As you are scanning through the league leaders you see the names you know, Betts, Trout, & Harper, but what about a couple of guys who are flying under the radar. It can be easy to go unnoticed when you play in Atlanta and Seattle, which is exactly what has happened to Ozzie Albies & Mitch Haniger.
These two are currently pacing their ball clubs, who are both off to surprisingly good starts early on. Seattle sits at 20-14, just a half game out of the second wild-card spot. Atlanta is leading the loaded National League East at 20-14.
The hot starts of Albies and Haniger are a key driving force for their squads' current placement amongst the league standings.
While neither of these guys came completely out of nowhere they are not household names by any stretch of the imagination at this point in their careers. If they can continue their early season success they might become just that by seasons end.
Flying Under the Radar: Ozzie Albies & Mitch Haniger
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Ozzie Albies, 2B, Atlanta Braves
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Most forget that before the Ronald Acuna Jr hype this guy was arguably Atlanta's biggest prospect in their pipeline. Still at the ripe age of 21-years-old Albies is just coming into his own as a player. The success he is enjoying this season in Atlanta has put him on the map as one of the best young second basemen in all of baseball.
He got a little taste of the show last season, appearing in 57 games after his call-up, he hit .286 in those contest. The part that excites me most about Albies is he is still so young and not even close to reaching his potential as a player.
His numbers last season in Atlanta support the step forward he has taken this year. The keystone bopper has already mashed ten long balls on the young season. He has 24 RBI's to go along with his home run numbers.
The Atlanta Affect
Another positive about Albies is the line up he plays in, yeah didn't think I would be saying that about the 2018 Braves. The reality is Atlanta has retooled with young talents like Dansby Swanson and Ronald Acuna Jr. To go along with these up and coming stars they still feature veterans Freddie Freeman & Nick Markakis.
The overall depth of Atlanta's order has allowed Albies to put himself in the top twenty league-wide in homers, RBI's, and runs scored. He currently only trails superstar Mookie Betts in runs scored amongst all big leaguers.
It might seem intriguing to sell high on Albies but I think the right move is to stick with him going forward. Outside of Jose Altuve and Brian Dozier there are not many second baseman who can provide 25 plus homers and help you in the batting average category. Keep riding the kid's hot start in all lineups for the foreseeable future.
Mitch Haniger, OF, Seattle Mariners
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Let's talk about a guy who is a little bit more seasoned that Albies but enjoying just as much success in the early going. A former first-round selection back in 2012, Haniger is in just his third MLB season and his first full season at the highest level. The outfielder is 27-years-old and entering the prime years of his career.
In 96 games last season with the Mariners he swatted 16 home runs and knocked in 47 runs, not too bad for playing a little more than half a season. In 2018 he is off to a blistering start, already with 10 bombs and 28 runs batted in, both of which are top seven in all of baseball. Seattle is enjoying a bit of a rebound season after losing 84 games a year ago.
Lending a Helping Haniger
Back to Mitch, the slugger is currently sporting a .980 OPS, ranking him 13th in the league. Another big reason why Haniger is having so much success at the dish is because of his patience. He has already drawn 15 walks this season, almost half of what he accumulated in almost 100 games in 2017.
With an improved eye at the plate and the Mariners looking to contend in the wild card race, Haniger should see plenty more opportunities to continue producing moving forward.
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