In one of the Madden football games, the eponymous announcer would proclaim that “speed kills” several times per game. Growing up in the prime of the Nancy Reagan D.A.R.E. era, I couldn’t help but chuckle, particularly as my generation was being prescribed Adderall in bulk whenever they had a tough stretch in school. Major League Baseball is turning back the clock this year, and it’s pretty clear that speed kills again. It’s not just the rule that limits a pitcher to two unsuccessful throws over to any base during an at bat. The pitch clock amplifies the issue. As do the larger bases, but the pitch clock and the throw-over-rule synthesize with the elimination of shifts to create a speed-centric baseball universe, and I’m excited by it. 

The types of players some teams want on the field are already shifting ever so slightly. Ji-Hwan Bae made his value plain in the season’s first game, stealing two bases and making the defense account for him at all times. Pittsburgh has him playing centerfield against lefty Nick Lodolo today (Saturday), which kind of confirms my early takeaway that he’ll be hard for them to keep off the field. 40 steals would not surprise me. I already traded an outfielder (Bryan De La Cruz) to make room for Bae in a 15-team dynasty where Bae’s minor league eligibility helps my roster crunch. He’s only outfield eligible there but should add second base soon. 

Brewers OF Joey Wiemer is plenty fast himself (31 steals last year) and is getting called up in the absence of Luis Urias. I feel like I’ve been too low on his outlook, generally speaking. I was pretty into him early in his prospect trajectory, but as the team’s system flooded with viable outfielders, I struggled to see his window. Then they started clearing the outfielders, or rather, then Wiemer started cutting his strikeouts, and then the club started clearing the clog. He just picked up his first hit, slicing a fastball down the right field line for a double. 

From Wiemer to a trade that paved his way, we go to Oakland, where Athletics speedster Esteury Ruiz is leading off Saturday after batting ninth on opening day. The key to Ruiz’s success is taking a good at bat, and throughout spring, he was doing exactly that. He might not hit the ball through the wall, but if he’s waiting for his pitches and taking his walks, he’s a problem teams can’t easily solve.

We’ve seen Diamondbacks OF Corbin Carroll create some of the same chaos. The mere presence of a real runner on first base changes everything now. The pitcher’s focus is legitimately bisected in a way it hasn’t been in a long time. Or trisected, I guess, or multisected? Pitch clock, pitch comm, baserunner, grip, mechanics, execution. Just looks harder to me than it has been, and we’re going to need a lot more steals to survive that category in our game. 

Cubs 1B Matt Mervis homered in the Triple-A opener. Cool. Eric Hosmer went 0-for-4. Cool cool cool. 

Orioles RHP Grayson Rodriguez struggled in his opening start, giving some ammo to later in the landmark case of sooner versus later. 

Baltimore is talent rich in the minor leagues but loves to act the pauper in the majors. That and the speed infusion and the player’s general upward trajectory enhance the job security of Jorge Mateo and complicates the paths of all their other prospects. 

Reds OF Will Benson is on the bench against lefty Rich Hill today, but he looks like the strong side platoon option in left field. He could probably hit himself into the cleanup spot or off the team in about a month. 

Reds SS Jose Barrero appears to have some track to figure out the hitting side enough to play everyday. As with Benson, that could change in a hurry, but these are cheap options in a homer happy park. The gift horse calling. It says you neigh what time it is. 

One year after getting Cristian Pache in return for Matt Olson, the Athletics cut him and then sent him to Philadelphia. So that’s how that’s going. Probably a defensive replacement type piece for them. 

Another speedy outfielder, Bryce Johnson of the Giants, was recalled Saturday. He stole 12 bases in 16 games this spring and could give us a Berti-shaped boost if he gets into the lineup. 

Dodgers OF James Outman looks like the strong side platoon center fielder. Rumors of Jason Heyward’s ascendance were slightly exaggerated. 

Thanks for reading!