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What we realized in MLB this week: The Rays are for actual

Every Thursday, Jordan Shusterman takes a look at one thing from each MLB division that we’ve learned from the past week of action. Two weeks down, a little more than 24 to go in the 2023 regular season, and we’re all starting to settle into this new era of Major League Baseball. It’s one that’s been

What we realized in MLB this week: The Rays are for actual

Each Thursday, Jordan Shusterman takes a have a look at one factor from every MLB division that we’ve realized from the previous week of motion. 

Two weeks down, just a little greater than 24 to go within the 2023 common season, and we’re all beginning to settle into this new period of Major League Baseball. It is one which’s been shortly outlined by the sport’s three new guidelines which have sped video games up considerably, elevated stolen base makes an attempt and altered the best way groups play protection. As a fan, it’s all begun to really feel regular sooner than anticipated and the shortage of pitch-timer violations particularly recommend gamers are adjusting shortly, as effectively. 

Past the brand new guidelines, what — and who — else has stood out within the early going? Let’s dig into what we realized from Week 2. 

AL East: Rays are contenders, schedule be damned

Did the Rays open their season by taking part in the three groups who very effectively might end the 12 months with the three worst data in MLB? Sure, they did. Did additionally they dominate these groups to a historic diploma and observe up a 9-0 begin with a four-game sweep of division rival Boston to tie the post-1900 MLB file for consecutive wins to open a season? Sure, they certain did!

A 13-0 file is a 13-0 file. Heck, 12-1 is 12-1! It’s not possible to shrug off a begin like this, not simply because the Rays are nonetheless unbeaten but additionally as a result of it’s April 13 and so they have already got a five-game lead within the gauntlet that’s the AL East. Any quantity of cushion the Rays can construct towards their divisional foes this early ought to be thought-about an incredible accomplishment. Plus, the person performances up and down the roster clearly again up the gaudy file. Brandon Lowe is wholesome and again in All-Star type, Wander Franco appears able to make his first All-Star recreation, and Randy Arozarena is doing postseason Randy Arozarena issues within the common season. On the pitching facet, Shane McClanahan continues to inform hitters to sit down down (respectfully), whereas Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen have allowed one run in 29 mixed innings. And what a luxurious to have your large free-agent signing Zach Eflin hit the IL, forcing you to name up top-of-the-line pitching prospects in baseball in Taj Bradley, who debuted on Wednesday and struck out eight whereas permitting three runs over 5 innings. 

Randy Arozarena LAUNCHES 3-run house run versus Pink Sox

The Rays is not going to go undefeated in 2023. You possibly can quote me on that. Nevertheless it’d be silly to dismiss this sizzling begin as totally meaningless in our grand understanding of simply how good this group is and might be transferring ahead. They belong within the dialog of official contenders within the AL, not only for their file, however for a way they’ve amassed it. 

AL Central: Twins’ pitching is headliner for as soon as

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Rewind 4 years to the juiced ball extravaganza that was the 2019 season and recall a Twins group that earned the “Bomba Squad” moniker for his or her MLB file 307 dingers within the common season. House runs have been their factor, although it didn’t result in any postseason success regardless of 101 regular-season wins and an AL Central title due to a troublingly underwhelming pitching workers that promptly acquired torched within the ALDS by the Yankees

It’s nonetheless early, after all, however we might must work on a brand new pitching-focused nickname for this 12 months’s Twins group that at present ranks eleventh in MLB in homers (11) and a outstanding second in ERA (2.50). Maybe much more stunning is Minnesota rating fourth in strikeout rate (10.25). Even after they’ve had competent pitching staffs lately, you’d nearly by no means affiliate Twins pitching with nasty bat-missing stuff, however up to now, they’ve been racking up the whiffs with ease with all 5 beginning pitchers averaging not less than one strikeout per inning. Offseason addition Pablo López has been splendid and Kenta Maeda hardly appears rusty getting back from Tommy John. The bullpen depth behind Jhoan Duran and Jorge López stays sketchy, however this pitching workers seems to be extra than simply improved from final season — it’d simply be actually good.  

Michael A. Taylor smacks first homer for Twins to seize lead over White Sox

AL West: No one’s elite …

And even near it. With the Astros coming off a World Collection title, the Mariners attempting to hold the momentum from snapping a protracted postseason drought, and two groups within the Rangers and Angels determined to return to rivalry for quite a lot of causes, the AL West was primed to be a hard-fought battle in 2023. To date, yow will discover each silver linings and severe issues throughout the 4 postseason chasers, whereas rebuilding Oakland has seemed nearly as tough as anticipated. 

Whereas the defending champion Astros might have entered the season because the clear favourite, the departure of Justin Verlander and the damaged thumb of José Altuve left this roster wanting a tad much less intimidating. Yordan Álvarez appears each bit as dominant as he did final October and Kyle Tucker isn’t far behind, however gradual begins from free-agent acquisition José Abreu and third base stalwart Alex Bregman have this lineup treading water. The pitching, in the meantime, has been extra strong than spectacular. Seattle has uncharacteristically struggled in shut video games and has already suffered two key pitching accidents to Robbie Ray and Andrés Muñoz. On a constructive word, Luis Castillo appears like a Cy Younger candidate and Jarred Kelenic might lastly be figuring issues out. Texas at present sits in first place resulting from stellar run prevention, however hasn’t gotten constant offense from these not named Corey Seager (who’s now on the shelf for at least four weeks) and is enduring yet one more frigid begin from Marcus Semien à la 2022. After which there’s the Angels, wanting oh-so-much just like the Angels we’ve come to know all too effectively: Mike Trout appears wonderful, Shohei Ohtani appears wonderful, and so they’ve nonetheless already had a number of maddening losses that make it tough to belief that this 12 months shall be any completely different than each different 12 months. The excellent news is that their 7-5 file continues to be proper in step with the remainder of their division rivals — for now, anyway. 

