With essentially April in the books it’s proper time to look back at Baseball’s first month to see the most important realizations about the sport. It’s still early and teams and players still have time to turn it around, but it’s also been enough time to make a statement. Here are three ups and three downs for the month of April:
Manny Machado– 3B, Baltimore Orioles: Folks if a .289/.359/.861 2015 campaign while showing wizardry at third base didn’t show you Machado is a top five player in the game and the one nobody is really talking about, his opening to 2016 will surely prove it. Machado is off to a .333/.389/.1.068 start and has seven home runs to start the year. His middle of the order bat in his age 23 season has lead the Orioles to a first place start in the AL East and he’s not anywhere near his prime yet.
Washington Nationals: The one team critics kind of, sort of, thought could go either way this year is off to a hot, 14-7 start. Depending on who you ask the Nationals range from a second place team in a weak division surely to miss the playoffs to a sleeper to win the World Series. With Bryce Harper picking up where he left off with nine home runs in April, a healthy supporting cast and a lethal starting rotation, the Nationals have the best possible beginning to 2016 it could have asked for after a disastrous second half last season.
Aaron Nola– SP, Philadelphia Phillies: Nola has made five starts in April and is 1-2 but a 3.58 ERA has him right in line with his rookie season last year. Nola has 37 strikeouts in 33 innings, a .88 WHIP and a .193 BAA implying he might even be trending for major improvement with one horrible start surrounded by four good to great ones. The sophomore is the face of the Phillies; rebuild along with Maikel Franco and the two have lead the Phillies to a surprising 12-10 start in the NL East this season.
Dee Gordon – 2B, Miami Marlins: It was bad enough the speedy second baseman only had a .266/.289 line in his first month while hitting in front of some pretty notable guys, including Giancarlo Stanton, but Gordon finished his month by being nabbed for a PED suspension which will cost him and his team 80 games. With six stolen bases already this year (despite a low OBP) Gordon has emerged as the biggest stolen base threat in the game and a rising perennial All-Star, but a player we now won’t see return until after the All-Star Break. For the sport, it serves as a sobering reminder players don’t just cheat to hit home runs.
New York Yankees: There are teams who are worse, but no 2015 playoff team has started the season off this poorly and looked just as bad in the process. The Yankees’ offense looks old and one dimensional, its starting pitching has lived up to the fears of being unable to grind out games and pitch deep into games and the team’s greatest asset, its historically dominant rotation, has been shut out of most opportunities due to the club’s 8-12 start. The Yankees are in dead last, but if its agent players like Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez don’t start hitting, it may not move much further up the standings come the trade deadline.
Zack Greinke – SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: Greinke was signed to a five year deal as a 32-year-old at a $30 million+ salary to help bring the Snakes to the next level. Instead, Greinke along with teammate, Shelby Miller (traded for over the winter) have been the two major drawbacks in an otherwise solid start to the year for Arizona. Even with Paul Goldschmidt starting off slow, Arizona has been crushing the ball top to bottom in the lineup and is 12-12 in third place, just half a game out of the division lead, but Greinke has a 6.16 ERA, a 2-2 record and a 1.46 WHIP to start the year. If Arizona is going to be the sleeper pick like most critics felt in the spring, Greinke and Miller are going to have to start pitching better.