The MLB season is in full swing and as every MLB season goes, there are going to be surprises and disappointments. Some teams struggle out of the gate, but pick up their play as the season goes on. Other teams start out hot but cool down later in the season. The same goes for players. Anyways, I’m going to break down some of MLB’s early season storylines.
Surprise: Yermin Mercedes
Who? Yea, I didn’t know the guy either until he raked his way into becoming a huge MLB surprise. The 28-year old from the Dominican Republic only appeared in one at-bat last season. He has spent a lot of time in the minors. How’d he start off this season? Making MLB history by starting off 8-8 at the plate. This season, Mercedes has put everything together. He’s hitting .500 (16-32) with two homers, seven RBI’s, and a 1.337 OPS (sixth in baseball). Additionally, his 16 hits are the second most behind Cedric Mullins (another big surprise), Ronald Acuna Jr., and J.D. Martinez (all have 17 hits). The White Sox are not playing great ball right now (currently 5-5) but you can’t blame Mercedes for that.
Disappointment: Atlanta Braves
There is no doubt in my mind that the Braves are going to turn it around this season. Currently 4-6, Atlanta has been slowed down by an offense that is only hitting .206 so far. Ronald Acuna Jr. (.447 AVG) is not to blame, he has been blistering the ball lately. However, other stars like Ozzie Albies (.128 AVG), Marcell Ozuna (.139), Dansby Swanson (.189 AVG), and Freddie Freeman (.143 AVG but has hit four home runs) are struggling to get their bats going. Acuna can’t carry the entire offense. As soon as the rest of the Braves lineup heats up, they’ll be back in business. Atlanta’s pitching is sporting a solid 3.61 ERA to start off the season.
Surprise: Tyler Naquin
As a Cubs fan, I remember Naquin during the 2016 World Series and there wasn’t any pack in his punch. Now, a member of the Cincinnati Reds, leaders of the NL Central, Naquin has demolished the baseball. The 29-year old is tied for the MLB lead with five home runs and second in the league with 14 RBIs. Additionally, Naquin is hitting .290 with a 1.195 OPS. In five seasons with Cleveland, Naquin was a respectable hitter. His power was on and off, and he hit for a decent average. He had a career .274 batting average with 31 homers as a Cleveland Indian. 10 games with the Reds and Naquin has unlocked some real power.
Disappointment: Cubs Offense
It’s been a common occurrence that the Cubs offense has struggled at numerous times since their World Series win back in 2016. This season has hit an all-time low. Chicago is ranked dead last in the MLB with a dismal .164 team batting average. They’ve been striking out at an alarming rate. The Cubs can still draw walks and hit home runs, but their ability to get multiple hits and put together a big inning has not happened. Javy Baez and Kris Bryant are the only Cubs off to good starts. Each have hit three dingers with Bryant hitting .265 and Baez hitting .243. I rather not go into much detail on the rest of the offense. If the offense can’t get started, it will be a long season on the North Side.
Surprise: Connor Brogdon and the Phillies Pitching (and the Phillies in general)
I was a pretty big skeptic of the Phillies pitching as they had one of the worse bullpens a season ago. At 7-3 and leaders of the NL East, the Phillies owe a decent amount of their success to an offense led by Bryce Harper (two homers) and Rhys Hoskins (.306 AVG). However, their pitching has significantly improved. As a team, Philadelphia has a 3.71 ERA. Starters Aaron Nola (2.53 ERA) and Zack Wheeler (2.31 ERA) are doing as expected, leading the rotation. 26-year old Connor Brogdon is leading the MLB with three wins. Furthermore, he’s pitched 4.2 innings, allowing no runs, and striking out four. Hector Neris, Sam Coonrod, Jose Alvarado, and Brandon Kintzler have also done a great job out of the pen. If Philly can keep up their pitching, the offense can no doubt continue to produce.
Disappointment: New York Mets
The Mets first games of the season were called off due to the Nationals COVID issues. When they made their way back onto the field, it kinda looks like the same old Mets. They are 2-3 with Jacob deGrom carrying and doing everything he can, but the Mets can’t do anything to support him. The bullpen studs have been off to awful starts including Edwin Diaz, Dellin Betances, and off-season addition Trevor May. The offense is sluggish even with Francisco Lindor and James McCann. I was never too high on New York this season. With Philadelphia starting off strong and when Atlanta figures their offense out, New York needs to have their own flaws sorted out.