2017 is quickly becoming the year of the position player pitching. Not even halfway through June, there have already been 18 pitching appearances by players who primarily occupy other defensive spots on the diamond. Last season featured only 26 such performances, while 2015 had 27.
There could be a few reasons for this: First, position player pitching appearances tend to happen most often early in the season. September roster expansion typically stocks bullpens with such depth that there's likely never a need to turn to a position player in a blowout. Additionally, two players -- Twins' catcher Chris Gimenez and Padres utility player Christian Bethancourt -- account for nine of the 18 appearances we've seen. No single position player pitched more than twice in either 2015 or 2016.
As of Wednesday, 10 different position players have taken to the mound in 2017. Let's rank them.
1. April 13: Michael Martinez (1 IP, 1 H, 0 R)
Down, 10-4, heading into the 9th inning, the Indians turned to utility man Michael Martinez to get the final three outs for them. Facing four batters, Martinez featured a low-80's fastball that kept hitters off balance with some pretty good arm-side run.
Though he didn't record any strikeouts, Martinez kept the ball in the zone and induced weak contact on his fastball. His performance serves as the archetype of position players pitching: don't get yourself in trouble and get to the finish line.
2. June 13: Carlos Ruiz (1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1K, 2 BB)
In his 12-year career, Ruiz has done a lot. He's caught a perfect game, multiple no-hitters and even won a World Series. One thing he hadn't done was pitch … until Tuesday night. Though he got into some trouble surrendering two walks and giving up a solo home run to Eddie Rosario, Chooch looked pretty good, as evidenced by the two-seamer that struck out Kennys Vargas.
3. April 18: Christian Bethancourt (1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2K, 2 BB. Season stats: 3.2 IP, 14.73 ERA, 2 SO: 8 BB)
Entering 2017, we learned that the Padres planned to use Bethancourt as a veritable swiss army knife, showing off his ability to catch, play both the infield and outfield and, yes, pitch.
Though he's only gotten four chances this season to show off that last skill, his appearance against the D-backs showed the reason the Padres saw a regular relief option. Though he walked two and gave up two runs, his high-90s fastball (like the one he employed to strike out Yasmany Tomas) makes Bethancourt's the most unique position player pitching performance.
4. May 6: Miguel Montero (1IP, 0 R, 2BB)
Though Montero had some problems with command during the Cubs' 11-6 loss to the Yankees -- issuing two walks and almost hitting Chris Carter -- he successfully completed a scoreless inning without allowing a hit.
His performance wasn't eyepopping, but it was reasonably effective thanks to some help from his position player brethren.
5. June 6: Chris Gimenez (1 IP, 0 R. Season stats: 4.0 IP, 9.00 ERA, 0 SO: 0 BB)
Gimenez has made five appearances in relief for the Twins this season, making him the most prolific pitcher among position players. His repertoire centers around a mid-70s fastball that is yet to produce a strikeout. What it does do is frequently find its way into the strike zone and lead to weak contact. In his June 6th appearance against the Mariners, that slow-moving fastball carried Gimenez to his finest performance of the season: a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
6. April 30: Kevin Plawecki (2 IP, 4H, 3 HR, 4 R)
Sometimes, when you're a position player pitching, your job boils down to taking the bruises so actual pitchers don't have to. That's where catcher Kevin Plawecki found himself in the Mets' 23-5 loss to the Nationals.
His first inning went well, working around some deep flyouts for a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
In the eighth, those deep fly balls went a little deeper. He gave up four straight hits, three of which cleared the fence.
7. May 19: Luis Sardinas (1 IP, 1H, 0 R)
The Padres have used three different position players as pitchers this year for a total of seven appearances. The second position player they called on was Luis Sardinas, who came into a 10-0 game and exited with the same score thanks to a mix of pitches, including a low-80s fastball and a low-70s curve.
8. June 8: Erick Aybar (1 IP, 0 R, 1 BB. Season stats: 1.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0 SO: 1 BB)
The third position player on the Padres pitching depth chart was Erick Aybar. He's one of three position players to make multiple pitching appearances in 2017, and his second trip to the mound in a 15-3 loss to the D-backs was his best.
His repertoire, notably, features a knuckleball:
He again used his knuckleball, or something like it, to work around a walk with a double play to complete a scoreless inning.
9. May 20: Mike Freeman (1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER)
The Mariners are the only team other than the Padres to put multiple position players into pitching duty in 2017. Before Ruiz, they turned to Mike Freeman who, thanks to a high-60's fastball, gave up three hits, a run and a bunch of deep fly ball outs in his one inning of work. Of the 10 fielders who have pitched this season, Freeman probably did the least to disguise himself as a pitcher. Sometimes luck breaks your way, though, and he worked around three hits to only surrender one run.
10. June 7: Andres Blanco (0.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER)
With two outs in the eighth inning of a 15-1 loss to the Braves, the Phillies turned to veteran utility infielder Andres Blanco to record just one out. After giving up a two-run home run to Matt Adams, he did just that, using a 70 mph fastball to induce a popup from Tyler Flowers.