Beast of the Week: This is really a two-week Beast of the Week Award, as this winner is working on a truly historic run. Congrats to Dodgers rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger, who had an incredible 10-homer in 10-game stretch, and currently has hit an amazing 12 homers over his past 15 games. The 6’4 lefty slugger currently leads the NL with 24 taters, and also hit five more at AAA before being called up to the big leagues. Bellinger is the National League’s answer to rookie Aaron Judge, yet he’s four years younger and hitting home runs at an even quicker rate. Judge is having an overall better season, but Bellinger is holding his own, and put together another beastly week, hitting five homers and knocking in 12 runs with eight XBH’s. He’s currently leading the NL with a .679 SLG%, and I’m looking forward to watching him crush the ball into October.
Things to Know: The defending AL Champion Indians are going to be just fine, because after missing roughly a month, staff ace Corey Kluber is officially back to CY form. This past week, Kluber threw 16 shutout innings, with 24 strikeouts, and an 0.50 WHIP. Since coming back in June, Kluber has thrown 35 IP, striking out 52 batters, with a 1.29 ERA and 0.71 WHIP…Red Sox starter Rick Porcello, another former AL CY winner, isn’t faring as well, leading the AL in losses and hits allowed, with a 5.00 ERA – what a difference a season makes…Lanky ace Jacob deGrom has now thrown three-straight starts of 8+ innings while allowing one run or fewer, doing everything he can to keep the sinking Mets out of last place in the NL East…Nationals ace Max Scherzer took a no-hitter into the 8th, only to lose it and the game 2-1. Both runs were unearned, and Scherzer extended his streak of 10+ strikeouts to six straight starts, while lowering his major league leading 2.09 ERA and 0.80 WHIP…the most dominant pitcher this season in the AL has unquestionably been the Red Sox Chris Sale, who just threw another 8+ innings of one run ball with 10 K’s. Sale has thrown exactly 110 pitches in four straight starts, but threw: six, seven, eight, and eight innings over those same 110 pitches – so it seems that’s the threshold the Sox have interestingly decided to hold him at…The Cubs finally demoted Kyle Schwarber and his .171 AVG to AAA. Too bad they didn’t take my advice and just do it after Week 6…Despite only going 3-4 on the week, the Red Sox now sit only a half-game behind the Yankees for 1st place in the AL East, with the Rays only three back of the struggling Yankees…the Astros became the majors first team to 50-wins, joined shortly after by the Los Angeles Dodgers…23-year old shortstop Corey Seager looks like he’s going on the DL with an unfortunate hamstring injury. This is a blow for the surging Dodgers and my pre-season NL MVP pick, who currently has a higher OPS+ than he had last season when he finished 3rd in the NL MVP voting…Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen continued his historic streak of not allowing a walk, extending his run to 51 strikeouts and 0 walks before walking a batter late last night. His 51 K’s before walking a batter shattered the previous mark of 35 by Adam Wainwright in 2013…Despite their incredibly disappointing season, the defending World Series Champion Cubs are only one game out of 1st place. Starters John Lackey and Jake Arrieta are largely to blame for the pedestrian start, but if the team can straighten out one of the two, they’ll still have enough to win their mediocre division. Lackey is 38 and likely beyond repair, but I think Arrieta, at 31 and entering free-agency, will turn the corner…another NL Central team currently disappointing is the St. Louis Cardinals, currently seven games under .500 but still in the playoff race at only five back of the Brewers. The Cardinals lack a big-bat difference maker in the lineup, and are getting blasted by starting Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright for 40% of the team’s games. Both pitchers are showing their run-of-the-mill 2016 seasons were no aberration, and it’s critical the team make a deadline deal for a bat and starter…I think they’re pretenders, but the 1st place Brewers have received unexpected all-star caliber play from former Red Sox Travis Shaw (wouldn’t the Sox love to have him back over Panda), and All-Star pitching from Chase Anderson and closer Corey Knebel. Shaw is on pace for 30-100, with 42 doubles, and Knebel is the best reliever you’ve never heard of. A former Tigers 1st round pick in 2013, Knebel is leading the league in appearances, has an 0.96 ERA, and is on pace for 78 IP with 137 K’s and an 0.96 WHIP…the Giants have gone 1-11 in their last 12 and became the first team to reach 50 losses. While outfielder Hunter Pence and shortstop Brandon Crawford are having down years, Buster Posey is having an MVP caliber season, and it’s really been the lack of quality pitching that has doomed their season. Pitching ace Madison Bumgarner’s value always shows when he’s on the mound, but it’s shown even more while he’s been on the DL as his void has been replaced with awful pitching by Matt Cain/Ty Blach. Barring any setbacks, Bumgarner will return in roughly two weeks, but the Giant’s 2017 season is all but lost…their AL West counterpart, Arizona Diamondbacks, are cruising at 48-28. The offense is clicking, the starting pitching is living up to expectations, and the bullpen has been solidified by the transition of Archie Bradley from the rotation. The former 2011 1st round pick has been lights out with a 1.08 ERA and 0.84 WHIP, while averaging 11.3 K’s/9…after the failed trade attempts and mismanagement of their most recognizable player, Pirate outfielder Andrew McCutchen, it’s great to see the 2013 NL MVP heating up. So far this June, McCutchen has hit .387, with a .472 OBP and .693 SLG%, leading me to believe the Pirates will again attempt to trade him while his value is up…Indians sparkplug Jose Ramirez is on pace for 53 doubles and just keeps on hitting…lastly, great job by the Braves picking up first baseman Matt Adams from the Cardinals after Freddie Freeman went down. For the month of June, Adams has a .322 AVG to go along with 10 bombs and 25 RBI’s.
