If it was only for the five hits he collected in his third career game Sunday, I wouldn't be so keen on adding Steven Kwan. Remember Yermin Mercedes? He went 5 for 5 in his second career game (first of the season) last year, and we all know how that turned out.
Yes, for any unexpected performance this early in the season, the usual sample-size caveats apply. What's different in Kwan's case is that it may not be so unexpected.
Let's start by reviewing the minor-league numbers. They're what first put him on my radar. The strikeout-to-walk ratio alone seemed like evidence he could hit:
And hit he went on to do this spring, going 15 for 32 (.469) with two doubles to claim a job on the major-league roster. Granted, most on the Guardians beat weren't offering any assurances of playing time, but by now, it's clear manager Terry Francona had everyday duty in mind. The clincher was when he batted Kwan second against a same-handed pitcher (lefty) Sunday, and well, it obviously turned out OK.
How did the previous two games go? Again, it's not just the 5-for-5 performance that speaks to Kwan's potential. In all, he has reached base 12 times in only 14 plate appearances. He's the first player to reach even 11 times in his first three games, much less 12. And here's the most impressive stat at all: in 48 plate appearances dating back to spring training, he has yet to strike out even once.
The man is going to hit for batting average. Of this I am certain.
But what else will he do? Looking at his minor-league track record, stolen bases are probably out, at least in any real quantity. His 12 home runs in 77 games last year were the first semblance of power. His exit velocity readings so far would suggest a 20-homer outcome is on the table, but because his swing is geared more for line drives and ground balls (judging by early launch angle readings), 12 to 15 might be a more reasonable projection.
It makes Kwan more of a potential standout for points leagues than 5x5 scoring, maybe something like Michael Brantley in his prime if all breaks right. Clearly, his current 21 percent roster rate in CBS Sports leagues should be at least triple what it is, though I wouldn't necessarily consider him the highest-priority pickup of all.
Let's consider some of the other possibilities ...
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Jeremy Pena SS
HOU Houston • #3 • Age: 24
Like Kwan, Jeremy Pena didn't exhibit much power in the minors prior to a small sample of at-bats last year, but he's genuinely smoked the ball so far in the majors, having already collected two doubles and a home run in four games after homering twice in eight games this spring. He may not be the most disciplined hitter and of course plays a deep position, but if you don't take a shot at his upside now, you may not get another chance.
Tylor Megill SP
NYM N.Y. Mets • #38 • Age: 26
The most stunning performance of opening day belonged to Tylor Megill, whose average fastball velocity was up 1.5 mph from a year ago, peaking at 99. With his 10 swinging strikes on 68 pitches -- a 14.7 percent rate that would have ranked among the league leaders last year -- the Nationals basically couldn't touch him. It was an eye-opening performance for a pitcher previously thought to have middling upside.
Jeff McNeil 2B
NYM N.Y. Mets • #1 • Age: 30
While teams have seen fit to give most of their players a day off already after an abbreviated spring training, the Mets have three exceptions. Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor may not surprise you, but even against a left-hander, even in the outfield if need be, they've prioritized Jeff McNeil's bat all the same. And he has so far delivered, even if six of the seven hits are singles, suggesting that maybe his struggles last year weren't all a product of the deadened ball. The track record is strong otherwise.
Joshua Lowe LF
TB Tampa Bay • #15 • Age: 24
Even though the Rays traded Austin Meadows to clear a spot for him on the opening day roster, it still seemed wise to temper expectations for Joshua Lowe, a left-handed hitter who had yet to gain a foothold for a team that loves to platoon. But he's started all three of their games, including against a left-hander, which means we're probably overthinking it. The 24-year-old has already demonstrated a keen batting eye and premium exit velocities in those three games after delivering 22 homers and 26 steals in the minors last year.
ARI Arizona • #29 • Age: 33
One of the more surprising pitching performances of the spring belonged to Merrill Kelly, a back-end type who struck out 13 while allowing just one hit in seven innings. He credited the performance to some changes he made to his changeup in the offseason, saying he wasn't satisfied with it the past few years, and while I'd generally dismiss such spring rosiness, fact is he did more of the same in his season debut. Of his 12 swinging strikes, seven came on the changeup, and his fastball was also up 1.5 mph.
MIA Miami • #55 • Age: 27
Manager Don Mattingly declared Anthony Bender his "go-to" for the ninth inning just before the season started, which is about as big of a proclamation as we ever get regarding the closer role these days, so I'm surprised the roster rate hasn't caught up to the news. Yes, we all expected Dylan Floro to get the first crack before he wound up on the IL, but Bender was actually the Marlins best reliever last year. If a team's best reliever is also known to have the job, then we should prioritize him over more-rostered relievers like Jake McGee, Matt Barnes and Joe Barlow.
Art Warren RP
CIN Cincinnati • #77 • Age: 29
Tony Santillan recorded the Reds' first save in impressive fashion on opening day, prompting speculation that he might be the team's first choice to close, but it's worth noting that he was already warming up when that game became a save situation. Meanwhile, Art Warren, whose numbers last year were definitively closer-caliber, was deliberately held back until a more conventional save chance developed Sunday, which he converted with aplomb. And who set up for him? Santillan, of course. Yup, the roles look clear to me.
Connor Joe LF
COL Colorado • #9 • Age: 29
Here's the hitter I'd be most inclined to pick up ahead of Kwan. My main concern for Connor Joe was how much he'd play given that few on the Rockies beat were offering assurances along those lines, but he's started each of his team's first three games, which is something few hitters can say. And of course, he's delivered so far. He's an on-base machine dating back to his time in the minors and offers enough pop to take advantage of Coors Field. Time will tell if he's also startable on the road.
Kyle Wright SP
ATL Atlanta • #30 • Age: 26
Kyle Wright has been on a nice run dating back to his final 12 starts in the minors last year, during which he put together a 2.11 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 9.2 K/9. What only became apparent during his 2022 debut, though, was how much his arsenal has changed. He's now throwing a curveball 40 percent of the time, and it's harder, up 3 mph from the previous iteration. That pitch was responsible for eight of his 12 swinging strikes, and if it continues in its effectiveness, the 26-year-old may finally live up to the potential that once made him the fifth pick in the 2017 draft.
Daniel Bard RP
COL Colorado • #52 • Age: 37
Even after bringing in longtime closer Alex Colome this offseason, the Rockies have still decided to give Daniel Bard another crack at the role, which tells you they think his meltdown last year was a fluke. The 36-year-old still has electric stuff, his fastball and slider both featuring plenty of spin, with the former touching 99 mph. He showed it in his first save chance Saturday, striking out the side ... at home ... against the Dodgers. Trust isn't the right word, but he's a verified closer with at least a reasonable chance of keeping the job.