Predicting the Biggest Trades to Come

Predicting the Biggest Trades to Come

With the Chicago Cubs acquiring Jose Quintana from the White Sox last week, the stage has been set for a busy trade market as the July 31st trade deadline approaches.  Unlike in recent years, the number of buyers is fairly low, with teams like the Dodgers, Nationals, Diamondbacks, and Astros essentially locking up playoff spots by the All-Star break.  However, expect these contenders to do everything they can to further enhance their odds of winning the World Series.  That being said, here are the biggest trades I expect to come to fruition over the next two weeks.

Los Angeles Dodgers Receive Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles for Walker Buehler, Drew Jackson, and Andrew Sopko

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been nearly unstoppable in 2017, thanks in part to huge years from Alex Wood, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, and eventual Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger.  The starting rotation led by Clayton Kershaw has been excellent, and their offense has been dynamic.  Jansen is putting together a historically great season as a closer, and Pedro Baez is another efficient reliever who manager Dave Roberts can rely on late in games.  If they were to acquire Britton, their team would be the best overall in baseball.  Despite missing serious time this year due to a left forearm strain, Britton proved to be one of the best relievers in baseball last season when he posted a .54 ERA in 69 appearances for the Orioles.

Baltimore surely would need a solid return for their closer, and a package headed by Walker Buehler would be a great start.  Buehler has serious upside as a number two starter.  Over sixteen starts between High A and Double A in 2017, the Vanderbilt product has a sub-3.00 ERA while striking out 12.5 batters per nine innings.  His potential could eventually see him become the ace that the Orioles have lacked for so long.  In Drew Jackson, the Dodgers would be trading away an elite defender that could man multiple infield positions at Camden Yards for a long time.  Andrew Sopko has the upside of a number four or five starter, with the bullpen also a future possibility.

Kansas City Royals Trade Scott Blewett and Donnie Dewees to the San Francisco Giants for Jeff Samardzija 

Despite the impending free agency of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain, the Royals are expected to be buyers at the trade deadline.  They currently sit just 2.5 games out in both the American League Central and Wild Card.  General manager Dayton Moore doesn’t have a ton of highly-touted prospects to trade, so he isn’t equipped to make a deal for a top starting pitcher like Sonny Gray or Gerrit Cole.  However, Kansas City could acquire Jeff Samardzija from the Giants.  Samardzija has been great at eating up innings this season, lasting at least six frames in fifteen starts in 2017.  He would be relatively cheap since a trade would free the Giants of his albatross contract in which he is owed eighteen million dollars annually for the next few years.  San Francisco would likely have to eat some of his salary in order to the Royals to make this trade.

Scott Blewett would headline the return for the Giants.  Blewett is a 21 year-old right-handed starter who stands in at 6’6″.  He has shown promise at times this season, and has the potential to be a back of the rotation starter if he can continue to develop his changeup.  Donnie Dewees has upside similar to Red Sox utility man Brock Holt.  Dewees projects to hit for a decent average with plus speed.  His defense is average at best, but his arm grades out as below average.  He could be a left fielder, or even a second baseman in the future due to his athleticism and offensive profile.

Sonny Gray and Ryon Healy to the Houston Astros For Alex Bregman, Derek Fisher, and A.J. Reed

The Oakland Athletics have already begun trading veterans like Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson away for prospects.  Sonny Gray is the next to go, and the Houston Astros could be a starting pitcher away from a World Series.  However, Houston may have another Athletic in mind in Ryon Healy.  The A’s third baseman is just 25 years old, and he’s got some serious pop and hitting ability despite his substandard approach.  Healy has 19 home runs this season, while holding a .264 batting average, but just a .299 OBP.  Healy could be considered an upgrade over former second overall pick Alex Bregman, the Astros current third baseman.

