A weekly list of the top six performers of the 2014 season
By Zach Leach
With four weeks under our belts and only three left in the regular season, we’ve passed the midpoint of the year, and with it comes a huge overhaul to the Watch List. Over the past week, players who had been slowly climbing the ranks of the league’s best players had big weeks and are now legitimate contenders for end of the year awards. On the flip side, players who had settled into roles as consistent Players to Watch have slipped just enough to fall out of the top six. When all was said and done, only one player who has appeared all year on the Watch List has made it this week. There is stiff competition this year to see who really is the best of the best. As of right now, it could be anyone. It could be someone on this list, or it could be a name like Tarsovich, Fonseca, Happ, Dewees, Davey, Calhoun, or Newman, who are all currently on the outside, looking in. Only time will tell…
Matt Hall (Missouri State)
Pitcher, Falmouth Commodores
26 IP, 2-0, 2.07 ERA, 25 K, 1.23 WHIP
Hall deserves a ton of recognition for his efforts thus far. Not only has he been a Player to Watch for all four weeks, but halfway through the season, he is the only player on the list currently who has appeared even once before. The major storyline of this 2014 season has been streaky offense. There have been a ton of talented hitters who have been on fire one week, and then cold the next. Many players who started the year on the list then disappeared for a while, and now are on their way back up, while the handful of players who have made it consistently the last few weeks are now slumping. Overall, offense has been dominant, but it’s been coming from so many different sources that no one has really stuck out. Yet Hall is the exact opposite of this trend. He has been a consistent pitcher in a season that has been offense-heavy and inconsistent. Even though he had his worst start of the season this week, he still is head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to pitching. Hall is one of only six pitchers who have made five starts this season, and among that group he has the lowest ERA with a stunning 2.07. He also is fourth in the league in strikeouts and among the top ten in innings pitched and batting average against. Top that off with the fact that he has yet to lose a game, and you’re looking at not only the likely starter for the West All-Stars, but a definite candidate for Outstanding Pitcher of the Year.
A.J. Murray (Georgia Tech)
Infielder, Chatham Anglers
.352 BA, 19 R, 18 RBI, 4 HR, 4 SB
Murray has quietly been putting up big numbers all year long, but with his Chatham Anglers on a hot streak this past week, his production finally put him over the top. As of right now, he is probably the top offensive talent so far this season. Murray is a co-league leader in home runs, among the top five in the league in runs, RBIs, slugging, and on-base percentage, and is in the top ten in batting average. In just the last week, he batted .474 and scored eight runs. Murray is a pure slugger at the plate, but is also effective on the base paths and competent in the field. Now that he is really in the spotlight, Murray needs to keep it going as Chatham battles Orleans and Harwich atop the East. If they can win the division, their offensive leader will receive plenty of MVP votes.
David Thompson (Miami)
Infielder, Orleans Firebirds
.337 BA, 19 R, 17 RBI, 3 HR, 0 SB
Another player who has led his team to recent success is the Firebirds’ Thompson. Though he was overshadowed by Edwin Rios (Florida Intl) at the start of the season, Thompson has emerged as their true leader during the team’s recent winning streak. He has single-handedly driven in eight runs over the past week, and his strong hitting began even before that. Altogether, Thompson sits near the top in most batting statistics. He shares the division lead in runs with Murray and is in the top five in the league in RBIs, slugging and doubles. Orleans gets a lot of runs from many different sources, but Thompson has become chief among them. That could go a long way when awards are being chosen.
Kolton Mahoney (BYU)
Pitcher, Orleans Firebirds
21 IP, 3-0, 1.28 ERA, 28 K, 0.81 WHIP
Another important contributing factor to Orleans’ recent success has been the emergence of Mahoney. No pitcher has been as lights-out as the Firebirds ace so far this season. He doesn’t have the innings or number of starts to really be compared with the likes of Hall, but in his slightly smaller sample, Mahoney has been better. A 1.28 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and .147 batting average against says everything about his dominance thus far, but throw in that he leads the league in strikeouts and has won each of his three starts, and the number become unbelievable. It seems unlikely that Mahoney can keep it going at this pace. Just one off start would return his stats to mortal status. However, if he really does keep it up, and the Firebirds do too, he would have the edge over Hall and any other pitcher at the end of the year.
Richard Martin Jr. (Florida)
Infielder, Bourne Braves
.356 BA, 18 R, 12 RBI, 2 HR, 10 SB
Like Murray and Thompson, Martin has been having a good season since the week one, but wasn’t getting the attention that some other batters with slightly bigger numbers were getting. After a strong showing last week, he’s earned a spot on the Watch List and could very well hold on to it for the long run. He has already surpassed the numbers he put up with the Falmouth Commodores last summer, which is impressive considering how strong that offense was. However, he was a minor piece of the puzzle for the 2013 Commodores, and is key component of the Braves this summer. As the leadoff man for the best team in the league right now, Martin has been an extremely valuable asset. He is in the top five in the league in batting average, runs scored and stolen bases and leads the West in hits. Though it’s tough to drive in runs at the top of the order, Martin has put up a solid twelve RBIs and has shown some pop with a couple home runs. The best player on the best team is often given a long look when it comes to MVP conversation. If Martin can manage to increase his power numbers while keeping his contact numbers constant and staying a threat on the base paths, he will put himself in good position for some hardware.
Jake Fincher (North Carolina St.)
Outfielder, Cotuit Kettleers
.450 BA, 10 R, 10 RBI, 0 HR, 3 SB
Fincher is unlike any other player on this list. He hasn’t been dominating all year or waiting in the wings for a breakout week. Fincher has just simply caught fire after a pedestrian start to the season. After batting .600 last week, he has raised his batting average to an unreal .450. That’s all you really need to know. Fincher has a qualifying average of over .420. No one has finished a season batting that well since 1982. If the season ended today, Fincher would have the second highest average in league history. Meanwhile, his ten runs scored and ten runs driven in are pretty good, and his West-leading on-base percentage and slugging percentage are nothing to ignore either. He’s currently slashing .450/.507/.567, which is just about impossible. Like Kolton Mahoney, it’s hard to see Fincher continuing this torrid pace. If he does though, the batting title will be an easy feat, and it might not be all he gets.
Dropped out from Week Two: Willie Calhoun (Arizona), Wareham Gatemen
Jordan Tarsovich (VMI), Y-D Red Sox
Rob Fonseca (Northeastern), Y-D Red Sox
Edwin Rios (Florida Intl), Orleans Firebirds
Kevin McCanna (Rice), Falmouth Commodores