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Seven Royals Starting the All-Star Game? There’s Really No Way to Justify It

In a few weeks, the National League will face off against the American League at Cincinnati‘s Great American Ballpark in the MLB All-Star Game. The Midsummer Classic is not just an exhibition, since home-field advantage in the World Series is at stake. 

Common sense would say that with so much riding on that one game, each side would want their best players to be on the field. However, looking at the current leaderboard in the American League, that is not the case.

As of the latest update back on June 8, the Kansas City Royals have seven players—Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Kendrys Morales—who would start the All-Star Game if the voting concluded today.

The current voting system works like this: Fans around the country can go online and submit up to 35 ballots with the players of their choice. It doesn’t matter what the player’s stats are to that point; if the fan wants to vote for them, they can.

Over in Kansas City—a fanbase that is apparently rejuvenated after last year’s surprise run to the World Series—they are sending in their ballots in ridiculous volume.

Enough talk; let’s delve into the American League starting lineup if the voting ended today.

Salvador Perez is currently the leading vote-getter of anyone in the MLB, and he has more than double the votes of Oakland‘s Stephen Vogt, who sits in second place among catchers. But looking at the stats, Perez is nowhere near the best catcher in the league.

Perez has the fourth-highest wins above replacement (WAR) among AL catchers, trailing Vogt, Russell Martin and Brian McCann. Don’t like WAR? Okay, all three of the others have at least as many homers, better on-base percentages, better slugging percentages and higher wRC+ totals.

Verdict: Perez has not been the best catcher in the American League so far this year, but he has established himself as a solid backstop, so this is one of the lesser injustices that will be discussed. 

At first base, Eric Hosmer has accumulated the most votes. Yes, he is ahead of two-time MVP and former Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. While that comes as quite a surprise looking at the two players’ overall bodies of work, the All-Star Game is not supposed to take career accomplishments into account, just the current season.

But Cabrera has been better than Hosmer in seemingly every aspect of the game. Cabrera has a higher WAR, more home runs, more RBI, a higher walk rate, a lower strikeout rate, a higher on-base percentage and a higher slugging percentage. 

Hosmer might not even be the second-best first baseman in the league. Mark Teixeira has more than twice as many home runs, more RBI, a higher slugging percentage, a higher walk rate, lower walk rate and a higher wRC+ total than Hosmer.

Verdict: Hosmer is having a breakout season and is finally starting to tap into his massive potential, but he is not the best first baseman in the American League. Cabrera is, and it is a joke that Hosmer has 500,000-plus more votes.

Alcides Escobar is leading the voting at shortstop and, like most of his fellow teammates, it is hard to make a case for him to truly be the best at his position. He does not lead the AL in any statistical category except the lowest strikeout percentage.

He currently sports a terrible .090 isolated power, which is found by subtracting the player’s batting average from his slugging percentage. Fellow shortstops Brad Miller, Xander Bogaerts and Marcus Semien all have been worth more wins than Escobar, per FanGraphs, confirming that Escobar really doesn’t deserve to start the Midsummer Classic.

Verdict: Escobar is not the best shortstop in the American League. But, like Perez, he is an alright choice because no other shortstop has really separated himself from the pack.

The hot corner is where the biggest travesty is happening. Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson possesses the second-highest WAR in all of baseball—he trails only the red-hot Bryce Harper—yet he finds himself behind Mike Moustakas by more than 1.7 million votes.

If the season ended today Donaldson would garner plenty of MVP consideration. Yet he can’t even start the All-Star Game? It is absurd, and I won’t even bother to break down the stats because Donaldson beats Moustakas in nearly every category.

Verdict: It’s a complete joke; Donaldson is a much better all-around player.

In the outfield, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon would start the All-Star Game along with Mike Trout. Cain has the most votes. To me, this is perfectly fine. Both Royal outfielders rank in the top seven in WAR, so it is understandable why they are toward the top of the leaderboard.

Verdict: While I think Adam Jones and Josh Reddick deserve some serious consideration, the outfield is just fine. 

The final position to decipher is designated hitter. The leader is—no surprise here—a Royal. It’s Kendrys Morales. Maybe there is not a huge crop from which to choose on the ballot since it’s hard to classify the position?

Well, Nelson Cruz is a DH option on the ballot. Cruz has been one of the best hitters in MLB to this point, and there is no way to even make a case for Morales.

Verdict: Similar to my third base verdict, refer to that one for further clarification. I won’t list the categories that Cruz beats Morales in because there are so many, including batting average, isolated power, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, wOBA and wRC+.

Finally, there are two instances even more ridiculous than the ones previously mentioned. Omar Infante is barely trailing Houston star Jose Altuve—who is currently in first place—despite sporting the worst OPS+ in the entire league, per Baseball-Reference.

And for the icing on the cake, Alex Rios, a Royal, is currently fourth in the standings for AL outfielders. Rios has only played 16 games in 2015.

Sixteen games!

