|Jon Niese (center) opens his season by taking a no-hitter into the seventh for the Mets. (Getty Images)|
Each Monday, after a week of play and of scouring the major leagues for the best information, Jon Heyman passes along tips on whose stock up and whose is on the decline.
1. New York Mets: The Metropolitans entered the season with zero expectations off a spring in which the guy with valley fever (Ike Davis) appeared to be the healthy one. Yet they started with a sweep of the archrival Braves in which they dominated three straight games. The face of the Mets, David Wright, who has to be heartened to finally see reasonable dimensions at Citi Field after the fences were pulled in to human distances, started the season 6 for 9 with three walks. Power-hitting prospect Lucas Duda, who finished strong last season, excited the faithful with a two-homer game. Jon Niese, fresh off his new $25.5 million deal and pitching a real game with his new nose for the first time, took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. And perhaps best of all, Johan Santana pitched like an ace, throwing five shutout innings 18 months after returning from shoulder surgery.
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2. Jered Weaver: The Angels ace pitched a brilliant game, outdueling Royals ace Bruce Chen and becoming only the third pitcher this century to throw at least eight scoreless innings with at least 10 strikeouts and no walks on opening day. (According to Elias, Bob Gibson threw nine innings and struck out 13 in 1967 and Chris Short threw nine and struck out 10 in 1968.) Weaver signed last summer for $85 million over five years in what one competing GM said "might be one of the most club-friendly contracts." Weaver knew he was giving up some money to stay with his hometown team (he's from Simi Valley), but it became more apparent when the Giants' Matt Cain signed for $112.5 million over five years just before opening day. Angels powers suggested to him he might find himself on the trading block if he didn't take the deal, so he did. If he's bothered by it, it isn't showing.
3. Miguel Cabrera: Adjusting to third base isn't going to affect his offense one iota. Playing three games against Boston's top three starters, Cabrera finished with a 1.806 OPS, second only to Nick Markakis of Baltimore, who has a 2.101 mark. Cabrera volunteered for third this winter to allow the Tigers to sign top free agent Prince Fielder, and the result is that the Tigers are a popular choice to win the World Series. Their attack was relentless in spring training, and it has started that way in the regular season too.
1. Boston Red Sox/Atlanta Braves: Hard to say which one of 2011's collapse teams started worse, but the Red Sox certainly had the more heartbreaking beginning, with two walk-off defeats to Detroit sandwiching a 10-0 whitewashing. The bullpen has big questions already; Mark Melancon and Alfredo Aceves are off to troubling starts in place of Andrew Bailey, who was signed after Jonathan Papelbon went to the Phillies. But star starters Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz weren't any better. New manager Bobby Valentine said Becket suffered only a psychological bruising after allowing five home runs, and Buchholz couldn't feel much better after pitching to a neat 2.50 WHIP in his return engagement after missing the collapse with back trouble. The Braves' collapse was far less chronicled, but probably no less painful. And they returned with a simply dreadful offensive beginning, getting outhit 31-14 in a sweep at the hands of the Mets, normally their prime patsy. Mets killer Chipper Jones isn't yet available after spring knee surgery, and none of the starters filled the void. The only Brave hitting above .250 is Eric Hinske, who was 1 for 2 in the inaugural series.
2. Alex Gordon: Fresh off a $37 million, four-year deal that kept the late-blooming star in Kansas City, Gordon began 0 for 13 with six strikeouts vs. the Angels. To be fair, he mostly faced the top of the Angels' vaunted pitching rotation (though his teammates didn't seem to hit so badly). Gordon is going to have to duplicate his career best output of 22 home runs, 87 RBI and a .303 batting average to make that contract appear appropriate, and he didn't help himself by beginning like this.
3. Colby Rasmus: Everybody applauded when the Blue Jays acquired this former wunderkind for mostly a bunch of relievers and much-traveled starter Edwin Jackson at the trade deadline (and by the way, those pitchers helped the Cardinals win the World Series last year), but so far the idea of Rasmus has been a lot better than the reality of Rasmus. After hitting a weak .173 in 34 games last year with Toronto, he has begun miserably -- the ultra-talented Rasmus is 1-for-15. Fortunately for him, the Jays started with a series victory in Cleveland and hardly anyone noticed.