As the 2013 MLB season marches on through its third week, many players have distinguished themselves with their hot starts thus far.
The cold weather that has consumed much of the Midwest and Northeast has done little to cool down some of those players. Some have simply carried over their terrific play from spring training as well.
Whatever the case, each team has a star that has shined above all others.
Here is each MLB team's most valuable player midway through April.
Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt broke through last season with a .286 average, 20 home runs and 82 RBI. The Diamondbacks saw more than enough to feel comfortable in rewarding him with a five-year, $32 million contract.
In turn, Goldschmidt has rewarded them with an outstanding start to the new season.
Goldschmidt is hitting .333 with three home runs and 12 RBI in the Diamondbacks' first 14 games. The faith that Arizona placed in him appears not to have been misguided in any way. In fact, his performance thus far has made quite a few people stand up and notice.
Good at-bat from Paul Goldschmidt, battling back from 0-2 to work count full before a single to right. He's had a lot of those early on.— Nick Piecoro (@nickpiecoro) April 17, 2013
Goldschmidt could in fact keep that moniker of MVP throughout the season.
The Atlanta Braves finally got cooled down by someone on Wednesday.
The Kansas City Royals blanked the Braves 1-0 to end their 10-game winning streak. But at 12-2, the Braves are still the hottest team in the majors. Much of the credit for the sizzling start to the 2013 season goes to the pitching staff. The rotation has been stingy, led by the crafty Paul Maholm.
Maholm has yet to give up a single run in three starts, and he's done it with an array of pitches that rarely reaches the high-80s.
The slow curveball Maholm features as part of his arsenal has indeed frozen batters. It has also teased at least one Twitter fan:
1) Half the time Paul Maholm looked like he wasn't even trying. Just throwing slow curve balls up there are the Nats couldn't touch it— Brett Kettyle (@baseballbrett5) April 15, 2013
Thus far, Maholm is 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA, a 0.79 WHIP, an 8.9 K/9 rate and a .156 opposing batting average.
So much for high heat.
Maholm is making fans of fantasy baseball aficionados as well.
I'd like to thank Paul Maholm for making me look smart for picking him on both my teams.— Matt Collins (@RedSox_Thoughts) April 14, 2013
Shoot, he's already taken in my fantasy league.
The Baltimore Orioles entered Wednesday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays with a 7-6 record. Closer Jim Johnson had a hand in every one of the wins.
Johnson picked up a loss against the Minnesota Twins on April 6, in large part because his defense let him down. He's been otherwise spotless, posting six saves in as many chances and not allowing a run. In fact, Johnson has given up just four hits in seven innings, holding hitters to a .167 batting average.
Johnson is clearly out to prove that last year wasn't a fluke.
His mastery hasn't been lost on Roch Kubatko of MASN.com:
Since Sept 7, 2011 when he began stretch of 7 straight converted saves to end season, Jim Johnson leads MLB with 63 saves #orioles— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) April 14, 2013
Without question, Johnson is at the top of his game, and he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz posted an 11-8 record in 2012, but it was generally acknowledged as a sub-par year. His 4.56 ERA was certainly not what he had shown in the prior two seasons.
It's safe to say that Buchholz wants to do everything he can to wipe out the memories of last year, both for him personally and his team's miserable showing.
Buchholz has breezed through his first three starts, winning all three and posting a stingy 0.41 ERA. He had a no-hitter broken up in the eighth inning of last Sunday's game with the Tampa Bay Rays.
He's teamed up with Jon Lester and the rest of the rotation to give the Red Sox the best starting ERA in the American League at the start of the season.
A little Twitter tidbit about Buchholz's fast start:
Clay Buchholz is 1st Red Sox pitcher to start season with 1 ER through 3 starts since Pedro Martinez in 1998.— Ben (@IneptMets) April 15, 2013
He'll face off against James Shields and the Kansas City Royals on Friday.
The Chicago Cubs signed right fielder Nate Schierholtz to a one-year, $2.25 million contract this offseason. They did so primarily to build a bridge between him and Cubs prospects who could make their way to the majors within the next year or so.
Schierholtz hasn't acted like he's a bridge, however.
Through the team's first 13 games, Schierholtz leads the team with a .350 average. He's also chipped in two home runs and eight RBI, scored nine runs and stolen two bases.
Here's a stat that's even more telling of how much he is worth to the team right now:
Schierholtz may not be part of the future for the Cubs, but he's certainly getting the job done in the present.
With only one hit given up by the Chicago White Sox bullpen on Wednesday night, they are now second in the American League with a 1.77 ERA.
The White Sox's 7-8- record is certainly not the fault of their relievers, three of whom have yet to be scored upon this season.
|Addison Reed||1.29||7||7|| |
Reed has five saves in as many opportunities, and they're all giving the White Sox a chance to win in the later innings.
