The biggest surprise for every team so far in 2023

April 14th, 2023

There have been plenty of surprises so far this season, both good and bad. Unless you predicted the Rays getting off to one of the best starts in baseball history, it’s fair to say there’s a ton of stuff no one saw coming.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at each team’s biggest surprise over the first two weeks or so. Maybe it’s positive, maybe it’s not, but surely, it’s not what anyone expected.


Blue Jays: Matt Chapman is Superman
Chapman has finished in the top 10 of MVP voting twice, and he’s always been a little underappreciated, particularly defensively. He also had a little bit of a bounce-back season at the plate in 2022 after a step back in 2021. But even members of Chapman’s family didn’t imagine he’d be hitting .489 and leading the Majors in total bases after the season’s first fortnight. On a team stacked with hitters, he has been the best one.

Orioles: Cedric Mullins’ slow start
There’s no room for error in the AL East. The Orioles are a game above .500 and yet they are already six games out of first and in fourth place. Oof. Adley Rutschman has been incredible, and we all love the fun celebrations, but Mullins -- one of the few guys on this team who has reached an All-Star Game -- has been dreadful in the early going, hitting .184. He’s still finding ways to help, though, both defensively and with a couple of homers and six stolen bases.

Rays: The Lowe Bros
Everything about the Rays has been wonderful, but the true jaw-droppers have been Brandon Lowe and Josh Lowe. (Who are not only not actually brothers but don’t even pronounce their last names the same way.) Both Lowes are among the league leaders in just about every offensive category, even as they give broadcasters a headache every game.

Red Sox: Struggling veteran pitchers
In 2017, Corey Kluber and Chris Sale finished 1-2 in AL Cy Young Award voting. In 2023, they’re both getting rocked as starters for the Red Sox. Through their first five outings after Kluber’s matchup with the Rays on Thursday, they were a combined 1-4 with an ERA well over 9.00. (Apologies to Red Sox fans that this isn’t Adam Duvall anymore, like it would have been before a fractured wrist interrupted his scorching start).

Yankees: Gleyber’s back
You youngsters might not believe this, but there was legitimately once a time when you wondered if Gleyber Torres was going to be an annual MVP candidate. There have been some struggles over the past few years, but right now Torres is the best hitter on a team stacked with stars, getting on base more than half the time. That, uh, will work.


Guardians: Josh Bell’s power outage
The Guardians received a lot of well-deserved praise for signing Bell to bring some much-needed power to their offense. He was incredible for the Nats before the Juan Soto trade last year. But he was rough after the trade, and that has continued in Cleveland, with Bell batting .109 with no homers through 12 games. This team still seems to need power just as much as it did last year.

Royals: Aroldis Chapman looks like his old self
The market for Chapman, for a variety of reasons, was thin this offseason, and you wondered if Kansas City was going to be his last stop. But while he’s not throwing (quite) as hard as he used to, he is bouncing back from a disastrous 2022 and pitching as well as he has in a while. Chapman has not given up a single run through five appearances and is striking out nearly two batters per inning. It sure does change a lot of potential Trade Deadline discussions if Chapman is still pitching like this.

Tigers: Akil Baddoo is getting on base
Last year was a complete nightmare for the Tigers, and the scary thing about this year’s start is that it might be worse. Nothing much is going right for this team at the moment -- please try to look away from Javier Báez -- so let’s try to find something positive. OK, how about this: After a huge bummer of a 2022, Akil Baddoo, a truly likable player and a great baseball story, got called up last weekend and through his first four games posted a .375 OBP. That’s a good number! Let’s try to focus on that.

Twins: Seriously, how about this rotation?
There are so many guys to credit for the Twins’ fantastic start on the mound, which has them boasting the second-best ERA in the game. And we don’t mean to dismiss the bullpen, which has been terrific. But the rotation of Pablo López, Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda and Tyler Mahle has been … maybe the most impressive in the sport so far?

White Sox: The rotation is faltering
The one thing White Sox fans have not had to worry about in the past is Lance Lynn. He’s the guy who shows up and gives you a solid start, or better, every five days. It’s his whole thing. Well, maybe they should start worrying. He has a 7.31 ERA, while Michael Kopech is at 6.75 and Lucas Giolito at 6.00. Chicago's offense has been solid, but this team needs more out of its rotation behind Dylan Cease.


Angels: Hunter Renfroe stepping up
The Angels are always looking for that third guy to go with their two superstars. They signed Anthony Rendon to be that person. Taylor Ward was that person at times last season. So far this season, it’s Hunter Renfroe, who is actually outslugging Mike Trout and is nearly outslugging Shohei Ohtani. With Rendon off to another slow start, Renfroe may need to keep it going.

