If there’s one thing prudent baseball observers dread the most, it’s the inevitable sweeping analysis—for better or worse—based on a small sample size (SSS). But even though the 2014 baseball season is still in its infancy, there are a variety of players enjoying surprising Aprils that could realistically enjoy fruitful 2014 seasons, too.
When catchers prove to be more than just a guy who can receive pitches, it’s hard for fans to not fall head over heels. And in Josmil Pinto’s case, the backstop has upped the ante by producing as such at the tender age of 25.
The Minnesota Twins’ prospect initially made the team as Kurt Suzuki‘s backup, but quickly surpassed the light-hitting veteran by April 10. Over 79 plate appearances, Pinto has posted a park-adjusted 150 OPS+, 21.5 percent walk rate and five home runs.
And even though SB Nation’s John Sickels labeled Pinto’s glove as “so-so” prior to the season, Sickels also concluded “[his] bat will play.” To date, that has certainly been the case.
When the Chicago White Sox handed Jose Abreu a six-year, $68 million deal this past offseason, some scouts weren’t entirely convinced that the Cuban would be a success in the major leagues.
In fact, according to Baseball America’s Ben Badler on October 18, 2013:
While Abreu’s power is unquestioned, the scouting community is split over whether his power will translate against major league pitching. Some scouts consider his bat speed to be only average at best, which combined with the way his hitting mechanics have him crowd the plate and cut himself off, has left him vulnerable to good fastballs on the inner third of the plate. Some scouts have also noted a tendency to chase hard sliders off the plate.
Needless to say, the 27-year-old has already made his contact look like the biggest offseason bargain. Abreu has hit to the tune of a park-adjusted 155 OPS+, 10 home runs, 32 RBI and a 7.0 percent walk rate.
The slugger’s 24.3 percent strikeout rate is a bit worrisome—and as is his eclectic zone profile—but as long as he keeps clearing the fence, there should be few complaints in Chicago.
After the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Alexander Guerrero to a four-year, $28 million deal, most folks in la-la land assumed the Cuban import would make an immediate impact at second base.
But the Dodgers felt their new middle infielder could use a little minor league seasoning—which paved the way for Dee Gordon to prove his value.
Despite owning a pedestrian career park-adjusted 72 OPS+ and 5.5 percent walk rate, Gordon has seemed to put it all together in 2014. Gordon has posted a 141 OPS+, 13 stolen bases and a .344 batting average over his first 96 plate appearances.
Gordon’s incredibly high .385 BABIP likely means his Ted Williams-esque batting average will take a hit. But as long as the infielder has a starting job, there’s a good chance he’ll contend for the stolen base title in the National League.