All 30 MLB Teams' Biggest Surprise, Disappointment of 2013
The 2013 MLB season wrapped up nearly two months ago, and now that we've had some time to digest everything that happened in what was another exciting year, it's time to take a look back.
Every team inevitably has a handful of players who turn out to be pleasant surprises each year, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, a few players who wind up being huge disappointments.
So here is a look at all 30 MLB teams' biggest surprises and biggest disappointments of 2013 as we close in on the final week of the year.
Biggest Surprise: SP Patrick Corbin
Despite a second-half drop-off that saw him go 3-7 with a 5.19 ERA in 13 starts, Patrick Corbin is the choice here thanks to a brilliant first half that saw him go 11-1 with a 2.35 ERA and make the All-Star team.
Corbin entered spring training on the roster bubble, but he beat out Tyler Skaggs for the No. 5 starter spot and continued to impress from there.
Which Corbin shows up in 2014 remains a question, but he was the Arizona Diamondbacks' breakout star of 2013.
Biggest Disappointment: C Miguel Montero
Signed to a five-year, $60 million extension early on in the 2012 season, Miguel Montero continued to rank among the top offensive backstops in the game that season. He finished that year with a .286/.391/.438 line to earn MVP votes for the second consecutive year.
He fell off significantly this past season, though, struggling in the first half and missing nearly a month in the second half with a back strain.
With the money they have invested in him, and without a viable replacement option, the Diamondbacks will need the 30-year-old to get back on track in 2014.
Biggest Surprise: C/OF Evan Gattis
An immediate fan favorite for his unconventional path to the big leagues and lumberjack-like approach at the plate, Evan Gattis wound up playing a key role both off the bench and in the starting lineup for the Atlanta Braves.
He hit just .188/.256/.291 with three home runs from June to August, as his playing time was cut by the return of Brian McCann and he dealt with injuries. He finished strong, though, and is set to take over as the Braves' everyday catcher this coming year now that McCann is in New York.
Biggest Disappointment: CF B.J. Upton
Signed to a five-year, $75.25 million contract in free agency last offseason to replace Michael Bourn in center field, B.J. Upton was nothing short of a disaster in his first season in Atlanta.
He was signed as much on tools and potential as he was on production, as he hit just .246/.298/.454 in his final season with the Tampa Bay Rays. However, the Braves hoped his impressive mix of power and speed would offset his low batting average and high strikeout totals.
He can't get much worse in 2014, but for $13.45 million, the Braves would like him to play much better.
Biggest Surprise: 1B Chris Davis
Saying Chris Davis had a breakout season in 2013 is not quiet accurate, as he did hit 33 home runs and post an .827 OPS in 2012. However, he was certainly the biggest surprise, as he took another huge step forward and wound up leading the AL in home runs and RBI.
Still just 27, he's entering the prime of his career, and there's no reason to think he can't continue to be a force in the middle of the Baltimore Orioles lineup after production at an elite level all season in 2013.
Biggest Disappointment: SP Dylan Bundy
Injured, did not play.
The No. 2 prospect in all of baseball entering the 2013 season, according to Baseball America, Dylan Bundy never took the mound in 2013 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery.
After going 9-3 with a 2.08 ERA and 10.3 K/9 in his first minor league season in 2012, Bundy finished the season by making his big league debut as a 19-year-old. He was expected to give the Orioles rotation a boost at some point in 2013, but he wound up just raising question marks about his future.
Boston Red Sox
Biggest Surprise: SP John Lackey
After signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Red Sox prior to the 2010 season, John Lackey went a combined 26-23 with a 5.26 ERA in his first two seasons in Boston before missing all of 2012 with Tommy John surgery.
He bounced back in 2013 with his best season since 2007, helping the Red Sox to a title. His home/road splits were drastic, as he was 6-3 with a 2.47 ERA at home and 4-10 with a 4.48 ERA on the road, but it was still a surprisingly successful season for the right-hander.
