The 2017 MLB season has seen a lot of great individual performances, such as the show that Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger have been putting on as rookies, and also a lot of teams overachieving and underachieving their expectations, such as the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs, respectively. Here are some big storylines to look out for going into the All-Star Break in about a week’s time:
Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger’s Rookie Ceilings
A lot of rookies hit the ‘rookie ceiling’, or the ‘rookie wall’, as some people like to call it. Aaron Judge (26 HRs) and Cody Bellinger (24 HRs) are on their way to breaking rookie records that have been almost impossible to break. Both are on pace to break Mark McGwire’s record of 48 HRs in a season, which has been standing since 1987, and the two have also excelled in other areas (batting average, on-base percentage, etc.). The challenge, however, is keeping this up. Both Bellinger and Judge have been invited to the Home Run Derby, however, Judge does not seem like he is as interested as Bellinger. In many ways, this is a smart move, as it keeps him healthier going throughout the rest of the season. I expect both of them to get 40+ HRs, but Judge breaks the record.
The Nationals’ Bullpen Struggles
The Washington Nationals seem to have some kind of a discombobulated and non-existent bullpen. As displayed yesterday evening in their 5-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs at home, the bullpen doesn’t know how to keep their composure. The Nationals were leading 4-2 with 1 out left when Blake Treinen decides to sleep-pitch his way to get the last out. Treinen let Javier Baez get a single after Jeimer Candelario got a base-hit with 1 out, and then Tommy La Stella’s RBI single brough both Baez and Candelario in to score, and that’s how the game ended. Now, that being said, the Nats’ big time bullpen players like Sammy Solis and Francisco Rodriguez are returning from injury and being signed to the team, respectively, so if those two can provide sparks for this team. The Nats can gain my full confidence as the favorites in the NL as their offense is extremely impressive.
Houston Doesn’t Have a Problem Anymore
The Houston Astros for the longest time were the laughing stock of the MLB, always having the worst record in the MLB, and just having a terrible roster and management, in general. Now, after years of tanking, the Houston Astros have found their way, and are the current holder of the MLB’s best record. They have the second-highest scoring offense (445 runs), and are 1st in batting average (.283), on-base percentage (.349), and slugging percentage (.485). On the pitching side, they are currently 3rd in earned-run average, or ERA (3.82). Houston is also expected to have 4 unanimously chosen All-Stars this year in Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Lance McCullers. Expect this dominance to continue throughout the year, and for the Astros to be the World Series favorites.