To view an introduction and a complete listing of the American League representatives, click here:
Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt was underrated for a long time. Then he had a couple of monster fantasy seasons and people started to pay attention. But over the past couple seasons Arizona has been so unbelievably bad that Goldy has been out of the spotlight and is back to being underrated. 2016 wasn't his strongest year yet he still hit 24 homers and stele 32 bases. He's still arguably the best first baseman in the game and definitely has some prime offensive seasons left.
Atlanta Braves: Bartolo Colon! Just kidding (kind of). It's so tempting to pick Dansby Swanson, since he's so good and not yet well known, but the answer here has to be Freddie Freeman. While many are still waiting for that one monster season Freeman has quietly been one of the best first basemen in the league for several years now. In 2016 he hit .302 with a career high 34 homers. Only Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado finished with more WAR among NL players. He is at the center of the team's rebuilding plan.
Chicago Cubs: The Cubs are loaded with young studs and the best of them all is their 24-year-old reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant. In 2016 Bryant led all NL players in WAR while finishing third in home runs, fourth in slugging, fourth in OPS, first in runs, and third in total bases. Bryant showed his defensive versatility by appearing in the field at third, first, shortstop, and in the outfield. He has accumulated more WAR through his first two seasons than any position player in the history of baseball.
Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto had an under the radar monster second half in 2016. After hitting just .213 through May 31st Votto exploded for a .408 batting average after the All Star break and became the first player to hit over .400 there since Ichiro in 2004. He is in a similar situation to Goldschmidt in that he is so good but so unrecognized because the Reds suck. His 2010 MVP season feels like ages ago but he's still producing at a franchise player level for Cincinnati.
Colorado Rockies: It's mind boggling how Colorado hasn't figured out how to draft or acquire better starting pitching throughout the history of the franchise. However, they have always produced stud hitters from Todd Helton to Matt Holliday and now Nolan Arenado, who has won a gold glove in each of the four seasons he's been in the majors. Additionally he has led the National League in both homers and RBI in each of the past two seasons.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw. Enough said.
Miami Marlins: The only real option here is Giancarlo Stanton. He is one of the five most talented players in baseball but his inability to stay on the field has been a massive disappointment. In his last healthy season, 2014, Stanton led the NL with 37 homers and a .555 slugging percentage to finish second in the MVP voting. But he has appeared in at least 123 games just once since 2012. If he can stay healthy moving forward the sky is the limit for baseball's best power hitter.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun has come a long way since being one of baseball's biggest villains back in 2013. The guy used performance enchanting drugs, swore he didn't, got caught, and was able to get off on a technicality by blaming someone else. Yet that hasn't stopped him from producing. After bottoming out in an injury plagued 2013 Braun has improved each of the past three season and hit over .300 with 30 homers in 2016. With the Brewers not currently close to contending he may not be in Milwaukee much longer but for now he's the best they got.
New York Mets: Noah Syndergaard, thanks to his skills, hair, and social media presence, is one of baseball's most likable stars. He had a dominant year in 2016, which was capped off by an incredible performance in the NL Wild Card game where he matched zeroes with Madison Bumgarner through seven innings before running out of gas. Yoenis Cespedes received consideration of course but something about seeing Thor's hair on a backyard kid was too good to pass up.
Philadelphia Phillies: There is finally hope again in Philadelphia. Gone are Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins. After the 2008 championship Philly dealt prospect after prospect to try and win another. They had several years of success but ultimately weren't able to accomplish their goal and all the trades left them with a terrible farm system. They have slowly started to build it back up and at the forefront of the rebuilding plan is third baseman Maikel Franco. His 2016 numbers weren't as good as his rookie season in 2015 but he still hit 25 homers and is just 24 years old.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen currently has a strange relationship with the only franchise he's ever known. He had a down season in 2016 and posted career lows in batting average, OBP, and slugging. Worse of all his defense in center field collapsed so badly the Pirates want him to move to a corner outfield spot. This caused friction between the two sides and things got so bad Pittsburgh was aggressively trying to trade him to the Nationals back in December. Ultimately the Nats got Adam Eaton, which killed the Cutch trade. One down season isn't enough to give up on someone as talented as McCutchen. This time last year he was a top ten player in baseball.
San Diego Padres: The Padres are such a bad franchise. They're not even the exciting kind of bad. They're just irrelevant and have been for decades. A couple of seasons ago the team tried to go all in and acquired Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, James Shields, and Craig Kimbrel. The plan failed miserably and now the organization is back to rebuilding. The only good news is they have found their building block in first baseman Wil Myers. In 2016 Myers enjoyed a breakout season with 28 homers and became an all star. The club rewarded him this off-season with a six year, $83 million deal.
San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey is literally everything you would want in a franchise catcher. He hits for power, hits for average, is a great teammate, builds strong rapports with his pitchers, and is great defensively. It was tempting to take Madison Bumgarner but we couldn't leave baseball's best catcher off the list. At just 29 years old Posey already has three championship rings and an MVP award.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals are in a weird spot. Matt Holliday regressed and left via free agency this year, Adam Wainwright had a terrible 2016 by his standards, and Yadier Molina isn't the player he once was. After years of ruling the NL Central the Cardinals are realizing the defending champion Cubs aren't going anywhere for a long time. They're too young and good. Right now the Cardinals' best player and backyard baseball representative is Matt Carpenter. The infielder has played multiple positions over the last several years but his main contribution to the team has been offensively. He had another good year in 2016, hitting 20 homers for the second straight season.