Pouliot’s midseason award picks: NL MVP

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Now it’s time for the NL midseason MVP, and this year’s picture to date is just as confusing as last year’s was, in my opinion. Of course, the BBWAA decided on Buster Posey pretty handily last year(27 of 32 first-place votes), but I ultimately picked Yadier Molina from a close group of five players.

Here are the current OPS leaders:

.991 – Michael Cuddyer: .343/.396/.594, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 6 SB in 254 AB
.967 – Carlos Gonzalez: .295/.362/.605, 23 HR, 62 RBI, 15 SB in 329 AB
.943 – Joey Votto: .323/.432/.511, 14 HR, 39 RBI, 3 SB in 319 AB
.930 – Paul Goldschmidt: .302/.380/.550, 20 HR, 69 RBI, 9 SB in 318 AB
.921 – David Wright: .306/.394/.528, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 14 SB in 307 AB
.916 – Buster Posey: .312/.390/.526, 12 HR, 48 RBI, 1 SB in 285 AB
.912 – Carlos Gomez: .311/.350/.562, 13 HR, 39 RBI, 17 SB in 299 AB
.889 – Yadier Molina: .351/.393/.497, 6 HR, 45 RBI, 3 SB in 302 AB
.883 – Carlos Beltran: .305/.346/.537, 19 HR, 50 RBI, 1 SB in 298 AB
.881 – Matt Carpenter: .320/.392/.489, 8 HR, 36 RBI, 1 SB in 325 AB
.875 – Shin-Soo Choo: .270/.419/.456, 12 HR, 27 RBI, 9 SB in 307 AB
.875 – Domonic Brown: .279/.326/.549, 22 HR, 60 RBI, 8 SB in 315 AB

Others

1.048 – Troy Tulowitzki: .347/.413/.635, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 0 SB in 222 AB
.856 – Jean Segura: .323/.359/.497, 11 HR, 33 RBI, 26 SB in 334 AB
.839 – Andrew McCutchen: .304/.355/.469, 9 HR, 44 RBI, 17 SB in 311 AB
.829 – Ian Desmond: .282/.323/.506, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 10 SB in 316 AB
.800 – Everth Cabrera: .305/.382/.418, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 31 SB in 275 AB

Baseball-reference WAR

5.4 – Clayton Kershaw
5.1 – Carlos Gomez
4.8 – David Wright
4.6 – Cliff Lee
4.4 – Andrew McCutchen
4.3 – Adam Wainwright
4.3 – Paul Goldschmidt
4.1 – Matt Harvey
4.0 – Carlos Gonzalez
3.7 – Troy Tulowitzki
3.7 – Yadier Molina
3.7 – Joey Votto
3.7 – Matt Carpenter

Fangraphs WAR

4.5 – David Wright
4.5 – Carlos Gomez
4.4 – Adam Wainwright
4.3 – Matt Harvey
4.1 – Matt Carpenter
3.9 – Troy Tulowitzki
3.8 – Andrew McCutchen
3.7 – Yadier Molina
3.6 – Carlos Gonzalez
3.6 – Everth Cabrera
3.5 – Jean Segura
3.5 – Cliff Lee
3.4 – Clayton Kershaw
3.4 – Buster Posey
3.3 – Paul Goldschmidt
3.2 – Joey Votto

So, as of July 5, the NL has different players leading in average (Molina), homers (CarGo), RBI (Goldschmdt), OBP (Vott0), rWAR (Kershaw) and fWAR (Wright). Plus, there’s a shortstop in Tulowitzki who would be leading the league in OPS, only he’s hurt and is about 20 plate appearances short of qualifying for the title. If Tulo had played in 75 games with his rate of production, rather than 61, he’d probably be the clear choice here. As is, he’s a down-ballot pick at best.

Molina makes for an interesting choice again. He’s hitting even better than last year, and he’s thrown out 13 of 29 would-be basestealers while starting 77 of the Cardinals’ 84 games behind the plate. Posey is having a similar season offensively, but he’s started 11 fewer games at catcher (plus eight at first base) and he’s just 11-for-54 throwing out runners. I think it’s a given that Molina has to rank higher than Posey here, though that doesn’t necessarily means he comes in first place.

Among those who have avoided DL stints, Gonzalez has pretty clearly been the league’s best hitter. He leads the NL in homers, slugging and runs scored. Especially impressive is that he’s been even better on the road (.312/.365/.610) than at home (.280/.360/.600) this season. He’s also 15-for-16 stealing bases, and while he’s never had very good defensive numbers in the massive Colorado outfielder, I think  he’s an above average left fielder. Cuddyer, on the other hand, is a below average right fielder. That and the 25 missed games hurt him here.

At first base, the Votto-Goldschmidt battle has to go to Goldschmidt at the moment. It’s not Votto’s fault that he has such a modest RBI total to go along with his outstanding OBP, and he’s probably worthy of a place in the top 10. Goldschmidt, though, has come up huge in big situations. He’s hitting .338/.394/.689 with runners on and .387/.449/.760 with RISP, plus he’s 3-for-5 with two homers with the bases loaded. That’s not something the Diamondbacks can expect to carry forward, but it’s given him a ton of value through 84 games.

And then there are the two position players WAR prefers. Gomez is seventh in the NL in OPS and is justifiably rated as the game’s best defensive center fielder. That makes him one of the league’s most valuable players even if he does play for a last-place Brewers team. Wright has been the Mets’ bright spot, ranking fifth in OPS. He’s playing quality defense, and he’s 14-for-15 as a basestealer.

That’s five paragraphs down and still no mention of anyone from the league’s most successful team. McCutchen is the Pirates’ MVP once again (sorry Mason Grillicon), but he’s also sported a sub-.800 OPS for good chunks of the year. He’s been worse than Gomez offensively, and he’s not quite in Gomez’s league with the glove. He’s worthy of a spot in the top 10, but he can’t come in ahead of Gomez just because his team has been so much better.

Finally, there are the pitchers. Kershaw’s shutout this week propelled him past Gomez into the NL lead in WAR, according to Baseball-reference. Meanwhile, Fangraphs still has Wainwright and Harvey out in front. They’re all close and they’re all worthy of down-ballot consideration, but I think I’m just going to go with the bats this time around.

NL MVP picks

1. Molina
2. Gomez
3. Gonzalez
4. Wright
5. Goldschmidt
6. Carpenter
7. McCutchen
8. Posey
9. Tulowitzki
10. Segura

Molina and Gomez are probably two of the NL’s three most valuable players defensively (with Andrelton Simmons occupying the other slot). That they’ve been top-10 hitters so far as well makes them very difficult to beat here. Both may well tail off in the second half and get passed by bigger bats, but right now, they’re one-two in my mind.

Athletics call up top prospect Franklin Barreto

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The Athletics called up their top prospect on Saturday, inserting shortstop Franklin Barreto into the lineup for their second game against the White Sox. Barreto was originally scheduled to make his major league debut on Sunday, but got a head start after Jed Lowrie sustained a minor knee sprain in Friday’s 3-0 win and was scratched from Saturday’s lineup.

Barreto, 21, has been rapidly climbing the rungs of the A’s minor league system after getting dealt by the Blue Jays in 2014. He got his first taste of Triple-A action late last year, going 6-for-17 with three RBI and getting caught stealing in two attempts. He fared little better this spring, slashing .281/.326/.428 with eight home runs and a .754 OPS through his first 309 PA in Nashville.

While his minor league production has been solid, if underwhelming for a prospect of his caliber, the A’s are expected to give the rookie infielder a long leash with both Marcus Semien and Chad Pinder sitting on the disabled list. Pinder landed on the 10-day DL after suffering a left hamstring strain on Friday. Semien, meanwhile, is still working his way back from the 60-day DL with a right wrist fracture and likely won’t rejoin the team until he completes a rehab assignment with High-A Stockton.

And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the rest of Friday’s scores and highlights:

Red Sox 9, Angels 4: David Ortiz commanded center stage at Fenway Park for the first time since 2016, becoming the 10th player in franchise history to have his number retired. The club hung his jersey number between those of Wade Boggs and Jackie Robinson and invited the slugger to toss out the ceremonial first pitch, which landed just a few feet wide of the plate:

Following the ceremony, the Red Sox capped their tribute with a decisive 9-4 win over the visiting Angels, powered by 6 1/3 innings of four-run ball from Rick Porcello and a two-RBI performance from Sandy Leon. They remain tied with the Yankees for first place in the AL East.

Nationals 6, Reds 5 (10 innings): Bryce Harper came through in the clutch on Friday, walking off on a two-out single in the 10th after Brian Goodwin tied the game with a home run in the seventh inning. It was the first lead the Nats held all night after the Reds’ offense erupted with a four-run inning to start the game, and, thankfully, the only one they needed to preserve a nine-game advantage in the NL East.

Yankees 2, Rangers 1 (10 innings): Everyone was a winner on Friday — well, except for the Rangers. The Yankees clung to first place with an airtight performance from Masahiro Tanaka, who matched Yu Darvish inning-for-inning and finished the night with just three hits, two walks and nine strikeouts. The offense did the rest, saving their first run for the ninth inning on Brett Gardner‘s one-out home run and securing the win with Ronald Torreyes‘ walk-off hit in the 10th.

If it feels like it’s been a while since the Yankees won a game via walk-off, that’s because they haven’t done it since April:

Marlins 2, Cubs 0: Giancarlo Stanton won’t get a chance to defend his Home Run Derby title for a few more weeks, but he got plenty of practice against the Cubs this weekend. He fueled the Marlins’ shutout with a 458-foot blast, putting the club on the board in the third inning and lending some support to Jose Urena‘s fifth win of the season.

