With the first month of the MLB season out of the way, it’s time to look forward. Just what can we expect to see in the month of May?
April wasn’t especially kind to Giancarlo Stanton. Still, we see a much better May in the future of the New York Yankees’ slugger. We also see good things coming for New York’s shortstop.
On the other side of the coin, a bright outlook is a little harder to predict for the Washington Nationals. The same is true for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In fact, the Dodgers could well have a much different look at the beginning of June.
April was dismal for the Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds. If those teams are smart, they’ll begin the selling process quickly. What moves are we likely to see?
These are some of our bold predictions for the next month.
Giancarlo Stanton hits 15 home runs
Nobody will confuse the first month of Stanton’s career in New York as the best of his career. Entering play on April 30, Stanton was hitting .239/.323/.440 with 40 strikeouts and only five home runs. But May has a much brighter outlook.
For starters, Stanton really did pick his game up in the later part of April. After hitting .198/.293/.407 in the first 20 games of the year, Stanton has bounced back to hit .357/.406/.536 over the last seven. Additionally, the Yankees will play 27 games in May, the overwhelming majority of which will come in good hitting conditions.
All but 12 of those games will be played at the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. Of those 12, we’d really only say that the three at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium are at a tough place to hit home runs. On top of that, the cold weather that hit so much of the country during April should be fading away. May brings warmer weather and with that, the balls will carry farther. The setting is right for Stanton to follow up one of the worst months of his career with one of the best. We expect to see Stanton rounding the bases at least 15 times in May.
Nationals will continue to slide
Before the year started, who would have thought that the Nationals hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates for four games from April 30-May 3 would loom as such a large series? Preseason expectations aside, it is a rather important series for the Nats. In fact, it’s one of several May series that loom rather large for Washington.
Immediately after the Pittsburgh series, the Nationals will host the Philadelphia Phillies for three. Later in May, Washington faces a rather daunting four-game series on the road against the Arizona Diamondbacks. That will be followed by two home games against the Yankees, and two more against the possibly desperate Dodgers. It’s not a pretty schedule.
If you still see the Nationals as the clear favorites in the NL East, you’re probably thinking that they’re going to go on a run at some point. At the very least, May will be as good as April was bad. We, on the other hand, are a little less than convinced. That run could come at some point, but we’re expecting May to bring much of the same struggles that April did.
Michael Kopech gets the call
We’ve already seen some top hitting prospects like Ronald Acuna and Gleyber Torres get promoted. In May, we’re expecting to see Kopech, arguably baseball’s best pitching prospect, get called up to the Chicago White Sox.
If anything has slowed Kopech down in his career, it’s been his walks. But in his first four Minor League outings in 2018, he’s walked seven hitters in 21 innings for a respectable BB/9 rate of 3.0. Yes, that can still be brought down, but it’s nowhere near high enough to keep someone with Kopech’s electric stuff in the minors.
It’s time for the White Sox to bring this kid to the show. If Chicago was doing a little better in the standings, getting him a little more refinement in the minors might be a better idea. But the Sox are entering May with an 8-18 mark. They’re not going anywhere in 2018. With that in mind, getting Kopech as adjusted as possible to life in the majors is the best idea. Next year, the stakes might be a little higher. We’re looking for Kopech to get the call in May. When he does, we also expect him to get a solid Rookie of the Year bid going, even if he is losing a month of the season. His stuff is just that special.
Adrian Gonzalez plays final MLB game
For most of the last 10 years, Gonzalez has been one of baseball’s best, most consistent hitters. But he’s taken a sharp decline over the last two seasons. As a result, we see his career coming to an end sometime in May.
Gonzalez is hitting .227/.312/.394. Now, that hasn’t hurt the New York Mets too much. They still sit atop the NL East standings. Still, New York can’t really afford to be patient. Now is the time to create real separation from the rest of the division, especially the aforementioned Nationals. That gets harder to do when your first baseman is struggling so much.
Additionally, the Mets have options. Dominic Smith is hitting .286/.409/.429 in the minors. Jay Bruce is already expected to play some first base. We also wouldn’t be totally surprised to see a trade of some sort. At any rate, we don’t see Gonzalez playing too many more games for the Mets. That will put the soon to be 36-year-old back on the free agent market and given his struggles, we don’t see many teams biting. Gonzalez has been one of the best hitters of the early 21st Century. But his career is coming to an end sooner rather than later.
Orioles’ fire sale begins
Given that the intense trade season doesn’t usually heat up until we get close to the All-Star Break, this may seem early. But really, it’s only common sense.
Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado are all pending free agents for the Orioles. So, any team trading for them knows that it might just be getting a rental player. If said team acquires the rental player in May, it will be getting his services for more than four months, plus the playoffs. If it waits until the end of July, the team will only get the player for two months.
