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Stanton Starting the Season Off Hot

Giancarlo Stanton

Giancarlo Stanton

Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a fairly large debate in baseball -- and sports in general -- about whether or not “locked in” is an actual, tangible thing.

Those who don’t believe in it can point to statistical analysis. Those who do should just point at Giancarlo Stanton.

Stanton homered for the second straight game on Saturday, a two-run homer off Nick Pivetta that gave New York a 4-2 lead and ultimately a victory. The outfielder has just two hits on the year -- in just two games, of course -- but take a look at how much hard contact the slugger has already made.

Hitting loud homers is nothing new for Stanton. This is a player that has 349 homers over his 11-plus seasons in the majors with a slugging percentage of .544 in 1,326 games. What kind of gets lost in the shuffle is just how much loud contact he can make even when he’s not hitting the ball out of parks. Stanton has ranked no lower than in the 89th percentile in hard-hit percentage, and no lower than 98th percentile in average exit velocity. Yes, the strikeouts can make that stat matter less because the average exit velocity on a ball put in play is zero, but there’s no denying that very, very few hitters sting the ball more than Stanton does.

And there’s also no denying that when Stanton has been hot, he’s at a different level than many other hitters. And vice versa. For instance, last year in July the outfielder/designated hitter posted a July that saw him hit just .214, strike out 31 times in 97 plate appearances and post an OPS of 653. He followed that month up with a .327/.404/.643 August that saw him go deep nine times in 28 games.

Stanton is either on your roster or isn’t right now, there’s probably nothing you can do about that outside of a trade. But if you’re someone who plays DFS, and you see just how hard Stanton is hitting the baseball right now, well, we think you know what to do. We respect your intelligence quite a bit.

Hitters with an EDGE

Byron Buxton vs. Mariners

1-for-3, HR, 2 RBI

It was just one hit, but what a hit it was for Buxton. Andres Munoz fed the ever-so-talented outfielder a 101 mph fastball right at the top of the zone. This is a pitch that most hitters don’t make contact with. Those who catch up to it are going to pop up meekly to the infield. This is what Buxton did.

What a special player. Yada yada yada, health, yada yada yada. When he’s on the field, there just aren’t many better.

Pete Alonso vs. Nationals

1-for-5, HR, 4 RBI

Again, we respect your intelligence, so you can probably look at that stat line and tell us what kind of homer Alonso had. The man called Polar Bear has his first homer of the season, and assuredly not his last. Alonso will have times where he struggles to hit for average, but the power production is going to be there as long as he’s on the field.

Ty France vs. Twins

3-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI

France was somewhat quietly a fantasy contributor in the 2021 season, and while it’s just two games, he’s looked like someone that should have been more heavily considered to begin 2022. He reached four times in the opener, and followed that up with three knocks on Saturday; the biggest being a game-winner in the top of the ninth to break up a 3-3 tie. France doesn’t have elite power, but he makes hard contact all over the field and is locked into a spot at the top of the Seattle lineup. You can do much, much worse -- especially when you consider he has eligibility at both first and second base in Yahoo leagues.

Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Carlos Rodon vs. Marlins

5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 12 SO

It came in a no-decision -- and it came in a game that the Giants ultimately lost -- but it’d be tough to call Rodón’s debut with the Giants anything but a success. Success feels like an understatement, really. The southpaw topped out at 98.9 mph with his heater, and he was able to generate 24 whiffs on 48 swings. Incredible. We saw quite a few flashes of brilliance from Rodón in his 2021 season, and if he’s even a semblance of this pitcher going forward, he’s going to make fantasy managers very, very happy. Those who don’t have hitters facing him, anyway.

Kyle Wright vs. Reds

6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO

Wright did have the fortune of facing a Cincinnati lineup that probably isn’t going to be among the league leaders in runs, but he obviously took advantage of it, and passed the eye test. He threw 56-of-76 pitches for strikes, and had the Reds hitters struggling to make hard contact -- and at times any contact at all. Wright is a former top prospect who hasn’t shown a lick of consistency yet, but he absolutely has the stuff to be a fantasy relevant starter in 2022.

