Now that we’re one month into the baseball season, rather than sound the alarm bells or make bold proclamations, we’ll simply point out the most pleasant surprises and biggest early disappointments thus far in 2018:
Arizona Diamondbacks — Five years ago, Patrick Corbin appeared to take a step toward being an ace, but then he had to undergo Tommy John surgery and all that hype faded. Until now. Corbin is one of five major-league pitchers with four wins already and is sporting a 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 55 strikeouts against seven walks.
Atlanta Braves — There have always been high expectations for Ozzie Albies, but he has delivered in a big way much earlier than expected. The 21-year-old second baseman leads the majors in total bases (75), is tied for the major-league lead in runs (29) and doubles (12), and he’s tied for NL lead in hits (34) and homers (nine).
Baltimore Orioles — The Orioles’ offense ranks third to last in the major leagues, and one of the biggest letdowns has been Chris Davis. Crush has never been a batting average guy and this year is more of the same (.167), but he’s only hit two home runs while slugging .256. Davis hasn’t slugged under .400 for a season since 2010.
Boston Red Sox — Rick Porcello had seven mostly mediocre seasons before winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2016. That felt like an outlier when he went 11-17 with a 4.65 ERA and led the major leagues in home runs allowed. But, after a 4-0 start that includes a 2.23 ERA and only one homer allowed in 40⅓ innings, maybe 2017 is his new outlier.
Chicago Cubs — After four consecutive 30-plus home run seasons, Anthony Rizzo is on pace for eight this year. Now it’s obvious no one really expects that to happen, but Rizzo has only hit one home run — and it came on opening day. And that’s his only extra-base hit, as he’s hitting just .157 and slugging .200.
Chicago White Sox — It wasn’t long ago that Lucas Giolito was among the most heralded prospects in the game, but he has struggled to find his footing in the majors. In his first season as a full-time member of a major-league rotation, he has posted a 7.71 ERA and a 1.71 WHIP, stats among the worst in the league by qualifying pitchers.
Cincinnati Reds — There was a lot of hope for right-handed fireballer Luis Castillo to show he could lead the Reds’ young rotation. That hasn’t been the case, as Castillo has started six games and is 1-3 with a 7.85 ERA, allowing an NL-worst 25 earned runs. He has also struck out 2.4 fewer batters per nine innings than last season’s 9.9 average.
Cleveland Indians — After an explosive spring training, there was optimism that Jason Kipnis‘ woeful 2017 season was merely a product of his many injuries. But Kipnis has personified the Tribe’s struggling offense, slashing .167/.248/.225 without a homer, and his strikeout rate is up 5% from his career norm.
Colorado Rockies —Jon Gray showed signs in his last start that he might be getting back on track, blanking the Padres on three hits over six innings with 11 strikeouts. But that came after turning in duds in four of his first five starts. The Rockies’ opening-day starter is 2-4 with a 5.79 ERA and 1.47 WHIP.
Detroit Tigers — When Francisco Liriano finished last season as a long reliever with the Astros, there might have been some wonder whether his career was fading into the sunset. He’s put that to rest so far, leading the Tigers’ staff in wins (3) and innings pitched (29⅓), while posting a respectable 3.38 ERA.
Houston Astros — It’s not like anyone doubted whether Gerrit Cole could revive his young career with the defending champions. But it’s just the way he has done it. Cole has racked up 11 or more strikeouts in four of his six starts, and has a major-league best 61 strikeouts in 41⅔ innings, while compiling a 1.73 ERA, second-best in the AL.
Kansas City Royals —Jakob Junis might be coming off his worst start, but that doesn’t erase how he’s started this season. The second-year right-hander began the year with 16 consecutive scoreless innings and has a 3.34 ERA in 32⅓ innings pitched. The long ball, though, has been a problem worth watching.
Los Angeles Angels — Mike Scioscia’s closing options to start the year were limited to some combination of Blake Parker, Cam Bedrosian or Jim Johnson. That changed when Keynan Middleton stepped up after the second week of the season. He has converted on six of seven save chances with an ERA of 2.40 and 15 strikeouts in 15 innings.
