Three Up, Three Down: One Final Show For Manny Machado
Manny Machado, 3B, Orioles
The clock on the Machado-era in Baltimore is ticking, but the two-time Top 100 Prospect is giving O’s fans one final show before he goes. Machado has thrust himself into early Triple Crown contention in the American League with his scorching start. He is batting .343 (t-2nd) with 15 home runs (t-1st) and 43 RBIs (1st). Arguably the biggest threat to Machado’s Triple Crown contention, rather than another player, would be a midseason trade to a National League club, which looks more and more like a possibility every day.
Michael Brantley, OF, Indians
Staying healthy has always been a struggle for Brantley, but when he’s on the field, he is productive. Brantley is in the midst of a 10-game hit streak and has been one of the best hitters in baseball with a .331 average and .936 OPS. The two-time Indians' top 10 prospect takes a backseat to Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez in discussions of the franchise’s cornerstones, but Brantley been every bit a top player in his own right.
Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants
Don’t look now, but the Giants have a respectable offense. They rank second in the National League in batting average, sixth in on-base percentage and (would you believe it?) fourth in slugging percentage. The long-talented but unfairly-maligned Belt is leading the charge, hitting. 313/.413/.594 with 11 home runs and 29 RBIs. In his age-30 season, the former Giants' No. 1 prospect is on pace to smash his career high of 18 homers, and entering the week he led the NL with a 176 OPS+.
Dexter Fowler, OF, Cardinals
The Redbirds keep waiting for Fowler to come around, but it’s just not happening. The three-time Top 100 Prospect and 10-year veteran immediately showed signs of decline after signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract, and it’s been accelerated this year. Fowler been moved off center field, is batting .160/.281/.292 and is now at risk of losing his starting spot. With Tommy Pham and Marcell Ozuna locked into center field and left field, respectively, and top prospect Tyler O’Neill showing he’s ready with home runs in three consecutive games while playing right field, Fowler is en route to being relegated to a bench player with three and a half years remaining on his contract.
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Nick Ahmed, SS, D-backs
The all-glove, no-hit shortstop demographic has its limits, and the D-backs are testing them right now. The always defensively-gifted but offensively-challenged Ahmed is batting .209/.267/.399 entering Tuesday, placing him in the bottom 15 players in baseball in all three slash line categories. That’s particularly problematic for the D-backs, who rank last in the majors with a .217 batting average and .294 on-base percentage and can’t afford to have any more drains on their lineup. While struggling standouts Paul Goldschmidt and Steven Souza can be expected to get turned around, it’s hard to say the same for Ahmed, who is a career .224/.267/.399 hitter and is simply overmatched in the everyday role the D-backs are giving him.
Jon Gray, RHP, Rockies
The No. 3 overall pick in 2013 reached the majors quickly and appeared to have asserted himself as a front-of-the-rotation starter with a breakout 2017, but it’s been a huge step backward this year. The 26-year-old righthander has a 5.34 ERA, has given up 65 hits in 55.2 innings and, shockingly, has been the worst pitcher in the Rockies' rotation, performance-wise. Gray isn’t walking anyone—his walk rate is a career-low 2.1 per nine innings—but he’s simply been hittable. Opponents are batting .327 against his fastball, per Brooks Baseball, and are hitting his curveball (.263) and slider (.250) at rates above the league average as well.