It’s not like he has impressed in that limited action, either. He is hitting .220 with one homer and eight RBI.

If this was an exhibition game, this topic wouldn’t even need to be debated. Let the fans see who they want to start. But when the game comes with such huge ramifications—home-field advantage in the World Series—there is no excuse to not get the best players on the field.

Clearly, there is still time left to vote, and hopefully the Kansas City fans have already used up all of their votes, so there might not be seven Royals starting the game in July.

But the fact that it is even being considered is not good for the game of baseball, and it should certainly be changed.

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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Houston Astros: Cole Hamels Would Be Nice, but Not Worth the Price

Every day that passes is another day closer to the July 31 trade deadline. For the first time in what seems like ages, the Houston Astros are shaping up to be buyers, not sellers, as that time approaches.

It is already June, and the Houston Astros still have the best record in the American League. After years of trading veterans in exchange for young prospects, the shoe is finally on the other foot.

There is a good chance that the Astros will remain in contention throughout the season, and if they want to make a serious push at the postseason, they might need a top-of-the-line starting pitcher to anchor the staff through the dog days of August and September.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Astros are in negotiations with the Philadelphia Phillies for left-hander Cole Hamels.

“The goal is [to acquire] a No. 1 or 2,” a source told Heyman.

Apparently, the Houston front office does not think that the starting rotation has enough depth to navigate through the playoffs, and a 1-2 punch of crafty southpaw and sub-2.00 ERA owner Dallas Keuchel and Hamels—or another front-line starter—does sound appealing.

However, the Astros need to be wary of betting the house on Hamels.

There is no argument that he is an elite pitcher, but the number of top-tier prospects that Philly will undoubtedly command in return is too steep a price.

For example, think about in the past when Hamels has been a hot commodity.

The Dodgers and Red Sox each showed significant interest in the 31-year-old Philadelphia ace, but in both instances the Phillies asked for an unrealistic return.

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Phillies wouldn’t budge on an offer of all three of the Dodgers’ top prospects—Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias—last summer right before the trade deadline.

Then, Rob Bradford of reported in January that the Phillies were “unrealistic in their expectations,” possibly asking for both Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart in exchange for Hamels.

So the first step for the Astros is going to be to reach a deal. For that to happen, they will have to include plenty of their top prospects in the deal. Fortunately, they have plenty to offer. The ‘Stros have the eighth most talented farm system in all of baseball, per, meaning they are one of the few teams who could offer a package that could get Hamels.

But Hamels would certainly be expensive. Carlos Correa is likely off limits, but 2013 first-overall pick Mark Appel, Lance McCullers Jr., Preston Tucker and Colin Moran could potentially be involved in a blockbuster trade to land an elite starter like Hamels. 

Plus, on the off chance that the two sides can reach an agreement, Hamels’ 20-team no-trade clause poses another obstacle. He has already vetoed the Blue Jays this year, and a source told Heyman that Hamels would likely do the same to the Astros.

However, if Houston continues to do well and has a chance to make the playoffs—in addition to the abundance of young talent that means the Astros will be contenders for years down the road—who knows, maybe Hamels considers it.

The final hurdle is Hamels’ contract: He is scheduled to make $24 million per year through 2018. The Astros currently don’t have anyone making more than $10 million, and they will likely not want to allocate such a big chunk of their payroll to one player. Not only is it one player, but it’s a player who will only be on the field every fifth day.

With all this in mind, I think it is a good idea for the Astros to at least explore the market for a front-line starter. But ultimately, they should not be willing to give away more than two top prospects for his services. While he is a consistent and durable pitcher—he is well on his way to surpassing the 200-inning plateau for the sixth consecutive year—I don’t think he is worth the price that the Phillies are going to undoubtedly demand.

The Astros have two of the top five picks in Monday’s MLB draft, so they will add even more potential stars to their already loaded organization.

They are a team on the rise with a very bright future. Even if they do not accomplish everything they want to this season, they have several more years to do just that.

The ‘Stros have played terrific baseball to this point—without Hamels—and it is basically a foregone conclusion that the Phillies are going to be rightfully greedy in the negotiations.

Add it all up, and the Astros are fine as their roster sits right now. Don’t overspend for an elite starting pitcher. Keuchel is having a Cy Young-caliber season to this point, Collin McHugh has proved to be a consistent middle-of-the-rotation arm and McCullers looks like a future ace.

The Astros have amassed the best record in the AL without Hamels, and they don’t really need him to take the next step of eventually making and advancing deep into the playoffs.

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Texas Rangers: Joey Gallo Continues to Impress, Call-Up on the Horizon?

In a time when power hitting is more of a scarce resource than ever, teams are starting to value it more than ever. As home run totals dwindle, the players who can hit for power stand out that much more.

Down in Arlington, the Texas Rangers have one of the sport’s most prolific power hitters. Joey Gallo, known for his prodigious homers and raw power, is currently playing at Double-A Frisco. He was second in all of professional baseball with 42 round-trippers last year, after 40 of his hits left the yard in 2013.

