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Around the NL East: Should the Mets make a big deadline splash?

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Around the NL East: Should the Mets make a big deadline splash?

ATLANTA BRAVES 

As the trade deadline approaches, are the Braves buyers or sellers? What if they're both? It appears that assistant GM John Coppolella might be trying to tow the line between trying to make the club immediately better while also building for the future. On one hand, he has veterans like left fielder Chris Johnson, closer Jason Grilli and others that would surely get the attention of contenders who are looking for some help. But Coppolella was recently quoted as saying "we don't want to lose 100 games or put our fan base through any type of extended suffering". So if that's truly the case, it's hard to really get a read on exactly what Atlanta will do come July 31. 

MIAMI MARLINS 

It's been two starts for Jose Fernandez since his return from Tommy John surgery, and it's like he never left. The 22-year-old righty is 2-0, allowing a combined three runs while striking out 15 and walking none. His velocity was consistently in the 95 mph range and his command was about as good most baseball fans remember. Of course, the shame of it all is that Fernandez' return comes when the Marlins are already down for the count for the season, as they're at 36-50 and without their best player in Giancarlo Stanton. If Miami fans are looking for a silver lining for 2015, Fernandez' reemergence is just about all they got right now. 

NEW YORK METS  

So much for the euphoria of the Steven Matz era in New York. Just two starts into his big league career, the rookie left hander partially tore his left lat muscle, sidelining him for several weeks. He became the fifth pitcher in franchise history to win each of his first two starts, and managed to collect five RBIs. As weird as it is to say, the Mets might miss Matz' bat more than anything; that goes to show just how starved New York is for some offense. 

Speaking of which, baseball pundits are debating whether or not GM Sandy Alderson should make a big splash at the trade deadline. While some are arguing that the Mets -- who sit three games back of the Nationals in the NL East -- are a big bat away from being a playoff team, others are saying this roster simply isn't ready to contend just yet, and that trading prospects would endanger vying for a postseason berth in 2016 and beyond. Despite their recent struggles, it's clear that the Mets are (for the most part) on the upswing as an organization, and are probably one offensive-minded offseason away from becoming a serious threat in this division.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES 

At this point, it's almost futile to discuss what the Phillies are doing on the field on a day-to-day basis; they have the worst record in the game with a interim manager and a GM in Ruben Amaro Jr. who is in serious danger of losing his job at the end of the season. That being said, the trade deadline does represent a bit of an oasis for Philly fans as the club will try desperately to get whatever it can in return for Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and other veterans. It's been said that the Phillies have previously been asking for a little too much for their players, but you wonder if that's about to change as the deadline draws closer. 

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Mike Rizzo makes bold move to call up Juan Soto

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Mike Rizzo makes bold move to call up Juan Soto

This is not a tweet I expected to read in May of 2018.

On the heels of their latest injury, the team is adding uber-prospect Juan Soto to the roster. It's unclear how much playing time he'll receive early on, but it's hard to imagine the team would be willing to start his service time clock and mess with his development track simply to sit him on the bench. He'll likely play, and make an impact on the team for as long as he's in D.C.

Let's not bury the lede, though. As you probably noticed in the tweet, Juan Soto is 19-years old. He was born in October of 1998, making him the youngest player in the majors, and bringing us one step closer to the first big-leaguer born in the 2000s. 

As incredible as it is for Soto to make the majors as a teenager (Bryce Harper and Time Raines are the only other teenagers to play in the majors in franchise history, which is pretty good company), what might be even more stunning is how quickly this came together for him. 

This will already be Soto's fourth different level of professional baseball this season alone, having spent time with the low-A, high-A, and AA clubs so far. In his entire life, Soto has just 35 plate appearances above class-A, which is almost unheard of for a player getting promoted to the big league roster.

