Stock Up, Stock Down for Dodgers’ Top 10 Prospects for Week 21



There are only two weeks to go until September arrives, at which point teams around the league are permitted to expand their rosters from 25 players to 40 for the final month of the season. 

With the injury bug suddenly latching onto the Los Angeles Dodgers in August, it's becoming more apparent that the organization may need to turn to the farm in order to plug some holes.

After all, general manager Ned Colletti refused to part with his top minor leaguers at the trade deadline. Although he probably wasn't expecting injuries to force his hand, Colletti can take solace in his ability to tap into the raw talent that may not have been there had the Dodgers gone all-in on David Price.

Here's the latest look at how Los Angeles' top 10 prospects are faring with September just around the corner.

Begin Slideshow

Will Felix Hernandez Be the Latest to Steal AL MVP from Mike Trout?



Mike Trout is 23 years old. He's playing in just his third full big league season. He couldn't love the '80s, because he never knew them.

So it's probably unfair to say he's overdue for an MVP Award. You could make a case, though, that the Los Angeles Angels outfielder has been robbed of the honor.

In 2012 and again last season, Miguel Cabrera took home the prize. It's hard—no, make that impossible—to say the Detroit Tigers slugger wasn't deserving.

Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012 with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. He followed that up with a .348 batting average, good for another batting title, plus 44 home runs and 137 RBI in 2013.

Yet Trout was arguably the more complete player each year.

He didn't match Miggy's Triple Crown stats in either 2012 (.326 AVG, 30 HR, 83 RBI) or 2013 (.323 AVG, 27 HR, 97 RBI). But he did other things better each season—like playing good-to-great defense and stealing 49 and 33 bases, respectively—and posted a higher WAR than Cabrera in 2012 (10.8 to 7.2) and 2013 (8.9 to 7.5).

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto told Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com in 2012, "If there is a definition of the Most Valuable Player, I think Mike Trout's picture would be next to it."

That's not to claim that WAR (or stolen bases, or glove work) are the ultimate measure of a player. Or, again, that Cabrera didn't earn his trophies.

But Trout supporters have a legitimate gripe. Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan spelled it out last November after Cabrera's second win (Trout finished second both times):

My case for Trout has nothing to do with WAR. It has to do with tangible facts that modern metrics have helped teach us. Like, fielding does matter, and even if we cannot measure it with exact precision, some combination of scouting reports and metrics gives us an accurate hierarchy. And accordingly, position matters as well; a center fielder provides greater value than a third baseman, who is more important than a first baseman, and so on. Keeping track of every baserunning intricacy lets us know it wasn't just Trout's steals that dwarfed Cabrera's impact on the basepaths. Trout took an extra base on teammates' hits twice as often as Cabrera did, and those bases add up to runs.

OK, that's the past. In the here and now, Trout is again squarely in the MVP conversation. His .289 batting average entering play Monday doesn't jump out, but he's among the American League leaders in home runs (27) and RBI (86).

And he leads the AL with a 166 OPS+ (a stat that adjusts for a player's ballpark) and leads all of baseball with 257 total bases.

He's been, in other words, a total player. Yet—cue deja vu—it might not be enough.

Cabrera won't stand between Trout and an MVP this year; he's having another All-Star campaign, but his numbers are down across the board.

Felix Hernandez, on the other hand, might.

The Seattle Mariners ace surrendered two runs in five innings in his most recent start, a 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers. It ended an MLB record-setting streak of 16 starts with at least seven innings pitched and two runs or fewer allowed, per SportsCenter.

Even with that "hiccup," King Felix is enjoying a stellar season.

His 1.99 ERA and 0.87 WHIP pace the AL. And his 6.0 WAR is identical to Trout's.

The usual caveats about pitchers—they only contribute every five days, they already have their own award—apply. But pitchers have won the MVP before, most recently another Detroit Tiger, Justin Verlander in 2011.

Dave Cameron at FanGraphs thinks Hernandez has a convincing MVP case, even if he's not sure the dominant right-hander will win:

While Trout has been the endorsed candidate of the nerd crowd for the last few years, I'm guessing most of us are probably more interested in rewarding starting pitchers as MVPs than the BBWAA has historically been, and if the gap between Felix and Trout grows, we could be the ones arguing against Trout as MVP this year, with the voters giving him a trophy in a year where he's maybe not the most deserving candidate.

There are other names in the mix, like Hernandez's teammate, Robinson Cano, and Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox. Right now, though, Trout and Hernandez are the front-runners.

One edge Trout enjoys over seasons past? The Angels are winning.

The Halos finished in third place in the AL West in both 2012 and 2013. This year they're tied for the best record in baseball and sit percentage points ahead of the Oakland A's entering play Monday.

Whether they win the division or claim a hard-luck wild-card berth, the Angels will almost certainly be a part of the postseason picture.

Fair or not, MVP voters like a guy who plays for a winner. Trout does. Then again, so does Hernandez; if everything were settled today, the Mariners would also be in the playoffs.

Mike Trout is 23 years old. He's got time. The question is whether that time is now.

 

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Stock Up, Stock Down for Cincinnati Reds’ Top 10 Prospects for Week 19



After struggling a week ago, the top prospects in the Cincinnati Reds' farm system played great as a whole this week. 

