Reacting to B/R MLB Community's Takes on Dodgers, Yankees, White Sox and More
Welcome to the Bleacher Report MLB mailbag!
There is never a shortage of opinions on the B/R app, so it's time to put your thoughts to work.
We'll begin to narrow our focus in the weeks to come, but for now, the focus was once again on general questions and hot takes after five weeks of MLB action.
Are the San Francisco Giants for real? Are the New York Yankees back? Is Trevor Rogers a legitimate NL Rookie of the Year candidate?
There was a lot to unpack, so let's get to it.
If you'd like to have your question or hot take included in a future mailbag, be on the lookout each Tuesday afternoon for the crowdsourcing thread on the MLB stream in the B/R app.
MLB's Olympic Relay Team
Just saw an article about DK Metcalf trying out for the US Olympic track and field team. What MLB players would you choose for an Olympic relay, and who's the anchor? (@CHYTnUP)
This might be my favorite question we've had submitted to the mailbag so far!
Here's my relay team:
- Leg 1: Tim Locastro, ARI
- Leg 2: Byron Buxton, MIN
- Leg 3: Roman Quinn, PHI
- Anchor: Trea Turner, WAS
Tim Locastro is widely regarded as the fastest player in baseball, and he's shown his elite acceleration ability by going 29-for-30 on stolen base attempts over the course of his career.
Byron Buxton currently leads the majors in home plate to first base running time at 3.97 seconds, and he has shown elite top-end speed underway throughout his career.
Roman Quinn can't hit a lick, but he has one of baseball's few legitimate 80-grade speed tools. He averaged a sprint speed of 30.5 feet per second last year, which was second only to Locastro.
And finally, our anchor is Trea Turner. He leads all of baseball with 72 "bolts" since the start of the 2020 season. That advanced metric measures the number of base-running events a player has where his fastest one-second window is 30 feet per second or higher. Turner has more than twice as many bolts as any other player during that window, with Locastro ranking second with 35.
Hot Takes and Quick Hits
Which team do you think will have the most All-Stars this year? (@Donk25)
I'll actually be publishing my Way-Too-Early All-Star roster picks on Saturday morning, so check back with that article for your answer.
Kris Bryant is raising his trade value immensely and a trade will happen by the deadline. (@jay_ayee)
The ship has sailed on an extension, but I do think the Chicago Cubs are holding out some hope they can keep Bryant around with a long-term deal this offseason. That could be reason enough to hold onto him, go the qualifying offer route and see if they can hammer out a new contract early in the offseason. If they move him, there's no question that his value has skyrocketed with a strong start to the year.
When Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard come back, the Mets will have the best/deepest rotation in the league. (@TheJBaby18)
Both of those pitchers are coming off significant injuries, so I wouldn't expect them to return to top-of-the-rotation form immediately. The New York Mets will certainly be part of the conversation, but I'll still take the San Diego Padres starting staff over any in baseball, especially with a MacKenzie Gore promotion on the horizon.
How do you fix the Jays left side defense? (@43North)
The easy answer would be to simply flip-flop Marcus Semien and Bo Bichette up the middle, but I don't think the Blue Jays are going to do that. I think Cavan Biggio can be a fine third baseman with more reps, so it's just a matter of weathering the early growing pains.
Trevor Rogers for NL Rookie of the Year?
Trevor Rogers has been amazing. What is it that makes him so good, and can he keep it up and potentially win Rookie of the Year? (@Randomguy2)
A fun side-by-side comparison can be made between 2020 and 2021 since Trevor Rogers has faced the same 130 batters so far this season that he did a year ago. Let's look at the surface-level numbers:
- 2020: 130 BF, 6.11 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 13 BB, 39 K, .283 BAA
- 2021: 130 BF, 1.91 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 13 BB, 44 K, .195 BAA
He's throwing his fastball and changeup a bit more and his slider a bit less this year, but he has used essentially the same pitch mix as he did in 2020.