Los Angeles Dodgers — Hyun-Jin Ryu has seemingly found his strikeout pitch again, punching out at least seven batters in each of his last four starts. In addition to 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings, Ryu leads the Dodgers’ starting staff in wins (3), ERA (2.22) and WHIP (0.85).
Miami Marlins — Jarlin Garcia has been a major bright spot for the scuffling Marlins, as he leads all of baseball in opposing batting average and has yielded only three earned runs in his five starts.
Milwaukee Brewers — Despite hitting 30 home runs with a .505 slugging percentage in 2017, Domingo Santana was expected to take a lesser role after the acquisitions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. Yet Santana has been given plenty of chances and has responded with only two extra-base hits (both doubles) and a .582 on-base-plus-slugging (OPS).
Minnesota Twins — Maybe the fact that Logan Morrison signed with the Twins late in the spring is the reason, but the free-swinging lefty has yet to get off the ground. He’s only hit two homers in 79 plate appearances, with a .151 batting average, .260 slugging and .513 OPS.
New York Mets — Most things have turned up roses for the Mets, and Asdrubal Cabrera is the biggest blossom. The veteran infielder has 34 hits, tied for the most in the NL, and his .340 batting average is second in the league. His .973 OPS is more than 150 points higher than his career best.
New York Yankees — No surprise here, just follow the boos. Giancarlo Stanton has hit some mammoth shots, as usual, but he’s struck out third-most in the majors and his current .239 batting average, .440 slugging percentage and .763 OPS all would be a career lows.
Oakland Athletics — Sean Manaea has taken his game to the next level, and not just because he’s thrown the major leagues’ only no-hitter this season. The left-hander has allowed two earned runs or less in all six of his starts and leads the AL in ERA at 1.03. He also leads the majors in WHIP at 0.62.
Philadelphia Phillies — The Phillies are off to a solid start, but Carlos Santana has struggled to adjust to his new surroundings. Santana, known for his ability to get on base, has compiled a .307 OPS, 60 points below his career average heading into the year. He’s also hitting just .165 and slugging .297.
Pittsburgh Pirates — Trevor Williams was the last man into the Pirates rotation, and he’s proving the staff made the right call. Williams hasn’t dazzled with a high strikeout rate, but he has kept the opponent off the scoreboard (2.29 ERA) and it’s helped him win four of his six starts.
San Diego Padres — Christian Villanueva drew notice quickly with a three-homer game against the Rockies in the first week of the season. He’s continued to show the pop, posting the league’s third-best slugging percentage (.726) and third-best OPS (1.150).
San Francisco Giants — Johnny Cueto rebounded from a rough second season as a Giant, allowing three earned runs in 32 innings pitched (0.84 ERA). He’s also won three of his five starts and compiled an NL-league best 0.69 WHIP.
Seattle Mariners — There are only two players with nine or more home runs and 27 or more RBI. Mitch Haniger is one of them. He’s also hitting .309 with .701 slugging and 1.085 OPS, the latter two stats that have him among the five best hitters in baseball.
St. Louis Cardinals — In 2017, Matt Carpenter maintained his 20-homer power despite all of his other hitting numbers dropping. But so far this season, even the power is gone (two home runs). Carpenter’s slash line of .155/.305/.274 is substantially worse than his career norm.
Tampa Bay Rays — At 28, Joey Wendle is getting his first extended time as a full-time starter in the big leagues, and he hasn’t disappointed. Wendle has quickly established himself as one of the Rays’ top offensive weapons, hitting .348 with a .932 OPS.
Texas Rangers — Expectations were limited when the Rangers signed 44-year-oldBartolo Colon to a minor-league deal. But the ageless wonder has the team’s best ERA (2.87) among pitchers with at least four starts and he just became the fourth pitcher ever to win a game with 11 ballclubs. Never bet against Bart.
Toronto Blue Jays —Curtis Granderson’s power has persisted throughout his career, but this year, at 37 years old, he’s doing a little bit of everything for his new club. He’s hitting over .300, something he hasn’t done for a full season since 2008, he’s drawing walks and he’s striking out less.
Washington Nationals — Most of Ryan Madson’s 6.23 ERA came in one meltdown performance against the Mets, but the Nationals’ setup man is having a tough time keeping runners off base. His 1.85 WHIP is a full point higher than last season, while he averages 13.2 hits and 3.5 walks per nine innings.