Every year, there are a handful of players and teams who defy preseason expectations and put together monster seasons. Then there are those who fail to live up to those expectations, resulting in less-than-ideal seasons. Today, we’re looking at a few of the biggest surprises and disappointments throughout Major League Baseball.
While the Twins were a trendy pick to win their division during preseason predictions, no one expected them to be 24 games above .500 after June. At 53-29, the Twins have been in first place by a wide gap all season, currently nine games ahead of the second-place Indians in the AL Central. Players like Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Eddie Rosario are all having career years and leading the Twins’ league-best offense.
New York Mets
After going all in this offseason with the acquisitions of Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, the Mets have been a disappointment all year. They’re currently riding a seven-game losing streak, falling to 37-47. While rookie Pete Alonso has been a pleasant surprise, their pitching staff led by Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard has been a disappointment. Should the losing continue, a battle with the Marlins for last place in the NL East is a very real possibility.
After a 67-95 campaign in 2018, the Rangers have been one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball. All-Star seasons from Hunter Pence and Mike Minor are a huge reason for that, along with a breakout performance from Joey Gallo. As a result, they own the second Wild Card spot with a record of 46-37 and also trail the Astros by just 5.5 games for first place in the AL West. They might be the biggest surprise team of all.
St. Louis Cardinals
After a 12-2 loss to the Padres on Saturday night, the Cardinals dropped to 40-41 on the year. After a 20-10 start, St. Louis has been among the worst teams in baseball, thanks in large part to their offense that is hitting just .242 for the season. Paul Goldschmidt has been a disappointment in his first season in St. Louis, as have Jack Flaherty, Andrew Miller, Matt Carpenter, and others. If they fail to turn it around fast, the NL Central may shift to a two-team race.
Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
Bellinger was a good player in his first two years in the big leagues, but year three has seen him transform into a superstar. The 23-year-old is leading all of baseball with a .348 average, about 80 points higher than his average the last two years. Bellinger is on his way to setting career highs all across the board, with a slash line of .348/.445/.703 to go along with 27 home runs and 65 RBI through 81 games. He is starting the All-Star Game for the first of hopefully many times.
Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies
This offseason was dominated by the free agency of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. While Machado hasn’t been elite either, Harper has definitely failed to live up to the 13-year, $330 million contract he signed with Philadelphia. The 26-year-old slugger is hitting just .243 with 14 home runs and 55 RBI. He also has the third-most strikeouts in baseball with 100. The Phillies certainly hope this isn’t a sign of things to come over the next decade.
Tommy La Stella, Los Angeles Angels
One of the least-heralded moves of the offseason was the Angels’ acquisition of utility infielder Tommy La Stella from the Cubs. But this season, La Stella has taken advantage of full-time play and set career highs across the board. The 30-year-old already has 16 home runs after putting up 10 homers in his first five seasons in the big leagues. He also has a career-high 44 RBI and a slash line of .297/.349/.496. La Stella is a prime example of what opportunity and playing time can do for a player.
Mike Foltynewicz, Atlanta Braves
Last season, Foltynewicz was one of the best pitchers in baseball, going 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA and 202 strikeouts. Unfortunately, the success of last season didn’t last very long. Through 11 starts in 2019, the 27-year-old has pitched to the tune of a 6.37 ERA and 1.42 WHIP, with only 50 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings. Things have gotten so bad that Foltynewicz was recently sent down to Triple-A to work on some issues. His return to All-Star status looks increasingly doubtful.