By Nick Villano @nick_villano on June 3, 2014
The baseball season has started off with a bang. Many teams are in great positions thanks to a few surprises. Other teams are treading water thanks to different surprise players. It is fun to see where the surprises came from. Some are MLB veterans who found a resurgence, others are top prospects and then there are those who were never supposed to amount to anything. This list has an assortment of all of them.
Aaron Harang was supposed to be a fill-in for the Atlanta Braves. He was only going to be a starter until Gavin Floyd was ready to return, but he has made himself a must start. He allowed three earned runs in his first five starts combined. Take out one awful start, and he has a 2.66 ERA in 11 starts. The Braves have no plans in replacing him now.
There were so many players you could put here, especially if the Marlins are at home, but I think Nathan Eovaldi deserves more hype than he is getting. Out of 12 starts, Eovaldi has nine quality starts. He is anchoring this rotation that lost Jose Fernandez for the season.
There is not much impressive about the New York Mets this season. Luckily, some of their young pitchers are starting to turn it around. Jonathan Niese has been their most consistent starter all year long. He is top 20 in ERA with a 2.69 mark, and his 51 strikeouts are just an added bonus.
It was just nice to see that Chase Utley still had the ability to take over a game. For a short period to start the season, he was battling Troy Tulowitzki for early MVP votes. He has fallen off a little bit, but his stat line is still impressive. Even more impressive is the fact that he is still off the DL.
While Tanner Roark has two or three bad starts, he has been mostly great this season. He has been awesome as a No. 2 with Gio Gonzalez working his way back to the rotation.
Jason Hammel has been so good this season that he has six wins on the Cubs. Ask Jeff Samardzija how hard that is. He has gone from a prospect who didn't look like he was working out to the most tradable player in baseball. Can he continue his resurgence to the top of MLB?
With new Cincinnati Reds coach Bryan Price having to deal with injuries to Mat Latos and an ineffective Homer Bailey, he has turned to a Cy Young campaign from Johnny Cueto and a surprise season from Alfredo Simon. The six-year veteran had 63 appearances last season out of the bullpen. This season he is arguably the Reds' second-best starter.
Kyle Lohse is 7-1 -- think about that for a second. e has an even 1.00 WHIP through 12 starts, and he is the best player in the majors that nobody is talking about. He has been consistently good for most of his career, but this season he is outdoing even himself.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have been somewhat of a disappointment this season, but Mark Melancon has been great. His 2.33 ERA and 0.89 WHIP has kept the Pirates' bullpen alive in games. When Jason Grilli went down with an injury, he easily took the closer role and ran with it. Now that Grilli is back, he has jumped back to setup man with ease.
Unfortunately, Matt Adams was put on the 15-day DL this weekend, but before that he was a great surprise for the Cardinals. His .325 average leads everyone on his team. He needs to keep up that intensity when he returns since star prospect Oscar Taveras will be in his way when he gets back.
A.J. Pollock is another surprise who has hit the DL recently. Prior to his injury, he was hitting .316 with six home runs. Besides him and Paul Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks' offense has been nothing.
It was hard to pinpoint just one player to say is a surprise for the Rockies. Troy Tulowitzki has been MVP worthy for them. Justin Morneau has found new life in Coors Field. Then there is Charlie Blackmon. He got extra playing time with Michael Cuddyer's injury, and he took advantage it. Now manager Walt Weiss will have hard decisions to make every time he is in a NL park.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were thought to be front-runners to take Robinson Cano in free agency, but Dee Gordon is making them delighted that they decided to give him a shot. He is leading the league in stolen bases by leaps and bounds. He has 34, while Billy Hamilton and Jose Altuve are tied for second with 20 apiece. He rounds out that great Dodgers lineup.
While Tyson Ross is a little too feast or famine for my taste, you cannot deny the fact that when he is on he is untouchable. At one point, he struck out eight batters in three straight starts. He is a great asset for the San Diego Padres.
It seemed like no team wanted to take a chance on Michael Morse this offseason. Then the soft-hitting Giants came calling, and Morse is rewarding them big time. He has 11 home runs and 38 RBIs already. He looks like the same guy who hit 30 home runs three years ago.
The Texas Rangers have had a closer carousel in recent years, but Joakim Soria may be the answer to that. The former Kansas City Royal has a 0.70 WHIP on the season. Since Apr. 8, he only allowed two earned runs in 18 appearances and has been lights out.
Chris Young has had an inconsistent career, but he is currently having one of his good seasons. You can blame Safeco Field (1.89 ERA at home, 4.80 ERA on the road), but he is still having a good season. He will figure it all out in due time.
A 30-year-old career reliever is not supposed to succeed as a starter. They are supposed to make a spot start, then go back to long relief. This shows anything is possible with the Oakland A's. Jesse Chavez had full seasons with double-digit ERAs. Who knows how long this ride will last, but he should enjoy it while it does.
Garrett Richards has been a pleasant surprise in the Angels' rotation. The Angels have been getting offensive production from the likes of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, which are known names. Their pitching is being carried by some of the underrated guys, including Richards and his 3.65 ERA.
It is surprising when anyone flourishes with the lowly Astros. Dallas Keuchel is an even bigger story. Two years of ERAs over five looked like it was going to spell the end of his short-lived career. This season, it seems to finally makes sense. He could become the biggest acquisition of this season's trade deadline.
When Phil Hughes is able to beat the demons he had at Yankee Stadium, then you know something special is happening here. His incredibly low walk rate (eight in 69 innings) paired with a fresh start and a new ballpark equal the resurrection of a once great prospect.
Yordano Ventura is one of the better pitching prospects coming into the season, and he is showing what the hype is all about. He is currently in a little bit of a rough stretch with four straight losses, but his pure stuff says he will turn it around quickly.
Victor Martinez was the forgotten powerhouse of the Detroit Tigers. Everyone knows about Miguel Cabrera and Ian Kinsler, but now Martinez is a part of that conversation. He leads the team in batting average and home runs, and that is a tall task for a team with Cabrera on it.
Michael Brantley is one bright spot for the Cleveland Indians. He is hitting over .300 with 40 RBIs. He is also just one home run away from his six-year career high.
Jose Abreu has been one of the best players in the major leagues this season. He has been so good that he is beating Masahiro Tanaka's magical start in many eyes. He is coming off an injury and immediately hit a home run off of Clayton Kershaw. He is just THAT good.
James Loney has found a new home in Tampa Bay. Maybe being around the likes of Evan Longoria and Wil Myers helped him remember how to hit. The fact that he is still starting is a surprise in itself.
Where would the New York Yankees be without Yangervis Solarte? He came in because of an injury to Kelly Johnson, which just tells you the state the team was in. He is making fans forget that Alex Rodriguez is even part of the roster.
Brock Holt is making some Red Sox fans hate the recent signing of Stephen Drew. He is hitting .333 and looks like he has a nice combination of power and speed. Nine of his 29 hits have been doubles. He is playing himself into a starting spot with the defending World Series champions.
Nelson Cruz is leading baseball in most hitting categories in 2014. He is the best signing of the offseason by far, and the Baltimore Orioles got a steal for taking a chance on the former Biogenesis client. He has 20 HRs and 52 RBIs, both of which lead the majors. Can he keep this daunting pace up?
Mark Buehrle could possibly be the biggest surprise in baseball this season. He hasn't changed his rhythm. He isn't throwing any harder, but he is absolutely unhittable. He is the first pitcher to get to 10 wins this year at 35 years old. Analysts keep expecting his next start to be a disaster, but it never happens.
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