Archive for Featured

2018 Trade Value: #31 to #40

Jose Altuve will not be constrained by your “aging curves.”
(Photo: Keith Allison)

As is the annual tradition at FanGraphs, we’re using the week of the All-Star Game — while the industry pauses to take a metaphorical breather — to take stock of the top-50 trade assets in the sport. For more context on exactly what we’re trying to do here, see the honorable-mentions post linked at the top of the page.

For this post and the others in this series, I’ve presented a graphic (by way of the wizard Sean Dolinar) breaking down each player’s objective skill level (represented, in this case, by a five-year WAR projection from ZiPS), contract/team-control details, rank in last year’s series, and then year-by-year details of age/WAR/contract through 2023, although a couple players have control beyond those five years. For those readers who are partial to spreadsheets rather than blocks of text, I’ve also included all the players we’ve ranked so far are in grid format at the bottom of the post.

The ZiPS WAR forecasts did influence the rankings a bit: for players who were bunched together, it acted as an impartial tiebreaker of sorts, but the industry opinions I solicited drove the rankings.

With that said, let’s get to the next 10 spots on the Trade Value list this year.

Five-Year WAR +14.5
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 23 +2.8 Pre-Arb
2020 24 +3.0 Pre-Arb
2021 25 +3.0 Arb1
2022 26 +2.8 Arb2
2023 27 +2.9 Arb3

I feel like I’m supposed to kick this off with a Ferris Bueller reference, but I couldn’t come up with anything fitting. Walker is one of the rare prospects who gets the coveted “has a chance to become be an ace” label that’s only true of a handful of pitchers on Earth at a given time. For all the (rightful) handwringing about how scouts don’t truly understand upside when guys like Joses Altuve or Ramirez can emerge as the best hitters in the game after never appearing on a top-100 list, the group of aces who weren’t at some point described as a potential ace is basically just Cliff Lee, and he was touted in the minors.

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How Realignment Could Improve the All-Star Game

During FanGraphs’ editorial weekend in Denver last month, this correspondent excused himself to spend some time in the Rockies clubhouse and Coors Field press box. There I found Rockies beat writer Thomas Harding realigning baseball in his reporter’s notebook.

This contributor finds playing expansion czar to be an interesting thought exercise. Soon that afternoon, some Mets beats writers also joined the discussion, sharing their thoughts. Anytime there is a realignment-based post on this Web site or elsewhere, it tends to generate interest. Many of us like to play commissioner.

We’re almost certainly headed toward a future of 32 teams. MLB is in its longest expansion drought in the modern era. Rob Manfred has expressed a desire to expand — and preferably to add at least one international location. One of the major benefits Manfred has cited in the move to 32 teams is the ease of scheduling it would create. Namely, the game would not have to schedule a constant, rotating interleague series.

In fact, it would allow MLB to dramatically reduce the need for interleague play altogether.
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The American League’s All-Star Roster Has More Talent

The National League has won more games than the American League this season in interleague play, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at our individual leaderboards. The top seven position players by WAR this season reside in the American League and 10 of the best 11 — as long as Manny Machado remains in the AL — also play in that league. The parity when it come to interleague record is more likely a function of the National League’s relative parity, while the American League is very top and bottom heavy. The best teams in the AL can only do so much, as the bulk of the NL overwhelms the bottom-feeders in the opposite league.

As for the All-Star rosters, they more closely resemble the leaderboards. The graph below shows the WAR totals for every player on the All-Star Game roster, including those on the active roster but excluding those who have been replaced due to injury or a Sunday start.

Last year, both leagues featured a collective WAR similar to the NL’s mark this season, though the AL was missing Mike Trout. This year, Trout is back and acting like himself, while Mookie Betts and Jose Ramirez seem to be acting a lot like Trout, as well. If we removed the top three players from each roster, the collective WAR totals would be pretty close. That said, the All-Star Game would be also be less entertaining.

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2018 Trade Value: #41 to #50

Max Scherzer’s contract renders him an option only for big-market clubs.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

As is the annual tradition at FanGraphs, we’re using the week of the All-Star Game — while the industry pauses to take a metaphorical breather — to take stock of the top-50 trade assets in the sport. For more context on exactly what we’re trying to do here, see the honorable-mentions post linked at the top of the page.

