07/09/09 — Opinion -- A look at MLB's best kept secrets

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Opinion -- A look at MLB's best kept secrets

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on July 9, 2009 1:47 PM

As Major League Baseball nears the halfway point in its season the excitement of the 80th All-Star Game, the approaching trade deadline and the return of Manny Ramirez have grabbed the majority of the headlines.

Quietly several big leaguers and one club out West have put together first half's worth plenty of attention in their own right.

Here's a look at some of baseball's best kept secrets from the first half of the season:

Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants: Sandoval displayed flashes of his talent in 41 games with the Giants last season. Given consistent playing time this year, Sandoval has flourished while hitting .326 with 13 homers and 48 RBI.

The San Francisco third baseman ranks seventh in the National League in batting average. Sandoval is a large reason why the Giants are tied with St. Louis for the second-most wins in the National League at 46.

Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers: This Mexican-born right-handed hurler averages nearly two strikeouts an inning while opponents are hitting just .199 against him.

Gallardo has recorded eight or more strikeouts eight times in 17 starts this season, including three double-digit strikeout outings.

Although he didn't receive an All-Star selection, Gallardo currently sports an 8-6 record with a 2.95 ERA. Gallardo is currently seventh in the NL in ERA and third in strikeouts with 120.

Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays: After missing all of the 2008 season with post-concussion syndrome, Hill is currently second in the American League with 111 hits.

An All-Star reserve at second base, Hill is tied for fourth in the AL with 20 home runs.

Heath Bell, San Diego Padres: Bell owned two career saves before this season and now the big right-hander leads the National League with 23 saves.

Bell has yet to allow a homer this year and has just one blown save. The San Diego closer has been nominated to his first All-Star game and has allowed a run in just five of his past 25 appearances.

Texas Rangers: Texas ranks among the top ten in the American League in runs scored, hits, doubles, triples, homers, total bases and RBI.

Winners in seven their last eight games the Rangers lead the Angels by a game in the AL West and their 28 home wins are tied for the most in baseball.