Surprise: Ketel Marte
Man, this guy has won a lot of fantasy leagues for folks this year. His transformation from a slap-hitting, speedy shortstop to a power-hitting center fielder/second baseman went to a new level, as he has hit .329/.389/.592 with 32 home runs. Here's a question: Who's better over the next five years: Marte or Manny Machado?
Disappointment: Kyle Freeland
I don't know if there's a way to study which type of pitchers have been most harmed by the juiced ball, but I would suggest a left-hander without a big strikeout rate who pitches at Coors Field might be the answer. Regression would have been expected after Freeland's stellar 2018 campaign, but I was buying him heading into the season. Instead, he went 3-11 with a 6.98 ERA and 25 home runs allowed in 99⅓ innings. Freeland, German Marquez and Tyler Anderson combined for 16.1 bWAR in 2018. This year, just 2.0 WAR.
Surprise: Yordan Alvarez
Among this year's rookie sluggers, I might classify Alvarez as a bigger surprise than Pete Alonso. Put it this way: Alonso hit 36 home runs in 132 games in the minors last year. Factor in the major league rabbit ball and it's not outrageous (in retrospect) to think he could hit 40 home runs. He has done better than that -- he is up to 49 -- but the big power numbers aren't a big surprise. In Alvarez's case, we knew about the raw power, but it's his all-around hitting ability that has been off-the-charts impressive. He is hitting .318/.419/.671 with 26 homers in 79 games. Alvarez is insanely talented, doesn't strike out as much as Alonso and has best-hitter-in-the-game potential.
Disappointment: Nationals' bullpen
What's with the NL East? No wonder the Braves are running away with the division. Not that we expected the Nationals to have a lights-out bullpen, but one of the worst of all time? The Nationals' 5.84 bullpen ERA ranks last in the majors (even worse than the Orioles'), their relievers are last in win probability added (easily the worst figure in the past decade) and they had to turn to 42-year-old Fernando Rodney at the trade deadline.
Here is what's weird: In May, the Nationals traded Austin Adams to the Mariners. Adams had fanned 169 batters in 105⅓ innings with just three home runs allowed over the past two seasons in Triple-A. They couldn't use a guy like that? Adams has been pretty solid with Seattle, registering 50 K's in 29 innings.
Surprise: Mike Soroka
Soroka was a top prospect and pitched well in five starts last season, but the baby-faced 21-year-old entered spring training (A) having to prove he was healthy after throwing just 55 innings last year between the minors and majors, and (B) having to win a job in the rotation. He actually began the season with two starts in Triple-A, but Soroka has put together a remarkable rookie season with a 2.57 ERA. In the year of the home run, he has done a superb job of limiting home runs (and hard contact, which helps him succeed without an elite strikeout rate). I love the consistency and efficiency, and he is one of the big keys to the Braves making a World Series run.
Surprise: Oakland Athletics
Is there a surprise team in 2019? Not really. And since the A's won 97 games last year, you can't classify them as a shock. But who thought they would win 97 games again? They're at 92 after Wednesday's 1-0 win over the Royals. Of the 31 people polled in ESPN's preseason picks, only nine predicted the A's would make the playoffs (although two picked them to win the World Series). Among readers, more of you picked the Angels to win the AL West than the A's. The A's are 22½ games up on the Angels. So, the A's are your underdog story of 2019.
Last update on September 23, 2:26 am by simmonses.
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