Pretty hard to blame the bullpen for a lackluster start.
With two more hits and three RBI in an 11-2 blowout win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday, Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is now officially having a monster month. His 19 total RBI now leads the National League, along with New York Mets catcher John Buck.
His run production has fans on Twitter giddy with what could be.
@datdudebp already has 19 RBIs.... What! On pace for 256 for the season. Check my math. It's right.— Craig Vangas (@CeeVee23) April 18, 2013
We did check the math—he's right.
With Ryan Ludwick out until possibly the All-Star break, manager Dusty Baker needed someone to step it up. Phillips has answered the call thus far.
Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson finally looked human on Wednesday night. He gave up four runs on 11 hits in five innings to the Boston Red Sox, yet his ERA only climbed to 1.67.
At 3-1 now on the season, the Indians have to be thrilled with what they've seen considering his subpar 2012 season. Cleveland's starters have otherwise struggled, yet Masterson has given them a ray of hope with his efforts thus far.
One of the biggest concerns for Colorado Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez has been the rather disproportionate home/road splits during his career.
Gonzalez absolutely loves hitting at Coors Field, but he is much more pedestrian on the road.
This season, he is hitting .400 with four home runs and nine RBI, and much of that damage has come away from home. Gonzalez has a .344 average with three homers and five RBI with a 1.105 OPS on the road thus far.
According to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, the Mets are "monitoring" Gonzalez, who could be made available by the Rockies if they're somewhere near the cellar later this season.
They're likely monitoring his home/road splits as well.
Detroit Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter represented the only position player who collected more than one hit in Wednesday night's marathon 14-inning win over the Seattle Mariners. He also threw out the tying run at home in the bottom of the 14th.
With his two hits, Hunter is now hitting a blazing .413 on the season with one home run and nine RBI. He's also leading the American League in batting average.
Not too shabby for a 37-year-old.
No question Hunter's fans on Twitter are happy with what they're seeing as well.
Loving the pickup of Torii Hunter for the Tigers, guy is playing like it's 2002! MVP caliber!— Scott Finn (@ScottFinn5) April 18, 2013
Hunter leads all of baseball with his 26 hits, followed closely by teammate Austin Jackson.
Cream always rises to the top, and in the case of the Houston Astros, second baseman Jose Altuve represents the cream of the crop.
Altuve was an All-Star last year after hitting .303 in the first half. He's already got that beat early this season, hitting .365 with one home run and eight RBI.
One Astros fan on Twitter noted that Altuve got to one particular milestone faster than two celebrated former Astros.
Jose Altuve got his 250th career hit yesterday in his 219th ML game. Biggio? 287th game. Bagwell? 254th game— Astros County (@AstrosCounty) April 18, 2013
Pretty good company right there.
When Alex Gordon made his debut with the Kansas City Royals, he showed great potential, but didn't particularly blow everyone away with his performance. He has absolutely grown on his fans ever since.
Gordon led the majors in doubles last season while contributing 70 extra-base hits and picking up his second consecutive Gold Glove Award for his work in left field.
This year, Gordon continues to shine, leading the Royals with a .350 average. He has absolutely shown Kansas City that their decision to select him with the second overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft was the right one.
One Twitter fan posted fact that puts Gordon in rarified air:
@theprogramkc - M. Cabrera and Granderson are the only guys in the AL with more extra base hits than Alex Gordon over the past 2 seasons ...— Steve Duncan (@KeenoRossi) April 17, 2013
Just being mentioned with Cabrera in the same sentence isn't a bad thing.
Considering their 4-10 start and sloppy play, there isn't anyone for the Los Angeles Angels who is standing out with their performance as of yet.
Much of the conversation concerning the Angels these days has centered around manager Mike Scioscia. In fact, former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa was forced to dispel rumors that he was a candidate to take over for Scioscia.
LaRussa told Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com that he has no intention of guiding another team.
“I’m not going to manage again,” La Russa said. “I’m going to work for a team someday. But it won’t be managing.”
It's safe to say that when managerial changes are being discussed in mid-April, it's a result of the team's play and the lackluster efforts being provided by the members of that squad.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez is starting to look comfortable in a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform. The rest of the National League should be very worried about that.
Gonzalez is now hitting .407 with two home runs and 12 RBI. He's looking very much like the hitter that terrorized the American League in 2011 with the Boston Red Sox.
The Dodgers have had trouble putting runs on the board, with just 41 scored in their 15 games. But Gonzalez's production has been noticed and appreciated by Twitter fans.
