Some people claim that baseball is boring. Those people are, of course, incredibly wrong. But appreciating a baseball game is a different skillset than, say, watching hockey or basketball. Baseball admittedly moves slower, at its own pace, and some of the best things in the game are subtle. You might not even notice how a pitcher fools a batter into thinking he’s getting a fastball, but throws him a lazy curve. Or an infielder changing his position just enough to be able to make a brilliant defensive play.
These 12 players, though, aren’t subtle at all. They exude excitement almost every time they interact with the game, whether at the plate, on the mound, in the field, or on the bases. They turn singles into doubles, surefire hits into amazing outs, or just dazzle the crowd (and opposing players) with their incredible skill. Out of all the players in MLB, these are the 12 who are Must See TV — you just don’t turn away from your screen when they are on it, because you never know what you might miss if you do.
12. Nolan Arenado
There are plenty of exciting pieces of the Colorado Rockies, and not all of them are a result of COORS. In fact, Charlie Blackmon almost made this list too, but we’re kicking things off with Rockies third basemen Nolan Arenado. The 27-year-old can do it all, which should be obvious if you look at his trophy case — five Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, and three All-Star appearances so far. He will surely add a fourth All-Star nod in 2018, with many more to come.
Arenado plays dazzling defense at third, routinely robbing hopeful players extra base hits down the line. With his bat, he’s one of the most feared hitters in the National League. He has 42, 41, and 37 home runs in the last three seasons, to go along with at least 130 RBI in all of them. He led the league with a 0.959 OPS in 2017, which is an outrageous number. So far in 2018, he’s slashing .327/.421/.580, which means he’s pace to have an even better season than his last few. The Rockies are in the heat of a division race in the NL West, and Arenado may be the player who decides their ultimate fate this year.
11. Joey Votto
This list needed a little Canadian content. Since Toronto native Joey Votto is also one of the most exciting players in baseball, he fits perfectly. The annual MVP candidate (he actually won the award in 2010) continues to be one of the best hitters in baseball, often leading the leagues in on-base percentage or OPS. He’s hit above .300 in every single season of his career except two — a .297 in 2008 and an injury hampered .255 in 2014.
Votto’s true value as an entertaining player comes in a different way, though. Sure, he’s still tremendously fun to watch, but his interactions with the fans and media are can’t miss events. Whether he’s trolling away fans by pretending to give them foul balls, throwing a baseball onto the roof of Wrigley Field, or giving hilariously dry comedic answers to reporters, Votto is a baseball treasure who doesn’t get enough love — partly a result of playing for a constantly bad Cincinnati Reds team.
10. Manny Machado
Manny Machado has always been good, but he’s currently crossing over to great in the final year of his current contract. That’s great news for the upcoming free agent. While playing third base, and later shortstop, for the Baltimore Orioles, the former third overall draft pick is the most exciting thing on an otherwise bland team. He has some amazing glove work, and picked up two Gold Gloves already.
At the plate, Machado is even more exciting. He’s clubbed more than 30 homers and 85 RBI in each of the last three seasons, and is currently on pace to smash those numbers in 2018. So far in 2018 he’s slashing .323/.393/.621, for an insane 1.014 OPS. His strikeout rate is also way down, meaning that fans can except his at-bats to usually provide at least some drama, even if he gets out. He’s also a little bit cocky and short-tempered, meaning that a well-timed bat flip, some aggressive trash talk, or even charging the mound are never out of the question when Machado is playing.
9. Max Scherzer
It takes a special breed of pitcher to qualify as exciting, since most people don’t go to a baseball game hoping to see low scoring affairs. Chicks dig the long ball, right? One of the few exceptions is watching a Max Scherzer start, as the intense Washington Nationals right hander seems to pull off amazing feats on a weekly basis. The two-time defending Cy Young winner (we also won a third in 2013) takes pitching to another level, and is a true master of the strikeout.
