The 2013 MLB season is now at the quarter-pole, and each team has had a chance to evaluate what's working and what's missing.
Typically, the month of May is one of assessment—general managers assess their offseason handiwork based on what they've seen in the first 40 games of the season. The coming weeks will be important as they make decisions that will affect their ballclubs for this season and beyond.
Many surprises and disappointments have made the first six weeks of play interesting to watch. But what is in store for the next two months or so?
Here are 50 predictions of things to expect before the 2013 MLB season takes a break for the All-Star game.
All statistics are current through May 13 games unless otherwise noted.
It's not like this is a news flash or anything, but Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is really good.
Goldschmidt belted three home runs last week, raising his total to 10 homers with 31 RBI. He's currently tied for fifth in long balls in MLB.
The Diamondbacks are holding their own offensively, ranking sixth in the National League in runs scored. Goldschmidt in the No. 3 hole in the batting order has helped significantly in that regard, and he's on a pace that has him easily cracking the 30 HR/100 RBI mark for the season.
At 25 years of age, Goldschmidt is no doubt becoming one of the elite first basemen in the majors.
Last week, the Arizona Diamondbacks were dealt a blow when it was announced that closer J.J. Putz was headed to the disabled list with elbow issues.
Even more concerning was the fact that this was the third time since 2008 that Putz had been diagnosed with issues involving his ulnar collateral ligament.
If it's determined over time that Putz would need season-ending surgery, the onus would fall on both David Hernandez and Heath Bell to close out games for the Diamondbacks.
Bell was triumphant in closing out games three times last week in successive outings, but on Sunday he wasted an outstanding performance from starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy by allowing the Philadelphia Phillies to tie it up in the top of the ninth inning.
Hernandez was successful in his lone chance last week, preserving a 3-2 victory against the Phillies on Friday.
For now, Bell is likely the closer moving forward. However, considering his miserable season last year with the Miami Marlins and his up-and-down performance thus far this year, manager Kirk Gibson won't hesitate to make a change if Bell proves not to be up to the task.
To say that Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is "slick-fielding" is akin to saying that B.J. Upton is a streaky hitter.
Some things are just obvious, and in watching Simmons field his position, it's more than clear that he's a genius defensively.
In fact, Simmons has yet to record an error through his first 35 games at the most demanding defensive position in baseball.
I feel safe in predicting he'll record at least one before the first half ends. But even then, it won't do anything to sully his already stellar reputation as a wizard with the glove.
As fellow B/R featured columnist Kerry Miller correctly pointed out in his article on Monday, Atlanta Braves center fielder B.J. Upton is the poster child for the term "streaky" in baseball.
Heading into play on Monday, Upton was hitting just .153 with three home runs. As Miller said about Upton last year, he had registered just seven home runs by the All-Star break before erupting in the second half.
Upton will never be confused for a batting title champion, but he will heat up enough to end the first half above the Mendoza line.
On Sunday, Wei-Yin Chen was forced to leave his start with an apparent oblique injury. He's currently listed as day-to-day.
The Orioles have used three starters for exactly one outing, and none of them were stellar. Josh Stinson, Zach Britton and Steve Johnson were all given a shot yet failed to provide anything close to a quality start.
Meanwhile, Jair Jurrjens has been dealing down at Triple-A Norfolk. He's posted a 4-1 record and 2.62 ERA in his seven starts thus far.
Considering the current issues facing the Orioles rotation, Jurrjens could be getting the call sooner rather than later to help out at the major league level. For Jurrjens, it could well be his last chance to prove he's finally past the woes that have plagued him since the second half of the 2011 season.
The Baltimore Orioles have not had much success with the back end of their rotation early in the 2013 season.
Things looked good for Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts at the start of the 2013 season. He was raking with a .417 average and finally seemed to be returning to his two-time All-Star form.
