It’s All-Star Week(end) here and what an incredible first half of baseball we’ve seen thus far. Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger are breaking records, homeruns are flying out of ballparks like crazy, rookies have been called upon, injuries have happened….and when it’s all said and done, there have been some immense surprises thus far, moreso than the ones I just poke about. Here are my top team surprises midway through the year:
1 ) Houston – By far the best team in the American League (and arguably baseball), with a potent offense finally living up to the potential that was hyped a couple of years ago. Give this team another starter at the trade deadline (as they have MANY minor league assets), and they could legitimately win the World Series.
2) Milwaukee – I had them in the basement of the National League Central, and yet, here they are, atop the leaderboards. They have a plethora of offensive talent and a deep minor league system. I still think they’ll come back down to earth before season’s end, but right now, life is good for Brewers fans.
3) LA Dodgers – The Cody Bellinger Bandwagon is alive and well, as the Dodgers rookie set a MLB record for HR by a rookie. Now he leads a team that is quietly hitting the ball well and winners of 9 of their last 10. They’ll need a starter to compete in the playoffs, but, they’re quite the solid team.
4) Minnesota – FINALLY, the Twins have done it. They have finally had things come together. However, the odd thing is, the pieces they thought they needed to win haven’t done much. Buxton looks like a bust, Gibson has been awful, and Berrios wasn’t up for most of the half. Yet, here they are, two games above .500 going into the break, with the division title in reach.
5) Arizona – Offensively speaking, the post Dave Stewart era has flourished. Brandon Drury, Chris Owings and Jake Lamb have all complimented Paul Goldschmidt’s elite offensive prowess well, making them a powerhouse in the NL West, and their pitching has improved from last season. It’s unfortunate that they play in the division that they do, because most teams are doing quite well this season, such as….
6) Colorado – Never offensively challenged, the Rockies continue to pour on the runs while at home, bringing up young talent to fill out their roster and deliver. What’s better than that is their pitching staff has done well in and out of Coors, and their bullpen has been nothing short of solid. They own the 6th best record in baseball, and the third best record in their division. A shame.
1) Chicago Cubs – It’s hard to believe that the reigning and defending World Series Champs have nobody in their lineup outside of Jon Jay, hitting over .270, which goes to show how bad they’ve been this year. Perhaps a little too much celebrating last year, who knows, because their pitching has underwhelmed also. You can’t count out a Theo Epstein/Joe Maddon team until they’re eliminated, but it’s looking bleak.
2) New York Mets – It’s not as much that they’ve been bad, but moreso that they’re just plagued with injuries this year. Their vaunted pitching staff of the future has been decimated with injuries, and their lineup looks different every night. Fear not, Mets fans, as Amed Rosario is on his way.
3) San Francisco – Bad, just bad. Bumgarner gets injured, the bats go quiet, and everything is blah down by the Bay. Cueto, the second half of their one-two punch up front, has walked so many batters and surrendered so many homeruns, one might think I was pitching. They need a rebuild in a hurry.
4) Toronto – For a team with a ton of potential, they have not looked good at all. Extremely slow out of the gate, the Jays have never been above .500 this season, which is saying something given their past and their talent. Rumors of a Donaldson departure signal even more of a downswing.
5) Boston – Yes, I’m putting the division leading Red Sox here. Sure, they’re in first, but they have struggled to do so all year. Perhaps it’s because I expected so much out of them this year, but they seemingly miss Big Papi more than their fans. They literally have one reliable pitcher (who struggled in 2016) and one reliable hitter (who is batting .275, despite being touted as a superstar). I’m sure they’ll make trades and promotions from their amazing farm system, but the Sox need something.
6) Baltimore – When you give up 5 ore more runs in 20+ games, you know you’re in trouble. The Orioles are no exception. They have been bad from the get go, and it could signal the end of Buck Showalter. They have no reliable pitching, an overused bullpen and an offense that can’t be trusted.
And there you have it.