The beauty of hardly scratching the surface of the baseball season is that we truly only have the opportunity to have two outcomes:
Outcome 1: Be pleasantly surprised!
Outcome 2: Claim that it’s far too early to tell anything!

Looking at some of the teams that fall into the first camp, there is a common thread that seems to be happening: there’s a sense of identity somewhere.

Either they’ve been machines of consistency, knowing who they are and the expectations that we set for them preseason, or something shifted within the offseason due to the addition of a personality to put everything into place and change the vibes.

With some of the surprise successes so far, here are some of the league’s Vibe-Changers that have brought some sort of element to help shape and embody the team in their games so far.

Milwaukee Brewers // Rhys Hoskins (1B)

It’s important to note that the Milwaukee Brewers were already playing with a preseason chip on their shoulder- they’re the small market, one-hour drive team from their rival Chicago Cubs, who just spent the most money in baseball history to hire away manager Craig Counsell away from them. The Brewers were also rightfully doubted after losing flamethrowing closer Devin Williams to stress fractures for six weeks and traded away their ace pitcher Corbin Burnes to regroup ahead of the year. In a loaded NL Central, no one was projecting last year’s winners to get better.

In steps former- Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins on a 1-year prove-it deal with an opt-out in year two. Rhys was a slugger who lost all of 2023 due to a major injury before the Phillies decided there were too many bats they had to pay for an aging first baseman coming off of surgery, so the Brewers took a shot with the natural leader, the fiery personality that once was slamming down his bat with the fire of a thousand suns in game 3 of the NLDS to help send the Phillies to a World Series.

Rhys has brought the entire junkyard dog energy to the Brewers to start the year. In their opening sweep of the Mets, he’s making crybaby faces at second baseman Jeff McNeil after a slide led to a benches-clearing scuffle. They’re having bench-clearing tussles with the Orioles after William Contreras puffs his chest out as they win the series in the home of the American League wins leader from last year. The Brewers are playing with a scrappy attitude the Rhys brought to those Philly teams, and he looks to be worth the gamble they took on him in the offseason. The bat is yet to take off since he’s still slowly coming back from injury, but he’s got four homers and a Brewers team not afraid of anyone as they lead the NL Central.

Oh, and check out the viral clip of him rattling off Pokemon names in 20 seconds like nobody’s business.

Cleveland Guardians // Josh Naylor (1B)

Speaking of Central Division slugging first basemen with attitude, the Cleveland Guardians need to bestow an honorary captain’s patch on first baseman Josh Naylor. He’s not by any means the best hitter in that lineup, but he’s the one they undoubtedly would ride into battle with first. If you saw the clip of him hitting himself in the head with the baseball bat rounding the bases this weekend after hitting a homer, you know that Naylor is a football guy playing baseball, and that’s exactly what the Guardians need.

Quite frankly, this is a Guardians team with the least pop possible in the lineup– dead last in home runs in 2023 with 30 homers less than the 29th-placed Nationals. Power isn’t exactly their strong suit, and after undergoing changes such as a managerial shift to Stephen Vogt and sending Myles Straw down to the minors for his lack of power, something has to give with the Guardians in this period of transition for the Guards who felt like they’ve been stuck in an offensive rut juxtaposing their pitching factory.

Josh Naylor is the attitude and driving force that brings the fire to the Guardians offense, one Happy Gilmore golf swing-looking pimped-out slugger that brings the rallies to Cleveland when they’re in an offensive hole and need to get something going. We’ll never forget the 2022 ALDS in which he clubbed a home run off of Gerrit Cole and proceeded to round the bases screaming at Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole, calling him his son and rocking a baby with his arms.

Naylor leads the team in homers and on-base and has a .569 slugging percentage that has the little ol’ small ball Guardians going from the worst pop to 12th to start the year in their first place start. Josh Naylor also has his little brother Bo in the lineup, which makes their big hit screaming fests even more enjoyable for a Cleveland team that was thought to be in a state of rebuilding.

