AL pleasant surprises: Team-by-team

Baltimore Orioles

Zach Britton was supposed to start the year in the minors but injuries to Baltimore's rotation forced his promotion. In five starts he is 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA. He is a ground ball pitcher (57.3 GB percent) who has already induced five double plays. Britton is an early favorite for Rookie of the Year.

--Dave McNeill

LowrieLowrieBoston Red Sox

There's only one word to describe Jed Lowrie's performance thus far -- irreplaceable. After the Red Sox stumbled to their forgettable 2-10 start, Lowrie stepped in to give their offense the spark it so desperately needed. While he won't continue to hit at a .390/.413/.620 clip over the rest of the season, he should still provide solid offensive production whether he's the starting shortstop or the utility infielder. Considering many left him for dead after a string of wrist injuries and a bout with mononucleosis, it's nice to see him proving his doubters wrong.

--Chip Buck, Fire Brand of the AL

New York Yankees

The Yankees were not sure what to expect out of Russell Martin heading into the season. Were his hip/back injuries fully healed, or would he continue his four-year slide from the guy who hit 19 HRs, batted .293/.374/.469 and managed to steal 21 bases as a 24-year-old catcher with the Dodgers to the guy who hit just five home runs with a .248/.347/.332 line in 97 games during 2010? After 19 games, Martin looks back to that 24-year-old form having already hit six home runs with a nifty .290/.364/.594 line. The Yanks could not be more pleased.

--Jason Rosenberg, It's About the Money

Tampa Bay Rays

Sam Fuld has become a Twitter sensation with his diving catches, clutch hits and base-stealing exploits. A throw-in in the Matt Garza trade with the Cubs, Fuld has taken over the leadoff spot and is hitting .315/.380/.472 with 16 runs and 10 steals -- a key reason the team is now 14-11 after its 0-6 start.

--David Schoenfield

BautistaBautistaToronto Blue Jays

The added pressure of a big contract extension, a paucity of pitches to hit and the immutable laws of physics haven't stopped Jose Bautista from elevating his production to dizzying heights, as he's hitting .360/.529/.760.

--Drew Fairservice, Ghostrunner on First

Chicago White Sox

It's hard to be pleasantly surprised by a player who would have won the MVP award three years ago if not for a freak injury that prematurely ended his season, but after two tough seasons, Carlos Quentin is hitting .305/.394/.632, with six homers and an MLB-leading 13 doubles, certainly qualifying as the most pleasant surprise on a team that's been largely devoid of pleasantness for the past three weeks or so.

--Bill Parker, The Platoon Advantage

Cleveland Indians

On a team on which nearly everything has gone right, Justin Masterson's performance has been the biggest, and most pleasant, surprise. His stuff and the underlying numbers don't support his current line (5-0, 2.18 ERA), but if he's able to keep the walks and homers down and ground balls up the way he has so far, he'll keep that ERA somewhere in the threes, and will be a rock-solid starter at the top of the rotation of what is suddenly looking like a very exciting young team.

--Bill Parker, The Platoon Advantage

AvilaAvilaDetroit Tigers

After a strong showing over the final months of 2009, catcher Alex Avila struggled as a rookie in 2010, hitting just .228 with seven home runs in 333 PAs. So far he's showing the hitting tools predicted of him last year, as he's hitting .290/.356/.537 and tied with Miguel Cabrera for the club lead with 16 RBIs.

--David Schoenfield

Kansas City Royals

In what was to be his third "make or break" season, Royals outfielder Alex Gordon has shown there is plenty of life in his bat, getting off to a torrid start, hitting .327/.382/.485. His April included a career-best 19-game hitting streak. On a team that needs production anywhere it can find it, Gordon has emerged as a steady No. 3 hitter ahead of Billy Butler. Finally, they have formed the dangerous offensive tandem Royals fans dreamed about for years.

--Craig Brown, Royals Authority

KubelKubelMinnesota Twins

Trying to find a pleasant surprise on this team is like getting your molars removed without pain medication. We'll go with Jason Kubel, who had a disappointing 2010 after a great showing in '09. He's hitting .333 with a team-leading two home runs. Yes, we said team-leading.

--David Schoenfield

Los Angeles Angels

Dan Haren and Jered Weaver have been brilliant, of course, but you already knew they were great. The real surprise has been Howie Kendrick. He's hitting just .280, but he's already got six homers -- his career high is 10 -- and his walk rate is way up from his career norms, too. If he manages to retain the power and patience and his batting average climbs back toward his career .294, they've got a superstar on their hands.

--Bill Parker, The Platoon Advantage

McCarthyMcCarthyOakland A's

After missing all of last season and signing a one-year deal for a million dollars in the offseason, Brandon McCarthy fended off a host of contenders for the fifth starter's spot this spring. McCarthy has pitched 35 1/3 innings in his first five starts, has a 5.75 K/BB ratio and has allowed only one home run. His 3.57 ERA is impressive but his 2.44 FIP speaks to just how good he's been (already 1.1 WAR).

--Dan Hennessey, Baseballin' on a Budget

Seattle Mariners

Many would point to Michael Pineda as the surprise for the Mariners, but in some ways his success was almost expected. Instead, Justin Smoak's start has been the more pleasing one, especially in light of his struggles last year. Now instead of pressing at the plate and looking nervous, Smoak seems calm and is letting everything come to him. He's an important part of the Mariners' future, so it's wonderful to see this type of progress for him.

--Conor Dowley, Pro Ball NW

Texas Rangers

The reliever who was expected to join the Texas rotation this year was Neftali Feliz. Instead, Ron Washington decided to move Alexi Ogando there late in spring training. He's been brilliant, going 3-0 in five starts, with a 2.30 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. His strikeout rate (6.0 per 9) doesn't support the rest of the numbers, so expect some regression to set in.

--David Schoenfield