Big trades normally happen later in the year because it usually takes that long to establish who the sellers are. But in Baltimore’s case, we don’t need to wait that long. Britton won’t go anywhere early. Teams need to see how he recovers from his injury. Machado probably won’t either. If nothing else, at least could buy the Orioles some time to lock him up long term (though don’t expect it). But Brach and Jones should both keep a go bag ready. They could (and should) be traded at literally any time.
Patrick Corbin throws a perfect game
Corbin has already come close to a perfecto once this year. In a complete game win over the San Francisco Giants, the Arizona Diamondbacks lefty issued only one walk and allowed one check swing hit.
Admittedly, a perfect game seems like a stretch. If any one thing goes even slightly wrong, the perfect game (and likely no-hitter) are gone. But Corbin has pitched well enough to justify the prediction. He’s struck out more than 12 hitters per nine innings. As impressive here is that Corbin has allowed only 5.2 hits per nine. So the contact that’s been made against him been very soft. He’s a great pitcher in an even better groove.
MLB hasn’t seen a perfect game since 2012, when it had three. By month’s end, we expect that streak to be broken. Corbin is the perfect man to do it.
Didi Gregorius leads all three triple crown stats on June 1
New York’s best hitter in 2018 has not been Stanton, Aaron Judge, or Gary Sanchez. It’s been Gregorius. He’s spent most of the year batting either third or fourth for the Yankees and has absolutely torn it up. He’s hitting .340/.436/.766 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI. Don’t look for that pace to drop.
As we’ve already been over with Stanton, New York’s May schedule is very hitter friendly. Additionally, hitting third or fourth in the Yankees’ order, there’s no reason to think that the opportunities will diminish. As good as Gregorius is, you can’t pitch around him. Putting him on base for the likes of Stanton and Sanchez is just too scary. So, his batting average and power will be maintained. With guys like Judge hitting in front of him, Gregorius will have ample RBI opportunities, as well.
The American League has a lot of great hitters in it. But we expect to see Gregorius leading the junior circuit in average, home runs, and RBI when the calendar turns to June.
Ronald Acuna Jr. will be on 20/20 pace by month’s end
While he spent nearly the entire first month of the season in the minors, we still expect Acuna to be the National League’s Rookie of the Year at season’s end. What the Atlanta Braves rookie does in May will go a long way towards making up for the missed month. To be on a 20/20 pace by the end of May, Acuna will have to have seven home runs and seven steals. By the time June 1 rolls around, we expect him to be at both marks with room to spare.
Acuna enters May with one homer and one steal. Getting the stolen bases should be the easy part. This is a guy who stole 44 bases in the minors a season ago. In 2016, he swiped 14 bases in only 42 MiLB games. The speed is there. The power is a little bit more iffy. But Acuna’s power developed steadily as he climbed through the minors. Additionally, games in Atlanta, as well as three in Philadelphia, Boston, and even New York’s Citi Field will give Acuna plenty of at-bats in home run friendly stadiums.
By spending the first month of the 2018 season in the minors, Acuna just made the National League Rookie of the Year race interesting. By the end of the month, we expect that to be clear to observers around the league.
Astros trade for Billy Hamilton
Hamilton has to be one of the more frustrating players in recent memory. He has the speed to change any game, but just doesn’t reach base enough to allow that speed to make an impact. Hamilton is one of many players struggling for the Reds. He’s hitting .169/.281/.241. With only one arbitration year left before hitting free agency, Cincinnati should really consider dealing Hamilton. The Houston Astros are a solid trade partner.
Houston has the young assets that a team like the Reds should covet. And while Hamilton has struggled batting at the top of the Cincinnati lineup, he’d be fine for the Astros. Rather than batting at the top of the order, Hamilton would likely bat somewhere in the 7-9 range for Houston. So, expectations are lowered. A guy with Hamilton’s speed on base would be perfect for when the lineup turns over to guys like George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa.
This should just be a matter of the two teams coming together and making something happen. This trade would be perfect for all parties.
Dodgers fire Dave Roberts
Just one month ago, this would have seemed absolutely nuts. How could the man who’s won the division in both of his years managing the Dodgers get fired so early into his third season? Well, April has been pretty rough for Los Angeles.
The Dodgers enter May well behind the division leading Arizona Diamondbacks. But really, that’s only part of the problem. Los Angeles is in fourth place and sports a losing record. While the NL West sent three teams to the playoffs in 2017, the Dodgers entered the year as the clear favorites.
The last two days of April brought potentially bigger issues. On Sunday, Roberts benched Cody Bellinger for a perceived lack of hustle. The following day, it was announced that Corey Seager will undergo Tommy John Surgery and miss the rest of the year. It will be interesting to see what Bellinger’s benching does to the clubhouse. Meanwhile, replacing Seager will be far easier said than done. None of it really suggests that a good May is coming, which doesn’t do much for Roberts’ job security.