I love the fact that no matter how much we all like to make predictions based on scouting reports, analytics, algorithms, development projects or the eye test, baseball players will prove that heartbeats and guts are just as important as their individual history and projections. How many people predicted that J.P. Crawford would be hitting .356 or Kyle Tucker a measly .175? Or that Kris Bryant wouldn’t have a single home run? On the pitching side, who thought Kyle Wright would have a 1.06 ERA and Pablo López would be 2-0 with a 0.52 ERA? The unpredictability is what makes baseball so great. Here’s what I think we can believe — and can’t believe — through the first month of the season.


What to believe

Seiya Suzuki, OF, Chicago Cubs

Suzuki needs to clear off a shelf on his bookcase because he’s practically clinched the National League Rookie of the Year Award in the first month of the season. So far, he’s slashed an impressive .327/.463/.635 with four doubles, four home runs and 13 RBIs in 17 games. What’s been most impressive has been his ability to not chase out of the strike zone — his chase rate is in the 96th percentile while his barrel percentage is in the 98th percentile, according to Baseball Savant. His sprint speed is also impressive, ranking in the 96th percentile. He has shown power to all fields and has been entertaining to watch, as well as a good teammate. The Cubs got a bargain at an annual average value of $17 million per season. I’m sure there are several GMs kicking themselves for not bidding higher for his services considering what he’s shown so far.


Byron Buxton, CF, Minnesota Twins

Buxton has always had the talent and the potential to be great, but we’ve never seen him healthy for an extended period. In his eight years in the major leagues, he’s played more than 92 games just once, never had 500 at-bats in a single season, and has never hit 20 home runs or stolen 30 bases. The Gold Glove center fielder is arguably the best defensive outfielder in baseball, and has been for most of his career. He’s always had 30-35 raw home run power and always had the ability to steal 35-40 bases, we’ve just never seen him play full seasons. I always said if he can hit for average he’d have the potential of former Reds star Eric Davis, whose best season came in 1987 when he hit 37 home runs, stole 50 bases and hit .293. Well, Buxton has arrived and he’s ready to stay healthy for a full season and be a legitimate MVP candidate, so put your seat belt on and enjoy the ride.

Ty France, 1B, Seattle Mariners

France is off to an incredible start to the season, slashing .368/.443/.632 with five home runs and 21 runs batted in while leading the American League with 25 hits. He’s notched 43 total bases so far and an impressive 225 OPS+. He’s as mechanically sound as any right-handed hitter in the AL right now. He has short levers, a compact swing, is quick to contact, and has special hand-eye coordination. I remember when Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto acquired him in a deal with the Padres, he told me he thought he could win a batting title someday. Based on what we are witnessing now, that prediction might come true sooner than even Dipoto thought. One thing’s for real: His bat is just that … for real.


Dead ball

The baseball is not carrying. Hitters are thinking they got it and are surprised it’s hitting the warning track. There are a lot of opinions and theories as to why, including but not limited to: the shortened spring training; the early cold weather especially in the Midwest and Northeast; the fact that all 30 teams now put the baseballs in humidors (up from a third of teams last year); and finally, pitchers are no longer throwing fastballs the majority of the time. But the bottom line is that the percentage of balls being hit out of parks is down significantly from what it was last year for balls with the same launch angles and exit velocities.


Kyle Wright, RHP, Atlanta Braves

Wright looks like the pitching prospect I predicted would break out back in 2019 and never did. It’s now his time to shine, and what a start to his year: He is 2-0 with 26 strikeouts in 17 innings of work to go with a 1.06 ERA over three starts. His fastball velocity has ticked up to 95-96 mph. He’s throwing his curveball and change-up more than any time in his career and throwing his slider less than ever before.