While there were plenty of April surprises—good and bad—to fill a dozen pieces such as this one, here's a look at six hitters off to better-than-expected starts.
John Buck, C, Mets
Buck played better than a perceived placeholder traded twice in one winter is supposed to play. Fueled by nine home runs—including a six-homer barrage over his first 40 plate appearances—Buck showed his raw strength in quantity and quality. The quantity may have been unexpected, but the geographical spread of the home runs jived with his past, as only three of the home runs qualified as true pull jobs; the other six landed beyond the left-center or right field walls.
Jemile Weeks and Brandon Crawford have essentially swapped career trajectories this year. Can each find success in the future?
Existence is random. For indisputable proof of this, one need look no further than the 2012 Athletics or Orioles. But one of the basic drives of human nature is to try and make sense of things, to create narrative, to impose order on chaos. Why else would my brain suggest to me that Jemile Weeks and Brandon Crawford have switched bodies?
Maybe it wasn’t a full-on Vice Versa body-swap scenario, but they’ve basically traded stat lines. Or are mirror images of each other. Or something.
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Pinpointing the positions with the worst projections on this season's likely contending clubs.
Every year, several teams finish out of the playoffs by a handful of games, close enough to taste October but just as ineligible for post-season play as the lowliest of last-place finishers. Last season, the Red Sox and Braves were both eliminated on the season’s final day after watching what had seemed to be safe leads evaporate. Since a one-game swing for either team would have meant a much different outcome, it was tempting to look back and wonder where in the lineup they could have eked out an extra victory.
As Jay Jaffenoted in January, right field proved to be a particular weak point for both teams. Braves right fielder Jason Heyward slumped to a .254 True Average (TAv) in an injury-plagued sophomore season, and his replacements—primarily Eric Hinske, Joe Mather, and Jose Constanza—hit only .252/.294/.346 in his absence. In Boston, J.D. Drew added a 60-day DL stint for a left shoulder impingement to his lengthy injury history and hit just .222/.315/.302 when active. His replacements—mainly Josh Reddick, Darnell McDonald, and Mike Cameron—made Heyward’s look good, mustering only a .234/.282/.377 line. As a result, Braves right fielders accumulated 0.6 WARP, and Red Sox right fielders checked in at 1.3 WARP. It’s reasonable to wonder whether both teams would have made the playoffs with even average (roughly 2.0 WARP) production in right.
Brandon Belt and Andrew Oliver get second shots at launching their MLB careers, Jordan Lyles arrives ahead of schedule, and Chris Stewart and Brandon Crawford become the latest Giants offensive filler.
Pegging BP's favorites in both leagues, both in the standings and for the major awards.
Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff predictions for the division standings and the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year) in the American and National Leagues. Each staff member's division standings predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results. In each table you'll find the average rank of each team in their division with first-place votes in parentheses, plus the results of our pre-season MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting.
For the MVP voting, we've slightly amended the traditional points system in place that has been used elsewhere, dropping fourth- and fifth-place votes to make it 10-7-5 for the MVP Award, and the regular 5-3-1 for the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards (that's 5 points for a first-place vote, 3 points for a second-place vote, etc.). Next to each of these selections we've listed the total number of ballots, followed by the total number of points, and then the number of first-place votes in parentheses, if any were received.
A trip to Austin will reveal the Huskers' true colors, Georgia slugger Gordon Beckham rapidly moves up draft lists, and the Gators continue their resurgence.
If we have developed a theme in previewing the weekend's college baseball action, it is this: every weekend provides a new opportunity to see if a program is for real. Last week, Florida survived its test by taking two of three games from Mississippi in Oxford. In contrast, Virginia did not, losing to N.C. State in Raleigh to suffer its first two losses of the season. While this format will tire itself out as conference matchups force every team to face its fair share of tests, we're not out of the woods yet--we need to see if this Nebraska team is real.
The top 15 from the summer amateur league includes some with something left to prove next spring, and some whose stock in the 2008 draft is moving up.
The nation's best summer league earned its reputation in 2007, boasting depth that (outside of Team USA) the other summer leagues combined couldn't touch. However, it was a strange year for the league, as no one stepped up to be the easy pick for its top prospect, while most of the talent was confined to one team, Falmouth. Commodores coach Jeff Trundy emphasized it was merely the summer that the "stars aligned," and he doubted it would happen again.
Top college talents try to boost their future draft stock while getting used to woodwork.
There aren't many baseball leagues where a 700 OPS is above-average, and anything much higher guarantees a player major dollars, but you can bet Neifi Perez wants to live there. The Cape Cod League is college baseball's biggest summer stage, but with college hitters becoming re-introduced to wooden bats, the pitchers always end up with better numbers. In the last two summers the average hitter has hit .230/.311/.313, and last summer, just seven hitters had an average above .300. Many hitters from the College World Series, including a couple from the championship Oregon State Beavers, will begin to arrive this week, and thereby give the offensive crop some depth, but the league is already more than two weeks underway. While offense is as scarce as ever, coaches have nevertheless found a new group of players that have impressed them at the plate in the early going.