Reacting to B/R MLB Community Takes on Mercedes Homer, Mike Trout Injury, MoreMay 20, 2021
Reacting to B/R MLB Community Takes on Mercedes Homer, Mike Trout Injury, 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. Once again, the focus was on general questions and hot takes two months into the 2021 season.
Who will be the first big-name player traded?
Where is the best future home for the Oakland Athletics if they move?
What's next for the Los Angeles Angels after Mike Trout's injury?
How do I feel about Yermin Mercedes and 3-0 swings in blowouts?
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.
My Take on Yermin Mercedes' Homer
What's your opinion on Yermin Mercedes' 3-0 homer? (@zhunt05)
On Aug. 5, 2001, the Seattle Mariners scored eight runs in the third inning to take a 12-0 lead at Cleveland.
The final score: Cleveland 15, Seattle 14.
There have been 16 instances in MLB history wherein the regular season has not been enough to determine a division winner or a wild-card berth, and a tiebreaker game was necessary to sort out the postseason clubs.
Every game matters. No lead is ever safe.
If an opposing team wants to wave the white flag and put in a position player to pitch in an effort to save the bullpen, all the power to them. That doesn't mean the team with the lead should stop piling on.
When Yermin Mercedes crushed a 3-0 pitch from Willians Astudillo to dead center field in the top of the ninth inning on Monday to make a 15-4 game a 16-4 game, it violated the unwritten rules of not piling on when an opponent is down big.
It's time for those unwritten rules and Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa to ride off into the sunset together.
There is no place for either of them in today's game.
Hot Takes and Quick Hits
What fruit could you hit the farthest in a Home Run Derby-style competition? (@Canada1)
A kiwi. It's essentially the fruit equivalent of a golf ball before it ripens. There are larger pitted fruits that would be solid options as well—mangos, peaches, apricots and plums—but they are heavier and would be harder to hit a long way.
Why has nothing been done to fix service time issues? (@okletsgo)
Until the collective bargaining agreement expires, there's really nothing that can be done to amend the arbitration system and prevent service time manipulation. The CBA began in 2017 and runs through the 2021 season. Expect service time to be among a laundry list of issues discussed this offseason when MLB and the MLBPA try to hammer out a new deal.
The Phillies have one of if not the best 1-2-3 punches in baseball. (@Aidan261)
The trio of Zack Wheeler (9 GS, 2.52 ERA, 0.99 WHIP), Aaron Nola (9 GS, 3.64 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) and Zach Eflin (8 GS, 3.86 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) has been a huge strength for the Philadelphia Phillies this season.
That said, I don't think there's any argument for calling it the best in baseball.
I would take the Los Angeles Dodgers (Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw), Milwaukee Brewers (Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta) and San Diego Padres (Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell) without a second thought, and the New York Mets (Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Taijuan Walker) are also a no-brainer when deGrom is healthy.
Statistically, the Chicago White Sox (Carlos Rodon, Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn) and Giants (Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood) also have trios that have arguably been more productive.
Las Vegas Athletics? Nashville Athletics? Montreal Athletics?
You own the A's for a day. Do you build a new stadium? If you don't, where do you want to move? (@JTforMVP0)
Relocation talks are underway in Oakland.
"The future success of the A's depends on a new ballpark," A's managing partner John Fisher said in a statement. "Oakland is a great baseball town, and we will continue to pursue our waterfront ballpark project. We will also follow MLB's direction to explore other markets."
The Oakland Raiders bailed for Las Vegas, and the Golden State Warriors moved across the bay to San Francisco. Will the Athletics be the next to leave Oakland?
The team is set to meet with the city of Las Vegas to hear its relocation pitch, but I think the best landing spot would be Nashville, Tennessee.
There is already a fanbase for college baseball powerhouse Vanderbilt, and the city is home to the Sounds, a Triple-A affiliate of the Athletics from 2015 to 2018 and now the Triple-A home of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Weaving Major League Baseball into one of the country's most popular tourist destinations seems like a recipe for success.
The First Big Name to Be Traded in 2021
Who will be the first big name dealt? (@prhjr15)
Do you consider Texas Rangers right-hander Kyle Gibson a big name?
