Let’s take a quick look around MLB at some of the more compelling, developing storylines.
There isn’t a more exciting MLB team right now than the Cincinnati Reds. Completely written off before the season’s first pitch was ever thrown, the Reds managed to ride a collection of still developing youngsters, and veteran spare parts into somewhat relevance.13-6 since May 26, the Reds sit just 1.5 games behind Pittsburgh for first place in the NL Central (heading into June 15’s action), and looks like they are pushing all of their chips into the middle of the table. Rookies Brandon Williamson, Ben Lively, and Andrew Abbott have taken over rotation spots vacated by either sub-par perfromances, injuries, or both, and have filled in quite admirably. Lively is 4-4 in eight appearances, Abbott has had some control issues, but is 2-0 in two starts without allowing an earned run, and while Williamson has been inconsistent statistically, the team is 5-1 when he takes the mound.
The starting lineup has also been infused with some exciting talent from the prospect pool, as the Red Legs have called up Matt McLain and Elly De La Cruz to play everyday roles, as well as bat near the top of the order.
Cincinnati’s top draft pick in 2021 (17th overall), McLain shot through the lower levels and joined the big club mid-May. Since then, he has started just about every game somewhere in the infield and is sporting a .328 batting average and team best .895 OPS.
If your even just a casual fan of baseball, you have no doubt heard of Elly De La Cruz, and he has been like a bolt of lightning since his call up. With eight hits in first nine games, he already has stolen five bases, and brings an unparalleled energy to the field every day.
Spencer Steer and Jonathan India have been solid all year, and Cincinatti has also gotten some really inspiring performances from some unlikely heros. TJ Friedl, Jake Fraley, even Stuart Fairchild have all helped contribute to late-inning rallies and come-from-behind wins, and it just looks like the Reds are having a ton of fun on the diamond right now, and makes them a really fun team to follow.
Over in the AL East, Baltimore Orioles rookie shortstop Gunnar Henderson has been having himself a good ol’ time as well. Batting just .201 on May 31, Henderson is hitting .483 over his last eight games with five home runs and 11 RBI. The Orioles are 6-2 over that span, and riding a five-game winning streak as they try to keep up with Tampa.
Out in the Arizona desert, Diamondbacks outfielder (and Sonic the Hedgehog mimic) Corbin Carroll continues to make his case for NL Rookie of the Year. Carroll started to heat up as the calendar flipped to May, and really hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Batting .311 on the year, he leads the NL with a .596 SLG and .993 OPS. He’s also chipped in 14 homers and 19 stolen bases while throwing himself at seeming uncatchable balls in the outfield. He has become one of the leaders of an overachieving Arizona squad. You could take any sample size snippet of Carroll’s season and pull out some pretty impressive stats, but this month, and specifically over his last eight games, he is hitting .500, with five homers, two triples, and three stolen bases while playing outfield with reckless abandon, and complete disregard for his own well being.
With injuries to their starting pitchers piling up, the Los Angeles Dodgers were forced to thrust Bobby Miller into MLB action on May 23. One of baseball’s top prospects, Miller has taken the ball and left his minor league days in a cloudy rearview mirror. 3-0 in four starts, Miller is posting an 0.78 ERA by allowing just two earned runs in his first 23 professional innings. He has surrendered just 12 hits, while striking out 23 batters, including 14 across his last 12 frames. The Dodgers are 3-7 over their last 10 games and will be without Dustin May for some time while still waiting for good news on Julio Urias’s hamstring. Any hope of keeping up with Arizona in the NL West will involve Bobby Miller throwing some pretty important innings.
The Los Angeles Angels were swept by Houston to open the month of June, but have gone 8-2 since in an effort to make those games up. Shohei Ohtani has not only paced the offense, but has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball during that span. Hitting .488 over his last 11 games, he’s clobbered six home runs, five doubles, driven in 14 runs, and stolen three bases and, like, he pitches and stuff too. The Halos still sit 5.5 games behind Texas, but the Mariners are struggling to keep up, and the AL West has quickly become a three-team race.
Not to be overlooked, however, and certainly against all probability, the Oakland A’s have thrown together an impressive run of their own. Winners of seven straight games, including a sweep of the Brewers in Milwaukee, Oakland has also won the first two games of four against the Tampa Bay Rays, and I really can’t wait to see what happens next.
Led by some shockingly reliable pitching, the A’s as a team are posting the second-best team ERA in the league over the past week. Fourth in hits allowed, third in runs, sixth in opponents batting average, they have successfully closed five of six save opportunities, and have also flashed some ability at the plate during this stretch as well. One day it’s Brent Rooker, the next it’s Jace Peterson, Shea Langeliers has had some big games, Estuery Ruiz has been fun, and while they may go on to lose their next seven, they’ve been delightful to follow recently.