Biggest Disappointment: 3B Will Middlebrooks
In just 267 at-bats in 2012, Will Middlebrooks hit .288/.325/.509 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI. That left the then-24-year-old looking like a prime candidate to break out in 2013.
Instead, he found himself demoted to the minors in late June.
He returned on Aug. 10 and hit .276/.329/.476 over his final 41 games, but he went just 4-for-25 in the playoffs and wound up benched for Xander Bogaerts. With Bogaerts shifting to shortstop now that Stephen Drew is gone, the team is set to rely on Middlebrooks once again, and he still has the potential to be a plus run producer.
Biggest Surprise: C Dioner Navarro
Though he was an All-Star in 2008 with the Rays, Dioner Navarro had done little in the three seasons leading up to his time with the Chicago Cubs. Over that span, he tallied a combined 369 at-bats and hit an uninspired .211/.279/.325 with eight home runs and 36 RBI.
He joined the Cubs on a one-year, $1.75 million deal to back up Welington Castillo. He wound up being a force at the plate with 13 home runs in just 240 at-bats. He managed to parlay those numbers into a two-year, $8 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason.
Biggest Disappointment: SS Starlin Castro
Starlin Castro entered the 2013 season with a .297/.336/.425 career line, 529 career hits and back-to-back All-Star trips to his credit, and he was still only 23 years old.
Health was not an issue, as he led the NL in at-bats for the third straight season. However, with his walks down and strikeouts up, his approach at the plate took a step backward, and he was just never able to get it going.
He'll get every chance to figure it out after signing a seven-year, $60 million extension during the 2012 season, but top prospect Javier Baez could push him this coming year.
Chicago White Sox
Biggest Surprise: 3B Conor Gillaspie
Acquired from the San Francisco Giants last February, Conor Gillaspie was a former first-round pick with a decent minor league track record who just really never got a chance to show what he could do at the big league level with the Giants.
He had just 44 big league at-bats spanning three seasons prior to the 2013 season, but he quickly took over as the Chicago White Sox's starting third baseman when Jeff Keppinger went down with an injury. His numbers weren't overwhelming, but for an afterthought to play his way into 408 at-bats certainly qualifies as a surprise.
Biggest Disappointment: C Tyler Flowers
The White Sox opted to let A.J. Pierzynski walk in free agency last offseason, finally turning things over to longtime prospect Tyler Flowers behind the plate. The 27-year-old had served as Pierzynski's primary backup the previous two seasons and showed decent pop in 2012 with six doubles and seven home runs in 136 at-bats.
The results in 2013 were less than impressive. Flowers wound up missing the final month of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Fellow prospect Josh Phegley was not much better replacing him, and the catcher position remains a question mark for the White Sox heading into 2014.
Biggest Surprise: SP Mike Leake
At one point last spring, it looked as though Mike Leake was headed either for the Cincinnati Reds bullpen or Triple-A, with Aroldis Chapman slated to join the rotation. He ended up holding on to the No. 5 starter spot when Chapman stayed in the bullpen, and that proved to be in everyone's best interest.
The 26-year-old was just 8-9 with a 4.58 ERA over 30 starts during the 2012 season, but he wound up putting up career numbers across the board this past year.
Now he looks like a key piece of the staff moving forward, especially with Bronson Arroyo gone.
Biggest Disappointment: 3B Todd Frazier
Todd Frazier finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2012, hitting .273/.331/.498 with 19 home runs and 67 RBI over 422 at-bats. He did that while filling in for an injured Scott Rolen, and with the starting job all his in 2013, he was a breakout candidate.
Instead, he put up similar counting numbers over an extra 109 at-bats in 2013, as his OPS fell by over 100 points. He'll be 28 years old in February, and as a late-bloomer, he'll have to prove quickly that 2012 was no fluke or risk losing his job this coming year.
Biggest Surprise: SP Scott Kazmir
Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2013, Scott Kazmir returned from the independent league ranks to hold down a rotation spot for the Cleveland Indians and help them reach the playoffs as the surprise team of 2013.
It's not as though Kazmir tore up the independent league in 2012 either, as he was 3-6 with a 5.34 ERA over 14 starts. The Indians took a flier on him, and it could not have worked out better for both sides; Kazmir turned his bounce-back season into a two-year, $22 million deal with the Oakland Athletics this offseason.
Biggest Disappointment: 3B Lonnie Chisenhall
Lonnie Chisenhall has been viewed as the long-term answer at third base for the Indians since the team selected him in the first round of the 2008 draft.
While injuries cut into his chance to prove himself in both 2011 and 2012, he still opened the 2013 season with every chance of locking down the job.
A 24-for-60 spring training that included four home runs and 12 RBI boosted expectations for the 25-year-old once again, and he earned the Opening Day spot. However, he was demoted by mid-May, when he was hitting just .213/.253/.351. He put up similar numbers upon returning a month later.
Biggest Surprise: 3B Nolan Arenado
Nolan Arenado shot up top prospect lists after he hit .298/.349/.487 with 20 home runs and 122 RBI as a 20-year-old in High-A back in 2011. His numbers fell across the board the following season, but he remained the third baseman of the future in Colorado.
He opened 2013 in the minors, but he was the team's everyday third baseman by the end of April. His offense was what you would expect from a 22-year-old rookie, but it's his defense that earns him a spot here. With 30 defensive runs saved and a 22.5 UZR/150, he was nothing short of elite and wound up taking home Gold Glove honors at the hot corner in the NL.
Biggest Disappointment: 2B Josh Rutledge
While filling in for an injured Troy Tulowitzki in 2012, Josh Rutledge was perhaps the Rockies' biggest surprise. Over 277 at-bats, he hit .274/.306/.469 with 20 doubles and eight home runs. That was more than enough for the team to pencil him in as the everyday second baseman for 2013.
He scuffled through the first two-and-a-half months of the season before being demoted, and the emergence of DJ LeMahieu wound up costing him another chance at the starting job.
Now he finds himself in a position where utility infielder is likely the best he can hope for in 2014.
Biggest Surprise: RP Drew Smyly
After going 4-3 with a 3.99 ERA in 23 games (18 starts) for the Detroit Tigers in 2012, Drew Smyly moved to the bullpen full-time in 2013 and wound up becoming one of the best left-handed setup men in all of baseball. His contributions meant even more given the uncertainty surrounding the bullpen as a whole heading into the season.
With Doug Fister traded to the Washington Nationals, he'll return to the rotation this coming season, and the 24-year-old looks have to have a bright future ahead of him.
Biggest Disappointment: C Alex Avila
Heading into the 2012 season, Alex Avila was undoubtedly one of the top young catchers and one of the best all-around backstops in general after hitting .295/.389/.506 with 19 home runs and 82 RBI as a 24-year-old in 2011.
However, he took a big step back in 2012 with a .243/.352/.384 line. The question entering play this past season was which Avila was the real Avila.
A slip below those disappointing 2012 numbers answered that question, and now the Tigers may be in a position where they need to look for a replacement if he struggles again.
Biggest Surprise: C Jason Castro
The No. 10 pick in the 2008 draft, Jason Castro had battled injuries to start his career and was far from a sure thing entering the 2013 season. After missing the entire 2011 season with a torn ACL, knee issues cropped up again in 2012 and limited him to just 87 games.
He stayed healthy in 2013 and showed why he was once regarded as one of the top catching prospects in the game. Now the 26-year-old looks like a piece the Houston Astros can build around moving forward.
Biggest Disappointment: SP Lucas Harrell
Lucas Harrell was one of the few bright spots for the Astros in 2012, as he essentially came out of nowhere to go 11-11 with a 3.76 ERA, leading the team in wins and ERA.
