MLB Team of the Week: Prince Fielder, Mike Napoli and Max Scherzer Star
We've blazed through another week of baseball action, and we're knocking on the door of June, which means it's time for a fresh installment of Bleacher Report's MLB Team of the Week.
In case you're new to the party: These are 10 guys (one per position, including a designated hitter and starting pitcher) who put up gaudy stats between May 22 and May 28.
To qualify, a player needs at least two starts at the position in question, or one start in the case of pitchers.
And while we're grading mostly on individual output, bonus points are awarded if big numbers in the box score translated to notches in the win column.
Catcher: Brian McCann, New York Yankees
Brian McCann hit safely in every game he played this week and secured a Team of the Week spot with a strong 3-for-4 performance that was ultimately wasted in a 5-4 loss to the Oakland A's Thursday night.
Overall, the Yankees backstop launched three home runs and collected nine RBI in five games, helping New York regain a tenuous hold on the top spot in the American League East.
Stephen Vogt (OAK): Stephen Vogt continued his run as the season's most surprising breakout player, going 8-for-21 with a triple and a home run.
1st Base: Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox
Mike Napoli entered the week hitting a paltry .178, meaning he almost literally had nowhere to go but up.
And up he went. The Red Sox first baseman banged out nine hits in 23 at-bats—and four of them left the yard.
In the process, Napoli raised his batting average more than 30 points and upped his RBI total from 13 to 22.
The Red Sox, who went 3-4 over that stretch and are languishing in fourth place in the American League East, would certainly welcome a protracted hot streak from the 33-year-old former All-Star.
Brandon Belt (SF): The defending champion San Francisco Giants extended their recent run of success with another winning week, and so did Brandon Belt, who went 10-for-33 with five doubles and three home runs.
2nd Base: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
Given their losing week and position in the standings, it may seem odd that a second Boston Red Sox player makes the cut.
But Pedroia earned it, going 13-for-29 with two home runs and six RBI.
Both of his dingers came in a 6-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday. After the game, the former AL MVP offered the following assessment, per MLB.com's Ian Browne: "I'm upset about the way we're playing, but if you look at the big picture, we're right there. Everybody can say whatever they want about our team, but we're one click away from being a championship-caliber team."
Jason Kipnis (CLE): Jason Kipnis could have easily made his third consecutive Team of the Week after going 13-for-29 with four doubles, a triple and a home run.
3rd Base: Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
Nolan Arenado is best known for his glove and his willingness to risk life and limb to make outs.
Both traits were on display Monday in Cincinnati, in a play we'll let MLB.com's Thomas Harding describe:
In the bottom of the eighth with the Rockies and Reds tied at 4 at Great American Ball Park, Arenado raced to foul ground and flipped over the wall to grab Skip Schumaker's popup. As Arenado tumbled to the feet of the fans in the front row, his Adam's apple scraped on the concrete wall behind the padding.
Suffice it to say, you won't read many baseball-related sentences (or sentences in general) that reference scraped Adam's apples.
Let's not lose sight of Arenado's bat, though. With the obligatory caveat that four of his seven games were played in the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field, the Rockies third baseman went 10-for-27 with three home runs and 11 RBI as Colorado interrupted its abysmal last-place season to go 4-3.
Josh Donaldson (TOR): Half of Josh Donaldson's eight hits this week sailed over the fence, though the Toronto Blue Jays managed just a 3-3 record.
Shortstop: Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
Elvis Andrus went 9-for-26 with a home run and six RBI, and he logged a milestone moment, collecting his 1,000th hit Monday.
How to respond to that significant achievement?
"I'm going to get a lot more than that," Andrus said, per Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News.
For those keeping score at home, that's the correct answer.
Nick Ahmed (ARI): Rookie Nick Ahmed led all shortstops with a .987 OPS for the week, smacking a double, a triple and two home runs for the D-backs.
Left Field: Norichika Aoki, San Francisco Giants
Sitting atop San Francisco's lineup, Norichika Aoki led all left fielders with 14 hits this week, adding a double, a home run and three RBI to boot.
Last year, Aoki watched the Giants celebrate their third World Series win in five years as a member of the Kansas City Royals.
After inking a ridiculously reasonable one-year, $4.7 million deal, Aoki is doing his part to bring a fourth Commissioner's Trophy to the City by the Bay.
Justin Upton (SD): Justin Upton continued his bid to be the winter's highest-paid free agent, going 10-for-26 with a double, a home run and eight RBI.
Center Field: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
All season long, Pittsburgh Pirates fans have been waiting for the real Andrew McCutchen to stand up.
This week, he finally stirred in his seat.
Shaking an uncharacteristically prolonged slump, McCutchen went 12-for-26 with five doubles and a pair of home runs. Along the way, he raised his batting average from .238 to .272 and his OPS from .732 to .837.
That may not be where the former NL MVP and four-time All-Star hopes to end up, but it's a step in the right direction.
Joc Pederson (LAD): Power-hitting phenom Joc Pederson padded his NL Rookie of the Year resume (you hear that, Kris Bryant?) with 10 hits in 24 at-bats, including two home runs.
Right Field: Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants
Four of Hunter Pence's nine hits this week went for extra bases (two doubles, a triple and a home run), and he collected eight RBI and stole a base for good measure.
Most essentially, though, Pence lit a fire under the Giants, who went 6-2 this week and have gone 11-2 overall since Pence returned from a fractured forearm suffered at the outset of spring training.
"I think everybody's happy to see him back in the lineup," Giants pitcher Tim Hudson said, per Matt Kawahara of the Sacramento Bee. "He's our mascot. He's a guy that makes things work for us and keeps our mojo going in the dugout."
Bryce Harper (WAS): No, "on pace" doesn't mean a whole lot in late May. But with three more home runs this week, Bryce Harper is on pace to club a Roger Maris-besting 62 on the season.
Designated Hitter: Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers
If they handed out Comeback Player of the Year honors in May, Prince Fielder would be making room in his trophy case.
The Texas Rangers slugger gilded his remarkable bounce-back season with a scalding week, going 15-for-32 with three doubles, five home runs and 15 RBI.
The Rangers went 5-2 during that stretch and crept within striking distance of .500.
Mitch Moreland, who's been playing first base for the Rangers while Fielder serves as the designated hitter, succinctly summed up his teammate's contributions, per Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News: "[He's] putting us on his back and carrying us."
Alex Rodriguez (NYY): If it weren't for Fielder's monster week, this slot would clearly belong to Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod went 11-for-25 with a home run, but most notably, his five RBI moved him into a tie with Barry Bonds on the all-time list.
Pitcher: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
As I recently noted, Max Scherzer could join some elite company this season if he wins the NL Cy Young Award, as he'd become just the sixth player in history to claim the prize in both leagues.
The Washington Nationals ace bolstered his case this week, twirling 15 innings of one-run ball with 19 strikeouts and two walks.
"Numbers are gonna take care of themselves," Scherzer said after tossing seven shutout frames against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday night, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. "I'm not worried about good numbers or bad numbers. You worry about the process."
Felix Hernandez (SEA): King Felix looked as regal as ever this week, allowing one run in 16 innings with 16 strikeouts and three walks.
All statistics current as of May 28 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.