Bregman and Fisher would headline the return for Oakland.  Bregman flashed solid potential last season after a few weeks of major struggles in the big leagues.  He’s a good defender at third base, and his bat could help him develop into a player similar to Jake Lamb or Kyle Seager, although with less power.  Derek Fisher was briefly called up earlier in this year.  He showed why he was a Futures Game selection in his short stint with Houston.  In just five games, he blasted two longballs and also stole a base.  He is the type of player that the Athletics’ front office covets due to his all-around ability.

A.J. Reed is an interesting piece in this potential swap.  Reed entered the 2016 campaign ranked as the number eleven overall prospect in the game by Baseball America but has taken a serious step backwards since.  In 45 games with the Astros last year, Reed only managed to hit three home runs, and his OPS was under .550.  Houston wanted him to start the 2017 season in Triple A to regain his confidence.  But Reed has only further declined in the minors, hitting just .240 through 85 games.  He has potential similar to Yonder Alonso or Justin Smoak, making him appealing at his current low cost.

Detroit Tigers Send Michael Fulmer to Atlanta For Package Headlined By Ozzie Albies

This trade would come as a shock to many.  The Tigers front office has proven to be reluctant when it comes to tearing down their aging team of veterans including Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera.  The Atlanta Braves have been a pleasant surprise in 2017, sitting just six games back of the Wild Card just days after the All-Star Game.  But based on each team’s current situation and future outlook, this trade could make perfect sense.

In Michael Fulmer, the Atlanta Braves would have a top-tier starting pitcher not just for this year, but for the foreseeable future.  Fulmer is under team control for the next six seasons, and won’t reach arbitration until after 2019.  In his two seasons with the Tigers, the 24 year-old has posted a 3.06 ERA and also won the American League Rookie of the Year in 2016.  He leads all pitchers in HR/9 this season, which would definitely come in handy given how hitter-friendly SunTrust Park has proven to be.  With perhaps the deepest farm system in baseball, Atlanta G.M. John Coppolella can afford to part with some pieces in return for a long-term, dependable starter like Fulmer.

The Detroit Tigers certainly would demand a major prospect package in return for their star.  Ozzie Albies is the perfect headliner.  Albies is ranked as the number twenty-five prospect in baseball by Baseball America.  At just twenty years of age, he is hitting .289 in Triple A and he has stolen 21 bases in 83 games.  Albies also has above-average defensive skills and could likely play shortstop in the Major Leagues.  The Braves would also include right-hander Michael Soroka in the trade.  Soroka compares similarly to Fulmer.  He uses a low-90’s fastball and a solid repertoire of breaking pitches to manipulate hitters.  Soroka doesn’t rely on the strikeout as many young arms do, but that hasn’t hindered his development one bit.  The 19 year-old is already in Double A, and he’s been dominating there.  In 17 starts, he owns a 2.37 ERA for the Mississippi Braves and has potential to be every bit as good as Fulmer.

Albies and Soroka would be a great starting point, but the haul for Detroit wouldn’t end there.  Atlanta could also offer slugging infielder Austin Riley.  While he does have a heavy tendency to strikeout, Riley has the power to hit 30 home runs annually at the Major League level.  He could wind up moving to first base, but his defensive skills at the hot corner are sufficient enough for him to stay there.  Add in Rio Ruiz, who has some time playing for Atlanta under his belt, and the Tigers would likely send Michael Fulmer off to the upstart Braves.  In doing so, Detroit would jump-start their rebuild that is years overdue.

The Quintana Trade Makes Both Sides of Chicago Winners

The Quintana Trade Makes Both Sides of Chicago Winners

On Wednesday evening, both Dylan Cease and Eloy Jimenez, the Chicago Cubs’ top two prospects, were scratched from their minor league games.  Trade speculation arose quickly, with many wondering if the Cubs would really part ways with two key pieces of their future for a front-line starting pitcher.  On Thursday, news broke that the Chicago White Sox had dealt southpaw Jose Quintana across town to the Cubs in exchange Jimenez, Cease, Matt Rose, and Bryant Flete.  This was the first deal between the two Chicago teams in the past eleven years, and it certainly is one of the biggest in recent memory.