Michael Lorenzen was roughed up, but the rest of the young arms pitched well. Top prospect Robert Stephenson bounced back nicely from a rough start last week. 

On the hitting side, Jesse Winker is still recovering from the wrist injury he suffered in a car crash. Alex Blandino continued his hot streak, and Phil Ervin showed some signs of life in what has been an otherwise forgettable season for the 22-year-old.

Let's take a look back at the week that was for the Reds' top 10 prospects.

 

Rankings are courtesy of the official website of the Cincinnati Reds.

Begin Slideshow

Michael Cuddyer Hits for 2nd Career Cycle in 10-5 Win over Reds



Colorado Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer wasted little time getting back into a hitting groove after a long stint on the disabled list, as the two-time All-Star hit for the cycle for the second time in his career in the Rockies' 10-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.

The team's Twitter account first relayed the news:

It's a remarkable performance for Cuddyer considering the veteran outfielder hadn't played a game for the club since a June 5 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

ESPN Stats & Info pointed out that this is the first cycle of the 2014 MLB season:

Cuddyer got the hard part out of the way early, tripling in his first at-bat in the bottom of the first inning. He then added a solo home run in the sixth inning and a single in the seventh.

The 35-year-old finished off the cycle in style, posting a two-run double in the eighth inning to complete the rare feat and put the game out of reach for his opponents.  

Fox 31 Denver's Raul Martinez liked the way the entire team performed on Sunday night:

After the game, Cuddyer talked about his epic return to the lineup, via Thomas Harding of MLB.com.

"I always say no matter what your record is or where you are in the standings, it's always more fun to smile after a game than it is to frown," Cuddyer said. "We were able to smile after two games today."

It's a bright spot in what has been an abysmal season for the Colorado Rockies. The team's record stands at 49-75 after Sunday night's victory over the Reds.

They are mired in last place in the NL West and are currently 20 games back of first place. Before a torn labrum recently cut his season short, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki had been phenomenal, putting up MVP-like numbers, but his Herculean efforts weren't enough to carry the team to victory very often.

Hopefully, this performance is a sign that Cuddyer is fully healed and can give the team a second star to count on heading into the final stretch of this season. He's been a stud since moving to the Rockies in 2012 and boasts a .331 average in 33 games this year. Cuddyer's contract is up at the end of the season, and he may need a strong finish if the Rockies are going to consider re-signing him.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Atlanta Braves: Those Players Trying to Save Their Jobs for 2015



Through a down second half, the Atlanta Braves are not out of the 2014 playoff picture just yet, but it couldn't hurt to take a first peek at some possible roster moves for 2015.

Atlanta has a number of talented, entrenched players on its team. Therefore, there are few specific starting spots "up for grabs" when discussing next season.

Evan Gattis and Freddie Freeman are not going anywhere at catcher and first base, respectively. They are supremely talented hitters who are adequate enough with the glove to demand everyday at-bats. The same result is arrived at but from the opposite direction for Andrelton Simmons and Jason Heyward. Both are so good defensively and in the other parts of their games that a weak bat can be overcome. With Heyward especially, all that's lacking for an all-around special player is consistent power at the plate.

Justin Upton is also a very good hitter signed through next season who the Braves would have trouble topping with a replacement, and with that, over half of Atlanta's everyday lineup is set for the long haul.

The pitching staff has some pieces set in stone as well. Julio Teheran, despite a poor second half of his own this season, is a young, elite starting pitcher. Alex Wood is also just scratching the surface of what he can contribute. Craig Kimbrel remains one of the very best closers in all of baseball, despite the high walk total in 2014.

Otherwise, here are the players on the lookout for their job security heading into the stretch run of this season.

Begin Slideshow

Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright Reaches 15 Wins for 4th Time in Career



St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright picked up his 15th win of the season in Sunday's 7-6 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Though he locked up the fourth 15-win campaign of his career, Wainwright turned in a lackluster outing by his own lofty standards. He allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits and a walk over seven innings, numbers that would be decent if not for the fact that he was facing the offensively inept Padres.

In fact, since shutting out the Chicago Cubs in seven innings of work on July 27, Wainwright has looked surprisingly ordinary over his last four starts, as his ERA has ballooned from 1.92 to a still-excellent 2.40.

However, the Cardinals likely aren't too concerned given that Wainwright is rather proven as one of the most consistent pitchers in all of baseball.

The owner of a 3.03 career ERA, Wainwright has now won 15 or more games in four of his last five seasons, falling short in only 2012, when he recorded 14 victories after missing the entire 2011 campaign in the aftermath of Tommy John surgery.

That surgery was really the only that that's slowed the 32-year-old righty down since he joined the St. Louis rotation in 2007. In addition to his sparkling 3.03 career ERA, Wainwright owns a 114-64 record, good for a dominant .640 winning percentage.

Now tied with Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto for the major league lead in wins, Wainwright needs just five more to record the second 20-win season of his career. He previously accomplished the feat in 2010 and fell just one victory shy in both 2009 and 2013.

Luckily for Wainwright, his next matchup is scheduled for Saturday against the woeful Philadelphia Phillies, who, according to CBS Sports' fantasy section, are expected to pitch the middling (at best) David Buchanan.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Mike Scioscia Says Josh Hamilton Isn’t the Same Player He Was with Rangers



The Los Angeles Angels tied the Oakland Athletics atop the AL West (and MLB) on Saturday for the first time this season, but Mike Scioscia isn't happy with everyone's performance.   

Prior to Sunday's contest against the Texas Rangers, the 55-year-old skipper aimed some particularly critical words in the direction of star outfielder Josh Hamilton, via The Dallas Morning News' Gerry Fraley:

"Josh is not the same that we saw when we were looking at the other dugout," Scioscia said. "He's not in the batter's box with the confidence we know he has. He's not attacking the ball like he can. He's working hard to try to find it...but we need him to do what he's capable of doing, or close to that."

It's not exactly conventional for a manager to publicly call out a player in the midst of his team's four-game winning streak, but it's likely just an attempt to light a fire under the 33-year-old. 

Hamilton, who got off to a scorching start to the 2014 MLB season before tearing a ligament in his thumb, has been atrocious as of late. In August, he's hitting .189/.271/.358 with two home runs, three walks and 24 strikeouts in 14 games. In his last two games, he has been K'd seven times in nine at-bats. 

As the Orange County Register's Pedro Moura noted, the strikeouts have been especially concerning:

On the season, Hamilton is hitting .266/.339/.414 with eight home runs and a 116 OPS+, per Baseball-Reference.com. So it hasn't totally been a lost season, but it's not what the Angels were imagining when they threw $125 million at him prior to the 2013 season. 

It's probably time for Scioscia to stop hoping for the Texas version of Hamilton—the one who won MVP and had an OPS of .952 from 2010 through 2012—to reappear. But something resembling an above-replacement-level player would suffice.

The Angels have trudged along without him producing in the last month, and they now have a 98.4 percent chance to crack the postseason, per FanGraphs.

Come playoff time, though, the Halos will need more from their cleanup hitter, especially with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols creating so many opportunities in front of him. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Red Sox’s David Ortiz Becomes 3rd Player in Franchise History with 400 Home Runs



With his first of two home runs in Saturday's 10-7 win over the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz became the third player in franchise history to hit 400 home runs in a Red Sox uniform, per MLB Milestones.

Ortiz joins Boston legends Ted Williams (521) and Carl Yastrzemski (452), who both played their entire careers with the Red Sox.

Following his second home run in Saturday's game, Ortiz finds himself just 51 homers shy of Yastrzemski on the all-time franchise list. The 38-year-old DH could perhaps make a run at Yaz late in the 2015 season, but he'd likely need to play into 2016 to surpass the Hall of Famer.

Though Ortiz is still going strong in his 17th major league campaign, he's highly unlikely to hit 120 more homers—the number he would need in order to match Williams for first place on the franchise list.

However, Ortiz has a shot to pass Williams on the non-franchise-specific home runs list, as Big Papi hit 58 long balls for the Minnesota Twins from 1997 to 2002. With 459 career homers between both teams, Papi is just 41 short of 500 and 62 short of Williams, who currently sits in a three-way tie with Frank Thomas and Willie McCovey for 18th place on the all-time list.

Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, who entered Sunday's action with 515 career homers, will likely pass Williams and Co. for sole possession of 18th place before the end of this season.

As for Ortiz, the aging slugger hasn't quite matched his performance from recent seasons, but his .250/.343/.500 batting line is still excellent by the standards of most players. He ranks fourth in the American League with 28 homers and has a league-leading 91 RBI.

Per MLB Stat of the Day, Ortiz's 45 career multi-homer games are good for 20th in major league historyjust one shy of the 46 compiled by both Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Indians’ Corey Kluber Records 8th Double-Digit Strikeout Game of Season



Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Cory Kluber is the first Indians hurler since Dennis Eckersley in 1976 to have as many as eight games in a single season with 10 or more strikeouts, per MLB Stat of the Day.

Kluber went 7.2 strong innings Friday night against the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles, allowing one earned run while recording exactly 10 strikeouts. He was unfortunate not to factor into the decision, but the Indians would eventually pull out a 2-1 victory in 11 innings.

Per Lee Sinins, creator of the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia (via DaillyGammons.com), Kluber's eight outings with double-digit strikeouts tie him with Eckersley (1976) and Herb Score (1955) for ninth place on the Indians' franchise list in this somewhat obscure category. Sam McDowell is responsible for five of the top 10 seasons on the list, including the two leading campaigns of 13 and 17 double-digit strikeout games in 1968 and 1965, respectively.

This is only Kluber's second full season in the majors after he appeared in a total of 15 games between the 2011 and 2012 campaigns. Last year, Kluber went 11-5 with a 3.86 ERA over 147.1 innings, recording just two double-digit strikeout games among his 24 starts.

The 28-year-old righty has already collected a career-high 13 wins and 197 strikeouts in 2014 as the only reliable member of a shaky Indians staff. Relief pitcher Scott Atchison is second on the team with six wins, followed by starting pitcher Josh Tomlin, who spent all of April in the minors and now owns a 5-8 record through 16 starts (18 games).

All stats courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Reds’ Aroldis Chapman Sees Strikeout Streak End at 49 Appearances



Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman saw his MLB record of 49 consecutive relief appearances with a strikeout come to an end Friday night, per the team's official Twitter feed.

Chapman entered Friday's game against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning looking for his 26th save of the season while protecting a one-run Cincinnati lead. Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario flied out to center for the first out, followed by a walk to shortstop Charlie Culberson. Rockies pinch-hitter Michael McKenry then lined out to Reds first baseman Jack Hannahan, who stepped on the bag to double up Culberson for the final out of the game. 

Chapman's historic streak—covering 50.2 innings—started nearly one year ago on Aug. 21, 2013. His 49 consecutive appearances with at least one strikeout were 10 more than the previous streak of 39 appearances, set by Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter with the Chicago Cubs from June 1 to Oct. 2, 1977, per MLB.com's Manny Randhawa.

Chapman allowed just nine earned runs during the streak for a stingy ERA of 1.60. He allowed an earned run in only six of the 49 appearances, and four of those earned runs came in one game, June 20 versus the Toronto Blue Jays.

During the streak, the Cuban flame-thrower amassed 100 K's among his 152 outs, primarily using his famous fastball to post an astounding 17.76 K/9. He walked only 21 batters and allowed just one home run.

Chapman saved 32 games during his remarkable run, also picking up one win, three losses and two blown saves while facing 17 of the other 29 MLB franchises.

 

*All stats courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Michael Wacha Faces Interesting End to 2014 with St. Louis Cardinals



The St. Louis Cardinals entered the 2014 season with Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha poised to lead the rotation forward.  Wainwright, the established veteran, was ready to resume the role of staff ace, a role he had been groomed for over his career.  Wacha looked to build on his success in the 2013 postseason and prove that he would be the future ace of the team.

The season started well for Wacha.  Through his first 15 starts, the 23-year-old had been awarded five victories and compiled an earned run average below 3.00.  After earning his fifth win on June 17, Wacha was placed on the disabled list.  

Eventually, the young right-hander was diagnosed with a stress reaction to his throwing shoulder, a condition that very few have suffered from.  His summer would be consumed by MRI exams and conditioning efforts.

The team was cautious in its expectations for the remainder of the season.  Many felt that 2014 was finished for Wacha.  The team frequently stated that a September return was the best anyone could hope for.  Wacha simply kept to his regimen and kept working on getting better.

Wacha reached a new, important milestone on August 16, throwing a bullpen session from a mound for the first time since that June 17 start.  It was a big stepping stone, even if the throwing session itself was a mild one.  Wacha shared his satisfaction and the details of the throwing session with Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

It felt good to get back out there on the mound.  Arm felt great. It was 30 pitches. Pretty light throws but I’m happy with it.

It’s always good to get a new milestone. It’s one of those deals (that) whenever you’re cleared to throw, it’s a big day for you. Whenever you’re cleared to get your first (bull)pen in, it’s a big day. I know it’s still a long road to go.

The news is encouraging but leads to a different question altogether.  What happens if Wacha can come back this season?

The first issue would be getting Wacha rehabilitation work in a competitive environment. MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch examines the logistical problems facing the Cardinals and Wacha:

Whether he heads out on a rehab assignment will be determined by whether he progresses quickly enough to join one of the affiliates before the Minor League regular season ends on Sept. 1. Wacha could also build up his arm strength by throwing simulated games in St. Louis.

The bigger issue may be what to do with Wacha if he does get healthy enough to pitch this season.  The Cardinals were active at the trade deadline, securing John Lackey and Justin Masterson to solidify the starting rotation.  They joined Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller in that rotation.  Wacha would created a six-man competition for five slots.

Wainwright is the ace of the staff and is obviously not going anywhere unless he is hurt.  Lynn has shown positive signs throughout the season and has proven that he belongs in the rotation.  Lackey was not brought over from the Boston Red Sox to assume a bullpen role.  

Indeed, it may come down to a choice between Masterson and Miller if Wacha is to rejoin the rotation.

Miller was on the roster but virtually unheard from during the 2013 postseason (9.00 ERA in one inning pitched).  Recently, he was sent to the bullpen to work through some of his control issues.  

Masterson has had struggles since joining the team as well (6.00 ERA in 15 innings with St. Louis).  However, he does seem to be finding his footing and performing better as of late, tossing at least six innings in two of his last three starts.

Wacha could return to help solidify the bullpen for the end of the season and potentially the postseason.  It would give him work without disrupting the rotation.  It would also allow him to rebuild some strength while still helping the team.

Overall, every general manager in baseball will tell you that having too many quality pitchers is a dream come true.  If the Cardinals are in the last few weeks of their season and faced with finding enough work for a number of good pitchers, they are likely in a very good spot going forward.

 

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseballFollow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Young Fan Throws Ball Back onto Field at Cardinals Game



One fan made a great catch at the St. Louis Cardinals game on Saturday at Busch Stadium against the San Diego Padres, but his kind gesture afterward backfired.

After making the catch, the fan decided to give the ball to a young kid, but the child ended up throwing the ball back onto the field. Fortunately, the fan was able to get the ball back.

[MLB.com, h/t Deadspin]

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Fantasy Baseball 2014: Updating Top 150 Big Board with 1 Month to Go



With the 2014 baseball season nearing the end, the fantasy version of the sport still needs all kinds of attention, lest we fickle fantasy team owners get frustrated and cranky. And that just isn't good for anyone.

With that in mind, it's time for an update of the Big Board, which focuses on evaluating players' values over the rest of the season. Below is a ranking of the top 150 players from now until the end of September. With opinions and circumstances changing since the last iteration, including player performances, transactions and injuries, a refreshing is in order.

Think of it as your security blanket in an otherwise insecure world.

Before getting to that, though, some housekeeping is needed, as this lengthy list of the top talents comes with a few key qualifications. First, everything is based on 10- or 12-team mixed leagues with standard 5x5 rotisserie scoring for hitters (BA, R, HR, RBI, SB) and pitchers (W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV).

Second, lineup construction accounts for 22 active-roster positions, consisting of one each for catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, corner infield, middle infield and utility, along with five outfielders and nine pitchers.

And third, to be eligible at a particular position, players must have played at least 20 games there in 2013 or 10 games in 2014.

With that out of the way, get ready to count down, starting with No. 150 and working all the way to No. 1.

 

Ins and Outs

This time around, seven players fell off the Big Board:

  • Troy Tulowitzki: Season-ending hip surgery? Off the Board.
  • Carlos Gonzalez: Season-ending knee surgery? Off the Board.
  • Anibal Sanchez: While Sanchez's oblique injury isn't expected to keep him out for the rest of the year, it should have him sidelined until September. That's long enough to push a borderline start-him-every-time-out arm outside the top 150.
  • Justin Verlander: Everyone should officially be over the idea of Verlander coming around, especially now that he's missing a couple starts with shoulder inflammation.
  • Alex Rios: He's been banged up of late and has exactly one home run since May 14. You can drop him if you haven't already.
  • Mark Teixeira: If you desperately need power, Teixeira still can provide it, but he and the rest of the Yankees lineup have been in a massive slump lately.
  • Shin-Soo Choo: After a season ruined by an early ankle injury combined with ailments to just about every one of his Rangers teammates, it's time to get off the Choo train.

The seven newbies replacing them, highlighted on the Big Board, are:

  • Kole Calhoun: Following an early August slump, Calhoun has picked it up, going 15-for-34 (.441) with two homers and seven RBI over his past seven games.
  • Torii Hunter: One of these years, the 39-year-old Hunter will slow down. Just not this year.
  • Jake Odorizzi: Here are Odorizzi's digits since early May: 3.00 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 120 strikeouts in 102.0 innings.
  • Dallas Keuchel: The southpaw has hurled 15 quality starts in 23 outings and has never given up more runs than innings pitched, which makes him consistent and safe.
  • Danny Duffy: Somehow Duffy is sporting a 2.60 ERA and 1.09 WHIP on a (surprise) first-place team—hello, Royals!—and is still only 8-10 on the year. Which goes to show: Wins are flukey.
  • Josh Harrison: OK, Harrison, you've done enough to earn a spot on this Board—for now—because a .307 average along with double digits in homers (10) and steals (17) can't be overlooked forever.
  • Chris Carter: The slugger is still whiffing 30.8 percent of the time on the year, but a furious August (.367 BA, 8 HR, 20 RBI) has him up to a .236 average with 29 homers and 69 RBI.

 

On the Bubble

Because you're probably wondering about some players just outside the top 150, disregarding those who fell off this week, that list includes:

  • Henderson Alvarez, Lucas Duda, Mark Trumbo, Jake McGee, Cody Allen, Mark Melancon, Fernando Rodney, Wily Peralta, Neil Walker, Mike Morse, Ervin Santana, Wil Myers, Angel Pagan, Marcell Ozuna, Kyle Lohse, Kolten Wong, Kevin Gausman, Oscar Taveras and Jacob deGrom

Keep in mind: When a few players at the same position are bunched together—like starters Jose Quintana, Rick Porcello, Alex Wood, Jake Odorizzi and Yordano Ventura—it means they're more or less in the same boat, with no clear favorite at the moment.

That can and will change as more information, news, injuries and performances come to light. But for now, when players are grouped, consider their value to your team based more on specific category need than overall ranking.

 

Risers and Fallers

The right-most column marked "LAST" on the Big Board indicates a player who rose or fell in the rankings by more than 10 spots in either direction from the previous edition. Similar to the new additions, players who saw their value improve by that margin are highlighted.

Here are the reasons for some of the biggest risers this week:

  • Max Scherzer: Have you seen what Scherzer's been up to lately? Click and find out.
  • Edwin Encarnacion: After missing six weeks with a quad injury, Encarnacion is back and ready to hurt baseballs again. Remember, he can do damage in a hurry. He hit about 74 homers in May. (OK, it was actually 16, but still...)
  • Dee Gordon: The MLB stolen base leader—with 56!—already has eight thefts in August, his highest total since 21 in May. He needed to be higher.
  • Garrett Richards: Has any pitcher had a bigger breakout 2014 than Richards? The only pitchers who have been as good or better than Richards in wins (13), ERA (2.53), WHIP (1.01) and strikeouts (164) are—get this—Johnny Cueto, Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez. Seriously.
  • Melky Cabrera: No, all of Cabrera's production didn't come early on. He's hitting .366 with 19 runs, four homers and 22 RBI in 22 games since the break.
  • Ian Desmond: He may be batting only .248 overall, but Desmond will set a career high in RBI (72 closing in on 80) and perhaps even homers (20 closing in on 25). Oh, and with six more swipes, he'll have his third straight 20-20 campaign—all while doing as much at shortstop.
  • Matt Kemp: Let's not say he's back to being the Kemp of old, but his .304 average, seven home runs, 20 RBI and three steals (and .950 OPS) in 28 second-half games is a very nice turnaround.
  • Alex Cobb: In his last eight starts, Cobb owns a 1.93 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 54 strikeouts in 51.1 frames. He's also 5-0.
  • Corey Dickerson: That CarGo guy we mentioned earlier? Yeah, he's out for the year, so Dickerson should be seeing regular run the rest of the way, and he does some of everything (.322 BA, 52 R, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 8 SB).

