(Photo: April 24, 2016 – Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America)
Because who doesn’t love looking at stats 1 week in right?!
Starting now, we’re going to be starting a weekly series on YawkeyTalk. Every Monday Jacob or I will post an article reviewing the top 5 standouts in the MLB from each week. The names you see each week will not be repetitive or be overlaps from other articles. Let’s get started, here are the top 5 standouts from MLB Opening Week.
Manuel Margot, Padres OF
To start off this list and series, we have the toolsy rookie OF Manuel (some call him Manny) Margot. If you’re not familiar with him, here’s a quick description. He was signed as an International Free Agent by the Red Sox in 2011. He became a top prospect in the Red Sox farm system, noted for having a plus bat, speed, and glove with the potential of plus power and arm strength. He was then traded to the Padres as the main piece in the deal that sent closer Craig Kimbrel to Boston. And now, he’s up in the majors.
Most people have Dansby Swanson slotted in as their NL Rookie of the Year, but don’t sleep on this guy. It’s super early, obviously, but Margot has looked very promising one week into the new campaign. Margot has a line of .286/.333/.607 with two HR (both coming off of Giants starter Matt Cain) three 2B (two of them coming off of Giants starter Madison Bumgarner) and one SB. Per Dinger Tracker, Margot’s first HR had a 106 MPH exit velocity and went 406 feet. His second HR had a 98 MPH exit velocity and went 369 feet. I’m looking forward to seeing how this guy performs over the course of 162 games.
Mitch Haniger, Mariners OF
Up next we have Mitch Haniger. Haniger was involved in the trade that sent Tajiaun Walker and Ketal Marte to Arizona and Jean Segura to Seattle. Although Segura was seen as the main asset in the trade, don’t sleep on Haniger. Although he wasn’t entirely impressive in his major league debut season in 2016 with Arizona, he showed promise. Per Statcast Savant, Haniger had a solid exit velocity in his short time in the majors last year, ranking 95 in percentile. On exit velocity on balls hit in the air, he ranked 89th in percentile. Although overall he wasn’t very good in his first short season in the majors, he showed promise with his patience and power, which will be his calling cards in the Majors.
So far in the first week, Haniger has been impressive. Although rated as average defensively as a prospect by many, he already has 2 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) in the young season. He’s hitting just .214 so far, but as I mentioned above, Haniger’s calling cards in the majors will be patience and power. He has a 12.1% BB%, which is very good if he can keep it close to that throughout the season, and 3 HR.
Haniger’s first HR was measured as followed: Exit velocity: 106mph. Distance: 405ft. Angle: 29°
His 2nd: Exit Velocity: 107mph. Distance: 431ft. Angle: 27°
And his 3rd: Exit velocity: 106mph Distance: 427ft Angle: 22°
Clearly, this guy has some serious pop. Don’t be surprised at all if Haniger has a season along the lines of .260/.340/.440 with 20-25 HR and finished in the top 5 of the AL ROY voting.
Kyle Freeland, Rockies SP
This was the guy coming into this I was most excited to write about in this standout list. We now have Kyle Freeland, SP for the Colorado Rockies. You know how the notion is Colorado is the place where pitchers go to die? That’s mostly true, and it’s been proven. In Colorado, due to Denver’s elevation of 1609.3 meters, the ball carries more there than in any other MLB ballpark, so the pitchers clearly have the disadvantage. Since the Rockies were established in 1991, their team’s starters have the highest ERA out of any team in the majors over that timeframe, standing there at 5.18. Coors Field, the Rockies home ballpark, has also been atop ESPN’s park factor list every year since 2009 except for 2011. So, clearly, pitchers fair way worse in Colorado than they would anywhere else.
But there’s a thing I find very interesting about Freeland, and that happens to be the fact he’s pitched in Denver Colorado his whole life, as he grew up and pitched in High School in Denver. So what exactly does that mean and what does it have to do with anything? It means that since he’s pitched in Colorado his whole life, he’s used to the heavily hitter-friendly conditions that Denver brings, making him, in my opinion, the perfect pitcher for the Rockies (if that even exists).
Okay, okay. Freeland has pitched in Denver his whole life. So what? That doesn’t make him a good pitcher, right? Well no, that alone doesn’t, but believe me, Freeland has some nasty stuff. BrooksBaseball.net, a tremendous baseball site, notes that his fourseam fastball is a “real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, generates more whiffs/swings compared to other pitchers’ foreseamers and has well above average velocity”. Quite the compliment for Freeland’s fastball. They also list his slider as a well above average pitch, noting it “generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ sliders, is much harder than usual, has less than expected depth, has primarily 12-6 movement and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ sliders.”
So Based off all this information that I knew about Freeland, I was pretty excited to watch him pitch in his first major league start against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and I was not surprised that he had a stellar debut, going 6 innings, allowing 1 ER, striking out 6, walking 2, and having a game score of 64. Can Freeland pitch well in his rookie season despite Denver’s conditions which bring down many pitchers? I think he can, we’ll see.
Yasiel Puig, Dodgers OF
And now we have a guy I’m sure everyone reading this article is familiar with, that being Dodgers’ OF Yasiel Puig. I’m sure you guys know the story by now. He came up to the Majors in 2013, ripped the cover of the ball, helped turned the Dodgers’ fortunes around and finished 2nd in NL ROY voting. And he’s pretty much regressed ever since and is often referred to as a negative personality in the clubhouse as well.
Just to back up my point that Puig has regressed every since his ROY, here is his year-by-year slash lines and wRC+, starting with his rookie season and ending with his 2016 season:
2013 (rookie season): .319/.391/.534, 160 wRC+
2014: .296/.382/.480, 148 wRC+
2015: .255/.322/.436, 112 wRC+
2016: .263/.323/.416, 102 wRC+
As you can see, it’s obvious Puig’s production has dropped off each year. What’s the reasoning for this? Nobody really knows. Many speculate it’s because of Puig’s attitude and work ethic, while others say it’s due to the fact the Dodgers’ have mishandled Puig in the majors.
But a week into the season, Puig’s looking like he may actually be good again. He’s hitting .292/.412/.750 with a 200 wRC+, 3 HR and as walked 17.2% of his PA. Obviously, right now, those numbers look pretty good. Let’s hope Puig can turn things around in his age 26 season.
J.T. Realmuto, Marlins C
And last but not least, we have Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto’s off with so good of a start with the bat, it’s hard not to include him. One week in, Realmuto is hitting .500/.542/.909 with 2 HR (one of them over 400 feet) and a .281 wRC+. Even those numbers as early season numbers are very impressive, as coming into play on April 9th, Realmuto led the league in AVG and was tied for the lead in wRC+.
This season isn’t exactly coming out of nowhere, as Realmuto came into this season as a very underrated player. Last season he hit .303/.343/.428 with a 107 wRC+, 11 HR and 12 SB, which is very good for a catcher. Defensive metrics are mixed on Realmuto’s defense, as Fangraphs’ Def had him rated as the #5 best defensive catcher last year, however, he had -8 DRS last season, placing him last among qualified catchers.
However his bat is obviously pretty good for a catcher, and although obviously, he won’t keep up this pace, I’m looking forward to seeing how he does with the bat over the course of this season, and if/how much he improves from last year.