Some notes from the first week of MLB action, including Blackmon, Solarte, Bonifacio, Belt, Eovaldi, K-Rod and more.
Charlie Blackmon, CF, Colorado - A 27-year-old who just surpassed 500 career plate appearances, Blackmon hit .309 with an .803 OPS in 82 games last season, and has opened this year with 13 hits in 24 at-bats (.542). As long as he hits, and a minor-league batting average of .309 with an .843 OPS in 2222 plate appearances is an indication that is a possibility, then Blackmon should stay ahead of Drew Stubbs in the Rockies' outfield rotation.
Josh Hamilton, LF, L.A. Angels of Anaheim - After last season's flameout, Hamilton is an interesting rebound option in 2014. Remember, he's one season removed from 43 homers, 128 RBI and 103 runs scored for Texas. In the crazy small sample of the first week, Hamilton has at least been showing a touch more plate discipline, with 12.5% swinging strikes his lowest rate since his rookie year in 2007.
Yangervis Solarte, 3B, N.Y. Yankees - 26-year-old rookie flew under the radar when the Yankees added veteran infielders Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts in the offseason, but Solarte hit .429, with a 1.061 OPS in the spring, hitting .282 with a .736 OPS at Triple-A over the past couple seasons. He's off to a nice start (8-for-17, .471 AVG, 1.232 OPS) for the Yankees; certainly fortunate with a .500 batting average on balls in play, but also making a lot of contact, with only 2.7% swinging strikes.
Chris Colabello, DH, Minnesota - The 30-year-old DH had his first major league plate appearances last year, when he hits .194 with a .631 OPS in 181 plate appearances for the Twins, but he mashed in the minors (24 HR, .352 AVG, 1.066 OPS in 89 GP at AAA last year) and is off to a strong start this year, leading the American League with 11 RBI while hitting .391 with a 1.112 OPS. He's been more fortunate (.500 BABIP) than can be expected, but Colabello also has higher line-drive and flyball rate, with a lower groundball and infield flyball rate compared to last season.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston - Coming into the year as the leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year, 21-year-old Bogaerts hasn't done anything to slow down that talk, hitting .381 with a .956 OPS, hitting fifth in the Red Sox lineup.
Emilio Bonifacio, CF, Chicago Cubs - It's a wonder that a player with a .628 OPS over the previous two seasons would be playing regularly, but such is the situation with the Cubs, and 28-year-old Bonifacio is off to a blazing start, hitting .500 with a 1.120 OPS and tied for the MLB lead with four steals. Bonifacio has always been valuable on the bases, stealing 98 bases on 120 attempts (81.7%) in the previous three seasons, but he hasn't always been able to hit enough to hold down an everyday job.
Mark Trumbo, LF, Arizona - Over the last three years, four players -- Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, Jose Bautista and Jay Bruce -- have hit more home runs than Trumbo's 95, and he's crushed five in nine games to start the year. Trumbo, whose outfield defence is not a strength, is hitting enough that he won't have any concerns over playing time.
Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco - The progress has been steady, if sometimes slow, for the 25-year-old first baseman, but Belt has mashed four home runs early. Not to rain on his parade, since Belt is a nice breakout candidate, but he's been unusually aggressive at the plate early, seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance (3.65) than his standard (3.96 for his career) and hasn't walked once in 31 plate appearances.
Yovani Gallardo, RHP, Milwaukee - Responsible for murdering fantasy teams (including one of my own) last season, when he had a career-high 4.18 ERA, Gallardo emerged unscathed from his first two starts. Don't get too carried away with the praise, however, as his strikeout rate (seven in 12 2/3 IP) is way low and he's been fortunate enough to strand every runner that's reached base against him.
Nate Eovaldi, RHP, Miami - A 3.46 ERA in two starts is nice for the 24-year-old, but there are more promising results in underlying numbers. For one thing, Eovaldi has been a hard thrower who struggled to miss bats in the past and his average fastball is still up near 96 MPH, but he's missed more bats, and his 14 strikeouts in 13 innings (9.7 K/9) is far better than the 179 strikeouts in 260 1/3 innings (6.4 K/9) to start his career.
Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, Milwaukee - The 32-year-old received the early closing opportunities for the Brewers, while they waited for Jim Henderson to find his form. Even without great velocity, K-Rod has six strikeouts in three innings, with a couple of saves, so it's not like the Brewers figure to be rushing him out of the role.
Pedro Strop, RHP, Chicago Cubs - A 28-year-old journeyman with four career saves entering the year, Strop is pushing Jose Veras, who has six walks in 1 2/3 innings, for the closer's role with the Cubs. Strop throws hard enough, though he's been slider-heavy in the early going this year.
Jose Valverde, RHP, N.Y. Mets - With word that Bobby Parnell is undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Mets' closer role is open for 36-year-old Valverde, who busted out of the role in Detroit last season after allowing six home runs in 19 1/3 IP. With six strikeouts in 3 1/3 IP, Valverde is off to a good start in that spot, but has spent a career walking the high wire as a closer who rarely makes it look easy.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.