Every season is full of surprises. From one year to the next, it is always difficult to predict whether players will carry with them the routine that allowed them to find great success, or on the flip side, the bad habits that kept them beneath their potential. Baseball is fundamentally fragile and it is extremely difficult to remain consistent from one year to the next. This season we have seen this reality sweep into fruition, as many of the game's greatest players have failed to find their stride so far. On the other side of things, there have been many players who not only found their stride, but have outrun it and done so much more than anyone expected.
For the record, overachieving is not a bad thing in this context. We are not saying that these players are not as good as their numbers show, or that they will certainly digress back to their norm in 2017. Simply put, overachievers are the individuals who have wowed us this season when we didn't think that they could or would. Some players have shown incredible potential at an early age, and some have shown longevity and consistency at a later age. Either way, we have been treated to a great deal of talent this season- some of it was just a lot more expected than others.
16 Underachiever: Trevor Rosenthal
Trouble on the mound in St.Louis? This is like if the Colts had a problem at quarterback or the New Jersey Devils in net- it just kind of doesn't happen. The Cardinals have preached, praised, and developed pitching arguably more than any other team in the majors. Although their starters have been solid, the Cardinals found themselves having bullpen problems early in the season, and with struggling former closer Trevor Rosenthal now officially listed on the disabled list, fans may be able to better understand why Rosenthal has become the "former" closer in 2016.
Rosenthal has gotten the ninth inning nod from Cardinals manager Mike Matheny since 2014, but early on this season, struggled to find his groove on the mound. Rosenthal just hasn't been able to find the plate this season, as his 17.9% walk rate ranks him dead last on a long list of 163 qualified relievers. Rosenthal's ERA jumped to an astounding 5.13 this season as the once reliable closer has seen better days on the mound late in the ball game.
15 Overachiever: David Ortiz
The guy is forty-years-old! I know it seems unconventional, but at the end of the day, I don't think many of us believed that Big Papi had saved one his best for last. Each and every year we wait and see if David Ortiz has any plans on slowing down, but it seems quite clear that the three-time World Series champion plans to ride off into the sunset the same way he came in- at the top.
Only 12 men have hit 36 home runs or more after their 40th birthday, and Ortiz has a chance to join this prestigious list if his bat remains hot down the stretch. Ortiz hasn't hit hit over .300 since 2013 when the Red Sox took home the World Series, and this year is sporting an extremely impressive average (above .300) at the plate. With youngsters such as Mookie Betts, Xander Boagarts and Jackie Bradley Junior trying to come into their own, Oriz has also provided all the intangibles that one would hope a 40-year-old veteran could provide. On the field and off the field, Ortiz is still the man.
14 Underachiever: David Price
In watching David Price this season, I’m sure individuals such as Dave Shapiro and Ross Atkins are smiling ear-to-ear, as the decision to let the All-Star free agent pitcher walk after the 2015 season is looking less than regrettable. Price has struggled on the mound for Boston in 2016, as the only saving grace for Price has been the Red Sox offense, who have allowed him to stay in games and fly under the radar as one of the biggest underachievers so far this season.
Price is currently sporting a career worst ERA this season. In fact, Price has not had seen such a high ERA number since his rookie season, where it sat at 4.42. Luckily for Price, he has been receiving more run support on average than he has given up. Price is no stranger to pitching in the American League East after spending time with both the Rays and Blue Jays in the past, so it will be interesting to see how the big lefty fairs down the stretch and into the potential post-season- a spot where Price has struggled immensely in the past.
13 Overachiever: J.A. Happ
Blue Jays fans had already gotten their taste of J.A Happ and it wasn't a good one. Happ underwhelmed the city of Toronto from 2012-2014, but then again, so did the rest of the team. Now with the new look Blue Jays, Happ has seemed to find his comfort zone on the mound so far, and after an impressive run to end 2015 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Happ seems to have picked up where he left off.
The big lefty from Illinois has been incredible for the Jays in 2016, making the decision to let David Price walk in the offseason much more forgettable. His 14-3 record (so far) is astonishing and ranks him as one of the top pitchers of the American League. There is nothing too sexy about his game as Happ has simply gone out and gotten the job done each and every time. We thought he had potential to be a number four or five guy in a rotation, but Happ has proven this year that there is no doubt he belongs in the top three.
12 Underachiever: Chris Archer
It has been an extremely strange year for the elite pitching crop of the American League, as we have seen David Price already and will see a few others across this list. Chris Archer has also found himself a victim of this epidemic, as the 27-year-old has been having the worst season of his career. Coming off of his first All-Star season in 2015, things have not gone as planned for Archer or the Tampa Bay Rays.
