Jorge Polanco Sets The Tone For Surging Twins (Three Up, Three Down)
Jorge Polanco, SS, Twins
The best record in baseball belongs to the Astros. Right behind them isn't the Dodgers, Yankees or Cubs. It's the Twins. Minnesota is 31-16 entering May 21, and while its pitching staff has received a lot of recent attention, it’s the Twins offense that actually ranks higher among its peers. The Twins are the second-highest scoring team in the majors this year at 5.6 runs per game and are hitting .269/.336/.502 as a team. Polanco has been the catalyst. The 25-year-old shortstop leads the American League in hits (60) and batting average (.335) while showing increased power hitting primarily out of the No. 2 spot in the order. He has already surpassed his career high in triples and is on pace to obliterate his career highs in doubles and home runs as well. A three-time Top 10 prospect in the Twins' system, Polanco has been steadily improving for years and now he's breaking out and setting the tone for the Twins' explosive offense.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Dodgers
How dominant has Ryu been? For starters, he’s currently on a 31-inning scoreless streak. He leads the National League in ERA (1.52), WHIP (0.74), walks per nine innings (0.6) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (14.75). But it goes back even farther. Since the start of 2018, Ryu has a 1.77 ERA with 148 strikeouts and 19 walks in 142.1 innings. He hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of his last 12 starts, and he has completed at least seven innings in five straight starts. Put simply, Ryu has been a Cy Young-caliber pitcher when healthy the last two seasons, and he is emerging as the top performer on a Dodgers staff that includes Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler.
Trey Mancini, 1B, Orioles
The rebuilding Orioles are 15-32 and in search of players they can build around. Mancini is solidifying his status as one of them. The two-time Orioles Top 10 prospect has rebounded from a sophomore slump and quietly emerged as one of the American League’s top offensive threats. He ranks third in the AL in total bases (103), third in doubles (15), eighth in runs scored (32) and overall owns a .303/.347/.560 slash line. Even with a recent mini-slump, he has a hit in nine of his last 11 games, including four home runs. While the O’s have a few potential keepers as they embark on the first full year of a rebuild, Mancini has emerged as a potential cornerstone.
Kyle Freeland, LHP, Rockies
Last year’s breakout pitcher battled a blister issue in April and has yet to find his stride. Entering Tuesday, Freeland owns the third-highest ERA among qualified major league starters (6.02). He has seen his hits allowed per nine innings, home runs allowed per nine and walks per nine all rise from last year, and his struggles have come both at home (7.36 ERA) and on the road (5.04). The Rockies have managed to hang around .500 even with their ace struggling, but a turnaround from Freeland would go a long way toward getting the team back to the postseason for the third straight year.
J.A. Happ, LHP, Yankees
Happ fortified the the Yankees' rotation down the stretch last year. This year has been a different story. The veteran lefty has struggled to keep the ball in park this season, with 13 home runs allowed in 52.1 innings for an unsightly 2.2 HR/9. Ten of the 13 home runs have come against his four-seam fastball, per Statcast, and the pitch is down just over one mph from last year. With his fastball getting crushed for a .701 slugging percentage, Happ owns a 5.16 ERA and has allowed multiple home runs in six of 10 starts.
Yonder Alonso, 1B, White Sox
The White Sox acquired Alonso in the offseason hoping he could complement Jose Abreu at first base and designated hitter. It hasn’t quite happened yet. Alonso has the third-lowest batting average (.183), 10th-lowest on-base percentage (.282) and 12th-lowest slugging percentage (.327) among all qualified hitters in the majors this season. While he’s not striking out any more than in past years and is still walking at roughly the same clip, he’s not squaring the ball up as much. After posting a 10 percent barrel percentage in 2017 and 2018, he’s down to seven percent this year, per Statcast.