Hitting a baseball is all about timing. Sometimes, it can take a player some time to get their timing down. You hear a lot about fast and slow starters in fantasy baseball land. While this may be due to randomness and not really a predictable thing, who is to say for sure. There could absolutely be something to certain players performing better or worse in the first weeks of the season, whether it be about their timing or something else like the weather.
In this post, I will highlight some players that have come out of the gate hot in recent years. I am using 2015-2019 data and looking at March/April statistics compared to a player’s career number. I am primarily looking at slugging percentage when doing the calculation because that was the easiest way to do it. Let’s get into it!
Six Pack of Hot Starters
Hunter Dozier (1B – KCR)
Dozier may see less playing time this year with Carlos Santana’s arrival, but the Royals should consider finding him some at-bats at DH or third base because he has been stellar in the season’s first month. In 103 career plate appearances in March or April, he has slugged .686. That is 23 points higher than his career average of .455. His batting average in those months is .349, and he’s also posted a much better than normal 17.5% strikeout rate to boot.
Cody Bellinger (1B/OF – LAD)
Players that have had Bellinger on their team over his short career are probably not surprised to see him on the list. In 274 plate appearances before May, Bellinger has slugged .667. Compare that with his career average of .547, and you have a notorious hot starter. This is mainly attributable to the insane March+April he had in 2019 when he slashed .431/.508/.890 with 14 homers in 31 games.
Yoan Moncada (2B/3B – CHW)
It’s been a wildly inconsistent career from Moncada, and the calendar has played a part in that. He has slashed .290/.363/.548 in April, which compares very favorably to his career slash line of .260/.335/.448. His career strikeout rate is remarkably consistent, being between 28% and 32% for all months. Moncada’s early-season success comes more just from racking up extra bases early on rather than being an overall better hitter, it seems. He has hit 12 of his 56 career homers before the page turns to May. While this is likely due to randomness, if you do get a hot start from Moncada and he’s still striking out at a 30% rate again in 2021, it might be worthwhile to test the market before it gets too late in the season.
Ozzie Albies (2B – ATL)
In his first three seasons, Albies played 56 games in March and April. In these games, he hit .291/.345/.570 with 15 homers. That is a significant chunk of his power production (he had only hit 54 career homers before 2020). His plate discipline numbers look the same for March/April compared to other months (around a 17% strikeout rate, 7% walk rate), so much like Moncada, he has just been able to take advantage of mistake pitches right out of the gate and get some extra balls over the fence.
Max Kepler (OF – MIN)
The young lefty at the top of the Twins lineup has had success early on, slashing .280/.356/.527 in March and April. For his career, he is a .237/.319/.44 hitter, so these are big differences. He also has seemed to see the ball better early on, striking out at just a 16% rate in the season’s opening weeks, while that number is at 19% for the rest of the months. He has really struggled in the final month of the season with a .209/.293/.321 slash line in September and October games, so maybe there is something to this with Kepler. Fatigue? Lack of focus after the long slog? Who knows, but it’s something to note. So far, I’ve been ignoring the 2020 season for this post just because it was such a different year. But Kepler did this again in 2020, coming out of the gate with five home runs in his first 14 games and then hitting just four more over the next 34 games.
Bryce Harper (OF – PHI)
It was a pretty common bit of trivia that Harper homered on Opening Day three straight years between 2015 and 2017. He has five career Opening Day homers in nine seasons. Thus far, that has carried over into more than just the first game of the season, as Harper has slashed .298/.428/.597 in 570 March+April plate appearances (compared to a .276/.387/.513 career line). This is the biggest sample size of any of the guys we’ve looked at so far, and given Harper’s raw talent, there may legitimately be something to this, as he starts the season with everything working while pitchers take a few outings to ramp up.
Some other names with huge March+April slugging percentages: Eric Thames (.685), Austin Meadows (.676), Mitch Garver (.667), Pete Alonso (.642), Clint Frazier (.632), Aaron Judge (.616), Alex Verdugo (.608), Mike Trout (.608), Mitch Haniger (.602), Nelson Cruz (.591), Paul DeJong (.575), Nolan Arenado (.569), Brandon Lowe (.567), Christian Walker (.561), Franmil Reyes (.561), Corey Dickerson (.561).
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