For this post and the four to follow, I’ll present a graphic (by way of the wizard Sean Dolinar) breaking down each player’s objective skill level (represented, in this case, by a five-year WAR projection from ZiPS), contract/team-control details, rank in last year’s series, and then year-by-year details of age/WAR/contract through 2023, although a couple players have control beyond those five years. For those readers who are partial to spreadsheets rather than blocks of text, I’ll also include all the players we’ve ranked so far are in grid format at the bottom of the post.

The ZiPS WAR forecasts did influence the rankings a bit: for players who were bunched together, it acted as an impartial tiebreaker of sorts, but the industry opinions I solicited drove the rankings.

With that said, let’s get to the final 10 spots on the Trade Value list this year.

Five-Year WAR +16.3
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 22 +2.2 Pre-Arb
2020 23 +3.0 Pre-Arb
2021 24 +3.7 Pre-Arb
2022 25 +3.7 Arb1
2023 26 +3.7 Arb2

This last spot, as I’m sure was true on all of the versions of the list Dave did, was a tough to decide upon. As you can see from the honorable mentions, basically every type of player has a solid candidate for this spot. One could argue on behalf of Matt Olson, for example, that he’s a similar player to Tucker, has just one fewer year of control, and has already posted 3.6 WAR in his first 167 games. That said, Tucker seems to get a bit of a boost from the industry because of his recent call-up and that isn’t all nonsense: calling a top prospect up to a contending team before there’s any incentives by way of service time suggests the things non-Astros people know about Tucker (mental makeup, etc.) are positive.

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2018 Trade Value: Honorable Mentions

The industry places Javy Baez and Manny Machado just outside the top-50 players by trade value.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

All-Star week has arrived, which means a lot of things, like that the races for the 2018 postseason have begun to take shape (at least in the NL, where postseason races exist) and also that many of those who work in baseball are currently taking rushed, abbreviated vacations. Around here, though, it marks the time for a different tradition — namely, the start our annual Trade Value series.

The inimitable Dave Cameron did this list for 13 years, 10 of them for this website. He’s now moved on the Padres, though, and FanGraphs has somehow ended up with me in his place. This list wouldn’t be possible without the model established by Cameron, nor the help of Sean Dolinar, Dan Szymborski, and Carson Cistulli in putting together this year’s series. A special thanks is also due to industry friends who put up with much rougher early versions of this list, were generous with their time, and helped whip it into shape.

For those new to the series, it marks an attempt to answer the question “Who would bring back the most in trade if he were put on the market before the deadline?” What’s notable about this list — as opposed to the prospect types I assemble with Eric Longenhagen — is that it’s the only one for which my opinion doesn’t matter. The goal here isn’t for me to project anybody’s future value but rather to capture the opinions of the industry and how they value players in reality, right now.

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Mike Matheny Fired by the Cardinals

“And just like that, as mysteriously as he arrived, he was gone.”

– Oscar Martinez, The Office

It wasn’t quite Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre, but after the Cardinals lost to the Cardinals 8-2 Saturday night, dropping to just a skosh above .500 at 47-46, manager Mike Matheny was dismissed from his managerial duties. The Cardinals remain in the playoff race, but it’s been a tumultuous month behind the scenes in St. Louis, from normal run-of-the-mill struggles to public friction with right fielder Dexter Fowler to the latest report — written by the tireless Mark Saxon of The Athletic — of Bud Norris’s old-school clubhouse antics with rookie reliever Jordan Hicks.

While Matheny’s role in the Norris-Hicks situation probably wasn’t the main factor behind his dismissal, I have few doubts that it was a contributing factor. Saxon received a lot of pushback publicly about his reporting on the issues, but these types of wagon-circling denials from teams when a story becomes embarrassing isn’t just common, it’s practically de rigueur. That doesn’t necessarily negate the veracity of the original reports.

In the end, though, it usually comes down to winning. Like most managers, Matheny lived by the win before he died by the win, the extremely successful Cardinal seasons at the start of Matheny’s tenure making him as unassailable at the time as he was vulnerable by 2018.

In a piece for ESPN in 2013, Anna McDonald reported on the relationship between the analytics-friendly front office headed by then-general manager John Mozeliak (who’s since been promoted to team president) and the more traditional Matheny.

