Baseball season is one-third over already. While this is normally the time of the year where the season starts to take shape, that hasn’t quite happened yet. Looking ahead to some MLB predictions for June, we’re not expecting any more clarity.
So, what are those predictions?
What do we expect to see from the Yankees and their star rookie Aaron Judge? The Colorado Rockies have been one of baseball’s best surprises in April and May. What’s in store for June? What MLB stars do we expect to see on the move? Which long time veteran are we expecting will play his last game?
What bold 10 MLB predictions can we make for the month of June?
1. The New York Yankees come back to earth
The Yankees have been one of baseball’s best stories through the first two months of 2017. We’re expecting June to be a rough month for the Yankees. Although in the long run, that may not be a bad thing.
The main problem with New York is its starting pitching. It’s hard to imagine this group doing anything but struggling as we work our way into summer. Despite the team’s good record, the starting pitching rotation hasn’t exactly been top notch during the spring.
— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) May 20, 2017
Yankees starters rank 14th in the league in ERA. And unless they upgrade this group, things aren’t going to get any better. Facts are facts. This is a fairly average group of starting pitchers.
But if New York is smart, it can turn a bad June into a good thing long term. With a good June, the Yankees would probably build on their lead in the American League East and as such, would logically be less willing to make a move to improve the starting rotation in July. But with a bad June, the American League East race would tighten and would possibly drop New York out of the top spot.
That’s where the possibility of a trade comes in. And if the Yankees do upgrade their starting rotation, they have a team that can win in the postseason. The offense is strong. The bullpen is more than competent. It’s just hard to see the starters as presently constructed being championship caliber.
We expect that to show in June. If New York is smart, a bad June will be the best thing to happen to them.
2. Milwaukee Brewers trade Ryan Braun
Why would a first place team deal a reliable veteran?
First of all, we’re not expecting the Brewers to be in first place for much longer. A surprisingly decent two months and a mediocre start from the rest of the division (especially the Chicago Cubs) has kept the Brewers atop the standings. But this team isn’t built to last. Not in 2017, anyway.
Milwaukee needs to rebuild its pitching staff. The quickest way that will happen would be to trade someone like Braun.
The New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays were all playoff teams in 2016 and have all had rough starts to 2017. It stands to reason that one of those teams will look to upgrade while a comeback is still within striking distance. Additionally, stronger starters like the Los Angeles Angels or Los Angeles Dodgers could use a jolt to their offenses.
Lastly, moving Braun would open the door for younger outfielders like Lewis Brinson and Corey Ray — Milwaukee’s two top prospects. Ray is still poking around the lower levels of minor league ball, but Brinson is thriving at Triple-A, slashing .315/.405/.504.
June is the perfect time to end the Braun era in Milwaukee and let the next generation of Brewers step in.
3. Detroit Tigers suffer through mediocre month, look to trade veterans
The Tigers were one of the best teams in the American League from 2011-2014. They won the American League Central, reached the ALCS in all but one, and even won the American League pennant in 2012. But things have changed.
Detroit entered play on Monday at 23-27 and it had previously been reported that it would make all veterans available if it didn’t have a winning record by the end of the month. We’re just not seeing that kind of turnaround.
Some guys from that 2011-2014 run are gone (Max Scherzer, Prince Fielder). Others (Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander) remain and are still effective but don’t quite have the stuff that they had during the glory years. Lastly, the team still has the same problems that it had when it was going to the playoffs every year. The bullpen is awful and the lineup isn’t that deep.
So, why would anyone believe that June will bring some kind of renaissance to the Tigers?
Now, whether these players can be traded remains to be seen. Some have no-trade clauses or 10-and-5 rights. Those guys would have to agree to any deal. Additionally, Detroit is a team with a massive payroll and some contracts that will be pretty hard to move.
So, dealing these guys will be easier said than done. Even still, we’re expecting the Tigers to be one of the more discussed teams in July’s rumor mill.
The 2017 season will truly mark the end of an era.
