I tend to ignore what happens in the short season rookie leagues because I’ve been burned way too many times getting excited about what happens in Odgen but I can’t take my eyes away from what 18-year-old Miguel Vargas is doing this summer for the Raptors.
Miguel Vargas is from Cuba and got to the United States when he and his dad defected together in the summer of 2015. His dad was a legendary Cuban baseball player and his son was considered one of the top Cuban prospects but the Dodgers were able to sign him for only $300,000 last September. This would be proper as the Dodgers have thrown millions at Cuban prospects that have not panned out so why not hit a home run with a fairly minor signing.
Vargas only lasted thirty-one at-bats in the Arizona rookie league before being promoted to the more advanced Pioneer League. Since arriving with the Odgen Raptors Vargas has put up video game numbers with a triple stat line of .522 / .569 / .804 in forty-six at-bats. Overall, he has only struck out five times in seventy – seven at-bats. 2017 Number one pick Jeren Kendall will strike out five times in two games. Any two games. So far Vargas has split time between 1st and 3rd, getting a few more games at 3rd than 1st. In his last five games he is 12 for 22 with only one strikeout. Hopefully, he will play for the Loons this summer so we can see what he does against advanced competition because right now he’s overwhelming the Pioneer League pitching.
In the summer of 2016 the Dodgers traded Cuban bonus baby 19-year-old Yordan Alvarez for Josh Fields. Yordan never played for Dodgers in the United States but is now one of the top prospects in the game and represented Houston in the Futures game this past Sunday.
Will the Dodgers trade another Cuban teen-ager this summer?
Quick 21st-century LAD All-Star notes:
- The most all-stars this century were the six in 2017
- The Dodgers had a rookie all-star three years in a row from 2015 – 2017 with Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Cody Bellinger. That streak was broken in 2018.
- Kershaw’s was in 7 straight all-star games but had his streak broken in 2018.
- Clayton Kershaw was the first LAD to make an all-star team still on the current roster
- Kenley Jansen joins Eric Gagne, Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Takashi Saito as the only relievers to make the all-star team in this century
- Eric Gagne is the only LAD besides Kershaw to be an all-star this century at least three times
- Shawn Green had some incredible years for the Dodgers but was only an all-star one time in 2002. Amazingly his record-breaking season of 2001 did not get him to the all-star game.
- Paul LoDuca, Russell Martin, and Yazmani Grandal are the catchers who have represented the LAD this century
- Corey Seager and Rafael Furcal are the only shortstops to make the all-star team
- Free agent All-Stars were Justin Turner, Zack Greinke, Rafy Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Kevin Brown, and Orlando Hudson
- International free agent all-stars are Kenley Jansen, Chan-Ho Park, Takashi Saito, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Yasiel Puig
- Traded for all-stars are Alex Wood, Adrian Gonzalez, Yazmani Grandal, Andre Ethier, Brad Penny, Cesar Izturis, Shawn Gree, Odalis Perez, and Jeff Shaw
2018 – No Clayton Kershaw but say hello to Ross Stripling who didn’t make the originally announced squad but was added later. Kenley Jansen makes the team for the second season in row. Matt Kemp made the team via the fan vote. Yeah he did. Last year the Dodgers sent six to the All-Star game but Kenley Jansen will be the only one to make it in 2018 from that group of six. Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, Alex Wood, Corey Seager, and Cody Bellinger all get a vacation this year.
2017 – Alex Wood was just a tad better than Clayton Kershaw by the break with Wood sporting a 10 – 0 and one of the best sOPS+ against in LAD history by the break. Clayton was as good as ever continuing to make his case as one of the five greatest pitchers in baseball history. Corey Seager just missed getting the fan vote due to Zack Cosart having a career year but was an easy manager call for a substitution. Kenley Jansen was the best relief pitcher in MBL during the first half and got his second all-star nod. Cody Bellinger beat the odds and made the team even though the NL was stacked at 1st base. I expect his ability to play the outfield got him on the team not to mention his bazillion home runs in just two months of baseball. Justin Turner had to make the team via the fan vote for the final spot and the Dodger fans did not let him down, as he beat out the reigning 2016 MVP Kris Bryant to win his first all-star nod. Turner hit the break with the highest fWAR even though he had missed several weeks of baseball.
