The MLB season got started this morning in Japan, with the Mariners and A’s squaring off in a game that featured five home runs. There were quite a few noteworthy performances, so let’s take a look at five of the biggest ones:
- It was a slow start for Marco Gonzales, who allowed runs (a total of 4) in each of the first three innings, including home runs to Khris Davis (1-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R) and Stephen Piscotty (1-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R). He ultimately settled down and delivered a W (with Hunter Strickland earning the save), throwing 6.0 innings allowing 4 R (3 earned) on 7 H and 1 BB, striking out 4. We had concerns entering the year, given his potential struggles in terms of strikeouts (7 swinging strikes) and groundballs (7 groundballs vs. 6 fly balls), and this performance did little to change that opinion. The control was impressive, but if there is any type of regression the ultimate results could be truly ugly. It wasn’t a bad start, but don’t let it convince you that he’s suddenly a trustworthy option.
- Domingo Santana was an obvious target for many, getting a new opportunity in Seattle. We saw both the good and the bad in his Mariners’ debut, as he slugged a grand slam but also struck out twice (he finished 1-4 with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 1 R). It’s the latter that’s going to continue hanging over him after he struggled with strikeouts both in the Majors (32.8%) and at Triple-A (33.0%). For now the AB will be there regardless, due to injuries to Mallex Smith and Kyle Seager, but once everyone is healthy Santana could easily start losing some playing time if the strikeouts continue to mount. Don’t ignore that risk.
- With J.P. Crawford sent to the minors for more seasoning the Mariners turned the shortstop job over to Tim Beckham. He delivered an impressive performance in Game #1, going 3-3 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 3 R. Beckham has made some noise before, including hitting .278 with 22 HR over 575 PA in ’17, but even then strikeouts were an issue (29.0% courtesy of a 15.0% SwStr%). Even the power is hard to buy into, considering his career 31.7% fly ball rate (the power came courtesy of a 20.6% HR/FB), and while he could be a solid short-term play don’t consider him someone that you’ll be able to trust over the full season.
- It was an inauspicious start for Ramon Laureano, who was hitting atop the Oakland lineup. There was much hype entering the season, but he finished going 0-5 with 3 K. Obviously no one should pull the plug off of one poor game, though strikeouts were going to be a concern as he struggled considerably against offspeed pitches last season (25.88% Whiff%). He needs to make an adjustment or he’ll continue to see a steady diet moving forward, and that could lead to poor results. Don’t be surprised if he finds himself hitting towards the bottom of the lineup in Game #2.
- There were some solid performances for Oakland, but it was Matt Chapman who had the biggest day going 2-5 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 2 R. He also just missed a second home run, which went for a double high off the wall. He’s coming off a breakout 2018 (.278 with 24 HR, 68 RBI and 100 R) and seeing him take another step, including reaching 30+ HR, is very realistic.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, ESPN