Mike El-Far | July 11th, 2019Embed from Getty Images
Houston Astros 57-33
Once again, the Houston Astros are among the best teams in baseball. New signing Michael Brantley has been one of the highlights of this team, leading all qualified Astros with a .324 batting average. Not to mention Yordan Alvarez, who made his major league debut on June 9th. In 19 games, Alvarez has hit seven home runs and has an OPS of 1.141. Their pitching has been dominant as well, as both their team ERA (3.86) and WHIP (1.14) rank fourth and second, respectively.
Make no mistake: anything short of winning the World Series will be a disappointment for this team. A concern going forward would be the durability of its stars. Both Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa have missed a significant portion of the year due to nagging injuries. To compound that, this is the second consecutive year that both have been hit by the injury bug. In order to reclaim baseball’s greatest prize, they will need both Correa and Altuve playing major roles for Houston in October.
Team MVP – Justin Verlander
One day, Justin Verlander will be enshrined in Cooperstown on the first ballot, and this season is just one of the reasons. Verlander has a 10-4 record with a 2.98 ERA, which has him ranked eighth among qualified starters. Into the advanced metrics? Currently, JV leads the league in both WHIP (0.81) and opponent’s batting average (.167)
Buy or Sell?
The depth with the Astros’ rotation has taken a hit. It was reported last week that Corbin Martin would need Tommy John surgery, and will be out all of 2019 and part of 2020. With another starter out for the year and a plentiful farm system, look for Jeff Luhnow and the Houston Astros to be aggressive in their pursuit of acquiring a starting pitcher.Embed from Getty Images
Oakland Athletics 50-41 (7.5 Games Back)
The story of the Oakland Athletics has always been that of an underdog tale. Much like last year’s version, the 2019 A’s are no different. Marcus Semien has been one of the best stories in baseball; once a vast defensive liability, he has transformed his game and has turned into one of the best defensive options at his position. Their pitching also has made sure to keep the ball in the park, as they are fourth in home runs allowed (104)
Without a doubt, the biggest negative has been the suspension of Frankie Montas. Montas was suspended for taking performance-enhancing drugs and will miss 80 games as well as any possible postseason play. Montas was having the best season of any Athletic this year by a country mile, and this has torpedoed the starting rotation. The current ERA for the starters on Oakland is now 4.19, which is a far cry from Montas’ 2.70 ERA he had through 90 innings.
Team MVP – Matt Chapman
How great is it to be Matt Chapman. He fills in for Christian Yelich in the home run derby, and that is not even the best aspect of his game. Chapman is easily the best defensive option manning the hot corner in the American League and has a case to dethrone the consensus option in baseball in Nolan Arenado. Offensively, he has been a catalyst for Oakland, leading all Athletics in both home runs and RBI’s.
Buy or Sell?
Although it is not in the nature of the Athletics, they should be actively buying during this deadline. With only two games out of the first wild-card spot, they are right in the hunt. With an above-average farm system, going out and acquiring a cheap starter could be something that gets them in the playoffs. And once you’re in, anything can happen…Embed from Getty Images
Texas Rangers 48-42 (9 Games Back)
The Texas Rangers might be the team that is the highest overachiever in 2019. No one projected first-year manager Chris Woodward to take a team who has played sub-.500 baseball in consecutive years above that threshold. On the basepaths, this team is extremely aggressive, as they are currently ranked second in baseball in stolen bases (72). Another reason for the success in Arlington has to go to Mike Minor. In 18 starts, Minor has amassed a 2.54 ERA and a record of 8-4. What has stood out to many is the relief he has given the bullpen for Texas, as Minor has thrown two complete games already this year.
Not everything is sunshine and roses at Globe Life Park. The Rangers are third in all of baseball with a 25.9% strikeout rate, and you cannot sustain a legitimate offense striking out once every four times. One of those contributors is Rougned Odor, who is hitting .193 with a deplorable 32.4% strikeout rate in almost 300 plate appearances. Also, their bullpen has been in shambles, as the opening day closer (Jose LeClerc) has lost his job and Shawn Kelley has not been a great improvement.
Team MVP – Joey Gallo
While the aforementioned Mike Minor has had a great year, the real MVP of the Rangers is Joey Gallo. Gallo has been good in his relatively short career, but not great. In his first two full seasons, Gallo had a batting average of .208 and averaged 40 home runs per season. Through 260 plate appearances, Gallo is hitting .275 with 20 home runs. In fact, out of all batters who have 200 plate appearances, Gallo is second in baseball with an 18.8% walk rate. Sure, he still has that gaudy 36.5% strikeout rate (also second in baseball), but he has emerged as one of the great offensive players of 2019.
Buy or Sell?
While the Rangers have played above their talent level, this has to come crashing down to earth. With an average farm system and a ton of MLB-controlled assets, now it should be the perfect time to sell high on a player that is having a good year. Mike Minor, who makes $9.5 million both this year and next, is someone who could fetch a decent haul for a contender that might need a starter to get them over the hump.Embed from Getty Images
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 45-46 (12.5 Games Back)
Another year, another Los Angeles Angels team that flirts with .500 baseball. Besides tuning in to watch arguably the greatest modern baseball player of all time, one success story for the Angels has been the return of Shohei Ohtani to the lineup. The two-way sensation who stole the show in his first season in America last year had to get Tommy John after the 2018 season. While he will not pitch in 2019, he has become the Angels designated hitter and been wildly successful. Ohtani is hitting over .300 with 14 home runs.
Albert Pujols is a mystifying case that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. From his debut in 2001 to 2011, he was one of the greatest players in baseball. Once he hit free agency and subsequently signed a 10 year, $240 million contract with Los Angeles. Every single year after, it has been more disappointment for Halos fans. This year, Pujols is hitting .234 with a .727 OPS.
Team MVP – Mike Trout
What else can you say about the greatest baseball player in the game today? How about currently leading the American League in these statistics: home runs, RBI’s, walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and total bases. Also, Baseball Savant tracks how many times a player “barrels” a baseball, or hits it in the sweet spot. Trout leads all of baseball with 48 barrels.
Buy or Sell?
Clearly, there is a need to continue to rebuild this team from the ground up. Luckily, the Angels have Jo Adell who should join Trout in the outfield as soon as 2020. But, selling a player like Kole Calhoun to a contender that doesn’t want to give up a lot could help this franchise.Embed from Getty Images
Seattle Mariners 39-55 (22 Games Back)
If you looked at the Mariners after the first two weeks, there probably would be a lot more to say positive about this team. But as the All-Star Break is among us, the Mariners do have some positives. Before the injury, Mitch Haniger seemed to show that he was not a one-hit-wonder. But, the biggest positive should be the Mariners are the clear winner of the Edwin Diaz trade. Robinson Cano has continued to underachieve in his first season in Queens, and Edwin Diaz has imploded over the last two months. With Seattle acquiring two first-round picks (Justin Dunn and Jared Kelenic) from the Mets over the last three years, the rebuild is officially off to a great start in the Pacific Northwest.
Unfortunately, no one aspect of the Mariners team in 2019 has been successful. In terms of offensive production, the Mariners’ offense leads all of baseball in strikeouts with 911. Sadly, their pitching is not much better. Overall, the Mariners have the second-worst team ERA with 5.17. And while Edwin Diaz hasn’t fared well in New York, Seattle’s bullpen has the fourth most blown save in baseball with 18.
Team MVP – Daniel Vogelbach
Daniel Vogelbach might be the only glimmer of hope you can see at T-Mobile Park this year. The lone All-Star selection for Seattle, Vogelbach has become a fan favorite due to his size and his propensity to hit balls to the moon. Vogelbach has slugged 21 home runs and has shown some life in an otherwise lifeless offense.
Buy or Sell?
This should be an easy answer but it is very complicated. Obviously, you should sell what you can to add to a growing farm system (Kyle Lewis, Justus Sheffield, Logan Gilbert, etc) but the problem lies in who would a contender want? Probably the most appealing player would be Tim Beckham, who is a free agent after the 2020 season. With that being said, what price would a contending team who wants Tim Beckham pay? Clearly, Beckham is not commanding a haul of prospects, so Seattle needs to figure out exactly if that possible deal helps them in the long run.
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