By Ivan Morrobel
Published: May 15th, 2019
The lengthy 162-game Major League Baseball (MLB) regular season is bound to consist of eye-openers that teams and their respective fanbases fail to anticipate. With more than a month into the 2019 campaign, underdogs have made some noise, while favorites continue to deal with hiccups along the way.
First, the incumbent World Series champion, Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox, who turned out to be the last man standing when all was said and done last season, have struggled to replicate their 2018 success thus far. Starting pitcher Chris Sale has dealt with issues that have negatively affected his velocity, former AL Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello is far from that, and 29-year-old Nathan Eovaldi underwent elbow surgery that’ll keep him on the injured list for several weeks.
Although their hurlers are floundering, the Red Sox have a lot of time left before they begin to panic. However, after committing to Sale and shortstop Xander Bogaerts long-term earlier this year by offering contract extensions worth $265 million combined, Boston should certainly get their money’s worth while they can.
Second, the surprisingly good Minnesota Twins.
The Twins, believe it or not, have a sneaky lineup that can eradicate an opposing team’s pitchers, which is what they did when they swept their six-game season series against the Baltimore Orioles after hitting 23 home runs. But their starting rotation deserves most of the credit for the team’s early-season success as Jake Odorizzi, Jose Berrios, and Martin Perez have produced beyond measure.
In their first 24 starts combined, the trio has thrown 15 quality outings for the Twins, who have a legitimate shot to overthrow the Cleveland Indians. In addition to their starters, players such as Blake Parker and Jorge Polanco continue to thrive in their roles.
Last but not least, the oddly, yet savvy Tampa Bay Rays.
To put it simply, the Rays know how to play baseball, especially after getting rid of their cornerstone pieces in Evan Longoria and Chris Archer.
The Rays finished the 2018 season as a 90-win ball club. Unfortunately, they were just another team as the AL East division featured two powerhouses in the Red Sox and New York Yankees, though that hasn’t stopped them from taking advantage of their opponents’ downfall to start off 2019.
If you glance at Tampa Bay’s roster, you aren’t going to see any household names other than last season’s AL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell because they’re notorious for turning nothing into something with players that include center fielder Austin Meadows, Yandy Diaz and Jose Alvarado. The Rays are ahead of the pack in the AL East as they continue to utilize the opener experiment, yet it’ll be interesting to see how they maintain this momentum as their ace Tyler Glasnow, who is 6-1 with a 1.86 ERA through eight starts, is expected to miss significant time because of a mild forearm strain.