Miami Nice

Breaking down Saturday's best hitting performances

Garrett Cooper (OF, MIA): 3-5, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI. 

Starling Marte (OF, MIA): 4-5, 1 3B, 3 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB.

 

The Fish endured two tough losses to start their 2021 season, wasting stellar performances from Sandy Alcántara and Pablo López along the way, but Starling Marte and Garrett Cooper weren’t going to let there be three’s company. Cooper and Marte accounted for seven of Miami’s 12 hits in their 12-7 win over the Rays, their first of the season, and they also registered the three highest exit velocities of the day, reaching 107.4, 107.5, and 108.6 MPH respectively on a pair of singles from Marte and a double from Cooper:

On the other end of the spectrum, Cooper was also the recipient of the slowest pitch of the game, scooping a 66 MPH Rich Hill curveball over the left field wall with a towering fly ball that soared 100+ feet into the air. Hit at a 37 degree launch angle at 98 MPH, the batted ball had just a .180 expected batting average, but that’s the kind of luck Rich Hill is having lately:

Meanwhile, after a luckless opening day, Marte got his season started with his first four-hit outing since July of 2019, lining singles to all fields and breaking 100 MPH with four of his five batted balls, including a scorching a 103 MPH opposite-field triple on a two-strike slider from Collin McHugh:

Incidentally, Marte’s last batted ball was still at 95 MPH. A productive Cooper and rejuvenated Marte will go a long way towards Miami’s (presumptive) Wild Card push early in the season.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday

Jeimer Candelario (1B, DET): 3-4, 1 2B, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB.

Candelario’s left-handed stroke was in a groove on Saturday, also lacing four batted balls over 100 MPH in a winning effort against Cleveland. He took care of business against pretty much everything, pulling an 80 MPH curve from Zach Plesac to left, poking a fading 85 MPH Nick Wittgren changeup down the opposite-field line for an RBI double, and squaring up a 97 MPH fastball from Trevor Stephan into the left-center gap. Candelario also drew a walk to cap an .800 OBP outing and a day in first place for the Detroit Tigers.

Joey Gallo (OF, TEX): 1-2, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.

Things overall are pretty bleak at the ol’ aircraft hanger in Arlington, but reports of Gallo’s demise appear to have been exaggerated, at the very least. The 27-year old soon-to-be trade candidate has looked like the MVP candidate from 2019 through two games of this season, taking a chest-high Mike Minor fastball 450 feet to the fountains in Kansas City before drawing two more walks and scoring an additional run. Gallo now has three hits, five walks, four runs batted in, and a stolen base through in his first 10 plate appearances of the season.

Whit Merrifield (OF, KC): 2-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.

On the other side of the ball, Merrifield came up with the league’s only four-RBI performance of the night, coming up with a game-breaking bases loaded two-run single in the 6th inning before turning around a high heater from Matt Bush for his second dinger in as many games. If Whit turns out to be the second coming of Brady Anderson, let this be the first sign!

Yordan Álvarez (DH, HOU): 3-5, 1 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, the Astros seem intent on letting everyone know that 2020 was an aberration, with the 2019 AL Rookie of the Year coming up with the most impactful play of the day, a three-run bomb to dead center to turn a 2-1 lead into a 5-1 lead that eventually became a 9-1 Houston win. Throw in a couple more hits to boost the batting average, and the middle of Houston’s lineup looks a whole lot beefier than it did eight months ago.

Paul DeJong (SS, STL): 2-3, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.

Congrats to everyone who had the Paul DeJong bingo card for the first multi-homer game of 2021! DeJong was seemingly the only Cardinal who could do much against an otherwise-stellar Tyler Mahle on Saturday, first belting a towering 115-foot blast on a hanging slider before turning around a middle-middle fastball for a 110 MPH laser beam. Like most of us, DeJong had a disappointing 2020, but he can punish mistakes, and the NL Central has plenty of pitchers who make plenty of mistakes.

 

Corey Seager (SS, LAD): 3-4, 1 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB.

It appears Seager hasn’t bothered to change his calendars in a while, because it’s still last October in the batter’s box (Ha! Plug!) for the Los Angeles shortstop. Tack on his fourth walk of the year, and the 2020 perpetual playoff MVP has now reached base in 12 of his first 16 plate appearances, setting himself up for a hefty payday in eight to ten months should he continue to grace these pages with regularity.

Manny Machado (3B, SD): 3-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Yonder Alonso’s brother-in-law doesn’t need to set himself up for a payday anytime soon, but he earned his salary on Saturday, scorching four balls at over 100 MPH and reminding us that he’s just really good at baseball. Neither Caleb nor Riley Smith could get much past Manny, who lined rockets all over the place on Saturday, including a 1st inning opposite field homer, and generally looked to be in MVP-caliber form as he peppered the box score for the now 3-0 Padres.

Yermín Mercedes (DH, CWS): 3-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 2 RBI.

The Yermínator returns for another act! Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the 28-year old rookie became the first player since 1900 to record hits in his first eight at-bats in a season, recording his first big league bomb and an RBI double in a losing effort for the White Sox. Yermín was yesterday’s Batter’s Box featured performer, and if he finds himself popping up here any more, Chicago’s already-crowded DH situation just got quite a bit tighter.

Mitch Haniger (OF, SEA): 2-4, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI.

Look who’s back! The talented but injury-prone Seattle outfielder took one out for the first time in nearly two calendar years on Saturday, picking up his first two extra base hits of the season in the late game against San Francisco. He might have gotten just a little help on his early double down the right field line, as one usually does when hitting it 70 MPH, but his 106 MPH tank off of an elevated Reyes Moronta fastball would’ve gone just about anywhere. That Mariners outfield… might be pretty dang good!

Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Zach Hayes

Zach is based in Chicago and contributes analysis and coverage for Pitcher List and South Side Sox. He also co-hosts the Shaggin' Flies podcast with Ben Palmer, and enjoys reading, Justin Fields highlights, and people-watching on the CTA.

2 responses to “Miami Nice”

  1. Kyle says:

    Hey Zach,
    Great article! Do you see Cooper getting full-time playing time going forward? RosterResource has him as a platoon guy. Thanks!

    • Zach Hayes says:

      Thank you! I certainly can’t claim to know any better than RosterResource, but it strikes me as likely that there will be enough ABs at the corner outfield and 1B spots for him to play close to every day, even if he’s probably not a 135 wRC+ guy going forward like he’s been since the start of last season.

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