Akil Baddoo (OF, DET): 2-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 4 RBI, 1 SB.
What a start. After smacking the first big league pitch he saw for a home run yesterday, the Detroit Tigers’ Akil Baddoo followed up his debut with his first start in center field and he delivered, going 2-4 with a HR, 4 RBI, and a SB. He smacked a pair of hits, including a grand slam off the Twins’ three-inning closer Randy Dobnak in the ninth inning. This one was out of reach before Baddoo even got a chance to bat, but he reached on a strikeout and stole a base in the third inning. It’s far too early to make any grand predictions about Baddoo, but he’s already proved he can perform on the biggest stage of them all. Our own Jeremy Siegel published a piece just yesterday (written before Baddoo’s debut—how prescient!) that’s worth a read.
Baddoo has a very real path to playing time due to a rebuilding Tigers’ lineup and Rule 5 constraints. He hit ninth today but with an impotent Tigers’ offense there will be plenty of opportunity to move up the lineup. He’s jumped all the way from High-A and will undoubtedly encounter some serious growing pains, but a high walk rate in the minors points to an important skill for future major league success. He’s already shown off a power/speed combo that projects a high ceiling, but strikeouts will be a huge problem. He’s worth a flier in deep leagues, AL-only, or dynasty formats, but worth monitoring in shallower formats. If you can stomach the strikeouts, he could offer a rare potential in both HR and SB.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:
Nelson Cruz (DH, MIN): 3-6, 1 2B, 2 HR, 3 R, 5 RBI.
Death, taxes, and Nelson Cruz hitting homers. The slugger continues to defy Father Time and terrorize the AL Central, belting two long balls including a grand slam, and adding on a double to finish with ten total bases (that’s twice as many as any other hitter Monday). There’s not much to say about Cruz that you don’t already know, except that it seems this will not be the year that age catches up to him.
Willians Astudillo (2B/3B, MIN): 3-4, 2 2B, 1 R, 2 RBI.
Is this the year?! Astudillo came in to replace Luis Arraez who left due to digestive issues and came through for the Twins, belting a pair of doubles. La Tortuga is a frustrating mix of offensive potential and inconsistent playing time, but the utility man is one injury away from an everyday role. While Arraez is likely to be back soon, keep an eye on the Twins’ infield—Astudillo hit .379 with a .986 OPS in the Venezuelan Winter League and can contribute if he just gets the opportunity.
Wilson Ramos (C, DET): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI.
The bat-first catcher had a down year offensively in 2020 with the Mets, but fresh surroundings seem to be rejuvenating the 33-year-old. In his third start of the season, Ramos smacked a solo homer and belted a double, rising to a .300/.364/.700 slash line on the season. It’s obviously early but Ramos could be a nice value if he bounces back into an above-average offensive contributor.
Cavan Biggio (3B, TOR): 1-2, 1 HR, 3 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB.
After reaching base just once in the opening series against the Yankees, Biggio justified his ADP by going off Monday, hitting a solo shot off Rangers’ starter Mike Foltynewicz and, even more importantly, drawing his first two walks of the season. After finishing second in the AL in walks last season, seeing Biggio’s plate discipline finally come into play is a welcome sight for fantasy managers. With those strong on-base skills, Biggio should score a lot of runs batting second in what should be a high-powered Blue Jays offense.
Whit Merrifield (2B, KC): 2-3, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB.
Merrifield continues to do what he does best: hit the baseball. Batting .500 through the first four games of the season, the Royals’ leadoff man has now homered for the third time, giving him a share of the league lead with Nick Castellanos and Evan Longoria. Even if this power surge doesn’t last (it likely won’t), Merrifield looks locked into his usual contact skills and will be hitting leadoff in what looks to be a much more potent Royals offense than previous seasons. Merrifield remains a “set and forget” fantasy player and one of the most reliable second basemen in baseball.
J.D. Martinez (DH, BOS): 2-3, 1 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 BB.
J.D. is back. After a sluggish opening series against the Orioles, the Red Sox offense woke up Monday, piling on 11 runs on the AL Pennant winners. Perhaps most encouraging to Boston fans was a strong performance from Martinez, who had an uncharacteristically rough 2020 season where he slashed just .213/.291./389. Martinez smacked in a three-run homer and reached base four times Monday, which could be the spark he (and the Red Sox) need to get going.
Xander Bogaerts (SS, BOS): 4-5, 1 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI
Not wanting to be left out, the Red Sox shortstop also reached based four times the old fashioned way—with four base hits. Bogaerts collected three singles and a double on the day, only culminating in a run and RBI but showing off his high-contact skills. Sandwiched in the cleanup spot between J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers, Bogaerts should produce at a high clip this season.
Will Smith (C, LAD): 1-3, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB.
Curse you, Austin Barnes! Smith is locked into a catching timeshare in LA but continues to show off his offensive prowess, belting a home run and walking not once, not twice, but thrice against the Athletics. While he’s only started three of the five games so far—hugely frustrating for fantasy managers—the Fresh Prince should get at least half of the starts for the Dodgers and will be batting in the heart of one of the best lineups in baseball when he does.
Yasmani Grandal (C, CWS): 2-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB.
Grandal showed us why he’s one of the best catchers in baseball with his first home run of the year, adding a single and a walk to fill out the stat sheet. The 32-year-old had a bit of a down year in 2020 (didn’t we all?) but seems primed for a bounce-back season with the exciting young lineup in the South Side of Chicago.
Yermin Mercedes (DH, CWS): 3-4, 1 2B, 2 R, 1 BB.
The Mercedes keeps roaring along, collecting three more hits (including a double) and adding on a walk to continue leading the league in batting average at .667. While obviously that’s not sustainable, the 28-year-old is making a strong case that he, rather than Andrew Vaughn, deserves a permanent spot in the lineup. Mercedes batted fifth as the DH and should continue to collect counting stats as long as he stays hot in the middle of the lineup.
Jake Cronenworth (2B, SD): 3-5.
Initial fears of inconsistent playing time seem to be unfounded, as Cronenworth hit leadoff for the Padres and appears to be an everyday starter. Through the first five games, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year is slashing .412/.545/.647 with just one strikeout and will collect quite a few counting stats batting in such a dangerous lineup. Last night’s injury to Fernando Tatis Jr. makes Cronenworth that much more vital to the Padres. Cronenworth seems locked into the lineup and is picking up right where he left off from last year’s breakout.
Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)