As the snow begins to melt and the shorts slowly come out of retirement, the sounds and smells of baseball lurch closer, beckoning fans across the world to watch and support their team as they grind through yet another season. But while the beginning of the season sparks hope for most teams (Orioles not included), the first month or so of the season can be somewhat unusual in how the players and teams perform thanks in part to scheduling and weather among other things.
For example, take the 2018 Mets who were 13-4 at one point last year before ending at 77-85. Or the Twins last year who were forced to miss a great number of games due to the weather which not only changed their in-game strategy but also led the team into a long rut of losses of which they never recovered. Or take the shining beacon of my example, Edwin Encarnacion who owns a career .740 OPS in March/April and a career OPS of .850.
The point is that early season performance is not necessarily indicative of how a player will perform over the entire season and in the age of hot takes and short leashes in the eye of public opinion, this can lead to premature reactions that call for the DFA-ing or benching of a specific player. Generally, we know which Twins players struggle to start and which players get off to hot starts, but there are quite a few new faces on the team this year of which we most likely have not watched before as much as the usual Twins regulars. So what I will do in this article is look at the new members of the 2019 Twins team and compare their March/April stats to their career stats so we can find out which player(s) we should be worried about if their performance during this time period this season does not match up with their career.
C.J. Cron-March/April OPS of .671, career OPS of .772
C.J. Cron was an interesting addition to the Twins. After being DFA’d by the Rays despite having a good 2018 season, the Twins claimed Cron with the plan for him to replace Joe Mauer as the everyday 1st baseman. People were generally split into two camps; those who liked the adjustments he made in 2018 and were fans of the move, and those who saw “ex-Rays 1st baseman” and immediately had every Logan Morrison strikeout flash through their mind. By now, cooler heads have prevailed and Cron will start the season as the 1st baseman. Despite having a hot spring training, do not be surprised if Cron comes out of the gate a touch sluggish. While a .671 OPS is not terrible, it is a good .100 points below his average. But the calls for Tyler Austin to replace him will be premature as he most likely will be fine eventually. Cron evens this slow start out with a career OPS over .900 in both July and August.
Nelson Cruz-March/April OPS of .900, career OPS of .860
One of the few signings in recent history that basically every Twins fan liked, Cruz brings a long history of hitting the crap out of the ball along with some veteran presence to a team that needs it. The new big bopper in the Twins lineup can just plain hit and the first part of the season is no exception here. In fact, he actually hits a touch better in the first month or so of the season compared to his career numbers. His worst month comes in June but even that comes out to a .815 OPS so expect Cruz to hit well no matter what month it is and keep a helmet on if you are seated in the left field bleachers because it could get messy out there.
Jonathan Schoop-March/April OPS of .732, career OPS of .738
This was one of the few signings that my dad called, he had mentioned before that he wouldn’t be shocked if the Twins signed Schoop and just a few days later the Twins listened to him and scooped him up on a 1-year deal. Schoop is one of the many bounceback candidates on the 2019 Twins and the team would be quite happy if he regained his 2017 form that put up a 5 rWAR season and garnered MVP votes. While I cannot guarantee that will happen, I can promise that Schoop should come out the gates hitting about in line with his career. Schoop’s worst month is in September/October where he owns a career OPS of just .609.
Marwin Gonzalez-March/April OPS of .712, career OPS of .737
The man of an excellent beard and many positions was signed by the Twins after camp started to continue to be a useful utility player who has the ability to play wherever and whenever and his job to start the season will be that of Miguel Sano insurance as Sano will start the season on the IL. The news of this signing broke while I was walking to my lab in which I had to take a practical that did unspeakable things to me, but in my defense, my mind was elsewhere at the time as I was giddy that the Twins signed Marwin. Despite a brutal spring training, Marwin should hit relatively close to his career totals to begin and he does not have much fluctuation as far as his numbers go on a month-to-month basis. His lowest OPS is in August at a career .692 clip and his highest is in September/October at a .811 clip.
Blake Parker-March/April ERA of 4.23, career ERA of 3.29
Blake Parker has a weird place in my family, we went to a minor league game a few years back where he gave up a game-tying homer in the 9th in a brutal game that we left after 12 innings. Of course, I thought nothing of it but then just a year or two later he’s making fools look silly for the Angels and I could barely believe that it was the same guy. The lone pure reliever who the Twins signed to a major league deal this offseason is coming off a solid spring training but could possibly stumble a touch out of the gate. However, unlike the batters before who had large sample sizes to draw data from, Parker only has 27.2 career major league innings in March and April, so take this with a grain of salt. He does follow it up with a career ERA of 1.61 in May that comes with a K/9 of 12.2.
Martin Perez-March/April ERA of 4.76, career ERA of 4.63
I remember when my phone buzzed for the notification that the Twins had signed Martin Perez after which followed about 10 minutes of questioning before hopping on Twitter to see that everyone else had similar thoughts regarding the signing, most of them could be summarized by one word; “why?”. Perez had a horrendous 2018 and it seemed like a strange signing given the other starting pitching available. After the months went by, the Twins reasoning slowly seeped out, they thought that they could squeeze some extra velocity out of him and change his pitch usage a bit to become a deadly weapon in the rotation. His spring training numbers as the new Martin Perez were a mixed bag, but his velocity certainly was up as he mainly sat about 95 and would occasionally touch 97. Whether this translates to the regular season will be seen soon enough, but if he’s anything like the old Martin Perez, it could take him a little bit before he gets going.