The 2021 MLB season has been the year of emerging stars.
With so much young talent taking over the game, it’s hard not to be excited about the direction of the sport.
But any time you have a plethora of stars, some talent is bound to get swallowed up and lost in the mix.
Two players in particular seem to fit that description this season.
Who are they?
2. Jesse Winker – Cincinnati Reds
Jesse Winker is finally starting to get some respect this season, but he’s still underrated on the whole.
Winker’s 2021 campaign has been nothing short of phenomenal so far.
He entered play Monday batting .341 with a 1.023 OPS.
Winker has launched 17 home runs and has already had two three-homer games.
That’s a feat that most players never accomplish, let alone doing it twice in a single season.
JESSE WINKER HAS DONE IT AGAIN!! HIS SECOND THREE HOMER GAME IN LESS THAN THREE WEEKS!! NINE HOME RUNS IN HIS LAST 14 GAMES!! pic.twitter.com/L1ruKH9emc
— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) June 6, 2021
As good as Winker has been overall, he has been even more electric against right-handed pitching.
The 27-year-old is batting .362 with a 1.108 OPS against righties on the year.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that Winker has been an elite offensive player for years now, but no one has ever dared say so.
He broke into the league in 2017 and has managed an OPS north of .800 in all of his MLB seasons.
He’s a career .295 hitter with an .895 OPS.
It’s bizarre that Winker has never been named an All-Star, but that will change this year.
It’s time we put some respect on his name.
1. Matt Olson – Oakland Athletics
While Winker has been marginally better than Matt Olson to this point, Olson is far more under-appreciated.
The 27-year-old Olson entered play Monday with a .305 batting average, a .998 OPS, and a 178 OPS+.
Most of Olson’s career accolades have come on the other side of the ball, as he is a two-time Gold Glover, but if you look back at some of his past offensive seasons, he has had some impressive campaigns.
Take the 2019 season, for example.
That year, Olson slashed .267/.351/.545 with 36 home runs and a 5.0 WAR.
He received at least one MVP vote, finishing 21st in the race.
Olson has actually posted an above-average OPS+ in every season of his MLB career.
Let’s dive a little deeper into his 2021 campaign thus far.
Olson has a 178 OPS+, which means he has been 78 percent better than the average player in the context of that statistic.
He has already left the yard 20 times in 67 games.
That puts him on pace for 48 homers this season, a number that would blow his previous career high of 36 out of the water.
He also has a very solid 2.8 WAR, putting him on pace for a 6.8 mark by the end of the year.
And as impressive as Olson has been all season long, he has been even better of late.
Since May 31, the underrated star is batting .435 with a 1.293 OPS.
That’s an 18-game sample size.
If you shrink the span down to his eight most recent games, he is batting .500 with a 1.471 OPS and five home runs.
Those are some unfathomable numbers.
Olson is almost certainly on his way to his first All-Star selection, so perhaps that will serve as the first step in getting him the recognition he deserves.
ICYMI: Matt Chapman had some really nice things to say about how underrated Matt Olson has been.
— Joe Hughes (@VegasJoeHughes) June 13, 2021
His Oakland Athletics look playoff-bound, so fans will likely get a chance to see Olson on the big stage this October.