By: Noah Wright
As opposed to my most disappointing seasons so far, I want to take a look at some of the most shocking seasons so far (I guess you could say the other list was surprising, but let’s look at some positive seasons). Now it’s not just breakout years, but maybe the player throughout their entire career has been just average, but having an outstanding year. Maybe it’s an injured player who before going on the injured list was good, but is doing amazing. Whatever the case may be, let's look at some of 2019’s most surprising seasons.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu:
Before 2019, Ryu had missed all of 2015, nearly all of 2016, and parts of 2017 and 2018. Needless to say, there were going to be questions about his health entering 2019. Now before all of those injuries, Ryu was a pretty good pitcher for the Dodgers in 2013 and 2014. In the two seasons, Ryu combined for a 3.17 ERA, 2.97 FIP, and 1.198 WHIP through 344 innings. While Ryu showed even more promise in 2018, it was a small, injury limited sample size of 82 and a third innings. But nobody would have expected he would perform this way in 2019. In 99 innings, Ryu has a 1.27 ERA, 2.50 FIP, and a .838 WHIP. The most impressive part of all of this is that Ryu has walked just 6 batters. He has walked less batters than games started (15), or home runs given up (7). His strikeout rate is also sitting at a solid 8.2, and looks like a prime Cy Young candidate.
- Josh Bell:
While Bell has fallen off recently, his season is still extremely notable (plus I doubt the fall off is for the rest of the season. There's a good amount of reason to think he will bounce back, and level off at a pretty good level of production). Sure Bell was a bounce back candidate after a solid rookie season, but nobody was expecting this. I was expecting him to hit around .270/.350/.460, 20-25 home runs. But his season so far has been beyond great. In 344 plate appearances, Bell has a .311/.384/.646 batting line, 22 home runs, and leads the league in doubles with 29. Currently, his wRC+ is sitting at 159. While Bell’s defense isn’t elite, he holds his own at first base (-1 DRS, -.6 dWAR).
- Tommy La Stella:
When the Angels acquired La Stella from the Cubs in late November, they didn’t think of it more than acquiring a solid infield bench bat, and not an All-Star finalist. I mean, that’s what he was for the Cubs. Between 2016 and 2018, La Stella put up a solid line of .274/.360/.396 in 512 plate appearances. This season however, he’s been a large piece of the Angels line-up. In 299 plate appearances, La Stella has put up a .294/.348/.498 batting line, along with 16 home runs, and 128 wRC+. While La Stella hasn’t been stellar with the glove, he never has been. But his bat alone is enough for the Angels to keep him in an everyday role.
- Ketel Marte:
For the past 2 seasons, Marte had been a solid piece for the Diamondbacks. He put up a .260/.336/.424 line in 835 PA’s. His expectations entering the season weren’t much higher. He was still young as this is his age 25 season, but his offensive spike in 2019 has been extremely unexpected. In 347 PA’s, Marte has posted a .320/.369/.589 line. That also includes a career high 20 home runs, and 143 OPS+. Defensively, Marte has been elite in center field, but solid at 2B. In center, the switch hitter has 6 DRS and 7.5 UZR. At 2B, he has 0 DRS, but a -.4 UZR. In total, he has a .7 dWAR.
- Carlos Santana:
Now Santana has always been a fairly big power threat. In the past 3 seasons combined, he’s averaged 27-28 home runs a season. But at the age of 33, it seemed he had reached his peak. After a so-so 2018 with the Phillies (.229/.352/.414 line, 24 home runs, 105 OPS+ in 679 PA’s), it might have even seemed age was starting to catch up on Santana. But the switch hitting 1B, after being traded back to Cleveland, has not just turned back the clock, but has improved on his game. In 341 PA’s, Santana owns a strong .290/.411/.541 batting line, 18 home runs, and a 147 wRC+. Santana has increased his walk % to 16.7%. That would be his second best walk % (17.1 BB% in 2014). Santana has also been hitting the ball much harder, with a career high exit velo (92.5 MPH), and career high hard hit % (46.5%).
- Jake Odorizzi:
Odorizzi is having a career year in 2019. For his career before this season, Odorizzi had a 3.95 ERA, 4.23 FIP, and 1.241 WHIP from 2014 (his first full MLB season) to 2018. Overall, he was a solid backend starter. This year, in a contract year, Odorizzi decided to turn on the jets, and pitch to a 2.73 ERA, 3.22 FIP, and 1.074 WHIP, all of which would be career lows. Odorizzi has also seen an increase in K’s with a 9.9 K/9, while still having excellent control (2.8 BB/9, .8 HR/9) through his 85 and two thirds innings of work.
- Lucas Giolito:
After a 2018 where Giolito put up gave up 90 walks in 173 and two thirds innings, and even more earned runs (118), some were already writing off the former National #1 prospect as a bust. Giolito is changing the mind about most of his doubters in 2019. Through 91 innings, Giolito has a 2.87 ERA, 3.22 FIP, and 1.066 WHIP. His control has greatly improved with his BB/9 going from 4.7 last year to 3.3 this year. Giolito is striking out batters at an elite rate (11.0 K/9) as well. Home runs haven’t been much of an issue either with a .9 HR/9 rate.
- Daniel Vogelbach:
While Vogelbach had always done well in AAA, the former Cubs farmhand never really succeeded when he was given a shot in the MLB. But Vogelbach is now having a huge breakout season that no one was really expecting. In 304 PA’s. the Mariners slugger owns a .248/.385/.524 line with 19 home runs. That’s good for a 146 wRC+. Vogelbach walking at an elite 18.1% rate as well (top 1% of the league). If Vogelbach can start making harder contact and more often, the slugger could be a premier 1B/DH bat in the MLB.