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.

 

 

Advertisements
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.

Pump the Brakes: Getting Rid of Matt Harvey Now Would Be Foolish

Pump the Brakes: Getting Rid of Matt Harvey Now Would Be Foolish

Matt Harvey’s career path has been extremely fascinating.  From the 7th overall draft pick in 2010 out of North Carolina, to his dazzling debut in 2012 where he allowed just three hits and struck out eleven in 5.1 innings against the Diamondbacks, Harvey seemed to be destined for the spotlight.  The 2013 season saw him dominate in the first half en route to receiving the starting nod for the All-Star Game at Citi Field.  Harvey tore his ulnar collateral ligament later in 2013 and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, but he flourished upon his highly anticipated return in 2015.  Harvey finished the year with a 2.71 ERA and 188 strikeouts, reminding Major League Baseball that he was still the ace on the rise that the league saw two years earlier.  “The Dark Knight” welcomed the chance to pitch in first postseason.  He was crucial in helping the Mets reach their first World Series in sixteen years.  But the World Series did not start as Harvey and his teammates had hoped it would; they lost the first two games and faced elimination in Game 5.  Harvey embraced the chance to pitch with everything on the line and become an October hero.  It was a game that he wanted, and one that he needed.

For eight innings, Matt Harvey pitched with sheer precision and moxie that New Yorkers had come to love him for.  He was emotional and dominant, striking out nine batters and ending innings with fist-pumps that resonated with the frenetic crowd.  Harvey denied Terry Collins when his manager wanted to remove him from the game for closer Jeurys Familia.  When he ran out to the mound, Citi Field shook from the uproar of nearly 45,000 Mets fans chanting, “Harvey, Harvey!”

And then, Matt Harvey’s future seemingly ended along with the Mets’ magical postseason run.

Harvey failed to record an out in the ninth before being taken out of the game for Familia.  The Royals would tie the game mere minutes later, when Eric Hosmer made his mad dash to the plate once David Wright made a throw to first base on a grounder, and maybe more so when Lucas Duda hurled a ball to the backstop on the play that should have sent the series back to Kansas City.  Harvey may have lost this battle, but surely he would continue dominating and win the war.

Harvey hasn’t won the war, though.  Since that legendary game gone wrong in the World Series, Harvey has been a shell of his former self.  His 2016 season was marred by a 4.86 ERA and noticeably lower velocity on his fastball.  His BB/9 rose considerably.  After his poor start on July 4th, the New York Mets announced that Matt Harvey would need surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in his shoulder.  The surgery was uncommon among big leaguers, and there was uncertainty that it would solve Harvey’s struggles.

So far in 2017, Harvey has not found that great pitcher that once carved up opposing lineups every fifth day.  His 5.25 ERA is by far the highest of his career, and he has nearly doubled his BB/9 since last year; it’s tripled since his stellar 2013 campaign.  His latest game saw him throw an 87 MPH fastball, something Harvey claims hasn’t happened since his freshman year of high school.  With his consistently poor on-field performances, along with his off-field issues that show his lack of maturity even at 28 years old, many Mets fans are calling for Sandy Alderson to trade the former all-star, simply to rid the team of his presence.  Sure, Harvey is a distraction, and odds are he will never return to his old form.  But trading Harvey now would be insensible, and it would be just the latest inexplicable move by the Mets’ front office.

Whispers of a Matt Harvey trade have been stirring since the winter of 2015.  With the Red Sox seeking pitching, the Mets were often discussed as a potential trade partner.  Boston had a plethora of young bats and high-upside prospects to dish out as they hoped to compete in 2016.  There was talk of a trade that would have sent Mookie Betts to New York for Harvey, but the idea never seemed to take structure.  The Mets may have even told teams Harvey would not be available, ultimately robbing them of the opportunity to find a franchise cornerstone that could play everyday.

If there was ever a time to trade Harvey, that was it.  His value is essentially non-existent now, although a team may gamble on him at a low cost.  The other morning, I was listening to Evan Roberts and Joe Beningo on WFAN, the home for New York sports talk radio.  The idea of trading Matt Harvey to the Cubs for Ian Happ came up.  About thirty minutes later, someone suggested trying to trade Harvey across town to the Yankees for outfielder Aaron Hicks.

Realistically, neither of these trades will ever happen.  Hicks is an all-star, and Happ probably will play in a few midsummer classics in the future.  Throw in the fact that the Cubs and Yankees are both in position to compete now, and both trades look like complete jokes.  Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman would never make such a ludicrous deal for a starter coming off of surgery with no signs of returning to greatness.  The fact is that Matt Harvey is worthless to the baseball world right now.  Teams know that the Mets want to dump him, decreasing his potential value on the trade market even more.  But his value may not be lost forever.