“I believe how [Matheny] puts a lineup together is that he is utilizing things we give him from upstairs, but we don’t want to bury him with having to overthink things. Most importantly, we hire a manager to make that lineup. I do think one thing that Mike and his staff have done a very good job of is embracing anything we can put together as far as advanced scouting for them. Trying to eliminate small sample sizes and make them accept larger ones for probabilities has been helpful. Mike, he is a young manager that is very interested at looking at the best ways to be successful, so that’s always a good sign when you have that in an employee.”

Few analytics types, myself included, really thought much of Matheny as an in-game tactician. But that’s only part of the job of a manager. I’ve talked a lot about admiring Joe Torre as a manager for the Yankees not because of his in-game acumen but simply because, unlike a lot of managers, he didn’t stand in the way of his team’s success. Sometimes, keeping the team from killing each other is what a manager is there for, which is why I praised Dusty Baker’s hiring by the Washington Nationals as the right move at the right time for that particular club.

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Sunday Notes: Nick Markakis Has His Timing Down

Nick Markakis is having a marvelous year. Now in his 13th big-league season — his fourth with the Atlanta Braves — the perennially-underappreciated outfielder is slashing .323/.388/.489, and he leads the senior circuit in base hits (119) and doubles (29). On Tuesday, he’ll take the field as an All-Star for the first time.

With the possible exception of a splashy 2008 campaign in Baltimore, this has been the lefty swinger’s best season from a statistical standpoint. (Given the Braves’ better-than-expected record, it’s been a boffo one from a team perspective, as well.) The secret to his age-34 success hasn’t been a springboard so much as it’s been cumulative. Fifteen years after he was drafted out of Young Harris (GA) College, he’s finding himself in full stride.

“My timing has been really good,” Markakis responded when I asked why he’s been swinging such a hot stick. “Hitting is all about timing. What I’ve learned over the years is that this game is constantly about adjustments, and timing is everything. If you’re not on time and can still hit, you’re a pretty damn good hitter. If you can figure out timing, you’re going to be a great hitter. Being on time with the fastball and being able to adjust to off-speed pitches is really the key for me right now.”

Markakis hasn’t radically changed his timing mechanism — there is no new leg kick, for instance — but there are some nuanced adjustments. According to the outfielder, they’re equal parts subtle and continuous. Read the rest of this entry »

The Best of FanGraphs: July 9-13, 2018

Each week, we publish in the neighborhood of 75 articles across our various blogs. With this post, we hope to highlight 10 to 15 of them. You can read more on it here. The links below are color coded — green for FanGraphs, brown for RotoGraphs, dark red for The Hardball Times and blue for Community Research.
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How Ken Giles Became a Minor Leaguer

Ken Giles did not have a good night on Tuesday. Called upon in the top of the ninth inning to protect the Astros’ 4-0 lead over the A’s, he served up three straight singles over the course of eight pitches, allowing one run and bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Matt Olson. On the heels of a visit from pitching coach Brent Strom after back-to-back hits by Mark Canha and Jed Lowrie, manager A.J. Hinch didn’t like what he saw, and after a first-pitch single by Khris Davis, came out to get Giles, who… didn’t like what he saw either. The closer appeared to have some choice words as he handed over the ball.

The A’s wound up tying the game in the ninth, with all three runs charged to Giles’ room, and they went ahead, 5-4, in the top of the 11th. The Astros nonetheless rallied for two runs in the bottom of the inning, scoring the winning run in bizarre fashion, when A’s catcher Jonathan Lucroy made a hash of Alex Bregman’s swinging bunt:

Giles was reportedly not in the clubhouse after the game, and by Wednesday afternoon, he was a Fresno Grizzly. He’d been optioned to the team’s Triple-A affiliate in what general manager Jeff Luhnow called “a baseball decision.”

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Scooter Gennett Breaks Out the Old-Fashioned Way

CLEVELAND — As Belgium’s attempt to equalize against France fell short in the World Cup semifinal on Tuesday, this contributor witnessed Scooter Gennett morph from desperately hopeful — wanting the Belgians to show more urgency — to crestfallen in the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field. Whatever Gennett’s connection to that small European nation, it was apparently strong enough for him to take their loss somewhat personally.

