Ah, April. The month when just about anything can happen, and usually does. Ryan Raburn hits twice as many home runs in 24 hours as Josh Hamilton all month? Check. Preseason favorites like the Blue Jays, Nationals, Dodgers and Angels all with losing records? Uh-huh. Yuniesky Betancourt has almost as many homers as Ryan Braun? Yes, and a thousand more yesses.
In the spirit of this most Aprilest of months, I would like to present a set of All-Stars. Not the best players in the majors. Not even necessarily the players with the best statistics. But rather, the players who might spend the rest of their lives looking back and saying, "There. April of 2013. That's when I showed them what I could really do."
C - Carlos Santana
Sure, you figure he's a good hitter and can lay down a funky groove. He also came into this season with a .247 career batting average, and so it's a bit of a surprise to look up and notice that he's sitting atop the American League list with a .389 batting average. Oh, and the .722 slugging percentage is pretty nifty, too.
1B - Chris Davis
No, Davis isn't a huge surprise; after all, he did hit 33 home runs last season, his first full campaign with the Orioles. But thanks to an early surge this spring, Davis is the American League's co-leader with nine homers and 28 RBI. For Davis, the issue has always been contact, which makes his relatively low strikeout total this season all the more encouraging.
2B - VACANT
In a sense, this just shows how quickly performances do normalize. Here are the top 10 OPS qualifiers among second basemen: Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia, Mark Ellis, Jose Altuve, Daniel Murphy, Brandon Phillips, Matt Carpenter, Omar Infante. With the exception of Carpenter and arguably Murphy, all of those men are good, established major-league second basemen. And Carpenter's coming off a good season with the bat; what's so interesting about him is that before this season, he'd started only 16 games at second base in his entire professional career. Now he's more-or-less the Cardinals' regular there, and just off the league lead with 21 runs scored.
SS - Jean Segura
Yes, yes ... He was an excellent prospect; that's why the Brewers got him from the Angels last summer. As a rookie, though, Segura didn't take real well to the National League, batting .264 without a single home run in 44 games. This season, though? He's batting .364 with nine extra-base hits (including three homers!) in 24 games. Meanwhile, the 9-17 Angels can merely wonder what might have been...
3B - Josh Donaldson
Donaldson was a good story last season -- marginal catching prospect, pressed into duty as every-day third baseman on the way to a shocking division title -- but he didn't (ahem) hit all that much, finishing the season with a .289 on-base percentage. But apparently that was enough for Billy Beane, because Donaldson opened the season with a headlock on the job. All he's done is up his walks, lower his strikeouts, and power his way to a .314/.388/.490 batting line so far.
LF - Nate McLouth
Nate McLouth is a testament to ... something. Six years ago, McLouth came out of Nowhere to have a pretty good season with the Pirates, and a year later came out of Semi-Nowhere to lead the National League with 48 doubles and win a Gold Glove in center field. The next year, the Pirates traded McLouth to the Braves and he went back to being Nate McLouth, Journeyman Outfielder. Which he's been ever since. Except this year, he's the Orioles' every-day left fielder and he's batting .346 with a lot more walks than strikeouts.
CF - Carlos Gomez
Last year, Gomez put together his first decent season with the bat, his .305 on-base percentage nicely balanced by 19 homers and 37 steals. That seemed like just about the best that Carlos Gomez could possibly do. Except now he's batting .360 -- not to mention that .415 on-base percentage -- with a dozen extra-base hits. So it seems almost unkind to mention that Gomez seems to have given up on stealing bases.
RF - Vernon Wells
Okay, so this is cheating a little bit, as Wells has actually played left field for the Yankees this season. But how he's played it! After batting .222/.258/.409 over the last two seasons with the Angels -- resulting in the Angels eating a great chunk of money -- Wells has rediscovered himself as a Yankee, now batting .300 on the nose with six homers in 24 games. The list of reasons for the Yankees' bizarrely good record is long, but Vernon Wells is near the top.
Pitcher - Kevin Correia
So, so much fun. Correia is the thrilling apogee of the Minnesota Twins' pitch-to-contact philosophy: Don't strike anybody out, and the wins will come. Which is actually a really terrible philosophy. Except that Correia, who's got only 15 strikeouts in 36 innings in this Age of the Strikeout, is also 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA. Granted, it's not nearly as shocking as Jonathan Sanchez washing out with the Pirates. Still, I'll bet you didn't see this one coming.