Opening Day Roster Update
March 28, 2019
The wait is over – Opening Day is here! We’ve been loving Spring Training, but nothing makes us happier than the start of the regular season. Lucky for us, it’s the earliest Opening Day in the history of Major League Baseball! 30 teams. 15 games. Baseball every day until the All-Star break. And it all starts right now. Get amped! Our R.B.I. Baseball 19 highlighted players have completed Spring Training and they’re all tuned up and ready to make an impact on the 2019 season, if they haven’t already (we’re looking at you, Khris Davis).
There’s a reason Alex Bregman was selected to be one of R.B.I. Baseball’s cover athletes: the dude can flat out rake. Bregman finished off the 2018 campaign with a .286/.394/.532 slash line, and new career highs in HR (31), runs (105), and RBI (103). Of the 141 qualified batters, only four finished 2018 with a higher walk rate than strikeout rate. Alex Bregman was one of them. If Bregman’s spring training statistics are any indication, he shows no signs of slowing down. This spring he slashed .370/.528/.778 with 3 HR over 36 AB. He’s slated to begin the year batting 2nd for the Astros, sandwiched between George Springer and Jose Altuve. We’re looking forward to what is shaping up to be a really special year for the All-Star MVP 3rd baseman.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
R.B.I Baseball 19’s Canadian cover athlete had one impressive rookie season. The utility infielder hit .281 with a .446 SLG and 11 HR over 65 games played. Four of those HR came during an absolutely torrential July where Gurriel slashed .423/.438/.648 with a whopping 200 wRC+. Gurriel makes fantastic contact as he has an average exit velocity over 90 mph with a top 35 Hard Hit% at 45.1%. That means that almost half time Gurriel makes contact with the ball it has an exit velocity over 95 mph. It only makes sense then that Gurriel Jr. slugged 4 HR in spring training. Gurriel will start off the Blue Jays campaign playing 2B and batting 7th but we wouldn’t be surprised to see him utilized all over the infield. We also wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of loud, hard-hit homers in 2019!
Ronald Acuna Jr.
Ronald Acuna Jr. made his MLB debut last year on April 25th. A week later he was slashing .345/.406/.621 and never looked back. The National League Rookie of the Year showed the world that he was the complete offensive package last year. You want steals? Acuna gave you 16 of them. Home Runs? 26. All of that production from just 111 games played. Baseball Savant has a few metrics based off what a player’s stats should have looked like based off of the contact they made. A stat like xSLG shows what a players expected slugging should have been based off the exit velocity and launch angle of their hits. Acuna finished the year with an xSLG of .525 which was in the top 6% of the league. That elite contact batting clean up for Atlanta in 2019 is nothing but good news for the Braves faithful.
After finishing 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting, Gleyber Torres is out to show that 2018 was no fluke. This spring, Torres slashed .302/.388/.674 with 2 SB and 4 HR over 18 games played. The taters should come as no surprise as the All-Star Yankees 2B crushed 24 HR, 13 of which came from the 9 hole. Talk about production from the bottom half of your order. As of now, the Yankees plan on utilizing Torres the same way that they did last season but if his .283/.343/.544 out of the 9 spot is any indication, he shouldn’t have any problems.
Jack Flaherty’s 2018 debut came against the eventual NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers. He went 5 IP with just 1 ER, 6 H, 1 B and a whopping 9 K’s. Thus began a campaign that would see Flaherty finish 11th in K% (29.6), 13th in K/9 (10.85), and 31st in ERA (3.34). Flaherty arsenal consists of a fourseam fastball, a slider, sinker, curveball and changeup. While each of them has their positives – not one pitch finished with a batting average against over .260 – his slider may be the filthiest of the mix. Batters hit a meager .181 against the pitch despite him throwing it 772 times. The pitch recorded an elite 22.9% Swinging strike rate with a near 40% K rate. TL;DR the pitch was virtually un-hittable. We’re looking forward to watching Flaherty continue to carve up batters with it in 2019.
One would think a wrist fracture would be severely detrimental to a players offensive production over the course of the season. Justin Turner is the exception to that rule. After breaking his wrist in spring training of 2018, Justin Turner made his debut in the middle of May. While it took him a few weeks to get reacclimated, the 2nd half saw Turner return to form. After the All-Star break, Justin Turner slashed .356/.447/.619 with an elite 1.066 OPS. Turner ended the season hitting over .300 for the 2nd consecutive year. Considering he hit .488 in spring training, we think it’s very possible that he could do it again in ’19.
Baseball is filled with wacky, out-there statistics. One of our absolute favorite pertains to Khris Davis. Let’s take a look at the A’s slugger’s AVG over the past 4 seasons:
Your eyes are not deceiving you. It’s not a typo. Khris Davis has hit .247 for the past four years. While the average has maintained, the HR totals have gone up: 27 to 42 to 43 to an MLB leading 48 in 2018. Considering Khris Davis already recorded his first HR of the year in Japan – this was his 3rd consecutive Opening Day with a HR by the way – we think he’s well on his way to being atop the leaderboards again. Whether he’ll hit .247 again we’ll have to wait and see.