I swear man Adrian Gonzalez is the only one on the Dodgers scoring runs for em.— Matt (@Fresh_Matt) April 18, 2013
Now if he can just change his walk-up song.
LMFAO at Adrian Gonzalez' walk up song. Mariachi in the house?— Tony Darby (@TonyDarby88) April 18, 2013
Jose Fernandez has only made two starts at the major league level, but already he's a sensation in South Florida. Fernandez was not part of the Miami Marlins roster to start the season, but injuries to Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez prompted the team to call him up.
He responded like a grizzled veteran.
Fernandez has given up just one run on five hits in his 11 innings of work, striking out 13 and walking three batters. Hitters have just a .132 average against him.
In his outing against the Philadelphia Phillies last week, Fernandez handled himself with aplomb, holding a veteran group of hitters to just two hits in six innings.
One writer was more than impressed with the way Fernandez made one particular slugger look.
Jose Fernandez just made Ryan Howard look like Clint Howard.— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) April 14, 2013
Fernandez goes up against the Cincinnati Reds and Tony Cingrani on Thursday night.
Shortstop Jean Segura was one of three prospects given up by the Los Angeles Angels in the trade last season to acquire starting pitcher Zack Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers.
Segura is making that trade look very one-sided.
Through the Brewers' first 13 games, he is hitting .367 with one home run and three RBI. He's been solid defensively as well with just one error.
At least one Twitter fan is liking the results of the trade thus far.
Considering what we spent for Grienke, Jean Segura damn near makes up for everything.— Kyle Ashauer (@KyleAshauer) April 18, 2013
Segura had too many plate appearances last year to qualify for the Rookie of the Year Award, but he's certainly making an early case for an All-Star selection. That's not a bad trade-off.
With back-to-back four-hit games earlier this week, Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer is looking every bit like the player that won three batting titles in the 2000s.
He is now hitting .386 with two home runs and seven RBI. Twins fans may not have much to cheer about this season, but Mauer is giving them quality highlights thus far.
In fact, one fan apparently thinks the Twins have no one else to watch except Mauer.
The Joe Mauer show got rained out, time to mosey on over to the local beer hall.— Funquist© (@Funquist) April 18, 2013
Mauer will celebrate his 30th birthday on Friday.
Raise your hand if you haven't been impressed with the efforts of New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey thus far.
Didn't think so.
Harvey is the story among all pitchers in baseball right now. A 3-0 record, 0.82 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, 10.2 K/9 rate and .055 BAA has just about everyone in New York wondering what Harvey can do for an encore this season and beyond.
Harvey matches up on Friday against another pretty good young pitcher named Stephen Strasburg. You may have heard of him.
Yup, that game will be must-see TV.
The man they call Pronk is dealing in the Bronx.
New York Yankees designated hitter Travis Hafner is seemingly reborn in pinstripes. He's hitting .342 with four home runs, eight RBI, a .432 OBP and 1.142 OPS.
Hafner even has Cleveland Indians fans on Twitter crying in their beer.
I feel like having a few adult beverages and crying about Travis Hafner. #fb— Cleveland Chick (@ClevelandChick) April 18, 2013
Oh well, at least she got to see Hafner back in Cleveland earlier this month.
Someone needs to hose down Oakland Athletics designated hitter Seth Smith. He's been on fire throughout the season, hitting .447 with one home run, seven RBI and a .512 OBP.
A big reason for Smith's early success has been his performance against left-handed pitching.
#Athletics Seth Smith, a lefty, has 8 hits vs. left-handed pitchers in A's 1st 16 games. He had just 11 hits vs. LHPs last year.— John Hickey (@JHickey3) April 17, 2013
Smith has just a .210 average against southpaws during his career, so he's apparently made some adjustments. The A's certainly aren't complaining.
While the rest of the rotation has seen their struggles thus far, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee has shined.
Lee has a 2-0 record and 1.52 ERA in his first three starts. He should have gotten the win on Monday against the Cincinnati Reds as well, but the bullpen couldn't keep the Reds off the board in the late innings.
As always, his control has been part of the reason why.
While Hamels and Halladay have struggled with command, Cliff Lee has not. He's pitched 22 innings without allowing a walk in 2013.— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) April 16, 2013
Lee finally gave up a walk in the bottom of the seventh inning on Monday.
The Pittsburgh Pirates may be scuffling offensively, but their new closer is showing it was the right decision to trade Joel Hanrahan.
Jason Grilli has been outstanding early for the Pirates, posting five saves in as many chances while only allowing three hits in his seven appearances.
In fact, Pirates fans now look forward to some comfort food in the ninth inning.
Grilli has provided more than enough cheese to get by thus far.
With Carlos Quentin still bothered by a sore knee, outfielder Chris Denorfia has gotten more than his usual playing time early for the San Diego Padres. He's making the most of it.
