10 Biggest Takeaways from This Week's MLB Action
From an update on who could be replacing Bud Selig to the news of another potential wave of performance-enhancing-drug suspensions, it's been a busy week in MLB.
What follows are the 10 biggest takeaways from this week's MLB action. The storylines are ranked in order of their expected impact as the season winds down. The countdown includes headlines from on and off the diamond. While the league zeroes in on Selig's successor, one of the game's most polarizing players is making a dark-horse MVP run.
10. Javier Baez Has Arrived
When watching Javier Baez hit, it's impossible not to notice his ridiculous bat speed.
Since the Chicago Cubs called him up on Aug. 5, the 21-year-old has been putting that skill to good use as he has racked up three home runs. The Puerto Rican went yard in his very first contest, leading the Cubs to an extra-innings win over the Colorado Rockies.
According to the Baseball Reference Twitter account, the shot made Baez just the fourth player in the last 100 years who has connected on a game-winning extra-inning home run in his MLB debut. The last player to achieve the feat was Miguel Cabrera.
There's a lot to like about Baez, but his tendency to swing and miss is certainly a concern. In his first 23 at-bats, the right-handed hitter was punched out 10 times.
9. Time to Crown Jose Abreu as the American League Rookie of the Year Already
Just give Jose Abreu the American League Rookie of the Year trophy already.
The Cuban slugger scooped up both the Player of the Month and Rookie of the Month award for July. As Doug Padilla of ESPN Chicago points out, Abreu has now earned Rookie of the Month honors on three occasions and Player of the Month honors twice. That makes Abreu the first player ever to sweep both awards twice in a season.
For his part, the 27-year-old is playing it cool.
"I don't really like to talk about myself a lot but I am surprised (at the accomplishments)," Abreu explained to Padilla via an interpreter. "I wasn't expecting to have all this success and definitely all these awards. But, you know, I am very thankful that it happened."
On the season, Abreu has clubbed 31 home runs, which is the most in all of baseball. That power doesn't just make him a lock for Rookie of the Year but also puts him in the conversation for AL MVP.
8. Yasiel Puig Is a Legitimate National League MVP Award Candidate
Last season, Yasiel Puig landed in the No. 15 spot on the National League MVP Award ballot. This year, Puig will be finishing much higher up the list than that.
On the season, Puig is hitting .311 with 31 doubles, nine triples and 13 home runs. The 23-year-old isn't just contributing at the plate, either.
Since moving to center field, Puig has demonstrated an excellent grasp of baseball fundamentals and is consistently hitting the cutoff man. Puig has also maintained his knack for making spectacular plays, as you can see in the MLB.com video above.
With the race for NL MVP far from decided, Puig's impressive all-around play is putting him right in the middle of the discussion.
7. Kirk Gibson Substantially Altered the NL MVP and Playoff Races
Who would have ever guessed that Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson would play such a prominent role in the NL playoff race and the competition for the MVP Award?
On Aug. 2, Randall Delgado, a pitcher on Gibson's staff, tagged Andrew McCutchen with a 95 mph fastball in the spine. McCutchen, who is the front-runner to win the MVP and the Pittsburgh Pirates linchpin, has since been diagnosed with a fractured rib, per Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
When asked if he believed Gibson's assertion that "the pitch just got away from" Delgado, the reigning MVP sounded less than convinced, as you can hear in the MLB.com video above.
"Sure it did. I'm sure it did. I'm sure it got away from him. Just like the first pitch. I'm sure both of those got away from him."
This is far from the first time that Gibson's squad has been involved in an ugly plunking incident, and this latest episode could have major ramifications on the playoff and MVP races.
At this point, it's baffling that Gibson even still has a job.
6. The Second AL Wild-Card Spot Is Completely Up for Grabs
With the Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays all in the mix, the race for the second AL wild-card spot sure is crowded.
One team to definitely watch out for is the Yankees. Seemingly buried after a flood of injuries hit the rotation, New York just wont go away. General manager Brian Cashman has executed a slew of successful low-profile moves, and none has worked out better than the acquisition of Brandon McCarthy. In five starts with the Bronx Bombers, the veteran right-hander owns a 4-1 record with a 2.21 ERA.
With considerable payroll flexibility, one more big waiver deal could be on tap for New York.
5. The Detroit Tigers Have Some Work to Do to Secure the AL Central Title
The Detroit Tigers aren't exactly running away with the division in the AL Central.
The Tigers pulled off one of the biggest blockbusters of the year in landing David Price as part of a three-team trade. So far, though, the Kansas City Royals aren't going anywhere. The squad has won nine of its last 10 contests and cut Detroit's lead to just 1.5 games.
With Price, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez leading the way, the Tigers have the arms to survive a one-game wild-card playoff should it come to that. Either way, that's a situation that the club will be looking to avoid.
4. Jon Lester Was the Biggest Chip Moved at the Deadline
With apologies to David Price, Jon Lester was the best left-handed pitcher who changed teams at the deadline.
In his last 10 outings, Lester has been unreal with a 6-0 record and a 1.21 ERA. The lefty has won both of his starts since joining the Oakland Athletics and was nearly unhittable in his second appearance on Aug. 7. Lester threw a complete-game shutout and totaled eight strikeouts along the way.
Ultimately, what gives Lester the edge over Price is his remarkable playoff resume. In 13 postseason appearances, the 30-year-old has a 2.11 ERA.
3. At Least 1 Big Name Will Switch Teams as Part of a Waiver Trade
The non-waiver trade deadline has passed, but that doesn't mean teams are done making additions—especially with so many clubs still in contention.
Now, in order for a team to pull off a trade, a player most first pass through waivers unclaimed. According to Jeff Todd and Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors, quite a few players already have. One of those players is Alex Rios of the Texas Rangers.
It might not be Rios, but at least one big name will be on the move before the end of the month. The deal will likely come about when a contender inevitably loses a key contributor to injury.
2. More Suspensions Are Looming for Players Who Used Performance-Enhancing Drugs
Right now, in clubhouses around the country, there are some seriously nervous major leaguers.
According to Outside the Lines, per T.J. Quinn of ESPN, "Major League Baseball officials have contacted the DEA and U.S. Attorney's office in Southern Florida in an effort to unmask the names of any players who might have violated the league's drug policy."
Per Quinn, "One source said five players have been identified during the investigation, although it is not clear whether all five are on major league rosters." Further, a "number of" previously undisclosed players were identified via the DEA's Operation Strikeout. Those names should be made public as the case unfolds.
MLB is trying to get the names of those players from the DEA so that the league can begin handing out suspensions. Another figure involved in the DEA's investigation is Yuri Sucart, the cousin of Alex Rodriguez.
It's difficult to know how quickly the process will play out. However, with so many teams still in the race, it's reasonable to wonder if one of the unnamed players could be a key contributor on a playoff contender.
1. MLB Will Name Bud Selig's Successor in a Matter of Days
Exactly who will be replacing Bud Selig as the commissioner of baseball should soon be decided.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the league's 30 owners will vote on Selig's successor on Aug. 14. The three finalists are Rob Manfred, MLB's chief operating officer, Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president of business, and Tom Werner, the Boston Red Sox chairman.
Despite the fact there are only three candidates, there have been disagreements over the succession process between Selig and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, per Matt Snyder of CBS Sports. Selig dismissed those concerns via a statement.
In the end, the biggest challenge in deciding Selig's successor will be finding a candidate on whom the requisite 23 owners agree.
Note: All stats and videos courtesy of MLB.com.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.
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