Last year, no one saw Odubel Herrera coming.
Yes, everyone knew the Phillies selected him in the Rule 5 Draft, and everyone knew the chances were better than good that he would stay on the Phils' 25-man roster all season.
We heard last winter that he was a good hitter, that he had a chance to be productive with the bat. We even heard that the Phils were planning on starting him in center field.
We knew that Herrera would be a part of the Phils' plans in 2015. We didn't know just how good he would be.
Herrera finished 2015 as a four-win player (3.9 fWAR) for the Phillies, far and away the best on the team. His slash line of .297/.344/.418 with eight home runs, 30 doubles, and outstanding defensive play in his first season as a center fielder, blew everyone away.
So as we look ahead to 2016, and with so many young players getting their first cracks at real Major League playing time, who could sneak up on all of us and do better than anyone thinks right now?
I have two candidates. The first is this year's Rule 5 pick, Tyler Goeddel, the first pick overall. Like most Rule 5 selections, he has never played above Double-A ball, but performed well there in the Tampa Bay Rays system last season, slashing .279/.350/.433 with 12 homers, 17 doubles and 10 triples.
The dude obviously has speed to burn, stealing 28 bags in 37 attempts, and he reportedly plays a decent defensive outfield.
Like Herrera, there will likely be a learning curve at the start of the season. It's easy to forget that Herrera batted just .268/.297/.398 in the first half of last year, with a meager 3.2% walk rate. In the second half, he really settled in, batting .329/.394/.440, increasing his walk rate to 7.3%.
Don't be surprised if Goeddel has a similar start as he makes the toughest adjustment in baseball, jumping straight to the Majors from Double-A. But he has talent, and the Phils will give him an opportunity to play on a regular basis next season.
The other potential candidate is one of the relievers obtained in the Ben Revere trade, Jimmy Cordero. Cordero throws in the high-90s and routinely tops 100 miles per hour. Last year, between High-A and Double-A, Cordero had an ERA of 2.55 in 67 innings, striking out 8.6 batters per nine while walking 3.2.
He's got electric stuff and, as the Phils spend much of 2016 searching for a replacement for Ken Giles, I wouldn't be surprised to see Cordero emerge as a favorite.
It's hard to predict who will come out of nowhere, because if we had a clue, it wouldn't be out of nowhere. But these are two guys who will get an opportunity and have the talent to surprise.