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2021 Unsung Hero of the Year: Nominees and ballot

Here’s yer poll.

Hidden Feelings

I first had to filter out the suggestions that were nothing but “quick, thoughtless snark” and those from people who apparently hadn’t read the damn article (which, dammit, explicitly said, “no, you cannot nominate yourself for suffering through watching the on-field product”). Having done so, we are left with four candidates - though one of those is really a twofer - as well as the credible alternative of no award.

Nick Ahmed and David Peralta

Nominated by SpencerSpice: “For struggling themselves and yet still being the role models our next core need, knowing full well neither of them will actually be playing by then.” I figured they should be combined, but guess we can expand on this a bit. Both Slick Nick and the Freight Train are certainly in the twilight of their careers, being 31 and 34 respectively. But they still showed up - indeed, Peralta led the team in appearances this year - and did not disgrace themselves, being worth 0.7 and 1.1 bWAR respectively. Sure, not what we’d have hoped for, but the difference between being in the top 0.1% and 0.2% of all baseball players on the planet, is a thin line indeed.

Merrill Kelly

Nominated by James Atwood: “In a season where the Diamondbacks spent entire weeks starting poor TBD, Kelly found a way to still post for 27 starts and 158 innings. As bad as things were regarding the rotation, had Kelly suffered in the ways Gallen and others did, the team is looking for another 75 innings of starting pitching out of the same group that led to 110 losses.” Kelly had his best year to date, being worth 2.5 bWAR, easily excellent value for his $4.25 million salary. He led the team in starts and innings pitched, and had the lowest FIP of any pitcher with even a single appearance in the rotation. Yes, better even than the considerably more sung Zac Gallen.

Joe Mantiply

Nominated by Jack Sommers. “He appeared in 57 games, more than any D- back reliever, and had a 3.40 ERA and a 2.94 FIP. He inherited a whopping 50 baserunners and only allowed 10 to score, 20% rate. The rest of the bullpen inherited 160 baserunners, allowing 57 to score, for a 36% rate (league average = 35%). He wasn’t without his blemishes to be sure, getting off to a slow start to his season, but as the season went on he earned his manager’s trust.” As Preston Salisbury added, “After June 18 he was lights out.” Over his last 42 appearances covering 27.1 innings, he had a 2.63 ERA, and 2.26 FIP, with 26 strikeouts. He carries into 2022 a streak of 118 consecutive batters faced without allowing a homer.

Josh Rojas

Nominated by ChuckJohnson56. “He said in spring training that he knew he belonged in the majors and given the chance to play he would prove it and he did. 139 games, starts at five different positions, had at least one appearance at every spot in the batting order except 9th, led the team in PA’s, runs, doubles, stolen bases, walks (and to be fair, strikeouts) and had the highest OPS of anyone with more than 100 games played.” Considering the 27-year-old Rojas had only 227 career PA before Opening Day this year, and will still be earning league minimum next season, that’s not a bad return. Especially considering he was generally seen as the least of the four players received in the Zack Greinke trade.

No award

There is a case to be made that in a season like this, there were no heroes, unsung or otherwise. For only twice in the past fifty years has an NL team lost 110 times: both times were by Arizona, first in 2004 and now 2021. The team’s best position player by bWAR were Carson Kelly and Eduardo Escobar, each worth 2.1 bWAR for Arizona. 130 players were worth 2.2 bWAR or better in the majors this year. 59 pitchers were worth more than our best man, Kelly’s 2.5 bWAR. So, it’s likely little if any exaggeration to say there were no Diamondbacks’ worthy of inclusion in any list of the Top 100 MLB Players of 2021.

Poll is below - as usual, SnakePit members only - or here as appropriate:

Results on Monday, so vote early, vote ofte... Er, vote early. :)