The Ten: Top 10 Storylines to Follow This Week

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

It’s Monday, and that means it’s time for another edition of The Ten. Injuries, unfortunately, continue to pile up around the league, throwing even more wrenches into an odd 2020 season. However, a ton of prospects made their debuts lately as we get a look into the future of baseball and its rising stars. With almost half the season already in the books, let’s take a look at some storylines to keep an eye on in the coming days.


1. Trade deadline!


By this time exactly seven days from now, there’s a guarantee that quite a few players will be suiting up in different uniforms every day. That’s right, the all-important trade deadline is set for Monday, August 31, and between now and then I’m sure there will be a flurry of deals both major and minor as each team quietly calculates their position for the postseason. Prior to the start of the season, there were many predictions on what buyer teams would be bolstering their bullpens or grabbing a rental bat to help propel their championships aspirations. And on the other side of that coin, there were plenty of seller teams that would be flipping one-year contracts and free-agents-to-be in order to gather as much young talent as possible. But with the way predicted “seller” teams like the Orioles and Rockies are playing, we’re going to see a lot more teams than usual in the hunt for win-now talent.

We got our first trade appetizer earlier this week when the Red Sox shipped relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to the Phillies as they try to strengthen their particularly awful relief corps. And there’s going to be a lot more where that came from. I don’t know about you, but I am a sucker for all things trading, and the trade deadline is like Christmas morning. I can’t wait.


2. Tigers prospect bonanza


I think this was just an excuse for me to use the word “bonanza” but I stand by my decision!  The Tigers are currently 11-15 and don’t seem entirely probable to make a postseason berth. Bold prediction, I know. But it’s no secret—the Tigers are still in the depths of a rebuild, and this past week saw a preview of what the future of the Tigers will look like.

In total, three Tigers prospects all made their debuts this week with varying results. First, left-hander Tarik Skubal got the start against the Chicago White Sox and allowed 4 runs in 2 innings. Skubal’s ceiling is not as high as some of the Tigers’ other young guns, but he has the making of a solid starting pitcher. The following day, it was Casey Mize’s turn to take the hill. If Mize’s name looks familiar to you it may be because the Tigers drafted him with the top pick in the country back in 2018. While he has had some injury concerns, Mize has the upside of a frontline starter and is probably Detroit’s best pitching prospect (and best overall prospect not named Spencer Torkelson). Mize fared slightly better than Skubal, going 4.1 IP and giving up 3 runs (you can check out our GIF breakdowns of the debuts of both Skubal and Mize). And it’s not just on the mound where the Tigers shine. Infielder Isaac Paredes got the call as well, giving the team a preview of what the left side of the infield may look like down the line between himself and Willi Castro.

I absolutely love prospects and seeing them make the bigs after grinding through the minors just makes my heart happy. Especially in a season like 2020 where guys still toiling in the lower levels are missing out on some key developmental time. This team may not be playing fantastic baseball, but they are certainly a team to watch for the remainder of the season. In fact, Mize will start today against the Cubs. That will be one to tune in for.


3. The Padres may need a new reliever


The Padres suffered not one but two injuries to their bullpen recently as they lost both Drew Pomeranz and closer Kirby Yates. Back on August 16th, Yates hit the IL with arm issues and an MRI revealed bone chips in his elbow. While Yates had not been pitching like his usual self so far this year, losing him for any amount of time hurts. After getting a second opinion, Yates went in for surgery and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season. Pomeranz, who has been electric out of the pen for San Diego, also landed on the IL with a shoulder strain. For a team currently penciled into a playoff spot, this could be disastrous.

While the committee of Emilio Pagan, Cal Quantrill, and Craig Stammen can all reasonably fill in for the 9th inning, the Friars are going to have to call an audible or two come next Monday. They are currently 18-12, second in the NL West to the MLB-best Dodgers, and while their offense has had no shortage of power lately, the pitching side of things may need some work as we approach the end of the season. Look for them to be heavily active on the reliever market.