Matt Harvey is probably miserable compared to a few years ago, especially considering he could have signed a lucrative extension to stay in New York years ago.  Harvey now is just under eighteen months away from becoming a free agent, where he would be lucky to find a suitor willing to pay a third of what the Mets offered him.  Harvey has one shot left to regain that value he lost, and that shot is the 2018 season.  The free agent to-be will need to put together a respectable season in his walk-year in order to have any chance at making decent money.  If Harvey can flash his old-self next year, the Mets can then turn him around for something worthwhile, rather than just trade him for a bag of balls now.

Tuesday Takes: Joe’s Gone Maddon

Tuesday Takes: Joe’s Gone Maddon

First off, I apologize to my few readers that this didn’t go up yesterday; I had a busy day that was capped off by watching the Chicago Cubs slaughter the New York Mets live from Citi Field.  Although the game was a complete blowout, it brought a hot take regarding the Cubs to my mind.  Aaron Judge hasn’t slowed down a bit, and after his mammoth home run Sunday at Yankee Stadium, where does he rank among the best hitters in baseball today?  The MLB Draft took place Monday evening, and the Twins surprised everyone by selecting Royce Lewis with the first overall pick.  Did they find a future all-star or make a big mistake?

The Cubs Should Fire Joe Maddon If They Fail to Make the Playoffs

Would this ever happen?  Probably not.  Maddon is a three-time Manager of the Year with two World Series appearances, the most recent one snapping a 108-year championship drought for the Cubs.  But with the team struggling this late into the season, Maddon shouldn’t be as safe as you’d expect.  The Cubs are still the popular choice to win the National League Central due to the underwhelming competition, but the Brewers, Cardinals, and Pirates could all pose as major threats to steal the division if the Cubs don’t pull away soon.  Joe Maddon’s lineup creativity is interesting, but flawed.  His use of Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff spot failed miserably, and while Anthony Rizzo was great as the leadoff man on Tuesday against the Mets, why would anyone put one of their best two power-hitters at the top of the lineup?  Rizzo’s on-base percentage gives the move some potential to succeed, but the offense as a whole will suffer without his bat in the cleanup spot.

Judging the Best

Aaron Judge is no fluke.  The man can seriously hit, which he has proven by leading the American League in basically every offensive category through June now that Mike Trout does not qualify due to his thumb injury.  If Judge didn’t have the world’s attention yet, he certainly grabbed it Sunday when he blasted a baseball over the left field bleachers in Yankee Stadium.  The surefire American League Rookie of the Year may be second to only Mike Trout now as a hitter, possibly better than the likes of Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado, and Kris Bryant despite his extremely short track record.

Lewis a Twin Bust

Royce Lewis was projected to be a top-five selection in this year’s draft, which was perfectly reasonable.  Lewis has undeniable upside for his elite speed and defensive prowess.  He also has a bat that could produce at the big league level with some improvement.  But the Twins taking Lewis at number one was a mistake.  With Hunter Greene and Brendan McKay available, the Twins could have easily grabbed one of the best two-way players in recent history.  Greene has the most upside out of anyone in this year’s draft, while McKay may be the biggest sure thing as a pitcher or a hitter.  Instead, the Twins gambled on Lewis because he was willing to cut a deal and sign for less money.  Lewis resembles former Twins’ first-rounder Byron Buxton, and while the former 2nd overall pick has time to right the ship, Buxton has been a huge bust to this point.  Lewis profiles similarly to Buxton, which should’ve prompted Minnesota to make a different selection.  That being said, Lewis’ character and incredible maturity could help him be successful.  The high school star is an extemely humble young man who already talks and acts like a professional.

Most Impactful Draft Moves in the Past 5 Years

Most Impactful Draft Moves in the Past 5 Years

When you go back throughout history and look over the first round of each MLB Draft, there are some players that immediately stand out for their greatness.  There are others that are total head-scratchers, making you wonder what could’ve been if an organization had made a different selection.  The first round of the MLB Draft is where the future of the sport is shaped, determining eventual champions and perennial losers.  I look back at the most impactful moves in the past five drafts, showing how just one pick can change a franchise.

2012  

Houston Takes Carlos Correa, Not Byron Buxton

In the days before the draft, Byron Buxton looked like a near-lock to go first overall to the Houston Astros.  Buxton was one of the top prep-stars in the past decade, displaying legendary speed and defense while providing evidence that he could develop into a plus-hitter as well.  On draft day, though, Houston settled on Puerto Rice Baseball Academy shortstop Carlos Correa because he was willing to sign for less money.  Correa has become a star and is in the midst of a tremendous year, leading the Astros to the best record in baseball.  Signing Correa at a discount also allowed Houston to spend more money on Lance McCullers Jr., who has developed into their number two starter.  The Twins have also had success in 2017, but not because of Buxton.  The 23 year-old holds a career .216 average with 227 strikeouts in just 194 games.