With the Rangers not anywhere close to contending this year or maybe in the next couple of seasons, deciding when to bring up Gallo to the big league club is a tough call.

Do you just bring him up as soon as possible so he can get reps at the highest level, or do you let him develop his skills in the minor leagues until the Rangers are ready to contend?

One important thing to note is that Gallo is currently facing a roadblock in Arlington in third baseman Adrian Beltre. That is why Gallo has been playing some left field of late, which might allow him to contribute to the major league squad sooner.

Whatever the Rangers decide and wherever Gallo ends up playing defensively, his best tool is hitting the ball as far as he can.

During the 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic, an 18-year-old Gallo launched a 442-foot homer off of a 92 mph fastball from Lucas Sims, who was ultimately drafted in the first round by the Braves in the 2012 MLB draft.

In 2013, Gallo became the first teenager since 1968 to hit 40 home runs in a minor league season.

Then, in last year’s Futures Game, he launched a 419-foot homer that ended up being the difference in a 3-2 USA win. Earlier in the day, he hit a homer in batting practice that broke the windshield of a truck on display in the outfield stands.

In other words, Gallo can rake, no matter who is pitching. He has been hitting tape-measure shots since his days as a prep star at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, and he should continue to do so even when he reaches The Show.

After hitting a monster 42 homers last year, Gallo said that his goal in 2015 was not to match or exceed that total, but to become a better all-around player.

“I don’t really care if I hit five home runs or I hit 40 home runs,” Gallo told Anthony Andro of Fox Sports Southwest. “I’ve already proved I can hit home runs. I just want to prove I can be a better player, a more complete player. I’m just trying to take what people give me instead of what I tried to do last year, like yank balls through wind and that kind of stuff.”

Through May 29 stats, Gallo sports an impressive .313/.420/.626 slash line. He hit .271 last year, so his improved approach is already showing dividends early in the season.

Rangers senior director of player development Mike Daly was very complimentary of Gallo, as he talked to Andro about the stud third baseman.

“Joey continues to refine the offensive side of his game each season,” Daly said. “Big credit to Joey each year he improves his different areas such as plate discipline, approach, utilizing the entire field, and consistency of his at-bats as he continues toward his goal of becoming a multidimensional hitter at the plate.”

Ideally, Gallo will find a way to cut down on his strikeout total. He has 47 strikeouts in 115 at-bats this year at Frisco—he had a whopping 179 K’s last year—and it will be interesting to see if he can still be productive as he moves up to Triple-A (and eventually MLB) if he strikes out that much. 

Gallo comes from the Las Vegas area, which also happens to be the hometown of sluggers Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant and Chris Carter. A man who has seen them all play thinks Gallo could be even better than the other three.

“I seriously think Gallo could be the best out of all of them,” Nate Selby, who coached Carter at Sierra Vista High School, told Brian Deka of the Las Vegas Sun. “When he hits them, they just go different than the other guys.”

Gallo has also garnered praise from former MVP Jason Giambi, who has worked with Gallo on his swing in the past. Here is what Giambi told Ben Lindbergh of Grantland:

Joey Gallo’s ceiling is unlimited. I think (he) can be whoever he wants to be. He has the potential to be a .300 hitter. He has the potential to hit 50 homers. He has the potential to drive in 140. He runs really well for a big guy. He can play defense at third base. He’s a pretty special player; you don’t see players like this come along very often.

So Gallo certainly has the talent and the track record to crack the big league roster sometime in the near future. Whether it’s this year or next year, the Rangers have an elite power hitter on their hands. And as bad as the Rangers have been the past two seasons, their lineup could be somewhat potent with Gallo.

With Beltre, Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton and Gallo hitting in the middle of the order, Texas has the capability to score boatloads of runs.

But, again, whatever the Rangers decide to do will likely turn out just fine. When you have such a talented player like Gallo, who possesses a ton of the game’s most precious commodities, it is almost a win-win situation no matter when the front office pulls the trigger on his promotion.

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Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant Have Taken Similar Yet Different Paths to Stardom

When the Cubs and Nationals squared off for the first time this season on Memorial Day, each team featured their own version of a baseball phenom.

Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant don’t seem like identical players off the top of the head, but the list of similarities between the two players is quite a long one.

Both grew up in the Las Vegas area, where they played with—on the same travel team, called the Ballbusters—and against each other since they were nine and seven years old. They also each have keen memories of the other.

“When we were younger, we used to call him ‘Silk,’ because he was so smooth with everything he did,” Harper told reporters before Monday’s game. “He played third, he played short, he played a little outfield. He pitched, and he always hit very well.”

Bryant’s description of Harper back in the day, per Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune: “so much bigger and so much stronger than everyone—and better.”

Harper and Bryant both possess prodigious power, although from different sides of the plate. Harper hit a home run measured at 502 feet in a home run derby in high school, and according to his high school coaches he hit one as a freshman that traveled 570 feet.  