4. Finally, Brendan Rodgers


Despite excellent numbers in the minors, the Rockies has been hesitant to call up their top prospect in Rodgers. Or at the very least, keeping him around. Shoulder surgery late last year also didn’t help the infielder’s chances. But that may have finally changed this week, as Colorado gave Rodgers the call and he got his first taste of 2020 action last Wednesday against the Astros. He has so far gone 1-for-12 with a pair of RBI, but in just 4 games it’s far too early to pass judgment.

Drafted with the third overall pick back in 2015, Rodgers went off the board right behind Alex Bregman and Dansby Swanson, two infielders who have already stuck in the bigs for several seasons now. The 24-year-old Rodgers can play both shortstop and second base, but will most likely be relegated to 2B in lieu of Trevor Story. He’ll have a little competition at the keystone as well in Garrett Hampson, but the team has been moving Hampson around the field a lot lately, mostly running him out in center and left field.

Rodgers is an exciting bat, as his combination of contact and power should play beautifully at Coors Field. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on his production as the Rox kick off 10 straight divisonal games against the Diamondbacks, Padres, and Giants.


5. The very very Blue Jays


Last Monday, star Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette landed on the 10-day IL with a knee sprain. While the diagnosis of a Grade 1 LCL sprain was positive enough to not require surgery, the loss of Bichette still stings for the Blue Jays. In their talent pool revitalization over the past few years, the Jays have been stocking up on young hitters, particularly Vlad Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Bichette. That trio all made their debuts last year with varying amounts of success, and the future looks bright for Buffalo Toronto. Bichette in particular this year has been scorching hot, as he was hitting .361/.391/.672 with five homers and five stolen bases prior to the injury. In roughly one-third of the games he played in 2019, Bichette had already matched his stolen base total and nearly half of his home run total. He’s only 22 and he’s only getting better.

To make matter worse, the Jays’ prized pitching prospect Nate Pearson also suffered an injury this past week. Pearson wound up on the IL as well, this one for an elbow injury. While Pearson’s results so far in only 16.1 innings of action were less than ideal, he is still far and away their best prospect and has the makings of an elite pitcher. The Blue Jays were most likely on the outside looking in on the playoffs this season, but two huge pieces of their future success are now on the shelf. While both injuries are initially thought to be not major, we will hopefully gain some clarity in the coming days on these two exciting young players.


6. The Sox look toward 2021


With the Red Sox basically throwing in the towel on 2020, it’s time for them to swap a few pieces for younger talent and start to visualize what their roster will look like come next season. After a tumultuous offseason this past winter in which their best player in Mookie Betts and reliable starter David Price ended up in LA and ace Chris Sale had to undergo Tommy John surgery, things weren’t looking very bright in Boston.

But I have seen what Chaim Bloom can do, and as a Yankee fan, I am nervous. In the Mookie deal, the Sox received infielder Jeter Downs from the Dodgers. Downs immediately became their top prospect and is knocking on the door of the majors. Not only that, but 3B Bobby Dalbec is also on the cusp of big-league action, and more interestingly, 1B Triston Casas may not be as far off as we all think either.

Casas is still only 20 years old and hasn’t played above High-A. But this week it was reported that the Red Sox would be adding Casas to their 60 man roster to get some work in at the alternate site, and an eventual call up this season is within the realm of possibility. While he still may not be polished enough to be an effective big-league hitter just yet, his power and approach have the making of an excellent hitter if he can properly harness it. Now that the Sox have nothing left to lose in 2020, I would love to see a Casas cup of coffee this season.


7.  Pache has arrived


Last week I wrote about how the Braves have been suffering mightily from injuries, most importantly the loss of outfielder Ronald Acuna. Well, Atlanta took no time in addressing their hole in the outfield, as they called up top prospect Cristian Pache. The 21-year-old has only seen limited game action so far but man, is he an exciting player. Aside from his speed and developing power, Pache also possesses an insanely high defensive talent that could see him tracking down fly balls in the Atlanta outfield for years to come.

