Gnats of the Week: Week 22

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 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. That’s just the way of the gnats.

Since this series is now bi-weekly, any performance(s) from the past two weeks are fair game. However, you may see some slight recency bias in the name of keeping things topical. And winning, of course, is still very important.

This week in the never-ending gnatscapade, we’ve got a bit of international flavor, featuring four players from three different continents — nefarious gnats, every one. As always, we welcome our newest inductees with the utmost reverence and honor. So be nice!

Honorable Mentions:


Third Runner-Up: Glenn Otto

5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 7 K vs. Astros on Friday (first career start)

Just over a month ago, Texas native Glenn Otto arrived in Scranton, Pennsylvania, for his first taste of Triple-A baseball. It did not last long. The Yankees promoted him from Double-A on July 13, and two weeks later he was traded home to Texas in the deal for Joey Gallo. He was a member of the Rangers’ Triple-A squad in Round Rock for approximately four weeks, before being activated on Friday to face the Astros — his childhood team — in his first MLB start. With a timeline like that, expectations for day one had to be tempered, right?

It would seem there was no need for tempering. The former fifth-round draft pick looked to be in absolute control against one of the fiercest lineups in the sport. He threw five shutout innings in Arlington, allowing just two hits, striking out seven, and walking none. His slider was biting, as evident in these back-to-back strikeouts of Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman:

Shew. He was top-10 in MiLB in strikeouts this year, but who could have predicted this?

When Otto left the game, the Rangers held a 4-0 lead going into the sixth. They would ultimately blow that by allowing five runs in the seventh, but that’s hardly the kid’s fault. I don’t know what it is about guys rocking out in their MLB debuts lately, but it’s exactly the kind of gnat behavior that I’m looking for.


Second Runner-Up: Yoshi Tsutsugo

8-24, 4 HR, 7 XBH, 7 RBI, 5 R, 255 wRC+ since joining the Pirates

Like Otto, 2021 has been a year of great fluctuation for Yoshi Tsutsugo. Originally with the Rays, Tsutsugo was traded to the Dodgers in May, only to be released in August despite playing just 12 games in the bigs. In those 12 games — just six starts, yielding 31 plate appearances — he had zero extra-base hits and produced a dismal 38 wRC+. In Tampa, he was just as bad, with 13 hits in 87 PAs. But since he was picked up by the Pirates on August 16, he’s been a whole new man: in his first 27 PAs, our friend Yoshi has already hit four homers, two doubles, a triple, and knocked in seven RBIs. His wRC+? Two-hundred and fifty-five.

What makes it all the more impressive is, he’s still not starting regularly. In the past week alone he’s played in five games, but started just twice, and still hit .429 with two homers in nine plate appearances. Here’s the most recent bomb, which came while pinch-hitting in Pittsburgh’s wild eight-run comeback win over the Cardinals:

He went on to hit a triple the next day (his seventh XBH in two weeks), which is rather incredible considering his sprint speed is listed in the 32nd percentile by Savant. Look at this raw athletic feat:

I think it’s no coincidence that after his first series as a Pirate — against the Dodgers, ironically — the team has gone 5-3. However, in the games that Yoshi has started for Pittsburgh, they’re 1-5. So I guess he’s either the greatest pinch-hitter ever or a complete and total enigma. Either way, gnat points galore.


First Runner-Up: Edward Olivares

1-1, GW HR, Sac Fly, 3 RBI, .499 WPA vs. Mariners on Friday (in extra innings)

It may not seem like much compared to the feats already listed on this page, but the singularity of this performance by Edward Olivares this week is just incredible. Think about this: after nearly three weeks in Triple-A, Olivares was recalled to the bigs on Friday, where he has been a perfectly average (100 wRC+) player this season. He was available off the bench for that night’s game against the Mariners. Six innings passed, and he remained on that bench.

In the seventh, the Royals brought Olivares in as a defensive replacement for Ryan O’Hearn — who had three hits on the day — in right field. He stood there for two innings while Carlos Hernández mowed down the Mariners’ offense without letting a ball escape the infield. His spot didn’t come up, either. The game went to extra innings, tied 5-5.

In the top of the 10th, Olivares found himself leading off with a runner placed in scoring position. On the very first pitch, that runner advanced to third on a passed ball. Olivares promptly knocked a sac fly to center that gave the Royals the lead.

However, it wasn’t enough. The Mariners tied back up, and the game moved on. Fast forward to the 12th, when Olivares comes up again, this time with a runner on and two outs. You can see what happened next:

To summarize: in three innings of one game, Olivares went 1-1 with two run-scoring plays and the game-winning home run. He finished the night with a win probability added (WPA) of .499, all of which came in extra innings. That’s a gnat for the books.



16-29, 1 HR, 6 XBH, 5 RBI, 4 R, .581 OBP vs. BOS/CLE/HOU

If you’ve been following the Rangers this week, first off, my condolences. But if so, this pick will probably not come as a surprise. That’s because what Andy Ibáñez has done this week is truly unprecedented, even amidst a four-game losing streak. The 28-year-old Cuban rookie has been on a massive hot streak of late, and it culminated this week in a seven-game multi-hit streak. Yes, you read that right.

It started on Aug. 20, when Ibáñez went 2-3 with two singles. He hit a pair of doubles the next day, and by the end of Wednesday, he had racked up 12 hits in five games. On Thursday, he tied the season-long record of six games shared by Fernando Tatis Jr., Michael Brantley, and Jed Lowrie. Then on Friday, he does this:

Just remarkable. It still wasn’t enough to get and the Rangers a win (see: the tragedy of Glenn Otto, above), and he lost the streak on Saturday when he left the game in the seventh inning with a hamstring injury. But still, it was a week that kid won’t forget any time soon — and neither will we. Because gnats, well, they live forever. Congrats Andy, and get well soon!

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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