Nearly one-quarter of the baseball season is complete. Statistics for the sport need large sample sizes to become useful, and with over 120 games still to go in the 2023 season, the current leaderboards are likely to look significantly different by the end of the campaign.
Even so, it’s worth looking at the early leaders in the major statistics to assess their chances of maintaining those leads moving forward. All the stats below are entering play on Thursday, May 11.
Luis Arraez, MIA – .398
Arraez is hitting a whopping .398 while no other qualified batter is over .350. Last season, he won the AL batting title with a .316 average for the Twins, ranking fourth in the league in that category. The career .322 hitter has been far better than that in his first NL season with the Marlins. Arraez will experience some regression, but his early lead and past production suggest he is the clear favorite to lead the league in batting average this season.
Pete Alonso, NYM – 13
LA’s Max Muncy is also off to a terrific start with 12 home runs, but he’s unlikely to maintain the league lead as the season unfolds, considering he has never hit more than 36 home runs in a season.
Two of the other top contenders for the home run crown play in New York. Alonso hit 53 long balls in 2019 and 40 last year, so the Mets slugger has proven capable of sustaining his current 51-homer pace.
Aaron Judge returned Tuesday from a hip injury that’s sidelined him since April 27. Judge has six homers in 26 games, but the Yankees’ captain has plenty of time to close the gap on the league leaders after cranking out 62 long balls in his historic 2022 season.
Adolis Garcia, TEX – 36
Garcia leads the league with 36 RBI, two ahead of Boston’s Rafael Devers and Houston’s Yordan Alvarez. Garcia and Devers should both continue to benefit from playing home games in the hitter-friendly confines of Globe Life Field and Fenway Park, respectively.
Devers has topped 110 RBI twice before, while Garcia’s on pace to continue his upward trend after driving in 90 runs in 2021 and 101 in 2022. Alvarez’s career-high RBI total is 104, which he posted during the 2021 campaign.
Judge and Alonso tied for the league lead with 131 RBI last season, but nobody had reached 130 prior to that since J.D. Martinez in 2018. Given his previous results,
Devers has the best chance among the current frontrunners to top the RBI leaderboard at season’s end — but it could be a close race the whole way through.
Bo Bichette, TOR – 52
You’d think Arraez would be leading the league in hits given his ridiculous .398 average, but his 49 hits are three back of Bichette’s 52. That gap is likely to grow, as Arraez is more likely to drop from his .398 mark than Bichette is from his .329 average.
Bichette has drawn only nine walks all season, and his mix of aggressive approach and bat-to-ball skills has him poised to finally lead the league in hits after finishing second in 2021 and third in 2022.
Ronald Acuna, ATL – 34
Acuna has gone back and forth with Braves teammate Matt Olson for the league lead in run, but eight other players are hot on their heels with 28 or more runs. By virtue of occupying the leadoff spot in the potent Atlanta lineup, Acuna has a great chance of finishing with the league lead in this wide-open category.
Just like Atlanta with its current league-best +480 World Series odds at Tipico Sportsbook, Acuna can be viewed as the favorite to lead the league in runs compared to any individual, but not against the field.
Esteury Ruiz, OAK – 17
MLB was hoping to see more steals after its offseason rule changes, and that’s certainly coming to fruition. Miami’s Jon Berti was the only player to reach 40 steals last season, but we already have 10 players with at least 10 steals less than a quarter into the 2023 campaign.
Ruiz leads that group with 17 steals, two ahead of Acuna, who has sole possession of second place. Those two will likely remain in a tight race throughout the season, but Acuna may opt to dial down the aggression in the stretch run as the Braves prepare for the playoffs, while Ruiz will be playing for individual stats on an Athletics team that has a dreadful 8-28 record this year.
Brent Rooker, OAK – 1.084
It’s extremely surprising to see not one but two members of this sure-to-be-historically bad 2023 A’s team leading key offensive categories at this stage of the season, but in the words of Yankees radio broadcaster John Sterling, “that’s baseball, Suzyn.”
The other categories are all self-explanatory, but OPS is a better measure of a hitter’s ability than any of the preceding stats. It combines a hitter’s on-base percentage and slugging percentage, with any season above 1.000 being considered elite. Last season, Judge led MLB with a 1.111 OPS while Alvarez finished second at 1.019.
Rooker currently has a league-leading 1.122 OPS thanks to a .441 OBP and .681 slugging percentage. The three other players with an OPS above 1.000 are Atlanta’s Sean Murphy (1.076), Tampa Bay’s Yandy Diaz (1.014) and Toronto’s Matt Chapman (1.014). That entire group is likely to regress as the season progresses, but Chapman has the best chance of maintaining his current pace, as he’s finished full seasons with .864 and .848 marks before.
Don’t be surprised to see Alvarez (.946) and Mike Trout (.896) pick up the pace and climb further up the OPS leaderboard from their current top 20 spots.
Shane McClanahan, TB – 7
The Rays will inevitably slow down from their current 29-7 pace, so don’t give McClanahan the league wins crown just yet. That said, he’s the frontrunner at this point over Clayton Kershaw, Gerrit Cole and Yusei Kikuchi, all of whom have five or six wins and should continue to rack up victories for the Dodgers, Yankees and Blue Jays, respectively.
Sonny Gray, MIN – 1.35
Gray is among the surprising names atop the league ERA leaderboard, as his 1.35 mark has him ahead of Justin Steele of the Cubs (1.45) and Bryce Elder of the Braves (1.74).
As the season rolls on, look for the likes of McClanahan (1.76), Cole (2.09), Kershaw (2.36) and Shohei Ohtani of the Angels (2.54) to improve on their current spots.
Spencer Strider, ATL and Kevin Gausman, TOR – 67
Strider has fanned at least eight batters in each of his seven starts en route to sharing the league lead with Kevin Gausman. He has three more punchouts in one fewer start than Arizona’s Zac Gallen, who is also near the top of the wins and ERA leaderboards at 5-1 with a 2.36 ERA.
Also in the mix is Ohtani with 66 Ks, while Cole and McClanahan are tied for fifth. Cole led the league with 257 strikeouts last season and is an established workhorse, but Strider’s ridiculous 15.1 K/9 pace may allow him to maintain the league strikeout lead, even if he pitches fewer innings than Cole.
Emmanuel Clase, CLE – 13
Saves are a situational stat, and Cleveland’s poor offense and good pitching mean most of the team’s wins come in close games. Clase is the cream of the crop when it comes to closing out such games. After leading the league with 43 saves last year, Clase has a league-high 13 in 2023.
San Diego’s Josh Hader was one of two other pitchers to secure 40-plus saves last season, and he’s just two saves back of Clase with 11. These two elite closers will likely be battling it out for the league lead all season.
Sasha has been contributing NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and Tennis content to RotoWire since 2015, with an emphasis on DFS. He is a huge New York sports fan who has been playing fantasy sports since middle school.
Photo Credit: IMAGO / ZUMA wire
Finding (Very) Early Value: A Look at 2024 NFL Futures
by Alex Valdes
Shrinking Title Windows: Which NBA Greats Have the Best Shot at a First Ring?
by Alex Valdes
Bankroll Management for Sports Betting
by Sam Bloomquist
MLB Offseason: Checking In on Futures and Free Agents
by Dale Weber
NBA MVP Futures Update: Jokic…or Someone Else? What History Tells Us
by Sam Bloomquist