Every season is full of surprises and the early portion of the 2019 season is no different. 2019 has been home to career resurgences, old being made new, and post-hype sleepers galore. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the season’s biggest positive surprises thus far:
Catcher: Mitch Garver
Garver was not expected to garner much playing time heading into the year with fan favorite Willians Astudillo and defensive specialist Jason Castro ahead of him, but he has capitalized on his opportunities. He has posted a .333/.425/.733 slash line across 87 plate appearances so far, with an 80th-percentile hard hit rate to boot. He has even chipped in 19 runs and 17 RBIs in a small sample size.
First Base: Hunter Dozier
Dozier came into the year as a semi-popular deep league target but has proven to be worth more than that. He has crushed 9 bombs, while amassing 20 runs and 21 RBIs with a .318/.413/.621 slash line. He ranks among the league’s best in 2019 in exit velocity, sprint speed, and expected statistics.
Second Base: Tommy La Stella
Nobody could have possibly predicted the emergence of Tommy La Stella. 22 runs, 10 homers, 24 RBIs, and a .272/.364/.583 triple slash have placed among the league’s best in the second base ranks. While he has not hit the ball particularly hard this season, it is worth noting that La Stella came into the year with 10 career homers and has doubled that total since. It is barely mid-May.
Third Base: Yandy Diaz
Diaz was something of a deep league darling to begin the year but he had numerous doubters due to a lackluster launch angle. He has crushed his way to 24 runs, 9 homers, and 22 RBIs this season with an .895 OPS. Looking at expected stats, Yandy has a .281 xBA and .511 xSLG. He’s here to stay.
Shortstop: Elvis Andrus
While he is not an insane surprise after enjoying a 20-20 season just two years ago, Andrus was pedestrian at best in 2018. 2019 has seen a fast start for him, with a .327 AVG, 24 runs, 6 homers, 25 RBIs, and a whopping 8 stolen bags. Andrus may be in the process of repeating his 2017.
Outfield: Dwight Smith Jr.
A bright spot in a terrible Baltimore lineup, Smith has amassed 25 runs and 27 RBIs to go along with 8 bombs, 4 swipes, and a .286 average. He has been solid all the way around and is somewhat of a post-hype prospect, even after enjoying an .824 OPS campaign in 2018.
Outfield: Alex Gordon
If you thought Gordon’s career was on the brink of extinction, many would have agreed with you. Somehow, he has emerged from the darkness. From 2016-2018, Gordon had a slash line of .225/.310/.355. Yikes. In 2019, it is .296/.381/.542 with 25 runs, 8 homers, and 31 RBIs. Wow.
Outfield: Hunter Pence
Another guy you thought was almost dead is young again. Maybe. 95th-percentile exit velocity, 87th-percentile sprint speed, and 99th-percentile xBA are all marks of a stud. In only 90 plate appearances, Pence has amassed 25 runs and RBIs with 7 homers and an exceptional .316 batting average.
Starting Pitcher: Spencer Turnbull
Not a factor in 2018, Turnbull has been quite the rotation boost this far. Accruing nearly a strikeout per inning with a 2.42 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, Turnbull has been a number 3 fantasy starter at the worst. A 4.36 SIERA predicts sizable regression, but he has been nothing short of a surprise so far.
Starting Pitcher: Zach Eflin
Many people believed in Eflin’s skillset heading into 2019 and he has looked great, even with a lack of strikeouts. Across 51 frames of work, Eflin has struck out 38 batters to go along with extraordinary marks of a 2.47 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. A 4.23 SIERA is a little scary in combination with a subpar 9% swinging strike rate, but the numbers have still been there.
Starting Pitcher: John Means
Out of nowhere for the Orioles, Means has been brilliant. A 2.33 ERA and 1.03 WHIP are great and he is not too far behind a strikeout per inning. As a starter only, Means has only 20 strikeouts in 31 innings, with a still excellent 2.61 ERA. The peripherals are a bit frightening, but he has performed well nonetheless.
Starting Pitcher: Luke Weaver
Once a highly-touted prospect, Weaver has begun to find it with a change of scenery for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Across 46 1/3 frames, Weaver has 50 punch outs to stand next to a 2.98 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. A 2.91 FIP, 3.47 SIERA, and 2.64 DRA support the strong start.
Relief Pitcher: Shane Greene
After a 2018 that saw Greene post an awful 5.12 ERA (so-so 3.94 DRA), he has bounced back in 2019. A 1.50 ERA and 15 early saves are supported by an elite 2.84 DRA so far this season. For those who waited on saves and initially thought they got ‘stuck with’ Greene, Greene has been well worth it.