2016 – Clayton Kershaw got the nod once again as he once again was the best pitcher in baseball. Kenley Jansen finally had a great April and rode that to his first all-star nod. Corey Seager made the all-star team in his rookie season by being the best NL SS in the first half.
2015 – Zack Greinke once again joined Clayton Kershaw as an all-star and he did it by being the best pitcher in the NL in the first half. Joc Pederson rode to the all-star game on the back of his 20 first half home runs becoming the first of three rookies in a row to make the all-star team. Yazmani Grandal made his first all-star team in his first season with the Dodgers. Adrian Gonzalez would make his last all-star team via his dynamic April.
2014 – Clayton and Greinke took the honors. Puig had a monster first half and the talk was of an MVP season. It would be the last great three month stretch by Puig. From June of 2013 – June 2014 he was arguably the best player in baseball. Dee Gordon would make the all-star team bouncing back from a disappointing 2013 season.
2013 – Just Clayton
2012 – Clayton once again. Matt Kemp makes his last Dodger all-star team with a monster first half even though he missed all of June.
2011 – Clayton once again. Matt Kemp makes his first all-star game and comes just short of being the 2011 MVP. Andre Either makes his 2nd all-star game and his last.
2010 – No Clayton yet. Kuo and Broxton ride the great Dodger bullpen to spots on the all-star team. Furcal had one of the greatest first halves for a Dodger SS to nab his only LAD all-star nomination. Andre Ethier gets his first all-star nomination due to his fantastic first half. From the all-star break of 2009 until the all-star break of 2010, Andre Ethier had an OPS over .900.
|Year||All-Star One||All-Star Two||All-Star 3,4,5|
|2017|||||Kershaw, Clayton|||||Jansen, Kenley|||||Seager, Corey, Justin Turner, Alex Wood, Cody Bellinger|
|2016|||||Kershaw, Clayton|||||Jansen, Kenley|||||Seager, Corey|
|2015|||||Kershaw, Clayton|||||Greinke, Zack|||||Gonzalez, Adrian, / Pederson, Joc / Grandal, Yazmani|
|2014|||||Kershaw, Clayton|||||Greinke, Zack|||||Puig, Yasiel / Gordon, Dee|
|2012|||||Kershaw, Clayton|||||Kemp, Matt||||
|2011|||||Kershaw, Clayton|||||Kemp, Matt|||||Ethier, Andre|
|2010|||||Kuo, Hong-Chih|||||Broxton, Jonathan|||||Furcal, Rafael / Ethier, Andre|
|2009|||||Billingsley, Chad|||||Broxton, Jonathan|||||Hudson, Orlando|
|2007|||||Penny, Brad|||||Saito, Takashi|||||Martin, Russel|
|2006|||||Penny, Brad|||||Garciaparra, Nomar||||
|2005|||||Kent, Jeff|||||Izturis, Cesar||||
|2004|||||Gagne, Eric|||||LoDuca, Paul||||
|2003|||||Gagne, Eric|||||LoDuca, Paul|||||Brown, Kevin|
|2002|||||Gagne, Eric|||||Green, Shawn|||||Perez, Odalis|
|2001|||||Park, Chan-Ho|||||Shaw, Jeff||||
|2000|||||Brown, Kevin|||||Sheffield, Gary|
It is strange to call something the first half when ninety-six games have already been played and only sixty-six games remain in the “second half” but that is what MLB has decided is our season.
With that in mind, the Dodgers needed all ninety plus games in the first half to climb into first place just before the All-Star break.
The Dodgers are in first place for none of the reasons you would have expected.
- Corey Seager was only in twenty-six games with mediocre production before going down for the season.
- They got nominal production from Clayton Kershaw who only threw seventy-five innings in thirteen starts and got three wins.
- Justin Turner has only played in forty-eight of the ninety-six games and when he has played he’s been the worst hitter in the lineup on the days that Logan Forsythe is on the bench.
That is three MVP caliber players who just haven’t come close to their historical production levels.
All that got evened out by Ross Stripling, Walker Buehler, Joc Pederson, and Max Muncy who own the Dodgers top awards for the first half.
Best First Half Pitcher – Ross Stripling, with Kenta Maeda giving him a little competition. Using fWAR or ERA or skilled metrics, Ross wins this hands down.
