2013 MLB Surprises

iglesiasWhile the season isn’t quite so young anymore with roughly 100 games remaining, the early season surprises and the small sample sizes that went along with them aren’t nearly so odd. Who is legit? Who will fall off? Who is still surprising?

Jose Iglesias, INF, Boston Red Sox

Surprise, surprise. When you look at Iglesias’ career .257/.307/.314 line in four minor league seasons, and then you look at this:

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2013 23 BOS 22 83 74 13 33 7 0 1 7 1 6 11 .446 .494 .581 1.075 188 43
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Iglesias’ success would still qualify as a small sample, given his 83 plate appearances, but considering his struggles in the minors, especially his .202/.262/.319 line at Triple-A in 2013, his production is absolutely incredible. His likelihood to maintain this success is slim to none, unless, of course, Iglesias was just bored playing in the minor leagues. The 23-year-old appeared to be nothing more than organizational depth or a glove-based defensive replacement as recently as a month ago. Enjoy the ride while it lasts.

CuddyerMichael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies

Not many guys have their best seasons in their mid-30’s without “the cream” or “the clear”, but that is exactly what Cuddyer is doing this season:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 34 COL NL 45 194 174 25 59 14 1 10 37 5 16 34 .339 .397 .603 1.000 105
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Cuddyer is on pace to shatter his career highs in OPS, AVG, and OBP, while posting productive numbers across the board. The Colorado lineup has been tremendous this season, leading to their current 2nd place ranking in the NL West standings. With Cuddyer’s ability to fill in for the oft-injured Todd Helton at first base and solidifying one of the most productive outfields in baseball, along with Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez, he continues to be a valuable, under-appreciated asset to fantasy teams and “real-life teams” alike.

Brown1Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

What appeared to be a super-productive May has continued into June:

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
May 28 27 109 109 17 33 4 1 12 25 3 0 21 .303 .303 .688 .991 75 .276
June 9 9 37 33 8 13 2 1 4 11 3 4 6 .394 .459 .879 1.338 29 .391
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Brown is a superstar and his early-career parallels to Braves outfielder Jason Heyward have finally reached fruition. If you take at look at his overall numbers, below, you can see how unproductive he was during the first month of the season:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 25 PHI NL 63 243 228 33 66 9 2 19 47 6 13 44 .289 .329 .596 .926 136
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Can pitchers make adjustments to make him an afterthought again in Philadelphia? It appears highly unlikely, as Brown looks like an All-Star, who is capable of reaching 30-35 home runs this season, while pacing an aging Phillies’ lineup.

DonaldsonJosh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland Athletics

Donaldson has always had a solid, gap-power approach at the plate, posting a career minor league line of .275/.365/.470 over 2,302 plate appearances. That game has finally transitioned to the big show, as his overall line shows:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 27 OAK AL 64 270 238 33 77 18 1 9 42 2 28 45 .324 .393 .521 .914 124
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

With Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie, Donaldson is giving the A’s a somewhat formidable lineup to team with its young pitching, and at 38-27 and in 2nd in the AL West, Oakland will once again be a threatening team down the stretch.

Corbin1Patrick Corbin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

At no point during his time in the minor leagues did Corbin appear to be on the same track as Tyler Skaggs or Trevor Bauer for Arizona, a top-tier starting pitcher. Corbin seemed to have back-end stuff after posting a career 3.78 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 430.2 innings. Then, the 2013 season happened:

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 23 ARI NL 9 0 1.98 12 1 0 81.2 63 19 18 4 22 65 200 1.041 6.9 2.4 7.2 2.95
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Corbin has dominated in several starts this season and remains unbeaten after 12 starts. While he doesn’t possess shutdown, strikeout stuff, Corbin keeps the opposition off-balance and looks like the 2013 version of Wade Miley, the Diamondbacks lefty who has struggled mightily this season, but posted a 16-11 record and 3.33 ERA in his rookie season in 2012. He’ll eventually lose a game, but Corbin should continue to solidify himself as, at least, a mid-rotation starter, capable of becoming a Tom Glavine-like winner if he maintains his success, something that could be very challenging when he is pitching half of his games in the thin, desert air in Arizona.

LockeJeff Locke, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Something clicked for Locke when he reached Triple-A Indianapolis within the Pirates organization. After posting a career 3.92 ERA over 629 innings prior to reaching Indianapolis, Locke posted a 2.44 ERA over 170 innings there before struggling in brief auditions in Pittsburgh in both 2011 and 2012. The 2013 season has been quite different, though:

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 25 PIT NL 5 1 2.39 13 0 0 75.1 56 21 20 5 35 55 1.208 6.7 4.2 6.6 1.57
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Locke, like Corbin, doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, and, unlike Corbin, he flirts with disaster, at times, due to command. While Locke still does a solid job of keeping runners off of the base paths when he is throwing strikes, it isn’t wrong to wonder if he could succumb to another Pittsburgh flop, as the team remains without a winning record since 1992. It would be nice for the organization to have a veteran arm to rely on once Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are ready for Pittsburgh, and with A.J. Burnett dominating and potentially becoming trade fodder, Locke could be that guy. If he doesn’t improve either his walk rate or strikeout rates, though, he could be heading towards a drastic decline over the rest of the 2013 season.

Wood1Travis Wood, LHP, Chicago Cubs

A tremendous athlete, Wood is finally showing the skills that made him such a highly regarded young player when he came up with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010 and thrived. Things hadn’t gone so well the last couple of seasons, but things are back on track in 2013:

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 26 CHC NL 5 4 2.65 12 0 0 78.0 53 24 23 5 26 56 1.013 6.1 3.0 6.5 2.15
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Not only has he been effective on the mound, but Wood could be one of the Cubs’ best hitters, having posted a .910 OPS with two home runs and seven RBI in just 26 at-bats – they should pinch-hit for the struggling Starlin Castro with him! With Wood and Jeff Samardzija around in the rotation, the Cubs have a couple of solid arms to build around…if they could just figure out a way to get rid of that now awful Edwin Jackson contract. Like Locke, Wood has spurts of control issues, but he is leading the NL in hits per nine and could well be on his way to establishing himself, along with Samardzija, as a dominant arm on the constantly rebuilding Cubs squad.

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