Todd Helton

A magician with a baseball bat and a career batting average of .324, Todd Helton is considered one of baseball's truly elite hitters. He ranks seventh all time in career average amongst players from baseball's "modern era." The 15-year-veteran Colorado first baseman has long been known for his versatility at the plate to deliver in every situation, whether hitting the long ball or moving a runner over with surgeon-like precision. Helton is a five-time All Star, four-time Sliver Slugger and three-time Gold Glove winner who reached a pinnacle in 2000 when he captured the batting title with a .372 average (while also leading the league in RBI). His elite-athletic status is underscored by the fact that he was a two-sport athlete and Quarterback for the University of Tennessee, prior to his professional baseball career.

A humble and reluctantly self-professed single-digit handicapper, Helton impressed his friends from Mizuno Golf in Arizona, showing that while he's a magician with a bat, he's not too shabby with a 6-iron either.

Juan Pierre

There are those special big league players that just keep proving the critics wrong. Despite consistently producing year-after-year, they find themselves shopped to new teams and are forced to prove their value time and time again. Juan Pierre has made a career out of proving people wrong, and one look at this elite speedster's career stats would leave most fans scratching their heads in confusion. You can begin to understand Pierre's consistency with the fact that he has the most stolen bases amongst active big league players with 500. You can also point to his career average at just under .300. In fact, after being shipped from Los Angeles to Chicago in 2010, Pierre went on to have a banner year, leading the league with 68 stolen bases, scoring just under 100 runs (98) and registering 179 hits in a critical leadoff spot in Chicago's batting order. This marked the third season that Pierre had led the league in steals. Suffice to say, that after 11 seasons with five different teams, Juan Pierre has proven that he is one of the best leadoff hitters and sure-fire gloves in the past decade.

Chris Sale

 

Chris Sale enters his first full professional season in 2011 as one of the league's most promising young pitchers. Sale was the first 2010 draft pick to reach the big leagues, debuting in August, 2010 and surprising most experts who'd felt that the young prospect wouldn't be a factor until the following season. Instead, Chicago used Sale in a relief-pitching role over the final two months of the season, including the team's critical playoff run. His performance over this stretch was nothing short of impressive, racking up 32 strikeouts in only 23.1 innings of work, with a 2-1 record, 4 saves and an impressive 1.93 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. Opposing hitters struggled with the hard-throwing 6'4" lefty hitting a mere .185 against him. Despite his initial success as a reliever, most pundits believe Sale's biggest impact in the big-leagues will be realized as a starter in Chicago's rotation as early as some point within the 2011 season.

Jeremy Affeldt

 

The word “character” gets thrown around a lot, but it’s best defined when truly personified by individuals who display it. San Francisco set-up man Jeremy Affeldt is an individual that defines character through his actions. Along with bringing heat with his mid-90s fastball, Affeldt brings the game a lot of heart. In addition to earning a reputation as one of the more reliable set up men in the game, and an important part of San Francisco’s World Champion success in 2010, Affeldt has been one of the leagues’ most devoted players in terms of charitable activities. The 9-year veteran has lent himself to a number of causes along the way, most notably Not For Sale, a non-profit organization devoted to the cause against anti-child-slavery in Thailand, and Generation Alive, an organization devoted to exposing situations of social injustice and oppression around the globe. His efforts have been recognized in a variety of ways including being recognized as San Francisco’s nominee for the 2010 Roberto Clemente Award.

Carlos Quentin

 

Much like the JPX-800 irons, power is the name of the game for Chicago outfielder Carlos Quentin. Since his first full season and breakout campaign in 2008 when he registered 35 HRs and 100 RBI, Quentin has carved his niche' as one of Chicago's most-consistent power hitters. Truly a fan favorite for his slugging prowess and his affable and laid-back demeanor, Quentin has earned nicknames "TCQ" (THE Carlos Quentin) and "Q-perman" which is carried out in-stadium through Superman-like imagery of Quentin brandishing a "Q" on his chest like the classic American superhero. An All-Star in 2008, the strapping 6'2", 230 lb slugger truly embodies the "Q-perman" moniker.

Bobby Wilson

 

After seeing limited action during brief stints in the big leagues in 2008 and 2009, young catcher Bobby Wilson saw the most-extensive action of his career in 2010, appearing in 59 games for Anaheim. Known for his solid defense and natural instincts in handling pitchers and managing games, Wilson provides a level of security for Anaheim as he enters 2010 as the team's back up to starting catcher Jeff Mathis.

While it may come as a surprise to some, Wilson credits golf as a unique platform for he and his teammates to develop a deeper sense of camaraderie and establishing the personal bonds that are critical to being a Championship team.

Jeff Mathis

 

Not many people can say they've been able to slay a dragon. But in 2009, Jeff Mathis did just that with his heroic 11th inning walk-off RBI double that defeated mighty New York in one of the most dramatic playoff victories in baseball's last decade. The moment was made even more significant by its "David vs Goliath" nature, as the humble back-up catcher with only sporadic big-league experience instantly attains hero status by defeating baseball's most consistently dominant franchise. Entering 2011, Mathis begins the season for the first time since turning pro in 2005 as Anaheim's starting catcher. He's one of the league's most defensively skilled catchers (lifetime fielding percentage of .985), well-known for his ability to handle starting pitchers and is consistently ranked amongst baseball's best in terms of pitchers' ERA during games in which he's behind the plate.

Zach Duke

 

As far as baseball pitchers are concerned, the aces and closers tend to get the attention, while the unsung heroes tend to be the workhorses who churn out innings by the dozen over the course of each season. Arizona’s Zach Duke is a workhorse. Since his impressive rookie season where he was the first Pittsburgh rookie to win his first five starts, including a dazzling 9-strikeout performance in his big league debut, Duke’s workhorse status has been well earned over his six years in the big leagues.  Duke has averaged just north of 6-innings-per-start over the course of his career, and was among the league leaders in innings pitched and starts in each of the 2006 and 2009 seasons. Duke’s impressive performance in 2009 earned him his lone All Star selection.

Chad Billingsley

 

After bouncing from a starting role to the bullpen over the course of his first two big-league seasons in 2006 & 2007, Chad Billingsley elevated his status to that of baseball’s elite starting pitchers in 2008. That year saw Billingsley put forth a dominant 16-win season in which he eclipsed the 200-strikeout plateau.  Over the past three seasons (2008-10) Billingsley has solidified his status as an elite fire-baller averaging more than 180 Ks and just north of 13 wins, while solidifying a 3.55 lifetime ERA and an opponent batting average of .248. An All Star in 2009, Billingsley is a member of a strong starting rotation in Los Angeles that’s expected to anchor the team throughout the 2011 season.

Jonathan Broxton

 

There aren’t many big-league pitchers more intimidating on the mound than 6’4”, 300 lb Los Angeles closer Jonathan Broxton. As is the case with many closers, the equation is simple with Broxton. Hitters know he’s going to come at them with nothing but straight heat. The only question is whether or not they can handle it.  After two seasons as one of the league’s most-effective set up men, Broxton earned the role of closer in Los Angeles midway through 2008. In only 69 innings of work, Broxton registered 14 saves and 88 strikeouts, following up the next season (his first full-season as the team’s closer) in 2009 with an All Star season in which he amassed 36 saves, striking out 114 hitters in only 76 innings.  Broxton enters 2011, his third year as Los Angeles’ full-time closer looking to build on his impressive career numbers of 77 saves, 493 strikeouts over 379 innings and a 3.11 ERA.