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The first weekend of games are over, and none of it should have changed your opinion about any player so far. If you thought Walker Buehler was an ace, one start shouldn't have changed that; if you thought the Orioles would be the worst team in baseball, taking two of three from the Yankees shouldn't change that either.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be paying attention, either. Important things are happening right now, even if we may not be able to identify which early-season trends will ultimately end up mattering. You shouldn't change your opinion about a player, but you shouldn't just stick your head in the sand.
Here are 18 things I saw in the first four days of the season that stood out to me. Maybe they will turn out to be of no consequence, but I'll be keeping an eye on them moving forward. You should too.
(And let's just put an implied "So far" behind everything referenced here, so I don't have to keep repeating it. Thanks!)
Chris Paddack's dominance
My most anticipated debut of the weekend, and it did not disappoint. Paddack sat in the mid-90s with his fastball and racked up six swinging strikes on just 24 changeups. He struck out seven in his five innings and could have gone longer if not for a 10-pitch at-bat by Pablo Sandoval in his final inning. The one concern here will be a low pitch count, but if he's as effective as he was in his first start, that won't matter much.
Yoan Moncada crushing the ball
Byron Buxton (also) crushing the ball
We'll never give up on the kind of tools these guys bring to the table, and they showed us why this weekend. Buxton hit six of his eight batted balls over 95 mph, and all were hit in the air; Moncada averaged 96.8 mph on his batted balls as well. The tools are all there for a massive breakout from both.
The best part? Moncada swung and missed just five times on 47 pitches, while Buxton whiffed just three times on 28 pitches.
Trevor Bauer's changeup
A new addition to Bauer's ever-expanding arsenal, Bauer wasted no time in integrating it, throwing his changeup 25 times in his first start. That made it his most-used secondary pitch. And why not, as he picked up five of his 17 swinging strikes on the day with the pitch. Bauer struck out nine in seven one-run innings, after picking up 32 strikeouts in 28 innings during the spring. He threw his changeup more often Saturday than he did in any start in 2017.
Madison Bumgarner's cutter
When pitchers get older, they either adapt or they die. Bumgarner showed he knows he needs to adapt in his Opening Day start, which makes the nine-strikeout performance secondary to how he got there. Bumgarner's fastball just isn't anything special anymore, so maybe he just won't use it as a primary pitch anymore. He threw just 28 of them in his debut, compared to 39 cutters. The Padres' could be a whiff-heavy team this year, but Bumgarner's 16 swinging strikes were already more than he had in any start last year. He's adapting.
Christian Yelich hitting it in the air
Domingo Santana (also) hitting it in the air
With these two, there's no doubting the raw power, as they hit the ball out of the yard about as often as anyone when they put it in the air. I had Yelich as a regression candidate coming into the season based on last year's unreasonable HR/FB rate, but he's already hit seven fly balls through four games, 6.8 percent off his 2018 total. Yelich won't likely turn into an extreme flyball hitter, but if he can get that groundball rate below 50 percent moving forward, he's going to back up 2018's performance.
Santana's upside isn't quite as high as Yelich's, but it's still plenty high. He has tons of raw power and speed and is more than willing to take a walk. 15 of his 18 batted balls have been hit in the air so far in six games, compared to 60 in 85 last year. Again, it's too early to say, but a trend in this direction would be very promising for Santana.
Collin McHugh's slider
McHugh introduced a slider in 2017, and then refined it in 2018, turning it into another swing-and-miss offering while working in the bullpen. He's back in the rotation and used that slider as his primary pitch in his first outing, throwing 33 of them, picking up eight swing-and-misses with it. If he's going all Patrick Corbin on us, it'll be fascinating to see what the results might look like with Houston's coaching staff.
AJ Pollock dominating
It's not any one thing Pollock is doing right, necessarily – it's everything. He has seen 64 pitches so far and has swung-and-missed just once; he has a 97.2 mph average exit velocity; he is tied for the major-league lead with 10 balls hit over 95 mph; and he's still sporting an above-average sprint speed, per StatCast. I've argued all offseason that the version of Pollock we saw before his thumb injury was the real one, and that's who we've seen so far. An encouraging start.
