The last 60 cards in the 2020 Final Edition set start here. There are still some big rookies, big Topps omissions, and big trades from 2020 to cover with this set, so let's not waste any time:
Monday, May 31, 2021
How many chances can a third place team get here? So many iterations of this Mariners team haven't worked, and unlike the Mets, who keep winning games despite setback after setback, the Mariners just are sort of suspended in the middle of the division, between the competitors and the bottom feeders. In limbo.
Now, I don't think everyone thought that Jarred Kelenic would be the answer, but the thought was that he would probably help matters somewhat. Yet Kelenic is only batting .123 with 8 hits in 65 at bats, definitely not the best first impression for one of the highest ranked prospects in baseball to make [look at it this way, if he was still with the Mets he'd be injured by now, a pariah even]. Additionally, fellow prospect Logan Gilbert has similarly struggled since his call up, with a 7.59 ERA and 2 losses in his first three starts. I do realize that Casey Mize is having a beautiful season the year after taking some serious learning time to acclimate to major league expectations, but this can't not be disappointing to M's fans.
It doesn't end there. Evan White, Dylan Moore, Sam Haggerty, Jake Fraley, Erik Swanson, Ljay Newsome, James Paxton and Kendall Graveman are all injured. This is a problem that only happens to the Seattle Mariners. ALL EIGHT OF THOSE PLAYERS ARE *CRUCIAL* TO THIS TEAM. The 29 other teams wouldn't build their team around 8 untested guys who could all get injured. The 29 other teams wouldn't even build their team around ANY of these people! Who the hell is Jake Fraley and why is he so important to this damned team??
And yes, they also have lost Marco Gonzales, who is a very big piece of this team, but all those other guys wouldn't be holding up another roster if they all went down at once. Kendall Graveman pitching 17 scoreless innings alone is a marvel.
And while they do have Mitch Haniger, J.P. Crawford, Kyle Seager, Ty France, Justin Dunn and Kyle Lewis all performing well, which could be the backbone of a decent team, it doesn't seem to be enough to propel them from this little limbo state. The 2nd place Astros are still better, the 4th place Angels are still worse. The recent winning spell for the Mariners has helped, but I am not sure if this team can get anywhere higher than 3rd this year. I'd love to be wrong, I'd love to see them smack around Houston a bit, but my expectations are low for a reason.
So please, Seattle Mariners. Don't make the GM call up Julio Rodriguez as well.
Coming Tomorrow- Oh, you know, that shortstop on the west coast everyone's wild about...
Sunday, May 30, 2021
Three guys with more than 70 strikeouts. Three teams have achieved this stat. Two of them you could guess, the Dodgers and the Padres. The third...is the Milwaukee Brewers. And those three pitchers are Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta.
And the two standout pitchers, Woodruff and Burnes, aren't the ones with 83 Ks. That'd be Peralta, the guy you only realized just now has been a strikeout machine since his call-up in 2018.
While the Brewers have sunk to third recently, the pitching has stayed insanely consistent throughout. Woodruff has pulled ahead of Burnes, and has a 1.41 ERA over 10 starts, playing beautifully. Burnes and Peralta are also having great, K-heavy seasons. Adrian Houser's a pretty good fourth man, now that you mention it. Josh Hader's still one of the best closers in baseball, and has been lights-out so far this season. Brent Suter, Devin Williams, Brad Boxberger and Eric Lauer have been making up a skeleton crew of relievers, even without Feyereisen and Rasmussen, but they've been doing a nice job. Yes, a lot of this season will require waiting for people like Justin Topa to come back, but this pitching staff is insanely impressive, and still very good.
It's just...the rest of the team is improving, but not where the pitching is. Getting Willy Adames certainly helps, and he's been a massive upgrade at shortstop, and there have been standouts like Kolten Wong, Omar Narvaez and Avisail Garcia doing sharp work, but...there's still some holes. Yelich and Cain are trying to gain back some time, but neither are where they should be right now. Shaw, Hiura and Bradley are all under .200, which is a shame for Shaw given his awesome start. Nobody has double-digit homers [Garcia has 9]. This is no longer a contact-friendly team, and the fact that contact-friendlier teams like the Cubs and Cardinals have lapped them is telling.
I get the sense that the pieces are beginning to come together for the Brewers, and they're heading into some very easy series' so some ground could be regained easily, but...I still worry. I worry this team won't be as good as their pitching suggests. I hope I'm wrong.
Coming Tomorrow- Some big rookie prospect guy from Seattle.
The one thing that a lot of major league catchers don't have going for them right now is consistency.
