These Black hitters are diamond-mining over the first 60 games of the 2019 season.
In our first Top 15 Black Knights of 2019 list, guys such as Jason Heyward and pitcher Jordan Hicks and Marcus Semien and Brian Goodwin (still hitting .290) were off to career starts and headed towards breakout seasons. Now, 60 games into a 162-game campaign, the numbers are starting to paint a clearer picture of which Black Knights will make the biggest contributions.
We still have a long way to go, but as promised, here’s our latest Top 10 MLB Black Knights of 2019 so far.
1. Josh Bell (Pirates): Back in 2017, I wrote about this guy rising like yeast among the game’s young stars. His ascension to No. 1 overall was driven by a record-setting May. He continues to rake. His .331 batting average is sixth in MLB and first among Black Knights. He’s tied for fourth in MLB with 18 dingers and leads MLB in RBI with 53, plus he’s third in slugging percentage.
2. George Springer (Astros): Despite being placed on the 10-day injured list a few Saturdays ago with a left hamstring strain, Springer is tied with Josh Bell for highest offensive WAR among Black Knights (2.6). He’s also tied for 5th in MLB with 17 homers, despite missing games. Springer is killing the leadoff spot and the former World Series MVP gets better every season.
3. Michael Brantley (Astros): Ever the professional hitter, Brantley is batting .330 and has proved to be a tremendous addition to a hard-hitting Astros lineup that has dealt with injuries to Jose Altuve, Springer, and Correa at some point this season, but continue to run away with the AL West division. Brantley is having a typical season when healthy. He’s 10th in MLB in batting average at .329 and fourth in hits.
4. Tim Anderson (White Sox): America’s nightmare in cleats has cooled off a tad from his scorching start, but he is still in an All-Star groove. The Black Knight is ninth in MLB in batting average and second among all Black Knights. He’s also second in baseball in steals (15), a stat that we still celebrate here at the Shadow League because the most effective skills combo in baseball is power and speed.
5. Mookie Betts (Red Sox): The 2018 MVP has jumped out to a sluggish start, reflecting his team’s woes. The Red Sox go as Betts goes. Betts is having a solid season and he’s just starting to heat up. His 2.5 WAR is second among Black Knights and is proof of his impact on the game. Expect his numbers to continue to rise as Boston gets back in the AL East race.
6. Tommy Pham (Rays): We have to stop denying Pham his place among not only the best Black Knights but the best outfielders in baseball. His .305 batting average is Top 20 in the league and his. OBP is seventh overall. Pham is doing all of this while nursing a leg injury and he’s a huge reason why Tampa Bay is battling it out with the Yankees for first place in the tough AL East.
7. Marcus Stroman (Toronto): Stroman is setting himself up for a huge payday. Despite a 3-7 record, playing on a Toronto team that’s already 17 games below .500, Stroman is rocking the 11th lowest ERA in MLB (2.84) and he’s the supreme Black Knight hurler in the game.
8. Khris Davis (A’s): Davis started off the season like the black Babe Ruth, smashing everything in sight and then a groin strain suffered on May 22nd, shelved him for a while. He returned on Saturday against Houston, but it’s going to take a minute for Davis to get back in the groove.
Before Davis got hurt, he was being lauded for having more home runs than any other player since the start of 2016 (98) and his 38 RBIs had him ranked third in the American League at the time. I think he’s done enough to hold his position in the Top 10.
9. Adam Jones (Diamondbacks) — The wily veteran is contributing to a 30-30 Arizona team that is still in the process of building a winner. He’s hitting a solid, 283 with 12 homers and is 21st in the league in hits with 62.
10. Andrew McCutchen (Phillies): Cutch proved that he could still ball in his 2018 stints with San Francisco and the Yankees. The 2013 NL MVP came to Philly to provide them with a 32-year-old veteran who can help navigate the talented team through the season and into the playoffs. He’s sixth in MLB in runs scored, leading all Black Knights with 45. Cutch is on pace to hit over 20 homers and is a vital piece to the Phillies first place positioning the NL East standings so far.