So, what changed?
The quality and effectiveness of his fastball has been the biggest difference. The pitch has ticked up in velocity from 93.6 to 95.1 mph, and opponent's batting average against it has plummeted from .314 to .205 despite the fact that his usage of it has climbed from 54.2 to 61.8 percent.
TLDR: His fastball has gotten better and he's throwing it more.
There are some concerning underlying numbers, most notably a hard-hit rate (16th percentile) and average exit velocity allowed (37th percentile) that suggest he's been the beneficiary of some good luck, but the gains in his stuff are real.
Teammate Jazz Chisholm, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson and Atlanta Braves right-hander Ian Anderson are going to give him a run for his money, but he'll be a factor in the NL Rookie of the Year race.
Early Impressions of the Texas Rangers
Where do you see the Rangers when the season ends? I've been pleasantly surprised this year, they've exceeded my expectations. They're competing with good teams and it looks like the young players are blooming. I'm curious on your thoughts. (@Hurricanez_1341)
The decision to go young up the middle by cutting ties with Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus in favor of Nick Solak and Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been a brilliant decision.
Solak is hitting .284/.362/.491 for a 140 OPS+ with seven home runs and 15 RBI, while Kiner-Falefa is tied for the lead among shortstops with five defensive runs saved to go along with a modest 112 OPS+ and five home runs.
On the pitching side, Dane Dunning looks like a keeper, and Kolby Allard is throwing the ball well in a bulk relief role. Veteran Kyle Gibson is going to be a hot commodity at the trade deadline if he keeps it up, and Ian Kennedy has made good on a minor league deal to emerge as an effective closer with eight saves and a 2.08 ERA.
It's only a matter of time before top prospects Sam Huff and Josh Jung step into starting roles on the MLB roster, and they'll added to the young core.
I think they would be foolish to change course this year to try to contend, but there's plenty of reason to be excited about their future outlook.
Are the Chicago White Sox's Playoff Hopes Fading?
Do the White Sox still have enough talent to make the playoffs? (@Sox2020)
They're going to be in the market for some short-term outfield help with Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert both on the shelf. Starling Marte would make a ton of sense if the Miami Marlins fall out of contention, but in the meantime, Leury Garcia is capable of holding down the fort in center field.
The biggest reason for enduring optimism is the pitching staff.
Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel are rounding into form after rocky starts, Lance Lynn is back after a stint on the injured list, and Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodon have been fantastic at the back of the rotation. The bullpen has also been a major weapon with Michael Kopech mowing down hitters and Liam Hendriks settling in.
They have the best run differential (+36) in the American League, and they're playing in a division where presumptive contenders Minnesota and Cleveland have both disappointed in the early going.
Losing Robert is a blow, but this is still a playoff-caliber team.
Are the San Francisco Giants Legit?
Are the Giants legit? (@Shamsher_Singh)
Let's start by playing contrarian.
The Giants have gone 6-2 with a plus-27 run differential against a bad Colorado Rockies team in the early going. Against the rest of the league, they've been slightly above average with a 12-10 record and a plus-4 run differential.
The Giants are a good team, but they have undoubtedly padded their resume against the NL West doormat.
The starting rotation has been the biggest X-factor in the early going, with newcomers Anthony DeSclafani, Aaron Sanchez and Alex Wood all pitching well behind ace Kevin Gausman. That trio struggled a year ago and was scooped up on the cheap in free agency, but they have all performed at a high level in the past.
That group leads the majors with a 2.53 ERA, and even with some regression, it would still be a significant area of strength.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres are still dangerous teams capable of rising to the top of the NL ranks, but this Giants team is a legitimate postseason contender.
That's a scary turn of events considering how much money they have coming off the books this winter and all of the prospect talent they have in the minors. They're just scratching the surface of a bright future.
The Rise of Yusei Kikuchi
Is Yusei Kikuchi becoming a dude? (@ElCidly)
The Seattle Mariners thought highly enough of Yusei Kikuchi prior to the 2019 season to sign him to a three-year, $43 million contract that includes four option years.
