The American League locked up home field advantage in the World Series with a 6-3 victory over the National League in Tuesday night’s All Star Game. Mike Trout put the victory in motion with a home run in the game’s first at-bat and wound up earning MVP honors, playing into the seventh and finishing 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored.
It’s the second straight All Star MVP nod for Trout, who is also a good bet to repeat as league MVP with AL-leading marks in runs scored, homers and slugging percentage. His stolen base proclivity has dropped precipitously since he debuted in the majors (he swiped 49 bags as a rookie in 2012 and presently has only nine) but that’s been offset by a healthy increase in power, with the young superstar on pace for a career-high 47 bombs.
His efforts to help secure home field advantage in the World Series could prove meaningful with his Angels streaking to the top of the AL West.
* Monday night’s Home Run Derby belonged to hometown hero Todd Frazier, who won the contest in dramatic fashion. The new format, which involved timed rounds and head-to-head match-ups, made the event far more compelling for viewers. Frazier’s victory turns the national spotlight onto what has been a tremendous breakout season for the 29-year-old from a power-hitting perspective; he’s slugging .585 with 25 jacks and a league-leading 26 doubles.
* With the All Star Game out of the way, the focus in Cincinnati turns to the trade market, with the fourth-place Reds believed to be one of the most prominent sellers as the deadline approaches. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Astros, Blue Jays and Royals have been “most aggressive” in their pursuit of Johnny Cueto. Both Kansas City and Toronto could sorely use an ace type at the top of their rotations, whereas Houston would boast a sick 1-2 punch by adding Cueto to Dallas Keuchel in their starter mix.
From a fantasy perspective, it would be preferable to see Cueto stay in the more pitcher-friendly Senior Circuit, but his outstanding talent is likely to play well wherever he goes. We’re very curious to see what kind of return the Reds can get for two months of his services.
* Cueto’s teammate Jay Bruce is also being dangled, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The 28-year-old outfielder has been a very consistent producer over the course of his career and is enjoying another nice season with 13 homers, 42 RBI and an 806 OPS. He’s also signed through 2017 for reasonable money, so the Reds ought to be able to bring in a nice haul if they do indeed move him.
* Cubs catcher Miguel Montero will miss the next six weeks with a jammed thumb that is evidently pretty serious. Called up to replace Montero is hitting machine Kyle Schwarber, one of baseball’s top prospects who has been putting up ridiculous numbers at Triple-A and batted .364 with a 982 OPS during a brief stint in the majors earlier this year. Offering huge offensive upside at a thin position, Schwarber is worthy of an immediate pick-up in most leagues.
* The saying “No news is good news” doesn’t exactly apply for David Wright, whose status remains in limbo as he attempts to return from the spinal stenosis that has kept him sidelined for months. The Mets had at one point expressed optimism that their franchise player might be back following the All Star break, but GM Sandy Alderson said this week there was “no change” in Wright’s progress, suggesting that he’s still a ways off.
It’s starting to seem more and more plausible that Wright won’t play again this year, but if there’s one point of optimism for his owners, it’s that New York’s surprising presence in the thick of the NL East race might compel them to get him back for the stretch run when they otherwise may have opted to simply shut him down.
* Stephen Drew has failed to push his batting average over .200 at any point in the season, and while he’s been hitting for solid power (his 12 homers lead all NL second basemen) that only goes so far. Robert Refsnyder was called up from Triple-A last weekend and drew a pair of starts heading into the break, homering in his second big-league game, and it sounds like he’ll be sticking around for a while with a chance to keep the gig for good at Drew’s expense.
Refsnyder is far from a top prospect but he offers moderate pop and speed, making him an intriguing deep-league option. Drew can safely be dropped in the few leagues he’s owned in.
* Jonathan Papelbon has been vocal in his desire to get out of Philadelphia, and reiterated those feelings during All-Star Media Day. The highly compensated closer, who is earning $13 million this year with a vesting option for the same amount next year, is clearly an attractive target for many clubs in need of late-inning relief help, though his hefty price tag could diminish Philly’s potential return.
Despite some spectacular numbers, including a 1.60 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, Papelbon ranks 25th in the majors with 14 saves and is on pace for a career-worst total of 21 thanks to the Phillies’ utter ineptitude. His owners are desperately hoping that something materializes soon, just as he is.
* The Phillies announced Friday that they are promoting Aaron Nola, who they drafted with the No. 7 overall pick just over a year ago, to the big leagues. He will make his MLB debut against Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Between Double-A and Triple-A this year, the 22-year-old had gone 10-4 with a 2.39 ERA and 92-to-18 K/BB ratio. In light of those excellent numbers, he merits a look in most formats, especially in his first start at home against a Rays team that ranks 13th in the AL in OPS and runs scored.
* Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles have had internal discussions about trading Chris Davis, which is interesting since the O’s are very much in the mix for a playoff spot and Davis is tied for the team lead with 19 home runs. We have to imagine that he’ll stay put unless things take a quick turn for the worse in Baltimore over the next couple weeks.
* Released by the Royals last week to make room for Paulo Orlando, Jason Frasor landed with the Braves on a free agent deal. Frasor’s 1.54 ERA covers up some iffy peripherals, but he could be in line to see some save chances in Atlanta if the Braves trade Jim Johnson.
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