Bryant has his fair share of pop, too. He led the NCAA in 2013 with 31 home runs, and then led all of professional baseball with 43 round-trippers last year. 

Both players attended college—Harper at the College of Southern Nevada and Bryant at the University of San Diego—en route to becoming one of the top two picks in the MLB draft.

Also, both young players understand that they need to be compensated for their services, as each of them have the famous Scott Boras as their agent, who is known for demanding top dollar for his clients.

And last but certainly not least is that both players have undergone tremendous hype throughout their careers. Harper has probably been in the spotlight a bit more—especially since he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16—but Bryant was the main topic of conversation when he raked in spring training and then was relegated to the minor leagues to start the season.

However, that is where the similarities end, and there are plenty of differences between the two as well.

The most glaring one is how they carry themselves on and off the field. Harper knows he is the best player on the field most of the time and he is not afraid to say it, while Bryant prefers to let his work do the talking.

Here’s what Bryant said, via Sullivan, about their respective personalities:

I think we have very different personalities, and I think that’s good for the game. It’s good to have guys who wear their heart on their sleeves and he’s one of those guys and it’s awesome to see that. He plays so hard for his team, and I think that’s respectful. He’s very confident and that’s cool to see. I think everybody can learn from that, because to play this game, you have to be confident. You have to believe you’re the best on the field. I do that in a different way, and he does that, and it’s pretty cool to see that.

He sums it up very well. They may have different ways of showing it, but they are both extremely talented on the field.

Harper currently leads the National League in home runs, RBI, runs scored, walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.

Bryant, meanwhile, is getting his first taste of major league pitching, and he is performing superbly. He is hitting .282 with six home runs and 30 RBI—good for an OPS+ of 131, according to Baseball-Reference. The league average is 100, so that stat is a good indicator of what kind of a hitter he has been in his first full month of action.

Finally, there is the age difference. While Harper is basically a big-league veteran by now, he is actually younger than Bryant. Bryant got more time to hone his skills than Harper did, which might be why he is producing so well despite his inexperience in the majors.

Despite their young age, they are already two of the most exciting players in the game. Neither of them are solely power hitters—while they can hit the ball out of the park seemingly any time they want—each of them also hit for a high average, are good runners and are above-average defenders.

Expect these two to headline the MLB for at least the next decade. And considering the talented rosters of both the Nats and Cubs, they may be playing against each other plenty in the future, possibly with a World Series berth on the line. 

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Washington Nationals: Not Too Early to Give Bryce Harper MVP Consideration

Since 2009, when he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated at the ripe age of 16, Bryce Harper has faced a flurry of doubters and unrealistic expectations.

He made his major league debut in April 2012, after a little over a year of minor league action, and was immediately inserted into the Nationals‘ starting lineup.

Prior to the start of 2015—after three MLB seasons—Harper was already labeled a bust by some, even though his numbers weren’t half bad. He hit at least .270 in each of his first three seasons, but he wasn’t producing at Mike Trout’s level, so he was somehow a “disappointment.”

It’s easy to forget he is only 22 years old and that most professional baseball players his age are still shelved in the lower levels of the minor leagues.

Through 41 games in 2015, Harper has certainly silenced his many critics.

He started the year with a bang by hitting a home run on Opening Day off Bartolo Colon, and then put together a solid April that consisted of a decent batting average, plenty of doubles and RBI and a ton of walks.

But then he took it to another level on May 6. That day, he hit three home runs against the Marlins. Then he hit two the very next game and followed that up with a homer in the next game for a total of six blasts in three games.

Since that three-homer performance, Harper has put together an out-of-this-world .535/.630/1.349 slash line. He has been red hot since the calendar flipped over to May, and he has been a pivotal part of the Nationals’ recent surge, which has them in first place in the National League East.

Not only is Harper a tremendous hitter, he is also incredibly fun to watch because you know he can make anything happen at any time with his violent swing. Will Leitch of Sports on Earth recently wrote an article comparing Harper to Babe Ruth, and one line really stuck out:

“He is the most exciting, dominant hitter in the sport,” Leitch writes. “When I watch him hit, I fully expect every pitch he swings at to end up on the moon. Its amazing to watch. And Ruth did this for 22 years.”

So he is ridiculously in the zone right now, but is he a legitimate MVP candidate?

At this point, it would be crazy to say no. He leads the league in home runs, runs scored, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ and total bases. He also ranks first in wOBA, wRC+ and WAR, per FanGraphs.

Other clubs are catching on, too. Harper has been intentionally walked five times so far this season, which is tied with Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday for the most in the NL.

Those numbers scream MVP, but it seems impossible that he can sustain this madness, right? 

According to Matthew Kory of Vice Sports, if Harper continues to hit like he has hit since May 6, he will have 113 homers by season’s end. While that number is certainly a testament to how awesome Harper has been over that time, there is no way he is going to get close to reaching that number of big flies—he will likely not even reach 50.

