Justin Morneau(notes), Minnesota Twins
The Naked Truth: .362/.477/.681, 11 HR, 29 RBI
Having a nice little Saturday: Joe Mauer(notes) is having a really really good year. He's batting .344 with a .910 OPS, ridiculously good. But what's even ridiculously better is that Justin Morneau's OPS is almost 250 points higher at 1.158. Now that Andre Ethier(notes) has unfortunately hit the DL, Morneau is the best hitter in baseball right now. As Aaron Gleeman tweeted, "Justin Morneau doing his best to speed up the pace of games by making sure his home runs leave the park as quickly as possible."
You're my boy, Blue!: It's no secret that Morneau is good — he was the MVP in 2006 and the runnerup in 2008. He hits for average and power and is consistently one of the top slugging first basemen in baseball. But, as the saying goes, this is ridiculous. Even when he won the MVP, his OPS was .934, which isn't just his career high, it's the only time in his career he ever cleared the a .900 mark in OPS. This year, his BABIP is .417 — it was .273 last year, and it's .292 for his career — and many of his other rate stats, including line drive rate and homer per flyball rate, are also much higher than his career norm. He just turned 29, so he's absolutely in his offensive prime, but the odds are good that he'll come back to earth a bit.
Think KFC will still be open?: Of course. He'll still finish with his automatic .300/30/100, and he'll probably finish in the top 10 of the MVP voting, especially if he drives in more than 120 and the Twins win the division. (The Rays and Yankees will make sure that the Wild Card will be coming out of the East, so a division championship is the Twins' only road to the playoffs.) But he won't be the top hitter in baseball all year. He's having a hot start to the summer, but expect him to cool off before the fall.
David Price(notes), Tampa Bay Rays 6-1, 1.81 ERA, 1.079 WHIP
Evan Longoria(notes) is the MVP of the 2010 Rays, a team Dave Fleming is calling "the greatest team in baseball history," but David Price isn't far behind. He's been their best pitcher so far, and he's been especially hot in May, where he's 3-0 with just four earned runs allowed in 26 innings. Matt Garza(notes) and James Shields(notes) are about equal with him in their parade of aces, but Price is living up to his billing as the first overall pick in the 2007 draft. He's been getting a bit lucky, though: His 2.20 K/BB rate is worse than Garza and Shields and his .243 BABIP means that he'll probably start giving up more hits before too long. Still, even if his ERA balloons by a run or two, he'll still be one of the top starting pitchers in the league.
Jayson Werth(notes), Philadelphia Phillies .324/.404/.634, 8 HR, 31 RBI
Jayson Werth has been a revelation since arriving in Phialdelphia, the team's secret weapon after bigger marquee stars Ryan Howard(notes), Jimmy Rollins(notes), and Chase Utley(notes). And here's the real secret: He's basically outhitting all of them this year. (Rollins is leading the team in OPS, but is on the DL; Utley has a higher OBP but a lower slugging than Werth, so the two are basically on par.) Of course, this is Werth's contract year, and the Howard/Halladay extensions will make it awfully hard for the team to afford his werewolf looks. Yes, he's been getting a bit lucky on BABIP, but the power is real. The Phillies' best-kept secret is hitting so much that he may be their hardest-to-keep player.
Yovani Gallardo(notes), Milwaukee Brewers 4-2, 2.89 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
The Brewers are having another disappointing season, but Gallardo has been one of the best pitchers in the league not named Ubaldo. He allowed a total of just 10 runs over his last seven starts, has struck out 51 men in 41 innings and is sporting an ERA of 1.76 over that span. But despite his dominance during that stretch, the team managed just four wins; in the three games they lost, the bullpen allowed 15 earned in just seven innings after Gallardo came out of the game. The 24-year old still has room to improve: His 10.4 K/9 is terrific, but his 4.9 BB/9 is simply bad. Like Ubaldo Jimenez(notes), he has the stuff to be successful as an effectively wild pitcher, but he'll get better results — and pitch deeper into games, with less need for bullpen middle men — once he starts throwing more strikes and issuing fewer free passes.
- Justin Morneau