Here’s hoping May is as much fun as April. Hey, April -- OK, March and April -- we owe you big time because things happened we still can’t quite wrap our minds around. For instance, who could have predicted the Rays and Twins would have baseball’s two best records on May 1?
The Rays have baseball’s best pitching staff, the Twins one of the best offenses. Both these teams were busy during the offseason, and their good work is being rewarded.
The Mariners, D-backs, Padres and Rangers have also been pleasant surprises. Meanwhile, Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger is off to one of the greatest starts ever. Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong and Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier have been tremendous as well, and no pitcher has been better than Tigers lefty Matt Boyd.
See how quickly things change? With that backdrop for the beginning of a new month, here are seven bold predictions for May:
1) The Yankees will be transformed from scrappy and interesting to scary good.
The Yankees have been tested in a way few organizations ever are with a ridiculous number of injuries. They passed with flying colors and enter May as one of baseball’s hottest teams thanks to a rotation that remains solid and an offense anchored by first baseman Luke Voit, one of general manager Brian Cashman’s smartest and most valuable pickups. Now with the core players on track to begin returning, the Yankees simply couldn’t be in a better place.
2) Jacob deGrom will make us forget his slow start.
There are lots of variables that can help us explain deGrom's 4.85 ERA. First, his 2018 was one of the best individual seasons ever. When you’ve been that perfect, expectations take on a life of their own. deGrom may have felt some of that. Also, he’s got a new contract, and if he felt the need to justify it, he’d only be human. He has dealt with some odd things, like rain delays in three of his starts. The bottom line is his stuff is still excellent and he will figure things out.
3) The Red Sox will have a winning record by June 1, and Mookie Betts will be back in the MVP conversation.
The Red Sox thought their pitchers might be slow out of the gate because they pushed them so hard in the postseason, they just didn’t think they would be this slow, or that Chris Sale’s velocity would be a continuing issue. And they also didn't expect Betts would get off to such a pedestrian start. Now, though, normalcy appears to be returning. Red Sox starters have been much better recently, and Betts is starting to look like the 2018 American League MVP Award winner.
4) Joey Gallo will prove his amazing April wasn’t a fluke.
We always were intrigued by Gallo because his home runs were rocket launches that almost vaporized into the Texas night air. Now, he’s a complete player, and if the Rangers continue to surprise, he’s going to be in the AL MVP conversation. Go down the Statcast leaderboard and see his name dotted here, there and everywhere: first in average exit velocity and second in hard-hit percentage and barrels per plate appearance.
5) The Rays will remain atop the AL East for another month.
There’s zero reason to think the Rays are going to fade. That pitching staff is too good and too deep and throws too hard. Besides that, the Rays have more Major League-ready talent in the Minors. Offensively, the Rays have improved by nearly a half-run per game and are hopeful that’ll keep going up as new lineup combinations are tried. But it’s the pitching that separates the Rays.
6) Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel will remain unsigned.
If Draft pick compensation is why Keuchel and Kimbrel are unsigned, they might as well wait until after next month’s Draft when teams won’t have to forfeit a pick to sign them. At that point, it probably will be easier to identify logical landing spots for both. Kimbrel’s signing could decide the National League East.
7) Death, taxes and Joey Votto
Votto didn’t make this list because he’s hitting .233 entering Tuesday. We know how hard this game is, and .233 is nothing to laugh at. Only in this case, it belongs to Votto, and if there’s one thing we know, it’s that Joey Votto isn’t a .233 hitter. Anyway, his .233 batting average isn’t why he made this list. It’s his reaction when asked a couple of weeks ago about his slow start. “My swing is a fine piece of machinery,” he told reporters covering the Reds. “Everybody wants to rush the Ferrari, but it comes out every four to six years. It takes time.” How can you not love this man? He’ll be back with a vengeance, and soon.