Of the 30 MLB starting catchers right now, 8 have been a starting catcher full time for the last 5 or more years. Aside from the big two, Posey and Molina, you have names like Willson Contreras, Yan Gomes, Yasmani Grandal, Tucker Barnhart and J.T. Realmuto, and...yes, the subject of this post. But outside of those 8, you have people like Wilson Ramos, Gary Sanchez, Travis d'Arnaud, and Mike Zunino, guys who had to bobble back and forth in order to take the starting position. And then you have career backups like Omar Narvaez, Martin Maldonado, Roberto Perez and Christian Vazquez, who only became trusted starters very, very recently.
So, it does help to have a consistent catcher for a long period of time who can always be trusted to be good defensively and offensively. And Salvador Perez, barring the 2019 injury, has been that for the Royals.
Just to give you an idea- Perez is a 6-time All-Star. Same number as Buster Posey. A few less than Yadier Molina. But Perez is rare in that he's almost always a starting catcher for the AL. Pretty much every year from 2014 til 2018, he was the starting catcher for the AL. It was just a thing that happened. And in that period, Perez averaged 23 homers and 73 RBIs a year, which is a decent run for a catcher known more for contact than power. And while Perez has only amassed 25.7 WAR, which is a decent total by 31 but not exactly befitting of a Hall of Fame career, you can definitely say he's been one of the best catchers of the modern era.
Regardless of the Royals' downturn, Salvador Perez has been one of the constants of this team. He's still playing really well, with a .277 average and 29 RBIs, and he leads the team in WAR with 1.4. Having Perez, Danny Duffy and Whit Merrifield still doing well for this team even after everyone's left is at least a good piece, as are the newcomers like Kris Bubic, Carlos Santana and Andrew Benintendi. The Royals have sort of fallen off since the April come-up, but still have enough of a decent team where they could theoretically still compete. It may be for a wild card spot, but it still could happen.
And heck, if Salvador Perez could make the playoffs one more time as a Royal, that'd definitely be something.
Coming Tonight: I started the season saying Corbin Burnes was a favorite for the Cy Young, but his teammate may have lapped him.
Saturday, May 29, 2021
I don't know how it happened this way. This Braves team was supposed to completely obliterate the competition this year. But after losing Travis D'arnaud, Marcell Ozuna and Huascar Ynoa, and with less-than-perfect seasons from Dansby Swanson, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and Max Fried, this team is currently in third behind the sub-500 Philadelphia Phillies.
It's not as if everything that aligned last September was a fluke. But some of these pieces aren't working the way they did last year, and are a little rustier. Ozzie Albies is still a fantastic defender, but his bat is once again a problem, and he's currently hitting .233. William Contreras, currently the starting catcher, is in a similar place, batting .237 despite being a consistent stronghold at catcher. The bullpen has some decent performers right now, but it's not as consistent as it was last year, and A.J. Minter and Josh Tomlin are having disappointing followups to 2020.
At the very least, a new hero has emerged in Atlanta, and somehow it is Austin Riley. Two seasons after an exciting but one-sided debut season, Riley is getting starts at third, hitting .313 with 10 homers and 22 RBIs, and leading the team in hits with 50. Riley is now 24, an age where he's a bit more comfortable, and after those two years of a head start he's finally performing at major league caliber. This is the upside of bringing people up at 23 rather than 27, because if a 27-year-old flounders in his first few years in the majors, he doesn't hit his stride til 30. We have a lot of those. Riley, thankfully, is ahead of the curve, and is leading the team.
The youth is at least a step up this year for the Braves- Ynoa and Contreras, yes, but Riley, Ian Anderson, and the still-23 Ronald Acuna, are the pieces of this team that are doing the best. It's everything else that's tanking.
The good news is that the season is still young, the division is still open, and the Braves still have plenty of time to sprout wings and take on the opposition. Until then...there's always Trae Young.
Coming Tomorrow- The other day, I said that there's currently three possible Hall of Fame catchers roaming around the leagues. One was Posey, one is Yadier Molina...this one's the other one.
Well, the four-man blockade that is the AL East race has now essentially ruled out a candidate.
After series' with the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees, the three teams now in command of the division, the Blue Jays are now further back from the pack and struggling to stay afloat. Granted, they get to play the still-good-but-human Cleveland Indians right now, which might be slightly more even for them than Boston and Tampa, and they just got done beating the Yankees a few times, but...cracks are beginning to show for the Jays.
First of all, the loss of Julian Merryweather sent the team into a tailspin looking for a new permanent closer. They seem to have settled on Rafael Dolis, but even he's a bit colder than he was last year. Jordan Romano can save, but he's being used more in middle relief right now. You also have some people who had really nice starts beginning to lose footing, like Steven Matz, Randal Grichuk and Teoscar Hernandez. The other night, Robbie Ray got roughed up by the Yankees offense, something that felt more like a thing 2020 Robbie Ray would do.
And yes, the injuries have been very minimal, and easily patched. The open rotation spot was filled by Alek Manoah, who pitched beautifully for his premier start. The opening at third base was filled by Santiago Espinal, who's been decent [though he needs to start hitting for average]. The bullpen injuries are being dealt with accordingly.
But...what the Blue Jays need to realize is aside from huge seasons from Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette, Marcus Semien and Hyun-Jin Ryu, the 2021 Jays are mostly okay. Like, a lot of 'nothing special' seasons around. Steven Matz has a 6-2 record with 60 Ks, but a 4.28 ERA and a 1.317 WHIP. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is hitting .250 with 14 RBIs. The DH has the least amount of home runs in the lineup. Danny Jansen is once again being outhit by Reese McGuire, and there isn't an abuse allegation to protect him this time. The top 3 teams have less exploitable flaws, and have been tougher to beat, and the Jays, while still good, might need to think about whether or not it's worth it to chase them.
Who knows, they could hit a hot streak and not stop running til October, but they need to figure out where they should go after this losing stretch.
Coming Tonight: His rookie season was decent but one-dimensional, his sophomore season wasn't great. Now he's FINALLY hitting at major league level, of course, the moment where his team exits the conversation.
Friday, May 28, 2021
Jose Martinez was having a decent season DHing in Tampa, on his way to a potential World Series appearance, and suddenly the Rays decided they didn't need him for the stretch and traded him to the bench-curious Cubs. In 10 games in Chicago, Martinez failed to make any progress, with no hits, 7 strikeouts, and a .000 batting average. He unsurprisingly did not make the postseason roster. The Mets signed him for 2020, then he got injured [they could really use him about now].
I have to imagine Topps used Minter's disappointing 2019 season, with a 7+ ERA in 36 games, as a reason not to include him in 2020, but even still, they missed out on commemorating a strong, important season for Minter. He only allowed 2 earned runs in 2020, with a 0.83 ERA in 22 innings, and struck out 24. He was also fairly unhittable during the postseason, going hitless in the first two playoff series and striking out 8 during the Dodgers series. Minter is taking a little longer to get to a low ERA this season, but he's still a crucial piece of the Braves' bullpen.
Daniel Castano was one of two rookies brought into the Marlins' rotation in order to cover for two of the previous year's rookies that failed to deliver. Last year, Castano was better than his compatriot Trevor Rogers, with a 3.03 ERA and 12 Ks in 6 starts. Nothing too huge, and outdone by Rogers' high-K work in 2021, but a decent harbinger of what could become a steady career. Castano is incidentally currently in the minors, but has made 4 starts in 2021, and has lost 2 of them.
Oh yeah, speaking of starry 2020 rookies that haven't worked as well in 2021. Triston McKenzie started his career with a bang in 2020, with a 10-K debut for the Indians, and 32 more over the course of the rest of the season. McKenzie was not the highest-tier arm in the rotation, and sort of evened out over time, but his first few starts were LETHAL. 2021 was a definite sophomore slump for McKenzie, and while he did notch 49 strikeouts so far, he's got a 6 ERA and is giving up way more walks and runs than last year. He's currently back in the minors.
Man, we're 3 straight with 2020 rookies that aren't currently in the majors. My luck. Yohan Ramirez was an integral bullpen piece for the Mariners, in that he was the rare Seattle reliever that actually lasted past the end of August. Ramirez had a 2.61 ERA and 26 Ks in 16 relief innings, and notched 3 saves. It looked like the beginnings of a decent career, but with the recovery of the Mariners' pen, Ramirez had less room to succeed, and disappointed in 2 relief outings so far this year.
Phil Gosselin was the Phillies makeshift Brad Miller in the season in between his Phils years there. Miller, if you'll recall, was a bench hero for the Phils in 2019, and is right back at that in 2021. So Phil Gosselin, right at the start of the season, starts doing exactly what Miller did- 12 RBIs in 39 games, the starting DH position, and a surprising amount of contact work. Yes, the numbers died down once the season kept going on, but Gosselin, or Goose as he was called, filled a valuable hole for Philly. Of course, Miller's back now, so Gosselin's now a bench player in Anaheim.
I may be wrong, but I believe that in this sim'd 2020 ASG I did up for this set, Alex Verdugo was the only Red Sox player to make the team. No Bogaerts, no Martinez...Dugie had an excellent breakout season in the outfield, would have qualified for the team on his own merits, and it helped that he was one of the few bright spots in a dark Boston season. Of course, now that the team's better, he fits in a lot more.
At last, a 2020 rookie that's still on the major league roster somewhere. Caleb Baragar had a decent rookie year in relief, with a 4 ERA, 5 wins and 19 Ks. He's a sharp relief piece in a whole bullpen full of tricksters, and he's having a much better season in 2021 now that he actually has a better team to fight for.
