Players have hot streaks all season. We just recognize them more in April because everybody starts from zero. Here are my April All-Stars -- err, April plus the first two days of May.
C -- Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals. After tearing a ligament in his thumb at the end of September and undergoing a second surgery in December, there were concerns about Molina's readiness for Opening Day, but he's played in 25 of the Cardinals' first 26 games and is hitting .333/.412/.433. His home run power, which peaked at 22 in 2012, appears to be a thing of the past after hitting four last season and none so far in 2016, and his early batting average is being driven by a high BABIP, but he's hit seven doubles and a career-high walk rate has boosted his on-base percentage.
1B -- Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs. Get this: He's running a ridiculously low .188 BABIP and yet is still hitting .230/.385/.575 and ranks second only to Chris Carter in OPS. He's passed up Bryce Harper for the major league RBI lead (tied with Nolan Arenado) with 25, plays good defense and can contribute on the bases (17 steals in 2015, two in 2016). With runners in scoring position, he's hitting .324/.519/.757 with four of his eight home runs. In other words, once some of those hits start falling, the numbers may get even better. That means we're talking about an MVP candidate.
2B -- Jose Altuve, Houston Astros. A bright spot in the early despair that is the Astros, Altuve has added some pop to his game, at least early on, with seven home runs -- but still leads the majors with 12 doubles and nine stolen bases. This is looking like a Joe Morgan-in-his-prime kind of season, minus the 100-plus walks. But even there, Altuve has doubled his walk rate from last season.
3B -- Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies. Look, if you want to go with Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson, I'm not going to fight you to the death on this one. These are three of the top six or seven players in baseball right now and they're all off to hot starts. Yes, Arenado has the Coors Field advantage, but Camden Yards and the Rogers Centre are also great home run parks. Plus, since the start of 2015, 27 of Arenado's 53 home runs have come on the road. I also love that he's cut his strikeouts even more this year. And I hear he's pretty good with the glove.
SS -- Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies. OK, he doesn't lead shortstops in WAR -- that's Aledmys Diaz of the Cardinals with his .403 average -- but he's popped 10 home runs, played solid defense and was the talk of baseball for the first week of the season. What's his long-term prognosis? The strikeout rate -- he has 40 in 25 games -- is certainly a concern and he's going to struggle to hit .250 with that many whiffs. But he's not a wild hacker up there and has drawn 10 walks in 24 games. So far, he's resembling Mark Reynolds, who hit as many as 44 home runs but also owns a .231 career average. I'm not saying Story has much raw power as Reynolds, but if you can play shortstop and hit 30 home runs a year, that's a valuable player.
LF -- Michael Conforto, New York Mets. Love this kid. When I talked to him at the World Series -- remember, just 16 months after getting drafted out of Oregon State -- he talked about how he likes looking at various analytics, "but you have to be careful not to overthink things." He's not overthinking; he's raking, hitting .337/.411/.614 with four home runs and 11 doubles. He hasn't played much against lefties yet, just 3-for-17, so those triple-slash numbers may drop off if he starts playing every day. But the gap power is legitimate and he's looking like a guy who can hit 20 to 25 home runs at Citi Field.
CF -- Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs. You want your April MVP in the National League? I think you have to go with Fowler, the man nobody wanted to sign. He's second only to Diaz among all hitters in wOBA. He's first in WAR, first in OBP, has scored 21 runs in 23 games and his defensive metrics in center field have been better, perhaps because the Cubs have positioned him a little deeper this season. Yes, he'll regress (.443 BABIP!), but regression is such an ugly word at this time of year. Who wants to hear that? Dream the impossible.
RF -- Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals. He's hit a little bump on his road to making baseball fun again, just 2 for his past 21 with 10 strikeouts. If anything, it proves that we can't assume he's going to be better than 2015, because topping those numbers will be difficult. He's going to have to maintain his patience up at the plate, given the struggles of the rest of the Nationals lineup. If pitchers aren't going to throw him strikes, he's going to have to take his walks. He's down to 14th in wOBA, but just wait for the next hot streak.
DH -- David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox. Who else? It's the Year of Big Papi and the old man is continuing his second-half surge from last year. I don't even want to show those numbers in case you're not a Red Sox fan or you're an opposing pitcher. OK, he slugged .701 after the All-Star break. This year? He's hitting .317/.417/.634 with 16 extra-base hits and would have the highest adjusted OPS of his career.
Remember when he got off to a slow start -- Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels. Fowler beats him out in center field, but Trout is scorching the ball right now: .413 in his past 12 games with five dingers. Oh, he's fourth in WAR. Not bad for a guy who had one home run his first 15 games.
Rotation -- Clayton Kershaw; Los Angeles Dodgers; Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs; Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox; Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals; Jordan Zimmermann, Detroit Tigers; Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets. That's right, I'm going with a six-man rotation. I assume there's no problem there.
Honorable mention: Philadelphia Phillies. How are the Phillies 15-11? For starters, their pitching staff set a record for strikeouts per nine innings in April. They have 37 more strikeouts than the Mets. What's so impressive is the strikeout-to-walk ratios of their three young starters: Aaron Nola is 37-6, Vince Velasquez is 39-10 and Jerad Eickhoff is 32-5. They rank seventh, ninth and 11th in FanGraphs WAR. Those three, along with several position-player prospects who are close to being ready for the majors, are why the Phillies are clearly ahead of the other National League cellar dwellers in the race back to respectability. Heck, the Phillies might even be respectable this season.