MLB's Top 5 Surprise Teams and Players

Dustin HullAnalyst IMay 22, 2013

MLB's Top 5 Surprise Teams and Players

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    The 2013 MLB season has had its fair share of surprises, full of players coming out of nowhere and teams going nowhere, and vice versa.

    But what organizations and players have caused the most amazement? With plenty to go around, selecting five teams and five players was quite tough.

    An assortment of surprisingly good and bad has made up the first almost-two months of the season.

    Players such as Matt Moore, Shelby Miller, Manny Machado and Paul Goldschmidt on the good side, and Josh Beckett, David Price and Danny Espinosa on the disappointing one, are all absent from the list.

    The same can be said for some teams that have had struggles or hot starts.

    Here is who did make the select list of surprises.

The Teams: Los Angeles Angels (18-27)

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    The Angels made plenty of noise in the offseason by spending well over $150 million in free-agent signings.

    Their work on the field has been much more quiet. Their big-fish signing over the winter (Spoiler: You'll see his name again in this article) was Josh Hamilton, who has spiraled downward to a miserable season so far.

    The former three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols, who had a slight decline in production last season, is having a 2013 that may go down as his most forgettable. A .247 average and seven home runs at this point of the season would generate all-time lows for Pujols if he stays on that pace for the entire season.

    The team's young star, Mike Trout, is having a solid season, but not even he is keeping up with his statistics from last year, though it was a historical year for a rookie.

    The team's rotation hasn't exactly helped the Halos' cause either. Joe Blanton has been the biggest disappointment out of the group, whose 0-7 record and 6.62 ERA bring a new meaning to a down year. Mix in Jered Weaver's elbow injury and the fact they've been looking for an above-average starter other than C.J. Wilson, and the woes continue.

    This has equated to a disastrous season so far in L.A., and not only for the Angels...

Los Angeles Dodgers (19-26)

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    The other team in L.A. has also suffered a season in which it has lived way below the hype pushed on it even before the season started.

    A lineup with Matt Kemp, Andre Either, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford (the last three coming over in trades last season) was supposed to put more than enough runs up against the tough, young rotations of rivals San Francisco and Arizona.

    Kemp and Either have both experienced a power outage early in the season, combining for only six home runs, with merely four coming into this week.

    Adrian Gonzalez has done his part aside from his own power problems (four dingers), but Crawford leading the team in big flies is not a good sign.

    As for Ramirez, his hamstring issues have caused him to miss almost the entire season.

    Another big acquisition through trade was that of starting pitcher Josh Beckett, who has fallen apart with 0-5 record and a 5.19 ERA.

    All this just shows how the Dodgers have fallen into a hole that is starting to get deeper as the season wears on.

    And the climb out won't be easy.

    Jay Jaffe of and Mark Saxon of have speculated that manager Don Mattingly may not keep his skipper duties for much longer.

    The only hope is for the offense to get going behind the excellent pitching of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Toronto Blue Jays (19-27)

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    The AL East is the most unforgiving and competitive division in all the game.

    The Toronto Blue Jays, who stocked up on new players over the winter, quickly found out just how the rest of the division cared about their offseason aquisitions.

    Toronto picked up Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes in the Miami Marlins' fire-sale trade, and none of them has panned out.

    For Reyes, it wasn't his fault. After all, he was hitting .395 before he hurt his ankle. Buehrle has no such excuse, having gone 1-3 with a 6.33 ERA. His struggles, mixed with the off-and-on start of reigning Cy Young and big-time free-agent signing R.A. Dickey, are a huge part of what has doomed the Jays out of the gate.

    Johnson's triceps inflammation wasn't any help to the club either, his performance and velocity on the mound being very subpar.

    It's not hard to believe Toronto flailing so bad if you just remember how the Marlins were last season when they had all those players on their team. So now its the American League edition.

    And the Blue Jays aren't exactly getting tremendous help from their usuals either.

    Jose Bautista, one of the best hitters in the game, is hitting .254 despite an acceptable amount of nine home runs. Edwin Encarnacion has been the big stick in the Jays order, but even his stats will likely deflate from last year.