Meanwhile, the big fallers dropped because of the following:

  • Adam Wainwright: While Waino is still an every-time-out kinda guy, he has been a bit shaky since the break with a 4.65 ERA and 47 baserunners in 31.0 innings.
  • Ryan Braun: He did manage to homer off Kershaw Saturday, which is something not many have done this year, but since Braun's average peaked at .327 on June 1, he's hitting just .248 with six homers in 61 games.
  • Yu Darvish: A disabled list stint for elbow inflammation comes at a bad time for owners of MLB's strikeouts-per-nine leader (11.4).
  • Hanley Ramirez: After dealing with all sorts of injuries and ailments all year long, Ramirez finally hit the DL with an oblique strain. It's just not his year.
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu: His hip/glute injury might not be serious, but it was enough to put Ryu on the shelf, which is enough to knock him down a peg on the Board.
  • Evan Gattis: For a second straight year, a midseason injury killed Gattis' momentum, as he's hitting just .217 with two homers and seven RBI in 22 games since coming back. 
  • Josh Hamilton: Imagine how great the Angels offense would be if Hamilton (.266 BA, 35 R, 8 HR, 35 RBI in 72 games) was, you know, good or, heck, even halfway decent.
  • Manny Machado: When one's right knee collapses mid-swing, causing one to go down in a heap of pain and resulting in a sprain, one will also go down several spots on the Board.
  • Homer Bailey: Just when Bailey was pitching his best (1.61 ERA, 0.82 WHIP since the break), elbow inflammation crops up and puts the rest of his campaign in jeopardy.

 

Wrapping Up

At this point, you're either in it or you're getting ready for fantasy football.

If you fall under the latter umbrella, well, better luck with the pigskin. But if you're still hanging around and trying to place in—or even win—your fantasy baseball league, then the advice is simple: Do. Not. Get. Distracted.

August is a brutal month to make it through. You're trying to enjoy the last part of summer, while also hoping to figure out who Drew Brees' third-favorite option behind Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston is going to be (Kenny Stills? Robert Meachem?? Brandin Cooks???) in time for your drafts.

And then September gets even crazier as football's regular season begins and baseball rosters expand from 25 to 40 players, giving owners everywhere way, way too many names to try to keep track of.

So bear down and buckle up, because if you've made it this far, what's another month? Especially if it means victory and bragging rights in the end.

 

Statistics are accurate through Aug. 16 and come from MLB.comBaseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, except where otherwise noted.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

David Wright Injury: Updates on Mets Star’s Shoulder and Return



Updates from Monday, Aug. 18

Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com provides David Wright's status for Monday's game:

 

Original Text

New York Mets third baseman David Wright was held out of the lineup for Sunday's game against the Chicago Cubs after leaving Saturday night's contest due to soreness in his left shoulder

The Mets shared their lineup on Twitter, which features corner infielder Eric Campbell filling in at third base:

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Wright's absence and return (via Adam Rubin of ESPN):

Cubs pitcher Dan Straily hit Wright in the lower shoulder area in the sixth inning of New York's 7-3 win. Wright initially stayed in the game to run the bases but was removed when the Mets re-entered the field for the top half of the seventh inning. As he will be Sunday, he was replaced in the contest by Campbell.

Wright has been bothered by shoulder issues for much of the season. The 31-year-old mainstay has managed to fight off the pain to play in 113 games but has seen his performance dip near career-worst levels. He is batting .273/.331/.380 with eight home runs and 56 RBI this season, his 11th with the Mets.

"It's been fine," Wright told reporters of his shoulder Saturday night. "I'll see how it feels in the morning. As soon as I felt it hit that spot, it just [stinks] out of my whole back, it had to be that one area."

The Mets host Chicago for one more game Monday before traveling west for a five-game road trip. It is unclear at this time whether he'll be healthy enough to make the trip or if the Mets will hold him out. Collins told reporters he'll be out through "at least" Sunday, with plans to re-evaluate the situation day-to-day.

New York enters Sunday 59-65, having fallen six games out of the NL Wild Card race. With the playoffs looking like a long shot coming into the season, the Mets may want to be as cautious as possible with Wright to avoid any longer-term complications.

Either way, with each passing day, Wright's 2014 campaign is beginning to mirror his injury-riddled one from three years prior.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Picking MLB’s Biggest Duds of the Week, Position by Position



This past week, MLB has had its share of magical moments, including a delay in a game between the Detroit Tigers and the Pittsburgh Pirates on account of birds. That’s right—two birds brought an at-bat between Vance Worley and Miguel Cabrera to a standstill.

For as whimsical as that brief moment was, however, not all is fine with this grand game. There were some showings that can only be described as duds.

Between fielding gaffes and players hurting their club’s chances of winning a baseball game, there were some wretched performances over the last seven days.

