While it’s hard to take a lot of meaning from the super early season results, today I’ll look at a couple of players and a pitcher that I was higher on than most people were entering the season and gauge their season outlook. We begin with two players who were integral to my strategy in the My Model Portfolio series: J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts.
J.D. Martinez – Detroit Tigers
Entering this season, Martinez was largely treated by the fantasy baseball community as a regression candidate after hitting .315 with 23 home runs in 123 games. Sure, he won’t hit .315 again, but that analysis missed the larger point. I was considerably higher on him going into this season because of his power, which is up there with some of the best power hitters in all of baseball. Last year, Martinez was one of three players that I witnessed hit a home run to centerfield at Comerica Park, which is 420 feet away from home plate. The other two were Jose Abreu, who did it twice in the span of a three-game series, and Miguel Cabrera. If that doesn’t convince you of Martinez’ power, maybe this ridiculous opposite-field home run from last week will do it. He confirmed after the game that it was the longest home run he’s ever hit to right field in a game. Despite the preseason projections selling him short, Martinez is off to a hot start with four home runs in his first seven games trailing only Adrian Gonzalez for the league lead. Last year, he didn’t hit his fourth home run until June 16th. There’s almost an entire season left for Martinez to continue his home run barrage. Frankly, I’ll be disappointed if this is just a hot start and he doesn’t hit at least 35 home runs.
Mookie Betts – Boston Red Sox
Betts hit .192 with no steals and two runs scored in the first week of the season. Unless you’ve been living under a rock since then, you’re probably aware that he broke out with a tremendous performance against the Nationals in Monday’s home opener. Betts wowed the Boston faithful right away as he robbed Bryce Harper of a home run in the top of the first inning. In the bottom of the frame, Betts drew a leadoff walk and then stole second and third before scoring. In his next at-bat, he hit a three-run home run over the monster off of Jordan Zimmerman. Like his home run against Cole Hamels on Opening Day, Betts brought his hands in on an inside pitch beautifully and was rewarded. If Betts had gone 0-for-4, I’d be advising owners to be patient, but it’s easier to entertain the idea of him challenging Mike Trout for the runs scored crown this year after a big-time breakout game.
Graveman was rocked in his first start as he allowed seven earned runs to the Texas Rangers at home. While he made a few appearances out of the bullpen last season, this was his first major league start and there’s the possibility that he was overcome with nerves. A more practical excuse for his performance is that Graveman was dealing with a cold bug. It’s possible that the illness drained him of his energy. Forgetting whatever was going on with Graveman for a minute, some of the runs the Rangers scored on him were just bad luck. With two men on and nobody out in the first, Graveman had the runner on second picked off but he threw the ball into centerfield and the runners moved up. The next batter hit a hard groundball to the third basemen Brett Lawrie, who threw home in plenty of time to get the runner but catcher Stephen Vogt dropped the ball. It was that kind of a day for Graveman, but you shouldn’t cut bait on the rookie just yet. He still had a very good spring and calls the O.co Coliseum his home ballpark, so there are positives here. If an impatient owner dropped him, he has to be added in all AL-Only leagues and even deeper mixed formats.