Author Archive

A Look at the Rookie of the Year Races Down the Stretch Run

At the end of every season, MLB writers rehash the same awards debates. Should a pitcher be the MVP if they only play every fifth day? What exactly does MVP mean, anyway? Does it have to be a player on a contending team, or is it enough to be the best player on a team that has no chance of playing in October? Can a reliever win the Cy Young award if they are just so much better than the starting pitchers that their lower volume of work is exceeded by their sheer dominance?

There is one award that is a bit simpler in its execution: Rookie of the Year honors can go to any player as long as they were the most outstanding rookie in the American or National League. Aside from some debates about what qualifies as a rookie — fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched or fewer than 45 days on the active roster (excluding time on the Injured List and/or roster expansion in September) — that is about as straightforward as it gets for MLB, which brings us to 2021 and an early look at the rookie leaderboards. Those qualifications can result in some familiar names appearing atop these lists, and that’s particularly true this year, since some who played in the shortened 2020 season (or even 2019) have yet to clear those at-bat or innings thresholds. Some names, too, that floated to the top of these conversations shortly after the All Star break have already faded away, and only a handful remain from our preseason staff predictions. Read the rest of this entry »

The Padres Add Speed, Defense and a Solid Bat Against Lefties in Jake Marisnick

The San Diego Padres made big moves in the offseason in an attempt to chase down the Dodgers. They traded Luis Patiño, Blake Hunt, Cole Wilcox and Francisco Mejía to acquire 2018 AL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays. Less than 24 hours later, they traded Zach Davies, Reginald Preciado, Owen Caissie, Ismael Mena, and Yeison Santana to the Cubs for 2020 NL Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish and his personal catcher Victor Caratini. They turned Hudson Head, David Bednar, Omar Cruz, Drake Fellows into Joe Musgrove in a three-way trade with the Mets and Pirates. Earlier this week they kicked off trade deadline season trading Tucupita Marcano, Jack Suwinski and Michell Miliano to the Pirates for All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier. That flurry of deals alone has seen the Padres part with their second, seventh, eighth, 13th, 15th, 21st, 26th, 28th and 52nd ranked prospects, and send their 2020 second and third round draft picks to other teams for major-league ready talent.

When laid out like that, it seems less surprising that the Padres were outgunned when it came to the deadline’s blockbusters, like the “super-ultra-mega-juggernaut deal” that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Nationals to the Dodgers. But the Padres were not done dealing just because they missed out on the starter they craved. With three minutes before the deadline, they made a smaller move, adding center fielder Jake Marisnick from the Cubs. Anderson Espinoza, a 40+ FV prospect who slots in at No. 29 in the Cubs’ system, is headed back to Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »

The Braves Trade for a Left Field Platoon in Rosario and Duvall

The Braves could have been buyers or sellers at the start of this trade deadline season; I wouldn’t have been surprised either way. They have struggled to gain traction in a winnable National League East, and despite preseason projections that had them finishing 91–71 and in a tie with the Mets atop the division, they have not spent a single day in 2021 over .500 and entered Friday with playoff odds of just 9.7%.

A big reason for Atlanta’s woes is the outfield, where the team has lost two starters. On June 1, Marcell Ozuna dislocated two fingers on his left hand on a slide; less than a week later, he was arrested in connection to a domestic violence call and was charged with aggravated assault strangulation and misdemeanor battery. It’s unlikely he sees the field again this season (and probably as a Brave as well). A little over a month later, things reached DEFCON 1 when Ronald Acuña Jr. landed awkwardly trying to make a catch and tore his ACL, which required season-ending surgery.

The Braves have tried patching those holes as best they can. Not long after Acuña went down, they sent Bryce Ball to the Cubs for Joc Pederson. On Friday, they tossed some more bodies into the mix, adding Eddie Rosario from Cleveland and Adam Duvall from Miami. In exchange, Cleveland will get Pablo Sandoval, and the Marlins will receive Alex Jackson, who ranked eighth in our preseason Atlanta top prospects list. (The Braves also picked up Jorge Soler from the Royals in a deal announced after the deadline; we’ll have that transaction written up separately later.) Read the rest of this entry »

Dodgers Add Danny Duffy as Potential Multi-Inning Relief Weapon

At the start of the season, the Dodgers had so much pitching depth it was a legitimate question as to how they would effectively use all of their talent. But what was a source of strength for Los Angeles in March has become a reason for cautious concern in July, as the team lost Dustin May to Tommy John surgery in early May and Clayton Kershaw to elbow inflammation in July. In the bullpen, meanwhile, Corey Knebel was lost on April 24 to a lat injury, Scott Alexander went on the IL for a second time on July 20 with left shoulder inflammation, and Joe Kelly is day-to-day with a hamstring injury. The Dodgers shifted Tony Gonsolin and David Price to the rotation to patch some of those holes, but while that pair’s been mostly effective as starters, that’s come at the expense of bullpen depth.