Another in a long line of injuries put an end to that optimism, however. Just three games into the new season, Roberts ruptured a tendon at the top of his right hamstring and had surgery to repair the tendon last week.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter told Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun that he remains optimistic that Roberts will return and contribute to his team.
“Hopefully he'll make the time period and be able towhere he left off and not have that in the back of his mind,” Showalter said. “I know what his goals are. He's very frustrated by it, as we are, but Brian Roberts is going to come back and make a contribution to this club this year. I've got a good feeling about that."
I, on the other hand, am not quite as confident as Showalter. Roberts' recovery time has been estimated at six weeks, which would have him back on the field by late June. Considering Roberts' track record over the past three-plus years, that's generous at best.
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz won his first six games before allegations of doctoring baseballs ensued.
Former pitcher and current journalist Dirk Hayhurst was the first to notice something supposedly amiss:
Forget the hair, I just saw video of Buchholz loading the ball with some Eddie Harris worthy slick'em painted up his left forearm. Wow.— Dirk Hayhurst (@TheGarfoose) May 2, 2013
For the next week, sunscreen lotion became a major topic of conversation among conspiracy theorists.
Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling pooh-poohed all the talk.
In an appearance with local radio station WEEI (h/t Masslive.com) Schilling said that the vast majority of pitchers use something to keep a better grip.
“Here’s the thing: I did it. And I did it for the same reasons Clay did it,” Schilling said. “I would tell you there is no ballpark harder to grip a baseball in than the SkyDome [Rogers Centre]. It is the hardest and the driest environment—for me it was—in the big leagues. I had no saliva, I had cotton mouth in that stadium all the time. You needed something, and it was to keep a grip."
Buchholz gave up four runs on seven hits in six innings following all the sunscreen hoopla and followed up with a two-run effort in seven innings against the Toronto Blue Jays in a no-decision on Saturday.
Buchholz will rebound to get a "grip" on his game, entering the break with at least 10 wins, a sub-2.00 ERA and a selection to the American League All-Star team.
Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo made some noise last week when it was announced he had signed a seven-year, $41 million contract.
Rizzo is making all kinds of noise with his bat as well.
So far in the month of May, Rizzo has hit .352 with one homer, eight RBI and a .867 OPS.
Shortstop Starlin Castro has a chance at the All-Star team, but he's been outplayed by both Troy Tulowitzki and Jean Segura thus far. Rizzo could find himself alone at Citi Field on July 16 in representing the Cubs.
Chicago Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol has a 5.14 ERA and 1.86 WHIP entering play on Monday. He's also been demoted from the closer's role in favor of Kevin Gregg.
He hasn't made an appearance in six days.
Marmol has effectively been buried in the bullpen, and it's only a matter of time before he's no longer a member of the roster.
In his blog last week, Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com voiced the same sentiment:
If releasing him (Marmol) isn’t an option then burying him on the bullpen bench certainly is. Manager Dale Sveum is right when he said recently Marmol is one of seven relievers the Cubs employ and they all have to play. But Marmol should be treated as No. 7 and pitch accordingly.
There will come a moment when the Cubs will need that No. 7 spot in the bullpen. If they're not comfortable using Marmol in that role, accommodations will be made.
The offense for the Chicago White Sox hasn't been clicking on all eight cylinders thus far in the 2013 season.
Heck, they're barely clicking on two cylinders right now.
Only the hapless Miami Marlins have scored fewer runs than the White Sox. An offense that features Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios has been rendered effectively punchless.
Dunn in particular is struggling mightily. After hitting .159 in 2011, he raised his average to .204 last year. He's regressed once again, hitting just .137 entering play on Monday. He has yet to record a home run or RBI in the month of May while hitting just .103.
Dunn's struggles on the road have been even more pronounced, hitting just .085 away from U.S. Cellular Field.
Dunn was given the day off on Sunday, and the Sox start a seven-game road trip on Monday. It could get even worse for him before it starts to get better, if in fact it ever does.
Almost a year removed from his last major league start, Chicago White Sox left-hander John Danks is nearly ready to make his return.
