MLB Team of the Week: Mike Trout, Matt Kemp, Matt Adams and Clayton Kershaw Star
The 2014 MLB season has been nothing short of spectacular.
Sure, there have been an inordinate amount of season-ending injuries to pitchers and position players alike, but this year has been fantastic for the game.
We have witnessed record-setting pitching performances. International rookies are finding tremendous success on the mound and at the plate. And don’t forget about the arrival of heralded prospects in each league that have dominated the national conversation.
Let’s focus our attention on the best MLB had to offer last week and identify the stars at each position.
As always, this will be to the point. One player will represent each fielding position and the designated hitter, while one hurler will get the call for the lot of them. The only caveat is that each position player must have appeared in at least four games at the position for which he is being considered.
Let's get started.
Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats: .326/.336/.509, 6 HR, 23 RBI, 20 R, 16 2B, 134 wRC+
In his first game back against the Washington Nationals, he hit a solo home run in his first at-bat that would account for all of the scoring in a 1-0 Cardinals victory. The next night, he laced a 3-1 fastball from Stephen Strasburg into the right field stands to give the Cards a lead they would never relinquish.
If that wasn’t enough, he hit a two-run home run in the second inning of the series finale. All told, he compiled a .364/.364/1.182 slash line with three home runs and four RBI during the three-game set.
For the week, Adams had a hit in six games and had at least one RBI and scored a run in the same contest four times. True, he ended the week on a down note, going 2-for-9 over his final three games, but he did enough to take the title.
Last Week’s Stats: .333/.333/.792, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R, 3B, 215 wRC+
Scooter Gennett, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
2014 Stats: .305/.340/.459, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 27 R, 18 2B, 116 wRC+
Over the past seven days, Gennett has hit safely in all six contests he appeared in, collected an RBI in three games and scored six runs. The highlight of his week, however, had to be doubling off of Cincinnati Reds starter Mat Latos after a 13-pitch at-bat.
Not only was the plate appearance itself a success, but it “probably shortened Latos’ stint to six innings and allowed the Brewers to go to work against the Cincy bullpen,” per Tom Haudricourt from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It is things like that that lead to winning baseball.
Last Week’s Stats: .444/.444/.741/, HR, 5 RBI, 6 R, 5 2B, 233 wRC+
Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats: .291/.333/.482, 10 HR, 40 RBI, 33 R, 22 2B, 123 wRC+
From May 4 through June 6, for example, Castro had a rather woeful .223/.282/.380 slash line and an unacceptable 80 wRC+, per splits taken from FanGraphs. He simply wasn’t producing, and it impacted the rest of the Cubs lineup.
Since then, however, he has a .370/.404/.685 slash and a 200 wRC+. It’s no coincidence that the Cubs offense have been playing better baseball as a result. To be sure, Anthony Rizzo isn't hurting matters, but Castro is more than doing his part.
This past week, he hit the ball to all fields, played fantastic defense and led the Cubs to a 4-2 record. Most impressive, Castro slugged .880 and had a .519 on-base percentage.
Chris Owings (.409/.435/.636) from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Erick Aybar (.400/.455/.600) from the Los Angeles Angels did what they could to get the recognition, but Castro’s ISO, wRC+ and OBP were too much to overcome.
Last Week’s Stats: .480/.519/.880, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 5 R, 4 2B, 288 wRC+
Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
2014 Stats: .265/.332/.408, 9 HR, 33 RBI, 38 R, 12 2B, 109 wRC+
All told, he hit safely in every game, drove in six runs and scored four times. On top of the raw statistics, he played very well in the field.
True, Longoria didn't have that singular game with two home runs and five RBI, but that is what makes his appearance here impressive. He was consistent throughout the week, and while the Rays are struggling as a team, it is nice to see their superstar put up statistics worthy of the moniker.
Casey McGehee (.375/.500/.458) from the Miami Marlins and Kyle Seager (.320/.393/.560) from the Seattle Mariners also had good weeks, but Longoria’s overall productivity and slugging percentage set him apart.
Last Week’s Stats: .286/.355/.607, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R, 3 2B, 172 wRC+
Derek Norris, C, Oakland A's
2014 Stats: .307/.409/.521, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 24 R, 11 2B, 165 wRC+
Sure, he went hitless against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, but he had a hit in his other five games, came off the bench for a pinch-hit grand slam on Tuesday versus the Texas Rangers and doubled in three straight games.
His best game of the week came against the New York Yankees on Sunday when he went 3-for-5 with a home run, a double and three RBI. The home run came in the first inning off of Vidal Nuno and set the tone in what ended up being a 10-5 A's victory.
