- As we enter the third full week of the MLB season, we're at a crossroads for whether we can determine how certain players will finish the year based on how they are performing right now.
This is the start of our third full week of the MLB season. It’s still early, but not for much longer. May 1 is a fair date to cut the “it’s early” caveat, so get all your small sample references off your chest over the next few weeks. Yes, in the context of a full baseball season, May is still on the early side. But at some point, you have to let it go and accept that what these players are showing could be an indication of the type of seasons they will have.
Let’s turn our attention to the week at hand with a special focus on these 10 players.
Pitchers to watch
Yu Darvish, Cubs
Darvish has improved with every outing this season, although that’s not saying much considering he allowed four earned runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings in his last start. He did strike out four batters without issuing a walk, and one of the earned runs credited to him scored when he was out of the game. Joe Maddon has been unwilling to push him this season after all his injury woes in 2018. (Darvish has topped out at 77 pitches thrown in his three outings.) Hopefully Maddon will let him go beyond that in starts against the Marlins on Monday and Diamondbacks on Sunday.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Kershaw will make his season debut on Monday against the Reds. Kershaw spent most of the spring in mothballs because of shoulder inflammation, working up his arm strength before going on a rehab assignment earlier this month. He made two starts in the minors, allowing four runs on nine hits and two walks with 12 strikeouts. The results, of course, don’t really matter. What’s important is that he was able to throw all his pitches without the shoulder being a problem. Dave Roberts likely won’t push Kershaw at all this week, but he is expected to take the ball a second time over the weekend against Brewers.
Trevor Richards, Marlins
Richards shut down the Reds in his last trip to the mound, tossing six shutout innings while allowing just one hit. He did walk five batters, but was able to work his way out of trouble thanks to seven strikeouts. He has 18 strikeouts and a 25% strikeout rate through 18 innings this season, in large part because he has one of the best changeups in the game. Richards has induced 46 whiffs on the year, 26 of which have come on the change. The better news, though, is that he has gotten 18 empty swings with his fastball. That pitch sits in the low-90s and was always going to be the pitch that held him back. The fact that he has produced so much swing-and-miss with it this season is a sign that he’s doing an excellent job of changing speeds and keeping hitters off-balance. Richards will face the Cubs on Monday and Nationals on Sunday.
Aaron Nola, Phillies
Nola has struggled in his last two outings, both of which came against the Nationals. First, he allowed six runs on five hits in three innings, surrendering more homers (three) than he had strikeouts (two). In the next one, the Nationals touched him up for four earned runs on seven hits, including two more homers, in 6 1/3 innings. The lack of strikeouts is the primary concern. There’s nothing alarming in Nola’s velocity or movement, so, for the time being, we can chalk this up to a blip on the radar against a good offense. He’ll take the ball twice this week, facing the Mets on Monday and Rockies in Colorado on Saturday.
Yusei Kikuchi, Mariners
Kickuchi earned his second quality start in four outings when he last took the mound, allowing three runs on five hit in six innings, striking out three and walking one. He came out of the game because of calf cramps, but is expected to make his next scheduled start on Monday against the Indians. Kikuchi’s velocity has been good in his debut MLB season, with his four-seamer sitting at an average of 93.6 mph, but he has surrendered four homers in 21 2/3 innings.
Hitters to Watch
Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Dodgers
Bellinger has been red hot since going 2-for-4 with a homer on Opening Day. He’s hitting .422/.479/.922 with nine homers and 22 RBI. He has homered in both of his last two games, and has yet to go more than four games without leaving the yard. Bellinger also has seven walks against eight strikeouts.
Khris Davis, OF, A’s
Davis went into the weekend after consecutive two-homer games in Baltimore, then hit another in the A's series opener with the Rangers. Saturday's game was postponed, so Davis has five homers in his last three games. He's now hitting .265/.315/.706 with 10 homers and 19 RBI in 73 plate appearances this season.
Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
Anderson went into the weekend hitting a league-leading .514, going 19-for-37 in his first nine games. He's cooled off in the White Sox’ first two games with the Yankees this weekend, going 1-for-8 with three strikeouts and is now slashing .444/.457/.622 with two homers and five steals in 46 plate appearances this season. The glaring lack of walks is still a problem, but Anderson seems to be finding a new level this year.
Pete Alonso, 1B, Mets
Alonso has been all the Mets could have hoped and more, hitting .360/.439/.860 with six homers, seven doubles and 17 RBI in 57 plate appearances. He was the first player in MLB history with at least 11 extra-base hits in his first 10 games, and he has kept it rolling since then. So much for manipulating service time, huh?
Tommy Pham, OF, Rays
Pham’s on-base streak reached 47 games on Saturday, with the outfielder going 1-for-4 in the Rays' 3-1 loss to the Blue Jays. Pham's pop has yet to show up in a big way this year, but he has a .403 OBP, five steals and 12 walks against 11 strikeouts on the season.
Pitchers scheduled to make two starts this week (Alphabetical order by team)
Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks
Max Fried, Atlanta Braves
Dan Straily, Baltimore Orioles
Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs
Ervin Santana, Chicago White Sox
Reynaldo Lopez, Chicago White Sox
Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds
Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati Reds
Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians
Matt Boyd, Detroit Tigers
Heath Fillmyer, Kansas City Royals
Jorge Lopez, Kansas City Royals
Trevor Cahill, Los Angeles Angels
Matt Harvey, Los Angeles Angels
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Kenta Maeda, Los Angeles Dodgers
Trevor Richards, Miami Marlins
Freddy Peralta, Milwaukee Brewers
Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers
Martin Perez, Minnesota Twins
Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins
Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets
James Paxton, New York Yankees
Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies
Nick Pivetta, Philadelphia Phillies
Joey Lucchesi, San Diego Padres
Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle Mariners
Mike Leake, Seattle Mariners
Dereck Rodriguez, San Francisco Giants
Dakota Hudson, St. Louis Cardinals
Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays
Shelby Miller, Texas Rangers
Matt Shoemaker, Toronto Blue Jays
Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays
Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Teams playing seven games this week: Orioles, White Sox, Reds, Royals, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers, Twins, Phillies, Mariners, Blue Jays
Teams playing six games this week: Diamondbacks, Braves, Red Sox, Cubs, Indians, Rockies, Tigers, Marlins, Mets, Yankees, Padres, Giants, Cardinals, Rays, Rangers, Nationals
Teams playing five games this week: Astros, A’s, Pirates