Pitching for the Triple-A Charlotte Knights in his ongoing rehab from shoulder surgery, Danks allowed three runs on seven hits in six innings while striking out five and walking three in a win over Pawtucket.
Danks is likely to make one more start before the White Sox recall him. While the velocity on his fastball may not have completely returned, he told Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com that he's thrilled with his curveball.
“It’s been a pitch I don’t use as an out pitch,” he said. “It’s a pitch I try to get strike one with, but today, I was able to use the curve as an out pitch. It’s another big step in the right direction. I made a lot of strides.”
With Gavin Floyd out for the remainder of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Hector Santiago has stepped in with two quality starts. The White Sox rotation has been solid in posting a collective 3.45 ERA.
Danks' return isn't imperative in terms of what the Sox need, as it's been their offense that has them in the cellar in the AL Central.
But a triumphant return by Danks could be a huge confidence boost for a team desperately in need of something to provide a spark.
Cincinnati Reds starter Johnny Cueto will make another rehab appearance for Single-A Dayton on Tuesday.
Recovering from a strained lat, Cueto figures to be back in the Reds rotation within the next couple of weeks, barring setbacks.
At that point the Reds will have a decision to make. Cueto's replacement, Tony Cingrani, has pitched well in posting a 2-0 record and 2.89 ERA in five starts.
Mike Leake is 2-2 with a 4.32 ERA in his seven starts. Certainly not terrible, but something's got to give, and Leake will likely find himself bumped.
It has only been four starts, but it certainly appears as if Scott Kazmir is back.
Kazmir was one of the better left-handed pitchers in the American League in the late 2000s. He seemingly misplaced his mojo while with the Los Angeles Angels, losing both command and velocity in the process.
After two years and a lot of trials and tribulations, Kazmir is back and dealing.
In his start on Thursday against the Oakland Athletics, Kazmir struck out 10 batters and walked none. He was also throwing in the mid-90s when he whiffed A's designated hitter Luke Montz for the final out of the sixth inning.
Asked what he thought about Kazmir's outing after the game, Indians manager Terry Francona made reference to one of his former players:
Indians manager Terry Francona, on Scott Kazmir's outing: "That was the Kazmir I remember Ortiz not arguing on a day off."— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 9, 2013
For the record, Ortiz has hit just .189 against Kazmir during his career.
If Kazmir continues on the rebound, Ortiz won't be the only hitter in fear.
After their doubleheader split with the New York Yankees on Monday, the Cleveland Indians sat just a half-game behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central.
Manager Terry Francona has his team confident and playing well. Scott Kazmir has been a pleasant surprise in his return. Mark Reynolds is among the league leaders in home runs and RBI. Justin Masterson has made a solid return from a subpar season.
There's even optimism about Ubaldo Jimenez, who has strung together three excellent starts.
There could be a couple of pieces the Indians still need in order to truly be contenders, but they'll continue to be a thorn in the side of the Detroit Tigers at the top of the AL Central.
Despite Tuesday's solid start against the Chicago Cubs, Jeff Francis of the Colorado Rockies hasn't had pretty numbers thus far, allowing a total of 43 hits in 36 innings pitches.
Tyler Chatwood has looked excellent in two spot starts, posting a 3.00 ERA with a win. More importantly, he walked just three in 12 innings. Plate command has been an issue for Chatwood in the past.
With the Rockies working to keep pace in the NL West, Francis simply won't be given a lot of rope—Tuesday could have been his last chance.
Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has already been hobbled a couple of times this season.
After playing in only 47 games last season, Tulowitzki was primed to break through this year. And indeed he has, hitting .324 with eight home runs and 32 RBI.
But his season hasn't come without injury concerns.
Tulowitzki hurt his shoulder in an awkward slide in late April and was forced out of that game and the following two.
He then strained his groin running out a ground ball in early May, causing him to miss another game last week. An MRI showed no new tearing, and he hasn't missed any additional time.
Still, concerns will always be there for both the Rockies and their star slugger, and they'll err on the side of caution with any kind of a misstep. But for now, Tulowitzki has avoided the dreaded DL and should continue to do so until at least the All-Star break.
The Colorado Rockies were so sure about the ability and potential of prospect Nolan Arenado that they had no problem shipping their incumbent third baseman out of town.
After hitting just .242 with no homers and four RBI, Chris Nelson was traded to the injury-plagued New York Yankees at the beginning of the month, paving the way for Arenado.
Thus far, Arenado hasn't disappointed, hitting .255 with three homers, eight RBI and excellent glove work at the hot corner.
Certainly a nice start for the 22-year-old, who was the No. 59 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. By July he'll likely be talked about as a viable Rookie of the Year candidate.
The Detroit Tigers sit at the top of the AL Central Division entering play on Monday night, and they have five stars to help thank for that.
Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez have all played huge roles in the Tigers' 20-15 start and first-place standing.
All of them will be rewarded with a trip to Citi Field on July 16.
This is probably the safest prediction on this list, considering that Miguel Cabrera is already leading the majors with 40 RBI and in third place with a .372 batting average.
He's clearly not resting on his Triple Crown laurels.
Cabrera has just seven home runs, but he had the same exact amount at this same time last year.
The Houston Astros (10-30) are currently playing at a pace that is just behind the modern-day major league record for futility.
The 1962 New York Mets were actually a bit better than the current Astros, with a 12-27 record after 38 games.
Monday was not the best of day in Houston, either. Their president and CEO, George Postolos, announced his resignation and will return to the private sector.
In addition, Jose Altuve—clearly the Astros' best player—dislocated his jaw in a collision with outfielder Jimmy Paredes on Monday night. He should miss a few games.
And the hits just keep coming in Houston.
Something tells me it may just be too difficult for the Kansas City Royals to lay off on getting a look at Yordano Ventura.
The No. 3 prospect in the Royals organization, according to MLB.com, Ventura has been stellar all season with a 3-0 record and 1.57 ERA in seven starts at Northwest Arkansas.
His last two starts have been electric, with double-digit strikeouts in both while allowing just three hits in both as well. Ventura touches 100 mph with his fastball and sits comfortably in the high-90s even in the later innings.
With No. 5 starter Luis Mendoza struggling, Ventura could get the call, especially if he continues blowing away the competition in a similar fashion to his last two outings.
The Los Angeles Angels have close to $400 million tied up in power bats, namely Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols.
But a duo who makes just over $1 million will lead them back to respectability.
Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo are both heating up. Trout is hitting .354 with four home runs and 13 RBI over his last 12 games and Trumbo has connected for five home runs with 11 RBI in the same span.
Pujols has been battling plantar fasciitis for much of the season and has yet to get on track. In addition, his surgically repaired right knee has been bothering him (subscription required) as well.
Certainly not a good sign for a resurgence of any kind.
Hamilton continues to struggle as well, hitting just .203 with 44 strikeouts.
If the Angels plan to make up a 10-game deficit in the AL West anytime soon, it will be on the backs of Trout and Trumbo.
The bullpen for the Los Angeles Angels has been better of late, now ranked 12th in the American League with a 3.92 ERA. That's a marked improvement from the month of April when they were mired in last place.
However, there are still issues. Closer Ernesto Frieri has been solid, but lefty Sean Burnett is still on the disabled list with forearm inflammation, and Kevin Jepsen has been felled by a muscle strain on his right side.
They could finally have Ryan Madson back by the end of the week, but how much help he'll be remains to be seen after his long recovery from Tommy John surgery.
A trade for bullpen help could very well be in play for the Angels by the All-Star break.
On a roster loaded with high-priced talent, Clayton Kershaw could be the only member of the Los Angeles Dodgers headed for Citi Field on July 16 for the All-Star Game.
Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .346, but Joey Votto and Anthony Rizzo could be selected ahead of him. Matt Kemp has struggled for much of the season, hitting just one home run thus far.
Carl Crawford seemed like a lock at one point, but he has seen his average dip to .315.
It could be up to the fans to vote in more than one Dodger at this point.
Much like the Houston Astros, the Miami Marlins seem destined to chase a dubious record.
The Marlins are 11-27, just percentage points behind the Astros in not only chasing the worst record in the majors but also in chasing the 1962 New York Mets' modern-day record.
It could get worse before it gets better. Giancarlo Stanton is out until early June, and there could be more purging of the roster in advance of the late-July trade deadline.
It's not going to be a fun summer in South Florida.
The trade deadline isn't until July 31, but trades generally start happening weeks before then. It usually begins with a trickle of activity leading up to a frenzied few days of activity at the end.
This year, teams could come calling on the Miami Marlins early. They don't have a veritable plethora of available veterans, but at least one will draw a considerable amount of attention—starter Ricky Nolasco.
Nolasco has pitched well despite a 2-4 record, posting a 3.72 ERA in eight starts. His $11.5 million salary will be somewhat of a deterrent for some teams, but he'll be highly sought after nonetheless.
He could be the first big-name player to be dealt during the trade-deadline period.
Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez may have missed a month because of a sprained knee, but he has come back with a vengeance.
Ramirez hit .444 in his first six games back from the DL before an 0-for-4 performance on Monday night. Now hitting .371 with a homer and six RBI, Ramirez has shown he didn't need a rehab outing of any kind.
I can absolutely see Ramirez as an All-Star if he continues raking over the next two months.
At this point, shortstop Jean Segura is a virtual lock. Through Tuesday's games, he has a .359 BA, leads the NL in hits with 51 and is at the top of the entire league with 13 stolen bases.
Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke finally gave second baseman Rickie Weeks the night off on Monday, starting Yuniesky Betancourt in his place.
Weeks was hitting just .183 entering Monday, marking the second straight season that he's struggled mightily in the first half.
Last year, a sprained ankle that hadn't fully healed was likely the cause of Weeks' struggles.
He has no such excuse this season, however.
Roenicke will likely continue giving Weeks a chance to hit out of his slump, but more nights off will be in store if that strategy fails.
Monday night was a signature night for Minnesota Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks.
Mired in a season-long slump and hitting just .137, Hicks had his first two-home run night of his career.
Hicks also committed highway robbery, stealing a home run from Adam Dunn with a spectacular catch to end the top of the sixth inning.
In fact, Joe Sheehan aptly described Hicks' night:
Aaron Hicks is plus-three in homers tonight: two hit, one taken away. Have a night. #twins— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) May 14, 2013
This could have been the night that Hicks needed to jump-start his season.
The Minnesota Twins have fought hard and valiantly to keep their heads above water this season, now 18-17 after their win over the Chicago White Sox on Monday night.
They're doing it with a team that hasn't exactly flourished, hitting .248 with just 24 home runs, second-to-last in the American League.
Catcher Joe Mauer has led the way with a .343 average, extending his current hitting streak to 12 games.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune writer LaVelle E. Neal III also provided this interesting tidbit:
Joe Mauer is on pace to hit 71 doubles this season, which would be a MLB-record. The Twins' single season record is 47 by Justin Morneau.— LaVelle E. Neal III (@LaVelleNeal) May 13, 2013
Mauer will be the Twins' lone representative at the All-Star Game on July 16.
The New York Mets dropped another tough game on Monday night, this time at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals. The loss marked the fourth straight for the Mets, dropping them to 14-21 on the season.
It would have been a stretch for anyone to think that the Mets were contenders this season to begin with. But with an offense that continues to struggle, it's readily apparent they aren't going anywhere.
Consider this fact: They signed Rick Ankiel to a major league contract and immediately inserted him into the starting lineup on Monday night. Ankiel struggled mightily for the hapless Houston Astros, striking out a whopping 35 times in just 62 at-bats.