Best First Half Position Player: Max Muncy who has become invaluable to this team with his ability to play 1st, 2nd, and 3rd base. The other four Bellinger, Grandal, Taylor, and Kemp are fairly close together in fWAR but Kemp clearly dominates the quartet in the offensive metrics with his .370 wOBA and 137 wRC+.
First Half Rookie of the Year: Clearly Walker Buehler who was a huge boost to the rotation when they needed it most.
First Half Suprise – Non Max Muncy/Ross Stripling edition:
I’m going to go with Joc Pederson here even though Matt Kemp and Kiké Hernandez have a good case. There are surprises associated with Matt Kemp. Making the team given the salary implications, his attitude, his physical condition, but hitting, not a surprise to me.
So to explain this further. I thought Kiké could hit and field like he has done so not a complete surprise to me. I thought Matt Kemp could still hit, maybe not at this level for this long but I did still think he could hit.
Joc Pederson, on the other hand, I had basically given up on by the end of April and felt that Alex Verdugo might be a better option. That is why he’s my surprise pick because what he has done has shocked me even though he has had streaks before, I never expected this streak from his this year.
In the middle of April Joc was fighting for a spot on the roster. The Dodgers best position prospect seemed like a better option since they were both left-handed outfielders and one was tearing up AAA, and the other was struggling with an OPS of .535. Joc started hitting just enough to stay relevant on the major league roster and by the end of May owned an OPS of .718. Not great, but he was showing signs of life. Those signs of life exploded on June 2nd and Joc was the best hitter in baseball for the month of June with a wRC+ of 219 beating out his teammate Max Muncy. Joc has slowed in July but you can only burn like a shooting star for so long. Joc has always been a streaky hitter but he’s never had a month like he had this past June.
First Half Disappointment – Logan Forsythe has been a disappointment ever since he joined the team in the spring of 2017 but never more so than this year. Last year he could point to injuries, but this year, he simply can’t hit. For one brief moment last October Logan shined as a Dodger like someone who was just detailed but for most of his Dodger career, he has been as dull as a twenty-year-old paint job. At this point, he has lost his job to Max Muncy against RHP and is on the verge of losing his job completely. If the Dodgers do trade for any infield help (Machado, Scooter, Dozier) it will be Logan who loses his spot. Given he is making $9 Million his performance has hurt the organization because he makes it harder to stay under the competitive salary tax while trying to improve the team.
Will Smith got all the attention early in the week when he blasted his fourth home run in four games on Wednesday night
He’s done it again! Fourth game in a row Will Smith has homered! His 16th of the year, 5th in his last 6 games, and 9th in his last 14 games.
— Tulsa Drillers (@TulsaDrillers) July 12, 2018
and all of the sudden you could hear twitter whispers that maybe Will Smith was the better catching prospect over teen-ager Keibert Ruiz even though Will Smith was playing in the same league while being four years old than Ruiz. It was after all an amazing display of power from Will Smith and you could understand the short-sighted view given that Keibert had an OPS under .700.
Keibert decided to add his own power display and not only homered yesterday, he homered twice, and not only did he homer twice, the switch-hitter homered from each side of the plate. This performance got him a write up in the Baseball America daily prospect write-up:
Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers. Ruiz has not set the world on fire in the Texas League this season. But dig a little deeper and what’s he’s doing is still pretty remarkable. Ruiz went 3-for-4 with two home runs and a double yesterday, raising his slash line to .251/.315/.397. That obviously isn’t a great stat line, but he’s a 19-year-old switch-hitting catcher in Double-A who has made defensive improvements while striking out in less than eight percent of plate appearances.
“I just can’t say enough good things about him, with his maturity and how he’s developed as a hitter and just as a player,” Tulsa manager Scott Hennessey said. “The guy just has such great feel for the game and it’s so impressive to watch the things that he can do every night.
“At 19 years old, he could be a freshman in college … and this guy’s performing at the Double-A level like he’s a veteran. It’s really fun to watch.”
Keibert said this was the first time he had ever homered in the same game from both sides of the plate.
As far as Will Smith and Keibert having any problems as they share catching duties for the Tulsa Drillers while they both dream of being the Dodgers future starting catcher, this is what they had to say:
“They kind of feed off each other and they help each other so much,” Hennessey said. “They’re highly touted prospects, but they’re great teammates and they want each other to succeed. It’s just been really fun to watch them. It’s actually fun for the staff to watch these guys help each other and go about their business. Honestly, we just stay out of their way.”