Penciled in as the team's No. 2 starter to open the season, Harrell went 5-9 with a 5.04 ERA through his first 19 starts before being removed from the rotation. He made a few spot starts the rest of the way but was essentially limited to mop-up duties out of the bullpen.
Kansas City Royals
Biggest Surprise: OF David Lough
A former 11th-round pick back in 2007, David Lough made his big league debut in 2012 and hit an uninspiring .237/.292/.305 over 59 at-bats. He earned a call-up in mid-May and slowly played his way into an extended role in right field with Jeff Francoeur struggling once again.
When the dust settled on the 2013 season, the 27-year-old had put together a solid all-around season and was rewarded with an eighth-place finish in AL Rookie of the Year voting. The Kansas City Royals flipped him to the Orioles this offseason for Danny Valencia, and now he looks like their starting left fielder.
Biggest Disappointment: 3B Mike Moustakas
A big spring training in which he went 28-for-71 with eight doubles, five home runs and 16 RBI led many to peg Mike Moustakas as one of the potential breakout stars of the 2013 season.
Instead, the former top prospect wound up being a weak link in the team's offensive attack, turning in a dreadful .215/.271/.327 first half. Things got a little better after the All-Star break, but he still fell far short of his lofty expectations.
Los Angeles Angels
Biggest Surprise: OF J.B. Shuck
After failing to stick with the Astros, J.B. Shuck landed in Anaheim as a free agent prior to last season with next to nothing expected of him. A solid spring training earned him a spot on the Opening Day roster as an extra outfielder, but there was still little chance he'd see extended playing time.
Then Peter Bourjos went down with an injury, opening the door for extended playing time for the 26-year-old, and he made the most of it. His 128 hits ranked second among all rookies, and his 60 runs scored were fourth. He wound up finishing in fifth place in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Biggest Disappointment: RF Josh Hamilton
Signed to a five-year, $125 million contract last offseason, Josh Hamilton joined Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo to form what many viewed as the most dangerous lineup in all of baseball heading into the 2013 season.
Instead, Hamilton stumbled out of the gates with a .204/.252/.296 first month of the year. He was never really able to get things going in his first season with the team. A .323/.366/.484 final month that included 19 RBI in 25 games gives some hope for 2014, but he was arguably the biggest single disappointment of 2013.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Biggest Surprise: RF Yasiel Puig
It was clear the Los Angeles Dodgers had something special in Yasiel Puig this past spring, when the Cuban defector went 30-for-58 with 10 extra-base hits and 11 RBI. However, having not played above the High-A level, he opened the season in Double-A.
When he finally made his debut on June 3, the Dodgers were 23-32 and a full 8.5 games out in the NL West. They would go 69-38 the rest of the way when Puig proved to be exactly the spark the team needed. While the then-22-year-old's immaturity made him a polarizing figure at times, his talent level is undeniable.
Biggest Disappointment: CF Matt Kemp
After a dazzling 2011 season in which he posted a .986 OPS with 39 home runs and 40 stolen bases, Matt Kemp battled injuries to play just 106 games in 2012. He was still a force when he was on the field with a .906 OPS and 23 home runs in 403 at-bats.
He underwent surgery on his left shoulder at the end of the 2012 season and never really seemed to get back to 100 percent this past year.
All told, he played in just 73 games and was shut down for the team's playoff run.
Biggest Surprise: SP Jose Fernandez
Jose Fernandez had all the makings of an ace after a dominant first full pro season in 2012 saw him go 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA and 10.6 K/9 between Single-A and High-A.
Few saw him rising to the ranks of ace as a 21-year-old this past season, though.
When injuries to Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi opened up a spot in the Miami Marlins rotation just before the start of the regular season, Fernandez got the call and ran with it. His numbers were nothing short of dominant across the board, and he finished third in NL Cy Young voting, won NL Rookie of the Year and led the NL with just 5.8 H/9.
