At the end of this weekend, we will be three weeks into the MLB season. That's nothing, of course: That's a drop in the bucket. We would never notice any sort of three-week stretch during the regular season; the only reason we notice this one is because it's the first one.
But that's no reason not to have some fun with it anyway. How odd have the first three weeks been? Let's take a look at the top 20 players in baseball so far, according to Wins Above Replacement.
Now, before we get started and before you start yelling at me: This is a completely irresponsible exercise. Not only does three weeks tell us little, this isn't even how WAR was meant to be used. It's built for gauging something over a full season, not a tiny sliver like this. But I just want to document that weird stretch, before it's over, where some of these random people were among the top 22 players in the game. (I chose 22 because that's the exact number of players who have notched one WAR or more so far.)
You'll never believe who's here.
22. Cesar Hernandez, Philadelphia Phillies. He grabbed the second-base job in Spring Training last year and now wants to be "a Phillie for life." We'll see about that, but Hernandez is off to a blistering start. He's not a complete fluke; he did lead the National League in triples last year.
21. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees. The swing has a lot of holes, but the places where there are not holes, there is this:
20. Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles. He has won two of the three starts he's made, but the issue is never how Bundy's starts go, but how many he makes. Still: He's only 24. Maybe this is the turn?
19. Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers. How does Turner have eight doubles already?
18. Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds. Cozart is always a little better than you think he is, and he has three triples to start the season and is batting over .400.
17. Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates. It has been a miserable few days for the Pirates, but Taillon has been brilliant, giving up just two earned runs in three starts. He'll be at Yankee Stadium on Saturday trying to end this sad stretch for Pittsburgh.
16. Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are in first place, and if Suarez keeps this up all year, they've got a chance to stay there. (He will not keep this up all year, and they don't have a chance to stay there.)
15. Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians. Yeah, it might have been handy to have this guy healthy in the World Series, I think.
14. Chase Headley, New York Yankees. Headley has been the afterthought for the Yankees for essentially his entire career in pinstripes -- remember when the Padres considered him their star? -- but he has a .500 on-base percentage right now.
13. Ervin Santana, Minnesota Twins. Big Erv! He was better last year than you thought he was, and actually has a shutout on his resume already this year. Santana is still under contact for two more years, so ride him like Secretariat, Twins.
12. Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals. If Cain can have a career year right before he hits free agency and the Royals struggle all season, he could be quite the Trade Deadline chip.
11. Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox. He leads the league in strikeouts and seems not to have any problem with wearing a Red Sox uniform, throwback or otherwise. (We're never letting you live that down, Chris.)
10. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves. He had his superstar year last season and hasn't stopped; he's hitting .440 and just ended a stretch of getting on base 12 plate appearances in a row.
9. Jason Vargas, Kansas City Royals. Just as you all predicted. Vargas has given up just one run in 20 2/3 innings. Also, check out that 23-2 K/BB ratio.
8. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals. Three intentional walks already this season. Pitchers know he's back.
7. Eric Thames, Milwaukee Brewers. Oh yeah, catch the fever. Thames looks like a completely different human being than when he was last in the Majors. This is going to be fun.
6. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies. You barely even notice Arenado being brilliant every game anymore.
5. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Oh, like Trout wasn't going to be on here somewhere. To give you an idea of what this year's gonna be like for him and the Angels, though … despite a .424 OBP so far, he has scored half as many runs as Hernandez.
4. James Paxton, Seattle Mariners. Is this the leap the Mariners have been waiting for and so clearly desperately need?
3. Mike Leake, St. Louis Cardinals. Ha, OK. Leake has walked one batter in three games. Somehow, by the way, despite being this high on the list, he has a loss. Been that sort of start for the Cardinals.
2. Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners. Obviously, everyone saw this coming. To be fair, as nice as Haniger has been -- he leads the American League in runs and is hitting .323 with three homers -- a lot of this is based on defense, which is near-impossible to figure out with this small a sample size. That doesn't mean that Haniger can't someday tell his grandchildren that for three weeks, he was the best position player in baseball.
1. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros. Keuchel's advantage is that he's been the best of the 17 pitchers in baseball with four starts, but he has been as good as 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel so far. His FIP says he's due for a slight dip, but right now, he has provided more value to his team than any other player in the game.