Diamond Digest’s Hot Takes: 2020 Edition

  • Josh Winick: There will be a 30+ home run season

60 games is obviously a much shorter season than we are used to. We won’t be seeing eye-popping home run totals like Pete Alonso’s 53 last season, or even totals in the 40s. However, between the recent power surge in MLB and the juiced ball, I think there’s a good chance somebody will hit at least 30 home runs. The current record for home runs over a 60 game stretch is unsurprisingly held by Barry Bonds, who from April 13 to June 23 of 2001 hit an astounding 37 dingers. More recently, just three seasons ago, current New York Yankees RF/DH Giancarlo Stanton hit 33 bombs over a 60 game stretch, demonstrating that it’s certainly possible. 

Now, onto who could reach the mark. With the season already underway, ageless wonder Nelson Cruz already looks like a solid choice, having already hit three home runs in the Twins’ first four games. However, at 40 years old he almost certainly has to stop mashing, and he’s done all his mashing against a White Sox team currently sporting a dreadful 7.53 ERA. Currently tied atop the home run leaderboard after passing Cruz today is Colin Moran, the Pirates third baseman. Moran, acquired in the Gerrit Cole trade, was never a guy known for his power and has only topped out at 13 home runs thus far in his young career. The other two players currently at four homeruns, Christian Vazquez and Teoscar Hernandez, are both somewhat unexpectedly there. In Vazquez’s first full season last year he hit 23 bombs. He was never expected to be a league leading power guy behind the dish, so expect him to cool off. As for Hernandez, he’s done all of his damage over only two games, both of which were two home run contests for him. He has only topped out at 26 home runs in his career, so expect him to cool off as well. Onto the guys not currently leading the league then. The aforementioned Stanton already has two homers in only nineteen at bats thus far, and he launched 38 and 59 bombs in his last two full seasons (2018 and 2017 respectively), so he definitely has the power and the reputation to pull it off. Another plausible candidate would be Aaron Judge, Stanton’s teammate with the Yankees. In 2017 he set the MLB rookie record with 52 blasts, and he’s hungry to get back to those heights after not playing over 112 games in a season since. Elsewhere, Mets slugger Pete Alonso only has one home run so far, but we know he’s capable of getting hot and launching a flurry of homers, as he showed last year, setting the rookie record previously held by the aforementioned Judge. Also capable would be 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger, who launched 47 bombs while protected by possibly the best lineup in baseball, a lineup which has only improved with the addition of superstar Mookie Betts. Other possibilities include Royals slugger Jorge Soler, who hit 48 home runs last season. A dark horse pick could be hyped White Sox prospect Eloy Jimenez, although he missed a few games after hitting his head on the outfield wall, and every game means more this season. 

If anybody manages to hit 30 home runs in this shortened season it’ll be quite a feat. In the end, my pick is Giancarlo Stanton. He has the pedigree, strength, and hot start to make it happen. Regardless, if anybody comes close it’ll be a fascinating chase to watch. 

  • Jeremy Frank: Luis Robert is already an elite player, or close to it

        Yeah, I know he’s only played a handful of games in the Majors so far. But the Statcast numbers show him to have abilities that many don’t have. He’s already ran at an elite speed of 30 feet per second according to Sprint Speed (only eight players had a Sprint Speed of 30 fps last year, and while plenty had some runs at 30 last year, I’m confident Robert can average near that for a full season given his 70 grade speed. In addition to his speed, he’s already hit a ball 115.8 mph (in just his first 12 batted balls). Just 21 hitters hit a ball that hard at all in 2019, and Robert did it in one of his first few games in the Majors. I’m confident his true max EV is even higher than that. And his defense has had great early returns. He’s made a pair of four star catches, and just watching him play the outfield is so fun. He glides out there. 

