Sports | August 4, 2020 8:37 am

The Twins, Aaron Judge and a Man Gone AWOL: Buying or Selling MLB's Top Week 2 Storylines

Judge's bat is powering a potent New York Yankee offense

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees hits a 2-run home run against the Boston Red Sox. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees hits a 2-run home run against the Boston Red Sox. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Getty Images

Though another week of Major League Baseball is in the books, the question of whether the season will actually get across the finish line remains an unclear one. Clearly, with games being canceled, players opting out and commissioner Rob Manfred threatening to shut down the season, it hasn’t been the smoothest ride thus far. But for now at least, it’s a ride that will continue.

Below, you’ll find the top storylines to emerge around the league as MLB pushed through its second full week of play, and whether we’re buying or selling ’em.

Buy: Aaron Judge Will Win the HR Title

On Sunday night against the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge homered twice and drove in five runs in the Bronx as the home team dispatched their longtime rivals 9-7 for a sixth consecutive victory.

Sunday was Judge’s his fifth straight game with at least one home run, and he leads MLB with six on the season in just eight games, one ahead of Colin Moran of the Pittsburgh Pirates as of Monday.

Judge, who has been limited by injuries over the past two seasons and only hit 27 home runs in each, clubbed 52 home runs in 152 games in 2017, tops in the AL but seven shy of league leader Giancarlo Stanton’s 59.

This year, playing in a New York lineup that now features Stanton, Judge has an excellent shot at leading all of baseball in home runs during the sport’s abbreviated 60-game season — as long as he can stay healthy. Manager Aaron Boone will want to rack up as many wins as possible and will give Judge as many at-bats as he can handle. He’ll continue to strike out — he’s already got 11 on the year — but the home runs are also going to keep coming in droves.

Collectively, the Bronx Bombers should also keeping living up to their name and challenge for the home-run title as a team, which they lost by a single dinger to the Minnesota Twins in 2019 (307 to 306).

Sell: Yoenis Cespedes Will Play Another MLB Game

When the Mets showed up at the ballpark on Sunday afternoon to play the Braves in Atlanta, they expected Yoenis Cespedes to be in the lineup. But Cespedes never showed up and New York found out during the game that the slugger had opted out of playing the rest of this season and had already packed up his hotel room and departed for parts unknown.

The bizarre story, even for the Mets, brings the four-year agreement Cespedes signed prior to the 2017 season to an end, and it seems very likely he will be finished in baseball.

An All-Star in 2016, Cespedes missed most of the past two seasons with a series of leg problems and had to have surgery on both heels and his ankle after a fall at his Florida ranch that happened during a supposed run-in with a wild boar. The 34-year-old, who returned to the lineup this season for the first time since July 20, 2018, was just 5-for-31 (.161) with 15 strikeouts this year while serving as New York’s designated hitter.

Unhealthy, ineffective and on the wrong side of 35 by the time next season rolls around, Cespedes will probably not be back in the majors next year — with the Mets or anyone else.

He did have a helluva bat flip though …

Buy: The Minnesota Twins Are Already a Playoff Team

By virtue of being swept by the Yankees in the AL divisional series last year, the Twins extended their MLB postseason losing streak to a record 16 games. But with the Twins off to one of the hottest starts in MLB, they already have an excellent shot at qualifying for the postseason and getting a chance to break that streak in 2020.

Sitting at 7-2 in first place in the AL Central, the Twins should be able to extend their lead in the division over the next 20 games, with upcoming series against the 2-7 Pittsburgh Pirates (one series), 3-3 Milwaukee Brewers (two) and 3-7 Kansas City Royals (three).

The Brewers should present somewhat of a challenge despite their mediocre record, but Minnesota’s offense, which is second in MLB with 26 home runs, should pound the pitching staffs of the Pirates and Royals with Nelson Cruz and Miguel Sanó leading the way.

Minnesota’s pitching staff — fourth in the majors with a 2.70 ERA — has also been very good to start the season, with strong starts from former Dodgers Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill during their first two trips through the rotation.

Thanks to the shortened season, the Twins will be halfway through the year by the time they are done with the Pirates, Royals and Brewers. Estimating conservatively, the team should have at least 20 wins by that point, a number which will put them in prime position to qualify for the postseason once again.

Whether the Twins finally win a playoff game, which they haven’t done since 2004, is another matter entirely.

Sell: Christian Yelich Will Return to MVP Form in 2020

Last season’s NL MVP, Christian Yelich has struggled mightily on offense to start the 2020 campaign and, with so little time to reverse course, it is going to be very difficult for the 28-year-old to regain last year’s form.

The star outfielder got off to a slow start during the second edition of spring training (he hit .087 with 13 strikeouts) and his struggles have carried over into a 1-for-27 start to 2020 and a .037 batting average with 12 strikeouts.

While Yelich is too good to be that bad for long, the shortened season may not provide him with enough of an opportunity to fully pull himself out of the tailspin. Even though they’ve only played six games, the Brewers have already completed 10 percent of their schedule.

Milwaukee’s weekend series against the Cardinals was postponed, so Yelich has had ample opportunity to reflect on what has gone wrong, but that may not matter.

“This year is unique in the aspect of you just don’t know what you’re going to get from anybody,” Yelich said at the start of resumed spring training. “You’re going to see really good players have really bad years. It’s going to happen.”

Unfortunately for Yelich, he was right.

Buy: The Red Sox Have a Joke of a Pitching Staff

At different points during their Sunday Night Baseball matchup against the Yankees, the Red Sox were ahead 2-0, 5-3, 6-5 and 7-6. Each time, their pitching staff coughed up the lead and, as noted above, Boston wound up losing 9-7 to New York.

Sunday’s game was the eighth time in 10 chances that Red Sox pitching surrendered at least five runs, and the team — which has already used 17 pitchers — has the worst ERA in the league at 5.79.

With a rotation that is completely different from the one the team used last season — one of the starters is Ryan Weber, who has seven walks and no strikeouts in two starts in 2020 — perhaps it isn’t surprising how bad the Red Sox have been on the mound. Nor is it their fault that Chris Sale had to have surgery before the season, or that Eduardo Rodriguez was shut down and will miss the rest of 2020 as he recovers from a COVID-19-related heart issue.

But it is an absolute joke that a team that won 108 games and a World Series title two years ago and has the third-highest payroll in MLB has put together a pitching staff with four players with an ERA over 10 and no players with double-digit strikeouts.

Due to the format of the season, the Astros and Red Sox won’t be playing this year. But if they were, Houston could leave the trash cans at home.

(Note: All statistics, standings and streaks are current as of the afternoon of 8/3/2020.)

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