Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge are having two of the best rookie seasons of all time

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Earlier, Craig wrote about the Dodgers having the best 50-game stretch in 105 years. The club has many players to thank for that, starting with Clayton Kershaw and including Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, Alex Wood, and Corey Seager. Also included is 1B/OF Cody Bellinger.

After homering in Sunday night’s win over the Mets, Bellinger is currently hitting .264/.344/.608 with 32 home runs, 75 RBI, and 61 runs scored in 381 plate appearances. He didn’t make his major league debut until April 25, but he’s still third in the majors in homers, third in slugging percentage, 15th in RBI, and 16th in OPS (.952). The Dodgers have 51 games left. At Bellinger’s current rate, he will tack on 18 more home runs, 42 more RBI, and 34 more runs. For those keeping score at home, he’s on track to finish with 50 homers, 117 RBI, and 95 runs scored.

Only one rookie has ever hit more than 38 home runs: Mark McGwire, who hit 49 in 1987 with the Athletics. He also had a .987 OPS with 118 RBI and 97 runs scored. 33 rookies have knocked in 100-plus runs, but only 10 have knocked in 117 or more. Albert Pujols was the last to do it, putting up a 1.013 OPS with 37 HR and 130 RBI in 2001 with the Cardinals.

Going by OPS, only 16 rookies have posted a better mark than Bellinger has currently. A handful have happened this millennium, including Pujols in 2001. Mike Trout had a .963 OPS in 2012, Jose Abreu put up a .964 OPS in 2014, and Aaron Judge currently owns a 1.051 OPS. Fred Lynn, who won the MVP and Rookie of the Year Awards in 1975 with the Red Sox, posted a .967 OPS.

If it weren’t obvious, everything said about Bellinger applies to Judge, who’s having an even better rookie season. He just doesn’t have synergy with his team making headlines for enjoying the best 50-game stretch in 105 years. Judge is batting .299/.424/.627 with an AL-best 35 home runs, 78 RBI, and an AL-best 85 runs scored. He’s also drawn an AL-best 79 walks. He’s on pace to finish with 52 homers, 115 RBI, 125 runs, and 116 walks. Perhaps the altered baseballs are to thank in some part, but it has been fun to watch two of the best rookie seasons of all time.

Nationals to pay minor leaguers $300 — not $400 — per week through June

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The Athletic’s Britt Ghiroli reports that the Nationals will pay their minor leaguers $300 per week through the end of June. MLB agreed to pay all minor leaguers $400 per week through today, May 31. Many teams have extended that by at least a month. Some, like the Marlins, Padres, and Mariners, have committed to paying their minor leaguers beyond that.

Ghiroli also notes that the Nationals cut more than 30 minor leaguers, as there will almost certainly not be a minor league season this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is interesting that the Nationals are only offering $300 per week as opposed to the standard $400 weekly. If we assume that the Nationals’ organization has 275 minor leaguers, they will save $110,000 in August by offering $100 less. The Nationals are coming off of winning a championship. While the Nationals haven’t experienced as much of a boon as other champions due to the unfortunate timing, their owner still has a net worth north of $4 billion. The Nats’ franchise value is approximately $2 billion, per Forbes. No, it’s not all liquid, but $110,000 is change that gets lost between the couch cushions for this and many other franchises.

Players are taking note of which teams take care of their players and other personnel, and which are not. The teams that continued to pay minor leaguers, kept staff paid and on board, and helped in other ways will have a better time going forward of attracting and retaining talent both in terms of players and front office personnel (including scouts). While teams should pay their players out of a sense of morality, there is a competitive advantage to doing so as well.