This week’s Player of the Week could have gone to a number of deserving candidates, including a great two start week from J.A. Happ, offensive breakouts from Kevin Pillar and Troy Tulowitzki, and continued offensive dominance from Josh Donaldson. But this week’s Player of the Week is split between two outfielders who are often overshadowed by the hitters around them.
Michael Saunders and Ezequiel Carrera ignited the offence this week at the top of the order, and while this performance can be expected more so from a player of Saunders caliber, the way Carrera played in the series against the A’s while Saunders was out with a hamstring injury cannot be overlooked.
In the four games Saunders played this week from the leadoff spot, he went 7/16 with three doubles, three walks, and six runs as he did an excellent job getting on base in front of the big bats in the middle of the lineup.
Saunders’ plate discipline has been very good so far this year with a 10.2% walk rate. His 22% strikeout rate is a little high, it’s still under his career average of 25.4%, so that’s not an area of concern for him, as a low to mid 20’s strikeout rate is generally what you should expect from him at this point of his career.
Along with a strong knowledge of the strike zone he’s showing, he’s also making plenty of hard contact. According to Fangraphs, his hard contact rate is a solid 30% and he’s only making soft contact 15% of the time. Statcast has his average launch speed at 91.69 mph, which is more than 2 mph higher than the MLB average. Furthermore, his line drive rate is a very high 30%. He’s consistently working himself into good hitter counts, making hard contact, and putting the ball on a line, and he showed it all this week. If he can continue this, he’s likely to stay in the leadoff spot for the foreseeable future.
Saunders was left out of the series against the Oakland A’s due to a hamstring injury, but Carrera filled in admirably. In the three game set, Carrera went 7/14, with two doubles, a home run, one RBI, one walk and four runs scored from the leadoff spot. He also played good defence, including a Pillar-like diving grab in LF, and added some value on the bases with two stolen bases throughout the week.
This kind of performance can’t reasonably be expected from a career 86 wRC+ hitter all the time, obviously, and it shouldn’t be expected that he’s going to have a huge breakout in his age 28-season after one good weekend, but it’s nice to see him having success while filling in for the often injured Saunders. He’s a solid fourth OF and can be relied upon to fill that role.
More importantly than what his future holds, is what he seemed to do to the offence this weekend. He delivered a spark to an offence that had showed signs of breaking out, but continued to sputter. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but I think Carrera deserves some credit here for potentially waking a sleeping giant.
The two-player Player of the Week isn’t likely to occur very often, but it was hard to ignore what Saunders and Carrera combined to do this week. They got on base consistently, hit for extra bases, sparked the offence at the top of the lineup, and provided good defence and value on the base paths. This combined performance has earned them Player(s) of the Week honors.