B/R MLB Community: HR Derby Lineup, 2021 MLB Draft, MLB Trade Deadline and More
Welcome to the Bleacher Report MLB community article!
This week, we simply asked for your most compelling questions covering everything from the upcoming MLB draft to All-Star Game voting to this summer's trade deadline and everything in between.
As usual, you did not disappoint.
Who will join Shohei Ohtani and Pete Alonso in the Home Run Derby? Who deserves to go No. 1 overall in the 2021 draft? What late-inning relief pitchers could be on the move this summer? Should the New York Yankees pay Aaron Judge when he hits free agency?
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 Monday afternoon for the crowdsourcing thread on the MLB stream in the B/R app.
Home Run Derby Lineup
"How do you think Shohei Ohtani will do in the Home Run Derby, and who else will be invited?" (@gooseshumpert)
So far, we know that Shohei Ohtani wants to participate in this year's Home Run Derby, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has decided not to take part in the event, and 2019 winner Pete Alonso will defend his crown.
Assuming it will once again be an eight-man field, here's my guess for who will be included:
- Shohei Ohtani, LAA (23 HR)
- Fernando Tatis Jr., SD (22 HR)
- Ronald Acuna Jr., ATL (20 HR)
- Matt Olson, OAK (20 HR)
- Rafael Devers, BOS (18 HR)
- Ryan McMahon, COL (16 HR)
- Bo Bichette, TOR (14 HR)
- Pete Alonso, NYM (11 HR)
The last time a player from the host city did not participate in the Home Run Derby was 2012, when AL captain Robinson Cano was booed by the Kauffman Stadium crowd for not selecting Kansas City Royals All-Star Billy Butler to swing it in front of the home fans. Expect to see either Ryan McMahon or C.J. Cron included.
As for how Ohtani will do, he's participated in the event in Japan before, and it sounds like he learned some valuable lessons.
"In 2016, I remember trying to swing the bat too hard, like harder than normal," Ohtani told reporters. "So this time around, I’m going to try to use that experience and take normal BP hacks and not try to do too much."
I think he's as good a pick as anyone to win it.
Christian Yelich's Power and Aaron Judge's Next Contract
"Where did Christian Yelich go? Who is that wearing his uniform?" (@Ghostdog9)
Right?! I was so sure he was going to bounce back.
Despite his mediocre surface-level numbers, he ranked among the MLB leaders in average exit velocity (99th percentile) and hard-hit rate (98th percentile) last year, and it seemed like only a matter of time before his luck turned.
He's still hitting the ball hard, and he's also walking at a career-high 20.4 percent clip for a .413 on-base percentage, but he's just not producing.
He had 76 extra-base hits in 580 plate appearances during the 2019 season, good for a 13.1 percent extra-base hit rate. That fell to 8.1 percent last year and has bottomed out at 5.4 percent in 2021. His slugging percentage has dropped 274 points from where it was in 2019.
The Brewers are still on the hook for $188.5 million over the next seven years.
"Do you think Aaron Judge is worth signing considering the contract he will expect, injuries, and recent Yankees success as a franchise?" (@DepressedDidiFan)
There's a good chance someone is going to give Aaron Judge a nine-figure deal of five-plus years once he reaches free agency for the first time following the 2022 season, and it's going to be one of the riskiest long-term contracts in MLB history.
He'll turn 31 years old during the first month of the 2023 campaign, and while he has been healthy and productive this year, he played in just 63 percent of the Yankees' games over the previous three seasons.
I wouldn't sign him for more than three years if I were a general manager, but someone will meet a larger asking price.
College Rotation Mates and the MLB Draft
"With Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter being two high draft picks and both pitchers from Vanderbilt, what is the best—according to their MLB stats—pair of pitchers from the same school drafted in the same year?" (@bobqb)
In all likelihood, Jake Leiter and Kumar Rocker will both be selected within the first 10 picks in the 2021 draft after flashing elite stuff all season at Vanderbilt.
That leads to the inevitable question of where they may ultimately rank among the best college pitching tandems selected in the same MLB draft. Here's a look at some notable duos who were part of the same draft class and each finished with at least 10.0 WAR for their career:
- 1981 draft, St. John's: Frank Viola (47.0 WAR), John Franco (23.4 WAR)
- 2001 draft, Pepperdine: Dan Haren (35.1 WAR), Noah Lowry (10.0 WAR)
- 2003 draft, Mississippi State: Jonathan Papelbon (23.3 WAR), Paul Maholm (11.9 WAR)
- 2003 draft, Missouri State: Shaun Marcum (13.4 WAR), Brad Ziegler (13.1 WAR)
- 2004 draft, Long Beach State: Jered Weaver (34.6 WAR), Jason Vargas (17.6 WAR)
- 2011 draft, UCLA: Gerrit Cole (30.0 WAR), Trevor Bauer (20.3 WAR)
The Kansas City Royals have a pair of young right-handers in Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar who were teammates at the University of Florida before being selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, and they have the potential to one day join this list.
It's safe to assume that Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer will ultimately overtake Frank Viola and John Franco for the most combined WAR.
Don't be surprised if Leiter and Rocker give them a run for their money as well.
The No. 1 Pick in the 2021 MLB Draft
"You're on the clock picking 1:1. Who are you considering, who would you take, and why?" (@CHS_OsFan)
The 2021 draft class might be without a consensus No. 1 player, but there is a solid collection of talent that makes up the top-tier of prospects.
