Sullivan: Do more hitters or pitchers ‘surprise’ us?

From Jeff Sullivan at on February 20, 2015:

An interesting thing about Corey Kluber is that he just won the 2014 American League Cy Young Award, narrowly edging out Felix Hernandez. Though it was virtually impossible to separate the two, statistically, there was no arguing with Kluber’s win — he was at least the co-best pitcher in his league. Another interesting thing about Corey Kluber is that, in the minors, he was never highly thought of. Everybody in the minor leagues has talent, but no one would argue with the statement that Kluber has basically come out of nowhere. He’s overachieved, relative to his earlier expectations.

Kluber’s not alone. I mean, at his talent level, Kluber is almost alone, but he’s not the only current pitcher to overachieve. Dallas Keuchel was never highly regarded. Neither was Tanner Roark, who I think has taken everybody by surprise. Jose Quintana wasn’t much of a prospect, and neither was Doug Fister, and neither was Tyson Ross. I could keep going. You know Matt Shoemaker? Shoemaker, for the Angels, was outstanding. His Triple-A ERA is over 5.

But we shouldn’t pretend like this is strictly a pitching phenomenon. One of the most valuable players of the last few years has been Josh Donaldson, and Donaldson is a little like a hitting version of Kluber. Donaldson just took a slightly more complicated route to astonishing stardom. Ben Zobrist has been hugely valuable, and didn’t come up as a top prospect. Jonathan Lucroy wasn’t a big-time prospect. Jose Bautista and Yan Gomes have been different sorts of surprises. Baseball players will surprise you. You’ve heard this before, in different forms.

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Originally published: February 20, 2015. Last Updated: February 20, 2015.