4. Colorado Rockies aren’t going anywhere
Through 52 games, the Rockies sport the National League’s best record and trail only the Houston Astros for MLB’s best mark. But given that Colorado hasn’t posted a winning season since 2010 and has 18 road games against nine home games in June, conventional logic says that things will cool off.
We’re just not buying it.
Generally speaking, skepticism around the Rockies revolves around their pitching. And if you’re waiting for the day when someone compares Colorado’s pitchers to the mid-1990’s Atlanta Braves, get comfortable, really comfortable. It’s never happening.
But it’s unfair to compare this group of Rockies starters to past seasons because it’s a group of rookies leading the way in 2017. They’re doing pretty darn good.
Rockies rookies: 18-6 this season. That's most wins through end of May since 1958, when MLB first defined rookie status. (via @eliassports)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 29, 2017
Normally, the win total isn’t a great stat to use. But things are a little different here.
If pitchers are picking up wins, it means they’re going deep into games. If starting pitchers are going deep into games, then the bullpen isn’t being so heavily taxed. Traditionally, that’s been Colorado’s downfall. The Rockies have enjoyed plenty of nice starts over the years but cooled off because their pitchers (namely, the bullpen) just couldn’t handle the number of innings they were being asked to throw.
Again, that’s not such a concern in 2017.
On top of that, the road heavy June schedule works in the Rockies favor. Staying away from Coors Field, those pitchers are far less likely to be overused.
When July 1 rolls around, we’re expecting that this Colorado team will remain right in the thick of the postseason picture.
5. Cleveland Indians trade for Johnny Cueto
Much like their 2016 World Series opponent, the Indians are having a disappointing season. It hasn’t been catastrophic, but it has left a lot to be desired. After an abysmal start to the year, Danny Salazar has been removed from the starting rotation, which ranks 25th in baseball with a 4.89 ERA. The Indians need an upgrade.
That’s where Cueto comes in. Cueto has dealt with some inconsistency this year but would slide beautifully into the No. 3 slot behind Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) May 28, 2017
The fit doesn’t stop there.
Cueto made it clear in April that he wanted to finish his career in the American League. The Giants don’t play in the American League. The Indians do. Given that he can opt out of his contract with San Francisco at the end of the year, the Giants have to wonder how long he’ll be with the team anyway.
Additionally, Cleveland has prospects that can help San Francisco. While the Giants have done a fantastic job developing infielders, their outfield development has been terrible. Four of the Indians top-10 prospects are outfielders.
If the two teams can just put them together, the pieces for a trade are there. Look for that to happen in June.
6. Bartolo Colon retires
For the last several years, Colon has been baseball’s ageless wonder.
Current and eternal major leaguer Bartolo Colón turned 44 today.
When Colón made his debut. Mike Trout was 5 years old. Bryce Harper was 4. pic.twitter.com/FSjsrPHHJN
— ESPN (@espn) May 24, 2017
But every pitcher reaches a point where he just doesn’t have it. Eventually, everyone’s stuff just gets to a point where MLB hitters eat them alive.
From 2011-2016, Colon posted a 3.63 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. He allowed more hits than you’d like from a starter (9.5 H/9), but made up for it with a stellar BB/9 rate of 1.5.
Things have regressed in 2017.
He’s allowing more hits (11.4 H/9), and while his walk rate (2.4/9) is still strong it’s not good enough anymore. Colon also has a 6.96 ERA and 1.59 WHIP.
At 24 or even 34, we could just chalk this up to a bad few months. But at 44, Colon is already playing with house money. It’s hard to imagine his career going much longer.
7. Pittsburgh Pirates promote Austin Meadows
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 28, 2017
April couldn’t have gone much worse for Meadows at Triple-A Indianapolis, but May has been a different story. After a strong game on Sunday, his May slash line stood at .317/.378/.465, signalling that he may be ready for the next level.
