American League's Early Season Blessings & Disappointments
With the month of April in the books now’s a great time to look back at some of the biggest surprises in the American League. Which players provided unexpected blessings? While others have been major disappointments and failed to deliver the type of production their teams expected of them. Check back later in the week for our National League lists.
American League Blessings
J.P. Crawford / Shortstop (Mariners)
I saw Crawford in person this weekend and it very much looks like he is the player the Philadelphia Phillies thought they had when they drafted him in the first round back in 2016. Crawford leads the American League in batting at .372 with an OPS of 1.090.
Hard to see those numbers as sustainable given how much swing and miss there used to be in his game, however, he’s walked more than he’s struck out so far in 2022 which is a wonderful development in the 27-year-old’s game. He’s turned the corner in his third season with the Mariners and is one of the bigger surprises coming out of April.
Taylor Ward / Outfielder (Angels)
The Angels have no shortage of outfielders and young ones at that. Ward has jumped out to a tremendous start slashing .400 with a .507 on-base percentage.
He’ll have to continue to fight Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh for playing time, but this late bloomer has already mashed five home runs and is earning more at-bats. Ward is a former first-round pick back in 2015 who had yet to put it all together so perhaps 2022 is the season he does so.
Sheldon Neuse / Infielder (Athletics)
This offseason the Athletics dismantled their roster, giving Neuse an opportunity to play virtually every day. Neuse has responded early for Oakland with a .875 OPS and two home runs, as well as career-high three stolen bases in Oakland’s first 20 games.
The A’s are employing him in a similar way to how the Los Angeles Dodgers use Max Muncy and he seems to be taking to it. Neuse has played third, second, and first while looking very capable in the infield. No data shows any track record here but for the time being, he’s been a nice surprise for Mark Kotsay.
Logan Gilbert / Pitcher (Mariners)
Gilbert is probably the single biggest surprise in all of baseball, thus far. He’s a perfect 4-0 and leads the American League in Earned Run Average with a mark of 0.64. Gilbert is fanning just about a batter per inning with 26 whiffs in 27 innings pitched.
The right-hander showed flashes with Seattle in 2021 but nothing could possibly indicate this type of start. In Gilbert and Robbie Ray, the Mariners have a top of the rotation that could make them formidable this summer if he keeps it up.
American League Disappointments
Story has had the toughest start to any season since he busted into the big leagues in 2016 and the fans in Boston won’t be very patient with him. The infielder signed a 6-year, 140 million dollar contract with the Bosox and thus far has yet to hit a single home run.
He is slugging just .290 and will have to get going soon. Perhaps the position change from shortstop has thwarted his start at the plate as he adjusts in the field? It’s unclear as of now but he’s crawled out of the gate in the competitive AL East.
Bobby Dalbec / First Base (Red Sox)
Yes, two Red Sox make the list, and both play on the right side of the infield. After an extremely promising rookie campaign, Dalbec has really struggled this April making one wonder if he’s due for a sophomore slump.
His .213 on-base percentage is abysmal and he’s hit just one home run to begin the 2022 season after he smashed 25 in 2021. The Red Sox are certainly counting on similar numbers from their first baseman, but instead, Dalbec has whiffed 23 times in 20 games this season.
Marcus Semien / Second Base (Rangers)
Speaking of players with big new contracts, Semien has yet to give the fans in Arlington anything to cheer about. The big-ticket free-agent signee is batting just .149 with no home runs to start his Rangers career.
After winning his first silver slugger for the Toronto Blue Jays last season, the second baseman has yet to produce in the Rangers lineup. Many will ask if Texas bought high on Semien coming off a career year? It’s unclear at this point but he is so far off his 2021 campaign it’s hard to envision him hitting anywhere near the 45 bombs he slugged for the Blue Jays on his way to a big payday.
Randy Arozarena / Outfielder (Rays)
The postseason hero of 2020 has yet to jump off in 2022, as Arozarena is batting just .210 for Tampa Bay and hasn’t gone deep once in April. Thankfully, he’s given the Rays three stolen bases but they’ll need much more from the 2021 American League Rookie of the Year if they expect to win one of the toughest divisions in baseball.
Knowing how the Rays operate, Arozarena will need to find his footing relatively fast or they won’t be afraid to limit his playing time and look elsewhere for production.