The 2018 Major League Baseball season has been chock full of unexpected occurrences.
“Openers”, exaggerated shifts, and position players pitching on the regular are three of the more notable storylines that arose during this wacky campaign.
Another is the unforeseen duos that have bloomed into auspicious combinations.
These once unimaginable pairings have paid dividends for their respective clubs while realizing baseball fans’ fantasies.
Here are three successful duos we never imagined playing together:
Christian Yelich & Lorenzo Cain, Brewers
In 2015, Lorenzo Cain celebrated the Kansas City Royals’ first World Series victory in 30 years, while Christian Yelich combined with Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna to form a promising outfield in Miami.
One trade, $80 million, and three years later, the pair are having MVP-worthy campaigns and are two of the main focal points of a Brewers team that’s in position to make the postseason for the first time since 2011.
While adding Cain and Yelich to a Brewers outfield comprising franchise stalwart Ryan Braun, the speedy Keon Broxton, and 30-home run slugger Domingo Santana seemed unnecessary, general manager David Stearns knew exactly what he was doing.
The impressive duo has combined for 12.2 WAR this season, the highest total by two outfielders on the same team in the entire National League.
Aaron Judge & Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees
When it was clear Stanton was going to be traded last offseason, the Yankees didn’t seem like a plausible destination for the reigning NL MVP and his mammoth contract because of New York’s obsession with staying under the luxury-tax threshold and their employment of another towering home-run hitter in Aaron Judge.
That didn’t stop Yankees GM Brian Cashman from figuring out a way to acquire Stanton to create one of the deadliest 1-2 punches in baseball.
Judge has only played in 107 games, yet the two powerhouses have combined for 61 home runs and 157 RBIs in their first season together, good for an average of one homer every 18.9 plate appearances.
The two giants are just getting started, too. They’re under club control in New York until at least 2023, with Stanton not eligible for free agency until 2028.
Mike Trout & Shohei Ohtani, Angels
In 2012, when Mike Trout became Rookie of the Year and finished second in the American League MVP race at the blossoming age of 20, a teenage, aspiring MLB star named Shohei Ohtani made his home more than 5,000 miles away in Japan.
Six years later, they’ve become one of the most intriguing duos in the league while impressing with unique individual approaches to their stardom.
Trout, arguably baseball’s best player, sets himself apart with humility, talent, and a game that’s so quietly good it’s often forgotten just how consistently tremendous he is. Seven All-Star appearances, two MVPs, and 64.3 career WAR by age 27 says it all.
Ohtani, on the other hand, generates headlines because of his ability to both hit and pitch with big-league caliber success. The two-way phenom is swarmed by the press, has the entire nation of Japan on his side, and has been compared to Babe Ruth. Add in the drama surrounding his injured throwing elbow and continued chase of the AL Rookie of the Year award, and the 24-year-old certainly lights up the flashbulbs.
Although the Angels failed to make the playoffs in the pair’s first season together, the future in Anaheim looks bright with the duo leading the way.