This week's installment of our stock report looks at the Kris Bryant's resurgence, the slumping Tigers and the dysfunctional Mets.
Welcome to the latest installment of 3 Up, 3 Down, our weekly gauge of who’s streaking and who’s slumping throughout Major League Baseball. Our latest edition includes notes on Kris Bryant’s blazing hot streak, Gio Urshela shining in the Bronx and Mickey Callaway’s slumping job security.
↑ Kris Bryant's Revival ↑
It was fair for Kris Bryant to feel disrespected heading into 2019. The 2016 NL MVP faced a wave of doubt and criticism following an injury-plagued 2018, with questions swirling regarding his diminished power. The first 20 games of the season continued to raised eyebrows—he had a .232 average and just one homer—though after his recent tear, perhaps we all owe Bryant an apology. Chicago’s elite third baseman is fully back on track.
Bryant has mashed like an MVP for much of May. He is slashing a robust .317/,431/.767 in his last 15 games, blasting eight homers along with 17 RBIs. May 17 provided Bryant’s most satisfying outing of the season, a three-homer effort as the Cubs beat the Nationals. A healthy Bryant unlocks one of baseball’s deadliest offensive trios—along with 2018 NL MVP runner-up Javier Báez and the ever-consistent Anthony Rizzo. It could also vault the Cubs to their third NL Central title since 2016 and fifth playoff berth in Bryant’s five-year career.
↑ The Dodgers K-Show ↑
There’s the temptation to ignore the Dodgers to a degree as we slog through the first half of 2019. Los Angeles is heavy favorite to win the NL West, and its season will be defined by October. Add in the late start time for the folks on the East Coast, and back-to-back NL champs fly a touch under the radar.
But the additional a.m. alarm is certainly worth staying up late to watch what’s currently an electrifying pitching staff at Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers have logged 22 games with 10-plus strikeouts this season, including 29 K’s in a two-day stretch last week. Kenta Maeda blanked the Padres with 12 strikeouts in 6 2/3 inning on May 15, advancing to 5–2 on the season. Rich Hill was not to be outdone in his start the next day, striking out 10 in six innings against the Reds. Hyun-Jin Ryu actually leads the team in strikeouts, though he settled for five across seven shutout innings on Sunday. Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler could start Los Angeles’ first two games of the postseason. For now, they’ll happily take a back seat as a trio of veteran arms steal the show.
↑ The Gio Urshela Effect ↑
The Yankees are currently on a 101-win pace despite key bats Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Miguel Andújar and Didi Gregorius on the injured list. At 29-17, they lead the Rays by a game in the AL East. There’s plenty of credit to go around for the plugged holes in New York’s lineup, but this week’s shoutout goes to stocky third baseman Gio Urshela.
After entering 2019 with 499 plate appearances in three years with Toronto and Cleveland, the 27-year-old Venezuelan has found a home in the Bronx. Urshela is fourth on the Yankees in hits and second in OPS, trailing only Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez in slugging percentage. He ripped a walk-off single on Friday night and is hitting .357 in his last 13 games. New York has 10 wins in that span.
The Yankees are slowly getting healthy as Aaron Hicks returned to the lineup last week and both Stanton and Gregorius recently started rehab assignments. Urshela will be displaced out of the lineup sooner or later, but don’t forget his impact as the year progresses. He’s been an integral part of the Yankees’ roster, steadying the ship when the mountain of injuries grew.
↓ Colorado's Pitching Woes ↓
Will the Rockies’ staff ever break the franchise mold of quality lineups hampered by subpar pitching? Perhaps the situation will improve in the next decade, but for 2019, Colorado’s Achilles heel remains an issue. The Rockies have been particularly miserable in May, posting a 6.25 team ERA en route to the league’s second-worst mark. They’re 26th in strikeouts generated and 29th in opponent batting average. Only three teams have scored more runs than the Rockies in May, and Colorado is just 7–11 since April 28. The chance at a third straight postseason appearance is slipping away, and Nolan Arenado’s future could include a lot of cash but few playoff victories.
↓ Comerica Park Blues ↓
The Tigers sprinted out to a surprising 7–3 start in 2019, fueling optimism that Detroit could finish closer to .500 than the division cellar. Ron Gardenhire’s squad took two of three from the Yankees on April 1-3, and then swept the Royals in its first home series of the season. But the early-season goodwill has faded and reality is beginning to set in. The Tigers are arguably as far from playoff contention as any team outside of Miami.
Detroit’s most recent home stand did nothing to lift the spirits at Comerica Park. George Springer and the Astros bludgeoned their way to a three-game sweep to start the week. The A’s then held Detroit to six runs across another trio of losses. The Tigers now sit fourth in the AL Central at 18–26, losing eight of their last 10. Casey Mize can’t arrive soon enough. The minor-league cupboards are far from bare, but the big-league club is currently years away, even in a weakened division.
↓ Mickey and the Mets ↓
It may have been only a matter of time before the Mets’ offseason spending spree proved foolish, though May 21 is an admittedly early time to hit the panic button. The Mets were swept by the lowly Marlins over the weekend and rumors surrounding manager Mickey Callaway’s job security have begun to swirl in earnest. Add in the latest Yoenis Cespedes injury and the Brodie Van Wagenen era is off to a troubling start.
BREAKING: Yoenis Cespedes fractured his ankles during an accident on his ranch in Florida.— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) May 20, 2019
He is in New York to see doctors. The Mets don’t know what this means for him in 2019 and beyond.
“That’s the story from his standpoint,” Brodie Van Wagenen said.
To be clear, it is multiple fractures of Cespedes’ right ankle, suffered during a “violent fall” off a non-horse at his ranch. There you go.— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) May 20, 2019
Judging Callaway’s future is better left to the folks in Flushing, but the Mets’ performance through nearly two months has been poor. A potentially potent lineup is slashing .217/.238/.358 in May, with only the Marlins generating fewer runs in the National League. Robinson Cano’s .384 slugging is at a career low and Todd Frazier’s window as an above-replacement player is closing. The slumping bats are pairing with an increasingly mediocre staff, and Edwin Diaz’s usage is, well, frustrating. Van Wagenen dived into 2019 with an eye on the NL East crown. Finishing fourth is now the more likely scenario.