While he might not have realized it at the time, it represented one of the few opportunities Gennett has had to experience genuine disappointment at a baseball park in recent years. Over the past two seasons, he’s been one of a small collection of players to transform from a marginal, contact-based hitter into a star-level bat. Gennett has never been in a better place as a professional baseball player.

After posting a career-best 27 homers and a 124 wRC+ last season, a campaign which included perhaps the most unlikely four-homer game in major-league history (as documented at SI by current colleague Jay Jaffe), Gennett has been even better this year, to the tune of a 137 wRC+. He’s recorded the 26th-best batting line amongst qualified hitters. He’s currently the 23rd-most valuable position player by WAR.

Gennett has already overcome the odds several times. He advanced to the majors after being selected as a 16th-rounder out of Sarasota (Fla.) High School in the 2009 draft. He is the rare player to enjoy remarkable success after being claimed off waivers (by the Reds last year), which FanGraphs managing editor Carson Cistulli noted last season. You could understand why Gennett, at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, might be asked for ID when he tries to enter a visiting major-league ballpark. He is one of the few physical comps to this author in the major leagues. He does not look like someone capable of hitting for much power.

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The First Sixteenth of the Hosmer Deal Is Complete

The 2017-2018 offseason was not one of the more exciting winters in memory, to put it mildly. A large part of that, no doubt, was the result of a relatively undistinguished free-agent class and the absence of some larger clubs from the market, teams saving their ammunition for the likely more exciting 2018-2019 period. Add into that the hard-to-gauge effects of more unanimity among front offices in how to evaluate veteran players and the whispered rumors of the collusion poltergeist, and it was a formula for not a lot happening. And not a lot happened.

For about three weeks around the holidays, the only news in town was the rumbling surrounding Eric Hosmer’s new home. Now, in most offseasons, Eric Hosmer wouldn’t be one of the marquee free agents, having been a rather up-and-down first baseman with some high points, but also some low ones, enough so that he entered the 2018 campaign having never strung together consecutive years of one or more wins. The 2017 season was one of the highlights, however, with Hosmer avoiding those half-long slumps that doomed 2014 and 2016 to sub-mediocrity. It was a legitimately excellent season, Hosmer hitting .318/.385/.498, to the tune of a 135 wRC+, and reaching that four-win mark that serves as an informal threshold for an All-Star season.

In the end, the Royals attempted to retain Hosmer, though the truth of whether he was actually offered $147 million, as the rumors went, will probably be lost in history unless Scott Boras writes a tell-all book after his retirement. San Diego, a team in the middle of their own rebuild, signed Hosmer to an eight-year, $144 million contract, with an opt-out clause exercisable by Hosmer, allowing him to forgo the last three years and $39 million for free agency. To get an estimate, here are the full ZiPS projections for the Hosmer contract at the time.

Eric Hosmer, ZiPS Projections, Preseason
2018 .275 .344 .447 155 582 86 160 27 2 23 90 62 116 116 -2 2.6
2019 .277 .349 .452 148 553 83 153 27 2 22 86 62 110 118 -3 2.7
2020 .276 .347 .449 144 537 79 148 26 2 21 83 59 104 117 -3 2.4
2021 .270 .340 .439 138 519 75 140 24 2 20 78 56 99 113 -3 2.0
2022 .267 .336 .428 131 495 69 132 22 2 18 71 52 90 109 -3 1.5
2023 .265 .332 .415 120 453 61 120 19 2 15 62 46 76 104 -4 1.1
2024 .261 .326 .398 104 394 51 103 16 1 12 52 38 62 98 -4 0.5
2025 .259 .320 .386 84 324 40 84 12 1 9 41 29 46 93 -3 0.2

One thing to note is that there is a bit of a discrepancy between the zWAR (ZiPS WAR) and FanGraphs WAR figures, as we haven’t always used the exact same park and league factors for future seasons and have utilized a slightly different methodology. For next year’s ZiPS, I hope to report both zWAR and fWAR to reduce this occasional confusion. But for right now, I’m still figuring out how to not break FanGraphs.

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Early 2019-21 Draft Rankings

The 2018 MLB Draft’s signing deadline passed last week, and more teams failed to sign their early picks than is typical. Ultimately, four of the top 36 selections opted not to enter professional ball, all from the prep ranks. Those players are as follows: RHP Carter Stewart (Atlanta’s pick at No. 8), SS Matt McLain (Arizona at No. 25), RHP J.T. Ginn (Dodgers at No. 30), and Gunnar Hoglund (Pirates at No. 36). Scouting details on those individuals can be found on THE BOARD.

