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MLB: Five players catching the eye: Yennier Cato makes great start

Five players in particular have made electric starts to the season and, while some are young, others have been around the Minor Leagues but have made a good start to their MLB careers.

Yennier Cano (Baltimore Orioles)

Yennier Cano has been the breakout bullpen star for the Baltimore Orioles so far this season.

The 29-year-old has stepped up when usual closer Felix Bautista has been unavailable due to high-season usage rate. Cano helped Baltimore collect their seventh consecutive win and 11th in the past 13 games when they overcame the Boston Red Sox 5-4 at Camden Yards on Monday night.

Cano moved closer to a Baltimore record by retiring the first 20 batters he has faced this season. The only Baltimore pitcher to post a longer streak to open the season was right-hander Fred Holdsworth, who sent down 24 in a row in the 1976 campaign. Cano helped get his first save of the season to boot.

The emergence of Cano has come from nowhere. The Cuban began his MLB career as a 25-year-old with the Minnesota Twins in June 2019. Cano was among four Minor League pitchers dealt from Minnesota to Baltimore at last year’s Trade Deadline, in exchange for All-Star closer Jorge Lopez.

The Orioles are +1800 to win the American League East Division.

Spencer Strider (Atlanta Braves)

Spencer Strider had an excellent campaign last season and was second in the National League Rookie of the Year award behind teammate Michael Harris II. In 2023, Strider has been no different and has made an excellent start to the season.

Strider flirted with history on Monday night when he recorded a season-high 13 strikeouts while helping Atlanta Braves break a four-game losing streak as they demolished the Miami Marlins 11-0 at Truist Park.

The 24-year-old’s latest effort makes him the only Braves pitcher to record at least nine strikeouts in consecutive starts. The 24-year-old hurler entered Monday sharing the franchise record with John Smoltz. Another Hall-of Famer, Nolan Ryan, owns the MLB record with an 11-game run in 1977.

Strider has recorded double-digit strikeouts in seven of his first 25 career starts. Strider leads Major League Baseball with 49 strikeouts and a 42.6 percent strikeout rate this year.

Strider is +275 to win the National League Cy Young award in 2023.

Sonny Gray (Minnesota Twins)

Another pitcher that has made a great start to the season has been veteran starter Sonny Gray. The 33-year-old has only allowed two earned runs this season in 29 innings pitched which has seen him acquire an ERA of 0.62 this season, better than the Los Angeles Angels two-way star, Shohei Ohtani.

In franchise history only Walter Johnson of the 1913 Washington Senators and Eddie Matteson of the 1918 Senators have recorded a lower ERA in their first five appearances of a season (minimum 20 innings pitched). Gray has 34 strikeouts so far this season and a 3-0 record.

The Minnesota Twins are +110 to win the American League Central Division.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Toronto Blue Jays)

The 24-year-old has made a superb start to the season for Toronto Blue Jays. He has a batting average of .333 with 30 hits in 90 at-bats and five home runs, 17 runs and 13 RBI’s and an OPS of .936.

The two-time All-Star is yet to get to his 2021 numbers, but early indications are he is on his way. In fact, his On-Base Percentage (OPS) is ahead of his 2021 figure. Guerrero Jr has hit 85 home runs in the past two seasons plus this one, and appears to be getting better all the time.

In 2021, Vladimir Guerrero Jr was second in the voting for the American League Most Valuable Player award behind Shohei Ohtani. In 2023, he is +1200 to win the AL MVP.

Pete Alonso (New York Mets)

Pete Alonso has already hit 10 home runs this season for New York Mets, only Max Muncy, with 11, leads all of Major League Baseball. Alonso has hit 13 more home runs than Aaron Judge since making his debut in 2019. The 28-year-old has 403 RBI’s with a career 156 home runs to add.

Alonso plays more than anyone else, he is fifth in the majors in plate appearances since the beginning of 2019 behind Marcus Semien. Mike Trout misses a lot of time through injury, yet he is regarded as Major League Baseball’s best hitter. Maybe Alonso should be added to the mix. He isn’t Judge, but arguably he is better.

Alonso is +650 to win the National League Most Valuable Player.

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