At the beginning of the year, the Pittsburgh outfield looked like a tough one to crack. But Starling Marte has been suspended, Andrew McCutchen has struggled, and while it doesn’t seem serious, Gregory Polcanco got hurt in Monday’s game.
On top of that, the Pirates sit in last place in the completely mediocre National League Central. They may not be out of the race, but that’s more due to the struggles of other teams than anything else.
The next logical question is simple. If Meadows struggled at the beginning of the year, shouldn’t we expect him to struggle in the majors? Indeed, that may happen. But if Meadows is going to go through growing pains, it’s best to have that happen in a year like this one when the team isn’t going anywhere.
Pittsburgh would be well advised to turn itself over to the guys who will lead the team into the future. Meadows sits at or near the top of that list.
8. Justin Bour enters July with NL lead in home runs
After a slow April, Bour has improved in May. Actually, Bour has been tearing the cover off of the ball in May.
He’s slashing at .329/.412/.682 and has nine home runs, giving him a total of 13 on the season. That’s two off of the National League lead. We like him to make up that difference in June.
Why the optimism?
The Marlins have a home dominant schedule in June. Normally, we’d be a little less than encouraged by that, except Bour hits fine a Marlins Park. Seven of his 13 home runs in 2017 have come at home, and 27 of his 52 career jacks have occurred at Marlins Park. So, this isn’t a guy who gets fat away from Miami. He can hit long balls at his spacious home stadium.
When the Marlins do leave home in June, they’ll be going to power friendly parks. Miami’s June road schedule includes three at Wrigley Field, four at PNC Park, three at SunTrust Park and one in Miller Park on June 30.
That will certainly supply Bour with many opportunities to hit home runs. Look for him to take advantage.
9. Chicago White Sox youth influx begins
Normally, we think about non-contending teams bringing up young players. While the White Sox do have a losing record, they’re still well within the American League Central race.
But Chicago wouldn’t be bringing up its young players just to help them get their feet wet for 2018 and beyond. That’s a benefit, but the team’s young nucleus can help them win in 2017, as well.
It starts with second baseman Yoan Moncada, baseball’s top ranked prospect. Moncada is slashing at .320/.400/.497 and plays a position that his given the White Sox minimal offensive production.
Lucas Giolito has had some rough patches in 2017. But he’s shown Triple-A hitters just how dominant he can be.
Lucas Giolito tosses a NO-HITTER! pic.twitter.com/8XizNAgkvC
— Charlotte Knights (@KnightsBaseball) May 25, 2017
Going down to Double-A, Michael Kopech has a 2.66 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 65 strikeouts in 47.1 innings. Chicago’s starters rank 16th in baseball in ERA. Can he and Giolito help that? It’s certainly worth the risk.
Starting in June, we expect the White Sox and their fans to get a glimpse of the future. It should be a good thing for Chicago’s present, as well.
10. Aaron Judge finishes the month with 30 or more home total runs
Judge’s power has taken the league by storm in 2017. While he cooled off slightly in May, we expect another big month for the Yankees slugger in June.
In June, New York will play 12 games at its home stadium, which is very friendly to power hitters and has been good to Judge this season. The Yankees do have a seven-game road trip to to the West Coast. Certainly, Anaheim and Oakland have far more pitcher-friendly parks. But while those stadiums may keep Judge from hitting a few wall scrapers, we’re not expecting them to completely limit his immense power.
Other road games include a four-game series in Toronto’s Rogers Centre, four in Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field and one to close the month in Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
For those of you scoring at home, that’s 21 games in hitter’s parks against seven in pitcher’s parks.
Following a home run on May 29, Judge has 17 on the season. So, he’ll need 13 more before July 1 to get to 30. It’s a big number but far from impossible.
That brings us to the next question. If Judge has 30 by July 1, how many can he hit on the season? Realistically, Barry Bonds’ mark of 73 is not approachable. But the pre-steroid era record of 61 is something that can be discussed at that point, especially since July and August tend to favor power hitters.
Judge’s season has been an awful lot of fun to follow so far. We expect it to get even better.