The bottom line is that the deadly duo gives the Dodgers plenty of depth at the catching position. Could the Dodgers be thinking of moving Keibert Ruiz for some help this summer or winter? They recently signed another teen-age Venezuelan who was considered not only the top catcher in the International scene but one of the best players Diego Cartaya.
It wasn’t supposed to be such a steep climb but when the Arizona Diamondbacks got off to such a hot start and the Dodgers stumbled coming out of the gate, first place looked as far away as the peak of El Capitan but with a trio of Monster drinks in their backpack the Dodgers have surmounted the peak and stand in first place.
It wasn’t easy, the team suffered injury after injury:
- Lost Tom Koehler before the season started
- Lost MVP candidate Corey Seager for the year shortly after the season started
- Lost Hyun-Jin Ryu until after the All-Star break
- Lost MVP candidate Justin Turner for six weeks before the season started
- Lost Puig for multiple weeks
- Lost Clayton Kershaw for multiple weeks
- Lost rookie sensation Walker Buehler for multiple weeks
- Lost relief pitchers Pedro Baez, Tony Cingrani
- When Dennis Santana came up to help the rotation they lost him within a week until late August at best.
Through those injuries, they found some gold nuggets.
Max Muncy replaced Justin Turner at 3rd base, moved to 1st base when Justin Turner came back, and is now the starting 2nd baseman when he’s not playing 3rd or 1st base. He has also been the best player on the Dodgers and probably none of this happens if Justin Turner does not get hit by a pitch.
Ross Stripling stepped in for Ryu and is now an All-Star
The Dodgers will finish the first half with three games against the beleaguered Angels who can’t seem to keep a pitcher on the mound. Their ace Ohtani can only DH and is not allowed to pitch. The second best pitcher Garrett Richards is going to have Tommy John surgery this weekend. The Dodgers will be facing Felix Pena a 28-year-old with all of four major league starts to his name and Deck McGuire a 29-year-old who also has all of four major league starts to his name. The Angels have had twelve pitchers make starts for them in 2018 and seven of them are on the current disabled list and that does not include Othani who can’t pitch.
The Diamondbacks meanwhile just got hammered in Colorado and head across country to face the surprising second-place Atlanta Braves. Good luck with that.
The Dodgers should end the first half still in first place, and given all that has happened, it was a remarkable journey to get there.
On April 8th, 2016 Ross Stripling had one of the greatest debut games as a pitcher in LAD history when he held the Giants to ZERO hits while recording twenty-two outs. More was made about the fact he wasn’t allowed to go for his no-hitter than about the fact the Dodgers had found another jewel for the rotation. That was because Ross was already twenty-six and no one thought he was going to be a long-term piece for the Dodger rotation. That piece was already reserved for nineteen-year-old Julio Urias who was just biding time in AAA until the Dodgers brought him up.
Ross would make eight starts between April 8th and May 19th and most were unforgettable except for a gem he threw in his 6th start at Toronto where he gave up only one hit while getting eighteen outs. His 7th and 8th starts found him giving up nine runs in nine innings and he gave way for what was supposed to be the future. On May 27th, Julio Urias at the tender age of nineteen made his major league debut and unlike what Ross Stripling did, it was a forgettable start and ranked as one of the worst Dodger debuts in their long history.
Even though Ross Stripling had thrown a seven-inning no-hitter in his debut and Julio Urias had struggled in his debut, all eyes were on Julio Urias not on Ross Stripling and Julio stayed in the rotation until July 4th. Both Ross and Julio were in the rotation in August and while Ross was just filling in, the hope was the Julio was getting ready for the postseason. That didn’t turn out well for Julio and the Dodgers but that is another story.
Ross Stripling finished 2016 in the bullpen and given his splits as a starter/reliever it looked like that would be where his future would lie. In fourteen starts in 2016, Ross had an OPS against of .741. As a reliever in eight games, it was a stunning .598.
2017 found Ross making only two starts for a combined five innings. Ross pitched in 47 games as a relief pitcher and for most of those games was very good. Of those 47 games he gave up zero runs twenty-eight times, and one run only twelve times. The other seven games are where he struggled giving up nineteen runs in just nine innings. At this point, I had assumed his job as a relief pitcher seemed etched in cement.
