Welcome to the MLB Star Power Index — a weekly temperature reading that tells us which players are owning the baseball conversation right now. While one’s presence on this list is often a positive, it’s not necessarily a good thing. It simply means that you’re capturing the baseball world’s attention for one reason or another. The players listed are in no particular order. Thanks to Brad Botkin and our compadres over at CBS NBA for letting us borrow the concept.
This, Our Internet is nothing if not the windswept savannah of false certainties. In keeping with this unassailable first principle, it says here: Josh Bell of the Pirates will win the 2019 Home Run Derby. Here the reasons this scribe says such a thing …
- Josh Bell is participating in the 2019 Home Run Derby.
- Josh Bell in 85 games this season has racked up 59 extra-base hits, including 26 home runs.
- Progressive Field in Cleveland is an excellent park for left-handed power hitters.
- Josh Bell is a left-handed power hitter.
- Josh Bell this season ranks in the top 2 percent when it comes to average exit velocity, the top 3 percent when it comes to hard-hit rate, and the top 4 percent when it comes to expected slugging percentage.
- Among hitters in the 2019 Derby, no one has struck a ball as far as the one Bell sent 474 feet on April 7 off Anthony DeSclafani.
- Here that is.
- Josh Bell is 6-foot-4, 240 pounds.
- Look, Christian Yelich leads the majors in homers, has actually hit the ball harder than Bell, and is also left-handed. So why not him?
- Good points about Yelich, but nah.
- Josh Bell is going to win the 2019 Home Run Derby.
- This is the last bullet point.
Luis Castillo is the most underrated pitcher in baseball this season. This is true because it was just written. On Thursday, Castillo took a no-hitter into the seventh against the Brewers, and now his ERA for the season stands at 2.29, which is second in all of MLB. That’s despite 10 of his 18 starts to date having gone down in hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
The 26-year-old right-hander sits 97 with his fastball and boasts one of the best changeups around. He also mixes in a sinker and hard slider. While the control hasn’t been consistent, he’s struck out more than a batter per inning. It’s also worth remembering that the Reds plucked him from the Marlins back in January 2017 as part of a package for … Dan Straily. Also good news for the Reds is that Castillo isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2023 season.
More to the point, Castillo has emerged as the ace of a surprisingly strong Cincy rotation. That rotation right now ranks second in the NL in ERA and third in FIP. While Sonny Gray and Tanner Roark have been quite good, it’s Castillo who’s done the heavy lifting. While the Reds aren’t likely to crack the postseason, thanks in large measure to Castillo and his rotation label-mates the Reds will be in contention going into the second half.
Luis Castillo? Let us now praise him.
Remember when Manny Machado was a disappointment and, in reactionary circles, a free-agent bust in his first season in San Diego? He ended April with a sub-.700 OPS, and as recently as June 16 his OPS was below .800. Sure, Petco Park can be a challenging environment for hitters, but you expect more production from a 26-year-old who just inked a $300 million pact.
Well, of late he’s giving them more. Thanks in large measure to a month of June in which he slugged .695, Machado is now batting .273/.347/.505 with 20 home runs in 84 games. Coming into Thursday’s game against the Dodgers, Machado had an of 126, which is a bit better than his career mark of 121. Throw his plus fielding into the mix, and he’s roughly in line for a five-WAR season. That wouldn’t be his best season ever, but it would be reasonably close to it. Framed another, perhaps pettier way, he’s been significantly better than Bryce Harper this season.
This is to say, Manny Machado in 2019 has pretty much been Manny Machado, and that’s what the Padres paid for — i.e., Manny Machado.
- Manny Machado.
Hey, look at that.
Didi Gregorius of course not long ago returned from Tommy John surgery, and he’s picked up where he left off as a sound defensive shortstop with excellent power by positional standards.
Speaking of excellent power, peep this dinger that Gregorius hit during the recent London Series, which took place in … London:
That one left the bat at 105.4 mph and covered 416 feet of fine English soil. This one’s not especially notable for the usual metrics of mighty might. Rather, consider the visuals that Sir Didi had to contend with as that 96-mph fastball from Ryan Brasier approached the launch pad:
Oh my. Despite appearances — i.e., the heavenly glow and the disembodied torso of Jackie Bradley Jr. — this pitch was not delivered from within the all-inclusive zones of the Elysian Fields and or the “grandpa tunnel” of the afterlife. Yes, the retrofitted ballpark in London did have a batter’s eye:
But the way the healthy and defiant English sunshine hit that batter’s eye created what you see above, which was a baseball-colored backdrop that would seem to render hard contact nigh impossible. Maybe it didn’t quite look like that to Sir Didi’s eyes, but it probably looked something like that. That’s why it was, according to me, the most impressive of the 142 home runs the Yankees have smitten this season. The point is that Sir Didi took a little gift from heaven and turned that trash around for a dong.
“Heaven or baseball?” no fewer than two planes of existence asked of Didi Gregorius.
“Shut up,” Didi Gregorius said.