Here is my "Three Up, Three Down" for the month of July. The Trade Deadline has passed, playoff races are forming, and we're entering the final two months of the regular season.
Well, it turns out Brian Cashman could have been a decent small market GM all along. In a matter of a week, the Yankees turned Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova into 12 prospects, three of whom were in the BP Top 100. Ranked in the middle of the pack in the preseason, the Yankees farm system now boasts seven top 100 players (Clint Frazier-22, Gleyber Torres-24, Jorge Mateo-25, Aaron Judge-30, Gaby Sanchez-37, Blake Rutherfod-62, Justus Sheffield-93). As The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh noted on Twitter, the Yankees haven't had a top five first round pick of their own in 25 years, but traded for two on back-to-back days (Frazier and Dillon Tate). Although their streak of 23 straight winning seasons will likely come to end, the future looks very bright in the Bronx.
The Indians drew all the headlines over the Trade Deadline, but don't sleep on the Tigers. They have won eight in a row, including sweeps of the Red Sox (at Fenway) and Astros, and sit just two games back of Cleveland in the AL Central. Ian Kinsler (.354 wOBA) and Miguel Cabrera (.388 wOBA) lead one of the top offenses in baseball, and Justin Verlander is approaching a 4 WAR season after two subpar seasons. By the way, J.D. Martinez is back.
The German-born Twins rookie is flat out raking of late. He has more home runs than anyone in baseball since June 25, including three against the Indians on Monday. Even though he came into the season rated as a top 50 prospect (Baseball America had him 30th overall), he didn't elicit as much attention as supposed franchise centerpiece Byron Buxton. In 235 AB this season, Kepler has an OBP of .342 and is slugging .561. Buxton, on the other hand, has been downright awful, with an OBP of .254 and slugging percentage of .325.
White Sox Rookies
Sometimes life isn't fair. Not only are White Sox rookies bad, but they get hurt...immediately. Recently acquired outfield Charlie Tilson tweaked his hamstring on Tuesday, becoming the fourth rookie to be injured in or before his debut this year. Catcher Kevan Smith was scratched from his debut with back spasms in April (eventually landed on the DL). Outfielder Jason Coats cut his mouth open and need stitches in June. Later in the same month, third baseman Matt Davidson broke his foot rounding second. And now Tilson. While the Cubs are rolling out the best group of young position players in baseball, the team across town can barely field a major league caliber lineup. Any executive of a team that allows .218/.251/.324 J.B. Shuck to get 200 big league plate appearances needs to be fired.
The Mets have lost three series in a row, including six out of their last eight, and now have a closer winning percentage to the Rockies (.506) than the Marlins (.528). They're certainly not out of the race (Fangraphs gives them a 27% chance of making the playoffs), but I don't envision them overtaking the Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals, or Marlins for a Wild Card spot. Plus, I really don't like the Jay Bruce trade. Yes, Bruce can hit a ton of homers (25 this year with a .553 SLG) but he gets on base below the league average and is another corner outfielder on a team that desperately needed a center fielder. The fact that he's being considered in CF should send chills down the spines of Mets' fans.
Once considered a top-end starter, Gray has suffered through a terrible 2016. In 111 innings, he has the highest ERA (5.84) among qualified starting pitchers. His walks are up (2.55 BB/9 in 2015 to 3.41 in 2016) and his velocity is down. Gray has had some bad luck (.321 BABIP and 18.9% HR/FB this year compared to .255 and 9.3% last year) and he's young, so it's not time to write him off by any means, but this is certainly not how anyone imagined the former phenom would progress in his third full season in the majors.