Astros: Luis Garcia, not the ace yet
It was thought that the notoriously slow-working Garcia might have some adjustments to make in the early going, but this was still a pitcher many believed could be the Game 1 starter for the Astros come the postseason. But he’s getting hit hard in the early going and, perhaps most concerning, he’s walking guys. He’ll be fine, surely, but this division looks more competitive than it has been in a while. Not that much time to figure it out, Luis.

Athletics: Hey, who’s this backup catcher?
You take what you can with the A’s, and Carlos Pérez, who hasn’t played in the Majors since 2018, has eight hits and a homer in 13 at-bats.

Mariners: Here comes Kelenic
Goodness, what if Jarred Kelenic is finally a star? The homer he hit at Wrigley Field on Wednesday is the highlight headliner, but Kelenic has been showing everything that Mariners fans (and, previously, Mets fans) were waiting to see the entire season. The Mariners’ ceiling, if Kelenic is this all year, is higher than anyone imagined.

Rangers: The ace so far is Jon Gray
For all the guys the Rangers brought in to shore up the rotation, it has been Gray, along with Martín Pérez (another guy who was already here), who has been the stud so far. The Rangers will be reeling from Corey Seager’s injury, but the pitching here looks legit.


Braves: Bryce Elder isn’t going anywhere
Two weeks before the season started, Elder was sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett. But when Max Fried got hurt on Opening Day, Elder was called up and has done a rather terrific Fried impression. The 23-year-old righty has yet to give up a run in his first two starts.

Marlins: Jesús Luzardo may be fixed
It was very impressive what the Marlins were able to do last year with Luzardo, a once highly regarded prospect whom the A’s swapped for Starling Marte in 2021. Luzardo has made an extra leap this year, putting together three quality starts and pitching better than Cy Young Award-winning teammate Sandy Alcantara.

Mets: David Robertson looks like Edwin Díaz
So far, so good for Díaz’s replacement, who hasn’t given up a run in 6 1/3 innings and has two saves. Robertson has plenty of experience, and it’s showing so far. He has been all the Mets could have hoped for.

Nationals: Joey Meneses has no homers
It’s really sad that Joey Meneses has no homers, isn’t it? The World Baseball Classic fun has not, alas, carried over.

Phillies: Aaron Nola’s struggles
Many thought Nola was a stealth Cy Young candidate this year, but it hasn’t come to fruition yet. His first three starts have been a mess, and he’s 0-2 with a 7.04 ERA. He’s still not walking guys -- it’s just that everyone’s hitting him really hard.


Brewers: Brian Anderson is thriving
The forever-Marlin -- or at least it felt that way -- had a miserable final season in Miami and has started over in Milwaukee. So far, so great: He has three homers and 10 RBIs and is driving the offense of a first-place team.

Cardinals: Miles Mikolas is not reveling in his extension
The Cardinals gave Mikolas a contract extension right before his Opening Day start, and he has followed that up by getting hit hard in each of his first three outings. He has a 10.05 ERA so far, and the Cardinals look desperate for Adam Wainwright to come back and save their rotation.

Cubs: The top of the rotation is nails
The Cubs made the decision to focus on run prevention this offseason, and it’s paying off so far. Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman seem perfectly suited to pitch in front of this excellent defense, and they’ve given up a combined three runs in 30 innings so far.

Pirates: Ke’Bryan Hayes hasn’t figured out the bat
You did wonder if this was going to be the year for Hayes, but so far, he’s hitting .157 with no homers. Still playing a great third, though!

Reds: TJ Friedl could be a breakout star
That sound you heard was all your fellow fantasy owners rushing to pick up the Reds outfielder, who is hitting .350 and once stole 30 bases in the Minors.


D-backs: Drey Jameson looks ready
The D-backs prospect has both started and worked out of the bullpen, and he has done exactly what Arizona wanted in every spot. Is he going to take Madison Bumgarner’s rotation spot soon?

Dodgers: Pick your outfield surprise
Maybe it’s Trayce Thompson bashing four homers. Maybe it’s James Outman looking ready from Day 1. Maybe it’s … gasp … Jason Heyward somehow launching homers himself. The Dodgers have a system, and, clearly, it works. For everybody, apparently.

Giants: Logan Webb’s slow start
Webb, in many ways, represents the Giants’ whole strategy: Find solid players and make them better, maximize everything they’re trying to do. Webb has been that guy the last few years, but so far, he’s 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA. Fortunately, the slack is being picked up by Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood, because the Giants are still the Giants.

Padres: Is Manny about to get going?
For all the stars on this team, Manny Machado was supposed to be the biggest. He did just almost win the NL MVP Award after all, and he locked himself up with the Padres in the offseason for years to come. But he has been the creakiest out of the gate so far, only hitting his first homer of the season on Thursday and sporting a .283 OBP.

Rockies: Elias Díaz has turned into Johnny Bench
Díaz hit .228 with a .281 OBP last year -- not easy to do at Coors Field. He must have been saving it up for this year: He has a .419 OBP and is slugging .579.