Earlier on Wednesday, I wrote about five players I'm starting to get at least a little bit worried about a week into the Fantasy Baseball season, a list that featured Chris Paddack, Keston Hiura, Cavan Biggio, Corey Kluber, and James Karinchak. I'm not panicking about any of them after just a handful of games, but there are at least some warning signs to be aware of with each.
However, I don't like being pessimistic. Especially not this early in the season. It's still spring, after all, and that's a time for optimism. Paddack could fix his fastball in his next start and make a Cy Young run and Hiura could hit three homers in his next game. I hope they do. I want every player to succeed.
And I want to write about players who are succeeding. So, in response to the list of five with warning signs, here's a list of five hitters and five pitchers worth getting excited about so far:
Five hitters worth getting excited about
Tigers OF Akil Baddoo
You have to think Baddoo's lack of experience will catch up to him at some point, but for a former third-round pick who has never played above Class A, the most important thing for me to see is that the skills fit. He's squaring the ball up consistently and already has a max exit velocity of 107.9 mph -- not an elite number, but not far off from what Nick Castellanos maxed out at last season (108.5).
I expect major-league pitchers will start to identify the holes in Baddoo's game before long, but he actually had pretty good plate discipline while being very young for his level in the minors, so maybe he'll be OK. The tools are major-league caliber, for sure, and there's enough athleticism here for 20-plus steals, which makes him worth a look in any Roto league deeper than 12 teams.
Twins OF Byron Buxton
Make your jokes about Buxton getting hurt if you want, but he's reminded us of his absolutely elite skill set so far, with four batted balls with an exit velocity of at least 95 mph in four games, including a new career high max exit velocity of 114.1 mph.
Buxton has developed into a legitimate power threat over the last few seasons, and he's going to be a must-start player in every category-based league for as long as he's in the lineup. And, speaking of which: He was moved up to the No. 5 spot in the lineup Wednesday, so maybe volume won't be an issue like we feared.
Angels DH Shohei Ohtani
As with Buxton, this is mostly about Ohtani reminding us that he has the tools to be an Fantasy superstar. However, it's also about Ohtani appearing in every game for the Angels as a hitter while starting five of six.
He looked like he was still knocking off the rust in his first start as a pitcher, but he's 6 for 20 in the early going with two homers and two steals, and if he's starting five of every six games, he legitimately could be a 30-homer, 20-steal guy -- in addition to looking like a potential ace on the pitching side if he gets his command back to where it once was.
Marlins 2B Jazz Chisholm
Chisholm looked a bit overmatched in his first taste of the majors, striking out 19 times in 62 plate appearances in 2020. It's too early to say if the strikeouts will be an issue in 2021, but he impressed in spring training and has put on a bit of a show so far, sporting a 91.7 mph average exit velocity and especially showing off his athleticism.
Chisholm stole second and third base back to back in Saturday's game against the Rays. He averaged 23.3 steals per-150 games in the minors, and that skill set is always worth getting excited about nowadays.
Reds 2B Jonathan India
India doesn't have the loud tools of the other guys on this list, but the start to his MLB career has been a pretty promising one. He ranks in the 83rd percentile in max exit velocity so far this season, and he's been making pretty solid contact so far overall.
With India, you're hoping he can be a 15-15 guy with a solid batting average, and he's shown signs of that kind of talent so far.
Five pitchers worth getting excited about
Rays SP Tyler Glasnow
I'll admit, I wasn't high on Glasnow coming into the season. And, while I still have questions about how many innings he'll ultimately be able to throw, it looks pretty stupid to be skeptical about him right now.
Glasnow has 15 strikeouts to just two walks in 12 innings, and he's done it largely on the strength of a brand new pitch, a slider he introduced this spring. Rather than work it in slowly, he has thrown it 34.5% of the time through his first two starts, with his curveball usage dropping to 10.9%. What's amazing about this is that the curveball used to be Glasnow's biggest weapon, and there's no reason to think it's lost any effectiveness. It's kind of scary to think about Glasnow being able to go back to that pitch if he doesn't have the fastball or slider in a given game.
I moved Glasnow up to No. 15 in my SP ranks yesterday, and he'd be even higher if you could guarantee me 180 innings.
Marlins SP Sandy Alcantara
I liked Alcantara as a breakout candidate coming into the season, and if he was going to break out, it would sure look a lot like what he's down through his first two starts. Alcantara is throwing even harder than ever before, and he's so far done it without sacrificing control. He sported a career-best 8.7% walk rate in 2020, and he's at 8.3% right now. And he's doing that while generating a ton of swinging strikes, especially with his four-seam fastball, which he's doing an excellent job of throwing up in the zone.
The command is the biggest question for Alcantara, and it's way too early to say whether he can sustain this, but if Alcantara were breaking out, this is exactly what it would look like.
Brewers SP Corbin Burnes
You were probably already plenty excited about Burnes after his breakout 2020, and he's looked completely unhittable early on. Not literally, but ... almost. He has a 52.4% strikeout rate through two starts with zero walks.
After introducing his cutter in 2020, Burnes has used it as his primary pitch so far, with a whopping 48.3% usage rate so far. But here's the thing: He's throwing his cutter harder than he threw his fastball last season. Let me repeat that: Corbin Burnes, who averaged 96.0 mph with his fastball last season, is now throwing a cutter harder (96.3). It's a pitch he can throw for strikes or to generate weak contact, but he can also use it as a putaway pitch.
I don't know if he'll keep this usage up, but how could you not be excited right now? Well, I suppose you could be a hitter with Burnes on the schedule coming up.
Mariners SP Yusei Kikuchi
I liked Kikuchi as a sleeper this season based on his much-improved peripherals from 2020, and his first start of the season was just a thing of beauty. He largely mirrored last season's usage patterns and velocity, though he notably threw his cutter with a bit less velocity and a bit more movement, a sign he may be looking to use it as more of a swing-and-miss pitch. He had a huge 40% called-plus-swinging-strike rate in the start and struck out 10 while walking just one in his six innings.
Kikuchi is a more talented pitcher than many give him credit for, and this could be the start of a big year.
Cubs RP Craig Kimbrel
Before we started drafting, I had identified Kimbrel as someone I would want a lot of exposure to, just because he seemed like such an obvious bounceback candidate. And then he went out in spring training and gave up nine runs in his first three outings and I got scared off. Even though he finished the spring with four scoreless innings that featured five strikeouts and only one walk.
I got spooked, and that's looking like a big overreaction. He's yet to allow a walk or a hit in three appearances, with six strikeouts in three innings. Maybe Kimbrel implodes in his next outing, but it really feels like I should have stuck with my initial reaction -- and those of you who weren't too scared to draft him at a discount look pretty smart right now.