Pirates Take Mark Appel at 8

Mark Appel had a chance to go in the top five leading up to the 2012 MLB Draft, and was even considered the likely number one pick at one point, but he ultimately slid down due to signability concerns.  Pittsburgh would draft Appel eighth overall, but the Stanford ace didn’t sign.  So how did this benefit the Pirates?  By not signing Appel, the Pirates received the ninth overall pick in 2013 as compensation, where they selected Austin Meadows.  Meadows, a top prep-star at the time, has become one of the top five prospects in the game.  Appel was the first overall pick in 2013, but his struggles led to him being traded to Philadelphia, where he has yet to live up to his high draft status.

2013

Cubs Surprise Everyone, End Up With a Future MVP

Based on their lack of pitching depth in their farm system, many mock drafts predicted that the Cubs would select either Mark Appel or Jon Gray with the second overall selection.  Appel went first overall, making Gray seem like the obvious choice.  However, the Cubs instead selected San Diego standout Kris Bryant.  The Cubs’ superstar was the best power bat in the draft class and has carried that power over to Wrigley Field.  Bryant would go on to win the 2016 National League MVP Award and lead the Cubs to their first World Series since 1908.

Great Judgement

Despite his toolsy makeup, Aaron Judge was very raw coming out of Fresno State.  He had crazy power, but he couldn’t consistently put it to use.  The Yankees decided to gamble on Judge with the 32nd overall pick, and they’ve won big so far.  Judge currently leads the American League in all three Triple Crown categories, and has led the Yankees to first place in a loaded A.L. East division.

2014

Chicago Reaches at Four

The Cubs made another shocking choice in 2014, selecting Indiana catcher Kyle Schwarber with the fourth overall selection.  Schwarber was projected to be a first-round pick, but he was expected to go in the middle of the round.  Many teams had concerns over his ability to stick defensively as a catcher.  Chicago saw through his flaws and recognized an impact bat.  Schwarber certainly made a huge impact last fall after returning from season-ending surgery.  Schwarber went 7 for 20 with a .971 OPS in five World Series games, helping the Cubs break their 108 year drought.

Trading Places

2014 featured some highly-talented prospects going in the first round, but nobody could’ve guessed how many would eventually be traded before reaching the big leagues.  Alex Jackson, Jeff Hoffman, Trea Turner, Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint, Brandon Finnegan, Grant Holmes, Justus Sheffield, and Michael Kopech have all been traded in the past three years.  Some of the players involved in those deals- Wil Myers, Troy Tulowitzki, Johnny Cueto, Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, and Chris Sale- made major impacts for their new clubs at the time.

2015

Shelby Miller?!

Dansby Swanson was the first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, but just one year later, he wouldn’t be on the team who drafted him.  Swanson was traded by the Diamondbacks in a multi-player deal for Shelby Miller of the Atlanta Braves.  The trade was immediately scrutinized, and for good reason.  Miller had put together one solid season, whereas Swanson had serious potential to be a franchise cornerstone.  Miller has become irrelevant since joining Arizona.  Swanson has struggled in his rookie year, but he has shown flashes of his amazing potential and still has plenty of time to make this trade a big win for Atlanta.

2016

No Bo in the First

Players from the 2016 draft class haven’t had the time to make a difference for their respective big league clubs yet, but one second round choice is making a ton of noise in the minors.  Bo Bichette, son of Dante Bichette, has torn up A-ball in 2017.  At just 19 years of age, Bichette is batting .388 with a 1.088 OPS.  Looking back, it’s shocking that Bichette fell out of the first round considering his offensive prowess.

 

Tuesday Takes: July Will Bring Relief

Tuesday Takes: July Will Bring Relief

As baseball speeds towards the summer, the trade market is sure to heat up, and plenty of closers may be on the move.  Some big-time bats are heating up as well, but some hitters can’t seem to break their cold spells.  Are they just in a mild slump, or is there a major issue?  Albert Pujols blasted his 600th home run on Saturday, but where does he rank among the greatest right-handed hitters ever?  Also, I spotlight three deserving N.L. All-Stars who will probably be snubbed from the Mid-Summer Classic.

It’s Not How You Start; It’s How You… Close?

The Houston Astros have gotten off to a torrid start, and after winning their last ten games, are on pace to win 117 games, which would be the most in single-season history.  The Astros look every bit like a World Series team right now, but they lack one essential element to a championship club.  It’s not necessarily another front-line starter like Jose Quintana or Chris Archer, two players who would command a high price if traded this summer.  What Houston really needs is a shutdown closer.  Ken Giles hasn’t been bad this year, but 2016 proved he’s more of a liability than an asset as a closer.  Lucky for the Astros, there should be a plethora of solid finishers available via trade.  Kelvin Herrera, Addison Reed, Alex Colome, Tony Watson and David Robertson will likely be attainable without costing a big prospect such as Kyle Tucker.  The Nationals are in the same boat as Houston; Koda Glover may be closing now, but he won’t be in October.