Grant Paulsen had some high praise recently for Harper on 106.7 The Fan (via Chris Lingebach of CBS DC):

Right now, he’s the MVP in the National League. And one step further, he’s the best player in Major League Baseball this season. Period. 

What we’re seeing now, this is who this guy can be. And no one else on this team can be this guy for a stretch of a few weeks. No one else in this division—except for maybe one or two guys, like Giancarlo Stanton—can really be the guy that he’s been. You can count on one hand the number in Major League Baseball that can have a month, and a couple of weeks—a sample—the likes of which what Bryce Harper has.

Wow, Paulsen is obviously a big fan of the star that people have called “cocky” and “polarizing.” But he is absolutely right; Harper can do things on the field few others can.

Back to the MVP discussion. The voters look for a few things when voting: personal stats for that season, track record for that individual, how well-rounded the player is and the success of the team.

Harper has three of those right now. He certainly has the stats, as of right now, to win baseball’s most coveted award; he has three other productive seasons under his belt; and he is the most important player on a Washington team that will undoubtedly finish the season with one of the best records in MLB. 

Harper has also made strides with his defense. James Wagner of the Washington Post outlined this improvement in a recent article. Harper is tied for the most defensive runs saved among right fielders, and he is getting more comfortable in right field after playing mostly left field the past two seasons.

We will have to wait and see how Harper does for the rest of the season. He obviously cannot maintain this epic pace, but can he finish with 35 or more home runs, a solid batting average and above-average work in the outfield? I think so.

Harper has always been a true five-tool player, and those skills are finally coming to fruition in his fourth year in The Show. It is impossible to predict what the MVP voters will do—Trout should have won the award in 2013—but to this point, Harper must be the front-runner in the National League.


All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.

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Meet Nelson Cruz: The Best Hitter in Baseball Right Now

Prior to this year, Nelson Cruz has been known as strictly a power hitter. He averaged 27 home runs per season from 2009-2013 and then made the most of his one season in Baltimore by leading the league in round-trippers last year.

His game-changing power is what earned him a four-year, $57 million contract last December, but in his first 36 games as a Mariner, he has still shown plenty of power—he leads the MLB with 15 homers—but he is also displaying tremendous skill in other areas at the plate.

First off, it must be noted that opposing pitchers are throwing Cruz fewer good pitches. So far in 2015, he is seeing only 43.9 percent of pitches in the strike zone, which is a career low, but he has adjusted admirably. 

His O-Contact%, which measures the percentage of times a batter makes contact with a pitch out of the strike zone, currently sits at a career-high 63.2 percent. The rest of his hitting metrics are similar to his career average.

So Cruz is seeing fewer pitches in the strike zone so far this season, but he is overcoming that by expanding his zone a bit and finding a way to be productive with pitches out of the strike zone.

That is a testament to the strides he has made in his overall hitting approach. He continues to be among the most feared power hitters in all of baseball, even in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field in Seattle.

As far as the best hitter in baseball right now, it is hard to argue against what Nelly has done to this point.

He leads the MLB with 15 home runs—an achievement that is even more impressive due to the fact that he plays all his home games in Safeco Field—and 30 RBI. He has also maintained a .340 batting average, which is among the best in the game.

Cruz also leads the league in slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+, wRC+ and total bases. His .466 wOBA ranks third in the MLB, per FanGraphs.

And it’s not like Cruz is getting lucky with cheap home runs, either. He is making them count, as he is tied with fellow power stalwarts Giancarlo Stanton and Edwin Encarnacion with six no-doubt home runs, according to ESPN Home Run Tracker.

He has been one of the most productive players in clutch situations, too. He has two walk-off hits this year—one off of flamethrower Neftali Feliz and one off of Junichi Tazawa— each one coming with two outs and two strikes, and in games where he had struck out at least twice in that game.

But he’s bound for plenty of regression after this hot start, right?

Not according to his manager, Lloyd McClendon, who believes greener pastures still lie ahead for the 34-year-old Dominican, specifically in the home run column. McClendon said via Mariners Musings of

To be truthful, I don’t think he’s gotten hot to the point where it’s just ridiculous. He’s grinding at-bats out and getting his hits, he’s going the other way. If they make a mistake, he’ll hit it out. But I’ve seen him to the point where he’ll get hot and hit good pitches out of the ballpark and that hasn’t happened yet.

I think home run hitters, when they get hot, they hit home runs in bunches and he hasn’t done that yet. His have been spread out. A few here and a few there. He did have a streak where he hit [six] in five days or something like that, but there’s a big streak in there that hasn’t come out yet.

Cruz is hotter right now than any hitter in the game except maybe Bryce Harper, and if his statistics stay consistent and his manager proves correct, he should easily add another 40-homer season to his resume and may have a shot at American League Most Valuable Player, an award that has been hogged by Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout for the past three years. 

