Cards On The Table
It must have been tough for Alec Burleson and Nolan Gorman to walk around in Jupiter, Florida—home of the St. Louis Cardinals‘ Spring Training facilities—and continuously hear everybody talk about the guy who was projected to take their roster spot. With all the hype focused on Jordan Walker to enter the year, both Gorman and Burleson must have felt a little extra motivated to make an immediate impact. On Sunday afternoon they did just that, combining for five hits including three home runs, six RBI, and four runs scored to top the Blue Jays, 9-4.
Alec Burleson was a bit of a surprise to make the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster, beating out incumbent Juan Yepez for the team’s final outfield roster spot. A stocky left-hander, Burleson broke out in AAA last season with 20 home runs and a .331 batting average over 470 plate appearances.
In 16 games with the major league club, he swatted a home run and stole a base but hit just .211—an underwhelming debut. Capitalizing on an injury to Lars Nootbaar and Dylan Carlson’s failure to live up to his massive hype, Burleson is looking to become a mainstay in the Cardinals’ outfield.
In the Cardinals’ first three games of 2023, Burleson has featured in the starting lineup twice, batting second in the order and manning right field. After an 0-for-4 outing on Saturday, Burleson bounced back with two doubles, a home run, two runs scored and two RBI on Sunday afternoon to lead the Cardinals’ offense.
In the first inning, he took an 0-1 fastball on the outside corner out over the left field fence for a solo shot, the second of back-to-back home runs to open the game for St. Louis. Burleson led off the bottom of the third with a lucky double that dropped in the Bermuda Triangle behind second base and came around to score two batters later. In the fifth, he smoked a much more legitimate double to the right-center gap, jumping on a 96 mph sinker from reliever Zach Pop to bring in a run.
Nolan Gorman has made himself at home as the Cardinals’ everyday designated hitter, beginning the season with four hits in nine at-bats and, perhaps most notably for a player that carried a 32.9% strikeout rate last season, four walks to just three strikeouts.
According to first-year Cardinals Manager Oliver Marmol, Gorman has made significant strides in his plate discipline this offseason, “He was tasked with making some changes. Immediately in spring, you could tell we had a different player. Mechanically and his overall personality. There’s a calmness and confidence in what he is doing.”
Gorman made a strong case for himself to remain in the starting lineup, recording his second-career two-home-run game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. In the first inning, he sat back on a 68-mph curveball from starting pitcher Chris Bassitt and lifted it into the right-center field bleachers. In the bottom of the third, he got to Bassitt again, this time swatting a 2-2 cutter over the right-center field fence, extending the Cardinals’ lead to 7-3.
With ancillary pieces like Burleson and Gorman finding success, it adds significant depth to the Cardinals’ lineup to protect stars Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt. Just three games into the season, St. Louis has already placed itself in the discussion for the National League pennant. The Cards are on the table.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Sunday
Joey Gallo (MIN): 3-4, 2B, 2 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, BB
Gallo showed off his power potential, yanking two home runs over the right field fence to lead the Twins to a victory over the Royals on Sunday. Gallo just missed a home run in the fourth inning, driving a four-seamer down in the zone off the base of the right-center field fence for a double.
Facing left-handed reliever Amir Garrett to lead off the sixth inning, Gallo went down and got a 1-2 slider at the bottom of the zone and launched it out for his first home run of the day. In the seventh, he connected with a down-and-in first-pitch fastball for a three-run shot. Currently only eligible in the outfield on most fantasy platforms, Gallo started all three games at first base this past week and will gain 1B/CI eligibility in short order.
Mike Zunino (CLE): 3-3, 2 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Zunino finished with a perfect day at the plate. He launched an off-speed pitch over the left-center field wall for a three-run home run in the second and added a pair of doubles to lead Cleveland past Seattle, 6-5, on Sunday. Zunino has started three of the Guardians’ first four games and has separated himself from backup Bo Naylor.
Yoán Moncada (CWS): 3-4, 2 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.
After a lackluster season in 2022, Yoán Moncada opened 2023 with an outstanding series in Houston, batting 8-for-18 (.444) with two home runs and three doubles. On Sunday, Moncada led the White Sox to a 6-3 victory and series split, punctuated with a ninth-inning home run. Facing right-handed reliever Seth Martinez, Moncada sat back on a change-up on the outside corner and drove it the opposite way into the Crawford Boxes. With three runs, four RBI, and an OPS of 1.418, Moncada is looking like a serious draft-day bargain so far this season.