Biggest Disappointment: C Rob Brantly
Acquired at the deadline in 2012 as part of the return package from the Tigers for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, Rob Brantly hit .290/.372/.460 with 11 extra-base hits in 100 at-bats for the Marlins down the stretch post-trade.
That was enough to win him the Opening Day catcher job this past season, but he struggled to match that production.
Still just 24, Brantly has plenty of upside, but his less-than-stellar 2013 performance was reason enough for the Marlins to sign Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year deal this offseason.
Biggest Surprise: SS Jean Segura
A case can be made for Carlos Gomez as the selection here, as he built off of his breakout 2012 season to emerge as one of the top all-around outfielders in baseball. That said, the bigger surprise has to be shortstop Jean Segura.
Acquired from the Angels in the Zack Greinke trade, he had just 151 big league at-bats and a .258/.315/.325 line under his belt entering the season. He turned in a brilliant first half, hitting .325/.363/.487 with 11 home runs and 27 steals.
He fell off in the second half but still had a great all-around year.
Biggest Disappointment: LF Ryan Braun
Who else but Ryan Braun here?
The face of the Brewers franchise and a fan favorite not just in Milwaukee but around the league, Braun was pegged in the Biogenesis scandal and wound up serving a 65-game suspension.
Now he'll set about attempting to restore his image this coming season, and it will be an uphill battle for the slugger.
Biggest Surprise: 2B Brian Dozier
Brian Dozier hit just 16 home runs in 1,405 minor league at-bats, with another six over 316 at-bats for the Minnesota Twins in 2012, so it's fair to say that his power output in 2013 was a huge surprise.
He ranked seventh in doubles and fourth in home runs among all second basemen, all good for a 3.8 rWAR. Add in the fact that the natural shortstop spent the entire year at second and held his own defensively, and Dozier was one of the better under-the-radar surprises of 2013.
Biggest Disappointment: SP Scott Diamond
Bright spots in the Twins rotation the past two years have been few and far between, but Scott Diamond certainly gave reason for optimism in 2012. The left-hander was not overpowering by any means, but he used impressive command to go 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA and AL-best 1.6 BB/9 over 27 starts in 2012.
He was not nearly as effective this past season. His WHIP climbed from 1.24 to 1.52, and he struck out just 52 hitters in 131 innings of work.
Now, with the Twins signing Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes this offseason, he may not have a spot on the 2014 staff.
New York Mets
Biggest Surprise: CF Juan Lagares
The offensive numbers for Juan Lagares are nothing to write home about, through they were respectable for a 24-year-old rookie. Instead, Lagares made anything he contributed at the plate a bonus thanks to his phenomenal defense in center field.
His 28 defensive runs saved were third-most among all outfielders, and his 34.1 UZR/150 was the best among everyday outfielders, according to FanGraphs.
He appears locked into the starting center field job this coming season, even after the New York Mets signed Chris Young and Curtis Granderson.
Biggest Disappointment: 1B Ike Davis
Ike Davis appeared to be on his way to a breakout season in 2011, hitting .302/.383/.543 with seven home runs and 25 RBI through his first 36 games, when a left ankle injury ended his season. He hit just .227 the following season, but did manage 32 home runs and 90 RBI.
It looked like 2013 could be the year when he finally put it all together, but instead, he found himself demoted to the minors in mid-June when he was hitting just .161/.242/.258. He hit slightly better after returning a month later, but at this point, he looks like someone who would benefit greatly from a change of scenery.
New York Yankees
Biggest Surprise: LF Alfonso Soriano
Acquired at the trade deadline from the Cubs, Alfonso Soriano was a godsend for the New York Yankees down the stretch, carrying what was a sputtering offense.
With 17 home runs and 50 RBI in 58 games, he was arguably the best pickup of the July trade season. He will be back this coming season, and with the Cubs paying $13 million of his $18 million salary, he could wind up being a steal once again.
Biggest Disappointment: SP CC Sabathia
There was no shortage of choices for most disappointing Yankees players. But I opted to go with someone who stayed healthy for the entire season but simply disappointed: ace CC Sabathia.