A year after making an all-star team for the Angels, Tommy La Stella had mellowed into a decent infield piece on a tanking roster. His .273 average with the Angels was alright, but once he was traded to the A's for Franklin Barreto he got even better, hitting .289 with 28 hits and 11 RBIs. He also got a lot of starting reps at 2nd, and was a starter during the playoffs, where he hit .293 with 8 hits and 2 RBIs. He seemed to be off to a nice start in SF before the injury, as well.
Monday, we've got another 9 up at bat. A few very puzzling omissions in this one.
I was really, really worried in 2019.
2019 was Buster Posey's worst season to date, he only hit modestly, pulled a 0.8 WAR despite playing 114 games, and only mustered 38 RBIs. It was a very disappointing way to end Bruce Bochy's tenure with the team, and it was a season that put the rest of Posey's career in jeopardy.
When Posey decided to opt out of 2020 season, arguably the biggest name to do so, it made things look even worse. What if Posey calls it here? What if he never returns to peak caliber? What if the Giants have to start a clearly-not-ready Joey Bart behind the plate?
Regardless, Posey finally made it back in 2021. Not just Buster Posey- GOOD BUSTER POSEY. We were worried about whether or not he was gonna show up again, but here he is, hitting .350 and sitting on 9 homers and 17 RBIs.
While this is an enhanced power-angle for Posey, especially considering his 34-year-old ness, and his catching skills BEGINNING to wane slightly, it's still amounting to a 2.0 WAR, the highest on the team for position players, and it's given him the highest average by a long shot, as well as the most hits with 39. And it makes sense- in a season of renaissance for Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt and Darin Ruf, of course the team centerpiece would also be back to rare form. It's like the old night watchmen in Night at the Museum, rejuvenated for an instance but making the most of it.
It also helps that Kevin Gausman, Jake McGee, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and, yes, Scott Kazmir are all having impressive seasons after being let loose by the rest of the league. The fact that SF has become a haven for lower-key players to make their comebacks, especially when led by the very-in-need-of-a-comeback Gabe Kapler, is kind of charming.
And yes, while the Giants have returned to 3rd place, they only did so because of a series with the red-hot Dodgers, and aren't exactly completely out of momentum. The NL West race is so close that they're not out of it yet, and are still right there with the Padres and Dodgers. So it'll be interesting to see how things continue to go.
Coming Tomorrow- Another 34-year-old that's still lighting up the league, only this one's out of Florida and on the mound.
Thursday, May 27, 2021
The A's are still in first, Ramon Laureano's still on a hot streak...these might be connected.
One of the best parts of this A's team is that, with the exception of Mitch Moreland, the lineup has stayed pretty damned healthy. Chapman, Olson, Laureano, Canha- all very healthy this year, and pretty damn effective. Once again, the contact duo of Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano is running this team, both hitting really well and both with 10+ homers [more than Matt Chapman!]. Laureano is still one of the best outfielders in the game, has a killer arm and a deadly bat, and is a good choice for this team to basically be formed around
We do have a good-old-fashioned 'Matt Olson hits a bunch of homers' season going on as well, too. Leads the team in homers and RBIs. This A's team can do the power thing as well, and has people like Seth Brown and Olson and the now-injured Moreland that can just mash. The only odd part is that even though Matt Chapman is healthy, but he's still only hitting .211. Yes, he's hitting for power with 20 RBIs and has a 1.0 WAR, but...the Chapman of 2019 and 2018 was more well-rounded, had better contact numbers, and felt like he could lift the team. And I worry that Matt Chapman might not get back to his 2019 heights.
I mean, look at Elvis Andrus. He was traded here in the hopes he'd return to his mid-2010s heights, and he still isn't hitting for average. Jed Lowrie is at least pulling good power numbers right now in his return to Oakland, but a return to peak Oakland numbers at this point may be out of the question. I really hope Chapman doesn't fumble things now, cause he looked so good before.
The rest of this team is less starry but still impressive. Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea and Cole Irvin are having very trustworthy seasons in the rotation. Lou Trivino, Yusmeiro Petit, Burch Smith and Jake Diekman are all excellent pen pieces. Former Yankee farmhand James Kaprielian has been sharp in his first two starts, and could be a ROY contender if he keeps it up.
The A's are excellent right now, and are a solid, fun, rootable first place team. With the amount of momentum the Astros have been gaining lately, I'm worried they could have to fight from below again. But this A's team is no longer an underdog team to me, they're excellent, and they need to keep this high ground for as long as they can.
Coming Tomorrow- Right now, you could make the case that we have at least two, maybe three, potential Hall of Fame catchers currently at work. Here's one of them.
