May 18, 2021

The 5 Biggest MLB Overachievers and Underachievers in 2021 So Far

Less than two months into the 2021 MLB season and we've already seen our fair share of surprises. 

The teams that sit in first place aren’t necessarily the ones most would have predicted, and the same can be said of one or two of the teams in last place. Naturally, there have been surprises, both good and bad, among individual players.

While there is still plenty of baseball left to play, it’s not too early to take a look at some of the biggest overachievers and underachievers of the 2021 MLB campaign so far.

Overachiever: Adolis Garcia, Rangers

Most fans had probably never heard of Adolis Garcia before the season. In fact, many fans still might be unaware of him because he plays for the Rangers. But the former Cuban defector has been one of the bright spots for Texas this year.

The Cardinals cut bait with him after the 2019 season and he was a non-roster invitee to spring training with the Rangers this year. However, after getting called up in mid-April, he’s been a revelation, hitting .296 with 11 home runs, giving him an OPS of .933.

If he can keep it up, Garcia could be an All-Star this season and an amazing rags-to-riches story.

Underachiever: New York Mets Offense

The Mets have been so bad offensively that it’d be unfair to single out just one player as a disappointment.

New York’s lineup had the greatest of expectations coming into the season but is last in the majors in runs scored. To be fair, half of their opening day lineup is now on the IL, not to mention a couple of key reserves. However, Francisco Lindor is batting under .200 after getting a massive extension while Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso, and Dominic Smith have all underperformed.

Of course, pitching has saved the first-place Mets, who have been a massive disappointment offensively this year.

Overachiever: San Francisco Giants

Hands down, the Giants have been the biggest surprise in baseball so far.

San Francisco has used great pitching to get to the top of the NL West, looking like a genuine contender, which is something few expected at the start of the season.

The Giants' heroes have been a group of veteran hitters who looked over the hill but have come alive in 2021. Buster Posey looks 10 years younger while Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Evan Longoria have all overachieved, making the Giants a team to watch closely moving forward.

Underachiever: Los Angeles Dodgers

While things have started to improve, nobody could have predicted the Dodgers would be third in the NL West this late in the season.

The reigning World Series champs looked even better on paper than they did last year, yet the Dodgers lost nine of their last 11 games to end April and then started May 2-8 before turning things around.

In fairness, Los Angeles has underachieved based on the highest of expectations. But they created those expectations and have clearly fallen well short of what was expected.

Overachiever: Jared Walsh, Angels

While two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani has grabbed a lot of headlines, Walsh has been the true surprise for the Angels this year.

Given Mike Trout’s recent slump on Anthony Rendon’s injuries, Walsh has arguably been the team’s best hitter to this point in the season. Keep in mind that he was a 39th-round draft pick in 2015. Nobody expected him to get anywhere close to the big leagues much less be hitting .343 with an OPS of .990 while helping to protect Trout in the middle of the Halos' lineup.

Underachiever: Chicago Cubs Rotation

This is far from the same Chicago rotation that was one of the best in baseball a few years ago, sure, but even with modest expectations, the Chicago rotation is a huge underachiever with the Cubs owning the worst rotation ERA in the National League.

Kyle Hendricks has had some disastrous starts while Zach Davies has gone from a 2.73 ERA last year to a 5.60 ERA this season. An aging Jake Arrieta is somehow the team’s best starter, which is not a positive sign.

Overachiever: Boston Red Sox Rotation

Pitching was a massive problem for the Red Sox last year but now Boston’s rotation is top-five in the American League in ERA.

Nick Pivetta is 5-0 with a 3.16 ERA, performing far better than he ever did with the Phillies. Garrett Richards has managed to stay healthy and look like a frontline starter more times than not. A year ago, the Red Sox were so bad that they needed 16 starters to get through 60 games. But there has been consistency and stability in the Boston rotation this year, and they don’t even have Chris Sale back.

Underachiever: Cincinnati Reds Pitching Staff

The entire Cincinnati pitching staff has been a disaster this year.

The Reds lead the National League in runs scored but still have a losing record that has put them in fourth place in the NL Central. The Cincinnati rotation has the third-highest ERA in the National League and the Cincinnati bullpen also has the third-highest ERA in the National League, so nobody has pitched particularly well.

Luis Castillo has been a disaster with a 7.71 ERA, Sonny Gray is winless, and even Wade Miley has had some rough moments despite throwing a no-hitter. Meanwhile, all of the familiar names in the bullpen have been terrible, giving the Reds no reliable arms late in games.

Overachiever: Oakland Athletics

The A’s are obvious overachievers because they’re first in the AL West and eight games over .500 but have a negative run differential. They should have a losing record because they’ve been rather inconsistent offensively. But the money-ball approach seems to be working because Oakland has won close games and was able to put together a 13-game winning streak that has propelled them to the top of the AL West and given them one of the best records in baseball.

Underachiever: Minnesota Twins

At the start of the season, nobody would have picked the Twins as having the fewest wins in baseball, but that’s where we stand after six weeks.

Minnesota still has the roster of a team that looks good enough to contend in the AL Central. However, just Nelson Cruz, Byron Buxton, and Michael Pineda have performed up to their potential. Almost the entire pitching staff and lineup have underachieved.

In theory, the Twins still have a chance to turn things around. But at the moment, they are MLB’s worst team and the biggest underachiever.

Photo: Getty Images