This has left those teams with one fewer prospect in their system than anticipated (all four teams get a compensation pick in next year’s draft), but more significantly, it moves a handful of premium talent into future draft classes. This year’s crop of unsigned high schoolers now serves as a preview of the college talent pool for the 2021 draft, but there are also a few 2020 prospects who are eligible early because they’re old for their class. There’s also a possibility that some could find their way into the 2019 draft class if they opt to attend junior college. We’ll reclassify players on THE BOARD as they change.

With that in mind, we thought it reasonable to present snapshots of each of the next three draft classes based on how we have the players graded right now. The industry’s evaluation of the 2019 class is already underway in earnest (Team USA, Cape Cod, and prep showcases are all occurring as we speak), and we’ve lined up a short list of the class’s top names thus far over on THE BOARD. Our 2020 list is mostly composed of the players we regarded as the best college freshmen this year, though we know of a few high schoolers who look like early first-round talents, too. The 2021 list is just a ranking of the high schoolers who didn’t sign in this year’s draft, exactly as they appeared on our 2018 draft board. We’re skeptical of prep players who have popped up this early because it’s often the result of physical maturity, but we don’t think that’s the case for Pennsylvania high school RHP Kevin Bitsko, whom we have evaluated similarly to the lean projection arms who are 40 FVs on the July 2 list.

Click here to see the 2019-21 draft prospects at THE BOARD.

We’re still too early in the process to make conclusive statements about the talent level of the 2019 draft class as a whole, much less the 2020 or 2021 varieties, so all this could change. As it stands now, however, the 2019 class collectively appears to lack the depth of the 2018 crop. By this time last year, we had a rough idea of how deep the high-school pitching was and knew that the Southeast had an overwhelming volume of talent. College hitting is the strength of next year’s draft class, and there’s lots of depth to the college crop in general, but the prep class lacks the quantity of players who are regarded as in-a-vacuum first rounders that one customarily sees at this point. Moreover, the college pitching class lacks a guy who looks like a top-five or -10 selection right now, though Casey Mize didn’t fit that criteria last summer and then ended up going first overall to Detroit in June.

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The Precedent for a Manny Machado Trade

Sometime soon, the Orioles are going to trade their best player. Sometime soon, the Orioles are going to trade one of the best players, period. I’ve seen people worrying that the Orioles might just hang onto Manny Machado through the end of the year, and I understand that, historically, trading with the Orioles has always been complicated, but that would be a bridge too far. There’s just about no way the Orioles would settle for free-agent compensation, here. There’s a blockbuster trade to be made, and there are interesting prospects to be acquired.

So, a Machado trade is virtually inevitable. There is no shortage of suitors. Two factors make this situation unusual. One, Machado is very good. Many good players are traded around the deadline, but few are at Machado’s level. Two, Machado will become a free agent in a matter of months. He’s a rental. Some suitor might think they could win Machado over down the stretch, but that’s unlikely to lead to much of a bargain. Machado’s not signing a contract extension before he hits the market. This should be interpreted first and foremost as a short-term move.

It can be hard to know what would be an appropriate price. How much should someone be willing to give up for Machado? For how much should the Orioles be willing to settle? To this point, the Orioles have asked for more than anyone’s been willing to surrender. That much is self-evident, since Machado is available but there hasn’t yet been an agreement. I think it’s useful to dig into the history. Every trade negotiation is different, conducted under unique circumstances, but there’s value in understanding the precedent. Trades don’t follow precedent in the way that, say, arbitration does, but we can get an idea of what’s going to happen by looking at what has happened. Time to consider a whole bunch of names.

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The Trade Deadline Matters Less Than Ever

Among MLB’s calendar of so-called Important Events, one finds a fast-approaching date — namely, the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline.

Historically, it is a deadline that facilitates action, that forces teams to declare whether they’re contenders or rebuilders, that compels sellers and buyers to stop negotiating and come to terms on a deal. Deadlines often force actors to make “yes” or “no” calls. This date is one of the last periods for teams with postseason aspirations to improve, for rebuilding clubs to retool. The date creates interest in the sport. This very Web site experiences increased traffic during the days leading up to to the deadline.