After parting ways with Chris Sale and Adam Eaton this offseason, the White Sox finally traded Quintana after plenty of rumors dating back to last year.  The returns on Sale, Eaton, and now Quintana have been stupendous, netting the club a plethora of top prospects.  In Eloy Jimenez, they added yet another young stud.  A 20 year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic, Jimenez has displayed plus-tools across the board, specifically his bat.  He projects as a 25-30 homer guy with a chance to hit around .300.  He has an advanced approach for his age, hitting with power to all fields.  His bat speed is pretty incredible, and he’s been able to translate that into games.  Last year in the Arizona Fall League, Jimenez hit a ball with an exit velocity of 119 MPH, a feat only Jimenez, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton have accomplished in a game.

The White Sox also added another high-ceiling arm in Dylan Cease.  Cease was drafted in the sixth round in 2014, but likely would have been a first-round selection had he not injured his throwing arm in the spring.  His fastball has touched triple digits, and his curveball is a nasty put-away pitch when Cease can command it.  His changeup needs refinement if he wants to remain a starter.  Cease has serious upside as a starter or as a back-end reliever down the line, giving the White Sox farm system even more pitching to fall back on.

Despite relinquishing Jimenez and Cease, the Chicago Cubs still come out of this trade as winners.  Quintana carried a high cost, but his team-friendly contract he signed prior to the 2014 season makes him so valuable to a contender like the Cubs.  Quintana is signed through the end of next season for just $8,850,000, but he also has two club options for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.  Each option would cost just $10,500,000 to pick up, meaning Quintana will almost certainly be a Cub until he hits free agency after the 2021 season.  His inexpensive contract allows the Cubs to sign more impact players in free agency, and also to work more diligently on an extension for Kris Bryant.

Another element of the deal that may have influenced Theo Epstein to pay a higher price for Jose Quintana could be pricing the Brewers out of the market.  Many baseball analysts expected Milwaukee to strike first and take initiative on the trade market.  The Cubs instead made the first major move and set a big precedent in the process.  After seeing what White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn was able to trade Quintana for, other teams will be expecting top-flight prospects for pitchers such as Sonny Gray, Michael Fulmer, Justin Verlander, and Yu Darvish.  If the Brewers were to make a move for Gray, for instance, top prospect Lewis Brinson would have to be involved, and he would just be the centerpiece.  Josh Hader may also have to go in any major trade, and the Brewers may be more hesitant to act now that the price on pitching will be higher.

The Cubs still sit 5.5 games back of the Brewers in the National League Central, so they probably need to make another move before the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31.  Only time will tell which Chicago team wins this trade.  Quintana could be terrible on the North Side, and the White Sox prospects may never pan out.  For now, though, both the Cubs and White Sox are winners in the first major trade of the 2017 season.

Predicting the 2017 Home Run Derby Winner

Predicting the 2017 Home Run Derby Winner

With a field including Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, Miguel Sano, and reigning Home Run Derby Champion Giancarlo Stanton, this year’s competition is shaping up to be one of the best in years.  The bracket was released early today based on the seeding selection.

The 2017 T-Mobile Home Run Derby Bracket

Each round is five minutes, with each batter having the right to a 45 second timeout whenever they choose.  Any home runs hit in the final minute stop the clock until the batter fails to hit a home run, so hot streaks late in the round are rewarded.  Bonus time can be earned for hitting two home runs over 420 feet, and one home run over 475 feet.  Any ties will be broken via a 90-second swing-off, with no timeouts or bonuses.  Another factor to keep in mind are the expansive dimensions of Marlins Park.

(1) Giancarlo Stanton vs. (8) Gary Sanchez

This one should be a slam-dunk for Stanton.  Playing in his home ballpark, Stanton will obviously be ready to go, and his unsightly power should help him hit both bonuses for an additional 90 seconds of time.  Gary Sanchez may put up a solid round, but he is no match for Stanton.

