Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in the MLB

Ben Glassman

We are just two weeks into the 2013 MLB season, but headlines already abound. Injuries have played a key role thus far, as a multitude of stars including Jered Weaver, Jose Reyes and Zack Greinke have been sidelined in the early weeks. As is the case with any sport, there have also been a number of early-season disappointments, as well as pleasant surprises. From sluggers hitting at historic percentages to former all-stars looking like less-than-competent minor-leaguers, the first two weeks have seen it all. With that, I present the first installment of “Who’s Hot and Who’s Not” right now in the MLB.

Who’s Hot:

Atlanta Braves:Sure, six of their 11 wins came in sweeps of the lowly Marlins and Cubs, but Atlanta also swept division-favorite Washington and took two of three from Philadelphia. Justin Upton has been absolutely amazing for his new squad, and new starting catcher Evan Gattis has filled in beautifully after the departure of Brian McCan. Additionally, Paul Malholm is pitching at an epic pace, having won all three of his starts while allowing no runs and just 11 hits in 20 innings. The rest of the rotation has allowed just 18 earned runs over 54 innings, and the whole team appears to be firing on all cylinders. The Braves are an

intimidating team right now.

Boston Red Sox Starting Rotation: Boston’s starting rotation finished 27th out of 30 teams last year with a 5.19 ERA. Now, they boast the American League’s lowest earned run average at 2.07, and have a 5-2 record, 1.18 WHIP and .221 BAA. Clay Buchholz is 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA and 23 strikeouts and John Lester is 2-0 with a 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The back of the rotation remains a little troublesome as John Lackey has been put on the disabled list. However, Alfredo Aceves and Ryan Dempster could shape out to be legitimate No. 3 and No. 4 starters during the rest of the season considering how they’ve been playing lately.

Justin Upton:As mentioned earlier, Justin Upton has been phenomenal in the Atlanta outfield, having moved there from Arizona during the offseason. The younger Upton brother is batting .348 with 12 runs, two steals, 11 RBIs and a league-leading seven home runs while hitting third for Fredi Gonz??lez’s Braves. Upton is a prototypical five-tool player who has gone for 20 home runs and stolen bases twice in his career. The way he’s

playing right now, 40-20 seems

relatively likely.

Bryce Harper: Considering all the hype surrounding Harper and the Washington Nationals heading into this season, the 20- year-old has played very well through 12 games. He leads the Nats with a .320 batting average, nine runs, five home runs and 10 RBIs. His numbers, especially his batting average, have dropped a bit since the White Sox series, but he’s looked stellar at the plate overall and Nationals fans have no need to worry.

Matt Harvey: This year’s biggest surprise has to be the New York Mets’ 24 year-old ace, Matt Harvey. The big righty came into the majors in late July last season and pleased Mets fans with an impressive 2.73 ERA in his short season. This year, Harvey has reached an entirely different level, having allowed just two earned runs and six hits in 22 innings, while striking out 25 batters. The Mets No. 2 starter may well become their de facto number one, as his current play has put him on pace for a

historic season.

Who’s Not:

Los Angeles Angels:Okay, so they haven’t had the cushiest schedule, and it is only two weeks into the season, but the Angels have been pretty disappointing in all honesty. They sit in last place in the A.L. West with an ugly 4-8 record despite trotting out one of the most dangerous lineups in recent memory night after night. Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo are all legitimate superstars and – without stirring up too much controversy here – could all see their names in Cooperstown some day. And, considering this, they’ve only led their team to four wins thus far? The pitching has been less than stellar, but you’ve got to believe those four sluggers can more than make up

for that.

Giancarlo Stanton:The one bright spot for Miami last season has been rather dull this year. After a stellar 37-home run 2012 season, Giancarlo Stanton has yet to hit a home run in nine games thus far, and is batting just .167 with 12 strikeouts. There’s no denying Stanton is a good hitter, and he has seen success in the majors prior to 2012, but he’s in the midst of quite a cold spell to say the least. The Marlins need Stanton to get going if they’re going to make any noise in the N.L. East, but there is nothing in his play right now that suggests a possible resurgence.

The New York Yankees Trainers:With apologies to the Yankees trainers who can’t really be to blame for all of the injury woes in the Bronx, the current state of Yankees nation is in disarray. Perennial all-stars Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are all on the D.L. right now, and starter Andy Pettitte is dealing with back spasms. Granderson, who was injured in late February after a J.A. Happ fastball fractured his forearm in a spring training game, is expected to be back in mid-May, while Teixeira’s mid-March wrist injury is expected to heal soon, as well. Jeter and Rodriguez both have significantly later return dates, and in an always-competitive A.L. East, that’s bad news for New York.

Edwin Encarnacion:Encarnacion was a pleasant surprise for the Blue Jays last season to say the least, as he mashed 42 home runs with 110 RBIs. The plan for Toronto this season was to put Encarnacion in the clean-up spot to bring home offseason acquisitions Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera, batting lead-off and third respectively. Thirteen games and seven losses later, however, Encarnacion is batting just .133 with two home runs and six RBIs. Is this just a prolonged slump to start off 2013 for the 30 year-old? Maybe, but prior to his 42-homer season, Encarnacion had just one season in his 7-year career with more than 25 home runs. Let’s not call 2012 a fluke quite yet, but the evidence is not favorable.

B.J. Upton:While his younger brother has thrived in his new digs, B.J. has been disappointing. B.J. is more of a base-running threat than a hitting threat as his five seasons with over 30 stolen bases can attest, but his .163 batting average through his first eleven games as an Atlanta Brave is lower than usual. In fact, he has struck out 14 times and recorded a hit just seven times in 43 at-bats – hardly a winning combination. Still, B.J. has managed to swipe three bags already, and he remains a threat in the lineup.

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