Triple Play: Nolan Arenado, Anthony Rendon, Jon Niese

Nolan Arenado

Welcome to the Triple Play. In this edition, we look at a third baseman who deserves to start the All-Star Game (but probably won’t), a third baseman who has barely seen the field this season, and more, including some pitchers who seem likely to be traded sometime in the next month. Let’s dive in.

Who’s Hot?

Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

When you think of the Rockies, you probably think of Troy Tulowitzki, or maybe Carlos Gonzalez. Well, actually, you probably think of ghastly pitching first, and then one of those superstars. But neither one can lay claim to being the best player on their team. That title belongs to the Rockies’ 24-year-old third baseman (and NL Player of the Week), who has become the best all-around hot corner man in the game. It isn’t just the team-high 24 home runs, or the NL-leading 68 RBI. It’s also the .293/.326/.632 slash line, the 142 OPS+ and the 4.0 WAR he has already compiled this season (he was worth 4.1 WAR in 2014). You probably remember the amazing catch he made early this season in San Francisco, where he barreled into the tarp and into the stands to catch a fair ball, whirled and nearly completed a double play, all in one amazing, fearless motion (incidentally, Arenado’s play was better than Josh Donaldson’s last week – and that play was sensational). Through Sunday, Arenado sported a 15-game hitting streak, during which he is obliterating opposing pitchers to the tune of .379/.410/.966 with nine dingers and 21 RBI. If he played for a better team, Arenado would no doubt enjoy more fan support and be on his way to the All-Star Game as a starter. Unfortunately, he toils in Colorado, where fans are already looking forward to the start of Broncos training camp. Meanwhile, he has become one of the best players in the game in real life and fantasy baseball. If you haven’t seen him (and judging from the Rockies’ attendance, you haven’t), make a point to watch him. He absolutely belongs in the conversation with Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Kris Bryant and other young “must-see” players.

Who’s Not?

Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals

In 2014, Rendon was arguably the Nationals’ most valuable player, putting up a .287/.351/.473 slash line, with 21 homers, 83 RBI, 17 steals and a league-high 111 runs. This season, he’s been Mr. Invisible. Oh, it isn’t because he is playing poorly; he literally isn’t there on the field. After injuries delayed his season debut until June 4, Rendon is back on the disabled list after just 18 games. This time it’s a strained quad muscle, which is expected to keep him out of action for at least two weeks before he is even re-evaluated. Similar injuries have ruined the season for St. Louis’ Matt Adams and also put Matt Holliday on the DL as well. While he was in the lineup, he picked up right where he left off last season, hitting .290/.375/.362, although he hadn’t flashed much power yet. The Nationals are fortunate to have quality replacements in Yunel Escobar and Danny Espinosa, but Rendon would be a clear upgrade over either one. It’s scary that the Nationals are in first place in the National League East despite playing most of the season without Rendon (and Jayson Werth).

Playing the Name Game

Player A: 3-7, 4.12 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 58 strikeouts, 27 walks, 83 IP

Player B: 6-5, 3.38 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 70 strikeouts, 18 walks, 93 1/3 IP

Player C: 4-10, 3.56 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 72 strikeouts, 26 walks, 101 IP

Player A is definitely on the trading block for a team that has a surplus of starters. Obviously he isn’t setting the world on file, but has he pitched better than his ERA and WHIP indicate? Um, no. His FIP is 4.38, and he is posting career-worsts in areas like hits allowed, home runs allowed and strikeouts per nine innings. Yet, he may well be the first “name” starter traded.

There haven’t been as many rumors about Player B being traded until the past few days, but he has pitched quite well in 2015. Interestingly, there was some question as to whether Player B would even pitch this season. Now, if his team decides to deal him, he could end up affecting a team’s chances at postseason play. Buyers should beware, though: this pitcher has a history of tailing off after the All-Star break.

Player C is the classic definition of an innings eater. He has had some effective seasons (including 2015), but is stuck plying his craft for a last-place team. In fact, he would probably be most useful to his current team if he were traded elsewhere for a prospect that would help his current team’s rebuilding process. This pitcher might be the most useful trade chip of the three, but will his current team part with him for a reasonable price?