Scherzer makes the most talented hitters in the league look like they are swinging a tennis racket at an annoying fly. His 284 Ks in 2016 and 268 Ks in 2017 led the league, and he’ll probably top the list again in 2018. He hasn’t posted an ERA above 3.00 since 2014 and his WHIP has been under 1.000 for the last three and a half seasons. It’s actually more shocking if Scherzer doesn’t post double-digit strikeout numbers in a start, since he routinely fans somewhere between 10 and 15 batters per game. He also is one of the few pitchers capable of achieving 20 strikeouts in a game, when he tied that record in 2016. He’s the one pitcher in MLB that we could see getting 21 in a game and breaking the record. Don’t skip watching Max Scherzer starts!
8. Mookie Betts
When you are literally named after baseball, you better live up to expectations. Markus Lynn Betts (MLB, get it?), better known as Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie, certainly has risen to challenge so far in his young career. He’s a full five-tool player, able to hit for average and power, play great defense, and steals at least 20 bags a year. Along with teammates Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Andrew Benintendi, the youthful Red Sox should be a force in the American League for years to come.
Betts, a two-time All-Star and a two-time Gold Glover, is almost the perfect player. He’s had back-to-back seasons of 20+ home runs, 100+ RBIs, and 20+ stolen bases. He was on an absolute tear in 2018 before he was derailed with an abdominal strain, batting .359/.437/.750 — the highest slugging percentage in the league! He also strikes out considerably less than many of the other big hitters in baseball (we’re looking at you, Yankees…). The Red Sox and the Yankees are both young and really good, so the storied AL East rivalry looks set to go strong into the next generation, with Betts being one of the most exciting players in the mix.
7. Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge might not be as well rounded as Mookie Betts, but when you can hit the baseball that damn hard, who cares? The 6’7″ Yankees giant is downright terrifying at the plate, regularly sending misplaced fastballs into the stands at 120 mph. His incredible power alone is enough to put him on this list, but he’s not strictly a one-trick pony.
Judge has also displayed a tremendously strong arm in right field. Other players in the league are starting to realize that testing him arm by trying to sneak an extra base is a bad decision. But since one of the most exciting plays in baseball is watching an outfielder gun someone down at home plate with a laser throw, we hope that opposing players keep running on Judge.
Unfortunately, the one big downside to Judge’s game is his tendency to strike out. Like, a lot. He led the league with 208 whiffs in 2017, and is on pace to surpass that number this year. But when he does make solid contact, that ball ain’t coming back.
6. Francisco Lindor
It’s hard to find someone in baseball who smiles more than Francisco Lindor. The young Puerto Rican native plays shortstop for the Cleveland Indians and appears to be having the time of his life every single time he steps on to the ball diamond. That kind of love for the game in infectious, and he’s become a fan favorite in Cleveland and around the league for his amazing attitude and superb skill.
The 2017 season was definitely a breakout year for Lindor, as he played in almost every game for Cleveland and let the league in plate appearances. He cranked out 33 home runs, 89 RBIs, and added 15 stolen bases. His slash line of .273/.337/.505 was actually a bit of a drop, since he usually hits around .300. Between his bat and his exciting defensive plays at short, Lindor helped the Indians make the World Series in 2016, where they lost a heartbreaking Game 7 to the Cubs.
5. Shohei Ohtani
There was a lot of mystery surrounded the “Japanese Babe Ruth” when he arrived in MLB this season. He couldn’t possibly live up to all that hype, right? It may only be less than half a season into his North American career, but Shohei Ohtani is proving all the doubters wrong. He’s easily the best two-way player that baseball has seen in decades.
At the plate, Ohtani has been serving as the DH for the Angels, but only on a select few days so it doesn’t affect his pitching. Still, he’s hitting .289/.372/.535 with six home runs and 20 RBIs so far — and that just in 129 plate appearances over 34 games. The power is definitely there, but Ohtani is even more exciting for what he does on the mound.
In nine starts for the Angels, Ohtani has a 3.10 ERA and already accumulated 61 strikeouts over 49.1 innings pitched. That’s good for a 11.1 K/9 rate, among the highest in baseball for starting pitchers. He has a variety of effective pitches, but his slider is particularly nasty — an 84 mph pitch that looks like a perfect meatball before darting away from right handed batters at the last second. Hopefully Ohtani can overcome an early blister issue and continue to awe baseball fans as one of the game’s best all-around players.
