Skip to content

MLB Roundtable: Best early performances, concerning teams

Getty Images

theScore's MLB editors Josh Goldberg, Simon Sharkey-Gotlieb, Tom Ruminski, Ben Wrixon, and Brandon Wile answer some of the biggest questions a month into the 2024 season.

Who has offered the most impressive individual performance so far?

Ronel Blanco: Blanco has been one of the Astros' few bright spots during their underwhelming start to the season. The right-hander earned a rotation spot thanks to a strong spring and injuries to a handful of key pitchers. Blanco responded with a no-hitter in his first start and tacked on five no-hit innings in his next outing. The 30-year-old looks like a mainstay in the rotation and a much-needed win for a Houston farm system that's lacked success stories of late. - Goldberg

Mookie Betts: As it turns out, the best right fielder in baseball is also one of the best middle infielders. For all of the press Shohei Ohtani has received after joining the Dodgers, Betts remains the team's heartbeat and might already be authoring his best year ever. The 31-year-old leads the majors in runs (24), OBP (.458), and fWAR (1.9), tops the NL in walks (20), and sits top-five in virtually every other offensive category. Oh, and his three defensive runs saved are tied for the NL lead at shortstop. Keep in mind that Betts didn't even take over as the Dodgers' everyday shortstop until mid-March. This is the very definition of greatness. - Sharkey-Gotlieb

Mason Miller: The most electric pitcher in the majors resides in ... Oakland? The 25-year-old flamethrower's been one of the best early-season stories. The Athletics converted him from a starter to a reliever to protect him from injury, and the early returns have been beyond impressive; 1.80 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 20 strikeouts over 10 innings. Miller's four-seam fastball has the highest average speed (100.7 mph) of any pitch in the majors this campaign. His most impressive performance of the year came Monday in the Bronx when he struck out Anthony Volpe, Juan Soto, and Aaron Judge in the ninth inning for the save. - Wile

Which team do you think is overachieving?

Cleveland Guardians: If, before the season, you asked 100 people which team would start 17-6, would anyone have picked the Guardians? Even with Josh Naylor making the leap to superstardom and Steven Kwan returning to form with a 150 OPS+, the legitimacy of Cleveland's lineup is still very much in question. Beating up on the pitching of the Athletics and White Sox a combined 10 times doesn't exactly inspire confidence, nor does losing ace Shane Bieber to Tommy John surgery. The Guardians have a plethora of young arms capable of picking up the slack, but the team will likely come crashing down when the run-scoring inconsistencies that have plagued them in recent years resurface - especially in a surprisingly competitive AL Central. - Wrixon

Boston Red Sox: No team's dealt with as many crucial injuries as the Red Sox, but they've still managed a 13-11 record. Trevor Story, Lucas Giolito, Triston Casas, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Whitlock, and Vaughn Grissom are all on the IL, while Rafael Devers and Tyler O'Neill also missed time. Boston somehow swept a series in Pittsburgh over the weekend with Pablo Reyes (.424 OPS), Enmanuel Valdez (.467), Ceddanne Rafaela (.469), and Bobby Dalbec (.177) in its infield. The team's success largely comes from its pitching - its starters own the lowest ERA (1.80) in the majors. The Red Sox offense has been middle of the pack, ranking 14th in runs and 15th in OPS. However, the club capitalizes when it counts, recording the second-most homers in the majors. Combining their increasingly difficult schedule with their struggles at home (3-7) will make this success difficult to sustain if injuries continue to pile up. - Wile

Milwaukee Brewers: Many expected the Brewers to fade in 2024 after trading ace Corbin Burnes. However, through the first few weeks of the season, Milwaukee's been one of baseball's most pleasant surprises. The offense looks deep and imposing, tying a franchise record by scoring seven or more runs in six consecutive games for the third time in franchise history. The NL Central is far from a gauntlet, meaning Milwaukee could be relevant all season. The team's rotation is its biggest area of concern. Beyond Freddy Peralta, it's hard to see any of its other starting pitchers grading out at league average. Without improvements in that area, the lineup will shoulder even more pressure to carry the load going forward. - Goldberg

Which struggling team are you most worried about?

