Mookie Betts (LAD): 2-3, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, SB.
A dozen games into the season, Markus Lynn Betts was hitting just .178 with no home runs to his name. But you knew that was going to change, right? Last season he had only 23 home runs and ten stolen bases, both lows going back to 2015, his first full season in the majors (ignoring 2020), so there may have been some trepidation in what to expect this season.
But you’ll recall that Betts dealt with a hip injury that nagged him throughout the season. To his credit, he tried to play through it, but eventually, he needed two separate IL stints, one at the end of July and the other on August 11th, the latter of which would cost him roughly two weeks. He also received a cortisone shot. So it’s fair to wonder just how much the injury impacted his performance down the stretch last year.
After a slow start, last night’s 2-3, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, SB performance reminded everyone of the dynamic talent that produced one of the best seasons in recent recollection in 2018, which culminated in a World Series win with Boston as well as the AL MVP. Last night he led off the third with a walk before stealing second, and in the fifth, he belted his first home run of the year, a majestic 420-foot shot to left, on a hanging slider courtesy of Padres SP Nick Martinez. He concluded his big night in the ninth by victimizing reliever Craig Stammen on a 3-1 sinker, launching it 370 feet and a few rows back into the seats in left. Having announced that he cleared the nagging hip injury to the point where he didn’t believe he needed to get it checked out before spring training, we can hopefully look forward to another MVP caliber season from the former Red Sox as he leads what is likely the best lineup in baseball.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Friday:
Aaron Judge (NYY): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.
Judge came into last night’s game with just one home run and a .149 ISO. And, of course, that wasn’t going to stick. In the bottom of the third, he redirected a 91 MPH fastball on the outer half from Guardians’ starter Eli Morgan into the Yankee bullpen in right-center for a two-run shot. He hit his second shot in the fifth, a laser beam to the short porch in right off lefty reliever Tanner Tully. Having turned down a huge contract extension from the Yankees, it will be fascinating to watch how Judge performs this season with the added pressure of impending free agency.
Wander Franco (TB): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
The ascension continues. Looking at his career splits heading into last night’s game (361 PA), he had been significantly better as a righty hitter with a .372/ .429/ .646 slash as opposed to .269/ .315 / .406 as a lefty. So what does he do? Easy. He hits two jacks as a lefty off Michael Wacha. After striking out a 12% clip last year, his K rate now sits at 7%, and for good measure, he also has an xBA of .414 and xwOBA of .463 both in the top 3%. In NFBC this past draft season, he was the ninth SS off the board with an ADP of 57.12. I have a sneaking suspicion that number comes up next year.
Brandon Crawford (SF): 3-5, 2 2B, R, 3 RBI.
Checks notes. Welp, so much for that Patrick Corbin resurgence tour. The Giants batted around in the second, including Crawford, who kicked off the inning with a double. He added another later in the inning, this one of the bases-clearing variety that split the gap in left-center while just barely evading the glove of a diving Lane Thomas. Crawford posted a career-best .895 OPS last season and should be a steady if unexciting MI option the rest of the way, hitting fifth/sixth for the Giants. Austin Slater had the other big night for the Giants, but he’s likely stuck on the short side of a platoon which leaves him off the radar. Darin Ruf also had a pair of hits and is an option to consider for OBP formats.
Jean Segura (PHI): 2-5, R.
Nothing overly exciting from the veteran Segura, just another two hits. Note that he has been hitting leadoff for the Phillies now for three straight games, and they did face a righty last night in Freddy Peralta, so this doesn’t look like a platoon situation. He’s off to a quiet start, but his batted ball metrics are encouraging, including a 50% hard-hit rate and an xBA of .331. If he sticks in the leadoff spot, he could be in for a very productive summer.
In more Phillies lineup news, Joe Girardi also said last night that Alec Bohm is going to be their guy at 3B moving forward. He had another two RBI last night and has struck out just twice in 33 PA this season. Make sure he’s not on your waiver wire.
Paul Goldschmidt (STL): 3-5, 2 RBI.
Goldy came into last night’s game, hitting just .146. He’s clearly cooked, isn’t he?! Not so fast! Three singles last night, and he’s right back knocking on the door of the Mendoza line. The wild swings in batting average are one of my favorite things in early season baseball.
Christian Walker (ARI): 1-5, HR, R, 2 RBI.
This was a really impressive home run from Walker, who turned on a 97 MPH up and in fastball from Met reliever Trevor May and somehow got just enough of it to clear the left-field foul pole for his third home run of the year. Walker is someone who might have positive regression headed his way considering his wOBA of .284 compared to a much more robust xwOBA of .404. Walker slashed .259/ .348/ .476 with 29 home runs back in 2019, so we’ve seen him produce before. Don’t forget him if you need CI help in deep leagues.
Nathaniel Lowe (TEX): 2-3, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB.
Lowe put the Rangers on the board in the second with his first home run of the year, a two-run shot to left-center off Oakland starter Adam Oller. The former Tampa Rays prospect is off to a blistering start slashing .412/ .455/ .529. And his K rate currently sits at just 14.5%, a huge drop from last year’s 25.2%. We’re getting close to the point where K rates stabilize (50-60 PA), so this could be a legitimate breakout. He’s rostered in only 47% of Yahoo leagues. Make sure he’s not on your wire.
Julio Rodríguez (SEA): 2-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI.
Facing Brad Keller in the fourth with the bases loaded and the game scoreless, Rodríguez lined a two-run double to right-center that got the Mariners on the board. It was a nice at-bat from the future superstar who worked the count full before smoking an up-and-away fastball from Keller. He added a single to his ledger in the eighth for the first multi-hit game of his career, so hopefully, this gets him going.
Jorge Mateo (BAL): 1-4, 2 SB.
I have no idea if Mateo can hit enough, but as we know, speed kills. He’s started all but two games for the Orioles and is going to get an opportunity to prove himself. He’s already up to five steals on the year, and considering his 2B/SS/OF eligibility on Yahoo, he has to be on the radar at least.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)