That's the state of the Mets offense right now.
The injury-plagued New York Yankees are sitting atop the AL East Division with a 24-14 record, thanks in no small part to outfielder Vernon Wells.
Wells is hitting .299 with nine home runs and 22 RBI, helping to stabilize an offense that was devastated by the losses of Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis and Curtis Granderson.
They also lost shortstop Eduardo Nunez to the disabled list last week with a rib cage injury.
Granderson is set to return to the lineup on Tuesday after making four rehab appearances with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He went .412 in those four games with a home run.
Joe Girardi will have some lineup juggling on his hands when Granderson returns, with Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Wells currently manning the outfield.
He'll find a way to keep Wells' bat in the lineup.
Here is a neat comparison of how Wells has performed compared to his former Angels teammates:
Vernon Wells: .299/.349/.526. Mark Trumbo: .278/.343/.517. Albert Pujols: .234/.317./390.Josh Hamilton: .203/.253/.331 Ouch Angels fans!— Alex Gomez (@iAlexGomez) May 13, 2013
Yeah, that's an ouchie.
As devastated as the New York Yankees have been by early injuries, it's a joke to think that the return of veteran starters from the disabled list would serve to upset the current chemistry of the team.
B/R colleague and featured columnist Joe Giglio weighed in on Monday on that very subject.
We are on the same page in that the Yankees will only serve to be enhanced as their injured veterans slowly make their way back from the disabled list.
The fact that they're in first place is a credit to their replacements, but expecting that same performance from the likes of Ben Francisco and Jayson Nix is simply unrealistic.
The two pitchers who were expected to anchor the rotation for the Oakland Athletics have largely spit the bit for much of the season.
Brett Anderson and Jarrod Parker were the two young stars who were being counted on to lead the A's back to a second straight postseason.
Thus far, they've combined for a 3-9 record and 6.59 ERA.
Not exactly dominant.
The two need to be the ones to turn Oakland's fortunes around, as the team has lost six of their last eight games to drop to 20-20 on the season. Anderson and Parker could continue to struggle, with Oakland facing a tough schedule over the next few weeks that includes two road trips to Texas along with Milwaukee, San Francisco and Seattle.
With the news that Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay was facing surgery to deal with several shoulder issues, it certainly answered questions about his horrible start to the 2013 season.
Halladay has hopes to come back this season, but it certainly won't happen by the All-Star break, and it may not happen at all this season.
There are lessons to be learned here, especially from Halladay's best friend, Chris Carpenter.
Carpenter was thought to be lost for the season last year after undergoing surgery in July. Carpenter performed admirably following his return late in the regular season, but at what cost to his shoulder?
It's still unclear whether Carpenter can ever pitch again, however he did recently have a bullpen session that was encouraging. But could Halladay suffer the same fate if he risks coming back too early?
The Philadelphia Phillies are scuffling with an 18-21 record, sitting in third place in the NL East. An injury to Roy Halladay weakened a rotation already suffering from the loss of John Lannan, who won't be back from his sprained knee for at least another few weeks.
Jonathan Pettibone and Tyler Cloyd now comprise the back end of the rotation. Cole Hamels has struggled with a 1-5 record and 4.18 ERA.
If the Phillies are below .500 by the All-Star break, there should at least be an expectation of whispers of a team looking to sell off expensive moving parts such as Chase Utley and possibly even Cliff Lee.
Last Thursday, Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was the skipper for his 1,332nd game. He surpassed Gene Mauch, who managed the Phillies for much of the 1960s, as the longest-tenured manager in history.
Manuel has done a terrific job in his time with the Phillies, delivering their second-ever World Series title in 2008.
But all good things eventually come to an end.
Manuel is now 69 years old. The team is also older and scuffling. It's time for changes throughout, starting with Manuel.
Long tenures don't necessarily equate to job security.
Maybe a simple change of scenery is exactly what Francisco Liriano needed.
