10 bold predictions for MLB’s second half

Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

While the MLB season is half over, there’s a lot of baseball left. That has fans everywhere thinking about what will happen next.

Naturally, the trade deadline is a hot topic. Big-name pitchers and hitters are likely to be moved. Where might they end up? A number of young stars have already been called up in 2019. More will certainly come. Two superstars have a chance to do something that nobody in the Senior Circuit has done since FDR was President. From a team perspective, baseball’s best and worst clubs could combine to do something that we haven’t seen in even longer.

As we look toward the second half, these things may not all feel likely. Still, we’re looking at all of them to occur over the final three months of the MLB regular season.

Christian Yelich will become NL’s first Triple Crown winner in 82 years

Yelich and Los Angeles Dodgers star Cody Bellinger both have a chance at a Triple Crown. Both are obviously supremely talented and hit in lineups that will give them the necessary help. Yelich gets an edge for two reasons. One, Miller Park is more hitter-friendly than Dodger Stadium. Two, Los Angeles is so far ahead in the NL West that Bellinger could well be rested some in preparation for the playoffs. The Milwaukee Brewers won’t have that luxury with Yelich. With that in mind, look for Yelich to surge ahead and claim the NL’s first Triple Crown since Joe “Ducky” Medwick won it in 1937.

Astros add first base pop with trade for Jose Abreu

The Houston Astros are not a team with many glaring weaknesses. Still, Houston’s first basemen have been among MLB’s least productive, hitting .253/.315/.391 with only three home runs. Abreu is hitting .268/.309/.508 with 19 home runs. Even with the slight drop in OBP, that’s a massive offensive upgrade. While Abreu is a leader of the Chicago White Sox,he is also a pending free agent. Chicago would do well to get something for him. The Astros, who will have to leave no stone unturned if they’re going to fight through what will be a loaded AL postseason, represent an ideal trade partner.

Blue Jays continue second generation push with Bo Bichette

We’ve already seen the Toronto Blue Jays make history by calling up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio. Soon enough, Bichette, another son of a former MLB star, will be up. He’s dealt with injuries in 2019 but has hit .315/.401/.488 with three homers in only 35 games this year. He’s ready to go. Toronto is one of several teams who could top 100 losses in 2019. What puts the Blue Jays ahead of the other struggling teams is where they are in the rebuilding phase. Bringing Bichette up will be another big step.

A’s will host AL Wild Card Game

Pitching was always a question for the Oakland Athletics entering the season. Still, a big positive always lingered. With guys like A.J. Puk, Jesus Luzardo, and Sean Manaea set to return from injury, a huge second half upgrade was possible, and even probable. All the A’s needed to do was stay close. They’ve done that. Oakland is only one-half game out of a wild card spot and is on the hip of the Tampa Bay Rays, who occupy the top spot. In the second half, look for the A’s to move past the Rays. In doing so, they’ll set themselves up for a Wild Card Game showdown with Tampa in Oakland.

NL Central champion won’t win 85 games

The Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers have seriously lacked consistency this season. That’s led to the first- and last-place teams in the NL Central being closer than the first and second teams in other divisions. That will keep the NL Central’s bottom teams from aggressively selling, and to more evenly matched games in September, which features primarily divisional games. With that, the NL Central’s best won’t be near as likely to pad their records against depleted opponents as the best teams elsewhere. A sub 85-win team hasn’t won a division since the Dodgers in 2008. That’s primed to change this year.

Braves upgrade bullpen, trade for Shane Greene

While Atlanta Braves have had a decent overall bullpen this year, 16 blown saves tell us that they’ve had real issues at the end of games. Greene, meanwhile, has posted a stellar 0.87 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and 22 saves. Unfortunately for Greene, his Detroit Tigers are miles out of postseason contention. Now, Greene isn’t a rental. But with only one year left before hitting free agency, he’s still an ideal person for a contender to try hard to acquire. For the Braves, someone like Greene could be the difference between another short playoff stay and a deep postseason run.

White Sox will promote top prospect Luis Robert to majors

The general feeling has been that Luis Robert will get to the majors in 2020, but he’s well ahead of the curve. He hit .453/.512/.920 with eight home runs in Advanced-A ball and he’s presently at .314/.363/.514 in Double-A. Now, we went through this a year ago with Eloy Jimenez. That was frustrating. Still, Chicago’s place in the standings made it at least somewhat understandable. This year, the White Sox are much better. Robert could even help them in a playoff race. Given how well he’s going, Chicago would do well to make that happen.

Brewers trade for Madison Bumgarner

The Brewers lead the NL Central despite a starting rotation that’s been among MLB’s worst all year. Bumgarner would do a lot to change that. His 2019 season hasn’t been flawless. Still, with a 4.02 ERA, 1.185 WHIP, and a 9.3 K/9 rate, he’d easily be Milwaukee’s No. 1. Also, for a team looking to improve on getting to Game 7 of the NLCS last year, someone with Bumgarner’s postseason resume is darn appealing. The San Francisco Giants need bats. Per MLB.com, each of the Brewers’ top five prospects (and eight of their top 10) are hitters. So, the two teams line up.

Pete Alonso will break Aaron Judge’s rookie home run record

Alonso is already on pace to top Judge’s rookie record of 52 set in 2017. Of course, players fall off of paces all the time. However, the dog days of late-July and August have yet to arrive. Additionally, bad teams haven’t begun to sell their top pitchers. When that happens, we’ll see a lot of Minor Leaguers brought up, giving Alonso at least some weaker opposition. With that, his current pace actually feels conservative. In 2017, Judge broke the record of Mark McGwire, who held it for 30 years. We don’t expect Judge to hold it for nearly as long.  

MLB teams will win and lose 110+ games

The Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Baltimore Orioles are all prime 110-plus loss candidates. Nobody is presently on pace to win 110, but the Dodgers and New York Yankees are both close, while the Astros and Minnesota Twins aren’t that far off. As MLB’s bad teams get worse at the deadline, the competition will thin out. Since 1900, only six MLB teams have won 110 or more games in a year while 11 have lost that many. A team winning 110 in the same year as a team losing 110 has only happened once (1909). That will change in 2019.