Joey Votto just won the NL MVP, but there’s one number he’s definitely not leading the league in: Dollars.As a young player who has been unable to test the free agent market, Votto is easily one of the greatest bargains you’ll ever find in baseball.
It’s paramount for MLB teams, especially those in small markets, to uncover these hidden gems who outperform their meager contracts. Holding on to them is another story, but those who enjoyed having these cheap talents in 2010 got a heck of deal.
That’s the only way they can keep up with the big money teams like the Yankees, who don’t have a single player on the list. So with free agency upon us, who will get lucky with players like this in 2011? And which of these players is due for a raise?
Note: This list only includes players with more at least three years of experience and making $2 million or less. Players become eligible for salary arbitration after their third year of service time.
.281, 20 HR, 66 RBI
We don't need to tell you Buck was underpaid, his fat new three-year, $18 million deal with Florida is self-explanatory.
30 SV, 3.46 ERA, 71 K
Nunez topped 25 saves for the second year in a row and quietly established himself among the league's better closers.
12-13, 3.72 ERA, 196 K
Lewis took his play to another level in the postseason when he was dominant for the Rangers, especially in their ALCS victory over the New York Yankees.
.297, 6 HR, 51 RBI, 35 SB
Forgot about Podsednik did you? He was back and better than ever in 2010 and still impossible to contain on the base paths.
14-10, 3.62 ERA, 201 K
Liriano has been slow to recover from Tommy John surgery, but in 2010 he was close to his old self. The flame-thrower is learning how to be a more complete pitcher and should only get better.
.283, 25 HR, 59 RBI
It seems like every year people think Thome is finally done, but the 40-year-old is still kicking and was a shot in the arm for the Twins' offence down the stretch.
.290, 11 HR, 69 RBI, 37 SB
Pagan doubled his previous career highs in home runs, RBI, and stolen bases with a phenomenal performance in 2010. He was the one consistent force on a woeful offence.
.284, 5 HR, 52 RBI, 50 SB
Davis doesn't bring a whole lot to the table besides his speed, but boy can he fly. Even sharing time in Oakland's outfield in 2010 he tallied 50 steals, a career high.
19-8, 2.88 ERA, 214 K
Jimenez started the season 15-1 and looked like a lock for the CY Young. He struggled a bit in the middle of the summer but is clearly one of the better pitchers in the game.
13-12, 3.55 ERA, 157 K
Sanchez has fought back from injury after injury and finally put together a full year in 2010. Once thought to be a surefire top-of-the-rotation guy, Sanchez finally started to live up to the hype last season.
.290, 11 HR, 39 RBI
Morales' season was cut short when he broke his leg on May 29, but he was off to a tremendous start and is a key building block for the Angels. A late-bloomer, Morales is one of the better power hitters in the game.
13-8, 3.64 ERA, 165 K
Marcum doesn't get much attention because of the household names in his division, but he is the quiet leader of an improving Jays' staff.
.198, 32 HR, 85 RBI
It's hard to look past the atrocious average, but Reynolds packs some of the best power in baseball.
.273, 17 HR, 69 RBI, 18 SB
Upton took a step back in 2010 and missed time due to injury, but he's still among baseball's best young talents.
15-9, 3.66 ERA, 113 K
The Mets struggled through another disappointing season in 2010, but Pelfrey was very good, especially at the start of the year. If he can put together a full season, Pelfrey could be a very good No. 2 starter.
.318, 15 HR, 78 RBI
On a good team Butler might creep into the MVP conversation, but his big bat is wasted with Kansas City. But even without protection in the lineup, Butler produces.
.284, 19 HR, 69 RBI
Jones came to the Orioles in the Erik Bedard trade and has improved every year. He has yet to fulfil his potential, but he is a rare five-tool player.
14-7, 3.84 ERA, 200 K
Gallardo struggled with inconsistency at times in 2010 but still put up respectable numbers. The ace of the Brewers is on the verge of stardom.
17-7, 2.33 ERA, 120 K
On a free-spending club with a star-studded pitching staff, it was Buchholz and Jon Lester that carried the Red Sox in 2010. It was his first full season in the Sox rotation, but he'll be a fixture there for years to come.
.318, 22 HR, 78 RBI, 17 SB
Cruz put up gaudy numbers despite missing 54 games in 2010. The Rangers were stacked from top to bottom and opponents had no choice but to pick their poison. Cruz often made them pay.
.307, 15 HR, 66 RBI
Prado established career highs across the board in 2010 in an extremely strong middle infield tandem with Omar Infante.
.238, 10 HR, 75 RBI, 24 SB
Zobrist's numbers took a nose dive following his sensational 2009 season, but he's still a very valuable player for the Rays as he can play a number of positions.
.268, 16 HR, 63 RBI, 26 SB
Torres, 32, has bounced around in his career but finally caught on for the World Champions in 2010. His jack-of-all-trades game was perfect for the Giants.
11-14, 3.50 ERA, 113 K
Braden's 2010 season included a perfect game and four more complete games. At age 27, he is one of the veterans on the Athletics' staff. The question is how long he stays in Oakland.
.273, 10 HR, 57 RBI
Barton seems to get on base every time he goes to the plate and his 110 walks led the American League.
.256, 18 HR, 61 RBI
Stewart has been inconsistent in his young career but his potential is obvious. He almost bopped 20 home runs for the second year in a row and seems like a good candidate to follow in Carlos Gonzalez's footsteps as the Rockies' breakout player in 2011.
11-8, 3.07 ERA, 112 K
If it seems like 11 wins is a high total for a reliever, that's because it is. Clippard seemed to pitch every day in 2010 and was magnificent throughout the season.
7-2, 1.95 ERA, 56 K
Casilla was one of the keys to a phenomenal Giants' bullpen. His ERA dropped from 5.96 in 2009 to 1.95 in 2010.
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