Headed into this season Ross Stripling was a forgotten piece as part of the rotation with many pieces seemingly in front of him but baseball has a funny way of working things out. I have always believed that timing is just as important as skill in how a player progresses in the major leagues. Some players never get the right timing and as such can never shake a label that is applied early in their career. Ross Stripling took advantage of his timing when he was given a spot start on May 6th and given he wasn’t stretched out, the team was simply hoping for the minimum but Ross delivered the maximum giving them twelve outs and zero runs. Dave Roberts and company liked what they saw enough to keep Ross in the rotation, and game after game he has delivered, so much so that he has been the Dodgers best starting pitcher in 2018. The numbers speak for themselves, as he has already garnered 2.4 fWAR, has a K% of 28%, and a measly walk rate of 3.6%.
So, what is Ross Stripling? Is he a pumpkin? Is he a good pitcher who can hold up the back end of a rotation? Can he be the middle relief bridge for the bullpen and give the Dodgers a weapon they didn’t know they had? Is he a late bloomer and all the metrics support the idea that he could something akin to …………Corey Kluber?
First off, why is Ross having such success? This was Jeff Sullivan back on June 6th after just six starts:
There’s no one single explanation for Stripling’s rise. He’s added some bulk to improve his durability. He’s gained more experience, and more familiarity. As the anecdote goes, Stripling is now throwing his curveball as hard as he can, as opposed to trying to guide it. And Stripling is a four-pitch pitcher, who can locate all four pitches. His slider and curveball in particular have become great weapons. Stripling’s K-BB% against lefties last year was 14%. Now it’s double that number.
I will shed a little light on Stripling’s fastball/curveball combination. He throws over the top, so his fastball generates rise, with very little run. That also means his curveball is a true 12-to-6.
Rob Friedman tweeted this beautiful overlay of how devastating his curveball is.
Ross Stripling, Fastball & Curveball, Overlay.
Why did you swing at that curveball in the dirt?!!
That’s why. 👇🏼 pic.twitter.com/OJfu5tIB23
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 11, 2018
The bottom line seems to be that Ross Stripling is a four-pitch pitcher but that his curveball is one of the best in the game right now.
As of July 11th Ross Stripling ranks with the best among NL starters:
- He ranks fifth in strike out % at 29.1%
- He ranks 1st in walk rate % 2.4%
- He ranks 1st in Strikeout / Walk ratio at 12.29. For context, Thor is way way way back at 5.85
- He ranks 1st in Walks per 9 innings at .85. Uh, that means he walks less than one batter every nine innings.
Let’s us now look at those questions again.
Is he a pumpkin? I’m going to say no, that his success is now over thirteen starts, that he has proven his repetiore plays big, and going forward he is going to be a dangerous weapon for the Dodgers. My main concern right now is that Ross is a past Tommy John patient and only threw seventy-four innings last year after throwing one hundred innings in 2016. He is at 84 innings right now. If was to remain the rotation for the rest of the year and get fifteen more starts of at least six innings each we are looking at around 174 innings which would be one hundred more than he threw last year.
Is he a good pitcher who can hold up the back end of a rotation? At the very least, I think Ross could continue to be a solid piece in any rotation, including one that has postseason aspirations.
Can he be the middle relief bridge for the bullpen and give the Dodgers a weapon they didn’t know they had? If the Dodgers decide to utilize him in this way in 2018 once the rotation is filled up, it is very possible he could be that guy.
Is he a late bloomer and all the metrics support the idea that he could something akin to …………Corey Kluber? Before you say I’m going off the rails, let us provide some content. Corey Kluber did not pitch a successful season in the major leagues until he was 27 years old. He exploded on the scene at the age of 28 with a devasting curveball and has continued to master the American League for the past five years. It is not out of the realm of possibilities that Ross Stripling could be something akin to Kluber. It is doubtful, as we are talking about one of the top five pitchers in all of baseball over the past five years, but it is possible, and I’m not exactly out on the limb here by myself.
From a recent Rotowire column on pitchers to target for the 2nd half of 2018, we get this quote from Derek VanRiper:
Skeptics could argue that the Dodgers might see him the way the Astros see Brad Peacock, but the optimists could look at him like another late-20s surger from a few years back and comp him to Corey Kluber.
