The opening week of the 2018 MLB season has come and gone. It was far more kind to some than it was to others. A number of high profile players reminded us of just how good they are. Similarly, others are still waiting to give us that reminder.
A big season from Bryce Harper could help him earn $500 million at the end of the year. He’s off to a good start. Charlie Blackmon, meanwhile, just signed a big contract extension. He’s spent the first week of the season showing that he’s worth every penny. The defending champions are off to a roaring start. Which one of their stars stands out slightly above the rest?
Prized offseason acquisitions like Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani seem to be enjoying their new teams.
On the other hand, another offseason acquisition — Andrew McCutchen — has struggled. He’s not the only one. Division rival Corey Seager has also failed to get anything going. Star first basemen like Joey Votto and Anthony Rizzo also had weeks to forget.
These are some of the studs and duds from the first week of the 2018 MLB season.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, the stats cited are accurate through the games played on Wednesday, April 4.
Stud: Bryce Harper, right fielder, Washington Nationals
As much as Harper has done in his career, he can be a little streaky. He’s always a dangerous hitter, but when things aren’t going great, he’s someone that pitchers can get out. When things are going well, though, those same pitchers want to avoid him like the plague. That’s the Harper we’ve seen in the first week of the year.
The baseball must look like a basketball to Harper. He has a staggering .353/.536/1.059 line with four home runs.
And while we’re on the subject of home runs, if you’re at a game and cheering against the Nationals, don’t call Harper overrated. He’s dangerous enough at the plate. Not one, but two of Harper’s home runs have come immediately after fans were heard leveling that charge on him.
It seems to give his bat magical powers.
Dud: Anthony Rizzo, first baseman, Chicago Cubs
In general, the Chicago offense has been inconsistent through the season’s opening week. While the Cubs have managed 18 runs in their two wins, they’ve scored a combined one run in three losses — two of which were very winnable games.
Rizzo has slashed at .130/.259/.261 and has only one extra-base hit, a home run on Opening Day. Make no mistake, he’s not the only Chicago hitter to be slumping in the opening week. But even with the talent that lineup features, Rizzo and Kris Bryant really are the straws that stir the drink.
When his bat gets going, the Cubs offense will follow suit. Until then, though, don’t expect to see the inconsistency going away any time soon.
Stud: Chris Sale, starting pitcher, Boston Red Sox
Sale has been pretty close to unhittable during his first two outings of 2018. Obviously, it’s easy to be drawn in by the fact that he’s only allowed one run. But in truth, the lack of baserunners is what really has us impressed.
Sale has a 0.82 WHIP, having allowed only six hits and three walks through 11 innings. By comparison, while Clayton Kershaw has adequately prevented runs (2.25 ERA), his WHIP is a little high (1.25) for his standards. He’s not struggling, either. It just doesn’t take much to inflate a pitcher’s stats this early in the year. It’s especially true since hitters tend to be ahead of pitchers at the beginning of the year.
That makes Sale’s numbers — including 15 strikeouts in 11 innings — look all the more impressive. If he’s done this over his first two starts, what’s going to happen when he gets even more locked in?
Dud: Corey Seager, shortstop, Los Angeles Dodgers
Not unlike the Cubs, things haven’t really gotten going for the Dodgers offensively. Los Angeles has had three decent (or even good) offensive performances. But in the other four games, the Dodgers have scored a combined one run.
Seager’s lack of productivity certainly isn’t the only reason for his team’s struggles, but they are significant. Seager is hitting .192/.222/.192. As concerning as the average and OBP are, the slugging is the real problem here. All five of Seager’s hits have been singles. If Seager was doing a little more damage with his hits, the average and OBP wouldn’t be noticeable.
Now of course, the comeback here is that Seager has only played in six games. That’s hardly a significant sample size in a sport where you play 162. Of course, that’s true. But entering the season, Seager had a career slugging percentage of .502. One week into the year, that’s dropped to .495. That’s a rather steep drop for a player now in his third season.
Certainly, the Dodgers are looking for a number of players to turn things around. Seager’s name is at the top of that list.
Stud: Giancarlo Stanton, left fielder, New York Yankees
In a way, Seager and Stanton are not that different. Each man has five hits is getting on base far less than they should. Stanton has a .217 average and a .333 OBP. But while Seager has struggled to drive the ball, Stanton has thrived.
All five of Stanton’s hits have gone for extra bases. He got his Yankees career started with two home runs on Opening Day. Then, after a miserable home opener (which included boos from the home fans), Stanton made a decent second impression in the Bronx, clubbing a home run in the next game.
Eventually, the average and OBP are going to come up. But even with him slumping, Stanton has proven himself to be baseball’s most feared hitter.
Dud: Joey Votto, first baseman, Cincinnati Reds
The first week of the season has not given us the Votto that we’re used to seeing.
We could overlook his .200 batting average. Yes, it is well below his career mark of .313. But Arizona Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt is hitting .059 and he doesn’t make the list. While Goldschmidt hasn’t done much when he’s been pitched to, his .407 OBP indicates that teams are staying away from him.
What really stands out with Votto is that he has a .294 OBP and a .200 slugging percentage. Over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Votto sported a .444 OBP and a .564 slugging percentage. This is a guy who gets on base a lot and does damage when he swings the bat. That hasn’t happened in 2018. Votto has only three hits (all singles), has drawn only one walk, and been hit by one pitch.
He’s certainly left himself plenty of room for improvement.
Stud: Carlos Correa, shortstop, Houston Astros
Picking a standout on the Astros over the first week is no easy task. The defending champs are 6-1 and many players — including reigning American League MVP Jose Altuve — have raked. Still, Correa stands out.
He’s had a torrid opening week, hitting .474/.522/.947 with two home runs, three doubles, and a stolen base. Correa has also scored seven runs and driven in eight. He’s just been a man on fire over the first seven games.
