MLB Opening Day: 10 Players Who Will Get Off to Hot Starts in 2012
Opening Day is here! Unless of course, you're a fan of the Seattle Mariners or Oakland Athletics. The Miami Marlins open their brand new, state of the art ballpark tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals before heading up to Cincinnati to take on the Reds starting tomorrow.
Tomorrow, seven games will be played, and every team will believe they have a chance to make the playoffs and win the World Series. When the dust clears in October, only one team will be able to call themselves World Champions.
Today I will be looking at 10 players that will start off hot in 2012, much like their counterpart Starlin Castro did last year. There will be some familiar faces in there as well as some not so familiar faces.
As always, you can follow me on twitter @asmease.
Miami Marlins, SS, Jose Reyes
After getting a huge payday following a fantastic 2011 season, Reyes looks to get off to a quick start in 2012. Last year in the early going of April, May and June, Reyes hit .308, .364 and .385 before cooling off a bit in July and August.
I fully expect him to repeat those type of numbers this April as the Marlins will need a fast start to keep interest in the team. Yes, even with a new ballpark. It is Florida, after all.
Los Angeles Angels, 1B, Albert Pujols
After arguably his worst statistical campaign of his career in 2011, Albert Pujols landed a mega-deal in the offseason with the Los Angeles Angels. The deal not only includes the rest of his playing career, but also includes a personal services contract where Pujols will still be a part of the organization in some capacity, making guest appearances and community work among other things after his playing days are over.
Last year Pujols also started off extremely slow, and I don't expect it to happen this season. He has A LOT to prove this year and .257, seven home runs and 18 RBI would not cut it in Los Angeles to start the season. Pujols has to start hot, and he will.
Pittsburgh Pirates, 3B, Pedro Alvarez
Talk about going out on a limb here. Yikes. Pedro Alvarez has been nothing short of terrible since last season started, ending the year with a batting average south of .200 and hitting well below .200 this spring
Alvarez has to hear the grumblings, which is saying a lot when it comes to one of baseball's smallest fanbases. If Alvarez wants to keep his job at third base or even stay with the Pirates, he needs to hit, and he needs to hit sooner rather than later.
I put him here because I think he'll start quickly and prove his worth to the Pirates and the fans who don't even believe he deserves a major league roster spot.
Athletics, CF, Yoenis Cespedes
OK, so I sorta cheated a little bit here. Cespedes has already started off pretty hot in Major League Baseball as he had an impressive first series against the Seattle Mariners in Japan last week.
The only thing he would need to improve on at this early stage is cutting down on the strikeouts. He's made seven plate appearances so far, recording a double, a homer, THREE strikeouts and a hit by pitch.
I expect the start to continue before he cools off a bit over the summer months.
Brewers, RF, Ryan Braun
So, the reigning NL MVP got busted for doping, but then got the suspension dropped. Now he's having a slow spring. What does that mean come Opening Day?
Braun will certainly make up for his nearly lost 50 games early in the season and prove his worth to the Brewers. Think the boos will get to him at every MLB ballpark besides Miller Park? Certainly not, if anything that would be additional motivation for Braun.
Braun will be fine and if anything, he will come out of the gates like a gang buster.
Astros, SP, Wandy Rodriguez
The Houston Astros and specifically Wandy Rodriguez knows what's at stake this year. It's their last year before moving over to the American League, when a major revamp of the team is expected.
I expect Rodriguez to start extremely hot and receive a trade to a contending ball club where he will continue a fine 2012 campaign.
Detroit Tigers, 3B, Miguel Cabrera
Ah, Miguel Cabrera. One of baseball's brightest young stars will be at it again in 2012. With the addition of Prince Fielder over the offseason, the Tigers have quickly become one of the American League's most feared teams. Cabrera will certainly benefit from Fielder being there.
Cabrera will have plenty more opportunities to hit this year, and he's also traditionally a quick starter and will prove so again this year.
Boston Red Sox, LF, Carl Crawford
After last year's disastrous start for Carl Crawford (.157 in April) and the Red Sox, not to mention the way the season ended last year, both have A LOT to prove in 2012.
Will Crawford start 2012 better than he started 2011? I fully believe he will and significantly improve over the 2011 numbers that slowly crept up to his standards after a lackluster start.
New York Yankees, 3B, Alex Rodriguez
After being one of Major League Baseball's best players for almost a decade, Alex Rodriguez has taken a few steps back since the steroid allegations a few years ago.
The 36-year-old Rodriguez needs to take a big step back on the road to personal greatness this season. He'll do that with a quick start, and if history is any indication, as Rodriguez goes, so do the Yankees.
A fast start is crucial this season for the Yankees in a very tough American League with contenders everywhere from Boston to Tampa to Detroit to Arlington to Los Angeles and anywhere and everywhere in between.
A slow April for Rodriguez and the Yankees could be tough to climb out of.
San Francisco Giants, SP, Matt Cain
One of baseball's newest big money men will need to prove he's worth every penny of the $120 million dollar-plus contract he signed just a few days ago with the Giants. Matt Cain is the Robin to Lincecum's Batman, the Teller to Penn.
They are one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball and will have to prove it now more than ever with Cain's historic extension. If Cain gets off to a slow start, expect the grumblings in San Fran to get louder and louder. With a quick start the crowd will be fully behind him.
Expect the latter.