Heck, I thought Ross was a middle of the run middle relief pitcher and wasn’t even happy he was given a spot in the rotation until I paid attention to his pitching which has blown me away.
It does seem however that the spectrum for Ross Stripling runs from a good back-end starter to a weaponized bullpen piece, to a number two, or even gasp, a number one. That is coming a long way in half a season for someone who was an afterthought bullpen piece back in March and big reason why the Dodgers have another shot at a World Series.
Standing pat is not an option for Dodger fans this July. The Dodgers are still a loaded team as they pass the halfway mark in games played but it is still a team that could use help as they try to catch and pass a good Diamondback team in their quest to get back to the World Series.
The Dodgers have plenty of trade bullets but where and on whom should they use them?
Dustin Nosler may have been kidding when he tweeted this out last night but he has a legit point.
Can Manny Machado pitch? Because that seems like a bigger area of need right now rather than another bat.
— Dustin Nosler (@DustinNosler) July 9, 2018
I’m going to break down the team just to see how legit his point is.
1st Base – Nope, with Cody and Max they are set.
2nd Base – maybe. Mighty Max Muncy is now the starting option but think of what I just wrote. Max Muncy is the Dodgers starting 2nd baseman. No matter how awesome Max has been so far, we should agree that he can’t be this good, that his ability to play 2nd base at the major league level for a team trying to win a World Championship is a legitimate question mark. I would not ignore upgrading at 2nd base just because the Dodgers found the biggest gold nugget in baseball so far. That upgrade could even come from someone else being acquired to play SS, moving Chris Taylor to 2nd base.
SS – you wouldn’t think you need an upgrade here, but when the player being talked about is Manny Machado you have to get involved. Doesn’t an infield of Cody / Taylor / Machado / Turner make you drool just a little? Doesn’t it make you nervous if the Diamondback infield became Goldy/whoever/Machado/Lamb? Talk about an upgrade.
3rd – Nope, with Justin and Max they are set.
RF – Puig seems set when healthy.
CF – Joc/Kiké might be putting up the best CF numbers in baseball since June
LF – Matt Kemp is an all-star, but should they count on that? Probably not, but even if/when Matt falters, they still have Andrew Toles and Alex Verdugo ready to show their wares.
SP – If no one else hits the DL between now and the end of the trading deadline, the Dodgers will have seven bonafide starting pitchers. Kershaw/Buehler/Stripling/Wood/Maeda/Hill/Ryu
Keep in mind that Julio Urias is already hitting 91 on the mound as he comes back from his surgery. He should be ready for rehab games shortly and available to the Dodgers in Aug. There is no need for him in the rotation for 2018 but I’d let him start as long as the minor league system is running and hope he gets all his stuff back for a Sept/Oct run in the Dodger bullpen.
RP – Who can best build the bridge to Kenley? Danny Hudson has the role right now but can we count on that? Probably not. Players on the DL include Josh Fields, Pedro Baez, and Tony Cingrani. Cingrani was outstanding last year and for parts of this year before being hurt. Does any Dodger fan really feel comfortable with Josh Fields or Pedro Baez being an important part of the bridge? Scott Alexander was brought over to augment the bullpen and has done just that since coming back from his minor league stint. J.T. Chargois was a nice early addition but hopefully won’t be part of the bullpen come October. I don’t want to see Yimi near a Sept/Oct bullpen. Erik Goeddel has given everything the Dodgers could have hoped for given his price tag but again, I’m not comfortable with him in high leverage situations going forward. The Dodgers just added Dylan Floro who pitched well for the Reds but I doubt he’s a high leverage answer. This leaves me thinking that the Dodgers need to add a bullpen arm, but the question is, do they need to go outside the organization for that arm? The Dodgers have seven starters, they have two young arms in Buehler and Stripling that would add a dynamic set to the bullpen. If they make the postseason you can bring Kenta into the bullpen.
Wouldn’t a bullpen of Jansen / Alexander / Buehler / Stripling / Maeda / Cingrani / Fields/ Hudson/ Urias be a pretty strong group of arms in October? Can anyone else add an arm like Buehler? Or Kenta? Or Stripling? Or Urias?
