Tag: Houston Astros

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.

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.