Author: Matthew Pouliot

Mike Trout

Mike Trout hits for cycle in Angels’ rout of Mariners


Saving the home run for last, Mike Trout recorded his first career cycle Tuesday as the Angels crushed the Mariners 12-0.

Trout struck out in his first at-bat of the night before singling in the third, tripling in the fourth, doubling in the sixth and homering in the eighth. He ended the game with five RBI, and he also picked up his ninth steal to go along with his ninth homer.

The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin pointed out that the 21-year-old Trout is the youngest player to hit for the cycle since Hall of Famer Mel Ott did so in 1929. It was also the perfect answer to Miguel Cabrera’s three-homer game Sunday in light of the subsequent revisiting of the 2012 MVP race.

After a slow start, Trout, the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up last season, is currently on pace for 32 homers and 32 steals, as well as 112 runs scored and a whopping 122 RBI. He’s hitting .343 in May to raise his overall average to .293.

Of course, as impressive as his numbers are, they’re still not a match for Cabrera’s this year. And his defense isn’t yet making up the difference, at least not according to WAR. Plus, any chance of Trout factoring into the MVP race will likely hinge on the Angels’ playing much better ball from here on in. At 18-27, they have a better record than only the Astros in the American League.

Anthony Rendon, Miguel Sano rate as 2013’s top minor league performers

Miguel Sano

The top of the minor league OPS leaderboard is typically littered with Triple-A veterans and A-ball players too old for their leagues. That’s still the case this year, but numbers two, three and four on the list are all top prospects.

Minor league OPS leaders (minimum 100 at-bats)

Scott Van Slyke (26 Dodgers): 1.236 OPS for Triple-A Albuquerque
Anthony Rendon (23 Nationals): 1.136 OPS for Double-A Harrisburg
Garin Cecchini (22 Red Sox): 1.135 OPS for Single-A Salem
Miguel Sano (20 Twins): 1.122 OPS for Single-A Fort Myers
Andrew Brown (28 Mets): 1.097 OPS for Triple-A Las Vegas
Chris Colabello (29 Twins): 1.089 OPS for Triple-A Rochester
Brett Pill (28 Giants): 1.085 OPS for Triple-A Fresno
Ji-Man Choi (22 Mariners): 1.073 OPS for Single-A High Desert
Ryan Court (25 Diamondbacks): 1.072 OPS for low-A South Bend/Single-A Visalia
Anthony Aliotti (25 Athletics): 1.069 OPS for Double-A Midland

Sano is now on the short list of the game’s best prospects. He hit two more homers in a doubleheader today, giving him 13 homers in 153 at-bats on the season. He does strike out quite a bit — 44 times this year and 144 times in 129 games in low-A ball last season — but he’s a patient hitter and he’s only going to get stronger as he matures. He just turned 20 earlier this month, making him one of the youngest players in the Florida State League. The big question with Sano is whether he’ll be able to stay at third.

Cecchini has also been a very pleasant surprise this year. Baseball America ranked the third baseman as Boston’s No. 7 prospect after he hit .305/.394/.433 in the Sally League last season. Now he’s probably a top-50 guy in all of baseball thanks to his increasing power; he has five homers in 134 at-bats after hitting four in 455 at-bats last year. Also, he’s playing in a pitcher’s league and walking (22) more than he’s striking out (20).

Then there’s Rendon, also naturally a third baseman, though one who is getting reps at second with Ryan Zimmerman in the way in D.C. He’s already been up in the majors once this season, and it’s possible an extended opportunity will come if Danny Espinosa continues to struggle.

The rest of the names on the above list aren’t quite so interesting, so here are the next 12, limited to players age 22 and under:

Zach Borenstein (22 Angels): 1.052 OPS for Single-A Inland Empire
Kevin Plawecki (22 Mets): 1.045 OPS for low-A Savannah
Rosell Herrera (20 Rockies): 1.032 OPS for low-A Asheville
Christian Yelich (21 Marlins): .995 OPS for Single-A Jupiter/Double-A Jacksonville
Stetson Allie (22 Pirates): .993 OPS for low-A West Virginia
Byron Buxton (19 Twins): .979 OPS for low-A Cedar Rapids
Chris Taylor (22 Mariners): .970 OPS for Single-A High Desert
Joc Pederson (21 Dodgers): .958 OPS for Double-A Chattanooga
Aaron Altherr (22 Phillies): .953 OPS for Single-A Clearwater
Andy Burns (22 Blue Jays): .952 OPS for Single-A Dunedin
Peter O’Brien (22 Yankees): .952 OPS for low-A Charleston
Yasiel Puig (22 Dodgers): .947 OPS for Double-A Chattanooga

