*All stats are up to date as of Saturday, April 15th*
Baseball is finally here, and with that, overreactions over 2023’s MLB action so far have been circulating everywhere. Every fanbase has its own hot takes and very-out-there opinions on what’s been happening in America’s pastime, so let’s take a look at three I’ve noticed from April’s MLB action so far.
3 Overreactions from MLB Action through mid-April
1. The Tampa Bay Rays are a top-three World Series contender
No team had won 13 straight games in a row to open the MLB season since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers until the 2023 Tampa Bay Rays. They’ve gotten off to a blistering start, with every starter on their team having an OPS+ above 115 except Manuel Margot. Power has come from throughout the order, with every starting Ray having multiple home runs. Brandon Lowe and Wander Franco have been the big names for Tampa Bay, with the former hitting for a .333/.447/.744 slash line and Franco slashing .339/.379/.661 with a tied-for-second-in-MLB 8 doubles in his first full season of MLB action.
That’s not even to mention the pitching side of things, where Jeffrey Springs has an astounding 773 ERA+, allowing one run across 16 innings so far. Shane McClanahan and Drew Rasmussen have been that 1-2 punch that was expected of them, with only three and five runs allowed across their starts, and the bullpen has been lights-out as well.
Even with their amazing start, I think it’s way too early to call them a bonafide World Series contender until they prove it on a bigger stage. Sure, you can only beat the teams in front of you, but they played the Detroit Tigers, Washington Nationals, Oakland A’s, and Boston Red Sox during their run, and now have lost a series to the Toronto Blue Jays. They have the pieces to make a deep run in October, but right now I wouldn’t even call them my AL East favorites.
2. The St. Louis Cardinals are going to miss the playoffs
I made it a point to note in my last article that the St. Louis Cardinals had the most players participating in the World Baseball Classic, and thus would come out of the gates hot with their players used to high-intensity situations. That hasn’t happened in the MLB action we’ve seen so far.
St. Louis is 7-9 after their first 16 games, fresh off a series split at home to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The most worrying part about their early-season skid is that Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado have shown up, posting a 132 OPS+ and hitting above .325 each. Offseason acquisition Willson Contreras has largely been a disappointment so far, hitting only .174 with eight hits and 10 strikeouts in 2023’s MLB action.
However, their lineup hasn’t been their main problem by a long shot this year. Jordan Montgomery, formerly of the New York Yankees, has been their only legitimately good starter this year, with a 2.45 ERA and a 2.33 FIP. Steven Matz has gotten results with his 1.76 ERA, but his FIP is 5.11, indicating he’s been below average but hasn’t been punished yet. The other three starters have posted ERA+s of 66, 42, and 76, with FIP all well above 5.0. Currently last in the NL Central, I’d feel comfortable betting against the Cards to sneak in the playoffs in 2023’s MLB action.
Verdict: Not an Overreaction
3. The Pablo Lopez–Luis Arraez trade was a win-win
Many people around baseball were stunned when the Minnesota Twins shipped out the All-Star and AL batting champ Luis Arraez to the Miami Marlins in exchange for starter Pablo Lopez and two teenage prospects. So far, that deal looks like it’s paying dividends for each side.
Lopez has been magnificent for Minnesota, pitching to a 1.35 ERA through 20 innings before having his worst start of the season against the Yankees in Sunday’s MLB action, in which he pitched beautifully, allowing only two runs over six innings but getting outshined by a complete game shutout from Gerrit Cole. Maybe more importantly for the future, his FIP is down to 2.32, a full one-and-a-half points lower than in 2022, showing that this outcome could be sustainable across all of 2023.
Arraez has kept doing his thing in Miami, hitting an absurd .511 to lead the majors along with a 243 OPS+, while also remaining a league-average fielder at second base, with 1.0 DRS and -1 OAA. He’s provided new life to the heart of the Marlins order, sliding into the three spot in the order and getting on base for the big boppers behind him like Jorge Soler and Yuli Gurriel.
Despite the good starts from Arraez and Lopez, it’s impossible to tell the outcome of this trade yet, even if they keep producing as they have. Lopez is only under team control until 2024, with Arraez hitting FA only a year later in 2025. Any potential extensions or contracts signed somewhere else could affect the outcome of this deal, not even to mention the two prospects the Twins got that could develop. Although, as of right now, I’m cautiously optimistic that this will end up a good deal for both sides.
Verdict: Too early to tell
Main Image: Paul Halfacre-USA TODAY Sports