Week number two has come and gone. In case you didn’t watch any baseball this week, here are five players who’s huge performances you may have missed.
Eric Thames, Brewers 1B
Yes, it’s still incredibly early in the season. No, that won’t stop me from raving about how great Thames has looked thus far. I’m sure I don’t have to go over this, but in case anyone doesn’t know, Thames was a mediocre outfielder for the Blue Jays and Mariners in 2011 and 2012. He packed his bags for the Korean Baseball Organization in 2013, where he promptly transformed into Barry Bonds. Thames entered this season as one of the most intriguing players in the sport, and the early results have been better than anybody could’ve possible expected. Through 11 games, he is slashing a staggering .368/.455/.921. No, that near-1.000 slugging mark is not a typo. He assaulted Cincinnati pitching this weekend, ripping five bombs during the four game set. While it is obviously unlikely that he will continue to mash at this rate, it will be very interesting to see how MLB pitchers adapt, and whether or not Thames can prove he is now a legitimate top-tier slugger.
Chris Sale, Red Sox SP
Believe it or not, this guy is really good at pitching. On Monday, Sale was a tough-luck loser in a pitchers duel with Justin Verlander. Sale threw 7.2 innings, allowing 2 runs and striking out ten. Five days later, Sale toed the rubber against his now division rival Tampa Bay Rays. He twirled his third gem in as many starts, allowing one run across 7 innings, fanning a dozen. The Red Sox bats again failed to provide much run support, but the two runs were enough to award Sale with his first win in Boston. Per @redsoxstats on Twitter, Sale generated a whopping 15 swing-and-misses on pitches in the strike zone, the most by any Red Sox pitcher in the last decade. Last season, the White Sox scored a meager 4.66 runs per game when Sale was on the hill. Through three starts in Boston, he has been provided a total of six runs. It’s not like the win is seen as the almighty proof of performance that it used to be, but Sale has to be wondering what he has done to anger the baseball gods. Regardless, he has proven that he is one of the game’s elite arms, and looks to make a run at finally winning his first Cy Young Award.
Yoenis Cespedes, Mets OF
Fresh off a four-year, $110million contract, Cespedes is primed to once again be one of the biggest power threats in the Majors. On Tuesday, Cespedes smacked three longballs, driving in five in a 14-4 blowout against Clay Buchholz and the Phillies. Two days later, Cespedes was back at it. This time he launched two moonshots in Miami, marking the tenth multi-home run game of the Cuban slugger’s career. Sure, he only managed six hits in seven games this week, but two multi-HR games in a three day span is more than enough to land a spot on this list.
Ervin Santana, Twins SP
Santana has long been one of the most underappreciated pitchers in baseball. In 2008, he was selected to the All-Star team, and finished sixth the Cy Young voting. Three years later, he no-hit the Cleveland Indians. Despite having a fairly impressive resume, the 13-year veteran is often overlooked. Right now, Santana is enjoying the most dominant streak of his solid MLB career. Dating back to June 19th of last season, Santana has a 2.09 ERA over a 22 start span, striking out 115 batters over 138 innings. Minnesota surely isn’t the place that baseball players go to get media attention, but Santana has genuinely been one of the better pitchers in the MLB over that stretch, and nobody bats an eye. He has two years of team control remaining, and could once again find himself pitching for a contender later in the season. As for what he did this week to make this list? Facing the White Sox twice, he threw 15 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits. On Saturday, the threw a complete game one-hitter, striking out eight. Hopefully Santana will finally get out of Minnesota, and finally get the credit he deserves.
James Paxton, Mariners SP
Thanks to an inability to stay healthy, the first four years of Paxton’s career have been incredibly frustrating. He entered this season with 50 starts under his belt, owning a more-than-respectable 3.43 ERA and 3.32 FIP. Over his first three starts of 2017, the southpaw has taken his game to a whole new level. Paxton has yet to allow a run across 21 innings, whiffing 22, and allowing just 12 baserunners. On Saturday, he limited the Rangers to just two hits over 8 innings, striking out nine. He has generated 50 swing and misses so far, trailing only Chris Sale. Paxton’s fastball velocity has actually been down almost a full mile per hour compared to last season, but still sits at a blistering 95.8MPH. He has essentially abandoned his change up, relying more heavily on his lethal knucklecurve (alongside his four seam fastball and cutter). He has thrown his breaking ball 23.1% of the time this year (per Fangraphs), a huge spike from the 13.7% rate last season. Again, three starts is too small of a sample size to make any definitive judgments, but if Paxton can finally stay healthy for an entire season, he could very well thrust himself into Cy Young consideration.