Gnats of the Week: Week 12

Your bi-weekly rundown of the best worst players in baseball.

Welcome back to Gnats of the Week! It’s the series where I pick the most clutch, influential and unexpected performances by under-the-radar MLB players in the past week. You won’t see Ronald Acuña Jr. or Jacob deGrom on this list — unless they’re on the opposition. You won’t even see Joey Gallo. Only the truly mediocre will qualify, and the more anonymous the better.

What is a gnat? Simply put, they’re irritants. You know the type: little-known rookies and overlooked veterans who come out of nowhere to torment your team on a given night. Think of Steve Pearce erupting against the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, or Pat Borders, who won fall classic MVP in 1992 after producing negative WAR the year before. It’s all about the unexpected.

These players are delightful stories, unless of course they’re playing your team. Then they’re the most daggum annoying thing you’ve ever seen. The gnats never fail!

This week’s gnat batch includes a determined catcher, some hitless wonders and the smoking young guns of the A.L. West.

Honorable Mentions


Third Runner-Up: Reese McGuire

11-18 (.611), 3 doubles, 2 RBI, 4 R, 1.389 OPS vs. Orioles & Marlins

Hear me out, guys — he’s come a long way from that Dollar Store parking lot. He was DFA’d out of spring training, but stuck around with the Jays in Triple-A. And now thanks to the injuries of Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk, Reese McGuire has been playing every day, and raking, since May. This week was his best show yet, as he amassed 11 hits in five games and propelled Toronto Dunedin Buffalo to a five-game winning streak before Friday’s 10-inning loss.

McGuire’s best performance yet came against the O’s on Sunday, when he practically willed his team to a 7-4 victory. The 26-year-old catcher nearly doubled his season doubles total in one day, hitting three two-baggers in his first four at-bats while guiding Hyun-Jin Ryu to a seven-inning, one-run masterpiece on the mound. Then when the O’s jumped on their bullpen for three runs in the eighth, he responded with an RBI single in the ninth to provide the insurance they needed.

He followed that up with two hits against Sandy Alcantara on Tuesday and a potentially game-saving throw in the ninth inning:

Factor in three more hits and a run against the Orioles on Thursday and you’ve had yourself a week, Reese. Keep it up. And stay away from our parking lots, please.


Second Runner-Up: Eli White

8-15 (.533), HR, 2 RBI, 5 R, 1.388 OPS vs. A’s this week

Five years ago this month, Eli White was drafted out of Clemson by the Oakland A’s. He played at four different levels in three years in the A’s system before being traded to Texas in the Jurickson Profar deal in 2018. He hit well throughout the minors but struggled mightily in his first stint of big-league ball last year.

This season, he started off in a 7-55 slump that led to a minor league demotion in mid-May. But he hit so well in Triple-A (.343 average in 20 games), they were forced to bring him up three weeks later. In his sixth game back — last Wednesday — he hit career homers Nos. 1 and 2 on the same day.

This week, the new Eli White got to face the team that traded him. He was ready. Over four games he raised his batting average 51 points, including a three-hit night against Cole Irvin on Tuesday. Here’s career longball no. 3, the longest yet at 440 ft.:

The next day, he played a big role in Texas’ 5-3 win with two hits, a run scored and this excellent diving catch in left.


Thanks to one young man’s persistence, the last-place Rangers earned a split with Oakland. And today, well, today is the day that young man turns 27. Happy birthday Eli, welcome to the Gnat Column.


First Runner-Up: Abraham Toro

7-11 (.636), HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 1.576 OPS vs. White Sox last weekend (Cease, Rodon, Keuchel)

It’s tough enough for a rookie to find his footing in the big leagues while playing every day. Now imagine you’re stuck behind the likes of Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel on the depth chart. That’s the reality for Abraham Toro, and this lack of consistent playing time was a big contributor to his brutal .149/.237/.276 line in 2020 (and .182 career average entering 2021).

But the 24-year-old infielder appears to have finally located the light at the end of the Minute Maid Train tunnel, and it’s bearing fruit for the red-hot Astros.

Much like White, Toro had the best series of his life last weekend against the A.L.-leading White Sox. Despite only playing in three of four games, he slugged seven hits and five RBIs, including his second home run of the season on Thursday:

Toro drew a hit and a walk against Carlos Rodón in Friday’s win, sat out Saturday, then returned to the lineup on Sunday to produce the first four-hit game of his career against Dallas Keuchel & co. Here he is legging out an infield hit to get the scoring started:

Houston’s sweep of Chicago galvanized their current 11-game winning streak, and it wouldn’t have happened without the legend of Toro. Sox fans, I’m sorry. The good news is, he’s available!


GNAT(S) OF THE WEEK: Zach Davies/Nick Pivetta

12.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 12 K vs. Dodgers/Rays

Last Friday, Nick Pivetta pitched five innings of six-hit, three-run ball against the Royals. It was his ninth consecutive start (and 12th of 13) with two or more runs allowed, but after surrendering six the previous weekend, it wasn’t terrible. At the same time in Chicago, Zach Davies was getting utterly shelled by the Marlins, one of MLB’s worst offenses. He gave up a season-high eight runs in six innings, including two home runs and seven hits.

Fast forward one week, and those same two pitchers no-hit the reigning N.L. and A.L. pennant-winners on the same night.

Pivetta went 6.2 near-perfect innings with eight strikeouts against the Rays before he gave way to the Red Sox bullpen, which promptly blew the no-no in the eighth (and the game in the ninth). Meanwhile, Davies exited after blanking the World Champion Dodgers through six. In this case, the Cubs ‘pen came through with three hitless innings to achieve MLB’s seventh no-hitter of 2021.

The results may have diverged, but their actual performances are hilariously similar, given the context. Both Davies and Pivetta were bottom-15 in MLB in ERA heading into Thursday’s games, and each dropped their respective numbers by more than 35 points as a result. Here’s a fun thing:

The most ironic part about it is that while both pitchers were great, Pivetta was probably better. He struck out the first three batters of the game and took it from there, allowing just three base runners before a seventh-inning error by Michael Chavis preceded his exit. He posted a 31% CSW rate compared to Davies’ 29% — although to be fair, doing so against the Dodgers is a bit more impressive. Still, watch this and tell me anyone’s keeping up with that:

All we can do is laugh, be amazed, and wait for Pivetta and Davies to inevitably get shelled again next time out. Welcome to 2021, where the unexpected is ordinary. It’s a good time to be a gnat.

Wynn McDonald

Born a Kentuckian, much like Dan Uggla. Braves fan by choice, unlike Dan Uggla. I enjoy long walks on the Brandon Beachy. @twynstagram

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