All of which is to say: It might be some time earlier than a transparent favourite emerges right here. It’s gonna take rather a lot for me to guess towards Houston, however this might be a captivating race to watch. 

Shohei Ohtani racks up six strikeouts in Angels’ 2-0 win over Nationals

NL East: Phillies “Daycare” rising up quick

Earlier than the Bryce Harper heroics in October, one of many largest storylines of Philadelphia’s magical 2022 season was the group of younger gamers referred to as the “Phillies Daycare” that infused a particular form of power into the veteran-laden roster. Two of these gamers, Matt Vierling and Nick Maton, are now not round, having been shipped off to Detroit in a commerce for reliever Gregory Soto that doesn’t look significantly good as issues stand. However the three key remaining Daycare members in Bryson Stott, Alec Bohm and Brandon Marsh have every been scorching sizzling on the plate to start out the season, which has confirmed essential within the absence of Harper and Rhys Hoskins.

Bohm was essentially the most established of the bunch, having at all times hit the ball exhausting since his 2020 call-up, albeit not often within the air the place goals of SLG% are manufactured from. However Bohm is already at three homers — that features an reversearea blast towards Jacob deGrom on Opening Day — a mark he didn’t attain till Could 21 final season. Stott’s uncooked numbers in his 2022 rookie marketing campaign didn’t match the attention take a look at, which hinted at a participant with superior contact means and plate self-discipline that far exceeded his expertise stage. His 21 hits lead not solely the Phillies however rank third in baseball. It’s been a improbable begin for the sophomore second basemen upon sliding over from shortstop to make room for Trea Turner, who has but to warmth up after his epic displaying within the WBC. Marsh’s eye-popping 1.280 OPS is by far essentially the most beautiful improvement amongst this trio. The commerce of Vierling may need hinted at better confidence in Marsh’s bat on an on a regular basis foundation, and it’s paid off outrageously effectively up to now. A model of Marsh that performs plus protection in heart area whereas hitting at a league-average price towards righties is a strong participant. A model of Marsh that’s slugging .839??? That’s, uh, greater than a strong participant. I’d nonetheless guess on the Phillies hiding him towards southpaws as a lot as doable, however that is one hell of a begin and an enormous boon for the lineup awaiting Harper’s return and veterans J.T. Realmuto and Kyle Schwarber to warmth up.

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NL Central: Brewers’ rookie trio is sweet and enjoyable

Whereas Bohm, Stott and Marsh have all graduated from prospect standing lately, one other trio of thrilling NL rookies has arrived that could be having the same influence on a group seeking an offensive spark. Twenty-four-year-old Garrett Mitchell (first-round decide in 2020), 23-year-old Brice Turang (first-round decide in 2018) and 24-year-old Joey Wiemer (fourth-round decide in 2020) have infused a contemporary mix of energy and pace that the again half of the Brew Crew lineup has sorely lacked lately. Outdoors of an incredibly sizzling begin from veteran Brian Anderson and star shortstop Willy Adames, Mitchell has been Milwaukee’s best bat. Like Bohm, oddly sufficient, the rap on Mitchell since his time at UCLA has been his means to actualize sizable uncooked energy into extra-base manufacturing slightly than pounding the ball into the bottom, and he appears to be beginning to just do that. Turang gained the Opening Day second base job after the offseason commerce of Kolten Wong and has seemed a lot comfy on each side of the ball, and initiatives as a J.P. Crawford-style OBP-heavy infielder with a plus glove. Wiemer is extra of a wild card as an ultra-athletic, freakishly robust outfielder who appears like he might be Milwaukee’s model of Tyler O’Neill (in a great way), however might want to handle the strikeouts to proceed getting on a regular basis taking part in time. None of those guys have been essentially the sexiest names on prospect lists coming into the season, however their contributions so far have undoubtedly helped gasoline Milwaukee’s 8-4 begin. 

NL West: Perhaps Padres did need Xander Bogaerts

Not that including superior gamers is ever a foul concept, however the Padres signing of Bogaerts regardless of already using a horde of proficient infielders appeared curious on its face. But whereas we proceed to await the return of Fernando Tatís Jr., and amid oddly chilly begins for each Manny Machado and Juan Soto, Bogaerts has been precisely what San Diego wanted. The X-Man leads the group in hits, homers and RBI and has the “Xan Diego” tweets flying with reckless abandon, and deservedly so. It’s nearly exhausting to consider how regular he already appears within the brown and gold after spending his complete profession in Boston (and I apologize to Pink Sox followers for saying that), however he actually has slot in splendidly. Tatís’ return is only a week away, however his transition to the outfield already makes much more sense with Bogaerts excelling in all phases because the shortstop.

Xander Bogaerts sends a two-run homer to deep left area to offer the Padres a 4-1 lead vs. Mets

San Diego Padres’ Xander Bogaerts smashed a two-run house run and prolonged their lead 4-1 over the New York Mets.

Jordan Shusterman is half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball author for FOX Sports activities. He has lined baseball for his whole grownup life, most notably for, DAZN and The Ringer. He is a Mariners fan dwelling within the Jap Time Zone, which implies he loves a superb 10 p.m. first pitch. You possibly can observe him on Twitter @j_shusterman_. 

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