MLB Week 15: Beast of the Week, Things to Know

Beast of the Week: Nine extra base hits in seven games with a .571 OBP is quite beastly – impressive, Bryce Harper. Over his past seven games, Harper has scored 13 runs and knocked in 10 with five home runs. He’s already exceeded last year’s home run total despite playing 57 fewer games, matched last season’s doubles total, and is two runs short of the matching his runs total – it’s amazing how inconsistent he’s been over the past six seasons. Lucky for the Nats, this season he’s 2nd in the NL in AVG and Runs, and 1st in SLG and OPS. He’s taking advantage of hitting in a stellar lineup that provides plenty of opportunity, and he’s making the most of it. Despite not being a web-gem highlight reel in right, and only stealing two bases then entire season, his power numbers across the board are MVP worthy. He’ll be a free agent after the 2018 season, and someone will foolishly cough up over $400 million for him…in a sport with 25-man rosters, no one player is worth tying up that kind of money – just ask the Ranger’s how that turned out with A-Rod…

Things to Know: Now that the All-Star break has come and gone, baseball is once again moving full tilt with roughly a week to go before the trade-deadline. While there’s been movers and shakers, I’d first like to touch on a few significant things of note…Ranger third baseman Adrian Beltre is 13 hits away from joining the 3,000 Club, and should seal the deal by early August. Every player to reach this milestone is in the Hall-of-Fame….Boston ace Chris Sale, continues to blow away hitters, reaching 200 K’s in the fewest innings ever for an AL pitcher. Sale also lowered his AL leading ERA to 2.48…the Pittsburgh Pirates have gone 8-2 over their last 10 games and now sit only 3 games out of 1st in the NL Central. It’ll be interesting to see if they add pieces or still decide to unload players like starter Gerrit Cole and outfielder Andrew McCutchen…the Royals are now just 1.5 games out of 1st in the weak AL Central, and also need to decide if they’re going to unload free agent to-be’s: Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Eric Hosmer… one of my favorite players in baseball for his unique combination of skills, 5’6 Jose Altuve, is now leading the AL in hits and average, which would be the third time in his career he’s achieved this. At 27, he’s the leader of the best team in the American League, has a .972 OPS, in addition to being on pace for over 30 stolen bases with power, and  he rarely strikes out while playing gold glove caliber defense at 2B. Given his unique talent, you can make the argument he provides greater value than a player like 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper…further confirming this argument, Altuve’s 5.2 WAR is currently better than Harper’s 4.5 WAR, and Harper is still having an MVP caliber season…Altuve’s double play counterpart, Carlos Correa, had thumb surgery and unfortunately won’t return until the end of September, just in time for the Astros playoff run. In the midst of a breakout season at the age of 22, Correa already has reached the 20 homer plateau for the third straight season…another infielder whose continuing to break out is the Indians Jose Ramirez, currently leading the AL with 30 doubles, and has an OPS just below Altuve’s at .961. Another high contact player with power and speed, these are the types of unique players that teams should try to build around, not just the sexy power hitters who can hit tape-measure homeruns…another infielder with a power surge is Nats second baseman Daniel Murphy, whose currently on pace for 200+ hits 55 doubles, and 123 RBI. After finishing 2nd in the NL MVP race last season, Murphy hasn’t missed a beat, and is an absolute bargain at $13 million a year – think the Mets would like to reconsider letting him walk?…second base might currently be the deepest position in all of baseball, and the emergence of Baltimore’s Jonathan Schoop only adds to this embarrassment of riches. The 25-year old Schoop is hitting .302, and on pace for 34 bombs and 113 RBI…arguably the top prospect in all of baseball and the centerpiece to the Chris Sale trade, 22-year old second baseman Yoan Moncada was finally called up by the White Sox…staying with the theme, Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro is headed back to the DL after re-injuring his troublesome hamstring…symbolic of how ridiculous the amount of offense is this year, Giancarlo Stanton is quietly on pace for 52 bombs and nobody seems to care – you have to go back to 2010 for the last time someone hit 50+ homers…speaking of quietly, Nats third baseman Anthony Rendon has more walks than strikeouts and an OPS of 1.009, currently leading the NL with a 4.8 WAR…I’ve said it before but Nolan Arenado just doesn’t get the love he deserves because he plays in Coors Field. He’s led the NL League in HR, RBI, TB and won the Gold Glove two years in a row – so he provides value on both ends and is on pace again for 130+ RBI’s, 50 doubles, and a gold glove…

Clayton KershawWith so much offense, dominant pitching stats like Clayton Kershaw’s are even more impressive compared to previous seasons this decade. Kershaw has won 15 of his 20 starts, and is currently on pace to go a monster 25-3 with an 0.89 WHIP. His career WHIP just dipped below 1.00 to 0.998, making the start of his career possibly the most dominant 10-year beginning ever. Given his recent injury history, I’m cautiously optimistic he makes it through a full season, and the Dodgers are being extra careful with him anticipating a deep playoff run which should help keep him fresh…his biggest NL CY Young competition, Max Scherzer, still has the edge in the race but surrendered homers to the first three batters he faced this past week and took a no-decision…Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman threw 7 2/3 IP of one run ball, lowering his ERA to 2.98, good for third in the AL…despite missing a month earlier this year, Cleveland ace Corey Kluber could still finish second in the AL CY race. Historically a 2nd half pitcher, the 2014 AL CY winner has a 1.41 ERA over his past 7 starts, and for the season a career best 0.96 WHIP and 12.1 K/9…a free agent after this season, the Yankees and Michael Pineda received sobering news that he’ll need Tommy John…lastly, Gary Sanchez defeated Stanton in his 1st Home Run Derby round, the final four contestants were all  25 or younger,  and Aaron Judge eventually won the entire derby, his longest a 513 foot blast – can’t wait for more of that in the future.

Yankee Trade

Trading Cards: Long rumored to be on the move, White Sox southpaw Jose Quintana finally has a new home, moving across town with the Cubs landing the reliable lefty for a package centered around top prospect Eloy Jimenez. The Cubs roster is in a precious window to win-now, and in consecutive trade-deadlines they’ve moved their top prospect for an established veteran to get them over the top. Look for the Cubs to step on the gas here in the second half with Quintana and take the division…Jose Quintana Cubs the Yankees, always active at the deadline, made a great trade acquiring former Yankees David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and NJ native Todd Frazier. Giving up Tyler Clippard was an easy decision, and outfield prospect Blake Rutherford has two homers in A-Ball, so even if he develops into a quality major leaguer it’s still a win for the Yankees…real nice pickup by the Diamondbacks to get outfielder J.D. Martinez, who currently has an 1.008 OPS in 58 games. Insert him into a lineup that already features MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt, and third baseman Jake Lamb whose on pace for 132 RBI, and you’ve arguably got the best middle of the lineup in the NL alongside the Nationals…the Mariners are stockpiling arms, acquiring David Phelps from the Marlins and potential backend starter Marco Gonzalez from the Cardinals for prospect Tyler O’Neil…the Giants signed Pablo “Panda” Sandoval to a minor league contract. Despite his previous success in San Francisco, this seems more like a ploy to sell a few more Panda hats than it does to improve the team…most teams that make significant playoff runs acquire players at the trade deadline, so let’s see who thinks they’ve got what it takes to win it all this next week.

JD Martinez
New Diamondback Trade Acquisition – J.D. Martinez

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