MLB

Top 10 MLB surprises and disappointments so far

MLB, Aaron Judge

While we creep into the month of May, a lot has happened in such a short amount of time within MLB. We are celebrating the one month anniversary of Opening Day 2017 and so far we have had a lot to witness.

Everything from the young talented players on the west coast to someone who arrived from spending a couple years playing overseas and being dominant to still scratching our heads as to what Rob Manfred is doing, we’ve had a little bit of everything.

Here are some surprises and disappointments we have experienced so far in Major League Baseball.

Surprise: Young talent booming with success

The young talent this season has gone above and beyond. Not only is there a quantity of talent here, the quality has been darn good.

The bats of Cody Bellinger and Christian Arroyo have heated up the National League West. Meanwhile Aaron Judge has continued dominating on offense in the AL East, setting a new MLB record in the process.

In just 24 games heading into Wednesday night’s game, Judge was leading the American League in slugging percentage (.795), OPS (1.219) and OPS+ (227), all while registering a .313 batting average. He has also dropped his strikeout rate from last season and leads MLB with 13 dingers.

Baseball’s number one prospect Andrew Benintendi is also having a phenomenal season. He’s slashing a .333/.396/.473 line with 15 RBI and a few balls over the fence. He’s living up to his hype.

It’s refreshing to see Major League Baseball taking chances on the young guys across the league. Not only are teams taking chances, but they are seeing those chances playing off.

If you have time, check out your local minor league ballpark so you can witness the future of Major League Baseball and spend practically nothing in the process.

Disappointment: World Baseball Classic 

There was a lot of support when it came to the World Baseball Classic this season. There were almost 1,000,000 fans in attendance to witness the teams representing their countries across the world. It was a sight to see.

Still, there were some issues that made us wonder if the timing of the event was appropriate.

Some of the worries were regarding players getting injured during the WBC, and “the WBC injury effect” was born.

There was some data collected, and comparing the WBC to spring training was interesting. You cannot play in the WBC unless you are fully (perceived) healthy. While in spring training you can technically still play while “recuperating from serious injuries or dealing with nagging ones that rule them out of tournament play.”

The overall result showed pitchers lost about four more days to their injury if they participated in the event, but four days is still less than a rotation so that barely makes a dent.

With the popularity this last WBC received, more prominent members in the baseball world will more than likely want to participate. Some teams will be concerned about having them do that.

The results in regards to these “injuries” are small, but they still exist. This could still be used as an instant “no” from participating in the next World Baseball Classic in four years.

Surprise: Arizona Diamondbacks on a roll

The Arizona Diamondbacks didn’t have a lot of pressure on them heading into the season because of the division they are in. The National League West had the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies to worry about, so they could somewhat coast through the season without much worry.

That is until the Giants ended up struggling and being plagued with injuries while their pitching has shown signs of regression.

Even with that scenario, the Diamondbacks managed to make their way hanging out at second place in the division.

It’s not all their offense either. Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, of course, possess power. But they, along with Chris Owings are also stealing bases and taking advantage of the latitude they’re given.

Archie Bradley, in 16 innings pitched so far, holds a 10.69 K/9 rate with a 1.13 ERA. He’s shifted to a bullpen role, and the numbers prove he’s doing amazing. He has truly found his niche, and Arizona is benefiting from that in a big way.

Disappointment: Noah Syndergaard has lost Thor mojo

Just a few days after refusing an MRI because he “felt great,” 2016 All-Star Noah Syndergaard suffered an injury on Sunday at SunTrust Park in his upper lat muscle.

He inevitably went in to take an MRI, and the New York Mets released this statement not long afterwards:

The Mets are also sitting in last place in the National League East, which is far from where we expected them to end up after a rather successful couple of seasons. So this just adds to the problems on the team.

Like it says in the update, there isn’t a timetable for Syndergaard’s return, but it seems he’s going to be out for a while.

Surprise: Mitch Haniger making positive strides

This one could go on either side of the list, but we should concentrate on the positives he brought to the league.

Young outfielder Mitch Haniger was on a tear before he got bitten by the injury bug. He’s out with a Grade 2 strain for 3-4 weeks, but prior to that, he seemed unstoppable.

He was part of an offseason trade from the Diamondbacks which brought Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker to the desert, and he’s more than proved himself. And that has shown in his approach at the plate.

He’s currently cut his O-Swing %, which means he’s not swinging at balls outside of the strike zone. It’s showing he’s maturing.

