These Black Knights have caught the most wreck in the opening two months of the 2019 MLB season.
You couldn’t find Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward on my Top 15 MLB Black Knights of 2018 list. His game just didn’t have enough sizzle to make the cut. After finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2010 as a 20-year-old hot prospect for the Atlanta Braves, Hank Aaron anointed Heyward the next Black baseball legend.
Heyward peaked in 2012 with 27 homers and 82 RBI, 21 stolen bases with a .479 slugging percentage. By age 25, he was a borderline journeyman.
Just when the baseball world made peace with his failure to become one of baseball’s saviors, The J-Hey kid comes out the gate with a sizzling stick to start 2019, rising to his current ranking as the 11th-best African-American player in MLB on our early list.
The current rankings for Top 15 MLB Black Knights
- Tim Anderson: Anderson has lit the baseball world on fire this season, rippin’, bat-flippin’ and base-dippin’ his way into the national spotlight. The Chicago White Sox shortstop is Top 10 in MLB in batting average at .336, first in steals and sixth in OPS among Black Knights.
His drip might be too hard for baseball’s gatekeepers right now, but all Anderson has to do is keep balling and MLB will catch up.
2. Michael Brantley: The 31-year-old, 3-time time All-Star is 10th overall in MLB in batting average at .333. The perennial .300 hitter added his skills to an already-loaded Houston Astros team and he’s fit right in, spraying the gaps, making contact and staying true to his old school approach. Brantley’s 42 hits are the second-highest total in MLB and his 1.5 WAR is first among Black Knights.
In an age where players strike out more than they get hits, Brantley’s never struck out more than 76 times in a season.
- Jordan Hicks: He’s 21 years old. He throws 105 miles per hour. In fact, he threw the five fastest pitches of 2018.
In 2019, the Type 1 diabetic who injects insulin during games while flashing a golden arm reminiscent of St. Louis legend Bullet Bob Gibson is fifth in the MLB with nine saves. He’s become a supreme fireman and the only black closer in MLB. Can anybody say Hall of Famer Lee Smith?
4. George Springer: The 2017 World Series MVP is tied with Khris Davis for the third most homers in baseball (10) and leads all Black Knights with 27 RBI. The multi-faceted All-Star continues to perform at a high level and distinguish himself while playing on a team of rising stars from all over the world.
5. Mookie Betts: The 2018 MLB MVP is just warming up through the first 30 games. He’s hitting a solid .289 and he’s tied with Lorenzo Cain for most runs scored among Black Knights (25). He’s also second in WAR (1.4).
6. Khris Davis: After a boiling start, the slugging Davis has cooled off a bit, but he still leads Black Knights with 10 homers. The Green Bomber is right on track for his fourth-consecutive 40-home run season.
7. Marcus Stroman: Despite the fact that he’s pitching on an All-star level, Stroman has had some hard luck in the win column pitching in front of a Toronto Blue Jays team that’s three games below .500 in the tough AL East.
The six-year vet still has the fifth-lowest ERA in MLB (2.20) and hasn’t given up a dinger this year in 41 innings pitched.
8. Brian Goodwin: This has been a breakout season for Goodwin, who’s second among Black Knights with a .944 OPS. He’s also batting .326, which is 12th-highest in MLB.
9. Josh Bell: The Pirates first baseman is first among Black Knights in slugging percentage at .627 and OPS (.997).
10. Lorenzo Cain: The Gold Glove outfielder is also a two-time All-Star, ALCS MVP, World Champion, and .292 career hitter. Cain signed a five-year, $80 million contract to return to the Brewers on January 26, 2018. His average is a bit down this season, but he’s still Top 25 in hits and runs scored and No. 3 among Black Knights in WAR for a Brewers team that’s primed to do something special in the NL Central.
11. Jason Heyward: Could this be the season that his offensive prowess finally matches his defensive wizardry? Heyward has the highest OBP among Black Knights (.414).
12. Tommy Pham: The Rays outfielder is picking up where he left off last year, hitting .295 and tied for fifth in MLB with 6 steals. The left fielder is 15th in MLB in OBP (.404). He’s a huge part of the reason why Tampa is in first place in a brutal AL East division.
13. Marcus Semien: The shortstop is making an early All-Star push with his.296 batting average, career -highs in slugging and OPS and he’s fourth in MLB in hits.
14. Adam Jones: The veteran outfielder has fit in nicely in Arizona and has an OPS+ 12 points higher than his career average.
- Dee Gordon: Gordon is doing what Dee does. He’s the consummate team player, batting.294 with the second-most steals in the game (9) and plenty of energy.
On The Verge: Honorable Mentions
Dwight Smith Jr. (.298 BA, 36 hits)
Aaron Judge (On Injured List),
Seattle Mariners shortstop Tim Beckham ( 7 HR, .555 Slugging),
St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler (.310 BA)
Philadelphia Phillies veteran free agent Andrew McCutchen (0.8 WAR) deserves recognition as well.