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Monday's power rankings

5/26/2015



Who delivered something special on the diamond in Monday's Memorial Day action? The best performances came on the mound -- and involved anyone but the usual suspects:

1. Drew Hutchison, Toronto Blue Jays: If last year was supposed to be Hutchison’s breakthrough season, this year is supposed to be the year he really breaks out. It hasn’t worked out that way in the early going, but on Monday he had everything going for him in Toronto’s 6-0 win, getting strikes with his fastball, slider and change while spinning a four-hit shutout of the Chicago White Sox.

Getting good results from his full spread is particularly interesting because Pitch F/X data suggests that Hutchison has been throwing heat a tick or two faster in May than he has on average during his brief career, with his four-seam sitting up at about 94 mph, and he’s been using it more and more heavily. Keeping in mind this is the start of just his second full season, it’s worth watching to see if he’s about to become more of a pure power pitcher another year removed from his 2012 Tommy John surgery. In the meantime, by Game Score, this spin qualified as the second-best start thrown by an AL pitcher all season, coming in at 87 to Corey Kluber’s 97 in his 18-strikeout game on May 13.

2. Jesse Hahn, Oakland Athletics: Throwing his first career shutout, Hahn gave the A’s their first day-game win at home on the season, beating the Tigers 4-0. It was also the first game of the year in which Hahn got through the seventh inning, let alone the eighth or ninth. That’s what’s unusual about this game: While 112 pitches across nine innings shouldn’t be seen as too heavy a burden, especially considering Hahn didn’t face more than four batters in any frame, up until this start he’d averaged about 24 batters faced per turn in his brief big league career. He’d never faced more than 28, so seeing 33 batters represents a career high. On the other hand, with the A’s bullpen ERA clocking in at an ugly 4.96, can you blame Bob Melvin for wanting to let it ride?

3. Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers: It wasn’t very long ago that a lot of folks were mulling if, once David Ortiz’s career wound down, we’d seen the last of the truly great DHs. But even with Papi struggling this season, we shouldn’t worry, because Fielder is adapting just fine to life at the position he was born for: with a bat in his hands, and no other cares in the world. In Monday’s 10-8 win against the Indians, Fielder homered, doubled, scored three runs and drove in three more. That just adds to his lead as the most productive DH in baseball: His offense-only WAR was at 1.6 through Sunday, trailed by Jimmy Paredes (yes, really), Alex Rodriguez and Kendrys Morales.

4. Brett Gardner, New York Yankees: Stepping back into the leadoff role with Jacoby Ellsbury shelved with a sprained knee, Gardner helped get things started in Monday’s eight-run, first-inning outburst at Jeremy Guthrie’s expense, doubling and scoring to lead off, then capping the scoring with a three-run blast his second time up in the frame. So far this season, the Yankees have scored 51 runs in their first time at bat, an outcome that reflects the benefit of having a lineup with two great OBP sources up top when Ellsbury and Gardner are both playing.

5. Ryan Braun and Khris Davis, Milwaukee Brewers: When Braun delivered a 474-foot blast that left Miller Park, he was credited with hitting the longest homer ever hit by a right-handed batter in the stadium's history. While that’s more a feat of strength than something that ended up mattering much, since the Brewers lost (again), it’s notable, as well, because it was just Braun’s third homer hit at Miller Park this season (out of 12 total) and his eighth homer hit in May. And unlike teammate Khris Davis’ pair of home runs, Braun’s blast came with a man on base, no easy feat considering the Brewers are last in the NL in OBP.

As for Davis, he gets an asterisk after his failure to tap home on his first-inning blast -- which the Giants caught -- but the Brewers’ challenge was upheld in another New York replay fiat that makes you wonder what the criteria really are. On the replay, it really doesn’t look like Davis touched home, and a call on the field is only supposed to be overturned if there’s clear evidence to the contrary. Maybe putting the ball in the seats was good enough for the MLB underling responsible to credit Davis for doing the big thing, if not the little one, but just in case anyone was wondering if Davis could get it right, he homered again in the third inning -- and apparently successfully touched each base this time. So give him a gold star -- and the Giants and Tim Lincecum the win.

Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.