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National League: Why Baseball Without the Designated Hitter Is Better

A hotly contested topic among the baseball world in the past week (and for quite some time now) has been whether or not the National League should change its rules to institute the use of the designated hitter. The American League adopted the DH in 1973, yet the Senior Circuit has remained surprisingly resilient through the years.

However, National League owners may be under increased pressure to make a change.

The debate was jump-started when St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, one of the elite starting pitchers in the MLB, tore his Achilles tendon running out of the batter’s box after putting the ball in play. The club announced that he would miss the rest of the season, which is a crippling blow to a St. Louis squad trying to advance to the NLCS for the fifth consecutive year.

Washington Nationals hurler Max Scherzer was the first to rally behind Wainwright’s banner. He told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that he would not be opposed to bringing the DH to the National League, saying that it would be a great way to increase scoring and make the game more entertaining.

“If you look at it from the macro side, who’d people rather see hit—Big Papi or me?” Scherzer said. “Who would people rather see, a real hitter hitting home runs or a pitcher swinging a wet newspaper? Both leagues need to be on the same set of rules.”

This logic makes sense from Mad Max—having a designated hitter batting instead of a pitcher would make the game more fun to watch and ostensibly give the fans more bang for their buck. But his initial claims were met with a flurry of other opinions, and most weren’t in agreement with his.

Madison Bumgarner was the first to publicly disagree. The San Francisco Giants left-hander also happens to be one of the best hitting pitchers in the league, and he was not afraid to come down hard on Scherzer.

This was his comment to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News about the Wainwright injury and the possibility of the DH entering National League play:

What if he got hurt pitching? Should we say he can’t pitch anymore? I hate what happened to him. He works his butt off out there. But I don’t think it was because he was hitting. What if he gets hurt getting out of his truck? You tell him not to drive anymore? That’s the way the game has to be played. I appreciate both sides of the argument and I get it. But [ending pitcher plate appearances] isn’t the way to go about [addressing] it.

That is an excellent point as well. It was an Achilles injury that Wainwright suffered. If that part of his body was going to tear, it could have been anywhere. He could just as easily have injured it pitching off the mound or covering first base as he did jogging out of the box.

One of Bumgarner‘s teammates, Jake Peavy, gave another reason why the designated hitter must stay away. He began by talking about a situation last year when Bumgarner hit against the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ Zack Greinke in the eighth inning. It was late in the season in a crucial situation, and manager Bruce Bochy didn’t have to go to a pinch hitter and then a reliever. 

“We have a distinct advantage because of what he can do at the plate,” Peavy said, per Baggarly. “We’d take a ton of strategy out of our game. The bench player is so much more important a part of the game. Managers have their say in how the game is played out.

“As pitchers, it’s about taking pride in batting and baserunning and getting a bunt down or putting it in play. If you do that better than the other pitcher, you’ve got an advantage.”

For Scherzer, even his own general manager is not on his side. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo—who gave Scherzer a $210 million contract this offseason—went on record against the DH earlier this week.

Rizzo was very adamant on a Wednesday radio appearance he made on 106.7 The Fan that he will never favor the DH.

I hate the DH. I always have hated the DH. I would hate to see the DH in the National League, and I love the National League brand of baseball. Now, I worked with the Chicago White Sox for years, and the Boston Red Sox for years in the American League, and I’m a much bigger fan of the National League style of play, with the pitcher pitching and all the strategy that that employs. 

That’s my favorite part of this whole argument. The phrase “the strategy it employs.” Personally, that is one of the things I enjoy about the game of baseball. The managers competing in a chess match throughout the ballgame is arguably the most compelling thing about baseball and the main reason I like the National League better than the American League.

In the American League, the manager does not have nearly as many factors to worry about, most notably pinch hitting for the pitcher. To illustrate this, I’ll introduce a common situation in baseball. 

Let’s say Team A is winning by two runs in the seventh inning and the pitcher is due up next with runners on first and second with one out. The manager has a tough decision on his hands: Does he leave the pitcher in the game to pitch another inning even though it likely means they won’t tack on any runs that inning, or does he elect to use a pinch hitter in an attempt to add some cushion to the lead even though that move will result in leaning heavily on the bullpen to finish the game?

An American League manager is never faced with this dilemma. All he has to do is monitor the pitcher, and when he gets tired or ineffective, put in a reliever.

The Junior Circuit also does not incorporate nearly as many situational pitching changes or as much bunting as the National League does.

Now some fans don’t really care much about some of the finer points of the game—they prefer to see guys hit the ball as far as they can in high-scoring games, and that is perfectly fine. They can stick with the American League, but the NL does not need to change its rulebook to satisfy those fans.

The final witness in this trial is someone who should know better than anyone. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has spent time in both leagues, and even though he has only been in Chicago for a few months, he has already adapted the National League style of play and is against bringing the DH to the NL.

“That’s part of the game,” Maddon said, via the Chicago Tribune, about Wainwright’s injury. “That’s the way it works. It’s unfortunate. It stinks. I like the National League the way it sets. It’s a really interesting baseball game.”

