With the first week in the books, itâ€™s time to plan ahead and get strapped in for another exciting week of baseball.
Now that we have a weekâ€™s worth of sampling to peruse, itâ€™s time for players stuck in neutral to step up. Weâ€™ll all begin to get a little more nervous if these early season slumps last any longer.
Donâ€™t fret though. As noted time and time again, baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. So, here is this weekâ€™s installment of players to watch.
Will Middlebrooks: Boston Red Sox
After slugging four home runs (three in Sundayâ€™s game against the Blue Jays) in the first week and going 8-17 in his last four games, Middlebrooks is the hottest name in baseball right now. The schedule is favorable for Middlebrooks to continue mashing the ball. This week, Middlebrooks and the Red Sox will be at home for six games facing the back-end part of the Oriolesâ€™ rotation (Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Jake Arrieta) and also the Rays (Alex Cobb, David Price and Jeremy Hellickson).
Chris Davis: Baltimore Orioles
Davis also had an excellent week at the plate. Davis had an astonishing 17 RBIâ€™s (four home runs included) in 22 at-bats with his run of having an RBI in each game snapped on Sunday after going 0-4. This week, Davis will have six games on the road against Red Sox (Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront) and the Yankees (CC Sabtathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte) pitching. Thatâ€™s three lefties Davis will be facing for those who are keeping track, but he is too hot to sit right now.
Brandon Morrow: Toronto Blue Jays
After striking out eight batters in six innings while limiting the Indians to one run in his debut this season, Morrow looks locked in on the mound. Perhaps this is the year Morrow stays healthy and puts it all together. This week, Morrow will be on the mound twice making road starts at Detroit and Kansas City.
Matt Harvey: New York Mets
If Morrowâ€™s start was inspiring, Harvey saw his outing and raised him one better. In seven innings against the lowly Padres, Harvey was dominant by striking out 10 San Diego batters while allowing only one hit, two walks and giving up no runs. The slate will get tougher with starts in Philadelphia and Minnesota, but Harvey seems primed for a breakout year.
Alexi Ogando: Texas Rangers
Much like Harvey, Ogando looked good against a bad team, striking out ten in 6.1 innings (four hits, one walk and no runs allowed) against an abysmal Houston Astros club. Just like Harvey, weâ€™ll get to see if Ogandoâ€™s resurgence is for real as he will get set to make two starts against much better competition (vs. Tampa Bay, @ Seattle). Ogando, who was part of the bullpen last year, will be eased back into the rotation while being restricted by a pitch count.
Roy Halladay: Philadelphia Phillies
The Halladay-Harvey duel is a good matchup of two pitchers going in the opposite direction. Halladay made history last week by recording only 10 outs with nine of them coming via the strikeout. Halladay ends his week with a matchup with the hapless Marlins on the road. Whether Halladay has diminished velocity on his fastball or not is debatable, but with two starts this week, he is worth the risk, though.
Hiroki Kuroda: New York Yankees
By all indications, Kuroda should be good to go this week after taking a comebacker off his right middle finger in his first start of the season against the Red Sox. Kuroda would set up to be a great two-start pitcher while taking on the Indians on the road before coming back home to take on the Orioles if he was guaranteed to get the opportunity.
Justin Upton: Atlanta Braves
While older brother B.J. Upton is having trouble adjusting to Atlanta, the younger brother has not. Justin Upton is fitting in quite nicely for the Braves, as he is off to a fantastic start, hitting .318 with five home runs and seven RBIâ€™s thus far. This week, Upton and the Braves will be on the road against the Marlins (Kevin Slowey, Wade LeBlanc and Alex Sanabia) and the Nationals (Ross Detwiler, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez).
Todd Frazier: Cincinnati Reds
Following up on an impressive rookie season, Frazier did not want to be outdone by Bryce Harper once again (although Harper did pop three home runs this week). Frazier went 12-30 with three home runs and nine RBIâ€™s this past week to keep pace. Next on tap for Frazier and the Reds are road series against the Cardinals (Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook) and the Pirates (A.J. Burnett, Jeff Locke and Wandy Rodriguez).
Jed Lowrie: Oakland Aâ€™s
One of the more surprising players who had an excellent week at the plate this week was Jed Lowrie. Lowrie (13-26 with three home runs and six RBIâ€™s) has been good in spurts before, but the only thing holding him back was staying healthy and consistent. Well, Lowrie looks rejuvenated in Oakland and heâ€™ll look to keep it going this week with matchups on the road against the Angels (C.J. Wilson, Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas) and at home against the Tigers (Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez).