On the 31st episode of the DFA podcast, Bryan and R.J. had so much fun talking about the surging Indians last week, that they choose to follow the same format this week. This time, the topics du jour are the two other playoff teams: the (quiet) Washington Nationals and the (loud) Houston Astros.
Welcome back to the DFA podcast! Hosts Bryan Grosnick (Baseball Prospectus) and R.J. Anderson (CBS Sports), plus producer Shawn Brody (Beyond the Box Score, BP Mets), are talking about all the transactions and roster moves that make MLB go. From trades and signings to callups and disabled list stints, DFA is here to provide analysis and commentary on all things baseball.
This is a proportionate response to Bryce Harper's hair, we think.
The Situation: The Nationals are 18 games up in the NL East and pretty obviously going to the playoffs, but their outfield situation has been a mish-mash ever since Adam Eaton went down for the season in April. Bryce Harper should be back from his own knee injury for the playoffs, but that’s not even a guarantee. In center, Michael Taylor played unexpectedly well in the first half, but has been awful since his return a month ago from an oblique injury. It’s unwise to count too much on the Howie Kendrick resurrection tour to continue with such aplomb in left, and Jayson Werth is a shell of his former self. Victor Robles is among the best prospects left in the minors, has had success (albeit limited) at Double-A, and can play all three outfield spots, so it’s time to get weird.
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Think injuries have killed your favorite team? Well, you're not alone.
Injuries are a part of baseball, and they present hurdles that every team must overcome. Pretty much every team has lost at least one top-five player on its roster for some period of time, and many more regulars and depth players are lost along the way. Bones break. UCLs snap. Ligaments sprain. Hamstrings pull. Heads get knocked. And replacements take the field.
The Nationals turn to their 2014 first-round pick to fill a rotation spot.
The Situation: Stephen Strasburg’s latest mystery elbow problem has landed him on the 10-day DL. He’s only expected to miss one start, but the Nationals have called up their top remaining pitching prospect, Erick Fedde, to take the turn.
Trea Turner's first 162 games have featured some greatness, some goodness, and a few remaining questions.
No matter what happens during Trea Turner’s career on the field, he forever left his mark off the field by motivating Major League Baseball to change the way it handles trades of recent draft picks—the Trea Turner Rule, unofficially. Turner was drafted 13th overall by the Padres in 2014 out of North Carolina State, where he hit .342 with 113 steals in 173 games. After signing quickly for $2.9 million, he debuted by hitting .323 with 23 steals in 69 games between rookie-ball and low Single-A, establishing himself as a consensus top-100 prospect right away. And then that winter the Padres traded him. Sort of.
New general manager A.J. Preller was hell-bent on turning a 77-85 team into an immediate winner, giving up prospects, young major leaguers, and piles of cash to bring in Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, James Shields, Melvin Upton, and Derek Norris, among others. Myers was acquired from the Rays in a three-team blockbuster that involved Turner being dealt to the Nationals. However, because he was just six months removed from signing and MLB rules prohibited draft picks from being traded for a full year, Turner’s inclusion in the swap had to be masked as a “player to be named later.”
It was a good first quarter for the Rockies, Yankees, Nationals, and Diamondbacks.
In this space yesterday, I examined the four struggling teams that have seen their BP Playoff Odds drop the most through one-quarter of the season. Let’s flip things around now and look at the four teams that have seen their odds rise the most since Opening Day.
This season is old enough to know better, but some early hitting performances really stand out.
I know it’s still too early in the season to draw meaningful conclusions about much of anything because my beloved Twins have a winning record, but we are far enough along that only seven hitters with 100 or more plate appearances are beating their 90th percentile PECOTA projections by at least 200 points of OPS. Two of those seven, Bryce Harper and Freddie Freeman, are great hitters off to especially strong starts, leaving five genuine, out-of-nowhere surprises among full-time position players. By the end of the season they may all have turned back into pumpkins, but in the meantime my curiosity is piqued.
Ryan Zimmerman credits Daniel Murphy with his comeback season, but can learning from teammates break bad too?
The big story of the Nationals' season so far (other than that guy who got a save the other day) has been the resuscitation of Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman, who has battled injuries for the past few years, reached double digits in home runs for the month of April. According to a story that should probably be called “apocryphal,” Zimmerman’s renaissance can be credited to deep, late-night conversations with teammate Daniel Murphy. Murphy had one weird trick that he suggested Zimmerman might try this year: swing up. Apparently, it worked.