The bottom line is that the Dodgers probably needed to bolster their pitching staff, and that’s been the case since even before Trevor Bauer was placed on administrative leave while MLB and the Pasadena Police Department investigate disturbing charges of sexual assault. His latest hearing was postponed until at least August 16, and MLB has extended his administrative leave until at least August 6; it’s an open question at this point if he’ll pitch again this season (or for Los Angeles).

So with 36 hours until the deadline, the Dodgers made a deal with the Royals to replenish some of that depth with injured veteran Danny Duffy, who is in the final year of his contract and could work as a middle reliever or spot starter. Given his nature as a rental, the two teams will settle on player(s) to be named later from a pre-approved list, with Los Angeles also getting some cash back from Kansas City. Read the rest of this entry »

Trades Aren’t the Only Way to Upgrade: Injured Players Who Could Have an Impact in the NL

Joey Gallo is a Yankee, Eduardo Escobar is a Brewer, and Starling Marte will finish his season in Oakland. It’s already been a fast-paced trade season, and there are still a lot of deals that could be done before Friday’s deadline. But as I noted in a piece on Wednesday that looked at the most impactful players on the IL for American League contenders, there are top-flight pitchers and hitters who are not going to be traded but are waiting in the wings. Today I want to look at the NL side of things.

As a reminder, I calculated team injury impact to date this season by looking at the injury ledger data from Baseball Prospectus to determine each team’s injury impact to date in FanGraphs WAR compared to preseason projections. Additionally, while most of the teams I identified as contending had at least one impactful player on the IL, one did not; I’ll still spend some time on the Padres, but they will need to look to the trade market for reinforcements.

Finally, the cutoff for contending is defined as having playoff odds greater than 30%. I’m sure that will frustrate some Philadelphia and Atlanta fans who believe their teams still have a chance to chase down the Mets. For what it’s worth, the Braves are hoping that Ian Anderson and Drew Smyly can return to throw meaningful innings and that Travis d’Arnaud will return to catch them. The Phillies have zero projected position player WAR on the IL at the moment, although starting pitcher Zach Eflin’s return from the 10-day IL should bolster the rotation. Read the rest of this entry »

Trades Aren’t the Only Way to Upgrade: Injured Players Who Could Have an Impact in the AL

The trade deadline is upon us, but as I was thinking about the deals that could get done between now and Friday, I kept looking at the Baseball Prospectus Injury Ledger, since quite a few contenders have some very good players waiting in the wings. So today I wanted to take a look at the most impactful players who are currently on, or just off, the injured list for AL contenders as the trade deadline looms; I’ll follow it up with a look at NL contenders later this week.

There are players on these lists who could make or break their teams’ ability to make it to the postseason, and there are players who may not make it off the IL in time to help, which leads me to some important caveats. First, injuries are not all created equal, and players have setbacks all the time. These are projections that can and will shift.

Second, I don’t have a crystal ball; I used our playoff projections and only included teams that had at least a 30% chance of making the playoffs. That means the Blue Jays, who were in the first draft of this piece, ultimately just missed; our odds currently have them at 27.5% chance to make the playoffs. For any Blue Jays fans who are annoyed by this, I get it. That said, they were both borderline in terms of playoff odds and in terms of the most impactful players returning; only Danny Jansen and Alek Manoah would have pinged on this list.

Finally, having a 30% shot at the playoffs doesn’t mean you have players sitting on the IL who can push you over the top. Chad Pinder isn’t going to be the hero of Oakland’s season, which is no shade to either. But if the A’s are going to compete in the second half, they probably need to focus on the trade market, like they did Monday night in adding Andrew Chafin to their bullpen. Read the rest of this entry »

Trea Turner Is Quietly Putting Together a Career Year

There has been a lot of discussion of shortstops in 2021 and rightfully so. Fernando Tatis Jr. is must see TV and currently third among qualified position players in WAR. During the offseason Francisco Lindor was traded to the Mets, who quickly signed him to a 10-year, $341 million extension. That deal set the stage for rampant conjecture as to the ceiling for possible contracts for the remaining top shortstops under 30 who look like they will test the free agent market for the first time this winter: Javier Báez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager and Trevor Story. As if that wasn’t enough drama, two of those players (Báez and Story) are currently playing on teams that will be sellers over the next week and a half, adding an element of trade speculation to a conversation that was already quite compelling. But as these louder storylines dominate the conversation this season, Trea Turner is quietly building on his improvements from the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. The 28-year-old looks like he may be putting together a career year. Turner won’t be a free agent until 2023 and the fourth-place Nationals don’t look like contenders this season, but it’s still worth taking a closer look at how Turner is putting it all together in 2021.

