Matthew Pouliot

Josh Phegley

Josh Phegley is the new Yasiel Puig

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Puigmania is over. It’s old news. Could there be any better illustration than the fact that Freddie Freeman beat out Yasiel in a popularity contest this week?

It’s OK, though. White Sox catcher Josh Phegley is the new big thing. He hit a grand slam Thursday in the White Sox’s 6-3 win over the Tigers, giving him three homers in his first five games.

The 25-year-old Phegley is the 29th player in major league history to hit three homers in his first five games. Only Mike Jacobs and Puig have managed four. Other recent players to hit three include Manny Machado, Yoenis Cespedes, Will Middlebrooks and Yasmani Grandal.

Phegley’s eight RBI through five games is tied for the 10th highest total in big league history. Jack Merson, Danny Espinosa and Puig had 10 RBI through five games. Hall of Famer Paul Molitor is among the players with nine.

A 2009 supplemental first-round pick out of Indiana, Phegley took a big step forward by hitting .316/.368/.597 with 15 homers in 231 at-bats for Triple-A Charlotte prior to his callup last week. He hit just .266/.306/.373 with six homers in 394 at-bats last year for the same team. While this year may prove to be something of a fluke for him offensively, he has overtaken Tyler Flowers in the White Sox’s plans, and he’s probably going to be the team’s primary catcher going forward.

Now if only Salvador Perez will back out so we can get him on the All-Star team where he belongs.

Carlos Gonzalez out, Pedro Alvarez in for Home Run Derby

Pedro Alvarez
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Carlos Gonzalez isn’t too banged up to play for the Rockies or to participate in next week’s All-Star Game, but due to his finger injury, he has opted out of Monday’s Home Run Derby.

Replacing Gonzalez on the NL squad is Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez is tied with the Phillies’ Domonic Brown for second place in the league with 23 homers, one behind Gonzalez. Yet both Alvarez and Brown went unpicked as NL captain initially selected Michael Cuddyer and Bryce Harper to round out his four-man squad.

Alvarez probably was the best choice of the options. While Brown has just as many homers, his average homer has been estimated at just 380.5 feet. That ranks dead last among all players with at least 10 homers, according to Hittrackeronline.com. Alvarez comes in at 406.7 feet, which, while not approaching Justin Upton’s MLB-best 428.0 mark, is at least above the median. He also leads the majors with nine “no doubt” home runs, as hittrackeronline describes them.

The 26-year-old Alvarez is a first-time All-Star this year. He’s recovered from a lousy April to hit .253/.315/.521 with 60 RBI in 82 games to date.

So, if MLB suspends Braun and A-Rod, what’s next?

Home plate umpire Additon calls time as Tampa Yankees' Rodriguez grimaces after he was hit by a pitch during a Single A baseball game with the Brevard County Manatees in Melbourne
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T.J. Quinn and Mike Fish reported Tuesday that MLB is prepared to suspend Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and “as many as 20 players” in connection with the Biogenesis scandal “sometime after next week’s All-Star break.” Outside the Lines got this from several sources, some likely from within the commissioner’s office. MLB hasn’t been shy about leaking info in the case.

Of course, “after the All-Star break” is pretty general. One would think it’d have to be pretty much right around the All-Star break for there to be even a slim chance of any suspensions being served this year. It’s typically a couple of months between when a player is notified he tested positive for a banned substance and the appeals process plays out (which is all supposed to be happening in secret). In this case, it could be considerably longer, given that there aren’t any positive tests.  MLB may announce the suspensions all at once, but there are going to be 20 or so distinct cases here, all of which could be argued separately.

With the appeals process to be played out, it’s just not very realistic to think that anyone is going to end up serving suspensions this year. That’s true even though it’d seem to be best for Braun and A-Rod to serve suspensions now rather than next year, given the Brewers’ disappointing record and the state of Rodriguez’s hip. Braun hasn’t been willing to admit any wrongdoing, and hasn’t cooperated with MLB’s investigation. Does anyone think he’ll give up his right to appeal now?

There are also key figures for contenders in the mix. The Rangers’ Nelson Cruz and the Tigers’ Jhonny Peralta are among those rumored to be in line for suspensions. The Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez is mentioned in Biogenesis documents, though reports have him being in the clear since he obtained only legal substances.

If MLB wants to suspend the players, the time to do it is either now or after the World Series. Overshadowing the pennant races by doing it in August or September would be profoundly dumb. Even though MLB likes to parade its dirty laundry for all to see, it’s not that stupid. But even if the players are suspended now, this almost certainly will turn into an offseason matter. 12 weeks isn’t enough time to work through the biggest set of suspensions in league history.