He's hit everywhere he's been, with his career OPS in the minors a whopping 1.043 (his lowest  wRC+ at any level is 132), though it remains to be seen if his prodigious bat is ready for Major League pitching. Still, simply being in the majors at such a young age is a great sign for his future.

Not that anybody should put Hall of Fame expectations on a kid who hasn't even faced a pitch in the majors yet, but Soto's meteoric rise gives him a better chance than most at greatness. Just last month, when discussing the dynamic Braves duo of Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna, Hall of Fame-expert Jay Jaffe did some research on young stars making the big leagues, and the numbers are promising.

According to Baseball Reference (and we're just going to take their word for it), there have been 19,261 players in the history of Major League Baseball, and 226 of them have been elected to the Hall of Fame. That's a minuscule 1.1%.

But, of every player to ever record 100 plate appearances as a 19-year old (a number Soto should easily hit if he stays up all season), the number of players who eventually made the Hall of Fame jumps to 24%. If Soto is only up for a cup of coffee this year, and next year is when he's here to stay, you can move up the list to players who recorded 100 PA in their age-20 seasons, and the number is still 19%.

Plus, that percentage is likely to increase in the coming decades, as there are 18 active players to reach the benchmark, including future locks Adrian Beltre, Miguel Cabrera, and Mike Trout, and guys who are young but on the right track (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Carlos Correa, and Giancarlo Stanton). Acuna, Albies, and Rafael Devers could find their way on the list one day as well. Considering only three of those names need to be enshrined in Cooperstown one day, it's safe to say that percentage is only growing.

That's a lot of stats that look nice for Soto and the Nationals, but obviously, we're at least a decade away from having a legitimate conversation about his Hall of Fame chances. Still, it highlights what we've known about him for quite some time. Juan Soto is a special, generational talent, and his rise to the big leagues as a teenager is worth writing home about.

What he's done so far is historic, and even if the move seems premature, it's plenty cause for excitement about the future of baseball in D.C.

MORE NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Kendrick carted off with injury in Nats 4-1 loss to Dodgers

Kendrick carted off with injury in Nats 4-1 loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON -- Ross Stripling struck out a career-high nine in six innings, Max Muncy drove in two runs and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 4-1 in the opener of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.

The Nationals suffered a potentially significant injury when Howie Kendrick went to the ground after catching Muncy's sacrifice fly to deep left in the eighth. Kendrick, who's hitting a team-leading .303, put no weight on his right leg and was taken off the field on a cart:

Stripling (1-1) struck out the side in the first inning and then fanned the final five batters he faced, getting Bryce Harper during each of those stretches, in the longest and best of his four starts this season. He allowed one run on four hits, walking none.

Stripling made 11 relief appearances, allowing one run in 15 1/3 innings, before moving into the Dodgers' rotation.

Joc Pederson and Logan Forsythe had two hits apiece for Los Angeles, which won its second straight after losing nine of its previous 10.

The Nationals lost for the first time since May 9. Washington had not played a full game since Sunday night in Arizona because of rain that has lingered over the Mid-Atlantic. One game against the Yankees was suspended in the sixth inning and another was postponed, and Friday's game against Los Angeles also was washed out.

Pederson led off the game with a triple off Tanner Roark (2-4) and scored on a sacrifice fly by Yasmani Grandal. Forsythe doubled in the second, breaking an 0-for-12 skid that stretched to April 14 and included a 26-game stint on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. He singled in the fifth and scored on a grounder by Cody Bellinger.

Harper wore eyeglasses with clear plastic frames during his first at-bat, when he struck out swinging. He ditched the specs his second time up and drove in the Nationals' only run with a single to center.

Roark allowed three runs on six hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out eight.

J.T. Chargois worked the seventh, Josh Fields pitched the eighth and Kenley Jansen threw a perfect ninth for his seventh save in nine opportunities.

Muncy, who struck out looking his first two at-bats, drove in the Dodgers' third run with a double in the sixth. His deep flyball to left in the eighth scored Justin Turner.

OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.