    A .282 average, held by newly acquired outfielder Melky Cabrera, is the highest on the team besides Rajai Davis' (in only 81 at-bats) .284 mark. The Blue Jays have been known as a team to "let loose" with their swings, and right now the entire franchise is whiffing.

Cleveland Indians (26-18)

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    Even if this doesn't last, this was truly a very interesting surprise for the first couple months of the season.

    The Cleveland Indians are in Detroit right now for a series against a team most thought would have left them in the dust by now as far as the standings go. Well, think again.

    The Indians are 1.5 games up on the Tigers (for now) in the AL Central and have also been fortunate enough to have the rest of the division besides them and the Tigers struggling at or under .500.

    Cleveland has no real leaders as far as offensive categories go, but Mark Reynolds (12 HR, 37 RBI), Michael Brantley (.300, 22 R) and Carlos Santana (7 HR, .290) have supplied quite a bit of offense.

    After bringing in Nick Swisher from the New York Yankees, he has had decent production, as has Michael Bourn since he came to Cleveland, though he has lately been sidelined with a hand injury.

    The starting pitching has been erratic, but Justin Masterson is making up for the rest of the pitching woes with his 7-2 record and 2.83 ERA. The Indians have also gotten timely pitching from Zach McAllister with his 2.65 ERA.

    On top of that, the bullpen, with Chris Perez and Joe Smith both pitching well, is also keeping Cleveland in games.

    It has proven to be an all-around effort for this club that hasn't even put it all together yet. Are the Indians a contender? Maybe another few weeks should be given to the club before that question comes up.

    But there's no denying they have surprised some people and that they are worth keeping an eye on in the AL Central.

New York Yankees (28-17)

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    Yes, I know—it causes pain for me to have to do this. The Yankees, a surprise?

    The Bronx Bombers are certainly a perennial power most years, but this one is a little different.

    While the Texas Rangers and their success without Josh Hamilton or the Rockies and their surprising start in the NL West would have been a correct pick, the Yankees have been producing far more wins than they were expected to at this point.

    They have all the money in the world, but the Yankees have had to make due with an assortment of players, including formerly washed-up Travis Hafner, old-but-still-standing (and hitting) Lyle Overbay and the extremely overpaid-but-now-starting-to-earn-it Vernon Wells.

    Curtis Granderson was hurt to begin the season, and Kevin Youkilis is on the mend now. So is Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, all cornerstones of the organization that many thought was an empire ready to finally crumble to the ground from old age.

    Even their pitching was hurting, but the Yankees haven't just pulled through it, they've been more-than-well despite all the injury woes.

    CC Sabathia isn't exactly pitching like an ace, but is getting there; Andy Pettitte seems ageless and is still putting in solid work, and Hiroki Kuroda has been nothing short of masterful on the mound.

    The Yankees may be old, but they have been wise with their moves off the field and with their play on it. This team is leading the toughest division in baseball, and it's going to be in the race for the AL East for the rest of the season.

The Players: Jean Segura, SS, Milwaukee Brewers

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    The Brewers haven't had much success this season in the NL Central, but that hasn't stopped their shortstop from making an impact.

    Jean Segura has become one of the bright stars for the Brewers since being traded from the Angels for Zack Greinke, and L.A. has to be kicking itself (Greinke is now with the Dodgers) for the move it made.

    Segura is hitting .353, tied for tops in the National League and only behind AL MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera for the overall lead.

    Segura is also second in the MLB with 14 stolen bases and leads the majors with five triples. His speed has been mixed with a fair amount of power with seven home runs (second-most by NL shortstops) and a slugging percentage of .566 (top five in the NL).

    Segura still has a few minor holes here and there, but he has become a fantastic hitter who has an arm and plenty of speed to go with his abilities at the plate. On top of that, his fielding of the shortstop position has definitely become more valuable than his days in the minor leagues.

    He certainly has been a pleasant surprise for the Brewers organization and is sure to give Milwaukee fans hope for the years to come.

