Mitch Moreland the All-Star?
At the beginning of the year no one would have expected that at the end of May the Boston Red Sox would cut ties with Hanley Ramirez. Manager Alex Cora dubbed Ramirez Boston’s “three hitter”, but after “El Trece’s” release, that title looks like it belongs to Mitch Moreland.
Moreland was expected to rotate with Ramirez at first and J.D. Martinez at the DH spot but his play has forced Boston to get him in the lineup every day. So far in 2018, Moreland is hitting .305 with 10 homers in 141 at-bats while continuing to play his solid Gold Glove defense.
Moreland’s early success is not shocking considering April and May have been two of his best months during his career, but there is something about this years Moreland. Fangraphs has Moreland hitting the ball harder than he has in his career. 41.3% of the time he is hitting the ball with what is considered “hard contact”. Moreland has never had that high of a hard contact rate, not including his injury shortened seasons. He also has .631 slugging percentage at the moment which is easily greater than any other year he has played in the MLB.
Moreland’s success may be due to a different approach under new hitting coach Tim Hyers (who is a big fan of launch angle), but what is most important is that the first baseman is healthy. Last year he broke his toe towards the middle of the year, and he was not the same player afterwards. Now healthy, we can see how Moreland can produce consistently.
His hot start might not last forever, but Moreland is currently playing like the best first baseman in the American league. ESPN has his WAR among first baseman sitting second to Justin Smoak, who has played in 9 more games with nearly 50 more at-bats. But Moreland has more homers and a better batting average than the Blue Jays’ slugger.
Does that mean, at this point in time, that Moreland should be starting at first base for the AL at the Mid-Summer classic? Yes but that won’t happen. Names are always bigger than statistics when it comes to fan-voting so do not expect him to be in that lineup. Heck he may not even end up on the team by the time July rolls around, but I think it is important to recognize what the former Ranger is doing for Boston after they put a sizable amount of pressure on his shoulders.
-Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53)