Houston Astros: Everything's been going wrong for the Astros, who are now 10 games under .500 for the first time since 2016. Not coincidentally, 2016 was the last year the Astros - who've made seven straight ALCS appearances - missed the playoffs. Houston's supposedly vaunted bullpen duo of Ryan Pressly and offseason addition Josh Hader has allowed a combined 17 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings, while starters Cristian Javier and Framber Valdez are hurt. Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez are still doing their thing, but they can't mask Alex Bregman's slow start (.555 OPS, no home runs) or José Abreu (.065/.132/.081) becoming unplayable. Yes, it's still "early" in the year, but it's gotten very late for the Astros very quickly. They have the talent to turn this around, but it has to start right now to keep the franchise's golden era going. No pressure. - Sharkey-Gotlieb

St. Louis Cardinals: St. Louis massively disappointed in 2023, stumbling to the NL Central basement with a 71-91 record. While few expected them to win 100 games in 2024, most expected the offense to be better than its been. Paul Goldschmidt's especially struggled, posting a .542 OPS for a team that's scored the second-fewest runs in the NL. Offseason pitching additions Sonny Gray and Lance Lynn have kept the team afloat, but outside of those two, the rest of the rotation's really struggled. - Wrixon

Minnesota Twins: The Twins followed an AL Central-winning season and their first playoff series victory since 2002 with an underwhelming offseason. Injuries to Royce Lewis and Carlos Correa in the first two (shaky) weeks of the campaign have only added to the level of concern. With the Royals, Guardians, and Tigers all off to strong starts, the Twins have to find a way to get things going so they aren't too far back in the standings when Lewis and Correa eventually return to the lineup. - Goldberg

San Francisco Giants: The club overhauled its roster in free agency, spending a combined $315 million to bring in Blake Snell, Matt Chapman, Jorge Soler, Jordan Hicks, and Jung Hoo Lee. San Francisco also traded for injured left-hander Robbie Ray. But the infusion of expensive talent has yet to translate to success on the field: The Giants sit just one game under .500 and only two games back of the Dodgers, but have a mediocre offense that's hit just five home runs at Oracle Park in 12 games. It's a small sample size, but San Francisco's bold offseason might be in vain: The team could finish as low as fourth simply because the NL West is so deep. - Ruminski

What's one thing that's bothered you?

Pitching injuries: Great pitching - specifically, starting pitching - has always been vital to success in baseball. That's why it's so sad to see its current state. Unfortunately, we're now watching hurlers with the assumption that their elbows are nothing but ticking time bombs. This is a serious problem for the sport, and the pitch clock can't be blamed. It's a trend that trickles down to the grassroots level, as young pitchers try to light every radar gun on fire now that we're obsessed with velocity. MLB can - and should - lead the way to fix this line of thinking at every level of the sport, for the good of baseball's future. - Sharkey-Gotlieb

Bad umpiring: Sorry, traditionalists, but robot umpires can't get here soon enough. The ump show has been in full force in the early days of the 2024 season, with umpires around the league making headlines for all the wrong reasons. From embarrassing strike-three calls to ejecting Yankees manager Aaron Boone for a fan's heckling, the men known as 'blue' have baseball fans feeling green with disgust. Calling balls and strikes is a challenging and thankless job, but automated assistance could make it easier. That said, certain umpires routinely making themselves the game's biggest story is the real problem that needs to be addressed. - Wrixon

Aaron Judge getting booed: I get it. Fans are free to express themselves when their favorite team is struggling. Judge said he had no issue with the boos and would do the same thing if he was watching his performance. He's the consummate professional and deserves to be the captain of one of the marquee franchises in all of professional sports. However, Judge should get the benefit of the doubt, especially considering it's April. He's a season removed from setting the AL single-season home run record and was excellent in 2023. If he's hitting under the Mendoza line in June, we can talk about letting him hear it. - Goldberg

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox