The 9th Inning Column: The London Series, Race for NL MVP, and Brendan McKay’s fantastic debut

Welcome back to the 9th Inning. This is the third edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that happens near the end of every month. This is the second article of this season and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning Column for June with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

The London Series

What a wild two game series it was in London this weekend between the Red Sox and the Yankees. The two teams combined for 50 runs, a two-game record between the two clubs. It was an offensive showdown on both days, as neither starting pitcher made it out of the first inning in Game 1, and the bullpen for both teams proved to be shaky at times. The Yankees had three innings in the series in which they scored six or more runs, and the Red Sox had two of these innings. When the MLB returns to London next season, hopefully they can give the fans a pitcher’s duel to remember.

The race for NL MVP

Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger are in a tight race for the National League MVP award at the moment. Both of these young outfielders are having fabulous seasons and Yelich is looking to win his second MVP in a row. Both are All-Star starters, so how do we separate them? Bellinger has a better batting average, RBIs, and WAR, while Yelich has more home runs and stolen bases. It’s extremely close at the moment, but Bellinger would be my pick if I had to choose between these two.

McKay’s fantastic debut

The Tampa Bay Rays had an exciting weekend by taking a series with the Texas Rangers, but also with the debut of highly touted prospect Brendan McKay, who came up as a pitcher who still has two-way potential. He was ranked as the 23rd best prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline and he was the second best prospect in the Rays system. He retired the first 16 batters of his MLB career and finished a terrific outing by pitching six innings of one-hit shutout baseball with only one walks and three strikeouts. This is a sign of things to come for McKay, who has an extremely bright future in the big leagues.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The New York Yankees have been on the hot section of this list for all three columns thus far in 2019, and it seems to be with good reason. Since losing two in a row to the White Sox on June 13th and 14th, the Yankees rattled off eight consecutive victories and have gone 13-1 overall, with series wins over the Rays, Astros, and Red Sox. Chad Green has found success as an opener as he pitched to a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings during the month. The offense was ruthless throughout the month, led by D.J. LeMahieu’s clutch hitting, Gleyber Torres balanced approach, Gary Sánchez’s pop, and the returning Aaron Judge. They are undoubtedly the best team in baseball right now, and they’ve shown no signs of slowing down.

The Oakland Athletics have once again gotten extremely hot near the end of the month, similar to how the month of May concluded. They’ve gone 7-3 in their past 10 games, climbing within a half game of the second AL Wildcard spot. Matt Olson was a big contributor for the A’s, hitting 9 homers and notching 20 RBIs. Ramon Laureano also showed significant increases in his power hitting abilities, hitting 7 home runs in the month. It certainly hurts to lose Frankie Montas to a PED suspension, but the Athletics are still hungry to make the postseason for the second straight season.

The Washington Nationals were struggling to win not too long ago, but recently they’ve found something that’s clicked. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and still find themselves in the thick of the hunt for the NL Wildcard spots. Anthony Rendon continued to prove why he’s going to get paid this fall, as he batted .311 with 9 homers and 24 RBIs in the month. Max Scherzer was also phenomenal in June, but we’ll discuss that later. All this stretch did was prove that the Nats won’t sell and why would they?

The New York Mets were expected to contend in the NL East in 2019, but instead they looked like they’ve built an utter disaster. They just ended a seven game losing streak and have gone 3-7 in their last 10 games. The roster was built to win but it simply has not done that, as they now sit 12 games back of the first place Braves. Barring a massive hot stretch, it doesn’t look like Queens will be able to see their hometown Mets play in October this season.

The Boston Red Sox have simply not looked like a great baseball team this season. The defending champs have serious issues with the bullpen and getting run support for Chris Sale. The London Series was pretty embarrassing to be quite frank with you, as Rick Porcello and the bullpen got slaughtered. They’ve fallen 11 games back of the Yankees in the AL East standings amid a three game losing streak and a 4-6 stretch in their last 10 games.

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The Atlanta Braves (20-8)

Despite losing to the Mets on Sunday Night Baseball in difficult fashion, the Braves had a phenomenal month in June, going 20-8 and building a 5.5 game lead in the NL East Standings over the Philadelphia Phillies. They joined the 50 win club yesterday, becoming the fifth team to do so thus far in 2019. Freddie Freeman is unbelievable, Ronald Acuña Jr. is one of the game’s brightest young stars, and Mike Soroka has been unbelievable in his rookie season. Even if they don’t win the World Series this year, the Braves can rest assured that they have one of the brightest futures of any team in the MLB.

Hitter of the Month is…

New York Yankees 2B D.J. LeMahieu

LeMahieu was an absolute superstar for the unstoppable Yankees offense in June, and he is climbing his way up the AL MVP contenders list because of it. LeMahieu batted .395 in the month with six homers and 29 RBIs with a 1.092 OPS. He continues to be one of the most (if not, the most) valuable signings from the offseason. In fact, he’s been rewarded for his outstanding play by being named as the AL Starter at Second Base in the 2019 All-Star Game. He undoubtedly deserves the hitter of the month award for his performance in June.

Starter of the Month is…

Washington Nationals RHP Max Scherzer

Frequently being talked about as a long shot trade deadline target for a few clubs, Max Scherzer’s dominant month of June has been a huge reason why the Nationals are right back in the NL Wildcard hunt. He broke his nose and pitched a gem against the Phillies the next day. Not to mention, he made 6 starts in the month, getting the victory in all 6, and pitching 45 innings with a 1.00 ERA. He only gave up 25 hits, 5 runs, and had 68 strikeouts against only 5 walks in the month. Opponents were hitting just .156 against him and he had a 0.67 WHIP as a result.

Reliever of the Month is…

Oakland Athletics RHP Liam Hendriks

Used as an opener near the end of the 2018 campaign, Liam Hendriks has reestablished himself as one of the better relief pitchers on the Oakland Athletics roster. He pitched 15 innings of one run baseball in June, good for a 0.60 earned run average. He gave up only 10 hits, struck out 22, and walked four batters. Opposing hitters batted just .192 against him in the month and struggled against him all month long.

Rookie Hitter of the Month is…

New York Mets 1B Pete Alonso

Despite being apart of a struggling Mets ball club, first baseman Pete Alonso coasted his way to his second Rookie Hitter of the Month award for my column. In June, the newly announced NL All-Star batted .309 with 9 home runs, 19 RBIs, and a 1.097 OPS. He also had an impressive on-base percentage of .437, as he walked 17 times compared to striking out 22 times. If he continues to hit like this, he’ll be the unquestioned NL Rookie of the Year.

Rookie Pitcher of the Month is…

Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Merrill Kelly

You might be questioning how a 30 year old can be a successful rookie, but Merrill Kelly fits the bill. An eighth round draft pick of the Rays in the 2010 draft, Kelly pitched in the minors until 2015, when he went to the KBO to play baseball. After three years there, Kelly has made his MLB debut in 2019. He was phenomenal in June, making six starts and pitching 39.1 innings with a 2.75 earned run average. He only walked five batters all month and opponents were hitting .212 with a .238 on-base percentage against him in the month.

Thanks for reading the June edition of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next month! Peace!

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The 9th Inning Column: MLB Draft Week, Jose Ramirez’ struggles, and RIP Bill Buckner

Welcome back to the 9th Inning. This is the second edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that happens near the end of every month. This is the second article of this season and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning Column for May with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

It is almost time for the MLB Draft!

We are less than a week away from the 2019 MLB Draft and there’s a lot of speculation swirling about the first few rounds. Firstly, nearly everybody in the business believes that the Orioles have to take Adley Rutschman with the top pick. Rutschman, a catcher for Oregon State, is a switch-hitter with solid power and great defensive skills behind the plate. Secondly, a lot of people believe that the Royals will take Bobby Witt Jr. with the second pick. Witt Jr. is a five-tool shortstop coming out of Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas, and he’s the son of a former big league starter. Overall, we are looking at a draft class that is somewhat weak on quality arms but more than makes it up for it with high potential position players.

What is wrong with Jose Ramirez?

In the past few seasons, Jose Ramirez gave the Cleveland Indians another budding star to put alongside Francisco Lindor. Yet in 2019, Ramírez looks to be well off his game. He doesn’t look like he’ll achieve a three peat of third place AL MVP finishes. In 55 games, the 26 year old third baseman is batting a mere .211 with only 4 home runs and 17 RBIs. He’s striking out more, walking less, and seems to have lost his touch at the plate. A good thing for Ramirez is that he’s been playing well lately, batting .357 in his last three games. Still though, the Indians are struggling as a team and falling way back in the race for the AL Central, and they’ll need Ramírez to start putting up the numbers that he’s capable of if they want to get back in it.

Former batting champ Bill Buckner passes away

An MLB legend passed away on Monday after a battle with dementia. Bill Buckner played in the big leagues for 22 seasons and totaled 2,715 hits on a career .289 batting average. Buckner was a great teammate and was highly valued as a utility player during his time in the MLB. In 1980, he batted .324 and was the National League Batting Champion. In 1981, he made his only All-Star team. Buckner deserves respect across the league for his great career. Rest In Peace, Bill Buckner.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The New York Yankees were the best team in baseball throughout the month of May and I’ll discuss them later, because they won one of the column’s awards.

The Minnesota Twins were certainly in the mix for the team of the month award in May, but they were just edged out by the Yanks. They’re pulling away from the Indians in the AL Central, as they currently have a 9.5 game cushion. Newfound ace Jake Odorizzi was phenomenal in May, pitching his way to a 0.94 ERA in five starts. First baseman C.J. Cron led the high powered Twins offensive attack in May as he hit eight home runs, batted .301, and tallied 21 RBIs. The Twins continue to surprise folks and they are seriously one of the top five teams in baseball right now, without any doubt.

The Oakland Athletics have recently gotten themselves firmly back in the hunt for the AL West crown with a 10-game winning streak and an 8-2 stretch over their past ten games. They are alone in second place in their division and sit 7.5 games back of the Houston Astros. The Athletics were led by Frankie Montas strong pitching (2.64 ERA in 30.2 IP) and the offense was helped a lot by Josh Phegley (4 HRs and 20 RBI). With franchise cornerstone Matt Chapman and a solid pitching staff, last year’s second AL Wildcard team could be well on their way to another postseason appearance.

If you haven’t heard about Cody Bellinger’s stellar start of a 2019 campaign, then you’ve been living under a rock. Combine that with a dominating pitching staff and you can see why the Los Angeles Dodgers are continuing to build a sizeable lead in the NL West Standings. They either won or split every series in the month of May, proving that they can compete in every single game. Sitting at a 38-19 record, the Dodgers look to be well on their way to another NL West crown.

The St. Louis Cardinals were very good in the first month or so of 2019, but they’ve fallen off to a below .500 record as we turn the calendar to June. They are 4-6 in their last ten games and now sit 4.5 games back of the first place Cubs in the NL Central. The Cardinals play in perhaps the toughest division in all of Major League Baseball, so they’ll need to stop skidding before they find themselves in too big of a hole.

Remember when the Seattle Mariners were hitting all sorts of bombs every day and were in first place in the AL West? Yeah, I do too, and those days are long gone as the Mariners have the worst record in all of Major League Baseball in the month of May at 6-21. They’ve struggled as a pitching staff and had tough offensive nights, leading to their fall to dead last in the AL West standings. It looks like the Mariners have run out of magic.

In last month’s column, I talked extensively about what the San Francisco Giants should do if they didn’t start winning soon. Well, the Giants haven’t done any better and are still in last place in their division as they’ve been extremely cold as of late. They’re in the midst of a 2-8 stretch in their last ten games and they are on their way to being an early seller on the summer trade market.

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The New York Yankees (19-7)

The New York Yankees have surged to the top of the American League East recently due to a continued stretch of dominance. They’ve gone 12-3 since May 12th and that includes series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays (twice) and the San Diego Padres. Masahiro Tanaka had been dominant in May until his start on Tuesday, having a 2.80 earned run average in 35.1 innings of work. Gleyber Torres (.308 AVG and 9 HRs) and Gary Sanchez (.288 AVG and 9 HRs) have carried the load offensively for the Yanks throughout the month. The bullpen is starting to round into form as well, proving it is as good as advertised with Chapman, Britton, Kahnle, and Ottavino all in peak form right now. With so many injuries, the Yankees performance has simply been impressive.

The Hitter of the Month is…

Pittsburgh Pirates 1B Josh Bell

One of the best hitters in all of the majors through the season thus far, Pirates first baseman Josh Bell has been absolutely smoking baseballs left and right. He is undoubtedly the hitter of the month of May, as he hit at a .389 batting average with a .444 on-base percentage and an .814 slugging percentage. He also has hit 12 homers in the month and has racked up 30 RBIs. He’s shown considerable improvements in the 2019 campaign so far, as he’s close to reaching previously career high numbers already. Bell is the unquestioned leader in Pittsburgh and if he continues hitting like this, he will be in Cleveland as an All-Star this summer.

The Starter of the Month is…

Los Angeles Dodgers LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu

Garnering praise as a “left handed Greg Maddux”, the 32-year old veteran Ryu is off to a Cy Young-esque start in 2019. In May, he was nearly unhittable, going 5-0 and pitching his way to a 0.59 ERA in 45.2 innings on the mound. Opposing hitters had just a .177 batting average against him in his six starts and he continues to provide great outings for the dominating LA Dodgers club. If Ryu continues to control the strike zone and limit walks, I could easily see him being named the Cy Young award winner for the National League in the fall.

The Reliever of the Month is…

New York Yankees RHP Adam Ottavino

Adam Ottavino has started off his 2019 campaign still right in his dominant 2018 form. The veteran reliever was superb in May, appearing in 13 games and not giving up any runs. Since April 21st, Ottavino has not given up a run. Thus far in 2019, the former Rockie has a 2-1 record with 12 holds and a 1.37 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched. He’s been exactly the guy that the Yankees wanted him to be when they signed him in the offseason. He undoubtedly deserves the reliever of the month award for his performance in May.

Rookie Hitter of the Month:

Boston Red Sox 2B Michael Chavis

The third best prospect in the Boston farm system, Chavis has immediately come up into the big leagues and helped provide a stable bat in the lineup. In May, he batted .255 with seven home runs and he’s showing off his advanced hitting tool. With other rookies struggling, Chavis has climbed his way up near the top of the American League Rookie of the Year award race.

Rookie Pitcher of the Month:

Atlanta Braves RHP Mike Soroka

Mike Soroka has been more than just a valuable contributor for the Braves rotation this season. He’s been dominant and looks to be firmly in the mix for the NL Rookie of the Year award. If the award was won in May, Soroka may have just clinched it. He pitched his way to a 0.79 ERA in 34 innings during the month. He only gave up three earned runs and opponents hit just .145 against him in the month. Soroka has been just as good as his prospect evaluation hyped him up to be, and he’s on his way to becoming the ace of the Braves already.

Thanks for reading the May edition of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next month! Peace!

The 9th Inning (April): Vlad Jr’s debut, Mize’s Double-A gem, and what’s wrong with the Red Sox?

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is the first edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is going to be a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen near the end of every month. This is the debut article of this season and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning Column for April with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

Vlad Jr’s debut

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made his highly anticipated MLB debut this past weekend for the Toronto Blue Jays. MLB Pipeline’s number one prospect may have been the most hyped up debut since Bryce Harper. Guerrero is only batting .250 after his first series is in the books, but part of that is due to him not getting great pitches to hit. MLB.com says that Guerrero had a 37.3% zone rate over his first few games. The Blue Jays are set to take on the Angels in Anaheim in their weekday series, and it’ll be a great series to watch!

2018 top draft pick dominates in first AA Start

Not often will I talk about a player in the Double-A levels of minor league ball in this column, but I feel that this one is well deserved. Casey Mize, the number one overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, made his AA debut with the Detroit Tigers on Monday. The Auburn product dominated and sent a message to the scouts, throwing a nine inning no-hitter in a win for the Erie Seawolves. It was an impressive performance that caught the eyes of many, as Mize only walked one batter and hit another. If he continues to pitch like this, Detroit may soon have a bonafide ace on their big league roster.

What’s wrong with the Red Sox?

The defending champion Boston Red Sox are off to a sour start in the 2019 season, having a 12-17 record to show for it just one month in. They’ve cleaned it up as of late, but there’s still cause for concern with the Beantown squad. Jackie Bradley Jr. has been horrible with the bat, 2018 World Series MVP Steve Pearce is struggling, and Eduardo Rodriguez/Chris Sale both have ERAs over 6. If the pitching staff doesn’t get going soon, Boston may find itself in a hole too big to overcome, but there’s certainly reason to believe in this team. I mean heck, they are the defending World Series Champs after all!

Where do the Giants go from here?

A lot of talk has circulated about how the San Francisco Giants will attack the summer trade deadline. It’s the final season for manager Bruce Bochy, and it is perhaps the final year for longtime franchise ace Madison Bumgarner in the Bay Area. The Giants have built a team of veterans in hopes of competing in 2019, but it’s gone very badly thus far. They are 12-17 in the NL West, which is last in the division. They are not doing well at the plate, and Jeff Samardzija is their only qualified starting pitcher with an ERA below four. As we near June, the Giants are creeping closer and closer to being the first team to sell off their top veterans to buyers.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The banged-up New York Yankees are the hottest team in baseball right now, as they’ve gone 11-2 since losing a home series to the Chicago White Sox on April 14th. Luke Voit was dominant for the Bronx Bombers last week on their West Coast road trip, winning AL Player of the Week Honors by going 13 for 30 with four home runs and 10 RBIs. In doing so, Voit has continued a ridiculous 39-game on base streak into the Yankees two game series against the Diamondbacks.

The Minnesota Twins have won 8 of their last 10 games and have taken 2.5 game lead in the AL Central over the Cleveland Indians. Eddie Rosario (11 HRs) and Jorge Polanco (.948 OPS) have lead the scorching hot Twins offensive attack and Jose Berrios continues to grow into an ace, leaving the Twins in great position to make a run at the postseason in 2019.

The St. Louis Cardinals have won 8 of their last 10 games as well, en route to taking a three game lead over the Cubs and Brewers in the NL Central Division. Paul DeJong (.342 AVG, 5 HRs) and Marcell Ozuna (.271 AVG, 10 HRs) are leading a Redbirds offense that is still awaiting an inevitable annual hot stretch from All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

After a rough start to the 2019 campaign, the Chicago Cubs have gotten back near the top of the NL Central with a recent hot stretch. They are winners of 7 of their last 10 games, climbing into a tie for second in the division with the Milwaukee Brewers. Javier Baez has been otherworldly thus far, hitting .315 with 9 home runs and 22 RBIs. The Cubs are also getting great contribution from catcher Willson Contreras (1.033 OPS). They can certainly push for the NL Central, and I fully expect them to do so.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were 12-6 after a win over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday, April 20th. Since then? They’ve been one of the worst teams in baseball, losing eight straight and falling to fourth place in the NL Central Division. With competition like the Cubs, Brewers, and Cardinals, the Pirates cannot have losing streaks like this and expect to stay atop the division. If they don’t figure it out soon, Pittsburgh could be in serious hot water.

The Washington Nationals have also caught a case of the cold as we flip the calendar to May. They’ve lost three series in a row to teams that I’m just not quite sure they should be losing to. On paper, the Nats have one of the best complete rosters in all of Major League Baseball, but they haven’t been able to put it together just yet in 2019. Let’s see what this team does in May before we press the panic button!

The Oakland Athletics are in serious danger of not getting back to the postseason already in 2019, and that’s not because I don’t have faith in their ability to turn it around after a rough start. The AL West is more competitive this year, and the A’s have struggled as of late, getting swept by Toronto twice in two weeks and losing 7 of their last 10. Will Khris Davis and the Oakland crew figure it out before it’s too late?

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The Tampa Bay Rays (19-9)

The Rays definitely were not a lot of experts picks to lead the AL East through one month, but here we are. Tampa Bay holds a 1.5 game lead on the Yankees as we speak, and they’ve had a terrific first month of baseball. A big reason for their success is the pitching staff, as Tyler Glasgow (5 wins, 1.75 ERA), 2018 AL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell (2 wins, 2.54 ERA), and free agent acquisition Charlie Morton (3 wins, 2.76 ERA) lead the MLB’s top pitching staff thus far. Jose Alvarado has been one of baseball’s best relievers (we’ll discuss him later) and the Rays are much deeper than this, but there’s too many people to name. Austin Meadows was absolutely raking before he got injured (.351, 6 HRs, 19 RBIs), and he should be back rather soon. Yandy Diaz (.298, 7 HRs, 18 RBIs) is having a breakout season at the hot corner for Tampa Bay and veteran outfielder Tommy Pham continues to put up productive numbers (.294, 4 HRs, 12 RBIs). They should be taken seriously as one of the premier World Series contenders.

The Hitter of the Month is …

Los Angeles Dodgers OF/1B Cody Bellinger

Cody Bellinger has played at both right field and first base this year, so I’m not sure what to call him with such a small sample size. But I can call him something, and that is an absolutely on-fire baseball player. The third-year superstar has been nothing short of spectacular in 2019, batting .434 with 14 homers and 37 RBIs. His on-base percentage is over .500 and his slugging percentage sits firmly at .906. What’s even more impressive is that Bellinger has increased his base on balls percentage from 10.9% to 14.1%, while also cutting down his strikeout percentage from 23.9% in 2018 to 11.7% through one month of 2019. If he continues to play like this, he will shatter records, and with this hot start, he’s certainly the favorite to win NL MVP!

Starter of the Month is …

Cincinnati Reds RHP Luis Castillo

When called up to the bigs in 2017, Luis Castillo was the tenth best prospect in the Reds farm system. With a lot of patience by Cincinnati’s staff, Castillo looks to be turning the corner into one of the best pitchers in the National League. His first month of 2019 certainly proved such, as the 26 year old rising phenom has made six starts, going 3-1 with a 1.23 ERA in 36.1 innings of work. He’s striking out more batters than he has at any point in his young career, and has reduced his home runs per nine innings rate from a sour 1.49 in 2018 to an impressive 0.25 thus far in 2019. His HR/FB rate sits at a solid 4.5%, showing that Castillo has been stingy in terms of preventing the longball. At this point, batters just haven’t been able to hit his stuff, as hitters are hitting just .165 against him. If he continues to pitch like this, he may just deliver the NL Cy Young Award to Great American Ball Park.

The Reliever of the Month is …

Tampa Bay Rays LHP Jose Alvarado

Dating back to 2018, the 23 year old Alvarado has been one of the best relievers in all of Major League Baseball, and that trend has continued to pick up steam as we turn the calendar to May. Thrust into a big late-inning role in 2019, the lefty has been nothing short of excellent thus far. He’s made four saves in 14 appearances, pitching his way to a 1.38 ERA and a 1.82 FIP, proving his performance is no fluke. Alvarado has not surrendered a home run yet this season, and he’s striking out 13.1 batters per nine innings. The only negative in 2019 is that Alvarado’s walks per nine innings rate has increased a bit from 4.08 to 4.85, but it’s not too severe of a jump.

The Rookie Hitter of the Month is …

New York Mets 1B Peter Alonso

A second round selection by the Mets in the 2016 MLB Draft, Peter Alonso has made a quick transition to the pros. He is a phenomenal hitter and subpar defender at first base, and he showed that in the minor leagues all the way up until earning the Mets starting first baseman job in 2019. Since he earned the job, Alonso has proven why he was one of the Mets untradeable chips as they rebuilt last year. He’s an early frontrunner for the NL Rookie of the Year award, as he’s batting .304 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs in 2019. He will have to continue to work on balancing his approach and limiting strikeouts, but right now, Alonso is hot and off to the races, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

The Rookie Pitcher of the Month is …

San Diego Padres RHP Chris Paddack

Paddack is the 31st best prospect in all of Major League Baseball according to MLB Pipeline, but after one month of him in the bigs, I think he may deserve a huge boost before he loses his eligibility on such lists. He’s 23 years old and has been firing on all cylinders to start his MLB career. He’s made five starts, going 1-1 and pitching 27 innings with a 1.67 ERA, ranking third amongst all National League pitchers with 25 or more innings pitched. He’s just been purely unhittable, as opposing hitters have a .111 batting average against him. He’s striking out 10 batters per nine innings, only walking about 2.6 per nine, and only surrenders 0.6 home runs per nine. If he continues to pitch like this, he’ll be right in the thick of the battle for NL Rookie of the Year with his teammate Fernando Tatis Jr. and Mets slugger Pete Alonso (mentioned above).

Thanks for reading the season debut of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next month! Peace!

The Obstructed NL Central Preview

If there is one division from top to bottom that is must-see TV in 2019, this may be it. Five teams will be very competitive in the division where a team, or may be two will be sitting under .500 when all is said and done as opposed to other divisions they could be over .500 and a threat to win the division.

The teams (save one really) upgraded in most aspects and have October visions. So, who will walk away atop the NL Central?

Last year the Brewers, on the account of Christian Yelich in part, won the NL Central on a one-game playoff over the Cubs and then took a run to the NLCS and lost in a heartbreaking Game 7 to the Dodgers. The Cubs, with all the talent and potential on the team, lost out to the Brewers and then lost their Wild Card tilt to the Rockies. The Cardinals after replacing Mike Matheny, went on a torrid pace that finished strong for them. Pittsburgh, after many thought they had mailed in the towel with moves before the season, actually finished above .500 and did more than give teams fits. And Cincinnati, despite the record, showed they can rake with anybody. So what will the season look for these five teams?

Goldschmidt puts the Cardinals ahead of the rest of the NL Central now.

(1) ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Last year: 88-74

KEY ADDITIONS: 1B-Paul Goldschmidt (Trade-Arizona), C-Matt Wieters (FA-Washington), OF Drew Robinson (Trade-Texas), P-Andrew Miller (FA-Cleveland)

KEY LOSSES: P-Luke Weaver (Trade-Arizona), C-Carson Kelly (Trade-Arizona), 1B-Matt Adams (FA-Washington), P-Tyson Ross (FA-Detroit), P-Bud Norris (Toronto)

If this was any other year, the Paul Goldschmidt trade would have been the big off-season news story. But with contract extensions and free agent signings, it gets a tad overlooked, but this is a huge move for the Cardinals. Goldschmidt adds pop to a lineup with Matt Carpenter who was red hot in the second half and Marcell Ozuna, who had a respectable year after such a slow start. But it is going to be Goldschmidt’s new teammates on the infield, Paul DeJong, Kolten Wong, and Jedd Gyorko that will have to be more consistent. The Cardinals rotation has to be the most underrated rotation in the Majors. Miles Mikolas had a Cy Young caliber year last year and Jack Flaherty was solid. If Michael Wacha can step up and Adam Wainright have any amount of consistency, the Cardinals will be a tough out in the NL without question. The bullpen loses Bud Norris but gained Andrew Miller so it is a key addition. So the Cardinals look to be far stronger than they were in 2018. And that is why I have them leading the NL Central. MY PREDICTION: 95-67

Yelich had a historic stretch for Milwaukee in September

(2) MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Last year: 96-67 (defeated Colorado in NLDS, lost to Los Angeles Dodgers in NLCS)

KEY ADDITIONS: C-Yasmani Grandal (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), OF-Ben Gamel (Trade-Seattle), P-Alex Claudio (Trade-Texas), P-Alex Wilson (FA)

KEY LOSSES: OF-Domingo Santana (Trade-Seattle), 2B-Jonathan Schoop (FA-Minnesota), OF-Curtis Granderson (FA-Miami), P-Gio Gonzalez (FA-New York Yankees), P-Wade Miley (FA-Houston), P-Xavier Cedeno (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Jordan Lyles (FA-Pittsburgh), P-Dan Jennings (FA-Los Angeles Angels), P-Joakim Soria (FA-Oakland). OF-Keon Broxton (Trade-New York Mets)

The Brewers were so close to getting to their first World Series in 36 years losing in 7 to the Dodgers. But despite the heartache, it was still a memorable run for Milwaukee, notably for Christian Yelich who just turned it up ten notches in the second half of the season to win the MVP. Yelich is in a solid lineup that had a big first half from Jesus Aguilar, and also the likes of Travis Shaw, Lorenzo Cain, and Ryan Braun (granted Braun isn’t the MVP caliber player he once was, but still hit 20 HR). They now add more of a solidified backstop in Yasmani Grandal. However, what plagues the Brewers again for the last few years is the starting pitching is lacking a true ace. Milwaukee let Wade Miley go and opted not to bring back Gio Gonzalez, who was excellent for the Brew Crew after his trade from Washington. They are throwing Chase Anderson in the bullpen as well so, there are major questions with the Brewers, as they are hoping Jhoulys Chacin, Freddy Peralta, and Zach Davies can step up. That’s a bit of a task there, which is also a key factor of why I don’t believe in the Brewers to repeat in the Central, despite having a pretty solid lineup through and through and an excellent bullpen. MY PREDICTION: 91-71

Suarez and the Reds could have one of the toughest lineups in all of baseball.

(3) CINCINNATI REDS

Last year: 67-95

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Yasiel Puig (Trade-Los Angeles Dodgers), OF-Matt Kemp (Trade-Los Angeles Dodgers), SS-Jose Iglesias (FA-Detroit), C-Kyle Farmer (Trade-Los Angeles Dodgers), C-Derek Dietrich (FA-Miami), P-Sonny Gray (Trade-New York Yankees), P-Alex Wood (Los Angeles Dodgers), P-Tanner Roark (Trade-Washington) P-Zach Duke (FA-Seattle)

KEY LOSSES: OF-Billy Hamilton (FA-Kansas City), P-Matt Harvey (Los Angeles Angels), P-Homer Bailey (Trade)

Cincinnati picked a year to make some moves. They added pop to the outfield with getting Dodgers stars Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. And just think adding them to the Great American Ballpark? Yikes. But what was more interesting was the Reds upgrading their rotation of getting Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and Sonny Gray. Gray, if in the right situation, can be a true front-end starter that really could shut down some opposing offenses. Wood has shown he can be a front end guy as well as we have seen in Los Angeles and even at times in Atlanta. Roark is reliable, though goes through consistency issues. They all can help out the young fireballer Luis Castillo so I really am thinking the Reds will have an excellent season. The Reds bullpen is a slight issue but Raisel Iglesias can be a lights out guy while having veteran leadership helps. I think with a more formidable rotation will also keep the Reds bullpen more rested and in better situations. MY PREDICTION: 85-77

Rizzo, when driven, is one of the top hitters in baseball

(4) CHICAGO CUBS

Last year: 95-68 (Lost to Colorado in Wild Card)

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Daniel Descalso (FA-Arizona), P-Brad Brach (FA-Atlanta), P-Tony Barnette (FA-Texas), P-Xavier Cedeno (FA-Milwaukee)

KEY LOSSES: C-Bobby Wilson (FA-Detroit), 2B-Daniel Murphy (FA-Colorado), P-Jesse Chavez (FA-Texas), P-Jorge de la Rosa (FA), P-Jaime Garcia (Retired), P-Justin Wilson (FA-New York Mets), P-Drew Smyly (Trade-Texas), IF-Tommy La Stella (Trade-Los Angeles Angels)

Don’t. Just don’t. Everybody is going to scream at why I am downplaying the Cubs in 2019 or “dissing” them. Yes, Chicago is VERY talented in the lineup 1-9 with the likes of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, etc. But the minute you get past them or they start to miss time with injuries, the depth issues really start to show now. And worse, the Cubs farm system, which was lights out just a few years ago, is in the bottom portion of farm systems now. The rotation of the Cubs is very veteran, but oddly very streaky for a veteran group. You can see Jon Lester one outing look like the Cy Young frontrunner he was in Boston and then the next outing look like a pitcher for home run derby. You can say the same thing for Darvish, Quintana, and to a lesser extent Cole Hamels. But for how much that group has been paid, they better get better results than being a middle-of-the-road squad. The bullpen is similar to the rotation. Some stretches they are tough to hit off of. Other times, it’s a struggle. That has to change and in a division now with having to face the likes of Goldschmidt, Yelich, Puig, etc. the Cubs can’t afford any consistency issues. The biggest issue for the Cubs and honestly, it has plagued the Northsiders since their World Series win is that drive, passion, attitude they had in 2016 has gone AWOL the last two seasons. Odd given how much of a veteran presence they have. It has even been looked on by Astros players who before the last season said “we do not want to Cubs it up on our title defense” (I know those weren’t the words and I’m paraphrasing. Boston I also has mentioned something similar to it this season. It seems like when the Cubs go in a funk, the drive isn’t there. When the Cubs are winning, all is well, but after a while it gets too easy for them again. Cubs players are upset that some publications have them marked third or fourth in the division. If it is the case, great. But when you are needing an outside factor to “motivate” you, it isn’t a good thing really. MY PREDICTION: 84-78

Marte is one of the few offensive leaders the Pirates have

(5) PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Last year: 82-79

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Lonnie Chisenhall (FA-Cleveland) SS-Erik Gonzalez (Trade-Cleveland) OF-Melky Cabrera (FA-Cleveland), P-Francisco Liriano (FA-Detroit)

KEY LOSSES: SS-Jordy Mercer (FA-Detroit), IF-Josh Harrison (FA-Detroit)

Pittsburgh made a big move before last year’s trade deadline getting Chris Archer. Surprisingly top prospect Austin Meadows went in that deal. Add on the likes of Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams, you have a formidable front end of the rotation. Coupled with a good young closer in Felipe Vazquez, and you are going to have difficulty getting much in the way of runs. Of course, if you look at Pittsburgh’s lineup compared to the rest of the division, they are a step behind the others. Starling Marte is a great player, but hasn’t really gotten to that next level as a hitter. Adam Frazier can be a player for the Pirates as well. However, if Pittsburgh wants to be a serious threat, Corey Dickerson and Josh Bell need to be better than they produced last year. And Gregory Polanco needs to get better as well. So in regards to the Pirates lineup, it is very thin compared and that is why they will struggle to get footing in the super-competitive NL Central. MY PREDICTION: 75-87

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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The 9th Inning: These Red Sox cannot be stopped and some interesting players of the week

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is a weekly column each Sunday evening on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the week’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I give my personal thoughts on a few events as well as tell you what to look forward to in the following week. I also give out weekly awards for team of the week and player of the week. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen every week. This is the second article of this column and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

*Record for the week is in parentheses.

Hot:

The Boston Red Sox (4-1)

The Oakland Athletics (5-1)

The Atlanta Braves (5-1)

The Philadelphia Phillies (5-1)

Not:

The New York Yankees (2-4)

The Seattle Mariners (2-5)

The Tampa Bay Rays (3-3)

The Weekly Awards:

The Team of the Week is the …

The Boston Red Sox (4-1)

There is no doubt in my mind, as a New York Yankees fan, that these Red Sox are the clear best team in baseball as of today. It hurts me to say it but I cannot avoid speaking the truth. Look at what they did to the Yankees over the past weekend, taking three straight and going for the sweep currently as I’m writing this. They also took their only loss of the week (so far) to the Philadelphia Phillies, who have been hot as of late and are certain to be one of the NL’s premier teams. This Boston team is one of the most well-balanced teams in recent MLB history with a powerful offense led by Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, combined with a Cy Young contender in Chris Sale and a Cy Young winner in Rick Porcello. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget about their all-star closer in Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox had a great week and truly deserve this honor.

The Hitter of the Week is …

Arizona Diamondbacks SS Nick Ahmed

This might be a shocking name for the hitter of the week for you guys, but Ahmed is certainly delivering some offense for the Snakes out West. In six games during this week, Ahmed hit .529, hit three home runs, collected six runs and 8 RBIs. The shortstop also had a ridiculous 1.854 OPS this week. He is providing some unexpected offense for a D-Backs team that will certainly need it down the stretch as they are in a tough battle in the NL West.

The Pitcher of the Week is …

New York Mets SP Zack Wheeler

Yes, I know, it is shocking that a New York Met has earned an award of some sort in 2018. Well, it’s based on Wheeler’s individual performance, which was ridiculous over the past week. Wheeler had been frequently talked about in trades with other teams but it’s easy to see why the Mets held onto him. In two starts this week, he was 2-0 in 13 innings, while allowing zero earned runs, and having a 1.16 FIP. He certainly deserves it.

Series to Watch This Week:

Houston Astros @ San Francisco Giants

Atlanta Braves @ Washington Nationals

Philadelphia Phillies @ Arizona D-Backs

LA Dodgers @ Oakland Athletics

This Weekend?:

Seattle Mariners @ Houston Astros

LA Dodgers @ Colorado Rockies

Washington Nationals @ Chicago Cubs

Milwaukee Brewers @ Atlanta Braves

Anyways, thanks for reading the second ever edition of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next time! Peace!

The 9th Inning: Newcomb’s Tragedy, A Terrific HOF Class, A Rollercoaster Week for the Yankees, and The Tale of DeGrom

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is going to be a weekly column each Sunday evening on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the week’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I also give my personal thoughts on a few events as well as tell you what to look forward to in the following week. I will also be giving out weekly awards for team of the week and player of the week. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen every week. This is the debut article of this column and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning column out with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of this week’s action both on the field and off.

A Truly Deserving Hall of Fame Class of 2018

I know it’s not current baseball talk, but I have to tip my cap to all of the voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Class of 2018 is one of the most deserving ones in years. It was an amazing ceremony and it fulfilled fans in attendance. Perhaps the most deserving inductees were none other than Chipper Jones and Vladimir Guerrero. Jones, the sensational switch-hitting third baseman, more than deserves this recognition, as he truly revitalized the third base position heading into the modern era. Guerrero, whose son is going to make a name for himself in the big leagues soon, also truly deserves this honor, as one of the most iconic players in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Congratulations to all of the six men who were inducted into Cooperstown this year!

The Sad Story That Is Jacob deGrom

Ok, it’s sad, but we have to address it. All jokes aside (including the Mets Franchise), Jacob deGrom is pitching his way to one of the greatest single seasons for a pitcher in recent baseball history. He is defying the shift in the newfound era of the home run ball. But the Mets offense seems to hate him. He won’t be getting traded this summer sadly and I think about every realistic baseball mind knows that. In his last 12 starts, Jacob deGrom has a 1.87 ERA in 87 innings on the mound with 95 strikeouts, 65 hits, and 18 earned runs. His record in those 12 starts? 1-6. The Mets offense doesn’t support him and the bullpen doesn’t finish off the unbelievable outings he has consistently put together. He’s on pace to finish with a 2.23 ERA and a 10-9 record, and because he doesn’t have a pretty record, people are worrying that he’ll be overlooked as a Cy Young candidate. Move aside, if the season ended now, the kid would be a lock to win the award.

The Yankees Rollercoaster Week

If I told you that the Yankees would’ve acquired Zach Britton and J.A. Happ before this week began, would you have been HAPPy? (See what I did there). Most likely you would’ve been ecstatic if you were a Yankees fan. They bolstered their bullpen by trading for the left-handed Britton and then replenished their starting rotation by adding another left hander in veteran J.A. Happ. But why are Yankees fans still acting disappointed and negative after this week? The first reason: their division rival Red Sox do not seem to lose much at all, and they trail them by 5 1/2 games in the AL East. Secondly, they have lost their superstar outfielder Aaron Judge for three weeks due to a chip fracture in his wrist. The negativity seems like it won’t stop coming! But as I said in my article yesterday, RELAX Yankees Fans!

Newcomb’s Tragic Final Out

A few weeks after Josh Hader caught the nation’s heat for some old racist, sexist, and homophobic tweets that were dug up, Atlanta Braves starter Sean Newcomb experienced the exact same issue. This is definitely not a good look for the MLB or baseball as a whole, so let’s hope that this doesn’t start becoming a trend. But what made it even more upsetting was the fact that Newcomb had just thrown his best outing ever in the major leagues, and was at an all-time high before he found out. He dominated the Dodgers lineup on Sunday afternoon, but he also dominated the media. He was one strike away from a no-hitter, which would’ve also set the Internet on fire. But a single from Chris Taylor ended his hopes. Such tragedy happens in the major leagues.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

Hot:

The Boston Red Sox (7-3 in Last Ten)

The Pittsburgh Pirates (7-3 in Last Ten)

The Colorado Rockies (8-2 in Last Ten)

Not:

The San Francisco Giants (3-7 in Last Ten)

The Houston Astros (4-6 in Last Ten)

The San Diego Padres (2-8 in Last Ten)

The Tampa Bay Rays (4-6 in Last Ten)

The Seattle Mariners (4-6 in Last Ten)

The Weekly Awards

The Team of the Week is the …

Colorado Rockies (4-2 record)

The Rockies started off the week with a split two game series against the Houston Astros, but finished the week with an impressive three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics to finish the week with a 4-2 record. Both the Athletics and Astros are playoff contending teams in the AL, so it’s an extremely impressive week for the Rox. They sit just a game out of first place in the NL West as they mark their quest to a postseason berth!

The Hitter of the Week is …

Milwaukee Brewers OF Christian Yelich

Christian Yelich has had an extremely productive 2018 campaign in his first season with the Brew Crew. He continued his excellence this week with a fantastic seven day stretch. He had 30 plate appearances in seven games, hit three home runs, scored eight runs, had 10 RBIs, and maintained a prolific batting average of .536 with a 0.9 WAR for the week. Dating back to July 14th, the outfielder is on a 12-game hitting streak.

The Pitcher of the Week is …

Boston Red Sox LHP Chris Sale

It pains me a bit to say this but Chris Sale is the best pitcher in the American League. He further asserted his dominance with two fantastic outings this week en route to this honor. He pitched 12 innings, surrendered five hits, zero runs, while striking out 19 batters, walking only two, and having a 1-0 record for the week. He seems to be stretching out his cushion on the rest of the American League in terms of the Cy Young award race, but we will see if this continues.

What to Look Forward To:

In this upcoming week, there is a lot of baseball to look forward to! But the most notable even going on in the baseball realm is the trade deadline on Tuesday, July 31st. Everybody should be excited to see who is on the move on deadline day! Look forward to an action-packed Tuesday of moves!

There are plenty of series between great teams to start the week but I’ll name a few, such as the Brewers-Dodgers, Astros-Mariners, Phillies-Red Sox, and Cubs-Pirates. To close out the week, we will get to see four games of the Yankees-Red Sox at Fenway, three games of a World Series rematch between the Astros and Dodgers, and a three game stretch between playoff contending teams in the Rockies and Brewers.

Thanks for reading the debut of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next time! Peace!

Ultimate MLB Second Half Guide: Analysis and Predictions for Trade Deadline, Standings, Awards, and the Playoffs

We are one week away from the MLB All-Star break and inching ever closer to the July 31st league-wide non-waiver trade deadline. We have watched more than one half of the season and we are starting to get a good idea of the playoff picture, trade fits, standings, and award candidates. That’s why I felt that it was the perfect time to release a massive guide to the second half of the baseball season. My guide is here, complete with predictions and analysis on the trade deadline, final standings, playoffs, and season awards.

Table of Contents:

Trade Deadline Predictions- PG. 2

Standings Predictions- PG. 3

AL Playoff Predictions- PG. 4

NL Playoff Predictions- PG. 5

World Series Predictions- PG. 6

Season Awards Predictions- PG. 7

Concluding Thoughts- PG. 8

Tuesday Trade Market: Suitors for Scooter Gennett

The Cincinnati Reds are one of those teams that they may take a 90 loss season but it may be one of the more fun 90-loss teams around.  The reasoning is simple: the Reds can hit.  They can’t pitch for anything, which is why Cincinnati is dead last in the NL Central and only 1/2 game up on Miami for dead last in the NL.

Of course, many (myself included) point to the fact the Reds play in a bandbox of a park at Great American Ballpark.  And yes, they do have good hitters who can hit elsewhere (Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto notably), but it seems to be there is a spike with the Reds at home than when on the road.  And one of those guys that has seemingly come out of nowhere has been Scooter Gennett.

Gennett was a Brewers prospect.  He hit well for average down in the Minors for the Brewers farm teams, seemingly over or around the .300 mark, but he never had the power which somewhat handicapped him.  However, when he got to the Brewers, the average was slightly under .300 but the power wasn’t there.  In 2016, Gennett did have some pop, hitting 14 HR for the Brewers but his average dropped and in somewhat of a surprise move before the 2017 season, Gennett was put on waivers by Milwaukee and got picked up by the Reds.  Since then, Gennett has found a power stroke, belting 27 HR last season and has 12 so far this season while having a high batting average on top of it.  To an extent, Gennett reminds me of a JD Martinez where things just picked up after he left one team to join another.

Gennett

So why would the Reds trade Gennett at this point?  First off, he is 28 years old, so it isn’t like Cincinnati has a young gun at this point in his career.  He is arbitration eligible after this season and if his numbers continue, the small-market Reds will have a tough time affording him, Votto, and Suarez all at once.  And at this point, getting value in return for Gennett is at a premium which means probably some good quality arms coming back.  With that in mind, who could use Scooter Gennett on their team come August/September?

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS:  It would help on a couple of instances.  It can take out Ketel Marte, who has been an albatross at the plate and then put Daniel Descalso to replace Chris Owings who is just a mess as well.  Of course, the Reds would want a return and Arizona doesn’t have much in the farm as is and with Gennett not being a free agent for another year, it will take more than some magic beans to give Cincinnati like they did to Detroit for JD Martinez last year.  But he would really give a jolt to a Diamondbacks lineup that needs a jolt especially since Paul Goldschmidt has been off to a cold start in 2018.

BOSTON RED SOX:  Before Red Sox fans rip me a new one, let’s face facts: Dustin Pedroia is going to be 35 years old in August, oft injured, and while he hits for average he doesn’t have the same power as Gennett.  And yes, I get he’s the team leader, etc. but at this point it doesn’t matter a whole lot if he can’t be on the field much.  It is something to really ponder.  I doubt Boston would consider it given Pedroia’s loyalty to the team and how he is accepted in Beantown but just remember, the Red Sox sent out Nomar at the deadline in 2004 and that ended okay.  I’m not saying the Red Sox should trade Pedroia but they could use a little more pop and Eduardo Nunez won’t give them that.  And given Dave Dombrowski’s track record, he can find a way to make a trade, even if Boston’s farm has been on the down for the last year or two.

CLEVELAND INDIANS:  It’s hard to think that A. we are saying the Indians are still having to shake off the Detroit Tigers in the division in June (never dreamed of posting that this year)  and B.  That Jason Kipnis is a major liability to the Tribe right now.  After being regarded as one of the best second basemen in the Majors just 2 years ago, Kipnis was injured for most of the season last year and has underperformed greatly in 2018.  A position change for him may also be needed as well.  The Indians offense has been middle-of-the-road, but compared to the likes of the Red Sox, Yankees, and Astros, are well below them.  But the problem with the Indians is that there are more liabilities than Kipnis.  The outfield has been awful save for Michael Brantley, the bullpen has been a giant mess, and at this point a 5th starter may be needed as well.  Cleveland has the farm to make a move, but maybe it is needed for other things besides Gennett.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS:  Ian Kinsler, an upcoming free agent, has underperformed with the Angels since coming from Detroit.  And the Angels are also cooling off fast as they have really become the three-man show of Trout, Simmons, and Ohtani.  They need another bat to really help out that group.  The only problem is that the Angels invested in Gennett’s fellow teammate Zack Cozart in Cincinnati and he has proceeded to underachieve as well.  So there may be a lingering fear at least with the Angels that Gennett maybe another Cozart as Angel Stadium is probably the antithesis of Great American Ballpark.  Also, if the Reds are looking for prospects, notably in the pitching category, the Angels may not be the best of fits.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS:  You have to hand it to Los Angeles for fighting, scratching, and clawing their way back in the division with all the major injuries suffered from Kershaw to Seager to Turner, etc.  But they’re still nowhere near the same team as they were last year.  And the offense is a middle of the road offense while second base is a major hole with Chase Utley (when healthy) and Logan Forsythe not even hitting over .220 and a total of 2 HR.  Gennett would be an immediate upgrade to that spot, and the Dodgers have what the Reds are asking for.  But I think Los Angeles would prefer to make a splash in trying to make a push for somebody like Machado or maybe trying to get Cole Hamels to solidify the rotation.

SEATTLE MARINERS:  This would be an interesting scenario for Seattle.  The Mariners have Robinson Cano on the suspended list AND cannot play in the postseason for Seattle.  And right now the Mariners may be baseball’s best surprise in 2018 despite Cano’s suspension, Cruz’s struggles, Felix’s massive struggles, etc. and in a way it is surprising to see how they are doing this as nobody is having a major career year.  Law of averages may pan things out a bit, but Seattle has the longest playoff drought of any team in the Majors (2001) and the fans there are desperately starving to see some October baseball if the Seahawks aren’t in the mix in the NFL.  Getting Gennett would be a jolt for the offense and show the fans and the players that they are serious in making a run to October.  But again, could the Mariners have enough of what the Reds want?

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS:  It is time for the Kolten Wong experiment to end.  The Cardinals had high hopes on him but to me he is just that “he’s there” kind of guy as in “well there’s nobody else we can put in, so he is there.”  The Cardinals have tailed off a little bit to the point where the Cubs have jumped them and the Brewers have no sign of slowing down.  A key part of it is the offense is in the bottom half of the NL in most categories.  St. Louis is not known for being a hitter’s park, but I think Gennett can handle it well (though the numbers at Busch doesn’t say much for him to this point).  The Cardinals are linked to Josh Donaldson, but as a friend of mine said last night, Donaldson’s value this year has plummeted badly with the injuries and the struggles.  The Cardinals may find it cheaper to get Gennett, who wouldn’t be a rental as opposed to Donaldson who is going to be a rental.

MY TAKE:  I’m actually 50/50 on this that the Reds would trade Gennett this year.  I still think if the pitching solves itself next year, Cincinnati could be a surprise in 2019 and he stays.  But if he gets traded, I actually say the Mariners would win the Scooter sweepstakes.  With Nelson Cruz coming off the books, Cano could move to DH in 2019 while Gennett would take over at second.  Remember, Cano will be 36 next year.  The Diamondbacks and Cardinals would also be heavily in I believe, though I don’t know if Arizona would have what Cincinnati wants and I don’t know if St. Louis would give what Cincinnati wants, especially within the division.

 

MLB Summer Trade Market 2018: An early forecast on this year’s trade deadline

The MLB season is in full swing and we are getting ready to reach the start of the summer of the long baseball season. June is a few days away and that means that we are inching closer and closer to the trade market heating up in its classic summer form. With my knowledge, I’ve mapped out multiple trades that I think could happen during the trade deadline. So without further ado, let’s get into my early trade deadline predictions. And we will surely look back at this in July and see if I was right with any of my predictions. Let’s go!

  • The Boston Red Sox acquire catcher J.T. Realmuto and second baseman Starlin Castro from the Miami Marlins.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies acquire third baseman Josh Donaldson from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for multiple young, talented prospects.
  • The Cleveland Indians acquire reliever Kelvin Herrera from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for a prospect or two.
  • The Atlanta Braves acquire third baseman Mike Moustakas and veteran starter Ian Kennedy from the Kansas City Royals.
  • The New York Yankees acquire reliever Brad Hand from the San Diego Padres.
  • The New York Yankees acquire left handed starter Patrick Corbin from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
  • The Chicago Cubs acquire right handed starter Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers acquire first baseman Justin Bour from the Miami Marlins.
  • The Houston Astros acquire left handed reliever Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles.
  • The Los Angeles Angels acquire left handed starter J.A. Happ from the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • The Cleveland Indians acquire veteran outfielder Adam Jones from the Baltimore Orioles.
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers acquire utility specialist Jed Lowrie from the Oakland Athletics.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers acquire veteran lefty Cole Hamels from the Texas Rangers.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies acquire right handed reliever Brad Brach from the Baltimore Orioles.
  • The Seattle Mariners acquire veteran second baseman Brian Dozier from the Minnesota Twins.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers bring back veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.
  • The Cleveland Indians acquire second baseman Scooter Gennett from the Cincinnati Reds.
  • Despite the Orioles being huge sellers at the deadline, they hold off on swinging a deal trading away All-Star shortstop Manny Machado.

Should (or Could?) the Reds Trade Joey Votto at the Deadline?

It’s early.

But when you’re a team that is really in the midst of rebuilding for the future, a 3-16 start after 3 years of 90+ losses is not a promising sign that things will turn around anytime soon.  And given the pitching woes Cincinnati has, it REALLY seems like it is more of a sign of things to come than “oh, they’ll snap out of it.”

I believed Cincinnati was on the upswing this year with a solid lineup and a youthful group of pitchers which included a guy I was high on in Luis Castillo.  Of course, it hasn’t panned out that way.  Eugenio Suarez is on the DL with a fractured thumb, Joey Votto has been off to a very slow start (and only Billy Hamilton has a lower OPS than Votto with the everyday lineup; though Hamilton has a HR, one more than Votto), only one hitter (Tucker Barnhart) has an OPS over .700 right now and Jesse Winker is the only other Red getting on base.  The rotation outside of Homer Bailey has been an epic disaster.  Luis Castillo’s ERA is 6.75 entering today’s game in St. Louis.  And the other 3 of Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle, and Brandon Finnegan have an astounding ERA of over 5 (Finnegan is over 10).  Rasiel Iglesias has been great for the Reds, but they cannot get to him in the 9th as Cincinnati cannot get a lead to that point.  So yeah, saying the Reds are off to a slow start is an understatement.

 

Which means if things continue, the Reds will be one of the first teams to open up sale in July.  And the usual suspects will be available, as in veterans (Cliff Pennington), soon-to-be free agents (Devin Mesoraco), etc. and maybe even a few guys who are locked into contracts that could help the Reds get ready for the show prospects (Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton).

However, SHOULD the Reds trade Joey Votto?

Votto is locked up for another 6 years, meaning his contract ends when he is 41.  It is an insane amount of years with an insane amount of money for a team that isn’t known for being a big-spending team.

However, Votto is probably the best Red since Barry Larkin or even Pete Rose or Johnny Bench.  A Hall of Fame nod is probably likely as well (the numbers of total hits and HR may not suffice as he is still 400 hits away from 2,000 and slightly less than 250 HR away from 500), but given he’s a 5-time All-Star, a Gold Glover, and an MVP, the track record speaks for itself.

But let’s face it: yes, the Reds are young as a whole.  Was Bryan Price the right guy for the job?  No and that’s why he’s no longer the manager.  But the Reds hitters put up quality offensive numbers thanks in part to the small, cozy Great American Ballpark.  The pitchers numbers are often blitzed.  And we’re seeing in Colorado, which their ballpark is an offensive haven thanks to the altitude effect, that it is hard to be considered a true championship contender.  And it is going to be very hard when you have the likes of the Cubs, Cardinals, and currently the Brewers in the NL Central just running roughshod.

Votto is going to be 35 in September.  It doesn’t seem to me like Cincinnati will be a threat anywhere down the road.  That contract may be an albatross to a franchise like Cincinnati, like we are seeing with Miguel Cabrera’s contract in Detroit, handcuffing the Tigers (as was Justin Verlander’s contract, but Detroit was thankful to move it to Houston last year).

I don’t see Joey Votto continuing this epic fail where he’s trailing the powerful Billy Hamilton in home runs by the end of May.  He will get better.  However, Votto is no longer in his prime and you wonder if he is following a similar path to Cabrera where the bottom falls out (like it fell out for Miggy in 2017) and you don’t see the .330 average with 30 HR and an OPS north of .900 but a .280 with 20 and an OPS south of .800.  But it is something the Reds HAVE to consider doing is finding a way to get off the hook on Votto’s contract somehow.

Of course, the Votto contract will shy away practically everybody with a pulse.  You can forget the likes of Tampa Bay and Oakland right off the bat (as if they’d consider it anyway).  But any team in the process of rebuilding won’t have any interest (Atlanta, Miami, ChiSox), and teams with all-star first basemen (Chicago Cubs, Arizona, Dodgers) are pretty much out.  Which means it brings the forefront of two teams: the Red Sox and Yankees.  But Boston is having a great start from Mitch Moreland and the Yankees are high on Tyler Austin at first, unless New York uses Votto at DH.  So really the lone team that could take on his contract and would be a “fit” would be the Yankees.

Of course, the big thing would be “well, what would the haul be for prospects?” And honestly, it may not be needed for prospects as it would be for payroll relief a la Miami.  And the Reds have one of the top 10 farm systems in all of baseball, so it wouldn’t be like what we saw with the Tigers last year where they HAD to replenish a barren and godawful farm system that many ranked at the bottom of the bigs.

To be fair, I think the Reds need to make a painful move of trading Votto.  It isn’t easy, but he won’t win a title in Cincinnati.  But also, the Reds would be better off, having money that is needed and just really seeing what the future holds.  Is trading Votto the solution to all of the Reds’ problems?  No, but at this point there is no need to keep a veteran like Votto for sentimental reasons.  And if it continues, the Reds will remain in baseball’s cellar, even with a strong farm system.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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