Guys whose hot starts are 'real'

Outfielder Dexter Fowler's OPS rate is more than 100 points over what he produced in 2012. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

One of the bigger challenges of evaluating performances early in the season is that April has a way of lying to you. In the big picture, even the worst major leaguer is a quite accomplished baseball player, and over 100 at-bats or batters faced can sometimes do some things that they never did before or ever will again. If we think back to April 2012, we can recall that Ryan Sweeney (.373/.394/.567) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (.325/.386/.475) were having breakout seasons and Carlos Pena was back to form (.286/.412/.488). April 2011 bragged about the successes of Philip Humber (3.06 ERA) and Josh Tomlin (2.45). But the tales they told were all lies.

Every good lie has a grain of truth buried inside and embedded in all the crazy Aprils around baseball, there are always some players who have really made a sustainable improvement. The tricky part is figuring out which ones have really taken that step forward that won't come with an accompanying step back. Here are six players whose April success is no illusion, but rather a sign of legitimate improvement.


Dexter Fowler, OF, Colorado Rockies