Going into every baseball season, analysts make their predictions on what they believe will happen. Whether it’s which team will win the World Series or who will win certain individual awards. With the season being as long as it is, many predictions turn out to be very wrong.
One of the beautiful things about baseball is the unpredictability, the breakouts, or even the major slumps. Here are my top 5 Surprises of the 2019 season: *All stats used in this article are as of June 3, 2019*
- The increase in home runs hit throughout the league.
Home runs have and always will be fun to see. Growing up in the era of Sosa vs. McGwire, homeruns were hit at anything but a premium. Every time I watch a game or scoreboard watch this year, it seems another homerun is being hit.
The single month record of 1,119 home runs, which was set in August 2017 was just broken with 1,135 home runs hit this past month. The single season record of 6,105, which was also set in 2017, is currently on pace to be broken by almost 400! Part of that reason is guys who are not known for their home run power are on an absolute tear. Tommy La Stella (LAA) through his first 5 seasons hit 10 home runs, 5 coming in the 2017 season.
Through May, he has already more than doubled his career amount with 12! Pete Alonso (NYM) has already hit 19 and he’s on pace to hit 53, which would break Aaron Judge’s rookie record of 52. Christian Yelich (MIL) and Cody Bellinger (LAD) are having their own modern-day home run battle hitting 22 and 20 respectively, Yelich, is on pace to hit 61 for the year. Theories on why this pace is being set have been thrown out there. From increase of pitcher consistently throwing harder, to increase in launch angle, to “juiced” balls. What ever the case may be, the rate of home runs being hit does not seem to be slowing down.
- Cody Bellinger
Cody Bellinger had a good Rookie year in 2017, slashing .267/.352/.581 with a record setting 39 home runs for an NL rookie. He was an All-Star, 9th in MVP voting, and with 150 1st place votes, he won NL Rookie of the Year. Yet, I still would not have guessed that he would have this kind of start to the 2019 season.
Slashing .376(!)/.462/.733 with 22 home runs in just 58 games. He already has a 5.4 WAR this year and in each of the past two years, he’s had a WAR of 4.2. It’s still very early in the season and also highly unlikely to happen, but it’s always fun to root for a guy fighting for the elusive .400 season. There’s plenty of time for regression, but he looks primed to win his first MVP.
- The Minnesota Twins
The Twins showed flashes of being a team to watch in 2017 when they won 85 games and took the second Wild Card spot. They had a bit of regression in 2018 falling under .500. But they’re already at 40-18 and are on an offensive onslaught. They’re leading the league in avg. (.275), home runs (109), RBI (334), runs (347), and OPS (.853). And they don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon and look to run away in a very weak AL Central.
- Kimbrel and Keuchel still Free Agents
We’re already in June and both Craig Kimbrel (signed with Cubs on 6/5/19) and Dallas Keuchel (signed with the Braves on 6/6/19) have not found a team yet. They’re both coming off very respectable seasons. Kimbrel had 42 saves to go along with his 2.74 ERA and a World Series ring with the Red Sox.
As for Keuchel, he had a 3.74 ERA in over 200 innings while striking out 153 batters, most strikeouts and innings since his Cy Young winning campaign in 2015. Now that there is no draft pick attached to them, it is just a matter of time before either of them is signed. The big problem with signing either one is not knowing when they will be ready to see live action.
- Carter Stewart
Carter Stewart was a highly regarded prospect going into the 2018 draft. He ended up being selected 8th overall by the Braves. Unfortunately, due to a wrist injury, the Braves offered him a lower signing bonus than his slot value. He didn’t sign and instead enrolled at Eastern Florida State College allowing him to be eligible for the 2019 draft. Instead of entering the draft, he signed with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. His 6-year deal guarantees him $7 million and he will be a free agent by the age of 25. With talks of how little minor league players get paid, I wonder how many other big-name prospects will also go this route.