By: Nick Galle
The 2019 MLB season is in full swing and a lot of teams have already started to make a name for themselves. While some of last season’s top teams such as the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Chicago Cubs have gotten off to some unexpected rough starts, there is a plethora of teams that have been pleasant surprises early on in the year. Here are three teams that you should watch out for during the remainder of this season:
3. Seattle Mariners
For a team that might be going through a bit of a rebuild, the Seattle Mariners are certainly headed in the right direction. Seattle started the season off in Japan with a couple of farewell games for Ichiro, and they have played well ever since. The offensive charge has been led by guys like Domingo Santana, Daniel Vogelbach, and Tim Beckham, all of which are currently hitting over .300. The Mariners also added some power to the lineup with the additions of first basemen Edwin Encarnacion and right fielder Jay Bruce. While Encarnacion and Bruce might be on the back half of their careers, they are still power threats that opposing pitchers have to account for. That duo alone has accounted for 13 home runs through 21 games.
When it comes to the pitching staff, Seattle has gotten quality starts from Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake, and even guys like Wade LeBlanc and Yusei Kikuchi. The Mariners still have Felix Hernandez as well, who hasn’t been at the level we have seen in the past, but can still provide something to this rotation of fairly young pitchers. The bullpen has been fueled by Brandon Brennan who has an ERA of just 0.68 through 10 games (as of 4/18/2019). Seattle doesn’t really have a set closer, as six relievers have recorded saves so far this season. If the Mariners want to continue to perform at a high level, they will likely need to secure a closer, but for now the team is in good shape despite being in the midst of a rebuild.
2. Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays have started off the season red hot, winning 14 of their first 18 games, giving them the best record in baseball. The Rays had a great season a year ago, going 90-72. People seemed to overlook Tampa Bay due to the fact they were 18.0 games behind Boston in the AL East. MLB fans expected Tampa Bay to be good this season, but not this good. The Rays have a great outfield composed of Austin Meadows, Avisail Garcia, Guillermo Heredia, and most notably, Kevin Kiermaier. Kiermaier has really been the face of the Rays offense for the past few seasons, but 23-year-old Austin Meadows has been the leader of Tampa Bay’s offense thus far. Meadows is hitting .349 with six home runs and 17 runs batted in. This offense has a lot of depth as well with 11 out of 14 position players with an at-bat hitting .246 or higher. Seven of those eleven are hitting .293 or higher with five over .300.
The pitching for the Rays has also exceeded expectations thus far. Tampa might just have one of the best pitching staffs in the MLB this season. Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell has started strong with an ERA of 2.16, allowing only six runs through 25.0 innings. While Snell has been great, 25-year-old Tyler Glasnow has been the real story for Tampa. Glasnow is 4-0 with an ERA of 1.13. The former Pittsburgh Pirate has only allowed three earned runs in 24.0 innings of work, while striking out 24. Tampa’s bullpen has also been strong with Jose Alvarado, Diego Castillo, and Adam Kolarek. All three pitchers have held opposing hitters to an average of .250 or below. They have combined for 24.0 innings and allowed zero earned runs. Yonny Chirinos has also been impressive for the Rays. Chirinos has the ability to start, or come out of the bullpen, making him a valuable asset for this Rays pitching staff. While the Rays have started out hot, we will have to see how they perform once the Red Sox and Yankees find their groove later on in the season.
1. Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers came within one game of the World Series last season and they have picked up right where they left off. Milwaukee has started the season 12-7 and MVP Christian Yelich has been on an absolute tear. Yelich is batting .356 with nine home runs and 26 RBI just 19 games into the season. Newly acquired catcher Yasmani Grandal is also off to a quick start. Grandal is batting .375 with five home runs and 10 RBI. The whole offense is clicking with other threats such as Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Travis Shaw. Jesus Aguilar has gotten off to a horrible start, as he has yet to hit one out of the park and is currently hitting .148, but we should expect him to pick it up as the season continues. Ryan Braun is also only hitting .196, but does have three home runs to his name. If Braun and Aguilar can pick it up just a little bit, the Brew Crew might just have the best lineup in the MLB.
The Brewers pitching staff also has the potential to be one of the best in baseball. The loss of Corey Knebel prior to the season certainly hurt, but the bullpen and pitching rotation as a whole has still been stellar. Josh Hader has been one of, if not the most dominant reliever in the league so far. Hader has fanned 18 in just 10 innings of work to go along with his 0.90 ERA. Junior Guerra, Aaron Wilkerson, and Matt Albers have also added decent support out of the bullpen. Zach Davies has been good early on this season, and if Jhoulys Chacin and Freddy Peralta can play to their potential, the Brewers will have a great trio in the starting rotation. Rumors have swirled around the league that Milwaukee is also looking at signing Craig Kimbrel. If Kimbrel makes his way to MKE, look for the Brewers to have the best late-inning reliever duo (Hader/Kimbrel) that this league has to offer.
Cover photo via: Stacy Revere/Getty Images
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