The 29-year-old put together a strong eight-year run with the Seibu Lions in the Japanese League, but he struggled to a 5.39 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 41 starts over his first two seasons stateside.
He tied a career-high with 10 strikeouts in his first start of the year, and he allowed only one hit while striking out seven in seven scoreless innings against the Houston Astros on April 29.
There have still been some bumps along the way, including an ugly start against the Boston Red Sox on April 23 when he allowed six hits, three walks and five earned runs in 4.2 innings for his first loss of the year.
Looking beneath the surface, he has posted below-average metrics in hard-hit rate (26th percentile) and average exit velocity allowed (30th percentile). His .238 BABIP is a good indication he has benefited from some good luck, and a 4.64 FIP paints him as more of a No. 4/5 starter than a top-of-the-rotation arm.
The left-hander is looking much more like a viable MLB starter this season than he has over the past two years, but he'll need to string together a few more starts like the one he turned in against the Astros before I'm willing to start talking about him as a dude.
How Can the Los Angeles Dodgers Right the Ship?
What do you think the solution to the Dodgers slump is? (@ezrahales)
It's a long season filled with ebbs and flows, and in terms of top-to-bottom talent, the Los Angeles Dodgers are still the best team in baseball.
All five starting pitchers have an ERA+ of 100 or higher. While that includes the recently injured Dustin May, there's a wealth of depth in the organization to fill that void.
Offensively, everyone in the starting lineup besides Gavin Lux has an OPS+ over 100, and Matt Beaty has been extremely productive filling a utility role off the bench.
As a team, they rank among the MLB leaders in OPS (.750, third), runs per game (4.90, fifth), team ERA (3.14, third), starters' ERA (2.88, third) and bullpen ERA (377, 12th), and they still lead the majors in run differential (+38).
That hasn't been adding up to wins lately, but it's a recipe for long-term success.
Aside from Lux, who will be given a long leash while he settles in at the MLB level, and the temporarily vacant No. 5 starter spot, there is no glaring hole on this roster. It's only a matter of time before the Dodgers are once again stringing together wins.
Simply put: Anyone pushing the panic button on the Dodgers needs to chill.
Are the New York Yankees Finally Back on Track?
Is this the time when the Yankees finally get back on track? (@NYCSports321)
The momentum has definitely swung.
However, the New York Yankees did that by winning five of six games against the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, so their recent performance has to be taken with a grain of salt.
They still haven't played the Boston Red Sox, and they're a combined 3-9 against the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays on the year.
If Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon can build off strong starts against bad offensive teams, and the guys not named Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton continue to show signs of life at the plate, this team will quickly rise the ranks in the American League.
The current nine-game stretch of games against the Houston Astros, Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays is going to be telling. For now, I'm in wait-and-see mode.
Check back on May 14 after they wrap up their three-game series with the Rays, and then I might be willing to say the Yankees are back on track.
When Is It Time to Hit the Panic Button?
There are some predicted division-winning teams who are not playing well. When do you think it's time for them to hit the panic button? (@Sports365)
We are less than 20 percent of the way through a long 162-game season, and the 2019 Washington Nationals are still the perfect example of why it's often a waste of energy to overreact to a slow start.
For better or worse, teams are essentially stuck with the rosters they have until the trade market heats up in July. There isn't much they can do besides weathering the storm and shuffling around the in-house talent.
The biggest disappointments relative to preseason expectations are probably the Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves, but both teams are playing in wide-open divisions.
Even with an 11-17 record, the Twins are still only five games back in the AL Central, while the 13-16 Braves are only 1.5 games back in a crapshoot NL East.
In fact, there are only two teams—the Detroit Tigers and Colorado Rockies—who are more than five games out of first place entering play Wednesday.
My opinion: The MLB panic button should not see the light of day until June 1.