Welcome the annual Major League Baseball All-Fun Team. Here in this space, I'll build a team out of the players I'm having the most fun watching this season.
One might wonder how I define "fun" and, well, I kind of don't. It's totally subjective and based solely on the eye test. For me, almost anything can be fun. In the past, there would be room for any type from hitter from Dave Kingman to Tony Gwynn. We could have a Prince Fielder and a Terrance Gore. On the pitching side, it could be anywhere from a Pedro Martinez to an R.A. Dickey.
Given that it is subjective, let's keep in mind this is just me. If you want to complain about how terrible this is, it is "Matt Snyder" and not CBS Sports. Don't lump in my teammates with my bad plays. Also, make your own list. There's no reason to yell about how bad something is when you can simply make your own.
Catcher - Adley Rutschman, Orioles
There's something inherently fun about watching a future star blossom into a current star and he's already gone through the transformation. He walks more than he strikes out, has all-fields, extra-base power and is a switch hitter.
First base - Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
It would be a relative shame if the 2021 season to which Vlad Jr. treated us ends up as his career year, but he remains immensely fun to watch at the plate. That swing is just so violent and it's a thing of beauty when he fully connects.
Second base - Luis Arraez, Marlins
Allow me to vent for a quick second. There's a segment of baseball fandom bouncing around on social media that chooses to use Arraez as a vehicle to impugn every other current player. It goes something like:
An assembly line of launch angle-obsessed hitters swing for the fences every time and Luis Arraez is out there showing them all you have to do is make an adjustment.
The ignorant insinuation in there is that any player could be flirting with .400 right now if only he cut down on his swing and tried to hit the ball where the defenders aren't. The players are just too stupid to do anything but try to hit home runs.
The problem with this argument is it does a total disservice to the bat-on-ball talent that Arraez has. The reason players like Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs were special wasn't only due to approach. It was their generational talent with the bat combined with approach. If you're trying to say someone like Javier Báez could have the season Arraez is having right now if he'd just change his approach, that's just as ignorant as you think players who swing for the fences are. It's like saying Shaq could've been a 90% free throw shooter if he just tried harder or something. Different players have different skill sets and no one else could do what Arraez is doing this season.
There's a way to appreciate a player without kicking and screaming about how much everyone else is bad.
Arraez is truly special with his handling of the bat and it's offensive to the season he's having to suggest that other players could do it if they just approached at-bats differently. If you can't watch him and enjoy it instead of getting worked up, I can't really help you.
Third base: Elly De La Cruz, Reds
Yes, he's been promoted to the front of the class already. Have you watched him play and witnessed the array of physical tools? It's unreal!
Remember, I'm not crowning him a Hall of Famer or even All-Star. He's not even the Rookie of the Year (not even close, in fact). This is simply a list of who I'm having the most fun watching this season. It could be at least partially that he's a shiny new toy, but that's fine. He's the MVP of this list right now.
Backup: Gunnar Henderson, Orioles
Shortstop - Wander Franco, Rays
We're really starting to see it all come together this season and he's only 22 years old. The power, the speed, the superb defense ... he even flipped a ball to himself to spice up a routine grounder. It could be said for so many players on here, or any of them, really, but I felt like saying it on Wander: It's just a pleasure to witness his work.
Backup: Matt McLain, Reds
Outfield - Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves; Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks; Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
There is zero reason that Acuña should be left off anyone's list. Even if you hate the Braves more than any other team in the history of sports, you can step outside that and appreciate the individual season he's having in every aspect of baseball.
Carroll is only 5-foot-10 and has 16 homers with a .581 slugging percentage. He also has 19 stolen bases and three triples. He's hitting around .300 and only had 32 games of MLB experience heading into the season. He's just such an exceptional talent. Find a video clip of him running the bases (where he goes at least three) sometime and then realize he's also a prodigious power hitter. It's jaw-dropping.
On Tatis, venom will follow him the rest of his career thanks to the PED suspension. For some people, they just can't put that aside when watching him play and that's perfectly acceptable. I don't expect everyone to agree. For me, I can put it aside and just watch the play. And it's glorious. Things have been clicking with him the last several weeks like it's 2019-21, which means he's one of the most talented players on the planet just doing his thing. He's really taking to right field, too.
Also considered: Luis Robert, White Sox; Adolis García, Rangers; Randy Arozarena, Rays; Mike Trout, Angels; Julio Rodríguez, Mariners; Brent Rooker, A's; Jazz Chisholm, Marlins; Jorge Soler, Marlins; Kyle Schwarber, Phillies
Designated hitter - Yordan Alvarez, Astros
Violent swing from a giant left-handed hitter? C'mon. I'm totally a sucker for that. He might be the most fearful hitter in baseball for opposing pitchers when he's going right and you know that wins me over.
Backup: Bryce Harper, Phillies
Special Entry: Shohei Ohtani, Angels
Easiest pick on the board. If you don't love watching him ply his two-way trade, you just don't love baseball.
Starting pitchers - Spencer Strider, Braves; Marcus Stroman, Cubs; Framber Valdez, Astros; Max Scherzer, Mets
Though I don't often mention it, I've also never really tried to hide my underlying disdain for pitchers. I must've been scarred along the way somewhere, but that's an issue for another time.
I do greatly appreciate nasty stuff from pitchers in the moment, but in general as I scrolled through rosters, very few pitchers jumped out at me for who I've enjoyed watching all season.
Strider, though, is a really fun one. He's mostly just two pitches -- which should be the arsenal of a reliever -- and strikes out opponents at a higher rate than anyone. It really is beautiful to see him carve up opponents when he's on.
Stroman brings a swagger to the mound usually reserved for position players and I appreciate that in addition to his diminutive frame (as a fellow short guy, I'll let this override my general distaste for his position). He's having a career year to this point and, yeah, playing for my favorite team doesn't hurt anything.
On Valdez, I'm not sure I can explain it beyond him being left-handed (in addition to short, I'm also a southpaw). Of course, there are tons of other lefties. I've just really enjoyed watching him pitch the last several postseasons and have found myself unable to turn away from his starts this season, as much as it pains me to say that about any pitcher. I like his pacing and mannerisms, maybe? I don't know. Like I said, I can't really explain it, but sometimes we don't have to on a list like this.
As for Scherzer, I have long had "Mad Max" on here and I'll just leave him here until he retires. When he's got all the intensity and his pitches firing, it's a thing of beauty.
Relief pitchers: The Orioles' back-end duo
I can totally envision the Orioles making a deep playoff run this October similar to the Phillies' run last year. If anything like that happens, we'll be rallying around Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista burying opponents with relative ease in the late innings in front of a rocking crowd in Camden. They've been so brilliant this year and, as a major bonus, Bautista comes out to the best closer "music" ever.
Backup: Alexis Díaz, Reds
Permanent entry: Liam Hendriks, White Sox. Hendriks has long been one of the best and kindest interviewees in the clubhouse and it's been nice to watch him battle back to the field from cancer. He was already a and now he's not ever going anywhere.