We have made it to another week of buy or sell for the 2020 MLB season. Despite the fact that a large chunk of teams were affected by the recent Marlins and Cardinals coronavirus outbreaks, which resulted in 20-plus postponements, the league kept chugging along with games elsewhere last week. So, we're going to take a closer look at some of the biggest stories from the latest batch of games, and give each one a buy/sell decision. What are you buying and selling after this week in baseball? Feel free to share your thoughts on Twitter with me @KatherineAcqua.
Now, let's get to it:
Buy: Bogaerts pacing Sox offense
It's safe to say it won't be good year for the Boston Red Sox, but the bright light in an otherwise dim season has been shortstop Xander Bogaerts. The 27-year-old has returned to form and he's pacing the Red Sox offense so far this season. During Sunday's loss to the Yankees, Bogaerts went 4 for 4 with two home runs, three RBI and three runs scored. In 10 games this season, Bogaerts holds a .290/.362/.507 (1.038 OPS) slash line with three home runs, nine RBI and two doubles.
Prior to his breakout, Bogaerts took to talking with his teammate, veteran J.D. Martinez for some hitting advice.
"I kind of tried explaining to them that I was feeling like I was stuck at the plate. I didn't feel like I had much rhythm. I just felt kind of weak at the plate," Bogaerts told Mass Live after Sunday's two-homer game. "J.D. talked to me about maybe just moving a little bit, get some type of movement going, some type of rhythm. I did it yesterday and I continued with it today. And it paid off."
"At the beginning of the season, obviously we didn't have much time to ramp up," Bogaerts continued. "So I was kind of out in front a lot. Jumpy. So I was just trying to let the ball get deep and try to work on my timing."
In 2019, Boagerts put up career-highs and finished fifth in the MVP voting. He also became just the seventh shortstop since Boston's Nomar Garciappara to hit .300 with an OPS over .900 in a full season. I'm going to go even further than just buy into Bogaerts looking good at the plate. I'll say that he could be on the way to becoming a contender for the AL MVP this year. I think we're going to see continued improvement from season to season for this young stud, and 2020 could turn out to be another huge season for Boagerts.
Sell: The Yelich concerns
Just a year removed from winning the NL batting title, former NL MVP Christian Yelich has looked lost at the plate through a handful of games. It's a rough stretch that extends back to spring training 2.0, but I'm going to sell on being concerned about the superstar outfielder. I get that in a 60-game season, you can't really afford a bad start -- especially when your club competes in the loaded NL Central -- but I'm selling on any reason to move to seriously panic on Yelich.
Yelich, 28, broke through with his first homer on the year at Wrigley Park this past week.
In the matchup against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 3, Yelich looked better at the plate and finished the game 2 for 4.
It'll be a matter of Yelich just building upon any momentum he garners with each solid at-bat. After sustaining a fracture to his right kneecap in September, Yelich followed along with a months-long slow-played rehab process that saw him healthy for spring training. But I'm sure the shutdown wasn't ideal, to go that long without seeing live pitching in real games. So, consider that fact when debating whether to buy or sell on the concerns for Yelich. Slumps happen, and this one is just more impactful because of the unique circumstances, but once he comes around, I'm sure we'll see the numbers go back up.
Buy: Castellanos' offensive surge
When the Cincinnati Reds signed right fielder Nicholas Castellanos this offseason, they were hoping for an offensive boost. So far in 2020, they've gotten just that. Castellanos, 28, is batting .382/.462/.912 (1.373 OPS, ) with nine runs scored, three doubles, five home runs, 12 RBI and four walks over the last 10 games. As of Tuesday, Castellanos ranks second in the NL for slugging, first in total bases (31) and is tied for first in homers.
Though a very small sample size, Castellanos is seeing the ball pretty well thus far. He's reached career-best marks for both walk and strikeout percentages. Entering Tuesday, he holds a 10.3 percent walk rate and a 20.5 percent strikeout rate.
I'm buying Castellanos' hot start. I think his power at the plate is here to stay, and he'll continue to provide a spark to a Reds lineup that's going to have to work to earn its playoff spot this year. Ever since his departure from the Detroit Tigers at the 2019 trade deadline, Castellanos has maintained a consistent approach at the plate (even updating his swing a little bit from last year with a smaller first step) and I think it's going to keep working for him.
Buy: AL West a two-team race between A's and Astros
In the CBS Sports MLB staff's 2020 predictions, most of us had the Houston Astros and the Oakland Athletics taking first and second place in the American League West. All but two put the A's ahead of the 'Stros. With the new expanded postseason format set in place for this year, the A's actually have one of the top odds to make the playoffs. Behind the Yankees, Twins, Astros, Indians and Rays sit Oakland with an 82.6 percent chance of returning to the postseason for the third straight year.
The question now becomes whether or not the Athletics can overtake the Astros for the division title this year. Entering play on Tuesday, the AL West standings are as followed:
While Oakland has a 33.6 percent of winning the division, Houston's odds aren't that much higher, at 49.8 percent. The A's were one of the clubs that benefited from a shortened, 60-game schedule this year, and if they can stay healthy, I think what we're seeing is that this division could quickly become a two-team race. The Astros lineup is off to a slow start and their pitching staff has been hit with injuries, while the A's offense looks good so far and both their starters and bullpen solid.
If the A's are on their way to surpassing the Astros (and everyone else) to win the division and avoid the Wild Card Game, it would be the first time since 2013 that they played in the Divisional Series. Oakland hasn't played in the League Championship Series since 2006. Maybe 2020 is the year where the Athletics can make a deeper run while also knocking off the Houston juggernaut. Either way, I'm buying that the chase for the AL West crown has already become a two-team race.