|If the power stays, he's the AL's best player
Overachieving - Joe Mauer obviously isn't going to bat .406 with a 1.288 OPS all season, but the career .320 hitter appears to have added the final piece to his all-around game with seven homers in 77 at-bats since coming off the disabled list. Oddly no other Twins are really playing that far over their head, which is perhaps why they're four games under .500.
Underachieving - On the other hand, this list if plenty long. Alexi Casilla earned a trip back to the minors by hitting .167 with mistake-filled defense. Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez have made zero strides offensively. No one in the rotation has an ERA under 4.38, led by Scott Baker serving up 10 homers in 38.2 innings on the way to a 6.98 mark. And the bullpen has been a mess.
Achieving - Minnesota's 3-4-5 hitters have been as good as any middle of the lineup in baseball since Mauer's return. Mauer is playing out of his mind, Justin Morneau is hitting .338/.410/.619 with 12 homers and 12 doubles, and Jason Kubel is finally hitting for average (.326) along with the power that he showed last season.
Question marks - Stud closer Joe Nathan is showing some signs of slowing down at the age of 34, which is a scary thought for the already struggling bullpen. Jose Mijares is capable of stepping up to assume a bigger late-inning role, but beyond that the bullpen needs legitimate reinforcements instead of more Luis Ayala-like veteran mediocrity.
On the horizon - Luckily for the Twins they have a pair of excellent reliever prospects dominating at Double-A in Robert Delaney and Anthony Slama. Of course, they're still at Double-A despite being 24 and 25 years old respectively and when asked recently about potentially calling them up soon manager Ron Gardenhire noted that they aren't "ready" yet. Perhaps it'd be easier to get "ready" at, say, Triple-A?
Outlook - Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel have shined and Denard Span has been good, but the other five-ninths of the lineup has produced very little. Toss in disappointing starting pitching and shoddy relief work and the Twins are lucky their record isn't even worse. They'll win more games going forward, but unless another hitter steps up or some bullpen changes are made it'll be tough to be serious contenders.
Overachieving - For an 11-27 team the Nationals actually have quite a few guys putting up better-than-expected numbers, at least offensively. In particular, Cristian Guzman's hack-at-anything approach doesn't match his .373 batting average and while a very promising young catcher Jesus Flores can't keep up his .311/.382/.522 line for long.
Underachieving - Does an entire bullpen count? Washington's relievers have been historically awful through one-quarter of the season, going 1-14 while allowing 104 runs in 132 innings. Just let those numbers sink in for a moment. While the pieces they have in place certainly equal a bad bullpen, they'll improve significantly over the final 120 games. Promise.
Achieving - Free-agent signing Adam Dunn is on pace for a sixth straight 40-homer, 100-walk season despite leaving the friendly confines of Cincinnati's ballpark and Nick Johnson is proving once again that he's an on-base machine whenever he's not a disabled-list machine. Ryan Zimmerman hitting .358/.416/.624 probably qualifies as "overachieving," but given that he's seemingly in the midst of a star-making breakout year we'll leave off that label.
Question marks - If Johnson stays healthy and productive the Nationals should be able to cash him in at the trading deadline and they'll also face a decision on Lastings Milledge's future at some point. If they aren't going to give Milledge a chance to reestablish himself as a starting corner outfielder the Nationals might as well see what he can fetch via trade.
On the horizon - The most important aspect of the Nationals' season begins next month when they draft Stephen Strasburg with the No. 1 pick and extends until the August 15 deadline to sign him. Negotiating with agent Scott Boras will be tough and Strasburg will likely ask for at least $20 million, but he's among the elite pitchers in college baseball history and would look awfully nice atop the rotation alongside Jordan Zimmermann.
Outlook - There's nothing that can save the Nationals from another dreadful year, but if they can get Strasburg under contract the season will be about as successful as a second straight 100-loss campaign can be. If they sign Strasburg and the bullpen goes from horrendous to merely bad, the next four months may even be somewhat palatable for Nationals fans.