First, let's discuss what I mean by "keep it up." Matt Chapman entered Tuesday batting .475. His chances of sustaining that are precisely zero. Meanwhile, Bryan Reynolds entered Tuesday on pace for 81 homers, and there's no way that's happening either.
If we focus on the particulars instead of the general shape of the production, this discussion will be predictable and uninteresting. So don't be like that. Just, speaking generally, are these 10 hitters of the caliber we're seeing now? For each, I've rated the likelihood of him "keeping it up," with one being the least likely and 10 being the most likely.
And yes, it's a crying shame we can no longer discuss Adam Duvall because of his fractured wrist. He would have made for the most interesting case of all.
PIT Pittsburgh • #10 • Age: 28
No, Bryan Reynolds probably hasn't transformed into the best hitter in baseball, but I feel comfortable saying he'll probably be better than he was last year -- which was still good enough to make him the 80th player drafted on average, mind you. My confidence is in part because we've seen him be better before, in both 2019 and 2021. What he did in those years was limit his strikeouts and ground balls, as has been true so far this year to almost an exaggerated degree. Even playing for the lowly Pirates, his RBI and run totals were curiously low last year, and getting back to a .300 batting average would go a long way toward remedying that. If his failure to come to a long-term agreement results in him being traded at some point, even better.
TB Tampa Bay • #5 • Age: 22
There are several contradictions in Wander Franco's profile that make it hard to figure out what's going on with him, from the inconsistent exit velocities to the plummeting sprint speed, but two things he's doing decidedly better this year are elevating and barreling up the ball. It's not so illuminating to point it out, though. For him to have four home runs at this point, he'd basically have to. The point, though, is that if he were to live up to his potential as a hitter, this is what it would look like: more power production without compromising his natural contact skills. And there may be even more pressure on his bat now that his sprint speed is only ranking in the 32nd percentile.
SD San Diego • #2 • Age: 30
Xander Bogaerts was one of my preseason bust picks given the way his power production has declined since the league did away with the juiced ball. It seemed like Fenway Park was the only thing salvaging a 15-homer outcome for him last year, and a move to San Diego would likely drag him down further. So far, though, the ball is playing closer to how it did in 2016-18 than in 2022, which should help Bogaerts' power to play up (and has). What concerns me is that his average exit velocity remains highly suspect (38th percentile), so if some lower-drag balls make their way into the supply in the ensuing months (which seems likely given the inconsistencies we've seen the past two years), my fears could still come into play.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #25 • Age: 26
Gleyber Torres' hot start may have some validity to it, but it's a little too everything, everywhere, all at once. Him having two home runs already is right on point given that he had 24 last year, so no objections there. It's more the five steals and 10 walks compared to three strikeouts that raise an eyebrow. That walk-to-strikeout ratio is almost the exact reverse of what we normally see from him, and for established hitters, you're generally not going to see a massive change there. Expect him to be on base less and for his batting average to decline to something more modest. Could his new base-stealing prowess be legitimate, though? Look, it stands to reason certain players will take to the new rules designed to promote more base-stealing, and he's a reasonable enough choice.
Matt Chapman 3B
TOR Toronto • #26 • Age: 30
Matt Chapman has a lengthy track record of being one thing. Sometimes he's a better version of that thing, like in 2018 and 2019. Sometimes he's a lesser version of it, like in 2021 and last year. But that thing has always kept his batting average on the wrong side of .250. True, his strikeout rate is closer to 20 percent than 30 so far, which is more like it was during his good years, and there were reports this spring of him working with Bo Bichette to develop a two-strike approach. But it's also possible that players who impact the ball as hard as Chapman does sometimes just get really hot like this, as happened last July, when he hit .325 with nine homers. He went on to hit .196 the rest of the way.
James Outman CF
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #33 • Age: 26
James Outman is a player of extremes, and so far, we've only seen the good side of him, which makes it easy to come away with a rosy outlook. But nobody sustains a barrel rate of 30 percent, which is what he's delivered so far. Aaron Judge was a distant first last year at 26.5 percent, and the major-league average is like 7 percent. Outman won't be this locked-in forever, and at that point, his career 35 percent strikeout rate (small sample, true, but it was also just 26.5 percent in the minors) could become an albatross. The rookie also bats left-handed in an organization that platoons more than most, so it stands to reason he'll be out of the lineup a fair amount, even if he happened to start against the last lefty the Dodgers faced.
MIL Milwaukee • #9 • Age: 30
The case for a Brian Anderson breakout exists, but I had to dig so hard to find it that I feel like it would require actual magic to bring it to fruition. It goes like this: Anderson looked pretty good is his first two seasons, delivering exit velocities in the 75th and 64th percentile, but he was held back by the Marlins' imposing venue, reaching the 20-homer threshold only once, in 2019, the easiest year ever to hit 20 home runs. The years that followed were wrecked by injuries (namely to his shoulder than back), but now that he's healthy, out of Miami and delivering exit velocities in the 63rd percentile again, his best-case scenario in the same neighborhood as Jorge Polanco's. It's plausible, but as with Polanco, it wouldn't take much to topple the whole thing.
ATL Atlanta • #11 • Age: 29
Orlando Arcia's path has been anything but conventional. He came up as a 21-year-old riding a wave or prospect hype and then was basically done as a starter by age 26, cast aside for Willy Adames before being flipped to Atlanta, where he then served as more of a depth piece. He has yet to get full-time work since entering his prime, in other words, and while his claim to the starting shortstop job this spring was seen as mostly as procedural play, the Braves announced a long-term extension with him on Opening Day, with GM Alex Anthopoulos suddenly making overtures to his untapped offensive potential. And, well, Arcia has legitimately been making hard contact so far. I'm still filing this one under "long shot," but I'm keeping an open mind.
SD San Diego • #24 • Age: 32
With another three-hit performance Monday, Garrett Cooper has been a revelation in the early going, but is it actually reasonable to think the 32-year-old has turned over a new leaf? His exit velocities remaining middling, and his .368 batting average is far outpacing his .223 xBA. And actually, the batting average is the more sustainable of his contributions so far. He has always delivered a high line-drive rate, and last year snapped a three-year stretch with at least a .280 batting average. It didn't amount to much in Fantasy because he was constantly injured, and that would be the argument for him this year -- in short, he's healthy now. Still, he's never been much of a power hitter, entering 2023 with a career .440 slugging percentage.
Jorge Mateo SS
BAL Baltimore • #3 • Age: 28
I mean ... Jorge Mateo led the AL with 35 stolen bases last year, so if you're asking if he can sustain his current steals pace in the most stolen base-friendly environment we've seen in decades, the answer is yes ... provided he keeps his job. It's the hitting that seems like a poor bet to continue. Even with the success he's found at the plate so far, his Statcast page is all lit up in blue, much like last year. True, his strikeout rate is slightly improved, and he's putting the ball in the air less, which is probably for the best for someone with low quality-of-contact readings. None of these improvements are dramatic enough to think they'll stick over a larger sample, though, and we're still talking about a guy who reached base at a .267 clip last year.