For most teams, late-July is an exciting time. Not only for teams in contention looking to upgrade their rosters, but even teams long out of it looking to infuse their clubs with elite prospects. But even amidst all the hoopla of the trading deadline, there is plenty going on around the Major Leagues that could be strong indicators of what we might see in late September and October. A few thoughts on this July 24 afternoon, almost exactly 168 hours shy of the deadline.
Cardinals don’t need to make any trades, because healthy returns will suffice
Who needs Cole Hamels or Justin Upton when you have star players like Matt Holliday back and others on the mend? Holliday’s presence completely changes an already-stout St. Louis lineup, because even with reduced power numbers, Holliday is an on-base machine. Additionally, the Cardinals are about to get back outfielder Jon Jay and some key arms, with starter Jaime Garcia and relievers Matt Belisle and Jordan Walden close to returning to action. The deepest team in baseball is going to get deeper without having to mortgage any future resources like Stephen Piscotty.
The Marlins have a star pitcher in the making… and it’s not Jose Fernandez
Of course no one has noticed, but Marlins starter Tom Koehler has been on a serious roll the past two months. Since the start of June, the 29-year-old is 5-3 with a 2.21 ERA over eight starts, posting seven quality starts in that span. Koehler was at his best last night in San Diego, hurling seven shutout innings in a 4-0 Miami victory. In the second half of 2014, Koehler improved drastically in posting a 3.55 ERA over his final 13 starts.
The Royals desperately need a starting pitcher
It’s getting more and more difficult to ignore the Royals’ serious rotation flaws. Not only do they rank 23rd in baseball in ERA at 4.32, they rank second-to-last in innings pitched. That seems all fine and good when you look at their top-ranked bullpen ERA, but their continued reliance on making each win a joint effort could take its toll. As it stands, manager Ned Yost may want to examine swapping Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Davis may be the best reliever in baseball, while Holland continues to struggle with his command. It would behoove Yost to do it sooner rather than later.
Will the National League playoffs be a rerun?
We’ve seen this movie before — as in last year. It’s looking like a very strong possibility that the National League playoff field will be identical to last year’s, with the only suspense being in the second wild card spot. The San Francisco Giants went all the way from that spot last year but are being pushed by the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets this season. If the same five teams qualify — St. Louis, Los Angeles, Washington, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco — it will be the first time in the National League and just the second time ever since the inception of the first wild card that the field was the same as the year before. The only time it’s happened was under the old four-team format in the American League in 1998-99, when Boston, New York, Cleveland, and Texas did it.
Like the Royals, the Los Angeles Dodgers need a (third) starter
Obviously, the Dodgers have some stability at the front of their rotation with arguably the game’s best one-two punch in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. The rest of the rotation is a total mess, however, and in the event that the Dodgers meet their kryptonite, the St. Louis Cardinals, it would likely be in a seven-game NLCS in which St. Louis has homefield advantage. That means that not only would Kershaw and Greinke likely pitch three of their four combined starts on the road, but their No. 3 starter would be in line to start a potential Game 7, which would also be on the road. Mike Bolsinger might be the best candidate, but he is no match for really anyone in St. Louis’ rotation, meaning an upgrade of some sort is needed. It doesn’t need to be Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto but somewhat certainly competent, such as Jeff Samardzija or Mike Leake.