A weekly list of the top six performers of the 2014 season
By Zach Leach
With All-Star Selection Saturday coming up this weekend, the past week offered players a final chance to put up some good numbers and get their names out there. While the Fenway Park workout and rain-outs took away two days of games, many players did just that. Rather than a small group of super-elite players, the 2014 season has produced an ever-growing group of very good players. With less than three weeks left in the regular season, end of the year awards are still very much up in the air. Many of the Players to Watch this week are returners from last week, but as we’ve seen so far this summer, consistency can just be an illusion. It seems like many names have stuck around the Watch List, when in reality there have been eighteen different players making an appearance in just five weeks, and there could still be more to come. I think it’s safe to say these six are at least locks for an All-Star appearance though.
A.J. Murray (Georgia Tech)
Infielder, Chatham Anglers
.330 BA, 20 R, 22 RBI, 4 HR, 4 SB
For the first time this season, it appears as if there is a clear front-runner in the MVP race. That’s not to say that Murray has it locked up, but like Max Pentecost last year, Murray appears to be doing just enough to carry his team into the playoffs and quietly put up league-leading numbers and that can often earn you some hardware. Even in a relatively slow week, Murray has maintained his position as a threat in all offensive aspects of the game. He is tied for the league lead in home runs, is second in RBIs, in the top five in runs scored and slugging, and is the top five in the East in batting. For all the sabremetrics fans out there, he also has a substantial lead over the rest of the league in “runs created”. Add in the fact that he has some quickness, with four stolen bases, and is as reliable as they come, playing in 28 of Chatham’s 29 games, and you’re looking at a bona-fide contender for Most Valuable Player.
Hunter Cole (Georgia)
Infielder, Y-D Red Sox
.353 BA, 11 R, 25 RBI, 4 RBI, 3 SB
Murray’s cross-state college rival has also become his biggest competition for MVP. While Jordan Tarsovich (VMI) and Rob Fonseca (Northeastern) appeared to carry the Red Sox through their early struggles, it is clearly Cole that has fueled their recent winning ways with enormous production. In fact, Cole is maybe the only player in the league with real Triple Crown potential. He currently leads the league with 25 RBIs and is tied for the league-lead in home runs. In the batting race, he is fifth overall, but that category can change in a heartbeat. Additionally, he also leads the league in slugging, and like Murray, has some speed too. Y-D is the hottest team in the East, and they owe a lot of their momentum to Cole. A Triple Crown chaser who has boosted his team out of the basement of the division sure sounds like an MVP.
Matt Hall (Missouri State)
Pitcher, Falmouth Commodores
31 IP, 3-0, 1.74 ERA, 32 K, 1.26 WHIP
How much more can be said about Hall? After his first bumpy start of the season, he comes back this week with five shutout innings for the win against Chatham. The Commodore’s ace has been on the Watch List every single week, and for good reason. He has been the epitome of consistency this season and shows no signs of slowing down. Hall is the only pitcher in the league to be in the top five in innings pitched, ERA, and strikeouts, and is third amongst starting pitchers in ERA. He is still undefeated with a 3-0 record and is as dependable as they come. Even with overall league pitching starting to pick up a bit here in the second half, it would be impossible to find someone that you could say without a doubt has thrown better than Hall. He has been “outstanding”.
Kolton Mahoney (BYU)
Pitcher, Orleans Firebirds
26 IP, 3-1, 1.73 ERA, 36 K, 1.00 WHIP
Like Hall last week, Mahoney struggled for the first time in his start this week, but also like Hall, his numbers stayed atop the league, showing just how good he has been. The Y-D Red Sox, who are responsible for all five earned runs against Mahoney this season, got to him for two runs on eight hits in a five-inning losing outing for the Orleans ace. However, he also got eight strikeouts out of the game, keeping him afloat atop the league in that category. Mahoney is also third in the league and first among starters in batting average against, with hitters batting only .200 when facing him. Despite his ERA rising almost fifty points, he is still among the top five pitchers in the league and second amongst starters. Mahoney is still trailing a bit in innings pitched, and needs to make sure he avoids another sub-par outing, but if he can come out this week with a long, successful start he will resume putting the pressure on Hall for Outstanding Pitcher of the Year.
Richard Martin Jr. (Florida)
Infielder, Bourne Braves
.350 BA, 21 R, 12 RBI, 2 HR, 13 SB
With each win, the Braves continue to assert their dominance over the league this season, and Martin continues to show fans that 2013 was a fluke. This summer, he has been one of the most dynamic players on the Cape and has been the lead-off man and clubhouse leader for the best team around. Martin simply excels at getting on base, and then getting around the bases. He is in the top five in the league in runs scored and stolen bases, and in the top ten in batting and on-base percentage. While teammates Billy Fleming (WVU) and Blake Davey (UConn) have begun to steal some of his spotlight with their recent success, it is usually Martin that is scoring the runs on the pairs’ RBIs. Bourne is a very good team with a lot of talent, and Martin is a very big part of that. However, he needs to find a way to boost the power stats just a little bit if he wants to really challenge for the Most Valuable Player award.
Kevin Newman (Arizona)
Infielder, Falmouth Commodores
.400 BA, 10 R, 14 RBI, 1 HR, 7 SB
After a brief stint with Team USA, Newman is back on the Cape and right back to being one of the best players around. And wouldn’t you know it, the 2013 batting champ is back to a qualifying number of at-bats and his .400 average leads the league by a wide margin. Not only that, he is also third in the league in both slugging and on-base percentage. Everyone knows how good Newman can be from his 2013 campaign, but on a much different offense this year, he has been looked to for much more leadership and production than last year. It is a weight that he is able to carry as a legitimate five-tool player, and it may just be the difference between just another batting title and something more. Newman has already done enough to get back on the Watch List since he was dropped after Week One, and can keep his average atop the league and worked toward catching up in other offensive stats, there is no doubt that he’ll be an MVP candidate.
Dropped out from Week Four: David Thompson (Miami), Orleans Firebirds
Jake Fincher (N.C. State), Cotuit Kettleers