A New Need for Speed
The schedule makers gifted us an early April Fools’ present and after 15 games on our favorite day of the year, they gave us only five on the season’s first Friday. What we’ve seen so far is a lot of stolen bases. On Opening Day, we saw 21 stolen bases on 23 attempts, good for a 91.3% success rate. Last year? Five stolen bases on nine attempts. On Friday, we saw 10 stolen bases in only five games.
During the offseason, Derek Carty, who developed the BAT projection system, created a thread on Twitter discussing what might result from the rule changes. I won’t rehash it all here but to quickly paraphrase, one way he tried to account for the rule changes was by using data from the minors. The result was the BAT X forecasted roughly 600 more stolen bases this year which would be the most we’ve seen since the 2012 season.
This could create a unique challenge this year. Early on, it’s going to be tempting to scoop players that steal a few bases as we feel the added pressure to keep pace. Hey, maybe Ji-hwan Bae or Jose Siri will end up working out. But as always it’s about assessing the opportunity cost, i.e., what player are you dropping? And those that you do pick up for steals might be hurting you in other categories. For example, Jorge Mateo, who stole two bases on opening night, also hit just .221 with 13 home runs last year. The steals are great. But the rest? Not so much. It’s more of a dilemma in standard leagues where you’re faced with the conundrum of making cuts that you might later regret. In deep leagues, it’s a different dynamic. Standard-sized leagues, especially early on, can make me feel as if I’m chasing my tail as far as who to add and cut. That game of whack-a-mole could be even more prevalent now.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Friday:
Kyle Tucker (HOU): 1-3, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB, SB.
Hitting fifth, Kyle Tucker sparked a come-from-behind victory by launching a two-run shot in the sixth inning off a Lance Lynn fastball. He later drew a leadoff walk in the eighth before stealing second base and scoring the final run of the game on a single from David Hensley.
Charlie Blackmon (COL): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Two games in and Blackmon is the fantasy MVP, just like everyone drew it up. The dinger came in the fifth on a 2-1 fastball at the letters from Nick Martinez as the Rockies continued their perfect season with a 4-1 win over the Padres. Blackmon hasn’t had an OPS over .800 since 2020, but maybe he can turn back the clock this year. Hey, why not?
Jorge Soler (MIA): 2-4, HR, R, RBI.
After robbing Pete Alonso of a double in the top of the second, Soler ambushed a first pitch 92 mph heater from David Peterson and muscled it out over the fence in right-center for the first score of the game. Soler struggled through injuries last year, but as we saw during his stint with Atlanta in 2021 (.882 OPS in 55 games), he has a bat that can make a lot of noise.
Kyle Lewis (ARI): 1-1, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Lewis didn’t start but answered the bell in the eighth when he pinch-hit for Josh Rojas. With a runner on second and one away, he crushed a 2-1 fastball from lefty reliever Alex Vesia for a go-ahead two-run jack that proved to be the difference in a 2-1 win over the Dodgers. Lewis led off the opener as the DH against Julio Urías before sitting out against Dustin May last night. After two games, it looks like he’s on the short side of a platoon. But it’s likely the D-Backs are easing him in given his injury history. I don’t think it would be a surprise to see him get regular at-bats at some point given they traded for him this offseason. As a former AL ROY, he is an interesting player that I’m keeping an eye on.
Alek Thomas started after sitting out the opener. One of their top prospects, he struggled with a .619 OPS over 411 PA during his rookie year. At 22 years old, there’s a pretty decent chance we haven’t seen his best yet. He’s got an interesting blend of speed and contact ability with some raw power to boot. His first career home run was an opposite-field shot off Sandy Alcantara. Similar to Lewis, I’m interested to see how his playing time shakes out.
Steven Kwan (CLE): 2-5, 1 2B, 5 RBI.
After hitting a sacrifice fly in his second at-bat against Robbie Ray, the Guardians’ leadoff man served a soft line drive just over the glove of Eugenio Suárez that drove in two runs in the fourth. The next inning, with the bases loaded and two away, he slashed a two-run single to left field off righty reliever Trevor Gott.
Jazz Chisholm Jr. (MIA): 1-4, HR, R, RBI.
One concern about this year’s MLB The Show cover star was his splits against lefties. Last night, he went 0-for-3 against Mets lefty David Peterson. But he made up for it with one swing in the seventh when he dropped the hammer on a low and inside fastball from righty reliever John Curtiss for his first homer of the year that helped the Marlins key a 2-1 victory.
Miguel Vargas (LAD): 1-1, 2B, 3 BB.
His first hit of the season came in the first, a ringing double that just missed being a home run and clanged off the wall in right-center. Evidently, the D-Backs got the message loud and clear as Vargas didn’t get anything to hit the rest of the night and now has four walks through his first two games of the year.
Starling Marte (NYM): 2-4, SB.
Two more hits and another stolen base for the 34-year-old veteran. He actually got thrown out trying to steal second after his first base hit of the night thanks to a great throw from Nick Fortes. But that didn’t stop Marte from stealing his second of the season after hitting a single in the sixth. Only two games, of course, but, this is an encouraging start after we saw Marte steal just 18 bases a season ago.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)
For anyone who might be wondering, the anonymous stud shown first under “Let’s see how the other hitters did” is Kyle Tucker.
Be nice to get some EV or other under the surface stuff in here. I understand it’s still a free service, but velocities and location indicators have made the pitching side of things famous. Just expected more than box score summaries from a PL product.