He got that change last year with his trade to the Chicago White Sox in July. But for the southpaw who spent the first six-plus years of his career with the Minnesota Twins, it wasn't a change that resonated.
Liriano struggled in Chicago, posting a 5.40 ERA in 11 starts. The White Sox passed on offering a contract to Liriano, and he signed with the Pirates in December for two years and $12.75 million.
That offer was rescinded, however, when Liriano broke his non-throwing arm in a household accident. He instead signed for one year with a vesting option for the 2014 season.
Liriano's debut last week was successful, allowing just one run on six hits in 5.1 innings in a win over the New York Mets.
Liriano was throwing free and easy, striking out nine and walking two. Of his 90 pitches, 57 were thrown for strikes.
Liriano could be a nice addition to a staff that's already seen strong performances from A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and Jeff Locke.
After a bit of a slow start in his return from a broken thumb, San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley is starting to heat up.
Through 23 games, Headley is hitting .294 with four home runs and 12 RBI. He had been hitting just .160 through his first seven games.
With the Padres struggling in fourth place in the NL West, it's unlikely they'll have a representative other than Headley traveling to New York for the All-Star Game on July 16.
The San Francisco Giants are leading the NL West Division with a 23-15 record. This year they've done it with an offense that's more than pulling its own weight.
In fact, the Giants are second in the National League with a .266 team average and third in runs scored.
In the past, pitching was the key for the Giants, but their team ERA of 3.71 ranks just ninth in the NL.
That trend bodes well for San Francisco as they work to fight off the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks in their division.
At some point in many former pitchers' careers, a transition needed to be made as they got older. They needed to become pitchers rather than throwers.
For Tim Lincecum, that's a style that worked wonders for him in winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards. But last year and this year, Lincecum's velocity and pop are gone.
And he's learning how to pitch without it.
Lincecum dazzled in his start on Sunday, giving up just two hits in seven innings in his victory over the Atlanta Braves. It was vintage Lincecum, minus the blazing fastball.
"The pitches I threw in the zone weren't down the middle of the plate, and the balls they hit weren't exactly rockets," Lincecum told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. "I was missing the barrel of the bat more. You do that, good things happen."
Lincecum is learning to deal without the heat.
This year, the All-Star Game comes just over two weeks before the trade deadline. At that point, many teams will have identified themselves as buyers or sellers.
The Mariners will be the latter.
Progress has been made for the Mariners, who sit with an 18-20 record and look up at both the Texas Rangers and Oakland A's in the AL West.
But they've only made marginal strides with their offense that has finished last in the American League in runs scored for the past four seasons.
The Mariners are currently second-to-last in the AL in that department, only ahead of the Chicago White Sox.
If their current trend continues, players like Joe Saunders, Jason Bay, Brendan Ryan and Aaron Harang will likely see their names mentioned prominently in trade speculation by the All-Star break.
Despite the fact that the Seattle Mariners could be in a selling mode by the All-Star break, they could have as many as three pitchers representing the franchise at the All-Star Game.
Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Tom Wilhelmsen should all be contenders for those selections. Wilhelmsen in particular has been terrific, with 10 saves and a spectacular 0.56 ERA.
For Hernandez, it's somewhat old-hat, but for Iwakuma, it's recognition for an outstanding effort as well. His 4-1 record and 1.74 ERA have given the Mariners a solid one-two punch at the top of their rotation.
On Monday, Lance Lynn turned in another strong effort for a St. Louis Cardinals rotation that has been simply outstanding.
With a 22-8 record and 2.28 ERA from its starters, the Cardinals have the best record in the majors. They also have a rotation that could be one of the stingiest in the past 50 years.
The lowest recorded ERA for starting rotations in a full season since 1960 was the 1968 Cardinals, whose rotation posted a sterling 2.48 mark. But that also came in a year that saw the pitcher's mound at a level of 15 inches (it was lowered to 10 inches the following season).
