Although he entered the season as the number one prospect in baseball, Los Angeles Angels DH/RHP, Shohei Ohtani, had a very disappointing Spring. The two-way Japanese star not only hit just .125 (4-for-32), but he also struggled on the bump, surrendering eight earned runs, including three home runs, in just 2.2 innings of work.
Fast forward a few weeks, and Ohtani has taken the world by storm. In his first career start on the mound, Ohtani earned his first win, after allowing three runs and striking out six over six innings of work. On Sunday, while most were glued to the TV to watch the ending of the Masters, Ohtani was flirting with a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Oakland. His final line, in seven innings of work, one hit allowed, one walk, zero runs, and a total of 12 strikeouts. He got a ridiculous 25 swings and misses, which is the most by a pitcher at this point in the season.
Oh, and, by the way, Ohtani has three home runs and is slashing .389/.421/.889. His three home runs aren’t just brazing over the fence either. They are going an average of 415 feet. Ohtani currently ranks second in the MLB in regards to highest average exit velocity (97.3 MPH), and fourth in highest average four-seam fastball velocity (97.1 MPH). He’s got more home runs this season than Aaron Judge, and more strikeouts than Max Scherzer.
Thought we were done with Ohtani facts? He is also the third player to ever homer in three consecutive games, while also recording a double-digit strikeout game in the same year. The other two were Ken Brett (1973) and some guy named Babe Ruth (1916). The last time a player earned two wins and hit three home runs in his team’s first 10 games, Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States, and the national average price of gasoline was 25 cents per gallon. That’s right, the last person to accomplish this feat was Jim Shaw in 1919.
Obviously, its only April 10, but are you not entertained by this kid’s start? Guys like Freddie Freeman and Bryce Harper are also off to hot starts, but that’s expected. Below, we will take a look at some surprising starts, and predict if these guys will stay hot throughout the season.
Being the guy to replace Derek Jeter at shortstop is no easy task, but Gregorius has excelled since stepping foot in New York. He is coming off back-to-back 20HR-202B seasons and set career-highs in batting average, home runs, RBIs, runs, SLG, OPS, and total bases. This season, Gregorius is leading the league in runs (10), RBIs (10), walks (9), OBP, SLG, and OPS. He has also launched three home runs.
Gregorius’ scorching start may have a little to do with the players around him. He is in a lineup surrounded by Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez to name a few. In the home opener, the “infield captain”, a nicknamed given to Gregorius by manager Aaron Boone, became the first Yankees shortstop to drive in eight runs in one game.
While he most likely won’t finish atop the leaderboards in the statistics above, Gregorius should continue to have a very solid season, possibly his best as a pro. He may not be mentioned with guys like Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Francisco Lindor, but Gregorius might have a legitimate argument to be amongst the best after 2018.
In 2016, Polanco had a breakout year. He played in 144 games and hit 22 home runs, 34 doubles, and swiped 17 bases. A year later, Polanco battled injuries last season and missed a good chunk of time. In his 108 games, The Pittsburgh outfielder slashed just .251/.305/.391.
Now healthy, although he was scratched on Saturday because of right foot discomfort, Polanco is hitting .310, with three home runs, eight runs, and an MLB-leading, 13 RBIs. With no McCutchen, Polanco is thriving in the heart of the Pirates order. While the average may dip, as he is a career .253 hitter, Polanco has a chance to hit 20+ bombs, with 100+ RBIs.
Polanco’s teammate, Jameson Taillon, is poised for a big 2018. After fanning nine in his 2018 regular season debut, Taillon, on Sunday against the Reds, threw a complete game shutout with seven strikeouts and just one hit surrendered. He is 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA, and 0.49 WHIP.
Taillon’s story is tremendous. He underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2014, and last season, was forced to have surgery for testicular cancer in May. The second overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, Taillon is the real deal. He stands tall at 6-5, and has a fastball which hovers around 95. At 26, Taillon looks to be the ace of the Pirates for the next five years.
A first-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, Chapman had a tough start to his MLB career. In 2017, in 84 games, Oakland’s third basemen hit just .234 with an OBP of .313. However, he finished seventh in defensive WAR, and hit 14 home runs.
Chapman is currently slashing .375/.444/.675 with three home runs, nine runs scored, and eight RBIs. He has always had power, slugging 36 home runs in 135 games between AA/AAA in 2016, and now Chapman looks real comfortable at the plate. This guy has 35+ HR potential in the bigs, and could turn into one of the best third basemen in the AL. Chapman was a first round pick for a reason, and is thriving in the latter half of the order for Oakland.
Let’s be honest, Charlie Morton was a bit of a scrub before joining the Astros. Although he had a few decent seasons in Pittsburgh, Morton was converted to a reliever for the Phillies in 2016. Unfortunately, in April 2016, Morton tore his hamstring and missed the rest of the season. Last season, the Astros brought on Morton, at age-33, as a member of the starting rotation. Morton went on to have his best regular season, posting a 3.62 ERA, and finishing with a record of 14-7.
Over his last five starts, including Game 7 of the ALCS, and two World Series starts, Morton has thrown 28.1 innings, allowing just two runs, seven walks, and striking out 29. In his first two 2018 starts, Morton is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA. This is a guy, as a 26-year-old, went 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA in 17 starts. Now, a savvy veteran, Morton has found some magic in Houston. Expect the 34-year-old to have another solid season with the Astros.
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