5 Players to Keep an Eye on in 2011

                  While SportsCenter counts up to Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit, there are numerous milestones that may just sneak up on you if you don’t pay attention. While the spotlight will shine the brightest on Jeter, and deservingly so, look out for some of these players as they approach their own milestone. Here are the top five to watch in 2011:

                  5. Paul Konerko’s ability to stay in one place and put up the numbers he has is fairly remarkable. Paulie had two separate opportunities to leave the Sox for more lucrative deals, but stayed put on the south side of Chicago. Only 42 homers away from becoming the second player in Sox’ history to hit 400 round trippers with the team, joining the Big Hurt Frank Thomas, Konerko showed last year that 40 is still a plausible number to hit for him.

                  4. Alex Rodriguez needs 167 RBI’s to reach 2000 for his career. Not probable but also not out of the realm of possibility in the heart of the Yankees’ lineup. When A-Rod does reach 2000, he will only be the fourth player in history to exceed that plateau. He would join the ranks of Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Cap Anson, which may just erase the doubt of getting in to the Hall of Fame.

                   3. Omar Vizquel is easily one of the top defensive shortstops to ever play America’s past time. He will undoubtedly receive a first ballot trip to Cooperstown as well if he retired today. But in the twilight of his career, playing the role of utility infielder and mentor for the Chicago White Sox, he is only 199 hits away from reaching the 3000 hit plateau. If he is able to get it… what a way to cap off an amazing career.

                   2. Jim Thome is quietly putting up very productive numbers in limited playing time up in Minnesota. So quiet in fact, that he is only a mere 11 dingers shy of the 600 home run club and not receiving nearly as much attention as he should. This is a guy who has played for 20 years and has done so with the utmost dignity that baseball lacked for the span of most of his career.

                   1. Three down, thirty nine more to go for Mo. Mariano Rivera is only 40 saves away from the big 600 that only Trevor Hoffman has been able to clear over the course of a career. Technically, this is a harder number to reach than 4000 strikeouts (four members of that). It is a testament of Rivera’s lasting intimidation and confidence in a city that is known for chewing up athletes left and right. If he stays healthy, and New York’s starters can give him the ball, he should break the mark this year and challenge Hoffman in 2012.


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