Stanton Advances

(2) Aaron Judge vs. (7) Justin Bour

The second Marlins-Yankees showdown may also seem like it has an obvious winner, but in reality, this could go either way.  Judge may have the strength to hit both bonuses and some balls over the statue in center, but he tends to hit a lot of his home runs to the middle of the field.  In the past, sluggers who don’t pull the ball in the Derby have been less successful than players like Todd Frazier and Stanton, who hit nearly all of their home runs to left field.  Bour also has the advantage of knowing Marlins Park better, but Judge should still find a way to win given his monsterous strength.

Judge Advances

(3) Cody Bellinger vs. (6) Charlie Blackmon

With all due respect to Charlie Blackmon, the National League’s best lead-off hitter, Bellinger is going to run away with this match-up.  Bellinger’s long, lofty swing is catered to the Home Run Derby, and his tendency to pull the ball out to right field should benefit him throughout the night.

Bellinger Advances 

(4) Mike Moustakas vs. (5) Miguel Sano

If Miguel Sano played in Yankee Stadium instead of Target Field, this guy would be getting Judge-like praise.  He might have more power than anyone else in this field, and his home run into the Fountain Bar in Kansas City is proof of it.  Moustakas will keep it close, but Sano’s ability to hit some tape-measure shots will allow him to move on.

Sano Advances 

SEMIFINALS: (1) Giancarlo Stanton vs. (5) Miguel Sano

If Sano instead was facing Bellinger or Judge here, I’d have him advancing to the finals.  His power is legitimate, but with Stanton being well-rested at this point in the tournament and trying to impress his home fans, Sano has slim-to-none odds of moving on to the finals.

Stanton Advances

SEMIFINALS: (2) Aaron Judge vs. (3) Cody Bellinger

Assuming my predictions come true, this should be the most anticipated showdown of the Home Run Derby.  On one hand, you have Yankees’ superstar Aaron Judge, who has been the biggest story in baseball this year.  On the other hand, you have the second-biggest sensation in the game, Cody Bellinger, who has hit 24 home runs since his call-up on April 25th.  Both have insane power and potency.  I predict this will go to a swing-off, which will also end in a tie, leading to a second swing-off.  Bellinger will finally beat Judge in that tiebreaker, making for an exhilarating finish to the semifinals.

Bellinger Advances

FINALS: (1) Giancarlo Stanton vs. (3) Cody Bellinger

Beating Judge should take everything Bellinger has, and his long swing could tire him out, especially if he makes it this far.  Stanton should easily make his way to the finals, which gives him a considerable advantage.  Just as Todd Frazier did in 2015, Giancarlo Stanton will win the Home Run Derby in front of his home crowd, and become the first player to win back-to-back Home Run Derbies since Yoenis Cespedes.

GIANCARLO STANTON WINS THE 2017 T-MOBILE HOME RUN DERBY

Predicting the 2017 National League All-Star Roster

Predicting the 2017 National League All-Star Roster

With the All-Star Game rosters just a week away from being announced, I predict which stars from the National League make the cut this year.  I’ll post my American League predictions later today.  With these predictions, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Each team must have at least one representative.
  • The roster will be balanced.  Unfortunately, five first basemen can’t make the team.

Starters

Catcher: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

First Base: Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

Second Base: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

Third Base: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

Shortstop: Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds

Outfielders: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals; Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies; Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins

All of my predicted starters currently lead the voting at their respective positions, except for Rizzo.  Undoubtedly, Ryan Zimmerman has had the best season among first basemen in the Senior Circuit, but a late voting push will land Rizzo the starting job.

Reserves

J.T. Realmuto, Ryan Zimmerman, Paul Goldschmidt, Justin Turner, Nolan Arenado, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Aaron Altherr, Michael Conforto

There were quite a few snubs here, mostly due to the rule stating each team must have one representative.  Travis Shaw, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Votto, and Josh Harrison were all very deserving of a spot here.  However, Aaron Altherr wins a place on the team because he’s been the only player on the Phillies worthy of the honor.

Pitchers

Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Martinez, Greg Holland, Kenley Jansen, Brad Hand, Chase Anderson, Ivan Nova

Brad Hand is the only surprise here.  Hand has been efficient as the Padres’ closer, whereas nobody else on the team has been productive enough to make the roster.  Scherzer is the pick to start the game, as he may very well be on his way to another Cy Young Award.

