All is Villar in Love and War
The first few days of the 2023 baseball season have brought many things: one of them being an abundance of home runs. I am not here right now to speculate on why that may be the case, but rather just to point out a trend. Five days into the season, four teams have already hit nine or more home runs. Six teams scored 10 or more runs on Monday, and sure, teams can play more small ball now with the shift ban and bigger bases, but the main culprit for all those runs was the long ball.
On Chicago’s South Side on Monday, the Giants slugged seven home runs, four of which came in the same inning. Michael Conforto, Thairo Estrada, Mike Yastrzemski, and David Villar all took Michael Kopech deep in the top of the fifth inning. Villar did not stop there but instead capped off his day with a ninth-inning grand slam off José Ruiz. In total, the infielder and former 11th-round draft pick, homered twice, collected five RBI, scored twice, and walked once during his team’s 13-run beat down on the White Sox.
If Villar can replicate even an ounce of the success he saw at the plate on Monday, he should retain his starting role with the Giants. It is easier to produce when all the momentum is in one’s favor, so a big day like Villar just had should be taken with a grain of salt. There is, however, always a possibility that Farhan Zaidi saw something real in Villar, and he, along with San Francisco’s hitting coaches, has unlocked something.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:
Brice Turang (MIL): 2-3, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, BB, SB.
The Brewers shut out the Mets 10-0 on Monday, and 40% of the Brew-Crew’s runs came courtesy of a grand slam off the bat of Brice Turang. Turang’s 104.2 MPH shot came amidst a seven-run fifth inning and was his first big league home run. After being selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, the middle infielder made his way onto various top-prospect rankings in 2021 before tapering off last season. The lefty has shown some promise at the plate in his limited exposure this season and has had the chance to boast his speed with his first big league stolen base on Monday. Turang is someone to keep an eye on but he needs to do more to be a worthwhile pickup even in deep leagues.
Bryan Reynolds (PIT): 3-5, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI.
There were six home runs hit during Monday’s contest between the Pirates and Red Sox, and Bryan Reynolds was responsible for two of them. He launched his second-inning bomb at 108.6 MPH and his fourth-inning long ball at 104.4 MPH. Balls were flying out of Fenway Park all night, but as the outfielder matures and edges closer to free agency, he may be poised to improve even further from his already highly impressive seasons.
Gleyber Torres (NYY): 2-2, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 3 BB, SB.
After struggling at times in 2022, Gleyber Torres could not have hoped for a better start to 2023. In reaching base five times on Monday, Torres flashed power, a willingness to take walks, and some speed. His home run which traveled 361 feet with an exit velocity of 101.2 MPH, was the second baseman’s loudest mark on the game, but perhaps the three walks were the more telling part. Torres’ showed a patient approach, waiting for his pitch and not being overly aggressive.
Trevor Larnach (MIN): 2-5, 3B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Trevor Larnach is currently rostered in just 7% of Yahoo leagues and posted his third multi-hit game in 2023. Minnesota piled 11 runs on Miami pitchers on Monday and Larnach played a significant role. The outfielder gathered three hard-hit balls, one that cleared the fences, one that ended him up on third base, and one that was hit directly to the right fielder. If your league has some depth to it, Larnach could be a smart pickup, albeit still based on this relatively small sample.
Nicky Lopez (KC): 1-2, 3B, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, SB.
José Berríos continued to struggle in his first outing of 2023, allowing eight earned runs to the Royals on Monday. Nicky Lopez had a hand in four of those runs. In the bottom of the fourth inning, the shortstop blasted a 98.3 MPH triple to right-center field, finding himself rounding second base before Toronto’s outfielders could even reach the baseball. Lopez added a stolen base and two walks to his final line, reaching base three times. Monday’s performance was an outlier for Lopez, but if he can find a hot bat at some point, his positional flexibility could lend him some value on fantasy teams.
Luke Raley (TB): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.
Two of the four hardest-hit balls during Monday’s Nationals vs. Rays game flew off the bat of Luke Raley. He earned his first two RBI in the first inning of the contest when he took Trevor Williams 429 feet into right-center field. His second home run, this one to the opposite field, came off the outfielder’s bat traveling 103.2 MPH. Already batting out of the four-hole, Raley could become an important part of a lineup this season that at times lacked much pop in 2022.
Jason Vosler (CIN): 1-2, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
When Jose Barrero exited Monday’s game early, his replacement, Jason Vosler, put the lineup on his back and spearheaded his team to victory against a division rival. Vosler ended up responsible for knocking in three of the Reds’ seven runs and homered on a second consecutive day. The third baseman is already nearing his 30s, but after his hot start, it would not hurt to keep an eye on his bat.
Josh Naylor (CLE): 3-4, HR, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.
Josh Naylor is no “top hitter” in baseball, but he can always be relied on to deliver a huge night on offense here and there, especially when his team needs it. Outs were hard to come by in Cleveland’s late-night, extra-inning, 12-11 win over Oakland. Having hit the ball hard in all four of his at-bats in addition to walking twice, Naylor refused to take his foot off of the gas from start to finish. Ironically, it was the first baseman’s third hardest-hit ball of the night that cleared the fences, traveling 406 feet. Naylor is currently rostered in just over 60% of Yahoo leagues. If your team could use some production at first base or outfield, he could serve to be a useful pickup; just don’t start him against lefties.
Jace Peterson (OAK): 1-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.
Like Naylor, Jace Peterson also had multiple hard-hit balls during Monday’s contest, except he had far worse luck with his results. The most positive outcome any of Peterson’s batted balls had all night came in the second inning when he took Zach Plesac deep for three runs, putting the A’s ahead by four. Unfortunately, his hard-hit balls later in the night when the Guardians had caught up all ended up sailing straight into fielders’ gloves. Unless big hits suddenly become a habit for Peterson, he does not belong on your teams at this time.
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)