Kansas City Royals // Vinnie Pasquantino (1B)

Since 2016, no team has had a worse record in baseball than the Kansas City Royals after tearing down their back-to-back World Series-appearing roster of old. With only aging Salvy Perez, a rising pitcher in Cole Ragans, and locking up the franchise player Bobby Witt Jr. this offseason, the Royals knew this was a stripped-down roster with the bare bones that needed to work out the kinks of the surrounding pieces before it gets better in the long-game.

Last year, Vinnie Pasquantino was seen as one of the building blocks on the same timeline as Witt, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery during their doomed 2023 after his promising 2022 rookie campaign. That didn’t stop him from being one of the most genuinely likable cult heroes in KC, going by the Pasquatch with people dressed as Sasquatches walking around Kauffman Stadium. It’s one thing for athletes to be “athlete funny,” which is simply not giving the boring, well-to-done nonanswers in every press conference, but Vinnie is sincere, a great follow on social media with self-deprecating humor, and is a fantastic clubhouse guy (responsible for putting an espresso machine in the dugout when playing for the Italian National team during the World Baseball Classic).

Vinnie’s good vibes in the dugout, aside from jokingly threatening to fight Bobby Witt Jr. during the broadcast, have been felt ten-fold as the surprise success for a team that was thought to be at the bottom of the league with a hot start. Anything other than Vinnie and Ragans was going to be a pleasant bonus this year after Vinnie was coming back from surgery, and in the midst of their early season hot start, he’s suddenly had a 7-game hit streak that also included an 8 RBI outburst in their sweep over the Astros with a .853 OPS. The Vinnie that we saw glimpses of shine in his rookie year seems back, and he’s making the Royals love playing in Kansas City, one laughable dugout, press conference, or social media post at a time.

San Diego Padres // Jurickson Profar (OF)

Flashback: In 2013, Jurickson Profar was the #1 overall prospect in Texas. After 5 middling seasons, he’s gone from team to team, struggling to get consistent playing time towards the bottom of lineups and fighting for employment, aside from joining the Padres late last year on a minor league deal.

However, the Padres were a team desperate for outfield help after statistically one of the most unlucky seasons in baseball history after having what was a “Miami Heat Big Three” level fan fest that was presumably dunked on when they missed the postseason and thus traded Juan Soto. With a lineup entirely made up of shortstops, they brought back Profar on a one-year deal to get some outfield help.

With tempered expectations after their 2023 dud, the Padres have been playing with house money, and Profar has been a beneficiary of it. He must just love playing in San Diego because he’s batting .299 and has everyday playing time, the third-highest in slugging on a team with Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Xander Bogaerts.

Taking aim at the rival Dodgers that spent a billion dollars in free agency, the Dodgers are in the camp of “we don’t think about your little franchise at all” while the Padres are in the “We know you’re the benchmark but last time we played in the postseason we owned you” camp. Profar didn’t like a pitch that was inside, and the benches cleared to add to the ongoing saga over the past several years. Dodgers’ catcher Will Smith proceeded to comment on the matter by saying, “We don’t throw at irrelevant players” to add to the LA superiority complex, only for the following night to have Profar hit the go-ahead bases-clearing RBI double to which now he’s referred to as “Mr. Irrelevant” by fans and has had t-shirts made. It embodies the team spirit of this Padres team that WAS irrelevant for so long during the pre-spending spree.

Profar is playing with house money and has nothing to lose at this point going forward- which is the cooling presence of mind needed after the failed high-pressure situation, where they backed themselves into a corner with PR-wise last year. The stars in San Diego have the chance to learn from the once surefire top prospect now here to set the table with them as a bonus piece as they look to right 2023’s wrongs.

PHOTO: ClutchPoints

Leave Your Thoughts!

Check Also

We’ve Reached “Look in the Mirror” Season in Major League Baseball

April has come and gone. We’re around one-fourth into the MLB season- the delightful…