Recognize these three pitchers? I bet you do. Player A is the Mets’ Jon: Niese. Player B is Miami’s Dan Haren. Player C is Philadelphia’s Aaron Harang.

Clearing the Bases

  • The most recent vote totals indicate only five Royals are on pace to be voted into the All-Star Game. Unfortunately, Omar Infante is still one of them. At this point, it appears to be a “vote for the worst” situation, where people continue voting for him just to see if he can keep getting more votes than Jose Altuve.
  • News: Ryne Sandberg resigns as Phillies manager. Views: He must not have been forced out since the Phillies had to scramble to find an interim manager, but what does it say about that Phillies’ front office that the manager jumped before any rebuilding trades have been made? Perhaps Sandberg didn’t have much faith in Ruben Amaro’s ability to actually start the process?
  • Over the weekend, the Cardinals became the fastest team to win 50 games since the 2005 White Sox. In doing so, they become one of 18 teams in the past 50 years to do that before losing their 25th game. Of the other 17 teams, only four won it all: the ’05 White Sox, the 1998 Yankees, the ’86 Mets, and the ’84 Tigers. Thirteen of those 17 teams reached 100 wins, one of the benchmarks of a great regular-season team. Playoff odds show the Cardinals’ chances at reaching the postseason at 99 percent. If they only play .500 ball the rest of the way, they will win 94 games. If you saw that coming after the injuries to Adam Wainwright, Matt Adams, Jordan Walden, Matt Holliday and a stuck-in-the-mud start from Jason Heyward, raise your hand.
  • After having fun recently with Detroit pitcher Buck Farmer’s name, we found a new one: Pirates reliever Arquimedes Caminero, whose name sounds like a Caribbean cruise ship. Or the new breakout star on a Telemundo soap opera.
  • Between Bartolo Colon’s unintentionally hilarious plate appearances and Steven Matz’s 3-for-3, four RBI debut, the Mets are doing their best to sway opinion against the DH-in-the-NL movement that really picked up steam earlier in the season.
  • Miami’s Jose Fernandez is set to return this week from Tommy John surgery, just as Giancarlo Stanton has crash-landed on the DL with a broken hand. Will his return be enough of a boost to the pitching staff to help offset the devastating blow to the team’s offense? Or will the Marlins begin trading away veterans like Haren, Mat Latos, or Ichiro Suzuki?
  • Insult to Injury Dept: as if Robinson Cano isn’t having a rough enough season, he had to leave Saturday’s game while the Angels were throwing the ball around the infield between the sixth and seventh innings. You see, somebody named Taylor Featherston (who is, apparently, a major-league player and not an Aeropostale store manager), launched an errant throw that sailed into the Mariners dugout and conked Cano in the noggin. Amazingly, he did not suffer a concussion. Cano’s sense of humor showed through on Sunday, though, as he wore a catcher’s mask while sitting in the dugout.
  • If this had happened to a Royals player, Yordano Ventura probably would have beaned Featherston in retaliation.
  • Dunce of the year: Kingsport Mets (rookie league) manager Luis Rivera forgets to list his entire bullpen on the lineup card last Friday. Why is that a problem, you ask? Well, if a player isn’t on the lineup card, he isn’t available to play. Rivera’s blunder forced him to use three position players to pitch in the game. Now while you see this fairly frequently in the majors (typically for just an inning to save the bullpen during a blowout loss), it’s not common in the low minors. The starting pitcher needed to be pulled after struggling through four innings, but instead of having relievers at his disposal, Rivera had to use those position players, who were blasted for seven runs (although one of the players allowed six of the runs; the other two did not fare as poorly). The rookie-league Mets would end up losing the game 15-9. Obviously, the manager is at the “rookie” level, same as all the players. Still, what an embarrassment. If Rivera is smart, he won’t be asking for a raise or a promotion anytime soon.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

Author: Chris Caylor

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