The Cardinals aren't doing it with smoke and mirrors—they've been dominant throughout. That dominance could waiver somewhat, but they still stand an excellent chance at being considered one of the best overall rotations in many years.
Thus far, the St. Louis Cardinals offense has thrived quite nicely without the long ball.
They're fourth in the National League in runs scored and fifth with a .263 team batting average. And they've done it all in spite of hitting just 29 home runs.
Carlos Beltran has supplied almost a third of their home run production with nine round-trippers. While the power from others hasn't been quite up to snuff, the team's .323 average with runners in scoring position has more than made up for it.
Compared to his start last year, top hitting prospect Wil Myers is off to a relatively slow start in 2013.
Wil Myers, the No. 4 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, is hitting .264 with four home runs and 22 RBI in 33 games for Triple-A Durham.
The Tampa Bay Rays are in no rush to call Myers up, not wanting to start his service clock too early. Tampa Bay's offense hasn't exactly sputtered, currently ranked sixth in the American League in runs scored.
They'll continue preaching patience with Myers at this point.
After winning the American League Cy Young Award and earning a contract in excess of $10 million, Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price has stumbled in the early going.
He gave up four runs, two earned, in a start on Thursday that featured both reigning Cy Young Award winners in Price and R.A. Dickey.
The outing actually lowered Price's ERA to 4.78 on the season.
Struggles are faced by pitchers at some point or another during their careers, and Price is certainly dealing with that now. But he'll recover at some point, and the ERA will come back down to Earth as a result.
After a dominant near-perfect effort early in the season, Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish hasn't eased up on the throttle.
With a 6-1 record and 2.73 ERA in eight starts, Darvish has clearly established himself as the ace of the Rangers staff. And he seems more than up to the task.
His 13.7 K/9 rate and 5.1 H/9 rate are stratospheric, and he'll have a chance to match up against another formidable ace when he faces Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.
Darvish will likely earn a second All-Star nod along with at least 10 wins and a sub-2.50 ERA.
So much was expected from the Toronto Blue Jays with all of the wheeling and dealing that took place during the offseason.
Their struggles thus far prove that predictions based on paper can be premature.
Sure, the Blue Jays looked strong after the acquisitions of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, R.A. Dickey and Melky Cabrera. With transactions like that, it was understandable that expectations were high.
But the Blue Jays currently sit with a 15-24 record, a full 9.5 games behind a team that was expected to struggle because of injuries—the New York Yankees.
Now, the Jays are in a position that if the current trend continues, they could be looking at tearing apart what they attempted to build up mere months ago.
When Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos brought John Gibbons back for a second stint as manager, it caught most of the baseball world by complete surprise.
At the time, Anthopoulos expressed a desire to bring in someone who was familiar with the organization. Gibbons certainly qualified in that regard, guiding the Blue Jays from 2004-2008.
He was also bringing back a manager who had several highly publicized spats with players, including Dave Bush, Ted Lilly and Shea Hillenbrand.
When the Blue Jays stumbled out of the gates early, hints of clubhouse issues started to surface. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com made reference to those troubles in early May.
Whether there were issues or not is secondary to the fact that the team simply isn't performing up to expectations.
Someone will take the fall for those struggles, and it won't be Anthopoulos.
Apparently, there isn't much that can keep Bryce Harper down—not even an immovable right-field wall.
Harper face planted into the Dodger Stadium scoreboard in right field in the fifth inning of Monday's game. Harper received 11 stitches to his chin and jammed his left shoulder on the play, but an examination following the game revealed no concussion.
Amazingly, Harper wanted to stay in the game. The cooler heads of manager Davey Johnson and the trainer prevailed, however.
Harper is now hitting .303 with 10 home runs and 21 RBI. Provided there are no ill effects from his horrific collision, there is definitely a chance of Harper placing in the top five in all Triple Crown categories by the All-Star break.
Provided he avoids immovable objects in the future, of course.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
Feel free to talk baseball with Doug anytime on Twitter.