Ultimately, it will be up to NL owners on whether or not they eventually adopt the DH. They might do it sometime in the future, but they don’t need to. Their brand of baseball is more of a traditional style of play, and contrary to popular belief there are still some old-fashioned baseball fans out there who have the attention spans to watch an entire game even if substitutions and pitching changes are involved.

In my opinion, the game is much better with all nine fielders hitting for themselves. It forces players to be more well-rounded, and it makes it more interesting from a strategy standpoint. Also, it results in more intriguing scouting, as pitchers handy with the bat continue to become more and more rare. As the Giants do right now with Bumgarner, NL teams with pitchers who can hit have a tremendous advantage over their opponents, and that is nothing to sneeze at.

Either way, this is a very polarizing debate. Each side has its pros and cons, and baseball pundits, coaches and players are obviously not afraid to state their case.

Bumgarner, Peavy, Rizzo and Maddon are for the DH staying the heck away from the National League, and I wholeheartedly agree with their arguments.

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Paul Goldschmidt: The Best All-Around First Baseman in MLB

First base is one of the deepest positions in all of baseball, possessing an eclectic crop of talent including power hitters such as Edwin Encarnacion and Anthony Rizzo, high-average hitters like Joey Votto and Jose Abreu and some who are just pure hittersMiguel Cabrera and Paul Goldschmidt come to mind.

But if you could pick any of them right now to play first base for a season, who would be the best choice?

The obvious selection would be Cabrera. After all, he won the Triple Crown in 2012 and was the American League MVP in both 2012 and 2013. He is the best pure hitter on the planet, possessing the unique ability to hit for both average and power.

But Cabrera’s 2014 performance really makes him stand out from the rest of the pack. That year, he hit .313 with 25 home runs and 109 RBI in what was labeled a down year. Anybody who can hit over .300 and pass the 25-homer, 100-RBI plateau in a “down year” must be an absolute stud at the plate.

While Cabrera definitely is that, he would not be my choice this season. My selection would be Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, the best all-around first baseman in the league right now.

Not an overly heralded prospect coming out of Texas State, Goldschmidt broke out in 2012, hitting .286 with 20 homers in his first full big league season.

He improved on that in 2013 with MVP-caliber production, racking up a league-leading 36 home runs and 125 RBI while hitting .302. He also led the league in slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+, according to

Goldy was on his way to similar numbers last year, but he suffered a fluke injury when he was hit by an Ernesto Frieri fastball in early August, which forced him to miss the final two months of the season. He still finished with a .300 batting average, 19 home runs and an All-Star Game appearance, though, and he was primed for a huge year in 2015.

As expected, he has started this year on a tear. Through 15 games, the slugging first baseman has already hit five home runs, driven in a league-leading 16 runs, scored 13 runs and stolen two bases. He is also getting on base at a stellar .415 clip.

Cabrera is off to a hot start, too, hitting .367 with two home runs so far in 2015. But that doesn’t change the fact that I would want Goldschmidt as my first baseman right now.

Goldschmidt, 27, is five years younger than Cabrera and does not have the injury history that the Tigers slugger has. Cabrera had core surgery after the 2013 season to repair muscles in his groin that connect to the abdomen, and he had ankle surgery this past offseason to remove bone spurs in his right ankle and repair a stress fracture.

While Cabrera seems to have recovered from these injuries without much difficulty, the threat of injury is always there for him. Goldschmidt, however, has not been injured, except for that fluke last year, courtesy of a Frieri fastball.

Goldschmidt is also a better fielder than Cabrera is. Goldy won a Gold Glove in 2013, when his 5.4 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) was the sixth best in the league among first basemen, according to FanGraphs. Cabrera, on the other hand, has never won any kind of defensive award and has recorded mediocre-at-best defensive metrics throughout his career.

And don’t forget Goldschmidt‘s ability to steal bases. It’s not like he’s Billy Hamilton on the bases, but he stole 15 bases in 2013 and likely would have matched that in 2014 if not for his injury. That’s a high number of steals for a first baseman, and it’s another way that Goldschmidt separates himself from the rest of the pack.

Cabrera is undoubtedly the better pure hitter, but that doesn’t make up for the other areas.

So, taking into account his younger body, his fewer surgeries, his better defensive ability and the fact that he is a legitimate threat to steal bases, Goldschmidt is a better all-around player than Cabrera isand he is the player I would want at first base for one season.

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Chicago Cubs Showcase Bullpen Strength on Opening Night

Opening Night could easily be labeled a failure for the Chicago Cubs organization, a team with a new manager and sky-high expectations. The Cubs’ $155 million investment, Jon Lester, struggled throughout his first National League start, and the team was 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

No, those are not good numbers.

But a positive did come out of Sunday’s 3-0 home loss to the St. Louis Cardinals: The bullpen looks like it will be a strength in 2015.

Lester was not able to make it out of the fifth inning and left the game with runners on second and third with one out. Left-handed hitting Matt Adams was due up next, so manager Joe Maddon called for southpaw Phil Coke.

