The 162 game baseball season is well underway now. The grind that is the marathon regular season of MLB is gathering pace as we head into the Summer months. Due to 162 games, it is hard to create narratives so early in the season. However, it is never too early to acknowledge some of the surprises that are entertaining fans worldwide. Here is a look at the top five surprises so far in the early days of the 2021 season:
Akil Baddoo was a Rule Five Draft pickup by the Detroit Tigers. No one expected Baddoo to make the 40-man roster; he flipped the script in spring training. Baddoo’s form in Spring forced AJ Hinch to call him up to the show. Since that time, Baddoo’s played at an absurdly high level. His OPS is a mammoth 1.070, while his batting average is .294 with 11 RBI’s and a stolen base. Baddoo is proving to be a player for the big occasion in Detroit; when runners are on, Baddoo is putting the ball in play. In three weeks, Baddoo’s gone from being a nobody to the toast of Tigertown.
In a division where the headlines belong to the Brewers, Cubs, and Cardinals, the Cincinnati Reds are the surprise package as they are atop the NL Central. The Reds are there due to their ability to score run after run. The Reds are second in run differential; players such as Nicholas Castellanos, who leads the team in hits, are leading Cincinnati. The Reds lead the league in home runs and RBI’s, while their combined OPS is .827. The Reds are using power to push themselves into contention.
New York Yankees
On the opposite of the scale is the New York Yankees. The team came into 2021 as the favorites for the AL East crown. Instead, Aaron Boone’s team is at the bottom of the division after taking a beating from Tampa Bay on Friday night. The Yankees are struggling mightily at the plate; the Bronx Bombers rank 22nd in hitting, while their pitching is crumbling. Outside of Gerrit Cole, the Yankees rotation is abject, and the bullpen is not closing games out for Aaron Boone. It is a major surprise to everyone in baseball that the Yankees are bottom of the division.
Shohei Ohtani is the most exciting player in baseball. The two-way phenom joined the Angels in 2018; sadly, injuries have derailed his time in California until this year. Ohtani is currently batting .333 with 17 hits and four home runs. Ohtani might own the fastest bat in all of baseball; his exit velocity numbers are astonishing. Ohtani is also excelling on the mound. He currently holds an ERA of under two, which should improve depending on how manager Joe Maddon uses him. The Japanese sensation is starring in 2021.
Yermin Mercedes is the new batting sensation on the South Side of Chicago. The batter went 8 for 8 to start the season; following that, Mercedes currently has 20 hits with a stunning batting average of .476. Mercedes is a big, powerful slugger hitting on both sides of the plate for power and contact. Presently, pitchers don’t know how to pitch to him. If the season ended today, Mercedes could arguably be the AL MVP.