The Ten: Top 10 Storylines to Follow This Week

All the stories you need to follow this week in the MLB.

Welcome back to another edition of The Ten. Unfortunately, a lot of injuries have been piling up across the league. It’s sort of our theme this week. But there’s other news too, I swear! The MLB could see itself in a bubble come October, and a young shortstop may find himself on the receiving end of a lucrative deal sooner than later. Let’s get into it.


1. Playoff bubble?


Following suit with the success of the NBA and NHL restart “bubbles,” MLB has considered the same format for its own playoffs. While the NBA has used Orlando exclusively for its games, the MLB would use the same two-city setup that the NHL has implemented for its postseason. It could even utilize a three-city format for the division championship series and drop down to two or one as the rounds progress.

There is no confirmation on a choice of locations and whether MLB will even implement this change remains to be seen. But following both the Marlins’ and Cardinals’ COVID breakouts that have prevented both teams (especially the latter) from playing for long stretches of time, a bubble format might be the proper course to ensure safety and security.


2. Fernando Tatis Jr.’s payday


Last week the Padres were said to have approached shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. regarding a possible extension. The Friars are building an exciting young core of players over in San Diego, and Tatis is the cornerstone. The young star is still only 21 years old but is coming off of an excellent rookie campaign, albeit a shortened one after he suffered a back injury late last summer. In 2019, Tatis hit 22 homers and owned a .317/.379/.590 batting line in 84 games played. In the truncated 2020 season, he has already hit 9 home runs in just 22 games. It looks like Tatis is the real deal.

That being said, the Padres don’t have to rush. Free agency is still very much a far off point for Tatis, as he won’t reach the market until after the 2024 season. But locking up their prized possession now could save them millions down the line. If Tatis keeps hitting like he has been, he’ll be set to make a fortune in arbitration and will demand a king’s ransom in free agency. If the Padres can manage to lock up their star at a reasonable rate for the foreseeable future, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the NL West.


3. Mets offers due by end of August


In the eternal struggle to find new owners for the New York Mets, we received some hope earlier this week. The deadline has been set for bids on the team, as they’ll have to be properly submitted by August 31 to be considered in the sale.

We’ve been down this road before and got burned pretty bad back in February, but the renewed hope that the Wilpons will give up their control of the team has come back in force. I think all Mets fans can agree that before the team can take that next step into competing, the Wilpons need to go. And while it may not cure all their ills, it’s a start. Joining billionaire Steve Cohen are at least four other groups who have bids in on the team, most notably a group spearheaded by former major leaguer Alex Rodriguez and his wife Jennifer Lopez. With the clock counting down on August 31, it’s only a matter of time until we see this sale materialize.


4. A tale of two sluggers


Once again, the New York Yankees have found themselves on the receiving end of multiple crucial injuries to their stars. After losing Giancarlo Stanton to a hamstring strain, it only took days until fellow outfielder Aaron Judge succumbed to “lower body stiffness” that ended up actually being a calf strain that parked the 28-year-old on the 10-day IL.

Judge and Stanton are both superstars in their own rights, but have both been plagued with injuries over the last few seasons. 2019 especially was a bloodbath for the Yankees’ injured list, relying heavily on their depth and recent pickups to carry the load into the postseason. To make matters worse, infielder DJ LeMahieu was also placed on the IL this week after spraining this thumb on an awkward swing. So make that three of the top four Yankees hitters all shelved with injuries. While injuries are unfortunate, the frequency with which Yankees players are getting injured is starting to raise questions. Is this medical staff properly staffed and equipped to correctly diagnose and treat injuries? Is the strength and conditioning staff implementing the right regimens to prevent injuries like this?

The Yankees are a World Series contender but are constantly hamstrung by injuries to their best players. Stanton and Judge especially are both rarely on the field together. Can they string together another season of the “next man up” mentality? The coming days will be a true test of what kind of team they really are.


5. Giles on the mend


Blue Jays closer Ken Giles is making progress in his rehab from a forearm strain he suffered late last month. The right-hander played catch on Saturday and is expected to progress to mound work within 10 days or so.

At 7-11, the Blue Jays are not expected to make postseason noise this season, although the expanded playoff format certainly does help their prospects. Giles, however, is a huge piece for them going forward. Not only is he their best bullpen option, but the reliever is also a free agent at the end of the year. If the Jays are not competing, it’s very likely that he’ll be flipped to a competitor at the trade deadline at the end of the month. His positive progression is crucial to not only the Jays currently, but possibly their future as well.


