By Joe Sparacio

Small sample size or not, some of the surprise hot starts in baseball are the results of newly-found skills or talent (remember, not everyone is Jeremy Hazelbaker). And while we have some unlikely baseball stars through one-third of the season may fade, they all deserve some credit for sticking around for so long already.

For this reason, let's compose an All-Star team made up of the best players that have surprised us in both leagues through June.

These are players that had good but not great expectations before the season began; veterans that were thought to be washed up; youngsters thought to be busts; or guys that weren't even on anyone's radar entering the season. Some of these players may not keep it up, but they've brought some joy into the hearts of their fan bases through the season's first two months.

Before they possibly fade, go show them a little love (and vote for them on the Esurance MLB All-Star Ballot). Stats going into Sunday's action.


C Alex Avila

To date, Avila has more home runs (8) than his 11-time All-Star teammate Miguel Cabrera this season. In just 104 at-bats, Avila has driven in 23 runs and has a .317 batting average. He also has the same number of RBIs as Yadier Molina in 76 fewer at-bats and he has more home runs than Brian McCann.

1B COL Mark Reynolds

What if I told you that 33-year-old Reynolds has more RBIs than Bryce Harper? Or more home runs than Nelson Cruz? Or a higher batting average than fellow first baseman Joey Votto? Reynolds has already surpassed or matched his home run total (14) from each of the last two seasons in only 52 games. Mark Reynolds and Coors Field are getting along just fine.

2B NYY Starlin Castro

The Cubs traded a 26-year-old Castro for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan two seasons ago, and he had a so-so 2016 in New York. Then 2017 happened. Among second basemen, Castro trails only Robinson Cano and Daniel Murphy in RBIs and only Jose Altuve in runs scored, all with a .317 batting average.

SS CIN Zack Cozart

Cozart's .335 average leads all of his peers at shortstop and his .997 OPS is almost a full point higher than Carlos Correa's, who ranks second. The Reds' offense has been better than expected and Cozart's 59 hits, 28 RBIs and 30 runs scored are a large part of the reason why.

3B MIN Miguel Sano

In 2016, injuries nagged Sano and he struck out almost 180 times, watching his batting average plummet down to .236. Entering this season, expectations were lower than they had been in the past. Sano's 35 runs scored are the same number as Kris Bryant and his 41 RBIs trail only Jake Lamb among third basemen. Couple this with a .299 average and the Twins may have found a superstar.

OF NYY Aaron Hicks

Hicks has forced his way into a deep Yankees lineup this year thanks to his bat. He had eight home runs in only 126 at-bats (his career high is 11!) and he has the same number of RBIs this year than he did last year in 80 fewer games. Oh, and he's swiped seven bases.

OF CIN Scott Schebler

Schebler has the same amount of home runs as Mike Trout. Schebler's 16 swats are more than both Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper. Schebler's 30 RBIs are also 11th-most among his NL peers in the outfield.

OF CWS Avisail Garcia

Scouts have marveled at Garcia's tools for years, and he finally put it all together at the start of this season. His BABIP might be a little high, but he truly hasn't slowed down too much even after his hot start. His 37 RBIs trail only Aaron Judge (42) among AL outfielders and he is fourth behind Matt Kemp (who almost made this list), Trout and Judge in batting average. Garcia has given the White Sox at least one thing to smile about in an otherwise desolate year.

DH TB Corey Dickerson

This man hit a double on a pitch that bounced before coming to the plate. Entering the weekend, he was leading the league in hits (73), batting average (.341) and total bases (130). Dickerson has had some impressive past seasons in Colorado's thin air, but now he's doing it in sunny St. Petersburg.


SP MIN Ervin Santana

With an ERA that's fourth-best in the Majors (and the best before his most recent start), the hurler has powered the Twins to an incredible run atop the AL Central to start the season, much to the surprise of analysts and fans alike. In 12 starts, he has notched seven wins all while posting a minuscule 2.44 ERA and 0.93 WHIP.

SP PIT Ivan Nova

Maybe credit pitching god Ray Searage for yet another miraculous pitcher reclamation, but the Pirates now have another solid starter to pair with Gerrit Cole and youngsters Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow. Nova has been a quality start machine thanks to his ability to eat innings, as he is averaging seven innings pitched per game. And talk about pinpoint control -- the 30-year-old has issued only six walks all season.

SP STL Mike Leake           

Leake almost made the cut as an early front-runner for the NL Cy Young Award race thanks to his incredible early-season success (despite a somewhat rocky outing against the Cubs on Saturday). He has a higher WAR than both Chris Sale and Max Scherzer, plus a 2.64 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.

SP KC Jason Vargas

Vargas has been journeyman for his career, having played with five teams over the span of 12 seasons. After never having posted and ERA below 3.71 over a full season, the 34-year-old has made a mechanical adjustment and currently owns a 2.08 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.

SP COL Antonio Senzatela

We had to include one of the Colorado Rockies' starters on this list as somehow their rotation is actually in the top 15 in batting average against and middle of the pack in ERA. Senzatela has a WAR above 2.0 and an ERA below 3.50, a feat of epic proportions at Coors Field. Thanks to his strong efforts on the mound, he has amassed seven wins already and the Rockies are in the hunt in the NL West.

BONUS: RP COL Greg Holland

It's also worth acknowledging the incredible season that Holland is having. The hurler has notched 20 saves -- five more than Craig Kimrbrel Alex Colombe, who are second in the league -- and has a 1.31 ERA and 0.82 WHIP to boot. Holland's ability to lock down wins has been a key reason for Colorado's surprising early season success, and he looks to be back in elite form after recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2015.


Joe Sparacio is an associate producer for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @joetsparacio.