AL Central: Checking in on the new guys
KANSAS CITY -- New faces abound in the American League Central in 2018, some young and some old. And we're not talking about Frosty the Snowman, who has made an appearance in every AL Central park from Detroit to Kansas City here in April.
Let's go around the horn in the AL Central and check out the new guys.
Who's the new guy? First baseman Yonder Alonso
How's it going so far? Through 16 games, Alonso has a .196/.274/.375 slash line to go with three home runs and nine RBIs. Like most of the Indians' lineup, Alonso's slow start was impacted by an extremely cold stretch of games in Cleveland.
What's on deck? Alonso's .195 batting average on balls in play is the ninth-lowest mark in the AL. That, combined with other peripheral statistics, indicate a positive regression is coming.
Number to know: 8. Alonso is one of 16 players in MLB with at least eight barrels, per Statcast™..
Who's the new guy? Rookie left-hander Tim Hill
How's it going so far? Incredibly well. Hill perhaps was a long shot to make the 25-man roster entering Spring Training, but his funky sidearm delivery caught the coaching staff's eyes immediately. Hill's fastball sits around 91-92 mph, and extensive work on his slider ("It's still improving," manager Ned Yost said.) this spring is paying off, as AL hitters are still somewhat baffled by his repertoire.
What's on deck? More high-leverage situations. As the rest of the Royals' bullpen wobbles, Hill and closer Kelvin Herrera have been Yost's most reliable go-to guys. Yost and his staff had been hoping to bring Hill along slowly, but now Kansas City may have no choice but to use Hill from the eighth inning on.
Number to know: 0. That's the number of hits Hill has given up in his first seven appearances.
Who's the new guy? Leonys Martin
How's it going so far? Martin has filled the leadoff and center-field roles surprisingly well, covering more range in the gaps at Comerica Park than probably anybody since Austin Jackson's rookie year. Offensively, Martin scored nine runs in his first 14 games, including the go-ahead tally Tuesday after reaching base on a bunt single.
What's on deck? Martin is in line to get close to everyday playing time in center now that JaCoby Jones is getting the bulk of the starts in left. With Dixon Machado having cooled off from his start, Martin is safe in the leadoff spot for the near future.
Number to know 5. Those are the Outs Above Average Martin earned in about a half-season of playing time last year between the Mariners and Cubs. He's on track to top that in Detroit.
Who's the new guy? Designated hitter/first baseman Logan Morrison
How's it going so far? Morrison has struggled offensively so far since signing a one-year deal in Spring Training. He was brought in to be a power bat from the left side after a breakout year with the Rays last year, when he clubbed 38 home runs. Morrison has yet to break out of his slump this season, and he has produced only one extra-base hit (a double) in 44 at-bats this season.
What's on deck? The Twins believe Morrison will get it going offensively based on his track record, so he'll continue to be the everyday designated hitter and backup to Joe Mauer at first base. Morrison has also had to adjust to playing in cold weather early this season, so the hope is his bat will heat up with the weather.
Number to know: 3. The number of hits for Morrison in his first 12 games with Minnesota.
Who's the new guy? Right-hander Bruce Rondon
How's it going so far? The hard-throwing right-hander came up from Triple-A Charlotte to replace an ineffective Juan Minaya in Chicago's bullpen and has been unhittable in a small sample size. Rondon's 100 mph velocity and a sharp slider to go with it gives the White Sox a potential closer, or at least another late-inning option.
What's on deck? Look for Rondon to continue getting late-inning, high-leverage opportunities, although the White Sox have Nate Jones and Joakim Soria in place in the closer's role. At 27, Rondon could be a newfound part of the rebuild, or he could end up being a great trade chip if he continues pitching well.
Number to know: 5. Rondon struck out the first five batters he faced this season, including his old friend and Detroit teammate Jose Cabrera, who gave Rondon a knowing wink after a slider got him