Okay. The Cardinals are in first...and have retained first...which means they're probably gonna be in first for most of the season. Now, as the resident Cardinals-hater here [again, blame the 2011 playoffs], I have to figure out how I feel about this.
And I'm not gonna act like they don't deserve it. The Brewers and Cubs have had cold stretches recently, and the Cubs, while they are coming back, have a few more problem areas than the Cardinals right now [though that bullpen...damn, anyway]. The Cardinals have a working rotation, an excellent closer, and enough of their roster currently hitting and healthy that I'm not terribly worried about them.
The rotation is interesting, because as good of a season Jack Flaherty is having, what with an 8-1 record and a 2.84 ERA, there's arguably more interesting stories elsewhere in the rotation. John Gant and Kwang-Hyun Kim have fully crossed over to the rotation and are both impressing with sharp numbers. Carlos Martinez has leveled his ERA to around a 4, which, given the start of his season, felt very unlikely. Even Adam Wainwright has decent enough numbers so far. And Alex Reyes has warmed right into a role in the ninth rather than being pissy about being passed over for the rotation yet again. So, from that component, plus a strong bullpen in general, this team is in business. The Cardinals-Brewers matchups this season are gonna be fierce as hell because it's gonna be waiting for either one's pitching staff to make a human error, and that might be a while for either.
The lineup, however, is working without Tyler O'Neill, Harrison Bader and Paul DeJong right now. At the very least they have Edmundo Sosa hitting, and enough decent defensive call-ups recently, but unless most of them start hitting, the Cards are gonna have to keep starting Matt Carpenter, and given how cooked he's seemed lately, that's not a good sign. Having Edman, Carlson, Arenado, Goldschmidt and Molina all on is a good thing, and is powering this team through a tough division, but with enough open spots thanks to injury, that momentum is in danger of stopping up, especially with the Cubs approaching.
I know I'm usually used to hating this team, but they're actually doing a lot right this year, and there's a chance they could actually zip through a year without pissing me off. However, the year is still young.
Coming Tomorrow- A first place team that's fun, likable, has great stars, and really needs to stay in first or else we're gonna be fresh out of good things this year.
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
When the White Sox traded Chris Sale to Boston, they were hoping for the return package to lead to a future dynasty for them. While two of the prospects in the deal never panned out, the other two were two of the biggest prospects in the Boston minor league system in 2016 [which, let's be clear here, also included Rafael Devers and Bobby Dalbec]. And I find it very funny that both of them took a great deal of time to fully bloom in Chicago.
Michael Kopech is coming into his own as a relief piece who can start, and his strikeout/hard-throwing stuff is nasty. So while he's not a weighty rotation piece right now, mostly because of the mastery of the Lynn-Rodon-Giolito-Keuchel-Cease rotation right now, he's still in position to be a huge pillar of the White Sox pitching staff for the foreseeable future.
And then you have Yoan Moncada. For his first two seasons in Chicago, he was a major disappointment, striking out more than he got on base, landing only a 1 or 2 WAR, and setting the team's progress back further rather than cutting to the dynasty. 2019 was a masterful season from Moncada, with a 5.1 WAR, 25 homers and a .315 average. It was the stepping stone to a long, impressive career in Chicago, and if 2020 was a normal season, then maybe this excellent 2021 campaign he'd been having would be less surprising.
Right now, Moncada is the most impressive piece on the White Sox, and that includes standouts like Lance Lynn, Yermin Mercedes, Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon. Moncada has a 2.0 WAR, is hitting .285 and has 26 RBIs. In a season where Jose Abreu's a little less pronounced and both Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada are injured, they need a rock like Moncada to keep them rolling and keep them in the race.
The Sox are in a pretty nice position in the AL Central, a few games ahead of the Indians, leveled slightly after a series with the Yankees but coming off well against the similarly-in-control Cardinals. They could still be one of the best teams in baseball by the halfway point, and hopefully their core keeps delivering great performances and seasons.
Coming Tomorrow- Oh yeah, that team they're playing this week isn't too bad, either. Their ace is having another nice year.
The Mets team Jacob deGrom pitched for last night was very different than the one he was pitching for when he went on the IL.
All of the following players are currently injured for the Mets: Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Kevin Pillar, J.D. Davis, Luis Guillorme, Albert Almora, Taijuan Walker, Tommy Hunter, Dellin Betances.
That's...a large chunk of the roster. And several of them, including McNeil, Conforto and Betances, will be out for quite a while. Now, right now the Mets are in first place in the NL East, but they are only a hair above .500, tussling with the similarly-addled Braves for the division as the Phillies flounder for a week or so. So in order to prove that they belong at the head of the division, they need to start winning games and pulling ahead, even without the injured players.
