MLB’s 162-game regular season is long. It’s not unusual for it to take a toll on guys. Sometimes that toll manifests itself in the form of an injury that forces a player to go on the DL. Sometimes he just needs a day or two off to rest and avoid getting to a point where he may become injured.
Whether they are tired or hurt, the fact is that it is not unusual for even the most important superstar to miss a few games. But the season must continue, so the team takes a guy off the bench to fill in where needed.
They are called ‘utility players’ because they are often guys who are capable of playing multiple positions. Rosters are not big enough to carry backups for every position, so the reserves often need to be a jack of all trades that can play wherever the team needs him.
A championship needs star players taking the field every day, but it also needs guys who can play like stars on an as-needed basis; they need super-subs.
They need these guys:
- Marwin Gonzalez, Houston Astros
He was an integral part of last season’s World Series run with new career highs in just about every significant category (.303 batting average with 23 home runs and a .907 OPS). This season, his numbers are not as inflated, but his value remains. The Astros have had several key players lost time to injury. Gonzalez has been able to step in and fill the void logging time everywhere but catcher and pitcher this year.
- Enrique Hernandez, Los Angelas Dodgers
Dodgers fans love Hernandez because of the three home runs he hit in Game Five of the 2017 NLCS. His offensive numbers are not great (.236 batting average with 19 home runs and a .771 OPS) this season. But he has still proven to hold tremendous value for the Dodgers. So far, he has logged around 140 innings at shortstop, center field, and second base while also seeing some time at first and third as well as left and right field.
- Brock Holt, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox rely on their star power to do what they do. But it’s been guys like Holt that have kept the team from falling off the tracks. He had a decent first half of the season (.289 batting average). But his numbers have fallen off in the second (currently hitting .264 batting average). But the team has been able to plug and play him in the outfield, second base, and third. He’s come up especially big when used as a defensive sub (.429 BA with an OPS of 1.186; 15 appearances).
- Charlie Culberson, Atlanta Braves
His time this season has been split almost evenly. He’s had around 30 appearances each in the infield, outfield, and as a pinch hitter/runner. He’s hit two pinch-hit, game-ending home runs this season (first players in team history to do so). His play has been so valuable that Freddie Freeman refers to him as the MVP of the team.
- Ian Happ, Chicago Cubs
One of his teammates, Ben Zobrist, is one of the best-known utility players in recent history. But if he doesn’t work his way into an everyday role, Happ could soon enter a similar realm. The youngster has seen time at second and third base as well as the outfield. When called upon to pinch hit, he’s done extremely well (.368 average and 1.237 OPS in 24 appearances).