There’s that old adage that certain athletes are “once-in-a-lifetime talents.” And while the phrase may be played out, there are definitely a handful of athletes that actually fit into this category. There are some talents that are just too amazing to not enjoy watching, regardless of what your favorite team may be. Some may be older players that have a limited window of playing time left while some may be young stars that are just too good to miss. The first installment in this series will highlight ten baseball players that fans should watch in person. Keep in mind this list is NOT solely comprised of guys on the verge of retirement. Here is part 1 of 2 (Players are in no particular order).
Derek Jeter- SS, New York Yankees
Jeter is one of the best to play the game, both offensively and defensively. He’s a 13-time All-Star, has five Gold Gloves, seven top ten finishes in MVP voting, was rookie of the year in 1996, and has four Silver Slugger awards. He has 3,304 hits, 255 Home Runs, 524 doubles, and 348 Stolen Bases. Jeter has spent his entire 18-year career with the Yankees, winning multiple World Series titles along the way. He is arguably the greatest Shortstop of all time, and with a broken ankle suffered in the 2012 NLCS, Jeter’s time might soon be up, as will your time to go see him in person.
Albert Pujols- 1B, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Pujols is another one like Jeter, a guy that goes out everyday and does his job. Pujols won Rookie of the Year in 2001 with the Cardinals, is a nine-time All-Star, and has three MVP’s under belt. Pujols would have at least a few more MVPs if it weren’t for Barry Bonds. He has finished in the top five in MVP voting seven other times, has two Gold Gloves, and six Silver Sluggers. Pujols has 505 career doubles, 475 Home Runs, and a career On-base plus Slugging of 1.022, which is absolutely phenomenal. At only age 32, Pujols looks to have a few stellar years left in the tank. Pujols can push his numbers into the area where very few are able to get to, and should make for an exciting watch over the next four or five years.
Miguel Cabrera- 3B, Detroit Tigers
Cabrera was the first person to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967. Simply put, Cabrera is one of, if not the best, pure hitters in all of baseball. A seven-time All-Star, Cabrera is probably the best hitter right now. He hits for power (321 home runs), average (.318 career average), and is a run-producer (961 runs and 2,084 runs batted in). He's also the leading candidate to win AL MVP this year. Cabrera is only 29 years old, so there is plenty of time to watch his magnificence. Cabrera is in the prime of his career, so it’s hard to imagine him slowing down any time soon. The way he's going, Cabrera might push his numbers into the Hall of Fame echelon, so the next 5+ years of Cabrera's career should be fun to watch.
Mariano Rivera- CP, New York Yankees
Rivera is the second Yankee to make the list. And like his teammate Jeter, time is almost up on Rivera’s career. He tore his ACL after appearing in only nine games this season. Rivera has gone on record saying he will pitch next season. He is a free agent after the 2013 season, and will be 43 this November. So next season may be his last one. The 12-time All-Star is the all-time leader in saves with 608. But as stellar as he's been in the regular season, Rivera has made his name in the postseason. In 96 playoff games, Rivera has 42 saves and an absurd .70 ERA. The Yankee icon is almost done, so next season is probably your last chance to hear Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as Rivera jogs to the mound from the bullpen.
Justin Verlander- SP, Detroit Tigers
Verlander was the Rookie of the Year in 2006 and is a five-time All-Star. He’s won a Cy Young award and has finished in the top 11 of Cy Young voting on four other occasions. He has eclipsed 200 innings each of the last six seasons and has racked up 200 strikeouts each of the last four seasons. There is no denying that Verlander is one of the best in the league (if not THE best). His arsenal makes him so deadly. And like fine wine, Verlander seems to get better with age (and progressively in games). Verlander’s ability to throw over 120 pitches with ease (definitely something unheard of in today’s game with pitch counts) and then increase velocity into the ninth (throwing 99 in the ninth as a starter) is remarkable. Verlander’s right arm is immaculate, and at age 29, Verlander is just entering his prime. With two no-hitters under his belt, the sky is the limit for him. Watching Verlander on television is jaw-dropping, just imagine how it would be in person.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 of MLB players!
**Stats obtained from baseball-reference.com**