The Boston Red Sox are 81 games into their 162-game season and have exceeded everyone's expectations.
After Wednesday's win over the Kansas City Royals, they own an American League-best 50-31 record and sit three games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. Their +48 run differential ranks eighth in MLB.
So, who deserves recognition for helping the Red Sox defy the odds? Who will look to turn things around after a rough first half?
Here are the players who have seen their stocks rise and fall 81 games in.
Christian Arroyo, INF
The man hit a go-ahead grand slam and celebrated with a Euro step, and that was far from his only clutch moment. There are many candidates for "most clutch" on this Red Sox team since they lead MLB with a whopping 27 comeback wins, but Arroyo stands out above the rest.
Arroyo is slashing .264/.324/.432 with four homers and 19 RBI in 41 games. The 26-year-old has also contributed defensively with a good glove at second base. A pleasant surprise for sure, especially considering he was DFA'd by Boston last August.
J.D. Martinez, DH
Martinez's 2020 season was out of character. During the shortened campaign, the Red Sox slugger hit just .213 with seven homers and 27 RBI. He readily admitted he just wasn't ready for the season.
So far this year, Martinez has returned to form. He's slashing .302/.368/.550 with 16 homers and 54 RBI in 75 games.
Did anyone really think Martinez wouldn't bounce back? If so, shame!
Garrett Whitlock, RHP
Not only have the Yankees been unable to beat the Red Sox this season, but they've also had to watch Garrett Whitlock be one of the most reliable arms in Boston's bullpen after losing him in the Rule 5 draft. The 25-year-old righty has allowed only six runs in 38 innings (1.42 ERA) while posting a 1.16 WHIP. Talk about a diamond in the rough.
Hunter Renfroe, RF
Renfroe was ice cold to begin his first season in Boston but if you take out his rough April, he's been one of the Red Sox' best all-around players. He's the only MLB outfielder with more than 10 home runs and 10 assists.
Renfroe is slashing .272/.327/.480 with 12 homers and 43 RBI while arguably being the best defensive right fielder in baseball. He's been a human highlight reel all season with spectacular catches mixed with incredible outfield assists. Red Sox manager Alex Cora even went as far as to call Renfroe the best defensive right fielder in MLB, and he may have a point.
Renfroe is looking to earn the first Gold Glove award of his career, and he's certainly on the right track.
Good work, Chaim Bloom.
Rafael Devers, 3B
Barring a surprise, Devers is set to play and start in his first All-Star Game. It's a well-deserved honor for the 24-year-old, who leads the Red Sox in homers (19) and RBI (64). He also taken significant strides defensively.
Like Martinez, Devers' 2020 season was a down year by his standards as he hit .263 with 11 homers and 43 RBI to go with a .793 OPS. In 2021, he has shown the potential to be a perrenial All-Star and arguably the most important player in the Red Sox lineup.
Bobby Dalbec, 1B
Dalbec has shown flashes during his rookie campaign but hasn't been able to find any semblance of consistency since hitting eight homers in 23 games last year. The 26-year-old has 10 homers and a less-than-stellar .693 OPS in 64 games played. If he can't turn things around over the next month, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Red Sox make a move for a first baseman near the trade deadline.
Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
E-Rod was expected to be the team's "ace" for as long as Chris Sale missed time, but that hasn't been the case in the first half. The left-hander is 6-4 with a 5.83 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 15 starts. His 3.57 FIP, however, suggests he hasn't been as bad as his numbers look on the surface, plus he's coming off two consecutive quality outings. Expect Rodriguez to turn things around in the final 81.
Garrett Richards, RHP
Garrett Richards might not last long in the Red Sox rotation if his lack of "sticky stuff" continues to cause problems on the mound. His ERA skyrocketed from 2.97 in May to an alarming 7.16 in June. The right-hander is 4-5 on the season with a 4.96 ERA and 1.69 WHIP. That isn't going to get the job done, and right now it looks like Richards could be the odd man out once Sale returns.
Matt Andriese, RHP
The Red Sox bullpen has been outstanding as a whole lately. Andriese, however, has been just the opposite. He's allowed 21 runs in 34 innings (5.56 ERA) during his first year in Boston. Not what the Red Sox were looking for when they signed the right-hander this past offseason.