With around 40 games played during the MLB season, divisional races are starting to take shape.
This brings a flurry of surprises, both for the teams that sit at the top of the division and those at the bottom.
Some divisions have shocking teams leading the charge, even though it’s still early in the season.
Here’s a look at the three most surprising contenders so far in 2022.
3. Houston Astros
Maybe it’s time we learned our lesson not to doubt the Houston Astros.
Every season, even when it seems like their roster has slipped slightly or other AL West teams have improved, the Astros find themselves at the top.
It’s no different in 2022.
The loss of star shortstop Carlos Correa originally looked like a major loss for the Astros.
However, the rise of rookie Jeremy Peña eased the team’s concerns at shortstop.
How special is it? Jeremy Peña’s parents were on the mic for his first career HR. pic.twitter.com/wdvnoRePHp
—MLB (@MLB) April 9, 2022
Now, with the return of a healthy and dominant Justin Verlander, the team looks set to have another run.
For this reason, they are one of the first surprises for division leaders.
2. New York Yankees
Yes, the New York Yankees never really fly under anyone’s radar.
However, after a quiet offseason highlighted by the signing or trade of seemingly aging stars, many counted the Yankees out in the AL East.
They’ve proven those doubts wrong so far this season.
The Yankees hold the best record in all of MLB, with a 29-12 record.
This is led by a stunning start to the season by star outfielder Aaron Judge.
After turning down a major contract extension, Judge’s gamble on himself paid off.
So far, the slugger is hitting .315 with a league-leading 15 home runs in just 146 at-bats, despite a slow start to the season.
— B/R Walk (@BRWalkoff) May 18, 2022
This, associated with his fellow giant Giancarlo Stanton, formed a formidable duo in the middle of the formation of the Yankees.
The success of their offense isn’t the most shocking part, as their throwing carried the burden early in the season.
Nestor Cortes Jr. continued the success of 2021, posting a 1.80 ERA so far.
Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and the return of Luis Severino also bolstered one of the best starting rotations in the league.
Put it all together and the Yankees are off to a surprisingly good start.
1. Minnesota Twins
If you asked most people before the season, they would have expected the Chicago White Sox to run the AL Central.
The Minnesota Twins would probably get mentioned, but they’ve far exceeded expectations this year.
the @Twins are legit!
They came back from a 6-point deficit to complete the sweep. pic.twitter.com/PxOClFjc5s
—MLB (@MLB) May 22, 2022
At 25-16, they hold a solid 4.5 game lead in the division.
Their roster, led by Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa and Luis Arraez, did enough to pick up wins.
Meanwhile, their throwing was guided by a breakout performance from Joe Ryan, who has a 2.28 ERA in eight starts this season.
While they don’t necessarily have outstanding statistical seasons, the team is firing on all cylinders so far this year.
The Twins have certainly made moves this offseason to improve, but their strong start is surprising at the start of 2022.
It will now be interesting to see if they can hold off the rest of AL Central and get back to the playoffs.