There is little doubt that Norris has done enough to earn All-Star recognition in the American League. Brian McCann may get the votes, but Norris has performed much better this season.
Last Week’s Stats: .400/.455/.850, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 3 R, 3 2B, 265 wRC+
J.D. Martinez, RF, Detroit Tigers
2014 Stats: .300/.333/.570, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 12 R, 9 2B, 146 wRC+
This past week, Martinez reinforced Ausmus’ beliefs by hitting three home runs and driving three doubles. He also had a hit in each game and finished with an outstanding .852 slugging percentage.
True, the Tigers are struggling as a team, but Martinez is holding up his end by delivering when it matters. As a matter of fact, he has been one of their better hitters for the past two weeks.
Now, what happens when Andy Dirks returns from the disabled list hasn’t been determined. Martinez could end up getting sent back to the minor leagues, but that would be a mistake given how well he has played lately.
Last Week’s Stats: .407/.393/.852, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 5 R, 3 2B, 240 wRC+
Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels
2014 Stats: .311/.401/.611, 16 HR, 54 RBI, 48 R, 19 2B, 5 3B, 181 wRC+
Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout is quickly distancing himself from the rest of the pack in the American League. Flat out, he is the AL MVP right now.
He was so good last week it’s hard to pick just one game that defines his production. Last Saturday against the Atlanta Braves, for example, he went 3-for-6 with a home run, four RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base. Then on Wednesday versus the Cleveland Indians, he went 3-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI.
So if it can’t be isolated to one game, let’s look at his showing during the series with the Braves. In it, he went 7-for-14 with two homers, five RBI and a 1.071 slugging percentage, according to splits taken from FanGraphs.
Last Week’s Stats: .480/.581/1.120, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R, 4 2B, 360 wRC+
Matt Kemp, LF, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats: .276/.337/.467, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 33 R, 18 2B, 2 3B, 127 wRC+
Not only did he compile a .458 batting average for the week, but he slugged a whopping .833, finishing with a .375 ISO. In other words, when he made contact, it counted.
He doesn’t get the nod here simply because he was able to drive the ball, however. He had at least two hits four times, drove in a run in five games and scored in four others. It was a complete week at the plate.
True, his defense was suspect at times, but when he is as productive at the plate as he was, manager Don Mattingly will happily make the tradeoff.
Last Week’s Stats: .458/.480/.833, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 4 R, 3 2B, 274 wRC+
Billy Butler, DH, Kansas City Royals
2014 Stats: .274/.328/.359, 2 HR, 32 RBI, 30 R, 16 2B, 89 wRC+
It may have taken a little while to get the engines running, but Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler is finally hitting to his abilities.
The truth is that he is at the offensive center of the Royals’ incredible run. Yes, their pitching staff is responsible for a great deal of the team’s success, but Butler has come alive at the right time.
In his last seven games, Butler has had two hits five times, scored seven runs and generally controlled each at-bat. He has been as consistent as anybody in the American League.
Now, the call here was a tough one to make, but Butler solidified his spot by going 2-for-4 with two doubles on Thursday afternoon versus Victor Martinez (.321/.367/.500) and the Detroit Tigers.
Last Week’s Stats: .444/.531/.667, HR, 8 RBI, 7 R, 3 2B, 237 wRC+
Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats: 7-2, 2.52 ERA, 1.60 FIP, 64.1 IP, 86 K, 8 BB, 12.03 K/9
Normally, choosing a starting pitcher is a tough decision. After all, there are so many variables to consider such as FIP, walks, strikeouts per nine innings, ground ball rate and WHIP.
This week the choice was a simple one, however, thanks to the dominant effort of Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw. He was masterful in his start Wednesday night against the Colorado Rockies, losing a perfect game in the seventh inning on an error by shortstop Hanley Ramirez en route to a complete-game no-hitter.
He is the second pitcher from the Dodgers to accomplish the feat this year, joining Josh Beckett. And then there is this nugget from MLB's Twitter feed:
Sure, New York Mets starter Zach Wheeler threw his first complete-game shutout on Thursday, but his performance pales in comparison to Kershaw's. There really isn’t much else to say.
Last Week’s Stats: 1-0, 9.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, -0.24 FIP, 0 H, 0 R, 15.00 K/9
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs. Weekly statistics were taken from the "leaders" page at FanGraphs and are for the week ending Thursday, June 19. Transaction, injury and game information are courtesy of MLB.com.