Line-Up:

Charlie Blackmon, CF

Kris Bryant, 3B

Bryce Harper, RF

Ryan Zimmerman, DH

Anthony Rizzo, 1B

Daniel Murphy, 2B

Buster Posey, C

Marcell Ozuna, LF

Zack Cozart, SS

 

You Gotta Believe!… In Another Mets’ Rebuild

You Gotta Believe!… In Another Mets’ Rebuild

The New York Mets entered 2017 poised to make a return to the postseason and maybe even another World Series run.  Their starting pitching was healthy and led by Noah Syndergaard, who was coming into his own as the baseball’s newest superstar pitcher.  Yoenis Cespedes was back in Flushing on a four-year deal, ensuring his Mets’ tenure would continue through 2020.  The Washington Nationals had some questions entering the season, making a division championship a real possibility for the Mets in 2017.

After a hot start, the Mets have since faltered beyond expectations.   Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Seth Lugo all have missed serious time with injuries, while most of the pitchers who have been healthy have struggled.  Matt Harvey looks like he will never return to his old form, and Robert Gsellman and Zack Wheeler have looked terrible at times.  Yoenis Cespedes missed over a month with a bad hamstring.  Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera haven’t been nearly as productive as they were last season.  Outside of Jerry Blevins, the bullpen has been an atrocity and a liability late in games.  Off the field, Sandy Alderson and the front office seem reluctant to call up top prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, both of whom have been dominating the Pacific Coast League at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2017.

With the season seemingly a lost cause, the Mets would probably be better off if they turn their attention to improving for next season with the intention of competing.  They even announced that they are actively trying to sell off players in walk-years like Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jerry Blevins, Jay Bruce, and Curtis Granderson.  With a still-young pitching staff as well as some high-upside position players, New York could potentially make some noise in 2018.  But when one takes a deeper look at their future roster, hopes for contention in 2018 seem dim, especially considering none of the aforementioned players are going to bring back special prospects that have the potential to become stars.

Quite frankly, Asdrubal Cabrera, Lucas Duda, and Curtis Granderson are relatively worthless on the trade market.  Cabrera has told his agents that he wants to be traded now that the Mets are moving him to second base.  He’s right to be mad that Jose Reyes is manning shortstop over him, even though the best shortstop in the organization plays in Las Vegas.  But if Cabrera expects to play shortstop on a contending team, he’s out of his mind.  His defense has deteriorated to well below-average levels, and he hasn’t hit nearly as well as he did last year.  Lucas Duda may have some value as a buy-low option for contenders, but if Eric Hosmer, Yonder Alonso, and Logan Morrison are available, clubs will turn their attention to the first basemen who carry a higher price and greater ability.  Granderson’s salary will drive teams away, and the Mets making him a reserve didn’t do his trade value any favors.

Bruce has had a really nice year thus far, hitting 19 home runs and batting .268, which is well above his career average.  Bruce can also play either corner outfield position as well as some first base, increasing his value even more.  However, Bruce was virtually free in the offseason when the Mets tried to dump him.  His value now has gone up for sure, but it’s not as high as the Mets may think.  Neil Walker could be a nice offensive upgrade at second base for a contender, but his back surgery last season could cause concerns.  Jerry Blevins may be the most valuable trade chip the Mets have.  Blevins has 36 strikeouts in 24.1 innings while keeping his ERA at 2.22.  He carries a $7,000,000 team option for 2018, which could make him more attractive to other teams since he could be retained.  Relievers are always in high demand come July, so Blevins could bring back a worthwhile prospect.

The problem is that with just Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Travis d’Arnaud, and Juan Lagares as the only position players under contract for next season, the Mets have so many holes to fill with only so many players.  Amed Rosario will take over at shortstop, and Dominic Smith will do the same at first.  With any prospect, though, there is no guarantee of success at the Major League level.  As highly touted as Rosario is, his numbers in Triple-A are inflated due to the offense-friendly nature of the Pacific Coast League.  If the Mets are lucky, one of the two will reach their full potential.  Unforeseen injuries could also cause the Mets to change their plans.

Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom may be reliable.  But can the Mets really trust Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, or Robert Gsellman?  Will the bullpen be dependable next year, or will it fail at every chance as it has in 2017?

Right now, the Mets have more questions towards 2018 than answers.  Trading the likes of Bruce, Blevins, Cabrera, Duda, Walker, and Granderson is a good start to bolster the farm system and prepare to contend in the future.  The truth is, however, that a makeover isn’t going to be enough.  The Mets are in need of a full rebuild.

There is some sort of foundation in Queens, but just how strong is it?  Yoenis Cespedes is a still a big bat, but he constantly lands on the DL.  Michael Conforto surged through the first two months of 2017, seemingly assuring the Mets that his dreadful 2016 campaign was a fluke.  But now he’s starting to struggle offensively, losing plate discipline and chasing offspeed pitches down in the zone exactly like he did last year.  Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares are both injury-prone, and they don’t exactly light it up offensively when they’re healthy.

As for the pitching, Matt Harvey is a lost cause.  A change of scenery may be what he needs, or perhaps his career is essentially over no matter where he pitches.  Zack Wheeler teased the Mets with a few solid outings this year, but his overall incompetence shouldn’t make them optimistic.  Steven Matz might be made of glass with all of the injuries he has fallen victim to.  As I mentioned earlier, they’ve got Syndergaard and deGrom to lean on, but that’s it.  The relief corps will be in shambles after Blevins and Reed are gone, and Jeurys Familia may never be the elite closer he was just two years ago.

It pains me to say it, but the Mets may want to listen on more than just their players entering free agency.  If the Mets really want to win in the coming years, they ought to take calls on Jacob deGrom, Michael Conforto, and maybe even Noah Syndergaard.

deGrom would be a huge commodity on the trade market this summer should he become available.  Since debuting in 2014, deGrom has a 2.90 ERA and 605 strikeouts.  In four career postseason starts, he owns a 2.88 ERA, and the Mets won three of the four games he started.  His successful return from surgery this season should further entice teams in trade talks.  deGrom still has three years of arbitration remaining before he becomes a free agent, so he would be a long-term ace for potential suitors.  Trading deGrom wouldn’t sit well with the Mets’ fanbase, but the return for a pitcher of his caliber could seriously strengthen the farm system.  The Astros have already been linked to a potential deGrom deal.  Odds are that the Rockies, Red Sox, and Dodgers would also have interest in the 29 year-old.

Michael Conforto reestablished his value with a tremendous start to his 2017 season.  Through the first two months of the campaign, he hit .316 with 13 home runs, stealing the show in the Big Apple.  Since the calendar turned to June, though, Conforto has slumped en route to a sub-.200 average and a strikeout per game.  He’s been chasing breaking balls out of the zone, which was his biggest problem last year.  Maybe Conforto can fix the problem, but it has the look of a chronic habit that he may not be able to break.  If that’s the case, his long-term projection as a hitter may not be what it appears, and the Mets would be wise to sell high on him.  He hasn’t even hit arbitration yet, so teams would be lining up to trade for him.  Conforto would bring back at least two major prospects with high potential for stardom.  That would just be the surface of a package for the future all-star, which would be a great return on a player who is anything but a certainty.

While Noah Syndergaard is by far the least likely player who would be traded on the roster, the Mets should at least take calls on “Thor”.  Trading Syndergaard would totally shift the team into a rebuilding phase, but moving their ace could put their rebuild into hyper-drive.  Syndergaard would reel in a package greater than the one the Chicago White Sox received for Chris Sale last offseason.  Chicago’s haul included two top-thirty consensus prospects in Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada, the latter of whom ranks as the top prospect in the game.  The one team in contention that could swing the deal would be the New York Yankees, making any trade almost automatically impossible.  But if Brian Cashman was to offer Gleyber Torres, Dustin Fowler, Chance Adams, Jorge Mateo, and Tyler Wade for Syndergaard, Sandy Alderson would have to consider at the very least.  Syndergaard is the type of player who could carry a franchise, and a contender looking to win now may be willing to sacrifice the future of their franchise in order to obtain his services.