The 33-year-old has eight quality starts in nine appearances with a 2.32 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 54.1 innings this season, and he comes with a team-friendly $7.7 million salary in 2022.
If he keeps pitching anywhere near that level, he is going to be a hot commodity and could really move the needle for a contender in need of rotation help.
But we're looking for a bona fide star.
The Colorado Rockies are the most mismanaged team in baseball, but even that front office should see the writing on the wall with shortstop Trevor Story headed for free agency this offseason and poised to abandon the sinking ship.
The Rockies are already 11.5 games back in the National League West with the worst winning percentage in baseball, and it's likely going to get worse before it gets better.
Another answer is Kris Bryant, but as long as the Chicago Cubs are near .500 in the wide-open National League Central, there remains the possibility that they stand pat or even buy at the deadline.
Trade Value of Richard Rodriguez
Will Richard Rodriguez bring back a top 100 prospect for the Pirates? (@pittsburghbob25)
The Pittsburgh Pirates hold one of baseball's most appealing potential trade chips in reliever Richard Rodriguez.
The 31-year-old joined the Pirates as a minor league free agent after the 2017 season, and over the past three years he posted a 3.02 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings with five saves and 33 holds in 159 appearances.
This season, he has been virtually untouchable with a 0.53 ERA and 0.41 WHIP in 17 appearances, allowing just six hits and one walk to the 58 batters he has faced.
Despite his age, he is still controllable through the 2023 season after getting a late start to his MLB career, and he'll earn just $1.7 million in 2021 in his first year of arbitration eligibility.
Is that combination of results and remaining control enough to bring back a top 100 prospect?
I don't think so, but someone on the fringe of the top 100 and inside a contender's top 10 is not out of the question. Michael Busch (Los Angeles Dodgers) or Orelvis Martinez (Toronto Blue Jays) could be a viable headliner for a return package.
A deal of Rodriguez and the versatile Adam Frazier would appeal to a number of contenders, so that might be Pittsburgh's best move to maximize its prospect return.
The Texas Rangers' Trade Chips
Will the Rangers trade Joey Gallo or Kyle Gibson/Ian Kennedy, and what will they get in return? (@LandonE)
The Texas Rangers' trade of Lance Lynn—and, to a lesser degree, their deals of Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor and Rafael Montero—made it clear they were headed for a youth movement.
With a 19-25 record and minus-20 run differential, the first seven weeks of the season have done nothing to change that trajectory.
I'd be stunned if Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy are not traded this summer.
Gibson is having the best season of his career with a 2.32 ERA and 1.01 WHIP through his first nine starts, and a team-friendly $7.7 million salary in 2022 adds to his value.
Kennedy was plucked from the scrapheap with a minor league deal in February, and anything he provided this year was going to be gravy. He's a perfect 11-for-11 in save chances with a 2.12 ERA and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 17 appearances.
It's not out of the question to think Gibson could bring back a package similar to what the Toronto Blue Jays acquired from the New York Mets—left-hander Anthony Kay and right-hander Simeon Woods Richardson—for a year-and-a-half of Marcus Stroman at the 2019 trade deadline.
Meanwhile, last year's Trevor Rosenthal trade from the Kansas City Royals to the San Diego Padres is a good blueprint for what a Kennedy trade might look like. An MLB-ready outfielder (Edward Olivares) and potential late-inning reliever (Dylan Coleman) went to Kansas City in that deal.
I don't think the Rangers are going to sell low on Joey Gallo, and with a .215/.358/.382 line and 108 OPS+, he offers far from peak value right now. Unless he catches fire, I expect him to stay put until the offseason or 2022 deadline.
Most Entertaining Batter vs. Pitcher Matchup
What pitcher vs. batter matchup would be the most entertaining? (@HunterBonney)
If we're going outside the box here, I'd love to see Shohei Ohtani square off against himself.
The American League home run leader against a hard-throwing right-hander who has racked up 40 strikeouts in 25.2 innings who just happen to be the same guy. That's about as entertaining as it gets.
But since that's not going to happen, I'll instead go with Shohei Ohtani the hitter against Milwaukee Brewers closer Josh Hader.