Houston Hitters, Stud in the Six, and a Wild Bour on South Beach

Speaking of the Astros, their offense has been launching full-fledged bombings on outfield bleachers lately.  In the past eight games, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran and Alex Bregman have combined for fourteen home runs and thirty-four runs batted in.  Things are especially looking up for Bregman, who hadn’t hit a single longball until May 14th.  Since then, he’s hit six, making him another dangerous bat in an already dangerous Astros lineup.

Josh Donaldson has caught fire since returning from the Disabled List.  The former MVP has blasted four home runs since May 26th, helping power Toronto back into the American League East.  Despite his surge that has powered the Jays, Toronto won’t get into the playoffs without some type of impact move in July.

Justin Bour has been an absolute terror for opposing pitchers as of late.  Bour is hitting .450 in his past seven games with three home runs and a 1.500 OPS.  The Marlins have really struggled in 2017, but the slugging first baseman has had nothing to do with their losing record.  If Bour keeps hitting at this pace, the Miami Marlins would be foolish not to capitalize and trade him for a nice haul at the trade deadline.

Abreu, Schwarber Slumping

Some hitters have really failed to produce as of late, especially Jose Abreu.  Then former Rookie of the Year is just 2 for his last 23, posting a horrendous .087 slugging percentage.  His struggles are part of the reason the White Sox have dropped their last five games.  While the slump is concerning, Abreu got off to a rough start back in April only to rebound nicely, so the Cuban slugger is likely to return to form in the near future.

Kyle Schwarber may have a bigger issue on his hands.  Schwarber is hitting .073 since May 19th.  Cubs skipper Joe Maddon recently discussed making Schwarber a platoon player, and for good reason.  He only has one home run against lefties in 36 games this year.  Schwarber’s awful season is a real reason for concern.  He proved he could quickly adapt when he was called up in 2015, but he has yet to make any significant adjustments this year.

The Machine Gets 600

Congratulations to Albert Pujols on hitting his 600th home run this weekend in Anaheim, and a grand slam to boot.  A surefire Future Hall of Famer, Pujols has defined longevity since his debut in 2001.  The 37 year-old has fourteen seasons where he hit at least thirty home runs, while also hitting for a career .308 average.  He’s surely an all-time legendary hitter, but is he the greatest right-handed hitter ever?  Here’s my list.

5. Alex Rodriguez- Say what you want about him.  The guy was a great hitter.

4. Hank Aaron- All-time HR King, but his 162 game average wasn’t better than Albert’s.

3. Willie Mays- My vote for the greatest player ever, Mays wasn’t nearly as good of a pure hitter that Pujols is.  Better all-around player, but not hitter.

2. Albert Pujols- The Machine has slowed down in recent years, but he’s showed he can stay healthy.  He should pass Mays in home runs and maybe even get to 700 by 2020.

1. Jimmie Foxx- 534 home runs, career .325 hitter with an OPS over 1.000.  Foxx had nine years where he hit over .330!  Throw in twelve seasons of 30 or more homers, and Foxx is the best right-handed hitter of all-time.

All-Stars From Afar

There are three players in the National League who totally deserve to make the All-Star Team, but their odds are slim to none.

Joey Votto

It’s insane that Votto is only a four-time all-star considering he’s a career .300 hitter, but that’s a testament to how many good first basemen play in the Senior Circuit, and also how bad the Reds have been over the past few years.  Votto is putting together another stellar season, hitting fourteen homers and posting a .985 OPS.  His WAR is 2.4 according to Baseball Reference, which puts him just outside the top five in the National League among position players.  But with his low voting total and shortstop Zack Cozart likely to grab the designated spot for the Reds, Votto will probably be watching the game instead of playing in it.

Justin Bour

Like Votto, Bour will suffer from playing on a poor team and playing at a position loaded with all-stars.  Bour leads the National League with sixteen home runs and his .589 slugging percentage ranks eighth.  Bour has also showed an ability to hit for a higher average than he has in the past, hitting .295 so far in 2017.  Bour is overshadowed by Giancarlo Stanton, who is having a fine season in his own right, but that’s no excuse for the 29 year-old to be passed over for the All-Star Game.

Robbie Ray

Ray has always flashed incredible potential, and he’s lived up to it in 2017.  Ray has a 3.00 ERA in eleven starts.  He’s been dominating opposing hitters, striking out 84 in just 69 innings.  Ray also is one of only six N.L. starters to throw a shutout this season, further proving his dominance.  However, he may very well be skipped over by Joe Maddon when pitchers are selected for the All-Star Game.  Ray’s lack of notoriety, as well as the influx of all-star worthy pitching by National League Central starters could lead to Maddon passing up the 25 year-old.