This involves a lot of replacement players making the team, plus bizarre lineup decisions like James McCann at 1st base, Cameron Maybin batting third, and Jose Peraza still being on a Major League roster at all. The good news is that this has produced some fan favorite roster additions that would otherwise be in Syracuse right now, like bench favorite Patrick Mazeika, and contact-friendly outfielder Johneshwy Fargas. And yes, if people like Fargas do end up getting major league traction because of this, I'm all for it. But Fargas may go the way of Andres Gimenez and be on another team when the lineup is completely stocked. I could be wrong, and Fargas could be the next Carlos Beltran in NY or whatever, but...with Conforto and Nimmo back eventually, I don't see him finding starting time this easily his entire career in NY.
And...then we have Jacob deGrom's return. The rotation hasn't been that bad without him, and Marcus Stroman, David Peterson and I guess Joey Lucchesi have been strong, but there was a noticeable hole without him. DeGrom wants his third Cy Young, and with the numbers he was pulling pre-injury, there's definitely a chance he could still nab one. He is in danger of being lapped by Max Scherzer, who's looking for his FOURTH, or either Corbin Burnes or Brandon Woodruff. But if he continues his pace, and keeps being the single most untouchable pitcher in baseball, he's gonna bring home even more hardware. Not just this year, but for the rest of his career.
The Mets are a bit strange this year. But Jacob deGrom being among the best in the game is the part that makes the most sense.
Coming Tonight: One of two people traded for Chris Sale who are proving their worth more than Sale is this year.
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
The Baltimore Orioles are one of two teams with 30 losses [ironically, in the same division as one of two teams with 30 wins, HMMM]. Damn if they're not having fun while doing it, though.
This is rare for a bad team, but three of the best players in baseball right now are on the Orioles. John Means has the highest WAR for pitchers right now, and that's a very big deal for this team. Cedric Mullins is still playing like a pro, hitting .294 with 53 hits. And Trey Mancini is having the comeback season of the gods, leading the league in RBIs with 41 and knocking 10 homers. Those three are a nice amount of talents, and if this were a more even division, could be leading them towards .500
But this is not a normal division. The Sox, Rays, Yankees and Jays are all going for the gold, meaning any series with one of those four could amount to a series loss. All four AL East teams are better than the Orioles, a good amount of the Orioles' season is division matchups- the O's are GOING to struggle this year. There's a reason their no-no came at the hands of a non-division team like the Mariners.
Aside from those three, there are some good performances in Baltimore, like Austin Hays, Freddy Galvis, and the slow return of Anthony Santander's power numbers. But the majority of this team is under .250 hitters, 5.50+ ERA pitchers, and several prospects who aren't delivering what they promised in 2020. Dean Kremer and Ryan Mountcastle were wonderful last year, and neither one is delivering anything close to last year's keep. Matt Harvey, after a few early starts worth of classic Dark Knight material, is now back to a 6.00 ERA and a negative W/L ratio. Maikel Franco's completely reneged on his 2020 comeback. Pedro Severino's having his first down season in Baltimore. It's all just churning into a mess.
Of the three big players, I honestly think that only really Mancini has a chance of being dealt, but I could be very wrong. I also don't think Mancini WANTS to leave Baltimore, though he may not really have a choice. I know there's a lot of fun in this team, but I don't want it to continue to depress me, and fans, week after week.
Coming Tomorrow- deReturn.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have lost 8 straight. So the Colorado Rockies aren't looking so bad anymore, are they?
The NL West is a great division, but it just keeps shifting. It started out normal, with the Dodgers and Padres in front, the Giants in third, and the D-Backs and Rockies behind. Then the Giants took first, the Dodgers plummeted, and the D-Backs broke .500. Now the division belongs to the Padres, the Dodgers have lapped SF, and the D-Backs' losing streak have put them behind Colorado.
Like Arizona, the Rockies have been betrayed by the majority of their core. Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story, German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela are letting this team down right now, and while Story is beginning to pick up again, these numbers have sunk this team. So even if people like Raimel Tapia and Ryan McMahon have strong years, it's not a majority decision.
Heck, Jon Gray's having his best season in a while, with a 3.59 ERA and 4 wins [this looked more impressive 2 weeks ago]. After years of playing second banana to Freeland, Marquez and Senza, now Jon Gray is leading the rotation and drumming up Ks again. Suspiciously, Gray's contract with the Rockies is up after this year. Could it be that he's making it clear to opposing teams how much of an asset he could be as we head into peak trade season? Coincidentally, the guy picked directly in front of him in the 2013 draft is also drumming up trade buzz this year. But while Gray is not as big of a name as Kris Bryant, could he be a crucial piece to any team without elevated air quality?