Most sources are in agreement on Pache that he is one of the best prospects in the game right now, and has all the tools to one day become an all-star. We will be watching his career with great interest. While the Braves’ current outfield mix of Adam Duvall, Nick Markakis, Marcell Ozuna, and Ender Inciarte is intriguing, the prospective future of Pache and Acuna side by side is a sight to behold. The Braves start up a two-game set at home tomorrow against the Yankees.


8.  Astros sad state of affairs


It feels like there’s always room in here for an Astros blurb. Whether its brawls or injuries or both, Houston never seems far from the headlines. While they did regain one of their bats in Michael Brantley this past week, they also lost two others in Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez. Alvarez made his triumphant return to the lineup after missing out on Summer Camp and the beginning of the season only to wind up back on the shelf with knee pain. He is set to miss the remainder of the season after receiving surgery. Bregman, one of the few Astros hitters not stuck in a rut, is also down with a hamstring strain. For a team that was once again expected to compete for a World Series, this turn of events has been far from advantageous.

Still, the Astros are sitting at 15-13, 4.5 games back of the division-leading Athletics, and although they were just swept at the hands of the grand slam factory San Diego Padres, the Astros aren’t quite down for the count. But man, it sure does seem to be trending that way. Without ace Justin Verlander and key hitters like Bregman and Yordan, coupled with struggling stars George Springer and Jose Altuve, things aren’t looking too rosy in Houston. Bregman’s status is the key here, as the severity of his injury is still up in the air. The sooner he can get back into the lineup the sooner the Astros can start making a push again. We’ll wait and see what his MRI comes up with.


9. Yankee land is hurting yet again


Talking about injuries all the time is starting to make me sad. And this week is no different!

Doubling down on their 2019 strategy of “let every starter get hurt so we can show off our depth” the 2020 Yankees have already seen quite a few of their best players go down with injury. In fact, their typical 1-4 hitters are all currently on the IL. DJ LeMahieu (thumb) is expected to miss another few weeks. Aaron Judge (calf) is expected back in the lineup shortly. Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring) is not expected back just yet. And finally, on Thursday shortstop Gleyber Torres exited the game with a tight hamstring. He was placed on the IL and is expected to miss 2-3 weeks. Got all that? Oh, and did I mention the starter of Thursday’s game James Paxton is also now on the IL with a flexor strain?

In this seemingly endless array of injuries, the Yankees are once again touting their “next man up” mantra from last year. And so far, the individual results are there but the team as a whole stalled a bit, dropping three straight to the rival Rays in the process of relinquishing their hold on the AL East crown. While guys like Luke Voit, Giovanny Urshela, and Clint Frazier have performed admirably, the magic may soon run out for the Yankees if they can’t all stay on the field.


10. Meet the Mets, but at a respectable distance


Marlins, Cardinals, Reds, Mets. Welcome to chapter four of the COVID-19 nightmare that has been terrorizing MLB since the season resumed in late July. In the last several weeks we saw two prominent Mets players opt out of the 2020 season in Yoenis Cespedes and Marcus Stroman. Their decisions were proven to be not unfounded as the Mets were held out of action all weekend due to two positive tests in the clubhouse. It was reported that one player and one coach were the positive results. Since then, however, all tests have come back negative and the Mets should be able to resume action soon.

While ideally no teams would suffer any positive tests or outbreak, I’ve actually felt a bit encouraged by the results lately. Compared to the initial shock of the Marlins’ outbreak and the absolute disaster the Cardinals endured that saw them missing nearly two weeks of games, both the Reds and Mets have received positive tests with little collateral damage. Could this be the MLB and its teams cracking down on enforcement? Are players respecting guidelines and rules now that they’ve seen what can happen? It’s unfortunate that we will continue to have Mike Clevingers and Zach Plesacs of the world flaunting the benefit of the collective populace for their own selfish reasons, but between the Reds and Mets having relative “success” in the face of positive tests, I am hopeful. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. The quicker I see the Mets back on the field, the happier I’ll be for them and for baseball.


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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