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In Some Depth: 2013 Surprises

Ryan Eisner

Ryan Eisner

Ryan has been writing for Rotowire since 2007. He currently writes about baseball and covers the White Sox.

Well we finally made it to the season's final week. Rather than discuss the various outfield platoons or which former minor league players will steal at-bats in the middle infield, the final version of In Some Depth will instead recognize the players who emerged from the depths of the league's depth charts to become meaningful contributors in 2013. They did not begin the year as their teams' starter at their respective positions, but they took advantage of others' injuries, trades, and ineptitude to rise in the cheat sheets.

Without any further ado...

C: Evan Gattis

Evan Gattis earns the nod here based on his surprising April performance when Brian McCann was on the disabled list. He has only hit .222 as a left fielder/catcher since McCann resumed the top catcher job May 6, but he still slugged .440 since that date. He is also one of just six catcher-eligible players to hit 20 home runs on the season. He has only played 11 games at catcher since he returned from the DL just before the All-Star break, but he should be in their battery picture for 2014 assuming McCann seeks more lucrative pastures in free agency.

Others: Yan Gomes, Dioner Navarro

1B: Adam Dunn

There was not much turnover within the upper ranks of this year's first base class, so instead I will spend a few minutes recognizing a man who almost played more first base in 2013 than he did in the past two seasons combined. Paul Konerko's age and injury forced the White Sox to play Adam Dunn at first for 71 games this season after he entered the year with 86 appearances there since joining the club prior to the 2011 campaign. Dunn's bat cooled a bit of late, and he only hit eight home runs after the All-Star break, but his batting average “rebounded” to .218 after hitting .184 over the past two years. Dunn could continue to see increased action at first in 2014 if Konerko decides to retire.

Others: Josh Satin, Matt Adams

2B: Scooter Gennett

The Brewers first recalled Scooter Gennett in June to platoon with the then-struggling Rickie Weeks, and he quickly earned a demotion back to Triple-A Nashville after he was unable to hit any better than the Brewers' one-time All-Star second baseman. Gennett put up a different level of production once the team asked him to serve as their regular man at second after Weeks went down with an injury in late July. He has slashed a venerable .354/.389/.537 over 147 at-bats since taking over on July 30. A bit of good luck boosted those numbers (see a .412 BABIP over that stretch), but his performance has to leave the Brewers wondering if Weeks can/should play a different defensive position in 2014.

Others: Anthony Rendon, D.J. LeMahieu

3B: Chris Johnson

Given the season Chris Johnson has had, it is easy to forget he spent a good chunk of April and May in a lefty-righty platoon with the Juan Francisco. In fact, Johnson did not start more than five consecutive games at third until the Braves designated Francisco for assignment at the end of May (and subsequently traded him to the Brewers). Johnson enters the season's final week ranked No. 2 in batting average in the NL, and his defense at third has been a bit better than what he previously exhibited in Houston and Arizona. It is worth noting that 119 of his 163 hits have been singles, and it would be unrealistic to expect any sort of power boost as he heads into 2014 as the team's regular third baseman.

Others: Nolan Arenado, Jose Iglesias

SS: Jonathan Villar

The Astros have shuffled through various shortstops this season, entrusting the position at one point to Marwin Gonzalez, Ronny Cedeno, and Jake Elmore. They may have finally hit the mark with Jonathan Villar, who was part of the package the Astros received for Roy Oswalt back in 2010. Villar has struck out 62 times in 52 games, but he has still managed to get on base at a .345 clip. Getting on base at a respectable level has allowed Villar to unleash his prodigious speed, with 17 steals in 25 attempts since he joined the club in late July. To put that in perspective, Villar will play fewer than 60 games this season, but he enters the season's final week with more stolen bases than Jose Reyes or Hanley Ramirez. The numbers could be even more impressive if he can hold onto the job for all of 2014.

Others: Jose Iglesias, Brad Miller

OF: Yasiel Puig, Wil Myers, Kole Calhoun

We may have lacked Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in this year's rookie outfield class, but Yasiel Puig and Wil Myers have been a pretty good in their own right. Many have jumped on Puig for various behavior issues since his shocking June recall, but his value in fantasy has been without equal since it looked like a crowded Dodgers outfield would delay his MLB debut. He has fallen back to earth a bit since the All-Star break, but he has maintained an OBP near .400 for the duration of his stay in the majors, and he still has a .493 slugging over his last 60 games. He probably won't reach Puig-mania levels in 2014, but he will still be one of the first outfielders off the board.

Myers was probably the AL's most valuable offensive rookie despite not making his debut until mid-June. His .480 slugging percentage leads all AL rookies, and his .832 OPS is 70 points better than the next-closest rookie (Jose Iglesias). Add in his stats from Triple-A Durham, and Myers has hit 27 home runs and 32 doubles in his age-22 season while getting on base in more than 35 percent of his plate appearances. The Rays' right field job should have his name on it for at least the next half-decade.

Kole Calhoun has not drawn the publicity of Myers and Puig, but he has quietly put up a solid 200-ish plate appearances since entering the Angels' outfield in late July. He arrived as Mark Trumbo shifted to the infield for Albert Pujols, and Calhoun has earned a more-secure chunk of playing time in the outfield as others have been injured. He has shown an impressive batting eye (37:18 K:BB) and posited an .830 OPS as the Angels' everyday right fielder. Calhoun had a career .943 OPS over four minor league seasons (albeit as a college draftee in inflated offensive environments), so it would be interesting to see what he can do over a full major league season if he can carve out a spot in the Angels' 2014 outfield.

Others: Christian Yelich, Daniel Nava, Nate Schierholtz