Here's a position-by-position look at MLB's biggest underachievers from the past week.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all traditional and advanced statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs and are accurate as of game time Sunday, August 17. 

Begin Slideshow

Dark Horses Who Could Shake Up Major MLB Award Races Down the Stretch



Because Major League Baseball's season is six months long, the last six weeks shouldn't make much of a difference with the major awards races.

But hey, you never know when the "Chipper Jones Effect" is going to happen.

Remember when Jones won the National League MVP in 1999? The key was him hitting .324 with a 1.124 OPS in his last 42 games. After not even making the NL All-Star squad, Jones' hot finish helped lead him to a decisive victory in the NL MVP voting over Jeff Bagwell.

So what the heck. Let's entertain the notion that dark horses in the Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards races might actually have a shot. That way we can zero in on which guys are worth watching.

 

AL Rookie of the Year

Current Favorite: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

With Masahiro Tanaka and George Springer sidelined with injuries, the AL Rookie of the Year race is all about Jose Abreu. The White Sox slugger is hitting .306 with an AL-best .962 OPS, not to mention 31 homers and 89 RBI.

Abreu's ROY candidacy isn't ironclad, though. Some voters could take issue with calling a 27-year-old Cuban import a "rookie." He also might be wearing down, having recently told Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today that the MLB season is getting to be "too much" for him.

If Abreu does falter, the AL Rookie of the Year race could be won by whoever finishes the season the hottest. So keep an eye on...

 

Dark Horse: Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays

You might know Odorizzi as one of the other guys the Rays got in the James Shields-for-Wil Myers trade. Unless you were watching him earlier this season, that is, in which case you'll know him as a generally terrible pitcher.

But things have changed since then. In 12 starts dating back to June 10, Odorizzi's been outstanding:

Further sweetening the deal is that the Rays are 8-4 in Odorizzi's last 12 starts. He's played a hand in their rise from the AL East cellar, a narrative that could later help him in the Rookie of the Year voting.

If Odorizzi does win the Rookie of the Year, Rays general manager Andrew Friedman is going to deserve some kind of award of his own. Getting two Rookies of the Year out of one trade is pretty good.

 

NL Rookie of the Year

Current Favorite: Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

Hamilton probably wouldn't have even been in the discussion in last year's loaded NL ROY race, but he's the best it has in 2014. The Reds speedster is batting a modest .265 with a .682 OPS, but his overall value is boosted by his 44 stolen bases and excellent defense in center field. 

But with just a .200 average since the All-Star break, Hamilton's ROY candidacy isn't getting any stronger. The door is open for guys like Jacob deGrom, Jesse Hahn, Gregory Polanco and...

 

Dark Horse: Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals

A couple of months ago, Wong was best known for being the guy who ended a World Series game by being picked off, and for being such a disappointment in April that the Cardinals sent him back to the minors.

When Wong returned to the majors in mid-May, he apparently returned angry with a .381 average and .911 OPS in his first 10 games. And after a brief cool-off period, Wong has continued to be a steady force at the plate since early July, taking the following numbers into Saturday's action:

In the process, Wong has raised his OPS from .586 to .700. If he can keep up his hot hitting, there's a chance his OPS will be pushing .800 by year's end.

And in a year when an .800 OPS is about as good as it gets for NL rookies, that could be enough.

 

AL Cy Young

Current Favorite: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

And it's really not much of a discussion. Even after a tough outing against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night, King Felix still has a 13-4 record, a 1.99 ERA and 197 strikeouts across 185.1 innings. 

However, Saturday's tough outing can't be totally ignored knowing that Hernandez faded at the end of the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Catching him might be possible, and one guy who looks up to the task is...

 

Dark Horse: Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

A quick glance at Kluber's numbers will tell you he's having a terrific season. The Indians right-hander is 13-6 with a 2.41 ERA and 197 strikeouts of his own in 179.1 innings, numbers that would look a lot more Cy Young-worthy without King Felix in the picture.

But here's the thing with these numbers: They're only getting better. Check out what Kluber has done in six second-half starts:

No other pitcher in MLB has been even close to as good as Kluber since the break. That's the opinion of FanGraphs WAR, anyway, which says Kluber's already been worth 2.3 WAR in the second half.

And Kluber might not be the only one who rides a strong second-half surge to a surprise Cy Young victory. There's a guy in the National League who could also do so.

 

NL Cy Young

Current Favorite: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Like with the AL Cy Young, it's really not much of a discussion. Despite missing a month with an injury, Kershaw took a 1.78 ERA in 19 starts into his Saturday night outing against the Milwaukee Brewers, with a 14-2 record and 163 strikeouts in 136.1 innings to go with it. 

Kershaw is not without real competition, however. Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright have been lurking in his shadow for a while now, and one guy who's forcing himself into the NL Cy Young discussion is...

 

Dark Horse: Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies

Like Kershaw, Hamels is another guy who had injury troubles earlier in the season. But he's shaken those off to post a 2.44 ERA in 22 starts, with 149 strikeouts in 151.1 innings pitched to boot. 

But you know how Kluber's been scorching hot since the break? Hamels has basically been the National League version of that guy in his six post-break starts:

And it's worth knowing that Hamels' hot pitching extends back much further than the All-Star break. In 15 starts since the beginning of June, he's racked up a 1.60 ERA in 106.2 innings. He's punched out 105 and failed to go at least seven innings only twice.