Justin Verlander vs. Angels

5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 SO

Noah Syndergaard vs. Astros

5 1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO

Verlander and Syndergaard squared off against each other, and two of the most successful hurlers of the last decade were strong in their season debuts. Verlander in particular was impressive, as he showed off the swing-and-miss stuff that likely (assuredly?) makes him a Hall of Famer when all is said and done. Syndergaard didn’t miss many bats as you can see on Saturday and also got to face a lineup without Alex Bregman (rest), but it’s tough to argue with the results in his debut with the Halos.

It’s just one game, but fantasy managers have to be encouraged by both in their season debuts. Fun stuff.

Priority Pickup

Steven Kwan -- available in 93 percent of Yahoo fantasy baseball leagues.

Again, we’re dealing with small samples because there’s nothing but small samples three or so days into the season, but Kwan is someone fantasy managers need to take a closer look at. After going 1-for-2 with two walks in the season opener on Friday, the 24-year-old went 2-for-3 with another free pass on Saturday to improve his line -- again, just over two games -- to .600/.750/.800. In 2021, the former Oregon State outfielder slash .327/.407/.527 in stops at Double-A and Triple-A with 12 homers and six steals over 77 games. Kwan should be a regular who hits near the top of the lineup for the Guardians, and while managers shouldn’t expect fireworks, there’s enough here to make him an intriguing addition early in the year. Better too early than too late.

Closing Time

A day after Drew Steckenrider was tasked with finishing off the Twins, the Mariners turned to Diego Castillo to come in for the save on Saturday, and he handled himself quite nicely. He struck out two while not allowing a hit, and needed just 10 pitches to finish Minnesota off. The Mariner closer situation is going to be a tough one to keep track of, but Castillo has a history of handling the job pretty well.

Corey Knebel got his first save chance for the Phillies, and it was a bit of a mixed bag. The right-hander got the job done in a 4-2 victory with a strikeout, but he did allow a run -- an unearned run, but a run -- and caused a little more sweat than fans of Philadelphia along with fantasy managers would have liked. Knebel is going to remain the closer and has had success as a stopper, but a bit of a bumpy takeoff for the 30-year-old.

Jordan Romano picked up a save on Friday, and got a chance for back-to-back chances with a 4-3 lead. Unsurprisingly, he did the job; needing just eight pitches to get through three Texas hitters. Romano is locked in as the closer for the Blue Jays, and with that team considered by many (me) to be among the best in baseball, the save chances should be a plenty.

Aaron Bummer, Andrew Kittredge, Will Smith, Anthony Bender, Aroldis Chapman and Taylor Rogers were among the others who picked up saves on Saturday. Lots of close games.

Matchup of the Day

Hunter Greene vs. Ian Anderson

This probably should be Freddy Peralta vs. Marcus Stroman. But I’m going with Anderson vs. Greene because it’s Greene’s MLB debut, and Anderson is still just 23-years-old until May 2. They’re not very similar pitchers; one is a hurler with a fastball that can get above 100 mph on the regular, one is a pitcher that is certainly not a soft-tosser but relies on his secondary offerings more than his heater. These are two of the most talented young right-handers in baseball, and it should be a lot of fun to watch.

American League Quick Hits: Bo Bichette went 2-for-4 with a homer to help the Blue Jays to a 4-3 win on Saturday over the Rangers. … Astros manager Dusty Baker told reporters that Lance McCullers (forearm) isn’t far from beginning a throwing program. … Mariners signed RHP Daniel Ponce de Leon to a minor league contract. … Xander Bogaerts (hamstring) returned to the Red Sox’ starting lineup for Saturday’s game against the Yankees. … AJ Pollock exited Saturday’s game against the Tigers with right hamstring tightness. … Guardians signed OF Myles Straw to a five-year, $25 million contract extension with an $8 million team option for 2027 and an $8.5 million team option for 2028. … Rangers placed RHP Jon Gray on the 10-day injured list with a right middle finger blister.

National League Quick Hits: Chris Bassitt delivered a dominant performance in his Mets debut on Saturday, racking up eight strikeouts over six scoreless innings against the Nationals. … X-rays came back negative on Ian Happ‘s knee after he left Saturday’s game against the Brewers. … Anibal Sánchez may not make his start on Monday against the Braves due to a stiff neck. … Braves signed OF Delino DeShields to a minor league contract. … Reds manager David Bell told reporters that he got “great reports” on Lucas Sims (elbow) on Thursday. … Logan Webb (ankle) is expected to make his next start Wednesday against the Padres. … Phillies signed OF Roman Quinn to a minor league contract.