Inbox: Tulo, Abreu early leaders in MVP races?
Columnist Rogers answers your questions from around the Majors
Nice job by the Twins winning a series in Detroit over the weekend. They're the first to do that this season, and with Miguel Cabrera starting to hit like himself, it might be a while until another team does it.
Cabrera is hitting .366 with four home runs and 22 RBIs in his last 17 games, flashing his MVP form. But the guy who has kept the Tigers going since Opening Day is Victor Martinez. He's hitting .388 with five homers and 14 RBIs in his last 13 games, and .325 overall with a .954 OPS.
Like a modern Joe DiMaggio, Martinez has nine more extra-base hits than strikeouts (six). Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is in awe.
"He does not give a pitch away," Ausmus said. "He will spoil a pitcher's pitch with the best of them. And God forbid you have a runner in scoring position. His concentration, you don't think can go up much higher, but it does.''
How do you navigate the middle of Detroit's order with Cabrera and Martinez white-hot? That's a great question. Here are some of yours:
Do you think this year's MVPs are readily apparent? Can Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Abreu keep ahead of Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, etc.?
-- Bradley D., Schaumburg, Ill.
You nailed the front-runners, but it is awfully early to say that we know what's going to happen the rest of the season. If Tulowitzki can stay healthy enough to play 150-plus games, I do think he'll win the National League MVP Award. But Abreu's going to have to be better than he's been so far to hold off the usual suspects -- not to mention Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and the stealth candidate, Martinez -- in the American League.
Believe it or not, as of Monday morning, Abreu was 54th in the Majors in WAR, with the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo among those ahead of him. Abreu makes a lot of outs and doesn't add defensive value. I love the guy, but if he leads the AL in homers and RBIs hitting .273 and striking out 174 times -- his current pace -- he'll face a lot of opposition. That changes if Abreu somehow carries the White Sox into the playoffs, but the pitching is going to have to get a lot better for that to happen.
With their payroll scheduled to be so low, one reader asked can the White Sox go after a top free-agent pitcher like Max Scherzer, James Shields, Jon Lester, etc., after this season. But why does no one suggest the obvious -- Jeff Samardzija? Wasn't he a White Sox fan growing up? And do they not need right-handed pitching? Am I missing something?
-- Pam B., Long Grove, Ill.
The difficult thing for the White Sox with Samardzija is that he won't be a free agent until after the 2015 season, unlike those other guys named, who are on track to hit free agency in November. Samardzija would be an excellent addition for the Sox and might actually fit better on the South Side than at Wrigley Field. However, the Cubs want a lot for him -- young pitching in particular -- and the White Sox don't seem like a good fit. Personally I think it's going to be tougher than people think for the Cubs to find a deal where they can trade Samardzija and add a top pitching prospect or two. I'm still puzzled why the Cubs don't work harder to get a contract extension.
Can Alexei Ramirez keep up the pace?
-- Danny M., Chicago
Through 39 games, the White Sox shortstop has a slash line of .333/.360/.503. He's on pace to hit 21 home runs, score 100 runs and drive in 108. Ramirez's history says he won't keep it up, but the great thing about baseball is players do the unthinkable all the time. In the last two years, he's become a very productive player.
Ramirez's 2013 stats were largely lost in the White Sox's 99-loss season, but he hit .284 with 39 doubles, a career-high 30 stolen bases and cut down his strikeouts. General manager Rick Hahn will face a tough decision when teams like the Yankees or Tigers come to get him at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Is Mike Olt a keeper? Love his power, but not sure if he can make consistent contact.
-- Thomas S., Fort Worth, Texas
That's the same question that Cubs president Theo Epstein and general maager Jed Hoyer are asking. He's on pace to strike out 144 times in 383 at-bats, and that would make him a second-division regular even if he does hit 32 homers (his current pace). The mean OPS for third base around the Majors is .701 and Olt is at .688, with two-thirds of that in slugging percentage.
The Cubs plan to keep playing Olt regularly and will try not to draw any conclusions until they see how he hits in June, July and August, after he used the first couple of months of the season to get back into the rhythm of playing daily after his lost 2013. He'll be closely scouted by teams needing power and could be a part that the Cubs ultimately give up to get pitching. That's my guess.
Think we'll see Javy Baez by July? Or even Kris Bryant?
-- Danny D., West Des Moines, Iowa
There's a better chance of Bryant getting called up from Double-A than Baez being summoned from Triple-A, at this point. Bryant just continues to kill the ball -- .331 with a Southern League-high 10 home runs -- while Baez is struggling for the first time as a pro. His .151 average includes a perplexing 3-for-50 with 23 strikeouts in night games. All would be forgotten if Baez started raking, but until he does, I think Arismendy Alcantara will get the call over Baez if the Cubs have available at-bats for a middle infielder. And don't overlook Stephen Bruno, another strong hitter who has been on fire for Double-A Tennessee. (Confession: I drafted Baez in a non-keeper fantasy league and am thinking it might be time to punt him for a guy who will get big-league at-bats).
Why not bring up Alcantara?
-- Paul D., Chicago
I love this guy -- he'll put up more stats quicker than anyone in the Cubs' system, including Baez (hits, runs, doubles, triples, stolen bases and, unfortunately, errors) -- but there's no reason to rush with Darwin Barney in the mix. The Cubs hope Barney can build some trade value in the next couple of months, so July is probably a good estimate for Alcantara, barring an injury. He hasn't been making as good contact in Triple-A as he did in Double-A, but he's a very exciting player.