6. Two Royals pitchers


It was reported earlier this week that recent draftee Asa Lacy will report to the Kansas City Royals‘ alternate training site. Why that may not typically register as news, Lacy was only drafted a couple of months ago and is now within shouting distance of a major league mound. Lacy was certainly projected to make the majors fairly quickly, but I don’t think anyone expected this. The left-hander was enjoying an absolutely dominant 2020 at Texas A&M before the shutdown cut the season short, racking up 24 IP with a 0.75 ERA and a 17.3 K/9. While Lacy getting the call is still a bit of a long shot, seeing a June draftee take a major league mound in August would be something to behold.

But it’s not all young guns on the KC roster. Former ace Matt Harvey is also attempting another comeback, this time giving the Royals a shot. His “Dark Knight” days with the Mets came to an unceremonious end after he was flipped to the Reds in 2018, and has since tried his hand at getting back into major-league shape with both the Angels and A’s. His recent results haven’t replicated his former self in any form, but any pitcher who had a stretch of dominance like Harvey’s is always worth a look.


7. Roster sizes


The 2020 season agreement that set up the alternate training site may soon be seeing some revisions. We’ve already seen a few alterations to the rosters, as the original plan of trimming active rosters to 26 was nixed and 28 will be the new number going forward. But keeping the remaining pool of the 60-man roster at the alternate sites may become a bit more crowded soon.

With the recent COVID-related decimation to the Marlins and Cardinals rosters, MLB is now thinking about expanding the player capacity of each site by about 15 players. While the move is really just to expand depth and protect the integrity of major league rosters, this could mean a lot for players who were on the roster bubble and could now get a shot at the big leagues. Teams will also be able to get a better look at prospects around the league with the trade deadline looming. I am all for more players getting their chance at breaking into the show, and I hope this concept becomes reality sooner than later.


8.  The Reds’ turn on the COVID merry-go-round


Marlins, Cardinals, and now the Cincinnati Reds. Cincy is just the latest team to feel the wrath of COVID-19, after a positive test in the clubhouse has halted all games for the foreseeable future. Their weekend series against the Pirates was postponed and will be made up at a later date.

But this is just the latest chapter in what can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility. The Cardinals have only just resumed play this weekend, after missing roughly two full weeks of games. In a season already so shortened, making up those games is going to be a monumental grind. For what it’s worth, things are pointing in the right direction for the Reds. They (so far) have had no follow up positive tests and look like they’ll resume play as soon as possible. But what about the next team? It’s clear this is not going away, and what happens when a team legitimately can’t participate in the remainder of the season? I sincerely hope the Reds get the go-ahead to play this coming week, because it may just mean that teams and the league are properly addressing outbreaks.


9. Yordan Alvarez’s return, sort of


There was a lot of buzz surrounding the Astros’ hitters not getting into their groove this season, and the return of Yordan Alvarez was long awaited. In just 87 games last year as a rookie, Alvarez smacked 27 long balls and paired it with a .313/.412/.665 batting line en route to winning the Rookie of the Year award.

So, after being held out of the beginning of the season with a medical issue, Astros fans waited with bated breath for the 23-year-old to make his return. And on Friday he made a splash, going 1-4 with a homer and four RBI. On Sunday, however, things changed. Alvarez apparently started feeling knee soreness,  and manager Dusty Baker felt it severe enough to hold him out of Sunday’s contest against the Mariners, a game which Houston won 3-2. At 11-10, the Astros aren’t quite playing up to their potential so far, and the addition of Alvarez was a welcome boon to a floundering lineup. It remains to be seen, however, just how long Alvarez will be sidelined. Hopefully, the coming days can give us a bit more clarity on the slugger’s status.


10. A bevy of Braves injuries


The hits just keep on coming for the 2019 NL East champs. After learning earlier in the year that recent signee Cole Hamels would not be healthy to start the season, more injuries started to pile up for Atlanta. Mike Soroka, the Braves’ Opening Day starter, suffered a season-ending leg injury last week while attempting to run to cover first base. Second baseman Ozzie Albies also hit the injured list with a bone bruise on his wrist that has had him sidelined since August 5th. Albies has reportedly been swinging a bat, which is good progress.

The major hit, though, came early last week when we learned that Ronald Acuna was held out of action against the Yankees after feeling discomfort in his wrist. The outfielder has since joined his buddy Albies on the IL. While this may just be out of an abundance of caution, losing Acuna for any amount of time hurts. The Venezuelan product is arguably one of, if not the best player in the game right now, and baseball is simply better when he takes the field. The Braves are currently 13-10, trailing only the truncated 9-6 Marlins for the NL East crown. They’ll need Acuna back as soon as possible if they want to stay in the hunt.


Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Liam Casey

Liam is a lifelong Yankee fan currently residing in Long Island, NY with his fiancee and their 2 dogs.

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