Week two is in the books, and the early season continues to shake up preseason predictions. April batting averages and win records are hardly worth over analyzing, but that doesn’t change the standings.
Last week’s Wrap-Up was dedicated to teams with impressive starts. This week examines those teams on the other end of that spectrum and a few reasons for optimism, because let’s be honest, its still April.
Early Season Struggles
Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto was facing a seven-game losing streak until a walk-off home run from Kendrys Morales liberated the club. The offseason acquisition of Morales was a nice boost to, what so far, has been an anemic offense. The Jays are clearly missing both the bat and leadership of Edwin Encarnacion, but unfortunately, trouble doesn’t stop there.
Toronto’s luck worsened when team lynch pin Josh Donaldson was placed on the 10-day with a calf injury. Russell Martin is admittedly in one of the worst down hitting streaks of his career. Vocal player Jose Bautista has started with a .136 average and hasn’t generated a single dinger. It has been a cold start in the frozen north, but all is not lost.
Turning it around in Toronto
The Jays pitching staff currently ranks 14th in the MLB. While this isn’t their overall best ERA as seen in 2016, all the pieces remain for a repeat performance.
The Donaldson injury is frustrating, but before that, he led the team in average, OBP and homers. If Donaldson can continue his typical MVP-caliber play, the Jays’ star can keep them in contention. Joey Batts and Martin won’t hit this way forever, and both represent a power threat that can surprise opponents.
Finally, the return of closer of Roberto Osuna should give Toronto confidence they can secure wins when they carry the lead.
After a busy offseason, Seattle can’t be thrilled with the slow start to the season. The offense currently ranks in the bottom third of the MLB, and the pitching is not far off.
With key veterans Robinson Canó and Nelson Cruz off to a slow start, it’s no surprise the Mariners have struggled to generate runs. Further compounding these issues has been the fact that every game, and therefore every loss, has been against divisional opponents.
Silver Lining in Seattle
It’s fine to be a little disappointed with the early start, but there are significant reasons for optimism in Seattle.
How about the fact that James Paxton has tossed 21 scoreless innings to start the season? Many analysts, including this writer (who snagged Paxton in fantasy), believe this was the year Paxton established himself. Early signs point to Paxton’s ability to establish himself as the ace, and that is until you remember that King Felix is still on this team. There is also plenty of talent in the back half of the rotation that shouldn’t be discounted, despite a slow start.
Pitching will be a strength for this team, but the offense has some work to do. Fortunately, early performance is proving out the acquisition of Jean Segura, who has started the season batting an impressive .313.
On top of that, there is plenty of veteran’s offense on this ball club. The start may have been slow, but if there’s any group that understands the baseball rollercoaster, it’s this team.
Best bets wouldn’t have placed the defending AL champs at the bottom of the division two weeks into the season. After an impressive series against the Rangers to start off 2017, the Tribe has struggled as of late. Most shocking is the Indians highly touted rotation currently sporting the worst ERA in Major League Baseball through 12 games.
The offense has been a strange mixture of extremely hot and ice cold. Failing to get nearly anything going against the Diamondbacks and White Sox, the Indians have also crushed multiple grand slams in the first two weeks. It’s hardly time to panic, but the Indians could undoubtedly benefit from a little more consistency.
Turning the Corner in Cleveland
Cleveland has traditionally been a slow starting team in April, but there are already signs of life from the Tribe. Carlos Carrasco has been brilliant in his first two starts, sporting a 2.13 ERA and displaying top notch command. Danny Salazar wasn’t able to secure the win, but in his most recent start, he fanned 11 to tie a career high. Corey Kluber, stoic as ever, continues to generate solid performances despite the occasional blow-up inning. Long story short, pitching will be just fine in Cleveland.
On the offensive front, Cleveland currently sports a top 10 offense despite missing a few key pieces. The Indians appear to be easing Michael Brantley back into the mix. Lonnie Chisenhall returned in grand slam fashion and Jason Kipnis is just a few Minor League starts away from his debut. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez have both been off to torrid hitting starts, and the rest of the team has been contributing regularly.
Slow starts are nothing new in Cleveland, and it certainly appears the Tribe is about ready to turn the corner.
“From Our Haus to Yours”