4. Mike Trout
Speaking of all-around players, Mike Trout is probably the most literal definition of the term if you don’t include the fact that his Angels teammate Ohtani also pitches. Honestly, we don’t think people appreciate just how good Mike Trout is at baseball. Yes, people are aware that he’s won MVP awards and plays pretty well. But did you know that he just surpassed Ichiro Suzuki on the career WAR list, at just 26-years-old? Through seven and a half seasons, Trout has accumulated 59.6 wins above replacement. There’s a good chance he will make it into the top 10 or 15 WAR players of all-time, which includes names likes Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roger Clemens, and Ted Williams (to name a few).
Trout, an annual All-Star and Silver Slugger while playing centerfield for the Angels, already has a Rookie of the Year and two AL MVP awards (he’s also finished second in voting twice, so he almost had four MVP awards). He regularly leads the league in runs, OBP, and OPS+. All of that while putting up a career batting average of .306 and stealing double-digit bases every season, and sometimes as many as 30 or 40. Trout can truly do it all, and watching him play is a privilege that baseball fans should take advantage of at every opportunity.
3. Byron Buxton
Before Bryon Buxton made the Big Leagues, he was the No. 2 overall prospect in the country. He broke into The Show in his early 20s, and already has Minnesota Twins fans excited about his bright future. Now 24, Buxton isn’t the greatest hitter in the world, but he has speed to burn. It serves him well covering centerfield, but also is a joy to watch on the basepaths. He stretches singles into doubles and is always a threat to steal a base — he nabbed 29 of them in 2017. According to Statcast, only Billy Hamilton motors around the diamond faster than Buxton.
Buxton helped the Twins make the playoffs in 2017, although they would lose to the Yankees in the Wild Card game. Barring a strong mid-season push, it looks like the team might take a step back in 2018, but Buxton is still worth the price of admission — but only when he’s healthy. A broken toe landed him on the DL in late May and he could miss as much as six weeks of action. That’s a shame for baseball fans, since Buxton is a star in the making.
2. Ozzie Albies
You want a younger, more exciting, and possible better version of Byron Buxton? We present to you Ozzie Albies. The Atlanta Braves second baseman actually takes a backseat on his own team to vaunted prospect Ronald Acuna, but Albies has put on a show so far in 2018 in his first full teams in the big leagues. So far in 2018, he leads the league in plate appearances, runs, doubles, and total bases. He may not be quite as fast as Buxton, but it’s close. What he lacks in speed, he makes up for in power.
Albies has already smoked 14 homeruns and 35 RBI for the Baby Braves, who have shocked everyone by challenging the Nationals at the top of the NL East standings. Whether it’s laying out to make an impressive defensive play or ambushing a 100 mph fastball from Noah Syndergaard for a home run, Albies continues to surprise, impress, and excite baseball fans in Atlanta. Still just 21-years-old, it looks like he will be very good for a long time.
1. Javier Baez
Who else but Javy Baez could top this list? The man known as “El Mago” (Spanish for “The Magician”) plays second base for the Chicago Cubs and is easily the most exciting and entertaining player in all of baseball. Much like the previously mentioned Francisco Lindor, Baez plays the game with an unbridled enthusiasm that is a joy to watch. He is always smiling, joking with teammates, engaging with fans, or performing for the TV cameras. And that’s not even mentioning his play.
Baez plays solid defense in the middle infield, but his ability to slap down smooth tags on opposing players has become a highlight reel of it’s own. At the plate, he hits for an okay average (.256 career) but has recently discovered a surge of power, with 14 dingers and a league leading 46 RBIs so far in 2018. Baez also does the little things, like run sneaky pick-off plays, plays out of position if needed, and has a tendency to steal home when he thinks he can get away with it. The 25-year-old brings that trademark Puerto Rican flair to the ballpark every day — and sometimes that Puerto Rican temper when the game gets testy — but every baseball fan in North America would love to have El Mago on their team.