After going 74-29 with a 3.22 ERA over his first four seasons in New York, Sabathia began to show signs of his age and the high workload he's endured this past season. Over the past three seasons, his average fastball velocity has dropped from 93.9 to 92.4 to 91.3, according to FanGraphs.
Biggest Surprise: 3B Josh Donaldson
A strong stretch run in 2012 after returning from the minors was enough to win Josh Donaldson the starting third base job in 2013, but it's fair to assume his production exceeded the A's' wildest dreams this past year.
The 28-year-old was a .232/.280/.386 career hitter over just 306 major league at-bats entering the year, but he quickly emerged as a force in the middle of the A's lineup and one of the best third basemen in all of baseball. He finished fourth in AL MVP voting. He was a legitimate star on an A's team lacking a conventional face of the franchise.
Biggest Disappointment: RF Josh Reddick
Acquired from the Red Sox prior to the 2012 season in the Andrew Bailey deal, Josh Reddick was a breakout star for the A's during their surprise run to the 2012 playoffs. While his .305 OBP was low, he finished the year with 32 home runs and 85 RBI while also winning a Gold Glove.
However, his average fell this past season. Without plus power numbers, his lack of plate discipline and on-base skills became a detriment to the lineup. He wound up in a platoon role and received just 385 at-bats, and his starting spot is in jeopardy this coming season.
Biggest Surprise: LF Domonic Brown
Domonic Brown was the No. 4 prospect in all of baseball heading into the 2011 season, according to Baseball America, and a favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year honors. However, a broken hamate bone sidelined him that spring. He spent 2011 and 2012 bouncing between the minors and majors.
A strong spring training earned him an everyday job this past year, and he made the most of it by flashing terrific power. His defense in left field was suspect, and he did fall off a bit in the second half, but he was finally able to turn some of his vast potential into production.
Biggest Disappointment: SP Roy Halladay
Arguably the best pitcher in the National League as recently as 2011, Roy Halladay fell off considerably in 2012 and dealt with injuries for the first time in a number of years. He wound up making 25 starts that year, going 11-8 with a 4.49 ERA, but that would be the beginning of the end.
He made just seven starts last year before undergoing shoulder surgery. Though he was a respectable 2-1 with a 4.55 ERA in six starts after returning, he was a shell of the pitcher he was. It was a disappointing way to see one of the best pitchers of his generation end his career, as Halladay opted to retire this offseason after signing a one-day contract with the Blue Jays.
Biggest Surprise: SP Francisco Liriano
The Pittsburgh Pirates took a minimal risk signing Francisco Liriano to a one-year, $1 million deal last offseason, and it wound up paying huge dividends when he emerged as the ace of their staff. The left-hander has always had dominant stuff but has struggled to stay healthy.
It wound up being a huge bonus that the Pirates tacked an $8 million option for 2014 onto the contract. He is still a steal at that price if he pitches like he did last year.
Still only 30 years old, there's no reason to think he can't be a stud once again if he stays healthy.
Biggest Disappointment: 1B/OF Garrett Jones
Power has always been the biggest tool that Garrett Jones brought to the table, and he turned in the best year of his career in that department in 2012. Aside from hitting a solid .274/.317/.516, he posted career highs with 27 home runs and 86 RBI.
Counted on to be a key run producer once again this past season, his line fell to .233/.289/.419. He wound up on the bench down the stretch after the team acquired Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd. He was non-tendered this offseason and signed a two-year, $7.75 million deal with the Marlins.
San Diego Padres
Biggest Surprise: RF Will Venable
A fringe starter at best entering the season, Will Venable hit a subpar .224/.268/.423 in the first half. However, for lack of a better option, he retained his starting job in the second half.
It was a good thing the San Diego Padres stuck with him.