Aside from that, not really much to talk about regarding these Rockies. I'm glad that we're reaching a point where McMahon, Tapia, Josh Fuentes and Yonathan Daza can inherit this team, but it will only stay steady for so long.
Coming Tonight: One of many former Phillies shortstops making impressive moves in middling cities.
Monday, May 24, 2021
After this post, there's 7 more of these 2020 Final Edition posts left, meaning they'll be done by around the third week of June. And while I hope you guys have been enjoying these...man am I excited to nearly be done with this project? Like, remember back in the olden days of the blogosphere where Ben Henry and Dayf and those guys did a countdown of a franken-80s set called the 792, and by the end they were exhausted and sick of posting out of that.
...shit, have we reached the generation of bloggers who weren't here for Cardboard Junkie and Baseball Card Blog? WHY DO I FEEL SO DAMN OLD?? I'M 25, FOR anyway,
These are the next 9 cards in the set, let's roll 'em
Like Bieber, a no brainer. Cole was one of the best pitchers in the AL last year, he got right into the groove of things as a Yankee, and would have definitely made the AL ASG team last year. He will likely make the squad this year as well, so it's not an entirely big loss. I'm just...insanely glad that this guy is on my team in his prime, and I hope his prime lasts as long as possible.
Friday, the next 9 cards in the set go up. We hit our third multiple of 90, and a lot of very interesting rookies.
Look, I'm just happy that they got Adolis Garcia out of St. Louis.
The Cardinals have been doing that a lot lately. They've had a ton of hard-hitting, excellent prospects that they've kept within the roster and brought up as their own, but their farm system has been so good that they've had the same amount of players go to other teams. There's obvious ones like Luke Voit, Carson Kelly, Marco Gonzales, Luke Weaver, and the big one being Randy Arozarena. And then every once in a while, a new one trickles out.
And Adolis Garcia was kind of forgettable in his 2018 call-up with the Cardinals. It was similar to Magneuris Sierra the year before, who did okay in the majors before being traded for Marcell Ozuna. Garcia hit like .118 in 2018, no homers and 1 RBI. Then the Cardinals don't use him, ship him to Texas for nothing, and the Rangers struggle to find a place for him.
And suddenly, once Khris Davis got injured and Shin-Soo Choo decided to return to Korea...a spot opened up in the Rangers lineup for a power-hitter. And Adolis Garcia took it.
The man affectionately referred to as El Bombi has hit 14 home runs for the Rangers, which is I believe a league height, and it's all the more impressive when you realize that these are Garcia's first career homers. For someone to burst onto the scene in a starting position and immediately become one of the foremost home run hitters this season says a lot about the 'swing-for-the-fences' mentality of modern baseball, but it also says a lot about Garcia's abilities that the Cardinals weren't waiting to show up.
Right now, Garcia has more home runs than two famous home run masters, Khris Davis and Joey Gallo, combined. He has the third-highest WAR in Arlington, behind Kyle Gibson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and he's been the game-saving hero of several recent Rangers games, including a crucial one during a series with those pesky Astros. Garcia is helping keep the Rangers out of last, and even if there are definitely some big flaws with this team [the back half of the rotation, for one], this has been a much more exciting stretch for Texas, and for Garcia.
I sincerely hope he keeps it up. Someone needs to keep attacking Astros pitching, and it's nice whenever it's someone like him.
Coming Tomorrow- The longest tenured Rockies starter, and how he's still a consistent choice.
Sunday, May 23, 2021
The NL Central has evened out, and the Pirates have taken their rightful place.
The Pirates are one of those last place teams that does have some mighty fine materials but only in a finite amount. Like, they still have one of the best young contact hitters in the game in Bryan Reynolds, one of the most versatile infield pieces in Adam Frazier, one of the best relief assets in Richard Rodriguez, a hard-hitting catcher in Jacob Stallings, and one of the most impressive cheap arms in J.T. Brubaker. Other than that, though? It's not certain.
Like, I'm gonna assume that a few of these pieces leave at the deadline. Rodriguez seems like an easy guess for trade bait, same with Frazier honestly, and one of the other 3 younger pieces could get snatched for all I know [or maybe someone like Tyler Anderson who's only on a one-year deal]. What is this team after that? What identity does this team have then?
Like, let's examine what's been shifting lately. The Pirates just called up Will Craig, their 2016 1st rounder, to play 1st base in Colin Moran's absence, and he's already doing pretty well, with a homer and 2 RBIs in his first 9 games. Earlier this year they had Miguel Yajure start a few games, he did well and has since been called back down. Mitch Keller and Wil Crowe are both up in the rotation and either struggling or doing just okay. The rest of this team is either veterans or contract deals. The experiment of actually having prospects try and move this team ended when Ke'Bryan Hayes got injured.