A .338/.442/.600 slash line with four home runs and 16 RBI in 95 plate appearances has him well on his way to being the American League Rookie of the Year when he returns.

Disappointment: Rob Manfred continues to make puzzling moves

Rob Manfred

Rob Manfred’s “pace of play” beef has been something that will take some getting used to. Between altering the strike zone, getting rid of the intentional walk, and limiting the time for replay views, the commissioner has tried to change the game to make it at a quicker pace (more on all that here).

The intentional walk scenario has not changed a thing. We haven’t shed any time off of the game, and when you witness it in person, it’s a bit awkward.

He also wants to bring gambling back to baseball to bring more fan engagement. That could be seen as a positive, but there will still be plenty of those who look at that as something that is frowned upon, to say the least.

He has a very tumultuous relationship with the MLB Player’s Association, which alone is a red flag. If you aren’t going to have communication with your players,  you will be doomed.

Trying to steer a ship that is still tied to the dock will just result in disaster.

Surprise: Lack of Showboating

It seems the number of bat-flips and incidents of showing off has yet to rival what last season brought in.

Bautista’s infamous bat-flip, among others, resonated throughout the game and even had basic fans wanting to replicate it.

Manny Machado also had an incident a few years back against the A’s when Fernando Abad threw at him and the Oriole’s third baseman threw the bat down the third baseline. That’s where Josh Donaldson was playing, and he’s probably the last guy you should be making advances like that towards.

The benches cleared, and you could see Donaldson’s red face in anger as he tried to get physical with Machado. This was more of a negative scenario, but it does show both sides of it.

Either way, it seems to have calmed down this season (minus the Orioles/Red Sox feud).

But if people do decide to test out their bat-flipping abilities, let’s just hope they don’t show off in front of Rougned Odor.

Disappointment: Kansas City Royals can’t get out of their own way

George Brett

We weren’t exactly jumping up and down when it came to the Kansas City Royals this season. But for the most part, we were hoping they could be successful in the batter’s box.

Not so much.

Their win on Monday snapped a nine-game losing streak, and they have the second-worse offense in Major League Baseball.

There is a positive though, as Max Rieper points out in the Royals Review.

“The decisions Dayton Moore makes these next few months will determine whether the Royals are competitive again in a few short years, or if they fade back into obscurity. The Royals could hold all the cards this summer, how they play them could determine many fates around baseball.

So some trades and moves could be made as the trade deadline is coming up. But we worry the state of the team would alter the return on investment.

Surprise: Eric Thames is on a tear

Eric Thames’ story is interesting by itself. The fact that he’s been phenomenal at the plate just adds to it.

The 30-year-old took a break from Major League Baseball to play overseas in Korea, where he was very successful and showed off his power. He was also extremely intimidating.

Since coming back to the states, it’s been no different.

He has a slash line of .341/.463/.795 at the moment with a .455 ISO. His home run/fly ball ratio is over 40-percent and he’s only played 25 games this season.

He has 11 home runs on the season so far, which is tied for No. 2 in the league, and at one point we were realistically looking at how he might break the single-season record.

Disappointment: Injuries

The injury bug has bitten just about everyone this season.

Mitch Haniger was mentioned before, and his teammate Felix Hernandez is also out on the 10-day D.L. with a shoulder injury.

Two of the most devastating injuries of the season go to Adam Eaton and Shelby Miller. Murphy tore his ACL, had a meniscus tear, and a high ankle sprain and will be out six to nine months. Miller will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the torn UCL in his right arm. He will be out the remainder of the season and possibly portions of 2018.

Houston Astros’ pitcher Collin McHugh has been shut down from throwing since Tuesday with a right elbow impingement.

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Rich Hill has been dealing with a recurring blister on his pitching middle finger. Seems silly, but it’s a situation that he can’t shake and it’s costing him multiple trips to the disabled list.

Injuries are inevitable in any sport. and for the most part, there’s nothing we can do to prevent them. But something seems to be in the air, and it’s impacting everyone.

Here’s a list of current injuries on MLB.com.

About the author

Jessica Kleinschmidt

Jessica Kleinschmidt

Jessica is a sports writer with an obsession for baseball. You can catch her in the stands or in the media booth. She's the one with the big hair. In addition to Sportsnaut, Jessica has been featured on Bleacher Report, Fox Sports, and MLB Nation.