Turner celebrated his birthday three weeks ago by hitting for the third cycle of his career. As I was working on this piece, he started another game with a triple and a home run before being pulled in the later innings when it was clear the Nationals did not need him to finish their 18-1 rout of the Marlins. He had to settle for a 2-for-4 night with four RBI. Read the rest of this entry »

Yoán Moncada Is a Big Reason the White Sox Are a Juggernaut Despite Injuries

In 2017, my friend Marty and I made a bet. A lot of hot young prospects were making their way to the show and Marty is a big Red Sox fan. He was convinced that Andrew Benintendi was the next big thing, while I was adamant that honor belonged to a rookie the Red Sox had traded to the White Sox who hadn’t really gotten quite as good of a look yet: Yoán Moncada. The terms of the bet were simple. I had Moncada, he had Benintendi, and the best player would be determined by whichever player put up the most WAR (FanGraphs WAR, of course) over the next three seasons. The loser owed the winner dinner at the restaurant of their choice. Benintendi’s 5.9 WAR from 2018-20 is nothing to sneeze out, but Moncada’s 9.2 takes the cake. Which reminds me, Marty still owes me dinner.

If Marty had asked me to bet on who would win the AL Central this year, I would have put my dinner money on the White Sox. Chicago’s American League team is running away with a weak division, but they aren’t doing it the way I would have predicted. The big story on the South Side of Chicago is the injuries they’ve weathered on their way to a 54-35 record. Hitting phenom Eloy Jiménez tore a pectoral muscle trying to rob a home run in spring training, and hasn’t seen a major league pitch in 2021, though he hit a home run in the first at-bat of his rehab assignment before moving to Triple-A on Tuesday. Luis Robert played all of 25 games before he tore a hip flexor. Contact stalwart Nick Madrigal had season-ending surgery after a severe hamstring tear a month ago. As the clock ticked towards the Midsummer Classic, catcher Yasmani Grandal (who was having quite a strange season at the plate) had surgery on a torn tendon in his knee. Fortunately, that injury is not expected to be season-ending. Read the rest of this entry »

Kyle Schwarber Has Leveled Up His Power

A couple of weeks ago, I examined the 2021 home run environment and concluded that despite the slightly deadened ball, this season’s home run rates are still among the highest we have on record. As part of that piece, I looked at the number of players who were on pace to hit 40-plus home runs, of which there were seven. One name that wasn’t on that list, though, was Kyle Schwarber, who has hit 16 home runs since June 12 and is now at 25 on the year. I want to take a closer look at his historic power surge and the adjustments he made to get to this spot.

Schwarber’s potential as a hitter has long been evident. You saw his plus hit tool in action when he improbably returned to the Cubs’ lineup during the 2016 World Series after having missed all of the regular season with a torn ACL — he reportedly prepared for his return by watching thousands of breaking pitches in the batting cages — and slashed .412/.500/.471. But while he was solidly above-average over the next three seasons, each year putting up a wOBA of .340 or better (and topping out at .372 in 2019), he crashed in 2020, putting up an anemic .188/.308/.393 triple slash and career-worst 91 wRC+ across 59 games. That got him non-tendered last winter, with the Nationals picking him up on a one-year, $10 million deal with a $10 million mutual option for 2022. Read the rest of this entry »

The Cubs No-Hit the Dodgers. It Wasn’t Pretty, but It Counts

Thursday night’s game between the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers was Joc Pederson’s first trip back to Dodger Stadium since the team won the World Series in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The Cubs starting left fielder received his ring before the game. It was a beautiful ceremony. It was a show of strength. It was the Dodgers best moment all night.

The Dodgers were understandably favorites going into the game, with a -250 line in Vegas. The Cubs were the underdogs at +200 and while I’m not really a gambler, those odds seemed a bit light. Toeing the mound for the Cubs was Zach Davies, fresh on the heels of a 10-2 drubbing by the Marlins that saw him leave the game after six innings pitched, seven hits, three walks and eight earned runs. Walker Buehler was the Dodgers starter, in search of his 24th straight start without a loss.

Baseball is a funny game.

And this was something of a funny no-hitter. The 2021 Dodgers are the first team to be no-hit the year after winning the World Series since the 2013 Giants were no hit by Homer Bailey, then of the Cincinnati Reds. Interestingly, while the 2020 Dodgers were not no-hit, the club’s previous two championship teams were the year they won it all. The 1988 Dodgers won the World Series, but before Kirk Gibson hit that epic home run, the team fell to the Reds’ in Tom Browning’s perfect game on September 16, 1988. The 1981 Dodgers team was no-hit by the Houston Astros Nolan Ryan on their way to a World Series Championship. Perhaps, then, the Dodgers shouldn’t worry too much about being no-hit in the regular season, though you can forgive their fans for feeling some concern today despite that history. Read the rest of this entry »