Surprise Performances Around the MLB

The MLB season is still in its infancy with just one full week in the books. However, there are multiple players who are opening some eyes around the league. Whether it’s just a hot start or a cold spell, players and fans alike take notice. Who is making the most of the opening week of the season, and who could use a mulligan?

1B Logan Morrison – Tampa Bay Rays

Surprise Performances

Logan Morrison has been a bright spot in Tampa’s lineup (Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Times).

The 29-year-old first baseman has turned it around so far this season after struggling last year with a .238 batting average. He has helped the Rays to a 5-3 record and been a driving force in their offense. Morrison is currently batting .333 with two homers and six RBIs through eight games.

While it is a small sample size, the Rays don’t seem to mind. The Rays could be in playoff contention if Morrison can come close to continuing this type of production throughout the season.

C Jason Castro – Minnesota Twins

Jason Castro was acquired by the Twins in the offseason as a defensive specialist. He put up uninspiring numbers in Houston and left the city with a .232 career batting average.

It seems Castro may have found something in Minnesota, evident by his hot start. He is currently batting .353 with one homer and six RBIs through six games this season. However, it’s his OBP that draws the most attention. This season’s .542 is astounding compared to his career OBP of .311. Supported by the seven walks he has already drawn, Castro is looking like a steal of a signing for Minnesota.

If he can play close to what he’s shown already, the Twins will have made one of the shrewdest moves of the offseason.

1B Mark Reynolds – Colorado Rockies

Surprising Performances

Mark Reynolds has performed exceptionally well in Ian Desmond’s stead (Denis Poroy/Getty Images).

With the signing of Ian Desmond to play first base in Denver, many thought Mark Reynolds would see few at bats this season. However, a spring training injury to Desmond opened the door for Reynolds, and he’s taking full advantage of it.

Reynolds has always been known as a slugger with 255 career home runs. This season, he has been doing so much more. He’s posted a .345 batting average to go along with four home runs and 10 RBIs. That astounding offense has also been paired with some stellar defense, as Reynolds has made some great plays at first this season.

Reynolds will be going back to the bench when Ian Desmond returns, but if he can keep it up, he just may become a top trade deadline target.

2B Jose Altuve – Houston Astros

Jose Altuve is one of the best players in the game today. His third place finish in the 2016 AL MVP voting only supports that claim. However, he certainly hasn’t shown it to start this season.

The diminutive second baseman has posted a lowly .188 batting average through his first eight games. His poor performance is seemingly out of the blue given he led the AL in hitting with a .338 batting average last season.

With a player of Altuve’s status, it’s only a matter of time before he turns it around.

1B Anthony Rizzo – Chicago Cubs

After winning the World Series in 2016, the Chicago Cubs were consensus favorites to repeat in 2017. One of the main forces for that projected repeat was first baseman Anthony Rizzo, but he has fallen far short of expectations this season.

He is batting .172 to start the year. He has struggled at the plate, but luckily it hasn’t impacted his team. With the Cubs sitting at 5-2 and atop the NL Central, the Cubs should have no worries.

Rizzo will turn it around eventually and should help carry the club back to the playoffs.

1B Edwin Encarnacion – Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians were contenders in 2016 and were favorites by many entering the 2017 season. With the offseason acquisition of Edwin Encarnacion, many believed it would push the Indians over the top. However, seven games into the season, the Indians are 4-3, and Encarnacion is batting .185.

It’s not the kind of start Indians fans were hoping for. Even so, the Indians are still over .500 and treading water. When Encarnacion turns it on (not if), the Indians will be prime contenders in the AL Central. They’ll need to hurry with surprise performer Minnesota and the Tigers in front of them for the lead in the division.

 

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American League East Opening Week Recap

Apr 8, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis (19) high fives third base coach Bobby Dickerson (11) after hitting a home run in the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The O’s are on fire to start the season. (Photo: USA Today Sports)


 

You may not know it by the weather, but baseball is back. Usually the return of baseball brings warm weather and a foreshadowing of summer, but this year makes me want to climb back into my winter lair of a wood burning stove and multiple blankets.

As spring gives way to summer, and baseball gets into full swing, I’ll be documenting life inside the American League East. If you’re late to the MLB preview party, you could at least take a gander at my American League East article.

If you read the aforementioned article, I predicted the Baltimore Orioles to go 162-0. So far, so good (I’m a liar, I didn’t even predict Baltimore to win the division.). The Orioles beat Tampa Bay to improve to 5-0 today, and they are the winners of the first week of baseball.

It’s too bad there’s 162 games in the MLB season, because now Baltimore has to keep playing well for a long time. I predict Baltimore loses at least one game during the season, and I hope you appreciate my #HotTake for the day.

I thought Toronto was going to be very good this season. I’m not trying to overreact, but the Blue Jays’ pitching staff better wake up and smell the freedom. Just because they aren’t part of the United States doesn’t mean they have to distribute runs equally just like their Canadian government would approve of. Prior to shutting out Boston today, the Jays had given up 21 runs in their past three games, which is the opposite of good.

Speaking of Boston, they’re doing okay. At 3-2, Boston hasn’t gotten much playing time due to half of their scheduled games in Cleveland being cancelled due to the cold.

