The 2019 MLB season saw plenty of surprises and disappointments in the 2019 season. Some guys like Chris Sale, David Price and Bryce Harper didn't perform the way we expected here in 2019.
And who could have seen the 10-6 win Los Angeles Dodgers bow out in the NLDS? On a more positive side, who had the Washington Nationals advancing to their first NLCS after years of October heartbreak? It's been quite a season full of surprises, to say the least.
Here, we'll be taking a look at 10 MLB players who enjoyed surprise breakout seasons when we least expected it.
10 Hyun-Jin Ryu
Ryu was a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy for the Dodgers prior to this season, but nobody expected him to emerge as the ace of their rotation. The 32-year-old did just that here in 2019.
Though Clayton Kershaw won more decisions than Ryu (16 to 14), the latter led the Dodgers starters with a 2.32 ERA. He also set a career high with 163 strikeouts while walking just 24 batters in 182.2 innings pitched.
Ryu earned the first All-Star selection of his career, pacing the Dodgers to 106 wins, which was tops in the National League.
9 Hanser Alberto
Alberto played in the Texas Rangers organization from 2015 to 2018, but he only suited up in 39 MLB games during that span. The Baltimore Orioles claimed Alberto off waivers back in March, and he paid them back nicely.
The 26-year-old enjoyed the best season of his career, batting .305 with 12 home runs, 51 RBI with a .751 OPS. Alberto finished with an impressive 3.1 WAR as well. Only seven hitters in the American League finished with a higher batting average than Alberto, who figures to be a centerpiece of the Orioles rebuild for years to come.
8 Lucas Giolito
The rebuilding Chicago White Sox didn't make as much progress as some had hoped, but at least they found their new long-term ace in Lucas Giolito.
The 25-year-old right-handed pitcher enjoyed a breakout year in which he won 14 decisions while posting 228 strikeouts (16th-most in the Majors), and a superb 3.41 ERA. Only 11 pitchers in the AL won more games than Giolito, which is quite impressive when you consider that he was pitching on a team that lost 89 games.
7 Gio Urshela
The New York Yankees acquired Urshela in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays last season, but he didn't appear in a single big league game for the Pinstripes. The wait was well worth it, to say the least.
While the Yankees were hit with injuries to key players like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the 28-year-old Urshela broke out with 21 home runs, 74 RBI, a .314 batting average and an OPS of .889.
Urshela led the Yankees to 103 wins, and to their first AL East division title in seven years. What a find he was for general manager Brian Cashman and company.
6 Kirby Yates
We are in an era where many MLB pitchers begin to fade once they hit their 30s, but San Diego Padres closer Kirby Yates was an exception to the rule.
The 32-year-old broke out by posting 41 saves (tops in the National League), while earning his first All-Star selection. Yates finished with an excellent 1.19 ERA, and he posted a whopping 101 strikeouts in 60.2 innings pitched.
The Padres were quite the disappointment in 2019 after adding Manny Machado, but if Yates can build off the best season of his career, then San Diego will certainly improve in 2020 and beyond.
5 Sonny Gray
After growing into a star with the Oakland Athletics, Gray was traded to the New York Yankees in 2017. But he struggled mightily in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, and the front office gave up after the 2018 season.
So they traded Gray to the Cincinnati Reds in the offseason, and he was able to turn back the clock and earn the second All-Star selection of his career. Gray won 11 decisions while posting a 2.87 ERA. He finished with a career-high 205 strikeouts as well.
All is right again in Sonny Gray world. He just needed a change of scenery in a less hitter-friendly stadium.
4 Tim Anderson
Anderson pieced together a nice rookie season for the Chicago White Sox in 2016, but he was unable to regain that strong form over the next two years. Finally, it all came together for Anderson in his fourth season as a professional.
The 26-year-old Anderson led the majors with a .335 batting average. Christian Yelich and Ketel Marte were tied for second at .329. Anderson also recorded the best batting average of his career (.865), while posting an excellent 4.0 WAR.
The White Sox are loaded with young talent and elite prospects. It won't be long until this team grows into a legitimate championship contender, and Anderson will be a key reason why.
3 Mike Soroka
The Calgary, Alberta native made five appearances for the Atlanta Braves in 2018, but he was one of the top breakout players in his first full season in the pros. Soroka emerged as the face of Atlanta's rotation, going 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA and 142 strikeouts.
Soroka helped the Braves win 97 games, which was enough for their second straight NL East division title. Soroka, Julio Teheran and Max Fried figure to be the next great "big three" pitching unit in Atlanta - two decades after Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz dominated the MLB landscape as members of the Braves.
2 D.J. LeMahieu
The veteran utility infielder was a key part of the Colorado Rockies offense for seven years, but nobody could have predicted LeMahieu to take his game to another level in the Bronx after inking a two-year, $24 million pact. If anything else, he was merely insurance in an extremely deep Yankee lineup.
But sure enough, the Gold Glover reached MVP-like status in 2019. LeMahieu earned his third All-Star selection after setting career bests in home runs (26), doubles (33) and RBI (102). LeMahieu batted .327 on the year with an excellent .893 OPS. He finished the season with an elite 6.0 WAR as well.
1 1.Ketel Marte
Marte put together some decent offensive numbers with the Seattle Mariners in 2014 and 2015, and he was reliable enough for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016 and 2017. But absolutely nobody thought he was going to put together an MVP-like season ahead of the 2019 campaign. But Marte did just that.
He clubbed 32 home runs, 92 RBI while recording a .329 batting average -- tied with Yelich for the best in the National League. Marte added 10 stolen bases and drew 53 walks against only 86 strikeouts. He finished with a .981 OPS and a tremendous 6.9 WAR.
The Diamondbacks' future is certainly in good hands with Marte leading the way.