The Kansas City Royals traded catcher Martin Maldonado to the Chicago Cubs on Monday night, and that could be the first move of many that are expected to come over the next two weeks.
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Royals are in “sell mode,” and they are planning to deal several more players. That could include Jorge Soler, who has 25 home runs and 65 RBI on the season.
It makes sense for the Royals to stock up on as many prospects as they can, as they have won just 33 games this season and are nowhere near playoff contention. We know of at least one player on their roster who is close to off-limits, but almost everyone is for sale heading into the trade deadline.
For most teams, we’re a quarter of the way through the Major League Baseball season, and right about at the point that teams can begin assessing what their prospects are. It’s also a point where we can review performances to date and look at who’s struggling and who’s starring for each team. Here, we’re going to be focusing on the players who have led their teams, no matter how the club is doing in the grand scheme of things.
Here is the best player for each MLB team so far in 2018.
Arizona Diamondbacks — A.J. Pollock, OF
A couple of pitchers have a case here, but in a year where the Arizona offense has been surprisingly underwhelming, Pollock has carried them. The outfielder is hitting .293 with 11 home runs and 10 doubles, easily pacing the team in OPS. Unfortunately he is expected to miss 4-8 weeks with a thumb injury, because he was working on a potential MVP season before that.
Having a good or bad spring training isn’t necessarily a sign of things to come. Spring training is, after all, little more than a tune-up. Pitchers spend parts of spring tinkering with pitches and not operating like they would in a meaningful game, while hitters are trying to find their swing after a long winter away from facing live, competitive pitching.
That said, there are players with a point to prove who have not had the strong springs they probably would have liked to.
Here are five players who have shown some worrisome signs as they prepare for the season ahead.
1) Matt Harvey, New York Mets
Let’s get this out of the way: Harvey looked better in his most recent outing. He touched 97 on the radar gun and seemed to be on the right track toward getting towards midseason form. It’s impossible, however, to ignore what he was doing earlier in spring.
Harvey has spent most of March getting shelled, his fastball sitting in the 92-93 range. After his first four starts, his ERA was 7.30. Even now, his mark of 23 hits allowed in 18.1 innings pitched is really discouraging.
It wasn’t so much the numbers that were troubling as it was that velocity drop. Even in his struggle-filled 2016, he averaged 94.5 MPH on his fastball. It would be unfair to ignore the fact that Harvey is coming off shoulder surgery, which may have been a factor in his spring struggles — but that’s all the more reason to watch him closely and be a bit concerned by his progress.
2) Matt Kemp, Atlanta Braves
One of the biggest names on the trade market is headed to the World Series champions.
The Chicago Cubs have reportedly finalized a deal to acquire reliever Wade Davis from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for outfielder Jorge Soler.
This may turn out to be the rare trade that is hugely beneficial to both teams. Davis effectively replaces Aroldis Chapman as Chicago’s closer, and they don’t come much better than he is. Davis’s ERA over his past three seasons is a remarkable 1.18, with a WHIP of 0.892. For the Royals, they likely weren’t going to be able to afford Davis, who is entering the last year of his deal. Thus, they decided to get something for him while they could, and they get a fairly young corner outfielder with lots of power who will be under contract affordably through 2020, his age 28 season. Soler will also help the Royals recover some of the pop they lost when Kendrys Morales departed for Toronto
The Cubs fended off interest from a number of other teams to get Davis, including this fellow contender. It’s a great deal for them as they try to defend their title, and it makes sense for Kansas City as well.
The future for the Chicago Cubs has arrived and it is looking brighter than Clark W. Griswold’s house on Christmas.
The Cubs called up 22-year-old Jorge Soler from Triple-A and gave the Cuban outfielder his first career start on Wednesday. Oh yeah, and Soler just so happened to homer in his first career at-bat.
Batting fifth in the order, Soler took a 2-1 90-mph fastball from Mat Latos deep to center field to lead off the top of the second inning for the Cubs in Cincinnati. Though teams often give youngsters the silent treatment after their first home run, the Cubs were all thrilled in the dugout and couldn’t resist congratulating Soler with tons of high-fives.
Soler’s home run was just a continuation of what he had been doing at Triple-A. The 22-year-old was hitting .340/.432/.700 with 15 home runs in 62 games in the minors this season.
In addition to Soler, the Cubs have 22-year-old prospect Arismendy Alcantara up with the club, as well as 21-year-old Javier Baez, who has 7 home runs in 21 games but also 44 strikeouts. Perhaps the best prospect of the bunch is infielder Kris Bryant, who has destroyed minor league pitching but is unlikely to be promoted to postpone his eventual free agency.
Chicago Cubs prospect Jorge Soler may have a slight anger management issue to deal with before he makes his way to the Big Leagues. Soler plays for the team’s Class-A affiliate, the Daytona Cubs. On Wednesday night, Daytona lost 14-9 to the Clearwater Thresers in extra innings, but the thrill of extra frames took a backseat to the commotion Soler caused with his outburst in the seventh inning.
According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal (via the Chicago Tribune), the 21-year-old outfielder charged toward the Threshers’ dugout with a bat in his hand following the seventh. Prior to that, Soler had been involved in a confrontation with Clearwater’s Edgar Alonso after Soler slid into second base. The two reportedly exchanged words and had to be separated by teammates, but Soler apparently never cooled down and went after Alonso wielding a bat. Daytona manager Dave Keller said it was “kind of like a nightmare.”
“I think that he was frustrated by some things and there was some emotional things he was fighting with,” Keller said. “Why he did that, I don’t know. I think he was frustrated by what happened. When he slid into second base, (Alonso) ended up laying on top of him. He was laying on him so (Soler) pushed with his arm to get him off him, and I think the second baseman interpreted that the wrong way like he wanted to fight or something.”
Keller went on to describe the scene, which sounded like something straight out of Hollywood.
“There were two separate incidents, and there was really no fight,” he said. “But because nobody was around him when he was running across the field with a bat … that makes things a little bit crazy.”
Baseball fights like this and bench-clearing brawls like this are all part of the game, but running after someone with a bat takes things to a dangerous level. There’s no telling if Soler was actually going to to something with the bat, but the league has to assume he planned on using it as a weapon when deciding his punishment.