Trout has shined for the surging Angels, with five home runs, 24 RBI and 13 stolen bases so far.
Each Monday, after a week of play and of scouring the major leagues for the best information, Jon Heyman passes along tips on whose stock is up and whose is on the decline.
1. Mike Trout, Angels OF: I’ve been thinking about why Bryce Harper, the phenom on the other coast, is beating Trout so badly in the publicity department. And other than the obvious East Coast Bias situation, all I can come up with is that Harper is still in his teens (he’s 19 vs. Trout’s 20) and that he has going for him a bit more power, the early Sports Illustrated cover story and a much funnier haircut. But so far this year, Trout has been just as phenomenal — perhaps even a little more so.
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In terms of play, they’ve both been spectacular, although a case could be made that Trout has actually outplayed Harper. Trout has seven multi-hit games in July already (nine games) and is up to .350, which is higher than Harper’s .282. In fact, Trout’s numbers are better overall, as he has five home runs, 24 RBI and 13 stolen bases, compared to six homers, 17 RBI and three stolen bases for Harper.
It can’t be Harper’s all-out style, either. On Saturday, Trout ran straight into a wall going for Carlos Gonzalez’s double, so he plays with the same throw-caution-to-the-win abandon. Time to see what we can do to help Trout catch up in terms of publicity.
2. Craig Kimbrel, Braves RP: Here’s another guy who doesn’t get the accolades he deserves. As one scout said, “The Braves have the best bullpen in baseball.” And Kimbrel, the closer of that ‘pen, is arguably the game’s best reliever now that Mariano Rivera is out for the year after knee surgery.
Kimbrel has saved 18 of 19 tries in one of the worst years ever for closers, but he’s been especially dominant lately. Over his last eight innings, he’s allowed one hit, walked none and struck out 14. Those are almost Ernesto Frieri numbers!
3. Alfonso Soriano, Cubs OF: And to think, this guy is allegedly unwanted on the trade market. Realizing he’s really better suited as a DH and the demand for DHs is weaker than ever (teams like to rotate that spot now unless, it seems, they have David Ortiz), somebody’s got to like a hitter who’s belted all 12 of his homers since May 15 and raised his OPS from .590 to .829. Overall now, his slugging percentage is up to .507 even after his limp beginning. Soriano also has 40 RBI and a respectable .275 batting average. C’mon now, somebody’s got to want this guy.
1. Jeremy Guthrie and Jeff Francis, Rockies SPs: Two of the smartest players in baseball had two of the worst outings of the week. Both men returned to the Rockies rotation after time away. Guthrie missed three weeks after a bike accident, which is nothing compared to Francis, whose homecoming took 21 months.
Both men at one point had been considered the Rockies’ No. 1 starter, as the similarities just keep piling up. As for their outings this week … downright eerie.
The Stanford grad Guthrie allowed 11 hits and seven runs in 3⅓ innings that ended in a 10-0 defeat to the Diamondbacks. The just-as-smart Francis actually fared slightly worse, allowing 10 hits and eight runs in his near-bookend 3⅓-inning outing in an 11-5 loss to the Angels.
Guthrie, ever polite, invited the Rockies to remove him from the rotation in his postgame quotes, saying he wouldn’t blame them if they did so following his bad game. But he will be back for another try. As will Francis, who had just been let go by the Reds because they didn’t have room. The Rockies score high in the loyalty department, so they wouldn’t let one bad start change their minds about either man.
2. Daniel Murphy, Mets 2B: Murphy’s pinch single Sunday in the Subway Series finale made it four singles in his last 31 at-bats. Murphy, who hit .320 last year, had been among the league leaders in batting average again in mid-May, but is now down to .284. He also is seeing no benefit from the fences being moved in at Citi Field, as he leads the majors in homerless at-bats this year with 232 after hitting six last year and a career-high 12 the year before.
Murphy’s going to need to hit more than that, as his play at second base remains a work in progress. He’s up to nine errors now after a recent slump in the field as well.
3. Rickie Weeks, Brewers 2B: Weeks is the first player to make a second appearance on the wrong side of the stock ledger (no, there are no prizes for that), as he shared a spot with Jemile Weeks, his younger brother, the first time around. The older Weeks is one for his last 20 and now down to an unsightly .158 (which is below Ike Davis, and everyone else). Rickie’s OPS is a hard-to-believe .580 in his first year in Milwaukee without his good buddy Prince Fielder. But there is a good sign: he walked three times Sunday. And oh yes, the younger Weeks has worked his way up to .210.