We can say with reasonable confidence that Correa is not going to maintain this pace through the season. But like his double-play partner, Correa is showing that he has the makeup to win a league MVP.
Dud: Chris Archer, starting pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays
It’s worth repeating that, generally speaking, hitters are ahead of pitchers in the early season. It usually takes pitchers at least a couple of outings to get a feel for their stuff. So, the schedule makers did Archer no favors in having the Rays open with series against the Red Sox and Yankees.
It’s shown in the results. Archer has allowed eight earned runs in his first 11 innings. He’s also surrendered 12 hits and issued four walks.
The main positive with Archer is that he has 14 strikeouts. So, at times, he has done a good job of keeping hitters off balance. Still, the 6.55 ERA and 1.45 WHIP need to come down in a big way.
Stud: Mitch Haniger, right fielder, Seattle Mariners
Seattle has generally hit the ball well in the early days of the 2018 season. But as good as some of the other Mariner hitters (namely Robinson Cano) have been, Haniger takes the cake.
Haniger has not only hit safely in each of Seattle’s first five games, he’s also drawn four walks. So, he’s not just up there hacking with a hot bat. Even with that hot bat, he’s still looking for the right pitches to hit. Additionally, when Haniger gets those pitches, he’s not exactly trying to slap them the other way. He has three extra-base hits, including two home runs.
It’s all led to a sterling .467/.600/.963 line. He was clearly one of MLB’s top players in the season’s opening week.
Dud: Jose Ramirez, third baseman, Cleveland Indians
We can count the Indians among MLB’s top teams still struggling to find offensive consistency in the early going. As was the case with the other struggling contenders, we can’t blame the struggles on one man, in this case, Ramirez. But his bat certainly hasn’t helped Cleveland’s cause.
The good news for Ramirez is that he’s making his hits count. He hit a home run in the opening week. Unfortunately, that came in a 13-2 blowout loss. More unfortunately, it’s Ramirez’s only hit of any kind on the young season. As a result, he’s heading into the season’s second week with a .043/.185/.174 slash line. Things wouldn’t even look that much better if the would-be home run robbed by Ichiro had gone out.
The man who finished behind only Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge in Junior Circuit MVP voting in 2017 has definitely left a lot to improve on in the early part of 2018.
Stud: Charlie Blackmon, center fielder, Colorado Rockies
An MVP candidate in 2017, Blackmon is picking up right where he left off a season ago. The Colorado center fielder hit .333/.407/.917 with four home runs over the first week.
Even with the normal consideration that we tend to give to Rockies’ hitters because of Coors Field, those numbers are fantastic. What makes those numbers look even better is that we don’t have to give them any asterisk because of the home stadium. Colorado won’t have its home opener until Friday.
At any altitude, Blackmon can hit. He’s shown that through the early part of 2018, just like he did throughout all of last season.
Dud: Andrew McCutchen, right fielder, San Francisco Giants
In reality, either McCutchen or Evan Longoria — San Francisco big two offseason acquisitions — could belong here. But McCutchen breaks the tie because Longoria has shown some signs of coming out of his early-season struggles, notably with a home run on Tuesday. McCutchen, meanwhile, is still struggling.
His first week with the Giants has not gone according to plan. The former NL MVP has struggled to an .083/.120/.125 line, recording only two hits.
San Francisco has done a decent job overcoming the struggles. Thanks to a pair of 1-0 wins and a 10-run outburst (despite an 0-for-4 from McCutchen), the Giants have clawed to a 3-3 record. Still, that’s not exactly a sustainable model.
For San Francisco to keep things afloat long term, McCutchen’s bat will need to heat up.
Stud: Matt Davidson, third baseman, Chicago White Sox
Davidson doesn’t have many hits. But the reason he makes this list despite a .263 batting average is that when he’s hit the ball, he’s made an impact.
Davidson has four home runs, including a record-tying three on Opening Day. Additionally, even when Davidson isn’t getting hits, he is finding ways to get on base. A .364 OBP will attest to that.
The White Sox had a nice opening week to 2018. The season will very dependent on how much of an impact the youngsters can make. If Davidson — who is a veteran but is still young — can keep playing at a high level, it will make Chicago an even scarier team going forward.
Dud: Julio Teheran, starting pitcher, Atlanta Braves
Teheran struggled in 2017, especially at the Braves’ new home, Sun Life Field. On the road, the Atlanta pitcher posted a 3.14 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. At home (where he had two more starts), Teheran put up a 5.86 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.
If the Braves are going to get back into contention in 2018, Teheran is going to have to be more effective at home. Through two starts this season (both home starts), there’s a lot of work to be done. In those two outings, he’s lasted a combined eight innings, allowed nine runs, 10 hits, six walks, and four home runs.
If you’re an Atlanta fan, the good news is that the Braves have won both of those games. But winning with a starting pitcher having a 10.13 ERA and 2.00 WHIP is not exactly a sustainable model. Teheran needs to bring his game up.
Stud: Shohei Ohtani, starting pitcher/designated hitter, Los Angeles Angels
By and large, spring training was not kind to Ohtani. The Japanese Babe Ruth struggled mightily in Cactus League action. Those struggles, both on the mound and at the plate, did not extend into MLB’s opening week.
Ohtani got it started on Opening Day, when he got a hit in his first at-bat. He later homered in consecutive games, including a 400-foot blast off of Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.
As a pitcher, Ohtani did pretty well for himself, as well. He did allow a three-run home run in his first outing as a pitcher, but didn’t surrender much else. He went six innings, allowed only those three runs, three hits, and one walk while striking out six in a winning effort.
After a bad spring, a strong start to the year was important for Ohtani. Through one week, he’s answered the bell.