Tyler Naquin (OF, CIN)—3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 7 RBI, BB.
Former Cleveland first-round pick, Tyler Naquin (OF, CIN), has had a rocky start to his career. His rookie season was stellar, hitting .296 with a 133 wRC+ and 14 homers in 116 games. However, he struggled the following year and spent most of it in the minors, which was then followed by a season-ending injury in 2018. 2019 was no different, adding a torn ACL. 2020 may have been his first full season, but you all know how that transpired. So here we are in 2021, with four seasons in between his rookie year and not one full season to his name. Naquin has a new home, too, but still in Ohio with the Reds.
Yesterday was the fourth consecutive start for Naquin and the third in which he led off. He’s been slotting in recently for hurt or ill players and was not expected to be starting as often nor in the lead-off spot. But most surprising was his line yesterday: 3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 7 RBI, BB. Naquin crushed a 454-foot homer in his first at-bat and added a 413-foot homer later in the game. Those were home runs two and three on the year. He also added another walk (three so far on the year).
Naquin hasn’t had much time to settle into consistent play with his crazy injuries and the wild year last year. This year is a fresh start on the Reds, but the main issue is playing time. If he keeps this spot in the lineup, we may have a chance to see what he can put together. He will have to improve his patience, walk more, and swing at pitches outside the zone less. We can already see that he can hit the ball hard and far. In most leagues, I would pass him by for now as he still isn’t really a starter. He would have to overtake Winker or Senzel in some way. But keep a close eye if he stays in this role.
Let’s see how the rest of the league fared on Tuesday:
Nelson Cruz (DH, MIN)—3-5, HR, R, RBI.
After easing into the season by coming off the bench in the first series in Milwaukee, Cruz has felt right at home back at DH. All three hits were over 104 MPH. One of those was a homer adding to the two he hit the previous game. One of these days, we’ll see Cruz’s age catch up to him, but that time seems very far off.
Ronald Acuña Jr. (OF, ATL)—2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Acuña launched his first two home runs of the season, both coming off of Max Scherzer of all pitchers. He was drafted as one of the top five players this season, so expect more of this moving forward and less of the five strikeouts in the first three games against the Phillies to start the season.
Aaron Judge (OF, NYY)—3-5, HR, R, 4 RBI.
This first batch of hitters has been all as expected (except the feature, of course), but it certainly is nice to see Judge here with three hits at 110 MPH and a 432-foot home run, especially when there were two runners on. Judge has now homered in back-to-back games and has five hits in his last eight at-bats. The crucial thing for Judge is his health, but we are seeing a taste of what he will deliver for the season as long as he is on the field.
Jonathan India (2B/3B, CIN)—3-4, 3B, 3 R, 4 RBI.
India was brought up to start the season with the Reds after an impressive spring. This early first-round pick in 2018 is expected to make some impact, and we should keep our eyes on him, especially after this blazing start. He has hit safely in each of the first five games this year for a total of nine hits in 21 plate appearances. The hits haven’t been too impressive, however. He is only averaging an exit velocity of 86.4 MPH, but he does have a 43.8% hard-hit rate.
Nick Senzel (OF, CIN)—3-4, 4 R, BB.
Senzel intrigues me as a post-hype sleeper candidate. His rookie year was interesting, with 12 homers and 14 steals over 104 games. This former second-round pick could have that special speed and power combo for a potentially solid 20/20 guy. However, his normal development process may have been derailed by 2020. His stats last year were rough over the 23 games he played. He did show patience (19.2% K rate), and he got decently unlucky (.204 BABIP). Now that things are somewhat back on track, keep an eye on Senzel’s progression.
Tucker Barnhart (C, CIN)—3-4, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Us fantasy managers that like to wait on catchers can always have a few options in our pockets when we need to swap the one that didn’t work out. Barnhart could be one of those guys. He will usually get you over 400 plate appearances and pop a few home runs, but there’s not much else there. That’s why he’s only a potential swap candidate and not someone to draft as your starter.
Bo Bichette (SS, TOR)—2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Just like a few other players on this list, Bichette added his first two home runs of the season yesterday. He also added a 104 MPH ground out. I know that grounder doesn’t add too much, but I want to make sure that if you were worried about the 30% K rate and three hits prior to this game, you know that Bo is actually good and will be fine.
Nate Lowe (1B/DH, TEX)—2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, BB.
Christopher Weber had tweeted about how Lowe struggles against any kind of heat (93+ MPH), and here we are. Lowe hits two bombs at 110 MPH off of two pitches, both below 93 MPH. We’ll see how he fares against the heat throughout the early season, but if we start seeing him piece it together there, we may be in for a treat in Texas.
Pete Alonso (1B, NYM)—2-4, HR, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.
Alonso crushed the ball last night with a 114 MPH double and his first homer of the year (that just made it out). This is your reminder that Alonso hit 53 home runs in 2019 and was on pace for 45 home runs last year. With the offense around him, expect large counting stats.
Christian Vázquez (C, BOS)—1-4, HR, R, RBI, BB, SB.
Just what you expect from a catcher, a nice combo meal. Don’t expect many more of those steals, though. This one came off the backend of a double steal. He may swipe a couple more throughout the year as a nice little treat every once in a while, though. So far this season, he’s been seeing the ball well, only striking out twice while collecting six hits in 17 plate appearances.
Ryan McMahon (1B/2B/3B, COL)—4-6, 3 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI.
Coors, right? Three solo shots in one game is both impressive and unlucky in a way. But McMahon has strung together a pleasant start to the year, getting a hit in each of his four starts, including an additional home run and a double. Who knows how the Rockies will be moving their players around, but if he keeps playing like this, it’ll be difficult to keep him on the bench.
Stephen Vogt (C, ARI)—2-4, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.
Vogt double switched with Kelly in the 6th and still ended up with four at-bats. Kelly is the everyday catcher in Arizona, so Vogt should not see enough plate appearances to mean anything relevant for fantasy. However, Vogt historically has spent a few seasons in fantasy relevancy, so if he ends up in a spot where he gets enough plate appearances, and you are in need of a catcher, he is serviceable.
Edwin Ríos (1B/3B, LAD)—2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Ríos is another flexible Dodgers-type player. He will mostly see time at first and third but may get a few looks in the outfield. He only has 60 total games under his belt, but he’s been solid. In 2020, his 32 games came out to a 145 wRC+ with eight home runs, six doubles, and a .645 slugging. Playing time will be difficult as the Dodgers are stacked and have plenty of guys like him, but he could be someone to look at if he somehow gets regular playing time.
Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)