In baseball, every team has one common goal: Win the World Series.  That’s what every organization is trying to do.  The last three World Series champions were products of rebuilds that took years to payoff.  The Giants rebuilt through the draft in the late 2000’s and wound up with a dynasty.  The Royals waited for Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar to develop before winning their first World Series in thirty years.  Theo Epstein tore down the Cubs, and built them back up into the championship team the city of Chicago had been dying to see for over 108 years.  Can the Mets make the playoffs in the next few years?  Of course they can, especially with some of the young talent they have.  But this team isn’t built to win a World Series in the next three years, and the likes of Syndergaard, deGrom, and Conforto will be walking out the door around that time.  Trading stars like them is a move that turns the fan base against the organization.  But when teams win championships, the fans forget about the trades that broke their hearts.  If the Mets want to win their first World Series since 1986, they have to start from the ground floor yet again.

 

 

Tuesday Takes: Super-Starlin Could End Up in Cooperstown

Tuesday Takes: Super-Starlin Could End Up in Cooperstown

It’s been another fun week of baseball around the league.  The Yankees finally look like the team everyone expected entering 2017.  Their early success has certainly been admirable, but does Aaron Judge deserve all of the credit?  The National League West’s best continue to run rampant on the rest of the league, but is there a pretender among the Rockies, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks?  Also, All-Star voting is picking up, and it seems like there’s been a significant change in how fans vote.

Castro a HOFer?

The Yankees have been a revelation this year.  The Bronx Bombers were expected to finish around .500.  Instead, they have powered ahead to a 38-29 start, with six of those losses coming in the past week while out west.  The Yankees success is a largely a product of Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks, neither of whom were expected to start prior to Spring Training.  Both players have put together all-star caliber campaigns, but the true Yankees star resides in the infield.

Starlin Castro has fallen into the background since being traded to New York, but he has quietly become a star in the process.  Castro has been a model of consistency on offense since 2011, obtaining at least 145 hits each year.  Don’t look now, but Castro already has 1,235 hits, and is on pace to finish this year with about 1,350.  He’s batting .324 this year, and now that he recently turned 27, he should just be entering his prime.  If that’s the case, Castro will have a shot at 3,000 hits assuming he can stay healthy and continue being productive.  Paul Molitor, who joined the 3,000 hit club in 1996, only had 1,203 hits through his first eight seasons, so Castro has a legitimate chance to join the elite group in the 2020’s.

Who’s Acting Out West?

Who would have thought that on June 20th, the Rockies, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks would hold the three best records in the National League?  All three teams seem destined to make the postseason since the Chicago Cubs are nine games back of the second Wild Card.  Despite their success, surely one of these teams is a fluke, right?

Wrong.  All three teams have incredibly impressive run differentials, as well as winning records both at home and on the road.  Many baseball analysts have claimed that the Rockies may be the least legitimate team of the three, but that’s up for debate.  Colorado has a much better road record than both Los Angeles and Arizona.  The Rockies have also been considerably better against teams that are over .500.  Their 22-13 record against winning teams is the best in Major League Baseball, while the Diamondbacks are just 14-12 and the Dodgers have fared 16-15.  The Dodgers have also been inconsistent in one run games, going 8-9 in comparison to the Diamondbacks who are 15-6 and the Rockies who are 10-2.  This shows the relative inferiority of the Los Angeles’ bullpen, a factor that could play large in October.