Archer has been having a great deal of trouble keeping the ball in the park- something that has typically been to the contrary over his young career. Archer was once a difficult pitcher to take deep for a home run but this season has seen an increase in long-balls against Archer. On the bright side, Archer's strikeout numbers have not suffered, he has simply struggled to get outs on contact more so than ever before in his career. The Tampa Bay Rays, however, are having an atrocious season which isn't doing Archer any favours.
11 Overachiever: Aledmys Diaz
Of course the St.Louis Cardinals are going to find the hidden talent- it's just what they do. Hell, I bet they could make Aledmys Diaz into a deployable player by next season. All jokes aside, Diaz has turned a lot of heads in St.Louis, as the young Cuban shortstop has been nothing short of solid for the Cardinals so far in 2016. Diaz was put on the 15-day disabled list due to a fractured thumb, but hopes to be back in a few weeks to help the Cardinals in their pursuit of a sixth straight playoff birth.
Diaz has been a deadly weapon hitting at the top of the order. This success at the plate has resulted in the rookie connecting for 110 hits (so far) to go along with an impressive 64 runs scored. Diaz has also showed that he can flex his home run muscle if needed, knocking 14 balls out of the park and proving that he is ready to be a serious threat in the big leagues.
10 Underachiever: Jose Abreu
After Jose Abreu's first season in 2014, most baseball fanatics dubbed him as one of the next big things in baseball. A late bloomer, Abreu broke into the league in 2014 at 27 years of age. He would take home Rookie of the Year honours, be named to the All-Star Game, and also finish fourth in the American League MVP race. Back-to-back 30+ home run and 100+ RBI seasons put Jose on the map as one of the late-blooming, yet up-and-coming sluggers in baseball.
Fast-forward to 2016 and it seems as though Abreu has found himself in what appears to be somewhat of a third season slump. Abreu's numbers are down in every offensive category and nothing so far this season has pointed to a rejuvenation in Abreu's game. Hitting a career low, the White Sox slugger has only hit 11 home runs and recorded 56 RBI as we begin to dive into the month of August. Abreu could pick up his game down the stretch but if his current numbers are any indication, it seems unlikely.
9 Overachiever: Michael Saunders
Much like the decision to obtain Happ and simply let David Price walk, the Blue Jays opted to hold on to Michael Saunders, even after reports had surfaced that the Canadian would be shipped to Cincinnati for slugger Jay Bruce in the offseason. Bruce has had an excellent season of course, but Saunders hasn't been far behind, as the powerful left fielder was named to his first All-Star Game and has enjoyed career highs in many categories.
Saunders has been a pivitol piece for the Jays, as he has provided solid defense, a terrific presence at the plate, and even stepped-up with a decent performance in the leadoff role early on when the Jays struggled to find the correct piece at that spot. The Jays need Saunders to continue to play at the level that he has so far in 2016, as they are one of a handful of teams with an excellent shot at World Series glory.
8 Underachiever: Andrew McCutchen
Perhaps the biggest name on the list of underachievers, Andrew McCutchen has been far from his normal self so far in 2016. McCutchen has been the Pirates most consistent player, captain, and identity since around 2010, but this season has looked more human than ever. In the National League Central- a division that is so extremely competitive, the Pirates will need McCutchen to return to form down the stretch if they want to compete with the likes of the Cardinals and Cubbies and content for the postseason. McCutchen was recently benched in a series against the Braves, leading many to question the physical and mental state of the Pirates superstar.
The center fielder has hit over .300 in his career three times- a testament to his consistent approach at the plate. This season however, Cutch is hitting just below his usual average. McCutchen won the 2013 National League MVP award and has been a nominee every year since. I think it's safe to say that this season, McCutchen will be passed on when the MVP voting comes into fruition.
7 Overachiever: Jake Lamb
Jake Lamb has been a bright spot in a season that has been quite dim in Arizona. With their new look, snake-skin inspired uniforms, and acquisition of last years NL Cy Young runner-up Zach Greinke, Diamondback fans hoped that they would be back in the midst of a playoff race come September. With the D-Backs posting an awful record, all hope has been lost and Jake Lamb has been a nice consolation to a disastrous season.
Coming into the season nobody really knew much about Jake Lamb, let alone thought that he could be a top 40 player in the majors but he has been. The 25-year-old was drafted in the sixth round of the amateur draft back in 2012. After a modest effort last season, Lamb ht a respectful .263 with six home runs and 34 RBI in 350 at bats. This year however, Lamb has topped all those numbers at the plate as the Diamondbacks hope he will be a significant piece to their puzzle moving forward.
