The 2012 season is still young, but Staten Island's Saxon Butler is making a push to add his own unique name to that short list.
Through Wednesday's games, Butler led the league in home runs (7), RBIs (22), total bases (68) and slugging percentage (.694). His .337 batting average was tied for seventh in the league and his 1.096 OPS was good for second.
Ask him about his numbers, though, and the 33rd-round pick out of Samford University pleads ignorance.
"I try not to look at that kind of thing because ... baseball's a game of failure," Butler said. "Everything in baseball is counted, and you're going to fail a lot more than you succeed. It can be a really humbling game, too, and it will be a humbling game. You can come out here and get off to a hot start, then all of a sudden go 0-for-20.
"It's a mentality. You have to stay mentally strong, confident in your ability to play this game and know that sometimes things aren't going to go your way."
Butler, who was named for the English heavy metal band Saxon, is no stranger to the combination of high batting average, power and run production. He hit .340 with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs for Samford this spring after hitting .355 with nine home runs and 61 RBIs as a junior in 2011.
In his first month as a professional, Butler has managed to stave off extended rough patches and maintain his collegiate level of success by working hard, learning from his mistakes and maintaining a consistent approach at the plate.
"Right now I'm just looking for pitches that I can handle and drive," he said. "I always go up there thinking the first two strikes are mine. If a pitcher makes a good pitch I'm going to try not to swing at it -- just because it's a strike doesn't mean I can drive it -- and then with two strikes I really try to see the ball deep and if I get beat it's going to be on an inside fastball and I get jammed."
Butler acknowledged that offensive success is a balancing act that requires confidence, but not so much that he believes himself capable of accomplishing the impossible.
"I think sometimes when you get going good, you feel like you can hit anything thrown up there," he said with a smile. "And that's what gets me in trouble sometimes."
For now, Butler seems to have a handle on how to approach the pitchers he faces in the New York-Penn League. The problem may come in the not-so-distant future, when he is confronted by a few more familiar faces.
Seven players from Samford were drafted in June, including Butler and Staten Island teammate Charles Basford. Three of the remaining five are pitchers who are either pitching in the NYPL already or appear likely to head there before the end of the season.
Butler is looking forward to seeing his old college teammates and catching up when their paths cross, but he also worries that familiarity could be to his disadvantage on the field.
"My biggest thing is, if we're going to play Brooklyn or Mahoning Valley, if I see Vandy [Tyler Vanderheiden] or [Joshua] Martin, I'm going to have to fight back a smile stepping in the box looking at the mound," he said, a grin spreading across his face at the thought. "Those guys, playing with them in college, they know my weakness, my strengths. I just have to try not to guess what they're going to throw me and hopefully I can do good against them. It'll be tough."
Missed it by that much: The last player to win two legs of the Triple Crown was Jamestown's Marcell Ozuna, who hit .267 while leading the league with 21 home runs and 60 RBI in 2010. Miguel Fermin, also of the Jammers, led the league in batting average (.347) and home runs (17) in 2008 but finished fifth in RBIs.
Hot out of the gate: The Tri-City ValleyCats got off to a 21-7 start this season, the third straight year an NYPL team has begun the year with that exact record. The fortunes of the previous two differ wildly: the 2010 Vermont Lake Monsters slumped badly, finishing 36-38 and missing the playoffs, while the 2011 Staten Island Yankees won the McNamara Division with a 45-28 record en route to the team's sixth league championship in 12 seasons.
They keep going and going and going: Connecticut beat Vermont in 18 innings Tuesday, 4-3, in the longest NYPL game this season. After the Lake Monsters scored once in the top half of the final inning, infielder Sam Roberts was one out away from picking up the win in relief when an error extended the game. Tigers second baseman Devon Travis took advantage of the opportunity, hitting his first professional home run to end it.
Almost perfect: Batavia's Kyle Helisek, St. Louis' 30th-round Draft pick last month, pitched six no-hit innings against Jamestown on Wednesday. He struck out two and allowed just one base runner, Juancito Martinez, who reached on an error in the third inning but was promptly picked off by Helisek.