Even if his bat is held down a bit by his over-aggressiveness on pitches out of the zone, I’m pretty confident in saying he’s at least an above average hitter at this point in time. He’s near the top of the league in hard hit balls, and has the speed to beat out weaker hit balls and also take extra bases on gappers. I’m not sure there’s another player with Robert’s power/speed combo in the Majors. With his bat comes what I would consider near-elite if not elite defense in center field, and elite speed. The obvious MLB comparison to me is Javy Baez, but Robert is faster and I think has a little bit more pop. His defense and fielding give him an extremely high floor even if he isn’t a great hitter at first, but if he does hit even just at an average clip he’s probably an All Star level talent. Anything above that is a bonus. With his early Statcast returns paired with his scouting grades and prospect ranking, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he is an elite MLB player right now; if he’s not, he’s close. Yes, prospects may not play to their hype right away (see: Guerrero Jr., Vlad), but Robert’s speed, defense, and raw power give him a floor that most rookies don’t have. Guerrero needs to be a great hitter to be a good player. Robert doesn’t.

  • Ryan Riffenburgh: Corey Seager will win NL MVP

      With Mookie Betts and reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger already on a stacked Dodger roster, Seager seems an odd choice for MVP but hear me out. The former Rookie of the Year has certainly shown flashes of brilliance in the past. He led the National League in doubles last year and is finally showing signs of putting everything together. His health has been the biggest issue in his career so far. He appears to have put Tommy John surgery and hip labrum surgery behind him. 

      In Spring Training and Summer Camp he showed elite bat to ball skills, hitting the ball all over the field with authority. Now fully healthy, he is off to a fast start in the regular season. While still very early in the season, as of July 29th he leads MLB with 10 batted balls with an exit velocity over 100 mph. We’re obviously drawing on small samples here but he currently has a .394 wOBA and a 162 wRC+. If he can maintain those hard hit numbers he has to be considered a frontrunner for MVP. For those who might favor more old-school stats, the vaunted Dodger lineup should provide plenty of opportunities for Seager to drive in runs. He also plays a key position, and as a true shortstop shouldn’t have to worry too much about losing playing time with the abundance of Dodger depth.
    His health history and the fact the league is playing in the middle of a pandemic could certainly derail his chances during the shortened 60 game season. However, on a team loaded with former MVPs, the foundation has been set for us to see Corey Seager add his name to the list in 2020.

  • Michael Shopoff: Mike Trout should not be the favorite for AL MVP.

I refer not to the betting favorite, because Vegas oddsmakers base that not only on likely outcomes but on where the money comes in, and people will always bet on Trout. No, simply thinking in terms of “who is the most likely player to win AL MVP?”, 2020 becomes a strange year in yet another way, because the answer to that question is NOT Mike Trout.

Trout publicly wondered whether he should opt out of the 2020 season due to his wife’s pregnancy. With the Marlins having nearly their entire roster test positive, and MLB increasing protocols for players (for example, mandating that players remain in the hotel on the road), the chances of Trout making that decision to opt out likely rise. At a minimum, he will go to the hospital to be with his wife for the birth of their child, and with quarantine rules, he could miss two weeks just for that. Missing two weeks in this shortened season will likely remove any player from the MVP discussion – after all, that would be nearly a quarter of the season.

The title of “best player in baseball” still belongs to Mike Trout, but when you take the weird circumstances of 2020 into account, he shouldn’t be the favorite for MVP.

  • Kristian Lloyd: The White Sox lack luster starting and relief pitching causes them to win only 25 games, less than the Seattle Mariners. 

Very short and to the point here. The White Sox pitching is bad. There’s no other way to say it. They’re currently sitting at an unsightly 5.61 ERA with a league worst 15 strikeouts. Even the Marlins have more, despite playing in four less games and also being the freaking Marlins! As the old adage goes: “pitching wins championships”. The South Siders are in big trouble if that’s true, because their pitching is hot garbage. As for the second half of this take, the Mariners were widely projected to be one of the worst teams in the league. Thus far they’re a respectable 4-5, a 27 win pace. As we saw last season when they held sole possession of the AL West after 60 games at a record of 38-22 the Mariners are an early season ballclub. Bank on them to be looking better than the Sox after this 60 game season concludes. 

-Featured Photo: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Josh Winick

Hi! I'm Josh! I'm a huge Cubs fan from the North Side who will write here about the Cubs and Sox. I'm going to be entering Carnegie Mellon in the class of 2025 and majoring in stats. Add me on twitter @JoshWinick for a random assortment of fun.

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