Yankee Report: It’s been a turbulent two weeks for the Yanks, who momentarily lost command of 1st place to the Red Sox, and are still struggling to get on track. They mercifully designated first base enigma Chris Carter for assignment, making rookie Tyler Austin the starting first baseman until Greg Bird’s troublesome ankle heals…the Yankees have far bigger problems than just first base, starting with a bullpen that’s posted an ERA approaching 6.00 over the team’s past two weeks. One of the team’s greatest strengths to start the season, they’ve burnt out exactly as I predicted in my Week 6 post. As I noted a month and a half ago, “The Yankees hot start is also masking another serious issue – bullpen workload. By not getting length out of their starting rotation, the team has already set themselves up for a mid-season bullpen burnout.” I take no pride being right here, as it means the team is struggling mightily. The Yankees desperately need rookie relievers Giovanny Gallegos, Ben Heller, Domingo German, and Tyler Webb to step up and assert themselves. If he stays healthy, I’m predicting righty swingman Chad Green will become the Yankees 7th inning go-to guy, behind Betances in the 8th, and Aroldis Chapman in the 9th by season’s end. Starting pitching issues have exposed the bullpen, especially Michael Pineda’s ineffectiveness, having allowed 5+ runs in three of his last five starts, something he didn’t do in his first 10 starts. Lefty CC Sabathia is still on the DL with a pulled groin, and nobody knows which Tanaka is going to show up. 23-year old Luis Severino’s development has been incredibly encouraging, but the team can’t only count on him and rookie Jordan Montgomery to anchor the rotation if they’re going to play meaningful baseball in October. Interestingly, the Yankees promoted starting pitching prospect Domingo Acevedo to AAA, who started the season at Tampa before being promoted to AA Trenton. Cashman no doubt is leveraging Acevedo to maximize his trade-value as a budding major league starter. If Cashman deals for a legitimate starter at the trade-deadline, looking into my crystal ball, I see Acevedo as a part of that deal…acquired at last year’s trade deadline, Yankees #1 prospect Gleyber Torres injured his Ulnar Collateral Ligament on a slide at the plate and had Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow. Torres was ticketed for the majors by season’s end, if not sooner, so while this isn’t a career threatening injury, it’s disappointing fans will now wait until sometime in 2018 for his debut, and more disappointing that below average Chase Headley is now secure as the Yankees third baseman through the seasons’ end
…on a positive note, I love the hustle and versatility that 24-year old Ronald Torreyes provides. The little guy plays great defense, makes constant contact, and seeing him hoisted up to high-five Aaron Judge after home runs is hilarious…Catcher Gary Sanchez has 25 RBI over 19 games in June, and has mashed nine home runs during a stellar month. Sanchez is second in the majors for homers by a catcher despite missing five weeks, and has an .942 OPS which would rank 6th in the AL if he had enough AB’s to qualify. Right in front of him, rookie Aaron Judge has scored 24 runs in 22 June games, while also slugging nine home runs and knocking in 21 runs. These two talents can anchor the lineup for the next decade, making the Yankees desire of bringing in a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado after 2018 less imperative.