With a little over a month of the season underway, there are several players at the top of the statistical leaderboards that would have been about as shocking as Leicester City winning the English Premier League, which I know absolutely nothing about, but it is apparently a big deal for soccer fans. For baseball fans, some of the players who have had incredible starts to the season are as recognizable as Leicester City and English Premier League. Get to know some players who have impressed in 2016!
Aledmys Diaz, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
Diaz has impressed in his first taste of the majors. It only took a torn thumb ligament in the left hand of Jhonny Peralta for the 25-year-old Cuban to get an opportunity. All that Diaz has done is lead MLB in OPS to this point. Diaz was better known for his glove when he was signed, and his results, all of 586 minor league at-bats, reiterated that. His .779 OPS in the minors screams that his production to this point will come back to earth; however, with Kolten Wong struggling and Peralta coming back at the beginning of June, Diaz could maintain enough playing time to continue to be productive, even if it isn’t at the incredibly high level that he has reached this season.
Chris Carter, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers
The Astros had Jon Singleton ready to go this spring, only to see him be really awful, resulting in his demotion to Triple-A. Of course, they didn’t have Carter any longer, as they didn’t tender him a contract. Now, Tyler White and Marwin Gonzalez top the depth charts for the Astros, as Carter has seen an impressive resurgence of his career with the Brewers. A one-year, $2.5 million deal looks like an absolute steal right now for Milwaukee, while this type of production from Carter may have helped Houston be where they were last season, rather than last place in the American League West; however, there’s no guarantee that he would be hitting at the levels that he is currently. He is just two years removed from a 37 homer season (albeit, with a .227 average).
Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Velasquez was the prize of the trade that sent Ken Giles to the Astros, unless you think Mark Appel was that prize, and the 23-year-old has been as electric as his minor league numbers looked. Over 296.2 minor league innings, Velasquez averaged 10.7 K:9. This season, he has done wonderful things for Philadelphia. Velasquez has positioned himself as an anchor to a staff on the rebuild. After starting 16-11, the 100 loss season that PECOTA projected for the Phillies could be difficult to attain. Magically, Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s rebuild has done wonderfully to this point, even as he handles the first base coaching box for the Boston Red Sox.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Walker only had one good month in 2015 (July), and the rest of his season was what many young pitchers deal with – a roller coaster. The start of the 2016 season, however, has been a whole different story. All of those athletic-talented-future-dominant-starter labels that have been stuck to Walker seem somewhat reasonable now. In fact, they may not be strong enough labels. Walker is leading the AL in FIP, and his incredible walk rate screams “ACE”. He is putting it all together this season. Seattle is currently in first place, and with Felix Hernandez and Walker at the top of the rotation, the Mariners could be downright scary in a playoff.
Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers
The Rangers seem to have a supply of talented players who rise up and become productive from their minor league system. What is most interesting about how things work out, however, is that players who are “can’t-miss” don’t seem to get a true opportunity with Texas. First, Jurickson Profar lost second base to Rougned Odor, and, now, it looks like Joey Gallo may have lost his opportunity to Mazara, who seems to have a stranglehold on the club’s right field job after a tremendous start to his major league career. The 6’4″ outfielder, who just turned 21 in April, has a body that could continue to fill out, and potential that seems about as limitless as any young player in baseball. While solid production from Mazara was to be expected, it certainly wasn’t expected this soon in his career.
Who did I miss? Who has been the most surprising player in baseball?