We are now eight weeks into the MLB season, and we’re starting to see who’s having breakout years, down years, and who’s right on par with expectations. This week was a fun one, as we saw an extraordinary performance from the Yankees’ rotation and the Rays’ offense, as many teams are on long winning streaks, including the Rays (10), Padres (9), Dodgers (7), and Yankees (6). There was another no-hitter (surprise, surprise), and the first 20+ run performance of the year. Let’s take a look at the players who excelled this week. As always, the team of the MLB Team of the Week includes one player at each position, as well as three starting pitchers and one relief pitcher.
MLB Team of the Week: Lineup
Catcher – Mike Zunino, TBR
4-12, 3 HR, 2B, 1.167 SLG, .624 wOBA, 315 wRC+, 0.5 WAR
The Rays went undefeated this week, and Mike Zunino was a major factor. He only played four games, and started three, but he hit three home runs, had an ISO .833 ISO and tied for the lead in fWAR among all catchers. It was a three true outcome type of week for Zunino, who had 11 of his 13 plate appearances end in a walk, strikeout, or homer.
He only had five batted balls, but he barreled four of them, and the same four were hard-hit. He had an average exit velocity of 102.9 MPH and maxed out at 110.3 MPH, with an average launch angle of 38.4 degrees. Zunino has had limited playing time this year, as Francisco Mejia has also played very well, but when he’s had the opportunity, Zunino has shown up, now making his first appearance on the team of the week.
1st Base – Trey Mancini, BAL
10-23, 3 2B, 3 HR, 8 R, 9 RBI, 5 BB, .536 OBP, .957 SLG, .601 wOBA, 296 wRC+, 0.7 WAR
I can’t believe that this spot isn’t going to Miguel Sano, but although he hit five home runs (and three in one game), his performance was subpar for the rest of the week. Trey Mancini has been better than anyone expected returning from a battle with cancer, and the runaway favorite for AL Comeback Player of the Year had the best week of his season. Mancini went 4-5 with two home runs and five RBI on Wednesday, as he now stands as the MLB RBI leader (bad stat, great story). His batted ball data was also great, as he barreled three balls, hit nine hard, and had a maxEV of 112.8 MPH, despite the Orioles’ 0-6 week.
2nd Base – Marcus Semien, TOR
10-26, 2 2B, 3B, 2 HR, .467 OBP, .769 SLG, 234 wRC+, 0.6 WAR
One of the Jays’ prized offseason acquisitions, Marcus Semien has been everything he’s been expected to be as the Jays’ leadoff man. He got off to a slow start to the year, but since April 21st, he’s been on fire, as he has a 189 wRC+, 7 HRs, and 2.0 WAR in his last 28 games. This week, Semien played six games, had a hit in five of them, had at least two hits in four, and had one three-hit game, in which he was just a single away from the cycle before going 0-3 in his final three ABs. His batted ball data isn’t quite as great as others, but he hard eight hard-hit balls, and maxed out at 106.6 MPH off the bat.
3rd Base – Austin Riley, ATL
12-26, 4 2B, 6 HR, 11 RBI, 1.308 SLG, .708 wOBA, 352 wRC+, 0.9 WAR
Austin Riley had by far the best week of his young career, as he hit six home runs in seven games, including two multi-homer games in the weekend series against Pittsburgh. He had at least one hit in each game, and had an extra base hit in six of the seven. Riley hit 13 balls hard and barreled seven, while averaging 99.7 MPH off the bat and maxing out at 110.3 MPH. On the year, Riley is up to a 159 wRC+ and 1.5 WAR, both the best of his young career. We’ll see if this is a breakout for the formerly highly-touted prospect, or if it’s just a great week.
Shortstop – Edmundo Sosa, STL
10-17, 2 2B, 3B, .632 OBP, .824 SLG, 298 wRC+, 0.6 WAR
The Cardinals’ young 25-year-old shortstop Edmundo Sosa has filled in well as a starter since Paul DeJong went down with an injury. He played five games, had at least one hit in each of them, had four multi-hit games, and had three extra-base hits. He scored six runs as well, and had a .714 BABIP. His batted ball data doesn’t stand out, as he was hitting the ball a lot, but he had a negative launch angle, despite barreling a ball, hitting six hard, and averaging 88.9 MPH off the bat.
Left Field – Jesse Winker, CIN
11-27, 6 HR, 3 BB, 1.074 SLG, .627 wOBA, 300 wRC+, 0.8 WAR
Jesse Winker has been one of the best pure hitters in baseball this year, which actually isn’t that big of a surprise given how great he’s been at the plate for his entire career. This week, Winker was absolutely unbelievable, hitting six homers in seven games, including a three-homer game, and a five-homer weekend. His Statcast data was also great, as he had 15 hard-hit balls, five barrels, and hit a ball 109.2 MPH. Winker now has a 135 wRC+ for his entire career and is off to an even better start in 2021. He’s off to a great start to 2021 and truly proving that he’s here to stay.