He struck out Adams on three pitches, intentionally walked Yadier Molina and then struck out Kolten Wong to get out of the inning with only a 3-0 deficit.

Coke is currently the only lefty in the Cubs bullpen, but if he can engender the same effectiveness that he had in the 2012 postseason for the Tigers, he will be a valuable asset nonetheless.

Then Maddon emptied his toolbox over the course of the next four innings.

Newly acquired fireballer Jason Motte, a former St. Louis closer, tossed a perfect sixth. Neil Ramirez, owner of a 1.44 ERA in 2014, struck out two in a scoreless seventh. Pedro Strop allowed one hit and struck out two without allowing a run in the eighth, and then Hector Rondon pitched a scoreless ninth.

Every one of those last four relievers is a hard thrower. Each of their respective fastballs has averaged at least 94 miles per hour throughout their careers, per FanGraphs, and all of themexcept Motte, who battled injurieshad ERAs well below 3.00 last year.

That type of overpowering bullpen has become the norm around Major League Baseball. Instead of assembling a relief core of different types of pitchers, teams are choosing to stockpile their bullpens with fireballers who pitch one inning at a time.

A prime example of this is the Kansas City Royals, which rode the bullpen trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland to last year’s World Series.

The Cubs don’t have as good a bullpen as the Royals do, but it is certainly a nice feeling to know that Maddon has plenty of quality relievers at his disposal. 

The Cubs’ year is still 2016, but if they somehow find a way to contend this year, their dominant bullpen will be a big reason why.

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Boston Red Sox: With Mookie Betts in Center, Sox Have Terrific Outfield

Coming into spring training, Mookie Betts, the Red Sox’s seventh-ranked prospect by Baseball America in 2014, was supposed to compete with Cuban signee Rusney Castillo for the starting center field job.

However, it hasn’t been much of a competition. Castillo injured his oblique early on, and Betts has put on a show. In 11 games so far this spring, he leads the Grapefruit League in hitting with a .471 average to go along with nine extra-base hits and nine runs scored.

He is also playing a tremendous center field. He had been a second baseman his entire career and only moved to center last year when he was called up to The Show last June. He has made several diving catches and is getting more and more comfortable as the preseason goes along.

Yes, he has had a bit of trouble with balls hit over his head, but manager John Farrell told Gordon Edes of that there is a reason for that:

The work he needed defensively coming into spring training was going back on the ball. Purposely we’ve had him play shallow to track balls that would otherwise be routine or deep fly balls but end up over his head. When we start the season, his alignment will be a little bit deeper. We’ve just taken the opportunity to work on breaks getting back to balls.

There hasn’t been any formal announcement yet, but Betts will likely be Boston’s starting center fielder once Opening Day comes around.

And it’s not like he is the only promising outfielder that the Red Sox have.

Hanley Ramirez, whom the Red Sox signed to a four-year, $88 million contract in the offseason, has been tearing it up and projects to be a force at the plate. While he is moving to a foreign position, left field, he should be able to hit well enough to overcome any possible fielding deficiencies.

If Han-Ram produces at the level he has at times in the past, he could potentially be a dark-horse candidate for the American League MVP.

He will definitely have a good chance to be the starting left fielder in the All-Star Game, especially with the drastic decrease of production from that position, as outlined by David Schoenfield of

Farrell has made it clear that veteran Shane Victorino will patrol right field for the Sox in 2015, even though Victorino played in only 30 games last year, hitting .268 with 12 RBI in the process.

“If Shane Victorino’s healthy, he’s our right fielder. You don’t lose your job to injury,” Farrell told reporters before the start of spring training in Fort Myers, Florida.

Sure, he is not the player he once was—he averaged 33 stolen bases per year from 2007-2010—but he proved in the 2013 playoffs that he can still contribute in a big way, when he hit a pivotal home run against the Tigers in the deciding game of the ALCS.

He was very effective at the plate that year, hitting .294 with 15 home runs and 21 stolen bases.

And now he should be able to hit even better, since he recently decided that he will hit exclusively right-handed in 2015. He has been a switch-hitter in the past, but he felt that he was not able to get enough reps going both ways, so he is choosing to focus on perfecting his right-handed cut.

And don’t forget Castillo, who homered in his first spring training game. He should compete for a roster spot and could be productive if called upon.

Also, Allen Craig, Daniel Nava and Jackie Bradley, Jr. are competent outfielders and have been solid big league players at some point in their respective careers.

All in all, the trio of Ramirez, Betts and Victorino playing in the outfield from left to right is a stellar combination. All three are very athletic, and Betts and Victorino have the ability to be above-average defenders.

Ramirez has the talent to be a solid defender, but if he chooses to focus on his hitting, I don’t think the Red Sox are going to be too concerned. 

The Red Sox made a lot of changes this offseason, and they have a chance to make the postseason. If they do, their impressive outfield trio will be a big reason why.

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