I think Ohtani is the most compelling player in baseball right now, and he's also swinging one of the hottest bats in the game with home runs in three straight games and four of five.
How would the left-handed hitter fare against arguably the nastiest southpaw in the game?
Hader has been his usual overpowering self this year, striking out 28 of the 61 batters he has faced while posting a 1.15 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 16.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
In his career, lefties are hitting just .115/.219/.243 with a 46.9 percent strikeout rate against him, including an 0-for-13 showing with seven strikeouts in 2021.
The Brewers don't face the Los Angeles Angels this season, but perhaps we'll get this dream matchup in the All-Star Game.
Nico Hoerner's Hot Start
Is Nico Hoerner's early-season success with the Cubs sustainable? (@ZonaballBearDown)
Optioned to the Chicago Cubs' alternate site to start the 2021 campaign, Nico Hoerner has quickly made up for lost time since his season debut April 22.
The 24-year-old is hitting .353/.433/.471 with six doubles and the same number of walks as strikeouts (eight) through his first 60 plate appearances.
That's a significant spike in production from the lackluster .222/.312/.259 line and 60 OPS+ the 2018 first-round pick logged in 2020, and the small sample size makes it fair to question whether we are witnessing a legitimate breakout or an unsustainable hot start.
Looking under the hood, Hoerner has improved his hard-hit rate (37.2 to 40.9 percent) and his average exit velocity (87.5 to 89.9 mph) relative to last year. He has also raised his walk rate (9.5 to 13.3 percent) and lowered his strikeout rate (19.0 to 13.3 percent), which generally speaks to a player's settling in at the MLB level.
He's not going to hit .353 the rest of the way—his unsustainable .409 BABIP makes that clear—but it does look like he has turned a corner.
A .270 average with some gap power and stellar defense at second base would make him a valuable player.
Which Rookie Will Have the Best Career?
Which rookie do you think will have the best career? (@samcochran)
The easy answer is Jarred Kelenic, but let's focus on rookies with larger sample sizes.
St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson is going to be a staple in the middle of that lineup for years, and young starters Ian Anderson (Atlanta Braves) and Trevor Rogers (Miami Marlins) certainly look like the real deal.
But of the rookies who have played at least 20 games or pitched at least 20 innings this season, Miami Marlins shortstop Jazz Chisholm Jr. is my pick for the first-year player with the brightest future.
The 23-year-old joined the Marlins in a deadline deal that sent Zac Gallen to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019, and he hit just .161 with a 30.6 percent strikeout rate in 62 plate appearances in his MLB debut last season.
He won the starting second base job with a strong spring training, and he's hitting .308/.382/.577 with 10 extra-base hits and a National League-leading eight steals in 89 plate appearances.
Chisholm has always had loud tools, slugging 20 home runs in back-to-back seasons in the minors, but he hit just .220/.321/.441 with a 32.1 percent strikeout rate at Double-A in 2019. There is still a significant amount of swing-and-miss to his game, but he also ranks among the MLB leaders in barrel rate (94th percentile) and has shown a willingness to work a base on balls with a 10.1 percent walk rate.
With his mix of power, speed and athleticism, along with his ability to barrel up the baseball when he makes contract, he could be a perennial 20-20 middle infielder.
What's Next for the Angels After Mike Trout's Injury?
Where do the Angels go from here after losing Mike Trout for the foreseeable future? (@NYCSports321)
Hot take: The Los Angeles Angels weren't going anywhere even before Mike Trout was sidelined with a strained right calf.
Year after year, the front office whiffs on the free-agent market's top starters and settles for mid-level Band-Aids.
Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey in 2019.
Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran in 2020.
Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb in 2021.
The Bundy trade has worked out well, but the rest of those pitchers have flopped. That's what happens when you shop in the bargain bin.
Mike Trout could play all 162 games and hit .400 with 50 home runs, but it still wouldn't matter if the starting rotation couldn't do better than an MLB-worst 5.47 ERA.
The only thing that's going to save the Angels from a last-place finish in the American League West is the likelihood that the Texas Rangers will be aggressive sellers at the trade deadline.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant and accurate through Tuesday.