Hamels is going to need some help from Kershaw, Cueto and Wainwright if he wants to win the Cy Young. But if they do happen to slump in unison while he continues his hot pitching, one of the more under-appreciated pitchers in the league will finally get his due.

 

AL MVP

Current Favorite: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

Unlike in the past two seasons, this isn't a controversial stance. Beyond leading AL position players in WAR (according to FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.com), Trout has a .937 OPS, 27 homers and 86 RBI. All in service of an Angels team that's 72-49.

The trouble is, however, that Trout has been slumping of late. His OPS since the break is well under .800, and you have to go back to last Sunday (Aug. 10) to find his last hit.

The most obvious candidates to catch Trout in the AL MVP race are the Seattle Mariners' dynamic duo of Hernandez and Robinson Cano, as well as Oakland A's third baseman Josh Donaldson. But another candidate who could start generating some MVP buzz is... 

 

Dark Horse: Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals

Those of you who are into WAR might be sitting there saying, "No duh." And rightfully so, as FanGraphs puts Gordon's WAR at 5.5. That's 0.1 points off Trout's 5.6 WAR.

And it's not just WAR that Gordon is rocking these days. Ever since the break, his bat has been on fire:

And this is before Gordon went out and collected two more hits on Saturday. His overall average is now .282 and his overall OPS is up to .790.

At the rate he's going, Gordon has a fair shot at finishing the season with a .300 average and an OPS around .850. If he can do that while also leading the Royals to their first postseason berth since 1985, winning the MVP will be surprisingly realistic.

An even bigger upset, however, is conceivably possible in the Senior Circuit.

 

NL MVP

Current Favorite: Uh...Well...

Heck, I don't know. Kershaw is probably the leading NL MVP candidate with Andrew McCutchen on the DL, but McCutchen shouldn't be considered out of it yet. And then there are guys like Giancarlo Stanton, Jonathan Lucroy and Yasiel Puig to consider. You can take your pick, really.

With so many leading candidates, it's hard to favor a dark horse. But if one guy can do it, how about...

 

Dark Horse: Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates

We all laughed when Mike Matheny named Harrison to the NL All-Star team. He was having a nice season and everything, but it was hardly All-Star-worthy.

He must have heard us laughing. It's the only way to explain the havoc he's wreaked since the break, taking the following numbers into Saturday's action:

And even these numbers don't really do Harrison's current value justice. His hot hitting is helping the Pirates withstand McCutchen's absence, and MLB.com's Andrew Simon was quick to note just how versatile Harrison has been on defense:

Given the wealth of strong candidates for the NL MVP award, I'll definitely stop short of calling Harrison a good bet for the award. 

But this being baseball, you shouldn't need me to tell you that stranger things have happened. A couple of months from now, maybe we'll find ourselves renaming the Chipper Jones Effect the "Josh Harrison Effect."

 

Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.

If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.

Follow zachrymer on Twitter

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Felix Hernandez’s Historic Pitching Stretch Ends After 5-Inning Start vs. Tigers



Felix Hernandez had to fall back to earth sometime. The Seattle Mariners ace watched his streak of 16 starts with two or fewer runs over at least seven innings snapped on Saturday night against the Detroit Tigers, per SportsCenter:

Hernandez exited after pitching five innings and giving up two runs on seven hits. By the time he left, the Mariners were down 2-1. The M's were never able to get the bats going against Tigers starter David Price, eventually losing 4-2.

Prior to the game, Fox Sports' Jon Morosi had Hernandez's thoughts on facing Price and the Tigers:

According to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com, Hernandez was hit in the leg on a grounder by Ian Kinsler in the fourth inning. That likely contributed to his early exit.

King Felix suffered his first-ever loss at the hands of the Tigers. He entered Saturday night 9-0 in 11 starts against Detroit, per STATS:

No matter the result of the game, his road winless streak has extended to six starts. He's one loss or no-decision away from tying 2010's stretch of futility, per STATS:

Most starting pitchers wouldn't be too upset having gone five innings and surrendered two runs. For Hernandez, it's an off night.

The 28-year-old right-hander has been one of the best players in baseball this season. According to FanGraphs, his 6.2 WAR is higher than any other pitcher, or batter, for that matter. Hernandez already has one hand on his second American League Cy Young Award.

Some are thinking even bigger and making the argument that Hernandez should be in the Most Valuable Player discussion. Justin Verlander was the last pitcher to earn the honor, taking home the AL MVP in 2011.

Grantland's Jonah Keri is part of the group who believes Hernandez deserves consideration, along with Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw:

Both pitchers are enjoying transcendent seasons, both have solid MVP arguments thanks to world-beating streaks and seasons, and both have candidacies that benefit from WAR, an increasingly relied-upon stat. There are also plenty of arguments against both, from possibly unfair biases against pitchers to very reasonable cases for other great candidates, plus questions about the stats we can and should use to argue player value. And that’s all before factoring in some voters’ claim that an MVP must come from a playoff team, as if players have some magical ability to choose their teammates.

But if nothing else, let’s at least insert the two best pitchers on earth into the discussion for this year’s MVP awards. As soon as the season ends and the numbers are in, we can debate this all over again.

Hernandez will look to begin another historic streak in his next start, which is scheduled for Aug. 22 on the road against the Boston Red Sox.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com