Yelich, Buxton and Puig will all join Sano in the top 10s of most midseason prospects lists when they get published. Buxton was the No. 2 pick in the 2012 draft, but there’s a good chance he’d go No. 1 if the Astros had it to do over again. Along with his brilliant .317/.420/.559 line, the center fielder has 19 steals for Cedar Rapids.

Alex Sanabia brings back the spitball in beating the Phillies

Alex Sanabia 1

Move over Clay Buchholz. Marlins starter Alex Sanabia went old school on Monday, bypassing the sunscreen and rosin and simply hocking a big ol’ loogie on the baseball after giving up a home run to the Phillies’ Domonic Brown.

The video isn’t embeddable yet, but here’s the link to it at, as well as some still shots.




As it turned out, that second-inning homer by Brown was the lone run for the Phillies tonight in a 5-1 loss. Sanabia scattered seven hits over 6 1/3 innings in improving to 3-6 on the season. He lowered his ERA to 4.56.

While one can debate the legality of sunscreen on the arm, there’s no doubt what Sanabia was doing was against the rules, and though no one caught him during the game, it will be interesting to see if a suspension follows based on the obvious visual evidence.

(hat-tip to David Cameron at Fangraphs)

By run differential, the Centrals reign supreme

Milwaukee Brewers v St. Louis Cardinals

As of Monday afternoon, the Rangers and Cardinals have baseball’s best records. Not entirely¬†coincidentally¬† they also have the best run differentials of any team in baseball. The Rangers have scored 212 runs and let in 158, putting them at +54. The Cardinals have scored 201 runs and allowed a major league-low 150, which works out to a +51.

It also won’t come as a surprise to anyone which two teams fall at the bottom when it comes to run differential. The Astros and Marlins have identical 12-32 records at the moment, and no other teams are within even 100 points of them when it comes to winning percentage. In run differential, the Astros rate at the bottom, a cool -88. The Marlins aren’t far behind at -73. They’ve gotten respectable pitching (190 runs allowed), but they’ve scored 25 fewer runs than any other team in baseball. The Astros have let in 39 more runs than any other team.

The Astros, in fact, are so bad that they’ve reshaped how we have to look at two divisions since making the switch from the NL Central to the AL West. Last year, the NL Central was the second worst division in baseball by run differential. This year, it’s the best.

NL Central: +86
AL Central: +70
AL East: +49
NL West: +2
AL West: -89
NL East: -118

That’s a huge turnaround from 2012:

AL West: +236
AL East: +123
NL East: +67
NL West: -36
NL Central: -139
AL Central: -251

The Astros alone were a -211 last year. The rest of the NL Central was positive overall, but that’s largely because it got to beat up on the Astros. This time, the division is in the positives without any assistance from the Astros. Well, actually, the Pirates got to play them three times, but that turned out to be a null series; the Pirates won twice by one run and lost once by two runs.

The AL Central has taken an even bigger step forward than the NL Central. The Indians (-178) and Twins (-131) were far and away the AL’s worst teams by run differential last year. This year, the Indians are a +35 and the Twins are merely -11.

The AL East is the only division this year to boast four teams with positive run differentials. However, Toronto’s -45 has wiped out a good portion of that. The Blue Jays have the third worst run differential in baseball.

The NL East has just one team, the Braves, with a positive run diffential at +34. The Nationals are a -17, even though they are 23-21 for the season.

Besides the Nationals, the Giants are the only other team with a positive record (24-20) and a negative run differential (-5). They have the same record as the Rockies, even though the Rockies sit at +32.

There aren’t any teams with positive run differentials and sub-.500 records, though the A’s have been straddling that line. Winning three straight one-run games over the Royals last weekend gave them a 23-22 record and a +3 run differential.

As for the leagues themselves, the AL is currently a +30 over the NL, with a 29-26 interleague record.