This is the first of many non-fantasy baseball pieces RotoBaller will be publishing over the 2014 MLB Season. We love fantasy baseball, and we love baseball without the fantasy too, and we will share that passion by producing MLB news, analysis and articles of the same high quality as our fantasy baseball writing.
It's early in the MLB season, but never too early to look at some big surprises of the 2014 MLB season in addition to some unsurprising no-doubt-about-em facts.
Six Big Surprises from April Baseball
#1: Chris Colabello is Second in the AL in RBI
Who saw this coming? Unless you were a big fan of the Italian national team you likely had never heard of the Twins 30 year old outfielder. He debuted with the Twins last year and in 160 at bats hit an uninspiring .194 with just 17 RBI. In just 91 at bats this year he already has 27 RBI and also a league leading 9 doubles. Don’t expect Colabello to hit ..308 for the entire season but don’t be surprised if he ends up with around 90 RBI for the much improved Twins offense.
#2: The Ace of the Yankees Isn’t Named Sabathia or Kuroda
Coming into the season, many Yankee fans were nervous about their starting pitcher after their top two guys. However, after a month of play it has been Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda who have carried the team’s pitching staff. The two have pitched a combined 56 innings and have given up just 13 earned runs while striking out 60K. Both have the talent to make the Yankees rotation one of the best in all of baseball.
Both Cruz and Braun have had great careers at the plate, however many wondered how they would produce after returning from their steroid suspensions. Cruz has proven to be a great signing for Baltimore as he's been crushing opposing pitchers to the tune of a .284 average, 7 HR, 18 runs and 25 RBI. Braun has returned to MVP form as he has his average over .300 while showing off his all-around game with 6 HR, 18 RBI and also 3 stolen bases. Both should be counted on as fantasy studs for the remainder of the season.
#4: Clayton Kershaw has Only Pitched in One Game
Coming into this season, the dependable Dodgers ace had five straight seasons of 30 or more starts. After starting the opening series in Australia, Kershaw has been on the disabled list with a back injury. With Los Angeles playing well the team has not wanted to push him back and risk further injury.
The good news is that he appears to be within a few weeks of a return and because of his incredibly durable past there should be no reason to worry about another injury.
#5: Rajai Davis has Found a Home
The former Blue Jay outfielder, Davis has had a rejuvenated season for the Tigers. As of Saturday he has pushed his average up to an outstanding .352 while also bringing his standard 8 stolen bases. He has been hitting last in the Detroit lineup, but that means when he gets on base he has Kinsler, Hunter and Cabrera behind him to drive him in. A career .270 hitter, Davis may be in line for his first .300+ average season since 2009 in Oakland.
#6: Jose Abreu is an Absolute Beast
The Cuban import, who was reported to have power and patience in droves, and a better approach than fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes, has set the rookie record for RBI in the month of April. He has 31 as of Sunday, 4 more than Albert Pujols racked up back in 2001.
Abreu's 10 HR and 31 RBI lead the majors, and he is simply destroying pitches to all fields. He's nearly a lock for 30 HR and 100 RBI, with upside for 40 HR and 120 RBI which make him, quite simply, one of the best sluggers in the majors.
Five Obvious No-Doubt Facts from 2014
#1: Coors Field Really Helps Hitters
Sure, Troy Tulowitzki (.342/5/17) and Carlos Gonzalez (.234/4/2) are fantasy stars, but who knew that Charlie Blackmon, Justin Morneau, and Nolan Arenado were as well. Blackmon is shining at the top of the Rockies order as he is hitting over.400 while also pouring in 5 HR, 22 runs scored, 17 RBI and 7 stolen bases. He's the #1 fantasy player in 5x5 format. Morneau, much like former Twins teammate Michael Cuddyer, has had a resurgence in the thin air with a .346 average, 5 homers and 17 RBI. Don’t expect any of them to slow down much as the season wears on.
#2: Albert Pujols is Back
Pujols had the worst season of his career last year with career lows in average, homers, RBI and games played. However, this is still the three time MVP we are talking about and he is proving that the Angel’s still have a top flight first basemen.
He is among the leaders in the AL in both HR (9) and slugging percentage (.625) this year. Don’t be surprised if he is tops in those categories when October rolls around.
#3: Saves are the Hardest Stat to Predict
We aren’t even through April yet and already 55 different pitchers have recorded a save. Also when looking at the top four in saves so far, only Kenley Jansen was a sure pick with Francisco Rodriguez, Huston Street and John Axford all going much later. If you fantasy team is struggling with saves thus far, do not fear. Between injuries and ineffectiveness there are going to be several options to pick up and use as the season progresses.
#4: Jose Fernandez Will Lead the MLB in Strikeouts
Five starts into the 2014 season and it is safe to say that Fernandez’s rookie season was no fluke. In those five starts he has pitched 31.2 innings while posting a 1.99 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and of course the MLB leading 47 strikeouts. Fernandez is only getting hotter as he has combined for 24 strikeouts in just his last two starts alone. Like his teammate Giancarlo Stanton, he is a player that is a ton of fun to watch when he starts.
#5: Mike Trout is the Best Player in Fantasy Baseball
It is easy to take Trout for granted, but despite a ton of pressure he has continued to be a dominant force. He is hitting .315 with 5 HR, 14 RBI, 17 runs and 2 stolen bases this year which seems almost pedestrian. If you own him make sure you appreciate his game because even players like Miguel Cabrera have struggled out of the gate this year while Trout has been a worthy #1 pick.