Fans Are All-Stars This Year

After years of ballot-stuffing and inexplicable players winning the fan vote, the All-Star voting has reflected performance more than fanfare this year.  Players like Omar Infante aren’t leading voting at second base as they were in 2015.  Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist aren’t benefiting from playing on the Cubs this year.  For the most part, the voting has been acceptable.  Should Jason Heyward be a starting outfielder?  Of course not, but that’s pretty much the only problem I have with the current National League voting update.  Nolan Arenado should be leading at third, but I’m not going to complain about Kris Bryant leading the pack.  Voting love for Charlie Blackmon, Zack Cozart, and Ryan Zimmerman is great to see considering how well they’ve played this season.

In the American League, the voting has been just as fair.  An outfield of Judge, Trout, and Springer is totally reasonable.  Altuve and Correa up-the-middle is the right choice, and so is Miguel Sano at third base.  Yonder Alonso has put together a great year and it shows as he leads A.L. first basemen.  I’d like to see a little more love for Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison, but they should both receive plenty of consideration as reserves from manager Terry Francona.

The Most Untouchable Prospects This Summer

The Most Untouchable Prospects This Summer

With the trade deadline just six weeks away, deals are sure to be made soon, seeing established stars head to contenders in return for coveted prospects.  Some of the biggest prospects in baseball, like Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Yoan Moncada, and Dansby Swanson, have all been moved around in trades over the past few years.  These high-upside minor leaguers typically carry a high price, but there are an elite few who have an exorbitantly large value to their teams.  These blue-chippers have no shot of being moved this summer, save for a deal for one of the best players in the game.

Prospects within organizations whose big league clubs are not in playoff contention will not be considered eligible for this list.  Obviously, the Mets won’t trade Amed Rosario when they’re virtually out of the National League East race.

Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have stunned the National League in 2017, putting together a 44-win season thus far.  They currently lead the N.L. West, and look like potential postseason contenders with their elite offense and shutdown bullpen.  However, their starting rotation raises questions.  While the youthful staff has produced thus far, their lack of late-season experience could lead to future struggles.  Colorado would be wise to add a solid, veteran starter to guide the young Rockies pitchers into October.  The Rockies hold multiple trade chips, but one stands tall above the rest.

Brendan Rodgers is the premier prospect in the Rockies’ farm system and for good reason.  The 20 year-old is hitting .400 at High-A Lancaster with twelve home runs and a .419 OBP in 48 games.  He had 23-game hitting streak going as well, and is surely positioned to receive a call-up to Double-A in the near future.  Rodgers could easily bring back the pitcher Colorado needs.  But the Rockies will not move their future shortstop, who has the look of an absolute superstar.

Eloy Jimenez, Chicago Cubs

Eloy Jimenez put himself on the map with his remarkable performance in the 2016 Futures Game where he blasted a ball into the seats at Petco Park and also flashed some leather in the outfield.  Jimenez is still just 20 years old, and he probably won’t play at Wrigley Field until the end of 2018 at the earliest.  That being said, the Cubs won’t trade the slugging outfielder, even if they find themselves behind in the National League Central.  The Cubs have plenty of other expendable prospects and players like Jeimer Candelario, Dylan Cease, Ian Happ, Javier Baez, and Albert Almora that can bring back an impact player.

Lewis Brinson, Milwaukee Brewers

When the Brewers dished out former all-star catcher Jonathan Lucroy last summer, general manager David Stearns saw a franchise cornerstone in outfielder Lewis Brinson.  The 2012 first-round draftee just made his big league debut last week after tearing up the Pacific Coast League for two months.  Brinson hit .312 with a .900 OPS over 45 games in Triple-A this year.  The 23 year-old has serious five-tool potential, giving Stearns no reason to trade him at the deadline this summer.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

His father may be on the cusp of a well-deserved Hall of Fame induction, but young Vladdy could be knocking on the door in Toronto as soon as next year.  At just eighteen years of age, Guerrero is obliterating A-ball pitching, hitting .321 with a .469 slugging percentage.  His approach is well beyond his years; Guerrero Jr. has walked three more times than he has struck out through 59 games.  He has even been promoted as a better hitter than his father, which is a testament to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s potential.  Toronto has made up considerable ground in the Wild Card standings, but there’s no way they will trade their top prospect for an aging star.