Welcome back to The Rotation! Here are five topics in the world of Major League Baseball worth bantering about this week.
1. Draft winds and wins
Coverage of the MLB Draft begins at 6 p.m. ET Monday on MLB Network and MLB.com, and the Twins have the first overall pick in a class that is considered deep in high school arms, light in bats and a curiosity in terms of its two-way talents.
But because we have absolutely no idea which kids from this Draft will click and when, just for fun, let's take a look at a few examples of recent picks that have shaped the 2017 standings:
Astros take Lance McCullers at No. 41 in 2012
It seems obvious now that Carlos Correa would be the No. 1 overall pick in '12, but at the time there was some thought that Byron Buxton was the best player in that class. The Astros went with Correa not just because of his skillset and maturity and all that good stuff but because he was willing to sign for $4.8 million, well below the $7.2 million value of the No. 1 slot. This savings allowed the Astros to go well above slot ($2.5M instead of $1.26M) to get McCullers to sign away his college eligibility at USC after they took him here. Five years later, Houston has an MVP candidate in Correa and McCullers is in the midst of a breakout season that could push him into the AL Cy Young Award conversation. So … not a bad first round.
Yankees take Aaron Judge at No. 32 in 2013
How did No. 99 stay on the board until pick No. 32? It wasn't because of Judge's body of work at Fresno State but his body, period. Teams were scared off by the very simple reality that only three position players (Frank Howard, Richie Sexson and Tony Clark) 6-foot-7 or taller had what could be considered significant big league careers. The Yankees had three first-round picks (they took Eric Jagielo at No. 26 and Ian Clarkin at No. 33), so they were in a good position to take the risk.
Rockies take Kyle Freeland at No. 8 in 2014
The Rox were generally expected to go with a college arm here. LSU right-hander Aaron Nola likely would have been their pick had the Phillies not nabbed him at No. 7, and Hartford lefty Sean Newcomb was another possibility. But with Nola off the board, the Rockies went local with the selection of Freeland, a Denver native who went to the University of Evansville. Freeland didn't overpower batters, but he was good at inducing ground balls (a nice trait to have if you're going to survive in Coors Field), and the Rox added a changeup that has made the 24-year-old rookie a key member of their young rotation in this season's surge up the NL West standings.
Dodgers take Cody Bellinger at No. 124 in 2013
Projection is everything in the amateur scouting circuit, and it would have taken incredibly precise projection to know what the Dodgers had in Bellinger when they took him at this deep spot in the 2013 Draft. The first baseman from Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz., hit just one home run in his senior season. But in the time since, he's filled out his frame, made good on his big league pedigree (his father, Clay, played briefly as a utility guy) and gone deep in 7.4 percent of his first 176 plate appearances.
2. Damn, Yankees
You don't have to be James Comey to sum up the Yankees' recent offensive output with one word:
In a five-game winning streak they'll look to continue out in Anaheim this week, the Yanks have outscored their opponents 55-9, with a team-wide .377/.458/.732 slash line and 17 homers. They have scored eight-plus runs in five straight games for the first time since July 1956 -- the same year Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra finished 1-2 in the American League MVP voting.
This year, with Mike Trout absent from the Angels (and, ergo, this series against the Bronx Bombers), Judge seems intent on putting that award on his own mantle. In his past 14 games, he's batting .426 with six homers, 17 RBIs and 18 runs scored. His Saturday blast was the hardest-hit homer (121.1 mph) of the "Statcast™ era," and on Sunday his first of two blasts went an incredible 495 feet.
Meanwhile, Judge's outfield mates Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks have been "Berra" good, with Hicks emerging from fourth outfield status to put up All-Star caliber numbers (.317/.429/.584 with 10 homers and 13 doubles).
Thanks to their June boom, the Yankees now own the best run differential (plus-115) in the Majors. The strength of their farm system makes them dangerous as they search for a controllable upgrade to their starting staff. But they're also dangerous because of the possibility that the offense still has some upside.
After battling an early-season biceps injury, only recently has Gary Sanchez (1.202 OPS in June) emerged as the offensive force he was in a two-month burst of brilliance that darn near earned him the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2016. Gleyber Torres is probably not close to supplanting Chase Headley at the hot corner, but his .389 OBP so far at Triple-A means the conversation isn't crazy. And Greg Bird, playing alongside Torres while on a rehab assignment at Triple-A after an ankle injury, is closing in on a return to first base, where the Yankees entered the week with the second-lowest OPS (.637) of any team in baseball.
This offense has been extremely fun to watch. Hopefully somebody's recording it.
3. Price was wrong
People around baseball are still scratching their heads over the timing of David Price initiating a feud with the Boston media last week, shortly after one of his best starts of the past couple years.
If Price, whose recent return is merely one reason the Red Sox are starting to look more like the viable World Series contender they were projected to be, had specific beefs with specific reporters, there are ways to handle that sort of thing privately, as opposed to screaming F-bombs within earshot of a postgame manager's media session. And then Price did himself no favors in the eyes of the prying public by getting roughed up in the rubber match with the Yankees the day after all this went down.
In any event, Price's little beef in the Bronx has added some spice to his next start Tuesday against the Phillies, where we'll see what, if any, impact all this has on the way the home crowd perceives and treats him. We'll also see if, following a sitdown with manager John Farrell and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, Price has anything apologetic to say to reporters after the fact.
4. Still Believeland?
The Cavaliers were not the only Cleveland team that needed some resuscitation over the weekend. After his club dropped four of five in Kansas City and Denver last week, Indians manager Terry Francona held multiple meetings with his team and even, he said, a few introspective moments with himself. Perhaps the resulting series win over the last-place White Sox will spark a more stabilized run from a club that has been up and down all year and is about to get another taste of potential October medicine with the Dodgers coming to town.
A decidedly weak AL Central led by the overachieving Twins has been the Indians' saving grace but there's also an argument that the lack of urgency in the division has worked against them a bit, too.
"We're very fortunate that somebody hasn't run away and hid," Francona said. "But I don't think it's real healthy to look up every day and think, 'Well, the other teams lost.' At some point, we need to pick up the pace."
5. What's in the Cards?
After watching the Cardinals get swept in succession by the Cubs and Reds, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak sent some major messages Friday, reassigning third base coach Chris Maloney and designating Jhonny Peralta for assignment. The Cards responded with a weekend sweep of the Phillies, but a more important test awaits with four games in three days against the division-leading Brewers, beginning with a Tuesday doubleheader.
"I think everybody, including myself, is not in the most secure situation right now," Mozeliak told reporters before the Phils series.
This could get interesting. Once the first round of the Draft is complete, baseball's top execs will shift their focus to the trade market, and Mozeliak's Cards could be especially aggressive in the attempt to add a viable bat to the middle of their mix.
Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor, MLB.com columnist and MLB Network contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.