So the first month of baseball is technically over, but because the season started so late the first month hasn’t really finished yet. I looked into some players off to great starts to the season and I used fangraphs for all the stats mentioned in my post.
Nelson Cruz – Well it’s official, I was dead wrong on Cruz. Seattle is where hitters go to die! Cano couldn’t even get to 15 HRs last year and Cruz moving from the hitter friendly Camden Yards to Safeco was supposed to reduce his power, not increase it! He’s hitting fly balls 14% more than last year and his ground ball rate is down by 8%, so the spike in HRs makes sense. Those rates usually don’t stabilize until ~170 PAs and he’s only half way to that mark. His HR/FB is high, but if he can keep generating this many FBs then he might even eclipse last years 40 HRs…he only needs 30 more to go. His walk and strikeout rates look right around career average and he’s swinging a little less outside the strike zone while increasing his contact rate. His age, injury history, and home park gave me concern going into the season, but the stats show there’s little to dislike.
A-Rod – He’s now tied with Willie Mays at 660 HRs. I’ve hated A-Rod most of my baseball life, but cheering for the villain is kind of fun. 20+ HRs with decent counting stats is possible for him, and the Yankee organization is hating every moment of it.
Matt Harvey – Another guy I was concerned about going into the season because he was coming back from Tommy John surgery, but I’ve seen every game he’s pitched so far and he’s been great, and he could still be better. His slider this year has been subpar, and he’s been throwing it less in response, but his other pitches look better than they were before. The Mets just have this certain energy around them when he’s on the mound and he’s been unbeatable so far this season, he’s 5-0 and his peripherals should only get better going forward as his HR/FB% is a tad high. His LOB% and BABIP are normal, so he’s not getting lucky. He lowered his walk rate to near superhuman levels, ~1 walk per 9 innings, while increasing his K rate from his breakout 2013 year by a point, ~10. He’s pitching in the weak NL East and has super defender Juan Lagares in CF, albeit some questionable middle infielder defense, but he could be the best pitcher in baseball by years end. I’m only expecting around ~175 innings from him, but Kershaw finished last year ranked #1 overall in fantasy despite missing a month, it’s very possible for him to do the same as well.
Wil Myers – He hasn’t been deterred since moving to San Diego and it seems like he’s stealing more. Batting lead off was an interesting move by the Padres, but their investment in offense during the offseason has paid off and Myers is killing atop the order. His K rate is down 5%, but he still sports a putrid OBP because of his 2% BB rate. His contact is slightly up and he’s swinging at more pitches in the zone, but he’s still hitting a ton of ground balls, around the same rate he had last year during his disappointing sophomore slump…so I was hoping to see an improvement there. He has 3 SBs on the year, but he’s also been caught twice too. I like Myers and he could be breaking out because of his age and talent, but I’d be listening to offers, this won’t last.
JD Martinez – A lot of people thought last year was a fluke, but he’s tearing it up to start the season. Well, everyone on Detroit has been killing it so far. What’s worrisome? His walk rate is down 2% from last year and his K% is near 30%, and K rate tends to stabilize around 60 PAs. His batting average and OBP should remain what it is around now. What’s good? His FB% has gone way up by 7 points, his GB% has dropped 14 points, and his LD% is up 8 points from last year. These usually take 2 months to stabilize, but they’re positive signs in the right direction. It’s weird that his swinging rate and contact rate have dropped, while his walks are down. I like JD this year, 25+ HRs and great counting stats seem assured.
Dee Gordon – He’s hitting everything in sight and has 8 SBs already. The bad news is he has 6 CS already. I liked Dee going into the year because he seemed undervalued by everyone, but now it’ll be tough to get him cheap. He’ll still get the green light to steal despite being caught half the time and hopefully someone down in Miami helps him fix his CS problem. I attributed last year’s poor 2nd half to him never playing that many games in the majors, and he won’t hit .400 for the rest of the year, but he should end the year with an above .300 average. His K rate is down a little from last year too and I bet many people still don’t believe in Flash Gordon.
Chris Archer – He’s been the best pitcher in baseball and I didn’t see this coming at all. His K rate spiked 2 points, an amazing ~10% K/9, while his walk rate is at an elite 1.67 too, down from 3.33 last year. His GB% is almost at a 60% clip, which is great for that strong defensive Rays team. He’s not getting lucky with his HR/FB% either as it’s right about league average. Now the bad news, he has a ridiculously lucky left on base percentage at 90%. His BABIP is well below league average as well. I saw him as similar to Tyson Ross entering the year because they have nearly identical fastball/slider usage, but if he can keep his walks in check I fully endorse this break out, and it looks like he can do it.