Tommy Pham (NYM): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB, SB.
Pham led off for the Mets on Sunday, as the team granted Brandon Nimmo a day off. In his second start of the season, Pham contributed in several fantasy categories, finishing with a stolen base, home run, and three RBI. In the fifth inning, Pham took a 1-0 fastball deep into left-center to extend the New York lead, drove in a run with a double (on a Jazz Chisholm misplay in center field), and added a stolen base in the ninth. So far, Pham has only started against left-handed pitchers but could see his role expand if he continues hitting like he did Sunday.
Patrick Wisdom (CHC): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Wisdom hammered an off-speed delivery from Eric Lauer down the left field line and out of Wrigley Field for his first hit of the season. Later in the game, he added his second home run of the year, a line drive just over the ivy into the left-center field bleachers. Wisdom started two of the Cubs’ first three games of the season, playing once at third base and once in right field. He could be an interesting option for some cheap power and roster flexibility if he gains outfield eligibility early in the year.
Mike Trout (LAA): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB.
Mike Trout launched his first home run of the season, crushing a 1-1 fastball to deep center field. He added a first-inning double and a third-inning single to register three hits and raise his batting average to .364 (4-for-11) on the season. Trout has shown no sign of any lingering injury after missing over 40 games in 2o22.
Logan O’Hoppe (LAA): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Logan O’Hoppe launched a three-run home run in the fourth inning, depositing a fastball at the top of the zone into the left-center field abyss at the Oakland Coliseum. The home run marks the first of O’Hoppe’s career and showcases the power potential of the rookie backstop. The primary catcher for the Angels, O’Hoppe has started all three games to begin the season and should continue to get the bulk of playing time with Max Stassi on the IL to begin the year.
Adam Duvall (BOS): 3-5, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Duvall continues to rake for the Red Sox, improving his season average to .571 (8-for-14) while boosting his OPS to an absurd 1.957 through three games. Of his eight hits, six have been for extra bases, including his two doubles on Sunday. Duvall has started in center field for the Red Sox in all three contests so far this season and seems comfortable enough out there. It’s much easier to stomach his middling defense when he’s raking at this rate.
Cedric Mullins (BAL): 2-5, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Mullins crushed a breaking ball into the Red Sox bullpen in right-center field, becoming the first player in MLB to hit a “Unicorn” home run – a home run that would not have left the yard in any other major league ballpark. Yes, even Yankee Stadium. In the seventh inning, Mullins added a two-run single, driving home his sixth and seventh runs of the season. Mullins has already hit two home runs, swiped two bases, and driven in seven RBI in just three games to anchor the Orioles’ offense.
Jason Vosler (CIN): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, RBI.
Vosler appears to be the Reds’ strong-side platoon at first base, earning his second start of the year on Sunday. Vosler launched a hanging offspeed pitch over the right-field fence for his first home run of the season. He added a double later in the game for his third extra-base hit of the season. Fantasy managers have seen formerly obscure players become relevant as members of the Reds in previous seasons (i.e. Brandon Drury) and Vosler could be next in line.
Masataka Yoshida (BOS): 2-4, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB, SB.
Boston’s splashy free agent signing of the offseason, Yoshida has yet to flash the power that he showed in the NBL and the World Baseball Classic, but fantasy managers did get to see his speed in action on Sunday. Yoshida contributed three runs, two RBI, and his first stolen base of the season, swiping second base in the bottom of the eighth. So while fantasy managers are still waiting to see the power that was showcased at the WBC, at least the left-fielder is contributing elsewhere.
Luis Robert Jr. (CWS): 2-5, 2B, HR, R, RBI.
Robert helped the White Sox to a 6-3 victory over the Astros and smacked his first home run of the season. In the fifth inning, Moncada took Luis Garcia deep, swatting a 2-2 low-middle fastball on a line into the Crawford Boxes. Robert added a double to left-center field and made one of the best catches of the young season in the bottom of the ninth to rob Kyle Tucker of extra bases and at least one RBI.