But the trade deadline wasn’t so packed with action a year ago, and it might be even slower this season.

The trade deadline just might not matter that much anymore.

Teams knew early last year whether they were buyers or sellers. They’ve known earlier still this season. They also know the deadline doesn’t typically provide much impact.

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Brett Gardner, Fines, and Pace of Play

Brett Gardner’s posted a walk rate north of 10% six times in his 11-year big-league career, including each of the last four seasons. He’s racked up 2.5 WAR or better in every full season he’s played, on the back of sometimes elite defense, consistently above-average offense, and the ability to knock a few dingers into the short porch in Yankee Stadium III. In other words, Gardner is a Very Useful Player, the kind of complementary piece every contending roster needs.

That’s not Gardner’s reputation, though. Instead, Gardner is regarded more as a “pest.” Not because of his conduct as a person — I’ve never met him, though I’m sure he’s a lovely human and fine conversationalist — but rather as a leadoff hitter. And the numbers mostly bear this out: this year, he’s seeing 4.15 pitches per plate appearance, 10th best in the American League. Last year, it was 4.23 pitches per plate appearance, seventh best in the American League. In 2016, Gardner saw 4.09 pitches per plate appearance, 16th best in the Junior Circuit. You get the idea: Gardner is a tough out. Jeff Sullivan wrote about this last year during the playoffs.

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There’s No Ignoring Jesus Aguilar Anymore

Among qualified hitters this season, Jesus Aguilar is tied for fourth in wRC+. He’s the current National League leader in home runs. He homered yesterday against the Marlins. The day before that, he homered twice against the Braves. At last update, he’s the leader in the NL for the All-Star Game’s Final Vote. Every player in there is good, but Aguilar is perfectly deserving.

Don’t like half-year samples? Since last season began, Aguilar has batted 596 times. He’s put up a 136 wRC+, which matches the wRC+ put up by Anthony Rendon. Mookie Betts is at 135. Nolan Arenado is at 133. Looking at first basemen, Aguilar has been out-hit by only Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman, and Paul Goldschmidt. Last season proves that Aguilar is no random flash in the pan.

It’s a bit of a funny coincidence that the Brewers are hurting for a second baseman, because late in the spring in 2017, they dropped Scooter Gennett, who’s turned into an All-Star. Gennett, in a sense, is exactly what the Brewers could use. Just a couple months earlier, though, the Brewers claimed Aguilar, who’s also in the process of turning into an All-Star. There was no room for Aguilar in Cleveland, and then he was in part responsible for there being no room for Gennett in Milwaukee. So as far as second base goes, the Brewers can be only so upset. Aguilar fought for opportunities to prove himself. He’s seized the few chances he’s had.

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Chris Archer Is Probably Right About All-Star Snubs

For as long as there are ballots and voters, there will be controversy about the contents of those ballots cast by those voters. Baseball, in this sense, is no exception. The Hall of Fame, end-of-season awards, and — of greatest relevance at the moment — the All-Star Game: each provides ample room for discontent.

The All-Star selection process has changed recently, with managers losing their power to select reserves last season. Fans still vote on the starting position players for each league, but players have now taken on much a larger role: overall, they’re responsible for choosing 33 of the 64 All-Star roster spots (17 reserves in the AL and 16 in the NL). The commissioner’s office then cleans up by selecting a handful of final AL and NL reserves to round out the rosters. There is then a final fan vote ballot (#SaveMuncy) that includes one more player from each league as chosen by the fans.

Anthony Castrovince wrote an excellent primer on the selection process.

Fans have long been criticized, and many times deservedly so, for their poor voting track record. But many have noted this is a game for the fans, they are the customers, so they ought to see whom they want. But interestingly, the players’ ability to assess All-Star talent is also coming into question, including by some within their own ranks. And with the wealth of information available in today’s game, perhaps the public can make as good, or better, All-Star decisions.

The day following All-Star selections, a day following any sort of selection process, is a day to evaluate who was snubbed.

