What a first week it’s been in MLB

Welcome back to my Team of the Week series, where each Monday I reveal my selections for the top player at every position on “Flippin’ Bats.” As always, my squads include nine position players, a designated hitter, a starting pitcher and a closer.

Spoil alert: New York Yankees superstar Juan Soto did not make the cut. The reason for this glaring (but intentional) omission is that only games between Sunday through Saturday are factored in, which means his three-hit performance this past Sunday to secure a sweep against the Astros will count toward next week’s consideration. But not a bad start for my preseason AL MVP pick, right?

With that said, let’s dive into my first Team of the Week for 2024!

Catcher: Keibert Ruiz, Washington Nationals
.571 batting average, 1 HR, 1.625 OPS

Ruiz was a big-time prospect with the Los Angeles Dodgers before getting dealt to Washington in the 2021 Max Scherzer/Trea Turner trade-deadline blockbuster, and had yet to fully live up to the hype of his prospect status. His hot start to 2024, including a clutch no-doubt home run against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, could go a long way toward cementing himself as a key member of the Nationals’ young core of hitters. Ruiz is a switch-hitter with power who plays good defense, the kind of catcher who can become a star in this league.

First Base: Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers
.417 batting average, 1 HR, 1.128 OPS

Unsurprisingly, Freeman’s off to a hot start after registering the best full season of his career last year. Although Shohei Ohtani hasn’t totally settled in yet, two-thirds of the Dodgers’ MVP trio is in midseason form and ensuring this lineup remains elite.

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Second Base: Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks
.462 batting average, 5 runs, 6 hits, .995 OPS

The defending NL champions came out swinging on Opening Day, putting up 14 runs in one inning against the hapless Colorado Rockies. Marte, who I’ve always liked, was a big part of that effort with a three-hit game. As a bonus, he’s also very good on MLB The Show!

Third Base: Oswaldo Cabrera, New York Yankees
.538 batting average, 2 HR, 1.615 OPS

Cabrera being productive at the plate, with the positional versatility he brings to a veteran, injury-prone lineup, would be a huge development for New York’s playoff hopes. We will talk a lot this year about the top of the Yankees’ lineup, but they need guys who can lengthen it following last year’s abysmal offensive showing. Cabrera emerging could be a welcome (and much-needed) surprise.

Dodgers’ Mookie Betts leads Ben’s Team of the Week

Shortstop: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers
.556 batting average, 3 HR, 2.381 OPS

Betts hit four home runs in four straight games dating back to last week’s series in Seoul. The new Dodgers shortstop is on an absolute heater to begin the season, and with his résumé, there’s little reason to believe he’ll come crashing back down to earth any time soon.

Outfield: Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Arizona Diamondbacks
.462 batting average, 3 HR, 1.674 OPS

The Diamondbacks re-signing Gurriel was one of the most underrated moves of the offseason, and he showed why with a great first week.

Outfield: Michael Harris II, Atlanta Braves
.667 batting average, 1 HR, 1.811 OPS

The Flippin’ Bats bump is alive and well for 2024! Harris, who we had on the show recently, sneakily had an amazing second half last season after a terrible first few months. Expect a breakout season from the 23-year-old outfielder. I think he could be an All-Star, if not more, this season. 

Braves lead MLB Power Rankings after Week 1

Outfield: Luis Robert Jr., Chicago White Sox
.500 batting average, 2 HR, 1.806 OPS

Robert is a damn good baseball player, and my concern for him is that he develops into somewhat of a Mike Trout — not that Robert is as good as Trout, but that he seems on his way to being a perennial All-Star stranded on a team and franchise that cannot build a winner around him. He might be the only reason for non-White Sox fans to tune into their games this season.

Designated Hitter: Nick Martini, Cincinnati Reds
.600 batting average, 2 HR, 2.600 OPS

Martini came up huge for a shorthanded Reds lineup with two home runs on Opening Day and then a clutch pinch-hit triple the next game. The Reds are such a fun team even with their early-season injuries. Players like Martini stepping up is a big reason why.

Starting pitcher: Bobby Miller, Los Angeles Dodgers
1-0, 11 strikeouts, 6 innings pitched, 2 hits allowed, 0 earned runs

I got to witness Miller’s start Friday in person, and it was amazing. He dominated the St. Louis Cardinals with an incredible arsenal led by his near-triple-digit fastball. The hype has been there with Miller, and he’s already lived up to it quite a bit, but he seems primed to taking it to another level this season.

Braves, Dodgers or Orioles: Who is Ben’s World Series pick?

Closer: Clay Holmes, New York Yankees
2 saves, 2 innings pitched, three hits allowed, 0 earned runs

Holmes gets the nod for slamming the door on two dramatic comeback wins for the Yankees in Houston, but I’m still not sold on him as New York’s closer this season. Watching him still feels like a bit of a roller coaster, and he only notched that Opening Day save thanks to Juan Soto throwing out Mauricio Dubon at home to preserve the Yankees’ lead.

Player of the Week: Mookie Betts

Betts’ tear to start the season is absurd. He’s adjusting to being a big-league shortstop on the fly, which is hard enough. He knows that. But the fact that he is even playing decent defense there while putting up these numbers at the plate speaks to what a superstar he is and how important he is to the Dodgers.

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Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the “Flippin’ Bats” podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @BenVerlander.

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