His numbers improved to .315/.357/.549 with 11 home runs and 13 steals after the All-Star break, and he emerged as the Padres' top offensive threat. That earned him a modest two-year, $8.5 million extension in early September, and he'll look to duplicate that success over a full season in 2014.
Biggest Disappointment: 3B Chase Headley
Speaking of big second-half production, Padres fans won't soon forget the second half that Chase Headley put together in 2012.
After a modest first half on par with his career numbers, Headley exploded for a .308/.386/.592 line with 23 home runs and 73 RBI after the All-Star break.
A hot commodity on the trade market last offseason, the Padres opted to hold on to him, and in hindsight, that looks to have been the wrong move. A disappointing 2013 significantly lowered his stock, and now the free-agent-to-be enters a contract year.
The Padres are no doubt hoping he can regain some of his value between Opening Day and the July 31 trade deadline.
San Francisco Giants
Biggest Surprise: SP/RP Chad Gaudin
Signed to a minor league contract last offseason, Chad Gaudin was coming off of a season in which he went 4-2 with a 4.54 ERA while being used exclusively as a reliever by a bad Miami Marlins team. As such, little was expected of the right-hander.
He cracked the Opening Day roster as a long reliever and eventually found himself in the starting rotation after Ryan Vogelsong went down with an injury. He finished with a 2.08 ERA in 18 relief appearances and a 5-1 record with a 3.53 ERA in 12 starts as one of the best swingmen in the game.
Biggest Disappointment: SP Matt Cain
The final numbers are not awful, but after he signed a six-year, $127.5 million extension prior to the 2012 season, much more is expected from Matt Cain at this point in his career.
The Giants rotation as a whole outside of Madison Bumgarner was a major disappointment this past season, and Cain in particular really struggled out of the gate. He was 0-2 with a 6.49 ERA in six starts over the first month of the year and 6-6 with a 5.00 ERA through his first 20 starts. For the Giants' sake, a strong finish to the season will need to carry over to 2014.
Biggest Surprise: SP Hisashi Iwakuma
Those who paid attention to what Hisashi Iwakuma did after joining the Seattle Mariners rotation in the second half of the 2012 season may not have been as surprised by his performance this past year. In 16 starts to close out the year, he was 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA, and the team wisely re-signed him to a two-year, $14 million deal.
The results were similar to his impressive finish to the 2012 season, only he did it over an entire year, out-pitching teammate Felix Hernandez every step of the way. For his efforts, he finished third in AL Cy Young voting and 19th in AL MVP voting.
Biggest Disappointment: OF Michael Morse
The Mariners acquired Michael Morse in a three-team deal last offseason in hopes of bolstering what had been the league's lowest-scoring offense. In parts of the previous three seasons, he had hit .296/.345/.516 and tallied 64 home runs.
He got off to a torrid start with six home runs and nine RBI over his first nine games, but he managed just seven home runs and 18 RBI over his next 67 games before being traded to the Orioles. Now he's looking to get back on track after signing a one-year deal with the Giants this offseason.
St. Louis Cardinals
Biggest Surprise: 2B Matt Carpenter
A corner infielder by trade who served in a super-utility role in 2012, Matt Carpenter moved to second base heading into the 2013 season in an effort to fill a need and get his bat into the lineup everyday.
The move could not have worked out better. Carpenter not only held his own at second, but also filled a glaring need in the leadoff spot. He wound up leading all of baseball in hits, doubles and runs scored to finish fourth in NL MVP voting in his first season as an everyday player.
Biggest Disappointment: 3B David Freese
After dealing with injuries during his first few seasons in the league, David Freese finally stayed healthy enough to reach 500 at-bats in 2012. The result was a career-best .293/.372/.467 line with 20 home runs, 79 RBI and a trip to the All-Star Game.
He stayed relatively healthy again this past season, but his production was down across the board, particularly in the run production department.
He'll always be a hero in St. Louis for his 2011 postseason performance, but the team rightfully cut ties with him this offseason, trading him to the Angels to open up a starting spot for prospect Kolten Wong.