Which is why I’m not as gung-ho to add a bullpen arm. Sure it looks like our biggest need right now, but will it look like that on Aug 1st when the Dodgers will have a plethora of arms? I haven’t even mentioned Tom Koehler.
Even though you just read how many Dodger rotation pieces they have, the team has strangely enough been linked to Michael Fulmer of the Tigers. Fullmer is a young pitcher, team-controlled through 2023. Why would the Tigers trade Fulmer? Because they are a bad team and while the farm system is showing some nice signs they could use some bodies. Could someone like Michael Fulmer be an upgrade to the Dodger rotation enough that he would be part of an October rotation? He would have been in 2016 when he was the AL ROY and probably in 2017 when he had a solid season. Right now the answer would be no because he’s not pitching that well and certainly is not better than Wood/Stripling/Kenta. Right now. But he might have better stuff than all three of them. Can he tango with Kershaw? Is he the right guy to be the Yu Darvish of 2018? The price will be much higher than Willie Calhoun who is still a man without a position. I’m going to pass on Michael Fuller and instead concentrate on Jacob deGgrom.
Last year I focused on Yu Darvish as the main Dodger target and they went out and got him. Yu did what was expected of him until the World Series nightmare that erased all the good stuff he did against the Diamondbacks and Cubs. The price for Yu was not exorbitant but the price for deGgrom will be. Unlike Yu, he is not a rental, and he has also been the best pitcher in the NL this year. The Dodgers have a plethora of above-average starters, what they don’t have is someone to pair with Kershaw as they had done with Kershaw/Greinke or Kershaw/Yu. Of course, they didn’t win a World Series with those pairs so why would adding deGrom be any different? It may not be, but it would help. You don’t usually get a pitcher like deGrom on the midseason market but the Mets are a total mess right now. They are the worst team in baseball that needs so many holes filled they basically have to either trade deGrom or Thor to repopulate the team. They have a young 1st baseman in AAA that might be the answer. They have no future 2nd baseman, no future 3rd baseman, and their best position prospect of the last ten years has been a huge dud in 2018 at shortstop. They have no catcher. They have a CF and possibly a RF/LF in Cespedes and Conforto but Cespedes is always hurt, and Conforto is hot and cold so much, who knows what he is. Can the Dodger plug those holes for the Mets? The Mets need a home run when they trade deGrom or they won’t be relevant for years. The Dodgers can afford to overpay for a guy who is under team control through 2021. This is why you have a farm system. The Mets would want Walker Buehler. The answer would be no. The Mets would want Alex Verdugo, the answer should be yes. Followed by yes, yes, and yes. Whatever the package would be as long as it does not include Walker Buehler, I’m saying yes. Within limits of course. Everything has limits.
Something like Alex Verdugo / Dustin May / Caleb Ferguson / Will Smith / Gavin Lux / Logan Forsythe
deGrom / Asdrúbal Cabrera
Gives the Mets a future starting outfielder who was the Dodgers number one positional prospect, a future starting pitcher who is probably the best pitching prospect in the system, a future starting pitcher who is only 21 years old and already making starts in the major leagues, a future starting catcher, a future infielder, and Logan is included to offset the salary of Asdrúbal Cabrera.
Yup, that is a big ass package for a big ass ace. Dodger prospect folk will scream the price is too high while Met fans will scream it is not enough, but the end result is a team in October that would have increased their odds of winning a World Series in 2018.
Max Muncy would have a role if he continues this crazy run but just in case he doesn’t the team is covered by Asdrúbal Cabrera if Max Muncy turns into a pumpkin at 2nd base. They still have Andrew Toles in case Matt Kemp follows Muncy into the pumpkin patch, and they have a possible postseason rotation of deGrom / Kershaw / Wood and the future hasn’t been scuttled because deGrom is around in 2019, Walker is around in 2019, Urias is around in 2019, and they have no holes anywhere as Taylor can move to 2nd when Seager comes back to SS.