The plan for the Pirates seems to be to continue to just kinda keep cruising and not really worry about anything this year. But...they've been playing to lose for a few years now, and nothing's really come of it. How much longer are they gonna have to bottom feed in order to actually get something going?
Coming Tomorrow- Sometimes, a true home run hitter has to come from absolutely nowhere in order to be everywhere.
A weird feeling. The Tigers, one of the worst teams in the majors, aren't even the worst team in the AL Central right now.
I mean, looking over this team, and statistically, barely anything is going on. Wilson Ramos, hurt until very recently, leads the team in home runs with 6. Robbie Grossman leads the team in RBIs with 18. Matthew Boyd, the staff ace, still has a 2-4 record and only 37 Ks [Tarik Skubal leads the team with 40]. No batter's hitting over .300, no pitcher has more than 3 wins, the closer's only got 4 saves. It's not good at all.
And yet the Twins, a starrier team, is in last because they've had more devastating losses. While a lot of the Tigers is simply okay, the Twins have had dreadful pitching and too many underhitting stars. The Tigers are kind of...performing as expected. There are standouts, like Boyd, Casey Mize, Grossman and recent no-no thrower Spencer Turnbull. But there's also lots of people who just aren't worthy of a roster spot, but have them by default. JaCoby Jones and Willi Castro are simply refusing to hit. Joe Jimenez has lost whatever mojo he had in 2019. Tarik Skubal has nice speed but he's 1-6. It's just not coming together.
And it's also hard to get excited about some performances when they absolutely refuse to not be one-dimensional. Miguel Cabrera had a huge homer the other day, but he's at the period where he's incapable of performing above replacement level, and it's looking like this may be his last season in Detroit. Jonathan Schoop had a big day recently but is still hitting around .200. Jeimer Candelario and Niko Goodrum will have big weeks and then sink back down the charts in an instant.
The Tigers are one of those teams that's very difficult to talk about every few weeks because it's hard to find silver linings. Yes, they're out of last now, but will they be the next time I have a Tigers custom?
Coming Tonight: Speaking of dreary teams to talk about, now the only Frazier left in Pittsburgh.
Saturday, May 22, 2021
I think enough time has gone by that we should just accept the fact that the Nationals put all their focus onto winning in 2019, and that the subsequent last-place years aren't exactly indicative of a long-term goal. The Nats had failed so many times in the playoffs that they went for broke, the strategy worked, and it only worked once. And now they're just trying more long term tactics again that aren't exactly delivering another title immediately.
So, we're back to the Nats being known for having three league-caliber players, Max Scherzer, Juan Soto and Trea Turner...and not a great deal else.
The trio of Soto, Scherzer and Turner have combined for 4.2 WAR. Turner is having another phenomenal season at short, hitting .317 with a TEAM-LEADING 10 homers. Think about that. This is a team with Juan Soto, Josh Bell, Starlin Castro and Kyle Schwarber, and Trea Turner of all people leads the team in home runs with ten. That's crazy. He also leads the team in RBIs with 23, and he has 8 steals. He is delivering on his five-tool promises from his call-up in 2017, and has finally figured out how to stay healthy and be consistent, and the Nats are overjoyed. With him surging, Scherz with a 2.24 ERA at 36, and Soto hitting .287 and catching up, these three are doing exactly what they were paid to do.
Which is why it sucks that the rest of the team not being much of a factor is dragging this team down. There are some good performers, like Josh Harrison, Victor Robles and a now-bench-friendly Ryan Zimmerman, but we've restocked this team with guys who are more prone to strike out than do productive things. Josh Bell has yet to truly make an impact in Washington because he still can't hit for average. Kyle Schwarber is doing better but is still hitting .223. And the youth movement that was supposed to be more prevalent this year, people like Andrew Stevenson, Luis Garcia and Carter Kieboom, still has absolutely no room to work with all the veteran presence here.
The sagging mentality has spread to the rotation as well. Corbin and Fedde are struggling, Joe Ross had a nice start but has lost a few too many, and Strasburg and Lester need to catch up while also being careful not to get injured again.
The NL East is still relatively up in the air, but seeing as next month is the same month where the Nats started killing it 2 years ago, I'm not sensing that a similar slam to brilliance is going to happen again this year, outside of those 3 central players.
Coming Tomorrow- Good news: he's not in last anymore. Bad news: he's still on the Tigers.
Friday, May 21, 2021
With this post, and these 9 cards, we knock out another hero card, we enter another batch of 50 cards, and we keep delivering interesting omissions from Topps' 2020 output. I reckon we have a month or so left of these posts, and I'm gonna make each one count.
On Monday, I post the next 9. A few pitchers having great 2021s are in here, plus an intriguing rookie card.