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Every year in every sport we see a few players who turn in hot starts that are not entirely in line with what we expect from them. Most of the time, those hot starts can be attributed to randomness and we see those players fall back to earth. Sometimes, though, there are underlying reasons to believe what we are seeing is the new normal for a player. Today I’m going to look at a couple hitters and a couple pitchers whom I believe have turned over a new leaf and look like completely different players than we’ve previously seen. I dug into some Fangraphs data to find guys I think have stepped it up a notch. The expectation is that these players can keep up something close to what they’ve flashed in the first three weeks of the season.

Colby Rasmus

‘Plate control’ is a term baseball fans hear a lot but it isn’t quantified all that often when it gets referenced. To me, walks and strikeouts are big components of plate control. Rasmus so far in the 2016 season has the largest increase in walk percentage (BB%) in the major leagues by a mile. Over the last three years, he’d walked in 8.6% of plate appearances. This year, that number has more than doubled, up to 21.3%. While we could write that off as fluky and it’s probably a little inflated, Rasmus has doubled down by seeing the fifth largest decrease in strikeout percentage (K%) in the big leagues so far this season. These two factors lead me to believe that the longtime hyped prospect Rasmus is finally starting to hone his immense talent and could be in for a monster season.

Nolan Arenado

Arenado was a bona fide star coming into the season. He’s been very good to start the year with a .273 average, 8 home runs, 18 runs scored and 19 RBI. So why is he here? Well, the Rockies third baseman has also increased his walk rate and decreased his strikeout rate. But the real reason he’s here is because he’s done all this while sporting the league’s 6th highest hard hit percentage and a putrid .206 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). To put that in perspective, Arenado’s career BABIP is sitting at .287. So if he’s putting up a very good start to the year while sporting a .206 BABIP and the league’s 6th highest hard hit percentage, what is his season going to look like when luck turns in his favor? I’m sure the Rockies are itching to find out.

Noah Syndergaard

Casual baseball fans may view Syndergaard as merely a flamethrower who the league hasn’t caught up to, but the die-hards are pretty sure that we’re seeing a legitimate frontline ace, even on a completely loaded Mets pitching staff. ‘Thor’, who looks the part, has been completely untouchable so far this season. He somehow has a 1.69 ERA while sporting a .355 BABIP and having opponents steal bases on him like he’s a little leaguer. I guess when you’re throwing 100 mile per hour fastballs and 92 mile per hour sliders while striking out 12.83 batters per 9 innings and only walking 1.35, you have a little extra room for error.

Taijuan Walker

As a Mariners fan, I’m really hoping we’re seeing a true leap here with Walker. He’s been great through four starts, racking up 25 strikeouts and only 3 walks in 25 innings of work. The most exciting part to the baseball nerd side of me, however, is the newly found ability to generate groundballs. Last year the home run ball was Walker’s Achilles heel, as he sat at 1.33 HR/9 and a 38.6% groundball rate. This year, those numbers are an eye popping .36 HR/9 and 55.1% groundball rate. While it would be shocking if either of those numbers stayed at those levels all year, a large improvement from last year in those categories could mean Walker going from solid starter to borderline ace.

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Thanks for reading. Find me on Twitter @IanJ300 with any questions.

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