Lorenzo Cain – I think he’s legit and if anyone undervalues him then I’d buy. He’s cemented himself as a strong 3 hitter for the Royals, he cut his GB% down by 5 points and his FB% up by 5 points. I think he could make a Michael Brantley like jump this year, with less HRs and more SBs. Ned Yost isn’t afraid to bunt him over when necessary too! More bunts! The steal happy Royals should still send him plenty of times despite him hitting 3rd. His BABIP is extremely high right now, .391, but his BABIP was high last year during his injury plagued season. Otherwise his contact has gone up and everything seems to be pointing in the right direction, Cain can do it.
Dallas Keuchel – His GB% is the same, but his K/9 is down a point and his BB rate is a little higher than last year. He hasn’t given up a HR all season and that won’t continue. Like Archer, and any pitcher with a sub 1 ERA should have, he’s getting lucky with LOB% and BABIP. He’s basically the same pitcher he was last year, but off to a hot start. I have no idea why he came so cheaply on draft day, he’s basically the AL version of Doug Fister, but I like him going forward even with his regression coming.
Scott Kazmir – He did the same thing in the beginning of the season last year before his body gave up on him, it was probably confused on how it was still playing baseball. I don’t think he’ll remain healthy all year and I don’t think you can sell him to a manager that thinks he’ll stay healthy all year either, but he’s healthy now and he’s dealing. His K rate jumped 2 points, but I think pitching to the K happy Astros twice already helped with that number a little. He hasn’t pitched against any tough match ups this season, but I fully believe he can reproduce what he did in the beginning of last year again…just don’t expect it to last all year.
Bryce Harper – He’s killing it right? All he needed to do was stay healthy! There are some negative signs though, he has a ridiculous ~30% HR/FB, which is Barry Bonds during the steroid era levels good, but he only has 5 HRs! Probably because he only has 22 hits…more than half the time at the plate he either walks or strikes out. He’s leading the MLB in walks with a stellar 22% walk rate, but that also comes with an awful 30% K rate. His OBP is elite because of the walks, but his batting average is being ballooned by a near .400 BABIP, which isn’t sustainable for a full season. He still doesn’t hit lefties too well either, he has a .235 average against them right now. While I’m liking he’s hitting less GBs and he’s swinging at less pitches while increasing his contact rate, I don’t think he’ll make that 1st round jump next year. Some people will look at his stats and think he’s breaking out, but he started 2013 with 9 HRs before putting together a pretty forgettable season and he’s still only 22.
Marcus Semien – A player I loved going into the season because of his position eligibility and Billy Beane, he’s surprisingly starting off the season strong…maybe I should look at his stats? His K rate is down nearly 10 points from last year… well I’m sold. His BABIP is a tad high, but his contact rate looks to be improved, probably because he’s swinging at less pitches outside the zone, and all his other stats are in line with career norms. 15/15 is very possible, in another stadium he’d challenge 20 HRs I’d bet, and with Ben Zobrist down for 4-6 weeks, it looks like Semien will bat high in the order for a while too.
Devon Travis – No he doesn’t have this much power, but he should hover right around 20 HRs by years end if he can stay healthy. He’s hitting towards the top of the lineup now and he definitely has more speed than he’s shown so far, he had 16 last year in only 100 games. He’s this years Brain Dozier but with a better average and a little less speed, though he’s probably faster than Dozier… If you added him early on, enjoy your top 10 2B for the rest of the year.
Billy Hamilton – He has 13 SBs in the month of April with only 1 caught stealing! That’s fantastic, his BABIP is extremely low for a player as fast as him, but it probably has something to do with the amount of GB he’s hit, a nearly 48% clip…which is still 20% lower than what Christian Yelich did last year. He has 2 HRs already, but he’s hitting less fly balls this year, and he’s closer to a 6 HR guy than 10 HR guy. I actually own him this year and I’m loving how much I’m winning SBs by.
Team Stock Rise
Houston Astros – Who cares if the team collectively strikes out 30% of the time, what matters is they’re winning! I loved Keuchel and McHugh going into the season and I still love them. Honestly their hitting isn’t even doing too well either, so it could easily improve. I should have seen the potential improvements across the board heading into the season and I ranked them too low.
Tampa Bay Rays – Their pitching looks nasty and Alex Cobb hasn’t even come back yet. Jake McGee should help the bullpen as well, but Boxberger is doing a fine job as the closer…please keep him as closer Rays. Although Longoria isn’t hitting his best, the team is doing much better than I thought and I overreacted to the Rays losing Joe Maddon.
Kansas City Royals – All their players are hitting well and outside of a couple of hot headed moments with the A’s and White Sox, I don’t really have too many negative things to say about this team. Their bullpen is still amazing, but I still think their rotation is lacking. The offense is definitely much better than I thought going into the season, maybe they have one more year of magic left in the tank.
Mets!!! – That 11 game winning streak was invigorating. I don’t have much going for me in my life right now, but the Amazin’s have filled that hole! Every game it feels like we can win. The injuries are piling up, but Dilson Herrera could give the Mets the spark they need to keep their hot start strong.