Rays 15, Orioles 5: According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Orioles have allowed a cumulative 160 runs over their last 20 games. They took their sixth double-digit defeat in that span on Friday, handing the Rays a 10-run lead after Tampa Bay engineered three separate innings of 4+ runs. To say that Baltimore skipper Buck Showalter is concerned about his rotation is an understatement. Via MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli:

Got to pitch better. It is what it is. The help’s going to come from within,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We got to get back in step and create some rhythm for the offense, and even the defense gets out of step when the game’s being played so choppy and not very crisp. I really don’t like hanging it around one phase of it, but it starts if we could just string some good starts together. You can get into some type of rhythm.

Twins 5, Indians 0: The Twins entered a pivotal series this weekend as they attempt to unseat the Indians from first place, and Friday’s 5-0 shutout saw them pull within two games of the division lead. Adalberto Mejia strung five scoreless innings together, flummoxing the Indians at the plate with two hits, five walks and four strikeouts en route to his second win of the year. Not only was it the first win Mejia recorded since the Twins’ doubleheader last month, but it was the first time the southpaw managed to log more than 100 pitches in any major league start to date.

Braves 5, Brewers 4: Just call Dansby Swanson the next time you need a save. The Braves’ shortstop was instrumental in the team’s nail-biting finish on Friday evening, executing a run-saving fielder’s choice to catch Eric Thames off the third base bag in the ninth inning and helping right-hander Arodys Vizcaino secure his first save of the year with a diving stop to end the game.

Athletics 3, White Sox 0: The A’s finally brought their four-game skid to a halt, coasting to their second shutout of the season on five solid innings from right-hander Jharel Cotton. Cotton exited in the sixth inning with a blister on his pitching hand, but the bullpen kept things rolling against the White Sox with four scoreless frames. Khris Davis and Matt Joyce took care of things at the plate, muscling two home runs to give the A’s the edge they needed to lock down their 32nd win of the year.

Pirates 4, Cardinals 3: Jameson Taillon and Adam Wainwright were locked into a pitcher’s duel during the Cardinals’ home opener, holding their respective opponents to just two runs apiece over the first four innings. After Taillon’s exit in the sixth inning, the Cardinals jumped on reliever Daniel Hudson with a tie-breaking home run from Paul DeJong, but couldn’t quite close the door after the Pirates rebounded with a David Freese RBI single in the eighth inning. John Jaso smacked a game-winning home run in the ninth, securing the win and breaking the Bucs’ seven-game losing streak at Busch Stadium to boot.

Royals 5, Blue Jays 4: The Blue Jays appeared to be on the verge of a much-needed win on Friday, but some late-game struggles from the bullpen quickly unraveled eight innings of hard work. With two outs in the ninth inning, Alcides Escobar cut the Jays’ lead in half with an RBI single, followed by another from Alex Gordon and a game-winning two-run double off the bat of Whit Merrifield — the first walk-off of his major league career.

Phillies 6, Diamondbacks 1: Don’t look now, but the Phillies are… well, still in the last place. A 6-1 win is still worth celebrating, however, as they turned in an impressive four-run spread in the ninth inning to hand Mark Leiter his first win of the year. The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, now sit 2.5 games behind the division-leading Dodgers after squandering another quality start from left-hander Patrick Corbin.

Padres 1, Tigers 0: The Padres have won all but one home opener this season, and Friday’s 1-0 shutout was no exception. They continued their dominant streak with their fourth shutout of the year, backed by six innings of two-hit ball from right-hander Luis Perdomo. Despite Perdomo’s season-high five walks, not a single runner was able to advance past second base, gifting the Padres with a win after Austin Hedges doubled home the winning run in the second inning.

Mariners 13, Astros 3: Felix Hernandez may not look like the King the Mariners crowned back in 2010, but he certainly got the royal treatment upon his return from the disabled list on Friday night. The offense put up a sparkling 13 runs behind Hernandez’s six-inning, six-strikeout effort, topped by a trifecta of home runs from Mike Zunino, Ben Gamel and Kyle Seager. The double-digit finish extended the Mariners’ win streak to six games, giving Seattle hope that they’ll stick above .500 for more than a couple of days.

Dodgers 6, Rockies 1: The Dodgers steamrolled the Rockies to their eighth consecutive win on Friday, extending Alex Wood‘s record to 8-0 with 6 1/3 innings of a three-hitter. The Rockies struck early on an RBI double from Tom Murphy in the second, but found themselves unable to move a runner past first base in any subsequent inning. With the win, the Dodgers are now 14-1 in their last 15 contests, good for the best record in the majors, though they’ll need more than a couple of wins to completely shake the Rockies and Diamondbacks from contention.

Mets 11, Giants 4: The Giants took one step forward and two steps back this week, earning their 10th loss in 11 games after the Mets turned out an 11-run win on Friday. Ty Blach imploded after three innings with a career-high 11 hits and seven runs and failed to strike out a single batter. Club manager Bruce Bochy didn’t let his players off the hook, either, and told reporters that he wouldn’t excuse the team’s poor performance despite their early-morning arrival from Atlanta prior to the game. “Sure, we landed early in the morning, but it’s not the first time this has happened,” Bochy said. “You deal with it.”