Doesn’t this look nice:
2018 – Bellinger/Muncy/Cabrera/Taylor/Turner/Chase/Grandal/Barnes/Puig/Joc/Kiké/Kemp/Kershaw/deGrom/Wood/Kenta/Ryu/Hill/Buehler/Stripling/Jansen/Cingrani/Alexander/Hudson/Urias
2019 before even hitting the free agent or trade market. Bellinger/Muncy/Taylor/Seager/Turner/Barnes/Farmer/Puig/Joc/Kiké/Kemp/Toles/Locastro/Kershaw/deGrom/Buehler/Urias/Wood/Stripling/Kenta/Kenley/Alexancer/Koehler/Cingrani/Santana
I’ve always wanted Machado to be a Dodger and if they don’t get deGrom he is my second choice. He’s a rental, the price would be steep but nothing like the deGrom price. He’d be an impact bat at an impact position. You would not see me complain if the Dodgers paid the price for Machado. In fact, you would hear a woooooooooooo hoooooooooooooooooo, Just not sure how they would fit him into the salary constraints. Someone else can tell me how they accomplish that.
This decade has been known as the Clayton Kershaw All-Star decade but for the first time since 2010, Clayton Kershaw can spend the break with his family, and I expect he is ok with that.
All-Star selections are still fluid until the final weekend, especially for pitchers, but if any Dodger pitcher is going to get added to the all-star team it should be Ross Stripling not Clayton Kershaw. I have no idea why Kenley Jansen is an all-star this year and Ross Stripling is not but I’m not going to fret over it. I’ll let the purple crew wonk over Kenley getting the gig over Adam Ottavino. There a dozen relief options who have outperformed Kenley this summer so Dodger fans shouldn’t get to worked up about Ross not making the original cut.
Will 2017 be the last time Clayton is an all-star? Felix Hernandez was an all-star from 2009 – 2015, which encompassed his 23 – 29 years of age. Clayton was an all-star from 2011 – 2017 which were his age 23 – 29 seasons. Felix hasn’t been any good for a while now. I hope Clayton does not follow that path but these back injuries are not a good indicator and no matter how intense your work ethic is, if your back does not cooperate, there is only so much an athlete can do.
At the start of the year, many Dodger fans were worried that Kershaw would opt out of the last two years of contract but with Kershaw showing serious signs of fallibility the odds of that happening have to be dropping. I expect those worries will go from worrying about him opting out, to worrying about him carrying 20% of the payroll budget for the next two years.
Every Dodger fan knows by now that Max Muncy is the biggest surprise in baseball this year, but there are other surprises out there, and today I’m going to take a look at them.
They may not be all-stars but each of these players are hitting a baseball better then they have ever done.
Catcher – Francisco Cervelli has been in major league baseball since 2008 and his highest wRC+ in that time as a full-time player was 117. It is hard for Cervelli to get full-time at-bats because injuries have plagued his career. This year Cervelli has the 2nd best wRC+ at 139 for all catchers with at least 150 plate appearances.
1st Base – we have three candidates for 1st base. Max Muncy, Matt Adams, and Jesus Aguilar. We don’t have any 3rd base candidates so I’m going to move Max Muncy over to 3rd. We have no outfield candidates and since Matt Adams played some outfield this year I’m going to move him to the outfield. This leaves Jesus Aguilar who has been crushing for the 1st place Brewers. Jesus has shown he can hit in the past but nothing like this. His wRC+ of 149 is the 3rd best for all 1st baseman with at least 150 plate appearances. The two players above him are Max Muncy and Matt Adams, which means that Jesus has a higher wRC+ than Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Joey Votto.
2nd Base – Danny Descalso has only been known as a field first, hit last type of player during his long utility career. This year he changed that equation and has a wRC+ of 122 which is more impressive when you consider his best before this was 90.
3rd Base – Hey, here is Max Muncy. You know his story.
Shortstop – Eduardo Escobar wasn’t a complete loss at the plate before this year as he did post a 101 wRC+ once before but this year his 127 wRC+ is getting lost among the great hitting shortstops in baseball.
Outfield – Matt Adams is the only name I can use here. Matt had some good years for the Cardinals including a 135 wRC+, but that was way back in 2013 and in only 319 plate appearances. This year Matt has an wRC+ of 154 which ranks 6th for outfielders with at least 150 plate appearances. Brandon Nimmo is having an outstanding year but I can’t call it a surprise because this is the first year he has ever gotten a good run. Rookies like Juan Soto don’t count.
and that is the only negative thing you can say about the Max.
As of July 5th, 2018 Max Muncy has the highest wRC+ for National LeagueL 1st baseman, 2nd baseman, and 3rd baseman. Super small sample size may be in play for 2nd base but it is what it is.