April has come and gone and now can be viewed as a good time to highlight the great individual performers of the first month of the season. The numbers a player puts up in April can be, and need to be, viewed as small sample sizes. The majority of these guys have under or around 100 PA up to this point, not quite enough to project how they will finish the season. A simple reason for this is that there are a number of players who can get off to these hot April starts and then completely fall back to the pack and have average or subpar remainders of the season (See 2013 Upton, Justin.)
Bad weather, injuries, timing, and just plain poor starts to the year, can all be used as explanations as to why certain guys are not performing up to expectations this early. Some of these need to be examined closely, some do not. Again, it all depends on the player in question, and the sample size being examined.
This list is designed to point out those who have excelled in April and bring light to their stellar performances. It is compiled of position players, broken down into different categories (catchers, corner infielders and DH, middle infielders, and outfielders) and pitchers, broken down into starting pitchers and relief pitchers (not just relegated to closing pitchers).
Here is your All-April team for 2014, as chosen by the Dayton Baseball Examiner.
All statistics provided are via Fangraphs
Yadier Molina, Cardinals; Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Marlins
Molina has been off to a tear like his usual self has been. A .350/.377/.540 line should be enough to make the casual fan yawn as, once again, the seemingly now perennial NL MVP candidate is proving his well-deserved label as the best catcher in MLB.
Saltalamacchia, on the other hand, is actually living up to the free agent contract he received in the offseason (shocker, right?). Over March/April, Salty has posted a very impressive 16% walk-rate to go along with leading all qualified MLB catchers with his .424 wOBA and 172 wRC+ in 93 PA/ Again, it's a small sample size, but an impressive start for the long-haired switch-hitter.
Honorable Mention: Buster Posey, Giants
Corner Infielders and DH
1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
A-Gon, where have you been? A .377 OBP/.644 SLG, 8 HR, .428 wOBA? It's great to see Gonzalez back among the elite 1B in baseball. The walk-rate is not quite back to where it was, and the strikeout rate is a little high, but the tear he is currently on should be enjoyed now, hoping it lasts all season.
Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman, Braves
3B: Josh Donaldson, Athletics
The A's are once again back among the top teams in MLB, and Donaldson is performing better than many thought he would in 2014. Slugging .533 with 7 HR in 133 PA, the converted catcher has not been showing any signs of regression that some thought would happen to him.
Honorable Mentions: Trevor Plouffe, Twins; Juan Uribe, Dodgers
DH: Jose Abreu, White Sox
The pride of Cuba has taken baseball by storm, jumping out to MLB-leading 10 HR through the end of April. Abreu has really picked up major-league pitching fast, with it really beginning to culminate in the last week of April, where he slugged five homers. The .269 BABIP may suggest his numbers could be even better, or maybe his numbers will start to regress to that BABIP line, only time will tell.
Honorable Mention: Justin Morneau, Rockies
2B: Chase Utley, Phillies
2014 is starting to be the year of comebacks across baseball, as the oft-injured star Utley has started to return to form in March/April. A .408 OBP/.570 SLG along with an average walk rate and superb strikeout rate over 103 PA has earned Utley the spot as the top 2B in baseball for this month.
Honorable Mentions: Anthony Rendon, Nationals; Dee Gordon, Dodgers
SS (tie): Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies; Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
Tulowitzki has really been the NL MVP up to this point, but the only reason there is a tie here with Alexei is because of what Alexei was doing to start the season. Ramirez was looking like an early favorite for AL MVP, but again small sample size. He cooled down a bit to end the month, but is still being rewarded for a great early start.
Tulo's April, though, is just ridiculous. .364/.477/.727 is an absurd slash line in 111 PA. A .503 wOBA, 212 wRC+ and 18% walk-rate are just insane, as well. A healthy Tulo is good for the game, as he is arguably a top 5 player regardless of position when at his best.
Honorable Mention: Jed Lowrie, Athletics
Mike Trout, Angels; Charlie Blackmon, Rockies; Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
Trout has been his ungodly self once again, with the only real negative being his unusually high strikeout rate of 27%.
Blackmon's hot start was broken down in a previous article, and he really kept it up over the entire month. He has not been walking a whole lot, but the numbers seem to show signs of sustainability, not to mention where he plays most of his home games.
Jose Bautista's power was thought to have disappeared in the past year, but most of that seems that it can be attributed to injuries. He has posted a very-high 24% walk rate, posting 31 BB over 122 PA, an incredible feat showing that Joey Bats may be back to his powerful self once again.
Honorable Mention: Justin Upton, Braves
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals; Jose Fernandez, Marlins; Johnny Cueto, Reds; Max Scherzer, Tigers; Jesse Chavez, Athletics
Wainwright and Scherzer are likely the front-runners for NL and AL Cy Young, respectively, one month in, and Fernandez, minus one poor outing, has been as stellar as his 2013 rookie campaign. In reality, many more than five pitchers could have been chosen to fill out this rotation, but it seemed more appropriate to reward a couple pitchers who may be flying under radars in Johnny Cueto and Jesse Chavez.
One pitcher fell out of favor after being hurt for the majority of 2013 (Cueto) and the other is a full-time starter for the first time in his career (Chavez). Cueto has been great in the past, quite possibly the 2nd best pitcher in the NL as recently as 2012, only behind Clayton Kershaw. Chavez has really shown his value with the A's losing two of their starters to Tommy John surgery this year (Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin) and has joined fellow rotation members Scott Kazmir and Sonny Gray as being a primary reason the A's are one of the best teams out there right now.
Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers; Greg Holland, Royals; Chris Capuano, Red Sox; Adam Ottavino, Rockies
The year of the comeback continues as the resurgence of Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez has been lights out for the league-leading Milwaukee Brewers. He, along with the stunning performance of Chris Capuano, have both yet to allow an earned run this season, not allowing base runners themselves, and having left stranded every runner they have inherited or allowed to reach base.
Holland has been his stellar self yet again coming off an outstanding 2013. He has had some very minor hiccups to begin this season, but still has likely been the AL's best closer to start 2014. Ottavino is a name that very few fans know. He is more known for the oddity of being a pitcher who wears the number 0 on his jersey more than his actual pitching ability, but he has been a bright spot in what has been a solid Rockies bullpen so far, posting a 1.35 ERA in 13.1 IP, striking out 16.
Are there any other players who belong on this team that may have been missed?