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In my mind, Memorial Day marks the end of the first third of the season. We have had time to adjust our rosters somewhat, but if things still aren’t going your way and you’re still at the bottom of the standings, than it’s time to make some moves. Unfortunately there may not be much left on your waiver wire and even trades can be tricky will all of the injuries. Some of those injured players should be returning in the next few weeks, but the way this season is going, for every injured player that returns, three others may go on the disabled list. Today we are going to look at the Top 9 surprises (in a good way) so far this season. We’ll look at the other end of the spectrum later this week. As always, these are listed in no particular order.
Baltimore Orioles: Anyone that would’ve told me the Orioles would be in first place this late in the season plus the Yanks and Red Sox would be bringing up the rear I would’ve automatically ordered a drug test for. No one outside of Baltimore saw this coming, and if you did, please submit proof to me. Manager Buck Showalter has done a great job but this should not have been unexpected. If you look at Buck’s stops throughout his career, it’s the second season where he really starts to turn things around. He’s getting an MVP performance from centerfielder Adam Jones, great pitching from his starters, and although Jim Johnson struggled in the spring, he’s been lights out so far this season in closing out games. Sure the O’s have benefitted from injuries to the Rays, Yanks, and Sox, but they’re still 28-16. The question is how will they handle the marathon that is the baseball season, especially when injuries hit them as they eventually will.
Bryan LaHair, Chicago Cubs: We all knew coming into the season that LaHair had power, but most thought he was just going to be a caretaker at first base until top prospect Anthony Rizzo was ready to be called up and take over. Well LaHair is letting the Cubs know they better find someplace for him to play as he’s hitting .315 with 10HRs, 21 RBIs, with an OPS of 1.035. Yeah, he has to play. Best guess is that LaHair will be moved to a corner OF position which he has played before as the Cubs need all the offense they can get. If the Cubbies happened to believe that LaHair is a mirage or that he can’t handle the OF on a daily basis, than LaHair’s value will most likely never be higher and his name could be floated in trade rumors in the coming weeks/months.
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays: For most of the first six weeks of the season it looked like Encarnacion and Jose Bautista had switched jerseys as EE was hitting all the home runs while Bautista struggled at the plate. Well Bautista has picked it up of late but that hasn’t slowed EE down. Encarnacion has 13 long balls and 35 RBIs already. Encarnacion has shown glimpses of power before, he hit 26 HRs for the Reds in 2008, but his defensive game left much to be desired. Well now he plays most of his games at DH and can focus on his offense, and it’s paying off beautifully. Still, he’s a sell high player for me as I don’t see these kind of numbers lasting all season.
David Wright, New York Mets: Wright seems to get no respect. His owner made remarks last year that he’s a nice player, but not a superstar, fans get on him for less than stellar numbers and not being on the field enough the past couple of seasons, and even the media hasn’t been on his side despite an impressive resume. Well Wright has put that all behind him this season batting .415 coming into Tuesday. Is he going to hit over .400 this season? Of course not, but he’s still a very good player, and when healthy one of the best 3B in baseball. The Mets moving the fences in at CitiField hasn’t hurt any either.
Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers: At draft time, Hamilton’s average draft position (ADP) was in the mid 20s, a third round pick. The reason for this was simple, Hamilton is a great player, but has had a myriad of injury problems in the past and had a relapse of his substance abuse problems in the off-season, so fantasy owners couldn’t justify a 1st or high 2nd round pick on him. Well, if you did spend an early pick, you’re being rewarded handsomely so far. 18HRs, 47 RBIs, 4SB, 33Rs, .379 avg, along with an OPS of 1.197. What’s not to like? This after missing a couple of games early in the season with a shoulder injury. He’s in a contract year and is the clear MVP so far in the American League. What kind of numbers will he end up with if he plays 150+ games? Could be scary.
Brandon Beachy, Atlanta Braves: Coming into the season when thinking of the Braves starters we thought, when will Tim Hudson return? Will Jair Jurrjens find the magic had had for part of last season? Will Tommy Hanson return to health? Will will Julio Teheran make the team out of camp? There was no one who was thinking that Beachy would become the ace of the staff, but that is exactly what has happened. Beachy is 5-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a WHIP of .889. Pretty sick numbers.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Now I can see where some people might have picked the Dodgers for 1st because the talent in the NL West is not as good as the AL East, but to me this team is a mirror image of the Orioles. They have played great since the opening bell. Getting major contributions from throwaway starters in Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang. There lineup outside of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier is really nothing to get excited about but manager Don Mattingly is pushing all the right buttons and getting the job done. Now that the ownership mess has been straightened out, the Dodgers could/should be major players at the trade deadline and in free agency as they will look to return this franchise to the prominence they once had.
Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox: Before the season began, I made a bet with my brother that Kendry Morales would have more fantasy points in our league than Adam Dunn. Yeah, I’ll be buying him dinner at the restaurant of his choice this October. It’s not that I thought Dunn wouldn’t have a good season, thought he was a steal for his ADP (20th+) but I certainly didn’t see him hitting 40 HRs again. Oh well, good for the big donkey as it was so hard to see him struggle to hit a fastball last season. Looks like he was correct when he told the Angels Vernon Wells in the off-season, “don’t even think about winning the comeback player of the year award, it’s all mine”.
Josh Reddick, Oakland Athletics: Think the Red Sox would like a do over the trade that sent Reddick to Oakland for Andrew Bailey? With all of the injuries they have had, including the one to Bailey, they could certainly use the 11 HRs and 24 RBIs he has provided so far this season. This coming for the Oakland A’s, certainly not the top of the mountain as far as offense is concerned, not to mention they play in a terrible hitters ballpark. Looks like Reddick figured it out a season to late for Boston, or perhaps they just never gave him a chance?
If you want to comment on this column or any other, you can reach me on Twitter, @georgekurtz
Topics: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles, Baseball Season, Bryan LaHair, Caretaker, Centerfielder, Chicago Cubs, Clearing The Bases, Drug Test, Fantasy, Games, George Kurtz, Manager Buck Showalter, Marathon, Memorial Day, Mvp Performance, Red Sox, Rizzo, Second Season, Spectrum, Starters, Surprise Surprise, Surprises, Trades, Waiver Wire, Yanks And Sox