Today, we’ll look around the league at players on each team who have gotten off to hot starts and what it means to their respective clubs at this very early point in the season.
the BLUE JAYS
Toronto received a few scandalous headlines in the 2012-2013 offseason for their signing of Melky Cabrera, fresh off a PED suspension, to a two-year, 16 million dollar contract. At the end of 2013, the consensus was that the contract looked like a bust and the Melkman appeared to be aging at an unprecedented rate, slowing his movement in the field and on the bases to a pace somewhere just a tick above ‘glacial.’ A couple weeks into the offseason, terrifying news was revealed. Doctors found a tumor hiding between two vertebrae on Cabrera’s spine, which handily explained all his lower-half troubles of the season prior. The team’s hopes were, even if the first year became a sunk cost, that Melky could return to form and at least make half the contract worth it.
After a red-hot Spring that gave the front office some hope that some of his excellent contact ability would resurface when he was healthy, Melky has not slowed down in the first two series of the year. The Jays’ left-fielder is currently hitting .323 with an OPS of .935 and leading the American League with 14 total bases. With two leadoff home runs already on the year, a healthy Melkman may just have a shot at putting up the entire 16 million in value in year two alone, catapulting him up the free agent rankings in what looks to be a weak 2015 class.
the RED SOX
Xander Bogaerts is a name we all have been getting used to. The fantastically named and fantastically gifted Red Sox prospect has been making headlines for some time now. Many prospects take some time to adjust to the Majors, struggling mightily in their first couple weeks before they find their groove. Many never find that groove, and simply are remembered as cautionary tales against projecting too much hope onto 19 year old kids. The Red Sox, as does any team, are piling hope against hope that their young phenom shortstop can defy the odds (and make their not signing Stephen Drew appear prescient) and the kid himself is doing nothing to make it look like that’s not a safe plan.
Coming into play today, the 21 year old is hitting .381/.480/.476. He’s already been worth nearly a third of a win, putting up positive value on both sides of the ball. With Bogaerts looking like he bleongs as a starter on a championship team, one has to wonder what this means for Stephen Drew’s prospects of finding a team to play for this year. Bogaerts figures to be a fixture in Boston for years to come, and reading into what the team thinks of that doesn’t take Tarot cards; Bogaerts opened the year in a fresh, new number 2 jersey, the number vacated by departed superstar and face of the franchise Jacoby Ellsbury.
The Orioles have started the year a bit slowly, pulling up in the bottom of the AL East with the Red Sox to start week two. The O’s need a lot of things to break right for them to contend this year in a stacked division, and chief amongst those things are for the many young and incredibly talented players on their roster to capitalize/continue capitalizing on their significant skills. Matt Wieters has seemingly spent years waiting to ‘put it all together.’ Wieters has accumulated 14.3 WAR in his 5 full seasons, but has only broken the three-WAR threshold in two of those years, and hasn’t done so since 2011. A big year from their potential star catcher as he nears free agency would catapult the Orioles’ chances in 2014.
Wieters has started the year off hot, hitting .368, albeit without a walk, and already slugging a home run to pair with his always-excellent defense. The O’s may not have much to show for their first 6 games, but seeing Wieters swinging a hot bat has got to give management and fans alike something to dream on and a storyline to watch for the early days of 2014.
For once, Xander Bogaerts does not have the highest rated name tool of the players I’ll be profiling in an article. The Yankees have seen extraordinary production from their new utility infielder Yangervis Solarte, and he figures to be a very important cog in a fairly broken Yankees infield machine. With so many players recovering from injuries, being afflicted by injuries and being Alex Rodriguez, Solarte has already seen 19 plate appearances and played in five of the Bombers’ first six games. With Teixeira going down, he only figures to see even more playing time.
After coming up in the Twins organization and spending some time with the Rangers, the Yankees picked up Solarte quietly this offseason to address their atrocious infield depth situation. As a bit of an afterthought, no one expects an elite performance from Solarte and his uninspiring minor-league career numbers, but as unsustainable as it may be, that’s exactly what Solarte has been giving them. He enters play today hitting .471/.526/.706 and his streak of 5 multi-hit games to start his MLB career is equalled amongst Yankees only by Joe Dimaggio’s legendary streak. If Solarte can provide even slightly above average production in pinstripes going forward, the Yankees brass can breathe a sigh of relief. They need all the sure things they can get.
One could get cheeky with this one. I’m tempted to just write ‘the Tampa Bay Rays.’ and call it a day here. The Rays’ players have accumulated the fourth most WAR of any team so far in the season, trailing only the Rockies, Marlins and Giants. Rather than focus on the team’s collectively impressive performance, I will have to draw attention to a man who needs no introduction (but gets one anyway), star amongst stars, Evan Longoria. The face of the Joe Maddon era has entered the year looking every bit the superstar that we know him to be. With a robust (to say the least) .360/.467/.560 slash line and as many walks as he has strikeouts, the Rays most valuable player (and one of the most valuable in the game) has continued to do the unlikely and make his long term, superstar level contract look like a bargain. Combining his elite bat with his generational defense at the hot corner, and being flanked by the Rays’ usual cast of surprisingly great players, Longoria looks poised to put up another big year.