Corbin Burnes' fastball
It's supposed to be tough to get swings and misses with a four-seam fastball, but Burnes got nine of them in his first start. He had trouble keeping the ball in the yard against the Cardinals, which could be a side effect of heavy fastball usage. However, he struck out 12 and walked just one, and showed he could sustain his stuff as a starter, after working exclusively as a reliever last season. The upside is high.
Pete Alonso looking the part
We can give Alonso a break for looking a bit overmatched on Opening Day, because … well, it was against Max Scherzer. However, he has a hit in each of the first three games, including three doubles overall. And he's done a pretty good job of making contact so far and was even clocked at 28.0 feet per second going first to third Sunday, above the MLB average. Alonso looks like he belongs.
Tyler Glasnow's command
Glasnow was tinkering with his delivery in the spring, and with eight walks in 13 innings, I'd be lying if I wasn't a bit worried. However, he had no such issues in his first outing, walking just one and mostly working in the strike zone. Given the quality of his stuff – including a fastball that hit 100 mph early in the outing – he's the kind of pitcher you want working in the strike zone. He tossed a couple of show-me changeups and sliders, and if he can get comfortable with either of those, it will just make him even harder to square up.
Yandy Diaz, everyday player
Diaz struggled to get consistent playing time with Cleveland last season, and there's wasn't a ton of excitement in Fantasy circles this spring, given a crowded Rays' infield. However, he started all four games, to open the season, batting first, fourth, and fifth in the order, and going 5 for 15 with a home run he absolutely crushed off Gerrit Cole Friday. If he's playing every day, Diaz needs to be owned, especially if the Rays can figure out how to tap into his raw power.
Pablo Lopez's three-pitch mix
Lopez showed solid skills in limited opportunities last year, sporting decent fastball velocity and plus swinging strike rates on both his changeup and curveball, and he looked even better in his debut against the Rockies Saturday. He got his fastball velocity up to 94.2 mph and recorded solid swinging strike rates on all three pitches, along with solid command of all three. He's not the only Marlins' pitcher worthy of your attention, but he just may be the best of them.
Trevor Richards' changeup
Like I said, Marlins' pitchers. They're a thing. Hype built up around them in the spring, and Lopez, Richards, and Sandy Alcantara all exceeded it during their first outings. Richards doesn't have quite the depth in his arsenal that Lopez does, but he does have a heck of a trump card – a changeup that ranks among the best in the game. At one point Friday, he fell behind 2-0 to Nolan Arenado, and then struck him out on three straight changeups in the strike zone. Arenado swung through them all. How many pitchers can do that?
Nomar Mazara crushing it
Like Moncada and Buxton, we're going to keep chasing Mazara's talent, because the flashes make it awfully hard to ignore. His issue has been a propensity to hit the ball on the ground too often, and while the early returns on that aren't super promising, this is: He hit the longest home run of the season so far, a 482-foot blast. It's enough to keep dreaming, especially since it came off a lefty.
Jake Odorizzi turning back the clock
Lucas Giolito looking the part
Both Odorizzi and Giolito spent the offseason working with high-tech tracking cameras to tweak their deliveries and pitch quality. In Odorizzi's case, it looks like that work paid off immediately, as he racked up an astonishing 15 swinging strikes with his fastball Saturday against the (admittedly weak) Indians. He worked almost exclusively up in the zone with the pitch, where he has found the most success in his career. Prior to 2018, Odorizzi had a 3.71 ERA over three seasons, and could be a solid Fantasy starter if he can back to those levels.
Giolito has never shown much in the majors since being one of the top pitching prospects in the game, but his fastball velocity was 2 mph on average higher than last April, so that's a start. Giolito's focus was on shortening his delivery, to improve command, while also getting back the life and bite on his fastball and breaking pitches. The curveball was still unimpressive in Sunday's outing, but he racked up four whiffs on 11 sliders, and added four more with his changeup. It was against another bad lineup in the Royals, but this was about as impressive an outing as we've seen from Giolito in the majors. It's something to build on for a guy most Fantasy players and analysts have likely given up on.