Center Field – Ramon Laureano, OAK
9-24, 2 2B, 3 HR, .833 SLG, .511 wOBA, 238 wRC+, 0.6 WAR
The A’s center fielder, Ramon Laureano, is off to a great start once again in 2021. Like Winker, Laureano has flown under the radar, but he’s one of the best center fielders in the league, arguably the 4th best. He’s already nearly doubled his total from 2020 in home runs, as he’s now up to 11 on the year. Of his 16 batted balls this week, eight were hard-hit, four were barreled, and he averaged 91.5 MPH off the bat. Laureano had a four-hit game on Friday, then a three-hit game on Sunday, following a two-homer performance against Houston on Tuesday. He had three great games, which were enough to land him on the team of the week.
Right Field – Nick Castellanos, CIN
13-25, 3 2B, 2 HR, .586 OBP, .880 SLG, .611 wOBA, 289 wRC+, 0.8 WAR
The NL’s leader in fWAR, Nick Castellanos, is off to another unbelievable start this year. He’s one of the streakiest players in baseball, and he’s really on one right now. This week, Castellanos played right field and hit 2nd every day (except Monday), and had a hit in each of the seven games he played. He had five two-hit games, including a three extra-base hit game on Sunday against the Brewers. Of his 18 batted balls, 10 were hard-hit, two were barreled, and the hardest hit was 110.5 MPH.
Designated Hitter – Shohei Ohtani, LAA
6-19, 2B, 3B, 2 HR, .789 SLG, .470 wOBA, 207 wRC+, 0.3 WAR (as a DH)
Shohei Ohtani has had better weeks, but the two-way star lands himself on the team of the week after another great performance this week. He only had six hits, but four of them were for extra bases, including homers in three straight games (only two this week), on Sunday-Tuesday. He played a little bit of outfield as well, and he came up huge in a pinch-hit appearance on Sunday, driving in the tying run with a sac fly. Ohtani had eight hard-hit balls, five barrels, and averaged 97.7 MPH off the bat.
MLB Team of the Week: Pitching Staff
Starting Pitcher – Spencer Turnbull, DET
9.0 IP, 9 K, 2 BB, 0 H, 1.81 FIP, 2.77 xFIP, 2.74 SIERA, 0.4 WAR
The Tigers’ starter threw a no-hitter in his only start this week, as he faced 29 batters, retired 27 of them, walked two, and gave up zero hits. Spencer Turnbull threw 117 pitches, 77 of them for strikes. He only allowed one barrel, while inducing 12 ground balls, five fly balls, and one line drive. He threw primarily fastballs, sinkers, and sliders, but Statcast detected six different pitches. He had 18 called strikes and 19 whiffs, 12 of which were on his fastball, good for a 32% CSW%.
Starting Pitcher – Corey Kluber, NYY
9.0 IP, 9 K, BB, 0 H, 1.48 FIP, 3.21 xFIP, 2.75 SIERA, 0.4 WAR
Corey Kluber also threw a no-hitter, the second of the week, and second against the Rangers this year. He faced 28, retired 27, allowing just one walk, and obviously zero hits. He gave up nine ground balls, and nine fly balls, with zero line drives allowed. Only one ball was barreled, and he struck out nine. He threw his breaking ball 31% of the time, generating 7 whiffs and 12 called strikes, good for a 61% CSW% on that pitch. He also threw cutters, sinkers, and changeups, as he finished the night with a 38% CSW%, and had 25 called strikes.
Starting Pitcher – Carlos Rodon, CWS
6.0 IP, 13 K, -1.19 FIP, -0.32 xFIP, 0.40 SIERA, 0.6 WAR
Carlos Rodon is the first pitcher, and second player (only J.D. Martinez) to make three team of the week appearances, as he’s off to an absolutely unbelievable start to the year in 2021. On Friday, in the series opener vs New York, he threw six shutout innings, allowing two hits, striking out 13, and walking none. His start was actually more impressive than Kluber’s or Turnbull’s, but they threw no-hitters so obviously they’re gonna get the top spots here. He threw three pitches, fastballs, sliders, and curveballs, maxing out at 98.9 MPH, and generating 23 whiffs. He finished the game with a 36% CSW% and allowed just eight balls in play, three ground balls, three fly balls, and two line drives.
Relief Pitcher – Ryan Tepera, CHC
This was a tough decision, but MVP-vote-getter Ryan Tepera gets the nod for the team of the week reliever this week. He’s the second non-closer to make the MLB team of the week, but he had a great week, throwing 4.1 innings, striking out eight of the 14 batters he faced, allowing just one baserunner, on an error (by him). On Monday, Tepera got four outs, striking out three and allowing no baserunners. It was his Sunday performance that lands him here, as he stranded the bases loaded with zero outs, facing the top of the Cardinals’ order, Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado, setting up Javier Baez‘s two-run game-winning homer.
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images