Seattle Mariners – 2nd Base
During Jean Segura’s 4th season of full-time work, he showed that he has the tools to be a complete player. Jean collected 203 hits which was the 3rd most in the bigs last year, and his .319 BA was 6th overall. The 26 year old Segura signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Mariners, worth $6,200,000 for the 2017 season. He now gets a chance to show that last season was not a fluke, and to prove that he deserves a lucrative contract.
Daniel Murphy – Washington Nationals – 2nd Base
This 8-year veteran’s production was off the charts last season, as he set career highs across the board offensively. In his first year with the Washington Nationals after signing a 3-year deal with the club, Murphy hit .347 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI’s. The change of scenery seemed to suit Murphy well, and batting cleanup in a potent Nationals offense should lead to a second consecutive 20-plus homer and 100-plus RBI season in 2017.
Jose Altuve – Houston Astros – 2nd Base
Jose Altuve is certainly a household name by now for most baseball fans, and his star continues to rise. Altuve currently has 3 consecutive 200 hit seasons, to go with 124 stolen bases during that time. Jose’s 2015 power numbers of 15 homers and 66 RBI’s were career highs, and are very respectable numbers for most middle infielders. But in 2016, the diminutive 5’6″ 165 lb. Altuve jacked 24 long balls and drove in 96 runners, while hitting .338, and stealing 30 bases. The result of this production was Jose’s second batting title in 3 years, and a 3rd place finish in the AL MVP voting. If Altuve can put together another season like last year, he should be considered an MVP favorite in 2017.
Charlie Blackmon – Colorado Rockies – Center Field
Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon’s game seems to be growing at the same rate as his famous beard. And both are equally impressive. Blackmon’s first two full-time seasons in 2014 and 2015 were very productive, and in 2016, the bar was raised to a new level. Injuries have lowered his stolen base numbers the last couple of seasons, but Charlie raised his OPS by over 100 points last year by hitting .324 with an exceptional OBP of .381. Throw in career highs in HR’s, RBI’s and runs scored, and Colorado’s leadoff hitter should be talked about with the elite players in MLB, and someone to watch in 2017.
Mookie Betts – Boston Red Sox – Right Field
You’re 24 years old…you’re the starting right fielder for the legendary Boston Red Sox…and you just came in second place in the AL MVP vote in 2016. What’s next? Mookie Betts makes this list because of one reason. In only his 3rd season in the bigs, he emerged from being a young star in the making, into becoming a legitimate MVP candidate. Winning a Gold Glove Award also validates him as a true 5-tool player. Betts slashed at a .318/.363/.534 clip last season, and added plenty of pop with 31 home runs, and respectable speed with 26 stolen bases. The only drawback for Mookie’s 2017 season is an off-season knee cleanup that may slow him down on the base paths. Otherwise the sky’s the limit for this young and talented player for the 2017 season.