The Irritant: Jose Caballero
We've written about the 26-year-old infielder extensively this season. From his penchant for swiping bags, professional at-bats against tough lefties, and his ability to spell Eugenio Suarez, J.P. Crawford, and Josh Rojas. Caballero made Mariners' history yesterday, joining a short list of rookies to steal over 20 bags in a season. Others on that list include Julio Rodriguez, James Jones, and the incomparable Ichiro Suzuki.
Those stats don't jump off the page, especially the slashline (.240/.371/.340), but he gets on base via the walk (28) and beanballs (16). Additionally, he's heating up again, which bodes well for the bottom of the Mariners' lineup. Over the past month, Caballero is hitting .286 and getting on base at a .381 clip. He's up to 2.3 bWAR, trailing only Rodriguez, Crawford, George Kirby, and Luis Castillo.
The best thing about Caballero is his ability to get under an opponent's skin. He's annoyed the Yankees' Gerrit Cole, Astros' Martin Maldonado and Framber Valdez, and ex-MLB manager Joe Maddon, and I'm here for it.
Great teams have these types of players on the roster. The Astros leveraged Jose Altuve's skillset as an on-base threat and an irritant to a sustained run through the American League West. Look deeper into history, and you target guys like Ricky Henderson, Willie McGee, and Mookie Wilson. Speed threats who could work an at-bat and get on base to spark a rally.