The MLB on PredictionStrike
We are back for another week of our PredictionStrike MLB newsletter to recap the week that was in Major League Baseball, some players to target for both the long and short term and finally checking in on our last version of the newsletter, recapping our stock watches from that edition.
Let’s lead off by taking a look at the week that was in Major League Baseball with some notes from around the league!
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O’s Catching Fire, Pirates Biggest Surprise, What’s Wrong with the Padres Offense?
Rather than divulging on some individual accolades as we did last time, let’s check in sone some risers and fallers across the league from a team perspective.
Life is always difficult in the AL East with the Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, and Red Sox all above-average clubs on a near-annual basis. The Orioles swept the Tigers this past week and are now up to a hefty 16-8 on the season as they attempt to keep pace with the 20-4 Rays who were off to a historical start to the season.
That’s clearly a tall task early in the season, but the O’s hold the AL’s top Wild Card spot and are even 2.5 games up on the Yankees with the Blue Jays on their heels.
The AL East is going to be a fun one again this season.
How ‘bout those Pirates? Don’t look now but the Bucs are 16-8 and first place in the up-for-grabs NL Central. The Pirates rattled off a seven-game win streak which looked prime to be eight before the Dodgers rallied from 7-3 down to edge the Bucs 8-7 Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.
The pitching staff has held its end of the bargain with a 10th-ranked 3.77 ERA on the season but it’s their bats that have shocked the most. The Pirates’ offense ranks eighth with a .335 wOBA on the season and fifth with a .183 isolated power. For context, they finished last season ranked 28th with a .289 wOBA and tied for 20th with a .141 ISO. They’ve also done much of their damage without budding shortstop O’Neil Cruz who will miss a good chunk of time with a broken ankle.
This division is -- and was expected to be -- wide open and the Pirates are taking full advantage.
Finally, we have a slight problem in San Diego with the 12-13 Padres. With Fernando Tatis Jr. returning from a broken wrist/PED suspension and the addition of Xander Boagerts and Juan Soto since last season’s trade deadline, the Padres were a sexy World Series pick this winter.
Not so fast.
The Padres offense has struggled to the tune of a .299 wOBA that is tied with the Reds for 24th while their middling .157 ISO is tied for 15th. Oh, and for good measure, their .214 team batting average checks in at dead last. A league-low .259 BABIP isn’t helping but this team is scuffling at the plate.
Perhaps the pitch clock is their biggest enemy. After all, Soto is on record stating the clock doesn’t allow him to play any mind games and prepare himself at the plate. That’s… not good news for the Padres faithful.
Fortunately, their slow start hasn’t buried them as the division-leading Dodgers are surprisingly just 13-11 themselves on the young season, leaving the Friars just 1.5 games of the division lead.
Stocks to Watch
On the long term... Jarred Kelenic, OF, Mariners
We’re certainly not buying in on the low with Jarred Kelenic who has caught fire at the plate but the 23-year-old remains a long-term buy as it appears he’s translated his prospect status to the big leagues.
In fact, Kelenic has homered in three straight games. He’s added two doubles in that time as he sits with seven homers, seven doubles, a monstrous .384 ISO, and 1.121 OPS across 81 trips to the plate. Kelenic does sport an elevated .383 BABIP that’s helped his .342 average but he also ranks in the league’s 97th percentile in hard-hit rate, 99th in xwOBA, 98th in xBA, 100th in xSLG, and 90th in barrel rate.
I’d suggest he is legit and is a long-term hold at just 23 years of age.
On the short term... Tanner Bibee, SP, Guardians
Tanner Bibee made his MLB debut on Wednesday and flashed exactly why MLB Pipeline has him ranked as their No. 59 overall prospect. The right-hander hurled 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts against zero walks while earning a win in his MLB debut over the visiting Colorado Rockies.
It was revealed after the game Bibee would remain with the club for the next few days as they juggle their pitching staff moving forward. If Bibee can stay make a couple more turns through the rotation he would make for a key short-term asset.
After all, the 24-year-old has proven himself in the minors with a 1.83 ERA in 13 Double-A starts last season and a 1.76 mark through three Triple-A outings in 2023. He might get demoted in favor of another pitcher in Logan Allen who was originally schedule to start Wednesday before a double-header threw those plans into a blender.
Nonetheless, it’s encouraging he is at least remaining with the club to potentially make another start next week.
Looking Back at Last Week
Long Term: Tyler O’Neil, OF, Cardinals
I noted in the last version of the MLB newsletter that O’Neil is in a logjam as part of a Cardinals outfield that includes breakout rookie Jordan Walker along with the likes of Lars Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan, Dylan Carlson, and Alec Burleson. It’s a good problem for the Cardinals to have but not for O’Neil and his playing time.
Indeed, he continues to sit out on a matchup-by-matchup basis. However, I stand by my reasoning for him being a long-term hold.
He’s off to a slow start but has picked it up of late with hits in six of his last seven games. He has a power/speed combination that has already played at the big-league level with 35 homers and 15 steals in 2021 while he hit 14 long balls with 14 swipes in just 96 games last season.
At 27, he’s entering his prime production seasons and needs a change of venue. He’s the elder statesman of the Cardinals offense as he’s older than all of the names above which theoretically makes him the most likely to be dealt.
Hold on to O’Neil moving forward.
Short Term: Lenyn Sosa, SS, White Sox
It’s been a swing and a miss on Lenyn Sosa so far as he is just 5-for-38 with a homer and a walk across 39 trips to the plate. Tim Anderson is reportedly ahead of schedule and will eat the everyday reps at shortstop upon returning to the lineup.
It’s tough to swallow considering Sosa has received near-everyday playing time since Anderson went down but he has yet to put it together at the big-league level after raking at Triple-A to begin his season.
He’s safe to sell at this point. And with that...
Brenton Kemp & the PS Team
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