Tyler Naquin's name has always reminded me of NyQuil, but we can no longer sleep through this early-season power binge.
He's the most added player in CBS Sports leagues, and he deserves to be, entering Sunday leading the majors in both home runs and RBI despite not being on anyone's radar at the start of the year.
But it's not just the counting stats where he stands out. With multiple home runs in excess of 450 feet, his quality of contact is off the charts, to the point he has a .958 xSLG. That's more than his actual slugging percentage of .806, which is itself outlandish enough, and while it's of course skewed by a small sample, it's still the sort of mark you never see from a metric designed to rein in outliers. Hits like these are breaking Statcast:
The million dollar question is whether he can sustain it, and of course, I don't have a clue. Just based on history, I'd bet against it. The 29-year-old had been an also-ran in the Cleveland outfield mix for the past four years, though he did show well as a rookie in 2016, batting .296 with 14 homers, six steals and an .886 OPS in 321 at-bats. Is it possible persistent injuries in the years thereafter kept him from meeting the full extent of his potential?
And then there's the question of playing time. Naquin has gotten to start every game but one so far because Jesse Winker has been in and out of the lineup for health reasons, but there's no indication the Reds are giving up on Winker, who's expected back in the lineup Monday.
Of course, when Winker made a one-game return earlier, Naquin did remain in the lineup, spelling Nick Senzel in center field. Since neither Winker nor Senzel has a sparkling health history, it's possible this situation works itself out. Life finds a way and all.
Bottom line, though, is it's gone on long enough that you have to take the flier and see where it goes, provided you're not blowing out your FAB to do so. From Teoscar Hernandez and Dylan Moore last year to past examples like Marcus Semien, Max Muncy and even Jose Bautista, sometimes the player no one sees coming indeed keeps it going. And the person to act with reckless abandon is the one to reap the rewards.
MIA Miami • #28 • Age: 26
The case for Trevor Rogers is easier to make than for Naquin since the signs of a breakthrough are more evident. His fastball is up 1.5 mph after adding strength in the offseason, and he's gained so much confidence in his slider that he now throws it even more than his changeup. He has a Jacob deGrom-like swinging-strike rate through two starts, registering 19 whiffs on 82 pitches in Saturday's gem.
TOR Toronto • #16 • Age: 32
The swinging-strike rate leaves something to be desired, but Yusei Kikuchi is still fooling hitters with his fastball-cutter-slider combo, as evidenced by his 16 strikeouts in 12 innings. He was one of last season's biggest underachievers, posting a 3.78 xFIP and 3.37 xERA in spite of his actual 5.17 ERA, and is so far delivering numbers more befitting his abilities.
Luis Arraez 2B
MIA Miami • #3 • Age: 26
Luis Arraez is becoming firmly entrenched as the Twins leadoff hitter, at least against right-handed pitchers, which should make him a standout in not just one category but two. Batting average is a given because of his low strikeout and high line-drive rate, and it'll put him on base enough to threaten for 100 runs as well. Even with Josh Donaldson soon to reclaim the third base job, Arraez should have a spot in left field.
Johnny Cueto SP
MIA Miami • #47 • Age: 37
We may have been a little quick to write off Johnny Cueto given that he's only 18 starts removed from Tommy John surgery. Obviously, last year was no good, but the velocity is fine and he still has an impressive pitch mix to keep hitters off-balance. This latest start shows the Giants are willing to make him a workhorse, which is half the battle in 2019, and his track record would suggest he's worth betting on as long as the stuff is intact.
CLE Cleveland • #48 • Age: 25
Among the many relief pitcher targets to emerge over the weekend, Emmanuel Clase is No. 1 with a bullet, recording two saves in three days to establish himself as the leading man in a crowded Indians bullpen. Though he may not have quite the strikeout potential of James Karinchak, he throws a triple-digit fastball with plenty of movement. Both Karinchak and Nick Wittgren set up for him Sunday, which would seem to establish a clear hierarchy.
Corey Knebel RP
PHI Philadelphia • #23 • Age: 32
The Dodgers raised eyebrows when they used Corey Knebel to close out a one-run lead Friday, making him their first reliever to reach two saves, and he struck out the side in doing so. It doesn't sound like Kenley Jansen's job is in jeopardy. Manager Dave Roberts said he didn't want to use the longtime closer three times in four days, and Knebel was back to working the seventh inning Sunday. Still, Knebel himself was a standout closer who was derailed by Tommy John surgery and looks like he may have regained that form, striking out 16 in 11 2/3 innings between the regular season and spring training. He's worth stashing away in leagues where saves are scarce.
Yimi Garcia RP
TOR Toronto • #93 • Age: 33
Yimi Garcia is actually more available than Knebel even though he's of more value in the immediate future. He's the Marlins closer after Anthony Bass floundered in the role, making quick work of the Mets on Saturday for his first save. He probably should have gotten the job in the first place seeing as he was their most effective reliever last year and a quality setup man for the Dodgers before then, but he shouldn't face much competition in the role now.
Lou Trivino RP
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #56 • Age: 32
Left-hander Jake Diekman may not be the only reliever to replace Trevor Rosenthal as the Athletics closer. Right-hander Lou Trivino might also get in the mix. "If we can move it forward with Lou, maybe he gives us an option to close as well and/or pitch the eighth inning depending on matchups," manager Bob Melvin said over the weekend. Sounds like both need to be rostered until a clear pecking order emerges.
SF San Francisco • #26 • Age: 33
It's more of a deeper league play for now, but the Giants talked up Anthony DeSclafani throughout spring training and had success with similar reclamation projects Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly last year. The 30-year-old is more satisfied with the shape of his breaking balls this year and looks to lean on them more than ever. His 16 swinging strikes in Sunday's start were especially impressive.
Luke Weaver SP
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #30 • Age: 30
A disaster last year with a 6.58 ERA, Luke Weaver got back to basics in this start, more or less ditching the cutter that was responsible for a .313 batting average and .313 ISO last year and instead focusing on a fastball/changeup combo that got him to the majors in the first place. The two-pitch mix may prove to be unsustainable in the long run, but he was perfect through 5 2/3 innings against a tough lineup and piled up 17 whiffs.