This isn't about what we expected to happen. This is about the things that have surprised or stood out. Some of it is players. Some of it is teams. All in all, it's a reminder that baseball seasons never ever play out the way we think, and that's the beauty
This isn't about what we expected to happen. This is about the things that have surprised or stood out. Some of it is players. Some of it is teams. All in all, it's a reminder that baseball seasons never ever play out the way we think, and that's the beauty of the thing.
Here we go with 30 teams and 30 things we didn't see coming:
Ronald Acuna Jr. is as good as advertised. Not just good, but scary good. At all of 20 years old, Major League Baseball is not supposed to look this easy. Acuna is part of what has made this season a magical ride for the Braves.
Brian Anderson showed the Marlins enough at the end of last season to jump onto their radar. But they never expected he would be this good. Anderson's 109 hits before the All-Star break tied Rocco Baldelli for the second most by an MLB rookie since 2003.
Jacob deGrom has been arguably the National League's best pitcher this season, and that's the only predictable part of his story. Here's what no one could have seen coming: Despite allowing fewer than three earned runs 17 times and more than three just once, he has a 5-7 record.
Juan Soto was 19 years old and had played eight games above Class A when he was summoned to the Majors on May 20. He homered in his second game and hit .342 in his first month. Soto has barely slowed down since.
We knew it would happen. The Phillies had hired too many smart people and had too many good Drafts for it not to go down. We just didn't think it would happen after three seasons in which no team had lost more games. If it's about pitching, the Phils have a terrific chance to win the NL East for the first time since 2011. They've got the third-best ERA in the NL (and best in the East).
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Jesus Aguilar is that breakout player who keeps scouts and executive awake nights attempting to project how a little-used player would project over 162 games.
The Cardinals have played their best baseball of the season at a time when only one member of their starting rotation is older than 25 years old. They've got a 23-year-old (Dakota Hudson) and a 21-year-old (Jordan Hicks) in the bullpen. Regardless of how this season plays out, the future is bright for the Cards.
Javier Baez had long since established himself as a catalyst type of player when this season began. At times, his energy overcame some holes in this game. This season has established Baez as a legitimate star and a cornerstone player.
Manager Clint Hurdle accomplished what only the really good skippers do. That is, he kept his team together and focused on pushing ahead in the worst of times. From a 40-48 start, the Pirates have won 17 of 25 since -- the best record in the NL in that timespan -- as the Bucs try to play themselves into the thick of the postseason conversation.
Eugenio Suarez had a breakout season in 2017 with 26 home runs and an .828 OPS. Then, he did something some of us did not see coming: He got better. Suarez's OPS is up more than 100 points and he has already matched his homer total from last season.
Clay Buchholz has had a career rebirth at 33. In 10 starts since joining the D-backs' rotation on May 20 -- and then missing a month with a strained left oblique -- he has allowed more than three runs once.
Matt Kemp returned to the Dodgers last offseason, but he was expected to be traded before he got on the field. Instead, he surprised almost everyone with an All- Star-caliber season.
Dereck Rodriguez's debut on May 29 was notable for his being the son of Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez. In 13 appearances since, he has shown that he's going to have a bright and shiny career of his own.
Christian Villanueva has 20 of San Diego's 99 home runs and has more than established himself as one of the pillars on which the roster can be built in the years ahead.
Trevor Story burst onto the scene in 2016 with 27 home runs and a .341 OBP. He then struggled enough in '17 that some surely wondered if that rookie season had been a fluke. This year, Story played his way onto the NL All-Star team and has kept his production going at a high level.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is usually mentioned behind some of the more famous members of Toronto's Minor League system (Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio). But he was the first to make the Majors this summer and has been everything the Blue Jays hoped he'd be.
Adam Jones surprised some by vetoing a trade to the Phillies at the non-waiver Trade Deadline even though it was a chance to return to the postseason. If the Orioles would like to re-sign him for 2019 and beyond, he seems willing to be the role model and leader he was for the previous rebuild.
That crazy pitching thing works. Since the Rays began opening some games with relievers and playing mix-and-match for nine innings, their 3.55 ERA is the third best in the AL.
Sometimes, perfection. That's the story of the 2018 Red Sox, who began Tuesday on a pace to win 113 games, which would be the most since the '01 Mariners won an AL-record 116. Their offense is good. So is their pitching. Their rookie manager, Alex Cora, has been excellent. Any other questions?
Gleyber Torres was not overhyped, which is saying plenty considering that greatness had been bestowed on him when he was a teenager. He made his MLB debut on April 22, and until the past couple of weeks, he hadn't really had anything approaching a meaningful slump.
Trevor Bauer is having the season forecast for him since he was the third overall pick of the 2011 Draft. He's leading the AL in innings and is ranked in the top 10 in almost every relevant category, including 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
Whit Merrifield is still a member of the Royals, which qualifies as a significant surprise. Given his versatility -- at least five starts at five positions -- and his .803 OPS entering Tuesday, he seemed to be the kind of player who would bring multiple prospects in a trade. Instead, Kansas City GM Dayton Moore makes it clear he'd like Merrifield to be part of this rebuild.
Jeimer Candelario has had stretches when he has looked like a future All-Star third baseman. At other times, he has struggled mightily, and that's the point of a season like this one, when the Tigers have remained focus on 2019 and beyond, determined to give youngsters like Candelario the freedom to grow and learn.
Jake Cave was acquired from the Yankees late in Spring Training and has taken advantage of regular playing time in center field. Entering Tuesday, he was hitting .306 with seven doubles, two triples and two home runs since July 1.
Carlos Rodon's return from left shoulder surgery has gone smoothly. Since making his first start of the season on June 9, he has crafted a 2.94 ERA and allowed more than two earned runs only twice.
Michael Trout did the very thing that seemed almost impossible. Already recognized as the best player in the game, he has gotten even better in 2018, with career highs in OPS, OBP and OPS+. Trout's 20 intentional walks are the most in baseball.
Alex Bregman had 19 home runs and an .827 OPS in his first full MLB season in 2017. If some thought that might be his ceiling, he has gotten significantly better in '18, having already passed his career high in home runs and earning All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award honors.
The A's needed 73 games just to get above .500 for good. And then they took off and appear to be cruising toward their first postseason appearance in four years. Their 33-10 record since June 16 (before Tuesday) is the best in baseball.
Edwin Diaz is doing an excellent imitation of a young Mariano Rivera. He has appeared in 55 games and made good on 42 of 45 save chances. In 25 of Diaz's 41 saves, he faced the minimum three batters in a one-inning appearance.
Rougned Odor has established himself as the emotional leader of the Rangers during a season in which he has upgraded his game across the board.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.