Tampa Bay Rays
Biggest Surprise: RP Alex Torres
One of the Rays' top pitching prospects just a few years ago, Alex Torres went 9-7 with a 3.08 ERA and 9.6 K/9 in 27 Triple-A starts back in 2011, earning a cup of coffee down the stretch as a result.
He took a huge step backward in 2012, spending the entire season in the minors and going 3-8 with a 6.72 ERA. Little was expected of him entering 2013, but after nine solid starts in Triple-A, he was called up to help out in the bullpen and was more or less untouchable.
Biggest Disappointment: SP Jeremy Hellickson
The 2011 AL Rookie of the Year, Jeremy Hellickson was 23-21 with a 3.02 ERA through his first two big league seasons, and his emergence was at least part of the reason the Rays were comfortable trading James Shields last winter.
It was Alex Cobb who stepped up to fill Shields' shoes as a front-line starter, while Hellickson saw his ERA spike by over two points this past year. His 4.22 FIP (via FanGraphs) suggests he pitched better than his numbers reflect, but it was a disappointing season for the 26-year-old nonetheless.
Biggest Surprise: RP Neal Cotts
A 33-year-old Neal Cotts had not thrown an inning in the big leagues since 2009 when the Texas Rangers signed him to a minor league contract last spring. He didn't even make the roster out of spring training, but once he debuted on May 21, he quickly became one of the Rangers' most reliable relievers.
He joined Robbie Ross to form one of the best left-handed relief duos in baseball this past year, and he is throwing the ball better now than he did back when he was the White Sox's primary setup man.
Biggest Disappointment: SP Matt Garza
Viewed by most as the prize of the trade deadline last year, Matt Garza was 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA in 11 starts with the Cubs prior to being traded to Texas, including 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA in his previous six starts.
The Rangers gave up a ton to land him, hoping to catch the Oakland A's in the AL West and earn a postseason spot. But they stumbled down the stretch, and Garza did little to shore up the rotation.
Toronto Blue Jays
Biggest Surprise: CF Colby Rasmus
Colby Rasmus has always had the talent, but after he hit just .223/.289/.400 with 23 home runs and 75 RBI over a career-high 565 at-bats in 2012, there was some question as to whether he would even hold on to the starting center field job for all of 2013.
In the end, injuries were the only thing that slowed him down in 2013, but he managed to produce similar power numbers in roughly 150 fewer at-bats while raising his average 50 points and OPS 100 points.
Still only 27, Rasmus may yet be a star in this league.
Biggest Disappointment: SP Josh Johnson
The Blue Jays team as a whole belongs among the biggest disappointments of the 2013 season, with their pitching staff in particular a huge bust.
If one person is to be singled out, though, right-hander Josh Johnson was a massive disappointment.
One of the best pitchers in the game as recently as the beginning of 2011, Johnson was expected to benefit after being traded from the Marlins to Blue Jays. The change of scenery and opportunity to contend did not provide the spark many hoped it would, and he was among the worst starters in all of baseball.
Biggest Surprise: RF Jayson Werth
After a down 2011 season and an injury-plagued 2012, the seven-year, $126 million deal the Nationals gave Jayson Werth was quickly making its way onto the "biggest busts" list.
He turned things around with a terrific 2013 season.
Few would have picked Werth to finish in the top 15 in NL MVP voting entering the season, but he wound up 13th. He finished the year fifth in the NL in batting average and on-base percentage and third in slugging.
Biggest Disappointment: 2B Danny Espinosa
Danny Espinosa had always struck out a ton, including an NL-high 189 times in 2012, but his plus defense at second base and solid power for the position helped to offset that. He posted an rWAR of 2.8 in 2011 and 2.6 in 2012 despite hitting just .242 over that span.
Everything came crumbling down this past season, and he spent the majority of the year in the minors. Luckily for the Nationals, top prospect Anthony Rendon held his own in the everyday second base role.
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