Byron Buxton (MIN): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Is it finally happening? Is this the year we get to see a prime Byron Buxton play a full season? I sure hope so, because the Minnesota centerfielder is one of the most electric players in baseball.
Buxton went 2-for-5 on Sunday, hitting two home runs off of Mariners’ starter Marco Gonzales. The two big flys even came in back-to-back innings and capped off a streak of three home runs in three plate appearances going back to Saturday’s game.
The 28-year-old phenom broke out last year posting by far the best numbers of his career. Buxton hit .306/.358/.647 with 19 home runs and nine steals, and although he only played 61 games, his 4.1 fWAR was the 38th most among position players. Every player with more fWAR than him played in many more games.
Buxton’s strong start to the season is mirroring last year’s great performance. Through three games, all three of his hits are home runs, good for a batting line of .250/.308/1.000. Yes, that’s right. A slugging percentage of 1.000.
When he’s healthy, there may be no player in baseball with more raw talent than Buxton. If health is on his side in 2022, we may be watching the beginning of an AL MVP campaign.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Sunday:
Steven Kwan (CLE): 5-5, 2B, 4 R.
Kwan breaking camp with the Guardians was overshadowed by even bigger prospects – Spencer Torkelson, Bobby Witt Jr., and Julio Rodríguez – also making MLB rosters, but Kwan’s easily been the best of the group so far. His five-hit, four-run performance in Cleveland’s 17-run outburst on Sunday brought his season batting average up to .800. Kwan’s not going to hit for much power, but he looks like an exciting source of batting average, runs, and stolen bases. His promotion to second in Cleveland’s batting order should make him one of the most exciting early-season fantasy baseball waiver adds.
Tyler Naquin (CIN): 2-4, 2B, R, RBI, BB.
The Reds took down the defending-champion Atlanta Braves on Sunday, and Naquin played a big part in the win. He opened the scoring with a third-inning double off of Ian Anderson and finished the day with a game-high 16.4 WPA. Naquin’s hit second in the Cincinnati lineup in three of their first four games, only sitting once when the team faced a left-handed starter. Last year was a career-best for Naquin – he hit .270 with 19 home runs, 70 RBI, and 5 stolen bases. With the state of the Reds’ roster, Naquin should be in line for a similarly strong year in 2022.
Wander Franco (TB): 3-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI, SB.
He’s only played in 73 career games, but Franco already looks like one of the best players in baseball. He flashed all his tools in Sunday’s blowout win against the Orioles, collecting three hits and stealing his first base of the year. Yes, it’s still very early in the season, but Franco’s already surpassed his max exit velocity from last year and has a barrel rate of 28.6%. The 21-year-old shortstop is hitting .545/.500/.636 in the early going, and he may just keep getting better.
Brad Miller (TEX): 2-3, 2B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
Miller didn’t even crack the Rangers’ starting lineup on Sunday, yet he was still one of the day’s best performers. After lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu was pulled in the fourth inning, Miller came on to pinch hit for Eli White. In his three at bats, Miller knocked the ball all over the yard, hitting both a home run and double at 105 mph each. Miller’s hit leadoff for the Rangers against right-handed starters so far, and if he keeps that large of a role all year, he could be in store for a huge season.
Matt Olson (ATL): 3-4, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Atlanta’s new star first baseman hit his first home run as a member of the Braves in Sunday’s 6-3 defeat to the Reds. Olson collected three hits on the day with two of them coming off the bat at 108 mph or faster. If there’s any lingering disappointment in Atlanta following Freddie Freeman’s departure, Olson is doing what he can to quiet it. Through four games, Olson’s hitting .571/.647/.929.
Michael Chavis (PIT): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 4 RBI, BB.
The Pirates picked up their first win in St. Louis on Sunday, and Chavis was a big reason why. He reached base four times and was 2-for-2 against new Cardinal starter Steven Matz, including his home run to left field in the third inning. After a strong 2019 rookie debut in Boston, Chavis never really stuck for the Red Sox and was traded to Pittsburgh at last year’s deadline. In his first full season in Pittsburgh, Chavis has a chance at a new start and a lot of playing time if he performs well.
Seiya Suzuki (CHC): 1-3, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB.
Suzuki hit the first home run of his MLB career off Freddy Peralta on Sunday afternoon. The three-run blast was the hardest hit ball of the game, coming off Suzuki’s bat at 110.9 mph. Although the Cubs didn’t win the game, Suzuki’s performance was a big bright spot. The Japanese phenom is making the adjustment to big league pitching look easy. Through his first three career games, he’s hitting .375/.538/.750 and that’s come against the Milwaukee Brewers – one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.
Francisco Lindor (NYM): 1-3, HR, R, RBI, BB, SB.
Lindor ordered a combo meal on Sunday, hitting his first home run and stealing his first base of the 2022 season. The Mets’ superstar shortstop is looking for a bounce-back campaign after faltering a bit in his first season in Queens last year. So far, so good for Lindor – he’s hitting .250/.471/.583 in the early going.
Heliot Ramos (SF): 2-3, R.
Ramos, one of the Giants’ top prospects, made his MLB debut against the Marlins yesterday. He started in left field, slotted into the sixth spot in the San Francisco’s lineup, and smacked two singles against Trevor Rogers. Ramos wouldn’t get the call if the Giants weren’t planning on giving him ample playing time, so he’s certainly one to keep on your fantasy radar.
Gary Sánchez (MIN): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 5 RBI.
The Twins jumped all over Marco Gonzales and the Mariners on Sunday scoring 10 runs on the day and five in the first inning alone. Four of those came off Sánchez’s bat as he launched a 446-foot grand slam to break things open. Sánchez has elite raw power, and Twins fans will enjoy seeing more of it as the season progresses. If he can cut the strikeouts down even a little, he’ll quickly be a fan favorite.
Drop Abrams for Kwan in a redraft?
That’s a really tough call. I like Abrams a lot more long term and think his ceiling is much higher, but he has less of a grip on an everyday job than Kwan does right now. If all you’re looking for is batting average and runs, I’d probably pull the trigger on Kwan, but if you’re looking for more help than that, I’d stick with Abrams for a little longer and see how things play out.