Hunter Martin/Getty Images

If you were hoping two weeks of games would bring about some clarity for the 2016 season — keep hoping. There’s still plenty left to learn as we forge ahead in the new year, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t seen any signature moments thus far.

In Week 2 of Three Up, Three Down, we’ll highlight three players on the upswing who have each made their own bit of history in the early goings. At the other end of the spectrum are three guys who haven’t looked like their normal selves so far, and we’ll try to pinpoint exactly what the causes have been for their slow starts.


SP Vince Velasquez, Philadelphia Phillies

Stats April 11-17: 1 GS, 1-0 W-L, 9.0 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 0 BB, 16 KPercent owned: 83 percent

When working with a small seven-day time frame, it takes a lot for a one-start pitcher to show up in this space. That said, Velasquez was a shoo-in to appear in the Three Up section after utterly dismantling the Padres in his April 14 start.

The 23-year-old became just the seventh pitcher ever to throw a shutout with at least 16 strikeouts and no walks, and he relied almost solely on two pitches to do it: a mid-90s fastball and a curveball that has more of a 12-to-6 break to it than it did earlier in his career. In two starts this season, he’s relied on this one-two combo over 90 percent of the time, with an occasional changeup mixed in.

Velasquez generated 27 (!) swings-and-misses against the Padres, and 20 of them were whiffs on his fastball. His 113th and final pitch of the afternoon clocked in at 96 miles per hour and was, you guessed it, and swing and a miss. Given his injury history — he missed all of 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he’s never thrown more than 124.2 innings in a single season — he likely won’t pitch more than 160 innings this year. Still, those 160 or so innings could be among the best anyone will throw all season.

1B/OF Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles

Stats April 11-17: 8-for-25, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 8 R, 0 BB, 6 KPercent owned: 86 percent

Trumbo has been a streaky hitter for his whole career, but when he’s on, man, is he on. He became the first player in Orioles history to hit two home runs in the same inning on April 15 against the Rangers, belting his fourth and fifth long balls in a five-day span during a nine-run seventh inning.

The Orioles will hope his strong start doesn’t give way to an extended lull. Last season, Trumbo slugged .533 in his first 44 games before going ice cold in June, posting a .134/.165/.183 slash line and getting traded from Arizona to Seattle in the process.

It doesn’t appear as though Trumbo is suddenly a changed hitter. His 17.4 percent K-rate and 2.2 percent walk rate indicate he’s still the same free-swinger, but the O’s will gladly accept that approach if they can get similar results moving forward. Given his track record, though, now feels like an excellent time to sell high if you can get a good return for a player who, in 690 career games heading into this season, had a slash line of .250/.300/.458.

SP Kenta Maeda, Los Angeles Dodgers

Stats April 11-17: 2 GS, 1-0 W-L, 13.0 IP, 1 ER, 9 H, 4 BB, 11 KPercent owned: 86 percent

After arriving in Los Angeles from Japan, Maeda’s major league career could not have gotten off to a better start. He didn’t allow a run in his first 14.2 innings in a Dodger uniform, the third-longest streak for a pitcher starting his Dodger career in team history.

On the season, Maeda is 2-0 in three starts, with 15 strikeouts and four walks in 19 innings. He’s relied on a varied repertoire so far, mixing in four pitches and keeping hitters off balance despite not having an overpowering fastball.

In his Sunday start against the Giants, Maeda pitched seven innings for the first time and reached a new high in total pitches (98). His next start will come against the Rockies at Coors Field, his first outing in a hitter’s park, so it will be interesting to see how he performs in less-than-ideal circumstances.


SP Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays

Stats April 11-17: 1 GS, 0-1 W-L, 5.1 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 3 BB, 6 KPercent owned: 98 percent

Last season, Archer enjoyed a breakout campaign. He struck out 252 batters in 212 innings and finished fifth in the American League Cy Young voting. Through three starts in 2016, that same pitcher has yet to show up.

Archer has walked eight batters and allowed five home runs in 15.1 innings this year, making him 0-3 with a 5.87 ERA. His early-season struggles come after a rough end to 2015, in which he posted a 4.86 ERA in his last seven starts, with 35 strikeouts and 23 walks in 37 innings.

Archer is still a two-pitch pitcher, relying almost exclusively on his fastball and slider. He’s already allowed three home runs on his slider this year, half of his total for the pitch from last season. Perhaps now is the time for him to develop a reliable changeup to keep opposing hitters honest.

We’ll advise some patience for a pitcher this young and this talented. His 13.5 K/9 rate shows that his stuff is still good, and his .436 batting average on balls in play indicate a bit of bad luck. Give him at least a few more starts before it’s time to panic.

SS Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays

Stats April 11-17: 3-for-22, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 KPercent owned: 98 percent

Tulowitzki’s career north of the border has gotten off to an awful start. In 41 regular-season games with the Blue Jays last season, Tulo slashed .239/.317/.380, then hit .205/.239/.386 in the postseason. So far in 2016, he’s struck out in 31.5 percent of his 54 plate appearances, with just five walks and two extra base hits.

Tulowitzki has made contact on 71.1 percent of his swings, per Fangraphs, which is well below his career average of 83.7 percent. He’s only 31 years old, but his long injury history makes his slow start a greater cause for concern than with any other player in his early 30s.

OF Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs

Stats April 11-17: 3-for-20, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 KPercent owned: 96 percent

Heyward’s $184 million contract signed this past offseason is the type of deal usually reserved for fantasy baseball studs — something Heyward is not. His elite defense and age were key factors to his huge deal, and though he’s a fine offensive player, he’s not a top-20 caliber outfielder for fantasy purposes.

That said, Heyward is off to an abysmal start. He’s shown no power, with just two extra base hits (both doubles) in 12 games, and has only one stolen base so far. The good news for Heyward owners is that the he got off to a similar slow start last season and ended up just fine.

Heyward owns a career .223/.315/.393 slash line in April and tends to improve later in the year. His .258 BABIP is 50 points below his career average, which is a good sign moving forward. He’ll come around soon enough, and given the Cubs’ stacked lineup, there will be plenty of run-scoring and RBI chances waiting for him when he does.