Follow the game of baseball long enough and you come to expect the unexpected.
R.A. Dickey was a 31-year-old journeyman with a career 5.55 ERA in 262.2 big league innings when he decided to become a knuckleball pitcher prior to the 2006 season. He allowed six homers in his lone start that year and was sent back to the minors to continue working on perfecting the pitch.
Six seasons later, he was the NL Cy Young Award winner with the New York Mets.
While that's a tremendous story and probably among the best in baseball during the current era, there are several unexpected developments each and every year. These surprises are part of what makes the game so interesting over a long 162-game season.
Along with the occasional journeyman who breaks through after finally getting a shot, players who have never been highly touted as prospects emerge as superstars shortly after becoming big leaguers. Arizona Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt is a prime example, while the long list of top prospects who haven't panned out is endless.
Teams that are World Series favorites fall out of playoff contention by mid-July. On the other hand, it's rare that at least one team that isn't so impressive on paper doesn't prove the experts wrong by sticking around in the playoff race until the very end, if not advancing to the postseason.
At the quarter mark, we've already had some fun surprises around the league. Here are some of the biggest.