6 Underachiever: Dallas Keuchel
Last year's American League CY Young Award winner has been rather pedestrian thus far in 2016. After the Astros began the season on a horrific note, fans in Houston hoped that the teams resurgence over the past couple of months would coincide with the rejuvenation of their prized pitching possession. Keuchel was lights out last season, recording a career high and American League leading 20 wins, as well as a career best ERA of 2.48, and 1.o2 WHIP.
As another victim of this strange epidemic of underachieving American League aces, Keuchel has managed to muster only six victories (so far) this season on a very good Houston team. As we have seen with a few other great pitchers this season, the home run has really suffocated Keuchel in 2016. The Astro's ace has struggled to find his strike zone as he has already walked 43 batters and is on pace to walk the most batters in his career for a single season.
5 Overachiever: Wilson Ramos
The Washington Nationals have found themselves a pleasant surprise behind the plate in their 28-year-old backstop. Wilson Ramos has always been a deployable option, but this season seems to have really taken off offensively. Ramos will be a key piece for the Nationals down the stretch as they look to make the World Series run that has been ever so elusive for the past few seasons.
Ramos is hitting a career best this season at well over .300. In fact, Ramos has never hit over .300 during his seven year big league career. It seems as though Ramos has grown a fresh sense of patience at the plate, as he has increased his total walks and on-base percentage. With 16 home runs already, Ramos has already tied his career high and will unquestionably surpass that number this season.
4 Underachiever: Shelby Miller
Last season, Shelby Miller had the sympathy of every baseball fan, as his record of 6-17 on the mound did not pay justice to the excellent season that he had. Miller was in the unfortunate position of being simply too good for his team, as he delivered quality stuff every time out, but was left hanging time and time again by the painfully awful offence of the Atlanta Braves.
In 2013 and 2014, he sported a combined record of 25-18 for the St.Louis Cardinals. In 2015, Miller had recorded the best ERA of his career at 3.02 and was named to the National League All-Star team. After his forgettable experience with the Braves, Miller had an opportunity this year to really shine in Arizona, as he would finally have a formidable offence behind him. His season thus far however, has been nothing short of disastrous. Miller went 2-9 with an ERA of 7.14 and a WHIP of 1.75 before being sent down to the Diamondbacks Triple-A affiliate in Reno. From All-Star to minor leaguer in just one year, Shelby Miller comes in at number two of our underachievers.
3 Overachiever: Adam Duvall
Adam Duvall was an 11th round draft pick by the San Fransisco Giants in 2010, and for the first two years of his career, he played like one. Now in 2016, Duvall seems to have turned the corner and found himself as a professional baseball player. The 27-year-old has been one of the best players for a struggling Reds team this season. Duvall even made the National League All-Star squad this season and was selected to compete in the Home Run Derby.
As mentioned, Duvall was but a ghost in his first two campaigns although he never really got an official chance in the big leagues. After playing just 55 games throughout his first two seasons, Duvall's numbers were rather pedestrian. This season however over 99 games played, Duvall is hitting .250 at the plate, has raked in 26 home runs and 71 RBI. Nobody expected him to contribute this type of production, but for a struggling Reds team, they couldn't be happier to see the arrival of Adam Duvall in the big leagues.
2 Underachiever: Sonny Gray
We're telling you, there is an epidemic of underachieving All-Star arms in the American League this season, as Sonny Gray has also fallen victim. After back-to-back 14 win seasons and an All-Star appearance in 2015, Sonny Gray has been awful in 2016. Gray finished third in American League Cy Young voting last season and many thought he would be a primary candidate for this award once again. The results have been to the contrary, as Gray stumbled coming out of the gate and has not been able to find his feet since.
So, how bad has it been for the fourth year pitcher? Here is a list of starters in both the American and National League who have an ERA better than Grays so far this season- EVERYBODY. With an ERA of 5.84, the former All-Star sits dead last in all of baseball for eligible starters. If Gray can't turn things around, he may face the same fate as the aforementioned underachiever on our list- designation for minor league assignment.
1 1. Overachiever: Trevor Story
It's extremely unfortunate that we will not get to see this rookie's incredible debut season play out, as Trevor Story was recently placed on the 60-day disabled list with a torn ligament in his thumb. It's safe to say that although Story was thought to perhaps find success at the major league level, the young shortstop from Irving, Texas has overachieved and surpassed everyone's expectations.
Coming into the majors, Story had never hit more than 20 home runs in his minor league career and had already hit 27 this season as a pro. Story was on pace to end his rookie year with huge numbers. Story began the season on a historical pace, hitting seven home runs in just his first six career games. With the Rockies sitting just a few games out of the Wild-Card spot, losing their rookie phenom is a tough blow, as Story with his fantastic offensive pace, could have been the tipping point to repeating the Rockies 2007 World Series run.
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