Denorfia is hitting .364 with a home run, five RBI and a .951 OPS thus far.
He's also somehow managed to hit well against Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kerhsaw during his career. In fact, one Twitter fan brought up this little tidbit of information.
This is weird: Chris Denorfia has 2 of the last 3 HRs allowed by Kershaw, and Kershaw has allowed 2 of the last 4 HRs hit by Denorfia.— Pedro Moura (@PedroMoura) April 18, 2013
Denorfia could get even more playing time with the current struggles of center fielder Cameron Maybin.
The San Francisco Giants' vaunted starting rotation has been slow to get up to speed to start the 2013 season—except for Madison Bumgarner. He is now 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA in his first three starts.
According to one Twitter stats geek, Bumgarner saves his best for pressure situations.
Madison Bumgarner has the lowest career ERA (1.76) in high leverage situations of any player EVER (min. 500 IP & 100 high leverage IP)— Tom the Intern (@TomTheIntern) April 15, 2013
Bumgarner will be on the bump for his fourth start of the season on Friday night.
Seattle Mariners reliever Stephen Pryor was lights-out early in the 2013 season. In seven games, he gave up only three hits in 7.1 innings, striking out seven and holding opposing batters to just a .120 average.
Unfortunately, Pryor suffered a tear of the latissimus dorsi muscle behind his right shoulder that will likely keep him out of action for quite a while.
That doesn't stop us from handing him the mid-April MVP award, however. He will indeed be missed.
Even though he doesn't have half the at-bats as most of the regulars on his team, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams is showing management that he deserves a spot in the everyday lineup.
Adams has hit .524 in just 21 at-bats with three home runs and eight RBI thus far. He's been inserted in the lineup by manager Mike Matheny whenever Allen Craig starts in the outfield, and Adams has made the most of it.
One Cardinals fan on Twitter pointed out that Adams has done more with less.
Cardinals' Matt Adams has only started 4 games this year, yet he somehow has more total hits than Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, and Buster Posey.— Thug Waffles(@hippyhoppin) April 18, 2013
Matheny will no doubt continue to look for as many opportunities as possible to insert Adams' hot bat in the lineup.
The Tampa Bay Rays have a left-handed pitcher who's been raking early in the season.
And no, it's not their reigning American League Cy Young award winner.
Matt Moore has thus far out-shined fellow southpaw David Price in the early going. Moore is now 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA after beating the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night.
His hot start has at least one Twitter fan considering the gaudy possibilities.
Matt Moore has 60% of the Rays wins. At this pace, the Rays will have 58 wins & Matt Moore will have 30 of them. At least he'll have a CYA— Lamar Courtney (@LamarCourtney) April 18, 2013
Well, let's not get too carried away here.
The Texas Rangers turned to two veteran left-handed hitters to help replace the offense left behind by the departures of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli.
They certainly can't be too unhappy with the performance of at least one of them thus far.
Designated hitter Lance Berkman is playing like he's 25 again, hitting .389 with a home run, eight RBI and a .500 OPB.
While Berkman may be the Rangers' MVP in the early going, he didn't win any love with his comments concerning Wrigley Field.
At least one Cubs fans wants a little divine intervention.
this rain is mothernature saying lance berkman u dont deserve to play at #wrigley and FatherTime is working on breaking ur hip b4 the makeup— Daniel Wood (@dannyTdoubleU) April 18, 2013
Wow, now that's a little harsh.
Even though he's been on the shelf since last Friday, Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes is the only player worthy of this award.
Reyes was hitting .395 with a home run, five RBI and five stolen bases. Unfortunately, it was the last theft that cost him. Reyes badly sprained his ankle on the play last Friday night, putting him out of action until possibly the All-Star break.
The Blue Jays are off to a 7-9 start and sit just 1.5 games out of the cellar in the AL East. If not for an impotent Tampa Bay Rays offense, Toronto would occupy that spot right now.
It's clear that the rest of the lineup needs to step up in Reyes' absence. Their response to his injury could be a deciding factor in their ultimate standing this season.
The Washington Nationals were buoyed last season by the debut of their 19-year-old rookie sensation, outfielder Bryce Harper.
Fresh off his Rookie of the Year Award-winning campaign, Harper is now playing like he has his eyes on two more prizes—a World Series title and an MVP Award. He is hitting .364 with five home runs and 11 RBI through his team's first 14 games.
In fact, most fans likely never thought they'd see the phrase "Bryce Harper vomiting" as a trending topic on Twitter.
But his bout with the flu on Thursday and collecting four hits despite his wanting to upchuck all the time was indeed discussed by fans ad nauseum—pardon the pun.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.