Monday on CBS Sports HQ, former Marlins team president and MLB analyst David Samson -- positive side! -- in baseball this season. Let's piggyback off that and put together an All-Surprise Team, because that's fun.
This is obviously incredibly subjective, because I'm attempting to gauge players who have surpassed seasonal expectations among baseball fandom and media alike. So it's kind of double the room for disagreement. Still, onward we go!
Francisco Cervelli has come back a little, but he's still rocking a .390 on-base percentage and already has a career-high nine home runs. He's on pace to shatter his previous career high in WAR, too.
The Brewers are probably the best "surprise" team and Jesus Aguilar is a huge reason for that. Coming off a season in which he hit .265/.331/.505 (113 OPS+) with 16 homers and 52 RBI, Aguilar this season is hitting .299/.358/.597 (150 OPS+) with 16 homers and 50 RBI.
We'll stick with Samson's pick here. Ozzie Albies' career high in home runs in the minors was nine. He's only 21 years old and already has 16 homers this year. Sure, he's struggled a bit since his red-hot start, but he's overall having a great season at just 21. Scooter Gennett deserved a look here, too.
Eduardo Escobar entered the season a career .253/.301/.397 hitter. Right now he's at .293/.346/.563 (147 OPS+) with an MLB-best 33 doubles. The record, by the way, for doubles in a season is 67 (Earl Webb, Red Sox, 1931). Escobar is on pace for 72.
Escobar has only started 19 games at shortstop and is actually a third baseman, but I wanted the extra spot. Sue me.
The NL leader in RBI with 58, Eugenio Suarez is playing out of his mind. He entered the season a career .258/.333/.423 and right now he's slashing .308/.391/.589 (162 OPS+). Tough omission of Max Muncy both here and at first.
Much like in All-Star balloting, I'm not worrying about specific outfield positions here.
Markakis was the easiest pick here. He ran an OPS+ of 96 last season and he's now 34 years old. He's also leading the league in hits and doubles. He's got a 141 OPS+ and that would be a career high. He has already accumulated more WAR than the last two years combined.
Kemp spent the previous two-plus years being passed around as a salary albatross. In the previous three seasons, he had a 109 OPS+ and was brutal defensively (-50 defensive runs saved combined). This year, Kemp is hitting .318 with a 144 OPS+ and he hasn't been nearly as bad on defense (-4 defensive runs saved). This turnaround comes as Kemp approaches his 34th birthday.
That seven-year, $130 million deal with the Rangers really hasn't worked out for Choo or the Rangers to this point, but he's having a great season at age 35. Through the first four years of the deal, Choo had a .358 OBP and 109 OPS+. This season he's at .393 with a 141 OPS+. The .481 slugging percentage would be his highest since 2010 and he's on pace to hit 30 homers. His career high is 22.
Everyone figured Ohtani -- when he signed -- would be a good pitcher. There were questions about how he'd be able to handle the lumber, though, and after he was bad in spring training, a bunch of people misguidedly wrote him off. It's only been 43 games and 129 plate appearances, but Ohtani is hitting .289/.372/.535 (151 OPS+) with eight doubles and six homers.
Right-handed starting pitcher
The eccentric Bauer has completely made himself into an ace-caliber starter in this, his seventh big-league season. Just from last season, he's trimmed his ERA from 4.19 to 2.44, his WHIP from 1.37 to 1.09, his FIP from 3.88 to 2.25, his strikeout rate from 10.0 K/9 to 11.8 and he's already matched last season's WAR. Miles Mikolas would also make a fine choice, as would Gerrit Cole or Mike Foltynewicz.
Left-handed starting pitcher
Newcomb is 25 and has a ton of talent, so I guess it's not altogether shocking that he's taking the leap this year, but it's a drastic improvement. His ERA in 19 starts last year as a rookie was 4.32 and he's sitting at 2.59 through 15 starts this year. That's a leap from a 98 ERA+ to 151.
Look, Hader was good last year, but this is otherworldly. In 39 2/3 innings, he's struck out 80 (EIGHTY!!) with a 1.13 ERA, 0.94 FIP (so he's actually pitching better than his microscopic 1.13 ERA indicates), 0.73 WHIP and the Brewers are 23-2 in his appearances (one of the losses was a 1-0 loss while the other was his fault. Hey, he was due.). He's legitimately on pace to have one of the best relief pitcher seasons in baseball history. Even if we knew he was going to be good, no one was predicting that.