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Nathan Eovaldi Might Be the Best Starter on the Market

I’ve gone around and around on this point. It’s possible that J.A. Happ is the best starter on the market. I used to think Tyson Ross would be the best starter on the market. And the Mets, of course, could blow everyone away if they start taking real offers for Jacob deGrom. There is no clear favorite; the trade-deadline picture is always cloudy. But I can tell you I’m coming around on Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi is eight starts into the season, now that he’s on the other side of Tommy John surgery, and he’s already recorded three starts of at least six innings with no more than one hit. On Sunday, against the Mets, he made an attempt at a perfect game. All of Eovaldi’s old arm strength remains intact. And now he’s improving on what he does with it.

Back when Eovaldi was younger, back when we understood a little less about pitching, he was somewhat confounding to analysts. It didn’t make immediate sense why someone who threw so hard would allow so much contact. Where we stand today, Eovaldi has what would easily be a career-high strikeout rate. He also has what would easily be a career-low walk rate. I can rattle these things off if you’d like. Among starters this season, Eovaldi ranks first in strike rate. He ranks second in chase rate. He ranks first in the rate of pitches thrown while ahead in the count. He ranks first in the rate of pitches thrown in the zone. Eovaldi is blossoming, and you could argue he has the Yankees and Rays to thank.

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Mike Trout Was Going Through a Thing

On Saturday afternoon in Anaheim, Mike Trout went 3-for-4 with two singles and a home run. For a player who, at age 26, has basically secured a place in the Hall of Fame, that kind of performance is pretty commonplace. Mike Trout is the best player in the world; nothing in this piece will attempt to convince you otherwise.

What was notable about that Saturday game, however, is that it represented Trout’s first multi-hit effort since since June 18th. If you’re the kind of person who takes life as it comes, for good or for bad, this sort of thing might not even register. But for the rest of you, who worry about the little moments in between the big ones, there is this: for the last two weeks or so, before he got three hits on Saturday, Mike Trout had been in a bit of a slump. For about two weeks or so, Mike Trout was a below-average major-league hitter.

Consider the following, which is a chart of Trout’s rolling wRC+ in 14-game chunks, dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season, which was his first full campaign, and concluding on July 6th, the day before his home run:

There are roughly 1,000 games here, so it’s pretty condensed. The most important part of it, however, is the low point on the right-most edge of the graph. That’s the slump Trout was enduring until Saturday, a 14-game stretch (June 22nd to July 6th) during which he recorded just a 70 wRC+. With the exception of that horrible second half he had back in 2014 and the very beginning of his 2012 season, it was the worst offensive period of his very excellent career to date.

A couple weeks spent hitting 30% worse than league average isn’t a news item for most players. Trout’s teammate Justin Upton has recorded just a 64 wRC+ over the last two weeks, for example, and that’s unlikely to inspire a post here at FanGraphs. Billy Hamilton owns a lifetime batting mark of 71 wRC+. For Mike Trout, however, this type of stretch is nearly unprecedented — and especially notable as it came hot on the heels of some of the best baseball in his glittering career.

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Sunday Notes: C.D. Pelham’s Heater Does Just About Everything

C.D. Pelham has had a good couple of weeks. On June 22, the 23-year-old southpaw was promoted from the high-A Down East Wood Ducks to the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders. Two days ago he got even better news. Thanks in large part to a fastball that has a mind of its own, Pelham learned that he’d be representing the Texas Rangers in next Sunday’s All-Star Futures game.

A few short years ago, the 6-foot-5, 230 pound Pelham had little idea where his pitches were going. In his first two seasons after being selected in the 33rd round of the 2015 draft out of Spartanburg Methodist College, he walked a staggering 56 batters in 56-and-a-third innings.

The lefty reined in his wildness by getting his mind right. Pelham pointed to the mental side of the game as having been the biggest issue, explaining that he lacked confidence and spent too much time dwelling on his previous pitch — “whether it was good or bad” — rather than focusing on the one he was about to throw. Conversations with a “peak performance guy” in the Rangers organization (Josiah Igono) helped him turn a corner, and while no one is ever going to mistake him for Greg Maddux, Pelham no longer needs a GPS to find the strike zone. In 32-and-a-third innings this year, he’s issued a much more respectable 15 free passes.

He’s also missed a lot of barrels. Pelham has fanned 40, held opposing batters to a .197 average, and he’s yet to be taken deep. Squaring up his heater is hard for two reasons. Not only does it sit in the mid-to-upper-90s, it moves… well, in pretty much whichever direction it pleases. Read the rest of this entry »