Matt Harvey, SP, New York Mets

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    Much like the Brew Crew, the Mets haven't been able to keep pace in their division, the NL East, as they gradually fall in another disappointing season.

    But Matt Harvey has proven to be one of the premier pitchers in the game and the biggest pitching prospect to find success on the mound for the New York Mets since Dwight Gooden in the 1980s.

    Harvey has an unblemished 5-0 record*, a league-leading 0.72 WHIP and an impressive 68 strikeouts to only 14 walks.

    Harvey's statistics are gaudy, and it's no surprise with the kind of repertoire that he possesses: flame-thrown two-seam and four-seam fastballs, and a wicked slider that overpowers hitters.

    This has all brought an incredible amount of hype and media circulation around him, but Harvey has handled it in a cool manner and is working his way to a possible start for the National League come July in the All-Star Game, hosted at Citi Field.

    It doesn't matter how he pans out, or even if he comes close to keeping up his production from the early portion of the 2013 season. The way Matt Harvey has turned the first two months of the season on the diamond into his playground is truly astonishing.

    *Stats gathered before his May 22 start

Patrick Corbin, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Patrick Corbin, who has been an incredible boost to the Arizona Diamondbacks starting rotation this year, is even giving Harvey a run for his money in the early stages of the NL Cy Young race.

    Though Corbin and Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt are pretty much interchangeable on this list (Goldschmidt is an NL MVP candidate so far), the latter of the two has already had one strong season, though Goldschmidt has made huge strides in his game as well.

    But Corbin, with a 6-8 record and 4.54 ERA during last season, didn't have as high of expectations coming into this year. But he has more than provided that of a top-tier talent.

    His 7-0 record and 1.44 ERA are tops in the NL, and Corbin doesn't look like he's falling off anytime soon. In his last start, the 23-year-old Corbin went the distance with his first complete game of the year, with 10 strikeouts and only one earned run given up.

    Corbin and Goldschmidt (.323, 12 HR, 36 RBI) are part of a young nucleus that doesn't seem to be missing Justin Upton that much, and they will lead the D-backs into the future.

Roy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

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    In Roy Halladay's defense, he did have a labrum and rotator cuff injury. But that's part of the surprise, that "Doc" was even hurting at all.

    Before he came out for good in an embarrassing loss to league cellar-dweller Miami, he just wasn't the Roy Halladay any of us were used to seeing.

    Halladay started 2-4 this season with an unacceptable 8.65 ERA, nearly giving up a run an inning.

    After an 11-8, 4.49 ERA season in 2012, Roy Halladay seemed destined for improvement this year despite coming into it as a 35-year-old arm. But his didn't last, and it was obvious something was wrong.

    And so it was for Halladay, who is a two-time Cy Young Award-winner, that surgery was a must-have. There's still a chance that Halladay could come back and be productive at the big league level, but the Phillies have an option for 2014.

    While he will surely put in the work to get back on the mound for next season, there's no hiding that this one has been a disappointment for Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Josh Hamilton, Of, Los Angeles Angels

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    After signing an offseason mega-deal with the Los Angeles Angels, pressure of having to perform is natural and could explain a slow start to a season.

    But Josh Hamilton hasn't quite been able to get going (maybe after the Angels' big win on Tuesday night he'll wake up) and is just one of the many Angels who have had early-season struggles as the team has started 18-27.

    Hamilton has had a rough go in the first two months, with only 14 RBI and a .222 average that was even worse just a couple of weeks ago. Hamilton's six home runs is a severe power outage for him, especially after hitting 43 homers last year in Texas.

    Is it because he's not all the way healthy (when is he though, really?), or because of his bouts of sickness? Or is it the fact he is playing in a bigger park, away from the Rangers park where balls fly out with relative ease?

    The answer to all of those: not likely. This is on Hamilton, and he'd likely be the first one to agree. He could easily turn his season around in a short amount of time. After all, he can produce more offense in one week than anyone else in the league.

    But for now, he's clearly had a very poor and drastically surprising season.