You know where it’s not cold? Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay is warm, like, always. I predicted them to be painfully average this season, and they are pretty average so far. They’re 2-3, and they currently are at a -6 run differential this season. I root for that to be +/- 10 once the season ends.

The New York Yankees are 3-2, and have dealt with some games being postponed as well. They went 2-1 against Houston, which is good. Originally scheduled to play on Sunday Night Baseball, the game has been cancelled.

There’s your primer, now let’s get a little more affectionate with the American League East. We’ll start with the top of the division, and go downward.

Baltimore Orioles, 5-0

Baltimore has enjoyed their opening week, as they’ve faced two projected bottom feeders in Tampa Bay and Minnesota. Baltimore allowed two runs against the Twins in each of their three games, and they’ve given up just four runs total in their two games against Tampa. Their date on Saturday against Tampa was postponed.

The services of Joey Rickard and Mark Trumbo are valued highly right now in Baltimore. They’ve combined for 7 hits each, and Rickard has launched one home run and a double so far this season.

Chris Tillman has proved to be more than just a scrub ace so far this season. In two starts, he’s 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA. Tillman threw just two innings in his first start, thanks to multiple rain delays throughout the game. Tillman followed with a five inning outing in which he allowed just one run, notching his first win of the season.

Not to be outdone, Ubaldo Jimenez’s first outing was a seving-inning win. He’s also sporting a 1.29 ERA.

It’s only been five games, but so far Baltimore’s pitching and timely hitting has propelled the O’s to a 5-0 record. This will only put them a few games ahead of the rest if a losing streak comes.

Boston Red Sox, 3-2

Boston’s first scheduled game of the year was cancelled due to cold and rain, but their bats have been hot to start the season. Boston is fourth in the AL with a .276 team batting average, and fourth in the AL with six home runs.

Mookie Betts (50) must product from the plate this season. (Photo: zimbio.com)

Mookie Betts (50) must produce from the plate this season. (Photo: zimbio.com)

Mookie Betts is yet to catch fire like some of the other Boston hitters. He’s hitting just .130 with eight strikeouts compared to three hits this season. Betts must pick it up, as he and Xander Bogaerts (.227 average) were supposed to be the 1-2 punch of youth in Boston’s lineup.

If you’re looking for a stud to add on your fantasy baseball team, consider Brock Holt. Holt plays both infield and outfield, and is owned in a little over half of fantasy baseball leagues across all formats. He’s hitting .412 with two home runs and eight runs batted in, but is dealing with a minor foot injury.

Boston should be right in the thick of the playoff race come September, and just a week of baseball isn’t enough to tell how good any teams will be. Nevertheless, it’s a quality start for Boston this week.

New York Yankees (3-2)

Today’s rubber game against the Tigers was cancelled, so New York will get two days off before heading to Toronto for a three-game set against the Blue Jays.

New York’s hitting has been even better than Boston’s, as they are second in team batting average and third in home runs in the AL. A large portion of that production came in game three of four against Houston, as they scored 16 runs in their 16-5 win.

There hasn’t been a dominant game in terms of starting pitching so far for the Yankees. The longest outing by a starting pitcher was six innings by C.C. Sabathia, and Masahiro Tanaka has allowed the least amount of earned runs at two.

New York should be happy with a 3-2 start, as I don’t see them as being contenders in the AL East this season. With a very old team, the Yanks will have to steer clear of injuries in order to have any shot of the playoffs.

Toronto Blue Jays, 3-4

The Blue Jays are off to a slow start, as both the bats and arms aren’t doing as well as I projected. Josh Donaldson is the only hitter with an average of at least .300 at .310, and the Jays’ pitching staff is waiting on a solid outing from R.A. Dickey and Marcus Stroman.

Josh Donaldson is up to four dingers, but Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Troy Tulowitzki are all struggling at the dish in some capacity this season.

Jose Bautista must help the Blue Jays in order to notch another division crown. (Photo: USA Today Sports)

Jose Bautista must help the Blue Jays in order to notch another division crown. (Photo: USA Today Sports)

Toronto blanked Boston today, 3-0, thanks to a stellar performance from Marco Estrada. Estrada threw seving innings of scoreless baseball to lead Toronto to the win.

It’s still very early, so I’m not too concerned about Toronto. However, inconsistencies in the pitching staff could become startling if they don’t find a grasp within the next two weeks or so.

Tampa Bay Rays, 2-4

A 5-3 loss sent the Rays to 2-4 today against the Orioles. Tampa sits in the bottom half of the AL in batting average, runs, and walks so far this season. They’re also in the bottom half of the AL in ERA, walks allowed, and opposing batting average.

I’m hoping Tampa Bay improves, but only a little. I really want my prediction for them to be overwhelmingly average to be correct. So far, Tampa is slightly below average, so they’ll have to pick it up a little.

The Rays’ leading hitter is Steven Souza Jr., who sports a .381 batting average. However, Logan Morrison and Brad Miller have combined for just two hits in 25 at bats this season.

Lead starting pitcher Chris Archer is 0-2 so far with a 7.20 ERA. He must pitch better in order to set the tone for the Rays this season.

Tampa probably doesn’t have much to play for this season, and they haven’t proved me wrong so far. Again, it’s only been a week, but Tampa is already looking like a bottom feeder in the AL.