Jose Altuve is living proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Despite being just 5’6” and 165 pounds, the Astros second baseman has become one of baseball’s biggest threats. His career-high .356 average leads the majors, and he’s already gone deep 20 times this season. That’s not bad for a guy who’s too small to get on some amusement park rides.
Altuve isn’t the only player who has outperformed his measurements. The big leagues are full of guys whose games and frames aren’t perfectly aligned. We’re talking about little guys who rake, big guys who run like gazelles, and pint-sized pitchers with cannons for arms. The tale of the tape may tell us one thing, but their performances on the field tell a totally different story.
We’ve rounded up the best of these athletic anomalies and set some props on their statistical production for the remainder of the season.
NB: all props pertain to the 2017 season unless otherwise indicated.
MOOKIE BETTS (RED SOX)
At just 5’9”, it’s easy to overlook Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts. However, there’s no overlooking his prodigious production at the plate. The Nashville native has belted 67 home runs over the past three seasons and finished top-ten in extra-base hits, slugging percentage, and OPS last year. Boston’s little slugger is a big reason why the Sox are currently first in the AL East and on their way to the postseason for the second time in three years.
Sitting at 77 RBIs through 126 games, Betts has an outside shot to reach triple digits for the second year in a row, but high 90s is more likely.
Over/Under Mookie Betts’ RBI total: 93.5
KHRIS DAVIS (ATHLETICS)
Pound for pound, Khris Davis may have the most pop of any player in the majors. The 5’10”, 195-pound left fielder went deep 42 times in 2016 and has already belted 36 in 2017, tied for second in the AL with Justin Smoak, just one behind the waning Aaron Judge. Khrush recently tied Ben Grieve’s franchise record for most homers by an A’s left fielder in a single season.
Over/Under Khris Davis’ home run total: 43.5
AARON JUDGE (YANKEES)
Try naming a 6’7”, 280-pound professional athlete who isn’t in the NBA or NFL. You can’t, can you? That’s because Aaron Judge is that rarest of breeds: a hulking five-tool player who can run, throw, field, hit, and hit for power. Guys who are that big should not be able to do this.
Sure, his strikeout totals may be the biggest thing about him these days, but you can’t ignore his world class athleticism. He’s still the one kid on the playground you’d pick first if you were choosing sides for anything from three-on-three basketball to dodgeball.
Considering he was the frontrunner for AL MVP at the All-Star break, Judge once held a massive lead in the AL Rookie of the Year race. His second half slump has allowed Boston’s Andrew Benintendi and Baltimore’s Trey Mancini to enter the conversation, but the lead Judge built up will prove insurmountable.
Odds Aaron Judge wins AL Rookie of the Year: 1/2
BRADLEY ZIMMER (INDIANS)
Someone ought to tell Bradley Zimmer that big guys are supposed to be lumbering giants. Despite being 6’5” and 220 pounds, the Cleveland center fielder leads all rookies in stolen bases and is the third-fastest player in the Major Leagues according to Baseball Savant’s Statcast Sprint Speed Leaderboard. His blazing speed has helped Cleveland achieve the second-lowest ERA in the majors and has turned more than a few sure-fire doubles into spectacular, gravity-defying outs.
Over/Under Bradley Zimmer’s steal total: 25.5
MARCUS STROMAN (BLUE JAYS)
Marcus Stroman may not cast a big shadow, but the 5’8”, 180-pound pitcher has been putting up huge numbers for the Blue Jays. The 26-year-old hurler ranks in the top 20 in the American League in strikeouts thanks to a sinker and four-seam fastball that regularly clock in at 94 mph. Even Stroman himself isn’t sure where his power comes from, but it’s made him one of the premier pitchers in the league.
Over/Under Marcus Stroman’s strikeout total: 170
DAVID ROBERTSON (YANKEES)
David Robertson isn’t as tall as C.C. Sabathia or Aroldis Chapman, but the 5’11” setup man is just as feared by opposing hitters. Robertson struck out 100 batters in 66.2 innings during his lone All-Star season in 2011, and is presently ringing up 13.5 batters per nine innings in his second stint in the Bronx. The Yankees aren’t a lock for the postseason just yet, but if they manage to squeak in, Robertson’s reliability will be a big reason why.
Over/Under David Robertson’s strikeout total: 91.5
WHITE GUYS WITH WHEELS
TREA TURNER (NATIONALS)
Upon first glance, Trea Turner doesn’t look like one of the fastest players in baseball. In fact, the goofy 24-year-old kind of resembles the kid who delivers your newspaper. And yet, despite his slender frame and (how shall we put this delicately) light pigmentation, Turner is currently third in the NL in stolen bases behind Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon. If he keeps it up, he could become the first American-born white player to win the NL stolen-base crown since Scott Podsednik accomplished the feat in 2004. Turner is currently mending an injured wrist with the Nats’ single-A affiliate in Potomac, but knowing him, he should be back to the Show very, very fast.
Over/Under Trea Turner’s steal total: 44.5
MIKE TROUT (ANGELS)
At 6’2″ and 230 pounds, Mike Trout looks like he should be running over linebackers rather than running down fly balls. One would think that all that weight would slow him down, but the opposite is true. Trout led the league in stolen bases during his rookie season in 2012 and tied for second last year with 30 swipes. The Millville Meteor has also put his blazing speed to good use in the outfield, where he’s made a habit of frustrating batters with rally-killing catches and over-the-fence snags.
He’s having his best statistical season in his already storied career and put himself back in the AL MVP race despite missing 40 games. But a recent five-game hitless streak coupled with Jose Altuve’s .356 average and 170 OPS+ keep his odds down.
Odds Mike Trout wins AL MVP: 5/2