Three Up, Three Down: Gerrit Cole Enters The Record Book
Gerrit Cole, RHP, Astros
The Astros' acquisition of Cole would have been the marquee trade of the offseason if not for Giancarlo Stanton going to the Yankees. But as far as actual play on the field, Cole has taken a backseat to no one. The 2011 No. 1 overall pick and two-time Top 100 Prospect is off to a record-setting start with his new club. He struck out 36 batters over his first three starts—breaking Randy Johnson’s record for most strikeouts by a pitcher in his first three starts with a new team—and on April 13 he struck out 14 Rangers while throwing just 93 pitches, the fewest pitches in MLB history ever used to strike out so many batters. Even in his loss to the Angels on Monday, Cole joined further exclusive company. As noted by statistician Ryan Spaeder, Cole joined Pedro Martinez (2000) and Bob Turley (1955) as the only pitchers to open a season with five straight starts of seven or more innings, five or fewer hits allowed and five or more strikeouts. Overall, Cole is 2-1, 1.29 with 49 strikeouts and eight walks in 35 innings and has taken the very, very early lead in the AL Cy Young race.
Teoscar Hernandez, OF, Blue Jays
The Blue Jays managed to snag Hernandez, the Astros’ No. 7 prospect, in a trade last year for Francisco Liriano, who had a 5.88 ERA at the time. While Liriano posted a middling 4.40 ERA for the Astros and was let go after the season, Hernandez is looking more and more like a building block in Toronto. After posting a .908 OPS after joining the Blue Jays last season, Hernandez is off to a torrid start this year, hitting .343/.395/.743. He leads the team’s current starters in all three slash line categories and has played a role in helping the Blue Jays get off to a surprising 13-8 start. Overall, the 25-year-old is hitting .285/.331/.642 in the first 34 games of his Blue Jays career and has seized the starting left field job for the foreseeable future.
The Red Sox’s 17-4 start has rightfully earned most of the headlines, but the D-backs aren’t far off the pace. Arizona is 15-6 to open the season, matching the best start in team history and owns the best record in the National League. The pitching has done most of the heavy-lifting, posting an NL-best 2.75 ERA behind Patrick Corbin (4-0, 1.89), Zack Greinke (3-1, 3.09) and a lights-out bullpen. Relievers Jorge De La Rosa, Fernando Salas, Yoshihisa Hirano, Archie Bradley and Brad Boxberger all have made at least 10 appearances and have ERAs of 3.00 or lower. The D-backs are about to get a stiff test, however, as their next 28 games come against the Phillies, Nationals, Dodgers, Astros, Brewers and Mets—all teams with legitimate postseason aspirations.
Lewis Brinson, OF, Marlins
Brinson’s Miami homecoming hasn’t exactly gone as planned. The No. 17 prospect in baseball is off to a .145/.207/.263 start for the Marlins, with 30 strikeouts in 83 plate appearances. Brinson suffered through an 0-for-26 slump at one point and is currently mired in a 3-for-23 stretch, although all three hits have been home runs. Combined with his brief stint in Milwaukee last year, Brinson is hitting .130/.219/.268 in his first 42 big league games.
Jose Quintana, LHP, Cubs
The Cubs traded two premium prospects in Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease last year in order to get Quintana from the crosstown White Sox. Quintana pitched well down the stretch for the Cubs and gave them two solid playoff starts, but he got blown up in Game 5 of the NLCS and is off to a rough start this year. Quintana entered Tuesday with a 7.78 ERA—tied for the second-highest in baseball among eligible pitchers—and has given up 24 hits and 17 runs in 19.2 innings. Opponents are hitting .304 off of him and, in addition to being hittable, he’s been wild, issuing 11 walks. His fastball, sinker, and curveball are all down about one mph, per Brooks Baseball, and opponents are currently hitting over .275 against all three of those pitches.
Astros Scouting And Player Development Is Extending Team's Contention Window
Houston's window of contention will be longer than most because it continues to find players in the later rounds of the draft and develop them into prospects other teams desire.
The Reds get the headlines with their miserable 4-18 start, but the Royals aren’t far behind. They entered Tuesday with a 5-15 mark, worst in the American League. It’s been equal opportunity terribleness—their 5.25 ERA is fourth-worst in baseball and their .668 OPS is sixth-worst. Offseason signees Jon Jay (.233, .621 OPS), Lucas Duda (.227, .645) and Alcides Escobar (.200, .611) have weighed down the offense, while the struggles of expected ace Danny Duffy (0-3, 5.26) and No. 5 prospect Eric Skoglund (0-2, 8.59) have overshadowed solid showings from Jake Junis (3-1, 2.03), Ian Kennedy (1-2, 2.35) and Jason Hammel (0-1, 3.20) in the rotation.