There are eight players in this year's class worth at least considering with the No. 1 overall pick. Here's how they would line up on my big board:
- 1. SS Jordan Lawlar, Jesuit Prep (TX)
- 2. SS Marcelo Mayer, Eastlake HS (CA)
- 3. C Henry Davis, Louisville
- 4. RHP Jack Leiter, Vanderbilt
- 5. SS Kahlil Watson, Wake Forest HS (NC)
- 6. RHP Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt
- 7. RHP Jackson Jobe, Heritage Hall HS (OK)
- 8. SS Brady House, Winder-Barrow HS (GA)
The difference between Lawlar and Mayer at the top is negligible, but Lawlar is the better athlete with a more well-rounded game. Some people are concerned with his glove at shortstop, but he has the quick twitch needed to eventually develop into a plus defender.
If not for a 45-grade glove behind the plate and some inconsistent receiving skills, Davis would be a slam dunk, and I still think he's the safest pick in this draft.
There's going to be a lot of talk of cutting a deal and guys moving up and down the draft board, but it would be surprising if Pittsburgh doesn't end up with Lawlar or Mayer when the dust settles.
The Trade Market for Bullpen Help
"Who are the best reliever trade chips that a team needing bullpen help could go after?" (@sam_jam)
Bullpen help is always in demand as the trade deadline approaches, and this season will be no exception with a number of contenders in need of late-inning assistance.
Among teams that are currently within five games of a postseason spot, the Houston Astros (16th), Milwaukee Brewers (17th), Seattle Mariners (19th), St. Louis Cardinals (20th), Philadelphia Phillies (21st), Atlanta Braves (26th) and Cincinnati Reds (30th) all rank in the bottom half of the league in bullpen ERA.
That said, even the best relief corps could use reinforcement for the stretch run.
Here's a preliminary ranking of the top seven relievers I expect to be available:
- 1. Richard Rodriguez, PIT: 28 G, 9 SV, 1.84 ERA, 7.7 K/9
- 2. Kendall Graveman, SEA: 19 G, 6 SV, 1.25 ERA, 8.7 K/9
- 3. Ian Kennedy, TEX: 24 G, 12 SV, 2.59 ERA, 10.0 K/9
- 4. Yimi Garcia, MIA: 30 G, 11 SV, 2.89 ERA, 8.7 K/9
- 5. Hansel Robles, LAA: 34 G, 12 HLD, 3.48 ERA, 9.1 K/9
- 6. Jose Cisnero, DET: 33 G, 8 HLD, 3.19 ERA, 11.3 K/9
- 7. Daniel Bard, COL: 28 G, 9 SV, 4.20 ERA, 11.1 K/9
The Mariners' recent surge could mean Graveman is no longer a trade candidate, but as a low-cost rental with dominant numbers aside from a brief hiccup in his return from the injured list, he could be a real difference-maker.
Rodriguez is under club control through 2023 and earning a team-friendly $1.7 million this year, so it will take a significant return to pry him loose from the Pirates.
Trade-Deadline Buyers and Sellers
"What teams can you see on the periphery or seemingly out of contention this year trading for a good controllable asset like Mets/Stroman and Reds/Bauer in 2019? Who would they target?" (@CHS_OsFan)
I would keep an eye on the Seattle Mariners. General manager Jerry Dipoto loves to wheel and deal, and that feels like a team on the cusp of contention with some exciting young talent coming through the pipeline. They could really use an established arm in that rotation, especially with Marco Gonzales struggling.
The Miami Marlins also feel like a team that could take an opportunistic approach. They flipped Zac Gallen for Jazz Chisholm Jr. two years ago and acquired Starling Marte with a year-and-a-half of control remaining at last year's deadline.
A few names who could fit the controllable-asset profile include Joey Gallo (TEX), John Means (BAL), Luis Castillo (CIN), German Marquez (COL), Spencer Turnbull (DET) and Taylor Rogers (MIN).
"Do the Washington Nationals or Minnesota Twins sell?" (@BRINGBACKBONDS)
The Nationals had won eight of their last nine games entering play Wednesday, putting them just four games back in the NL East standings. They have a ton of money committed to an aging core, so don't expect them to sell unless they are completely out of it.
The Twins, on the other hand, are cooked.
A healthy Michael Pineda would be a valuable trade chip, Hansel Robles is a quality bullpen arm on a one-year deal, and Taylor Rogers would be a welcome addition to any contender's bullpen. Would they move Nelson Cruz, who is also playing on a one-year deal but has become such an important voice in the clubhouse?
Potential Trade-Deadline Regrets
"What is a move that one team should make at the deadline that they won't do? Conversely, what's one move a team will make that they shouldn't?" (@joshuag71)
The Pittsburgh Pirates should sell high on Bryan Reynolds.
The 26-year-old is hitting .302/.395/.528 with 20 doubles, 12 home runs and 38 RBI in 286 plate appearances, and his 3.1 WAR is tied for third among NL position players. With club control through the 2025 season, he would bring back a huge return, and capable center fielders are at a premium in today's game.
As good as the surface-level numbers look, his average exit velocity (35th percentile) and hard-hit rate (34th percentile) suggest he's playing over his head right now, and a .356 BABIP despite those middling metrics is another regression red flag.
The Pirates aren't guaranteed to be relevant by 2025 anyway, so selling high now and further bolstering the farm system would be in their best interest. Don't expect him to be on the move this summer, though.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Texas Rangers are a good bet to trade Joey Gallo and quickly come to regret it. The 27-year-old is arbitration-eligible for one more year after 2021, so there is no rush to move him. The Rangers are rebuilding, but he should be viewed as a cornerstone and possible extension candidate rather than a trade chip.
Close-minded fans will look at his .218 average and 91 strikeouts and call him a one-dimensional slugger. However, he also has a career-high 19.4 percent walk rate en route to a terrific .378 on-base percentage, and he's a Gold Glove defender in right field.
He showed flashes of superstardom in 2019 before going down with an injury. Seeing that potential unlocked elsewhere would be a tough pill to swallow.