By: Eli Silverstone
IT'S EARLY! Every baseball fan must remind themselves of the fact that we are only two months into a six month season. That doesn't mean we cant be surprised when bottom dwellers reach the top or World Series contenders bottom out. Here are the three teams surprising expectations and three that are disappointing.
Tampa Bay Rays (38-15)
Every season baseball fans count out Tampa Bay because of a lack of name brand talent, especially in the loaded AL East. Last season was their worst year in the past few, finishing with 86 wins and 3rd in the division. To follow this up, their main offseason acquisition was Zach Eflin. And yet, they burst onto the 2023 scene winning 13 straight and are enjoying a 38-15 record; 5 more wins than any other club in the majors. They have three players top ten in MLB in OPS, and unproven MLB plamyers are having All-Star level seasons such as Josh Lowe (.983 OPS, 11 HR), Taylor Walls (.866 OPS, 7 HR). Shane Mcclanahan (8-0, 1.67 ERA), who looks to be a CY Young favorite, plus Yandy Diaz (1.064 OPS, 11 HR) is a surprising dark horse MVP candidate. They love the underdog role.
Arizona Diamondbacks (29-22)
The young core has arrived and the D-Backs currently sit at 29-21, good for second in the NL West. Top prospect Corbin Carroll has become the leader of the offense in his rookie year (.889 OPS, 7 HR, 14 SB) while veterans Ketel Marte, Christian Walker and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are off to great starts. After quietly finishing top five in Cy Young voting last year while leading the league in WHIP, Zac Gallen is dealing to open up this season (2.97 ERA). While the D-Backs haven't made the playoffs since 2017, could this be the season they put it together?
Baltimore Orioles (33-18)
Everything turned around for the Orioles when they called up number one overall prospect Adley Rutschman a year ago. Since then, they finished a respectable 83-79 last season and are exploding out the gates this year with a 32-17 record. That's the second most wins behind only the Rays. This year, the Orioles developed Yennier Cano, who had a career ERA over 10, into an elite set-up man (0.35 ERA in 25 IP). Last year, they had Felix Bautista breakout into one of the best closers in the MLB in the second half of the year (15 SV, 2.19 ERA last year, 12 SV, 1.44 ERA this year). The outfield has been strong with fantastic seasons from Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander. Baltimore also possesses the best farm system in baseball despite graduating former 1st overall prospects Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Grayson Rodriguez. They have 7 prospects in the top 100 including number 3 overall Jackson Holliday. The O’s are here to stay and this should be the last year they surprise anyone.
Rangers, Pirates, Marlins
Toronto Blue Jays (27-25)
A solid start has been washed over by a 2-10 stretch against AL East opponents dropping the Blue Jays to last in the division with a 27-25 record. Alek Manoah has gone from finishing 3rd in Cy Young voting last year to one of the worst qualified pitchers in the majors (worst in WHIP, 5th worst in ERA). Outfielders Daulton Varsho (acquired for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Gabriel Moreno in the offseason) and George Springer have been disappointing, tallying a .659 and .698 OPS respectively. This team has been an American League favorite for three seasons now, but missed the playoffs in 2021, bowed out in 2 games in the 2022 wildcard and although it’s early, don’t look close to the Rays level in 2023.
San Diego Padres (24-28)
This Padres team looks like an All-Star team. Their four man infield of Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis, Xander Bogaerts and Jake Cronenworth have a combined 11 all-star appearances, and are all supposed to be in their primes. And yet, they sit at 21-27, fourth in their division. They rank 25th in runs scored, and 29th in team batting average. Machado has especially been disappointing with a .654 OPS and that's not great considering he’s in his age 30 season and has recently signed an 11 year/$350 million extension with the club. However, baseball is a long season, and it's arguably the Padres have too much talent to finish 4th in the division, but you can't say it hasn't been the most ideal start to the season.
Oakland Athletics (10-43)
Unlike the teams above, the A’s didn't have expectations of a playoff team. But they have been straight up depressing. The biggest news is that they are moving to Vegas and have purchased the land for a stadium in Southern Nevada. This is happening because they are averaging 8,000 fans a game, 4,000 less then second worst. The roster looks like it belongs in AAA and it’s reflected in their 10-41 record. Well with all this losing, surely they have a good farm system, right? Nope. Their farm system ranks 22nd according to MLB.com. Esteury Ruiz is an exciting player with his speed (26 SB in 52 G) and Brent Rooker has emerged from thin air to hit 11 HR with a .903 OPS this season, but that’s been about all of the bright spots for the A’s in what's been a gruesome season.
Cardinals, Phillies, White Sox