Yordan Alvarez is slashing .346/.469/.808 with four home runs and eight RBI in seven games.

By Michael Shapiro
June 18, 2019

Welcome to the latest installment of 3 Up, 3 Down, our weekly stock watch of who’s streaking and who’s slumping throughout Major League Baseball. Our latest edition includes notes on Houston’s hottest slugger, an insane weekend in Colorado and Joe Musgrove’s trip to Atlanta.

↑ Alvarez is Unstoppable ↑

The Astros already sported one of baseball’s most fearsome lineups before June, armed with arguably the deepest collection of bats in the American League. But Houston’s attack added another impressive weapon on June 9 with the call-up 6’5” lefty Yordan Alvarez. The 21-year-old Cuban slugger had previously been mired at Triple-A Round Rock for 56 games in 2019, bashing 23 dingers along with 38 walks. The adjustment to major league pitching has been anything but difficult.

Alvarez enters Tuesday night with a .346/.469/.808 slash line, tallying eight RBI in seven games. He homered in each of his first two MLB appearances, and then homered in back-to-back games against the Blue Jays over the weekend. Alvarez adds left-handed punch opposite George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, pairing with Michael Brantley for a lethal lefty combination.

His bat looks like a toothpick in his mammoth frame, reminiscent of David Ortiz. He’s strong enough to swat away pitches into the Crawford Boxes and fast enough to turn on inside fastballs. The Astros will likely cruise to the AL West title in September. A strong postseason from Alvarez could very well bring the World Series back to Minute Maid Park.

↑ Coors Field Mania ↑

There were times in the mid-2000s when a series at Coors Field often meant multiple double-digit scoring days for a given team. The pre-humidor, steroid-era Coors Field was a pitcher’s hellscape, with balls hurtling through the altitude to the Rockpile seats deep in center field. The Coors of 2019 is still a relative Lion’s Den for those on the mound, but Colorado’s weekend series with San Diego was a throwback straight to the days of Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis.

The Rockies and Padres combined for 92 runs in their four-game set at Coors, breaking the previous record set by the Phillies and Dodgers in 1929. San Diego set its franchise mark for runs and runs allowed, tying the organization’s all-time record for hits. Charlie Blackmon set a hits record of his own, smacking 15 en route to the most in a four-game series in MLB history. There were multiple inside-the-park homers and a one-hour first inning thanks to sprinkler-induced flooding. Things are clearly a bit different at Mile High.

The two clubs split the roller coaster series despite a pair of implosions from the Rockies’ bullpen. Colorado surrendered five in the 12th on Friday, losing the lead on a laser base hit from Fernando Tatis Jr. San Diego stormed back again on Sunday with four runs in the ninth, including a bases-loaded walk to pinch-hitting pitcher Matt Strahm. It was a fun weekend for most at Coors Field, but likely one giant headache for Bud Black.

↑ Donaldson Making it Rain ↑

Josh Donaldson is unlikely to receive a massive multi-year deal when he returns to free agency in the winter, but the 2015 AL MVP is certainly making the most of his time in Atlanta. The self-proclaimed Bringer of Rain rebounded from a 10-game slump over the weekend, and his heroics in Cobb County vaulted the Braves to the top of the NL East. Alex Anthopoulos is likely thrilled with the $23 million he shelled out in November 2018.

Donaldson slashed .370/.414/.889 in Atlanta’s seven-game homestand last week, a 6–1 stretch that included two wins in three matchups with the Phillies over the weekend. The former Blue Jays standout homered against the Pirates on June 11, then tortured the Phillies when they came to SunTrust Park with homers in three straight games. Donaldson now has 12 dingers on the year and the Braves lead the AL East at 42–30. Atlanta boasts six hitters with double-digit homers and six with an OPS over .800. With Donaldson manning the hot corner, the Braves remain a legitimate contender for the National League crown.

↓ Detroit Hits a New Low ↓

Things appear bleak in the Motor City at the moment. The Tigers enter Tuesday night fourth in the AL Central at 25–43, on pace for the seventh 100-loss season in the franchise’s 119-year history. They’ve lost 11 of their last 14 and spent the weekend striking out 33 times in a trio of losses to Cleveland. And Detroit’s losing ways now appear to be wearing on its best player.

The Detroit News’s Chris McCosky penned a piece on June 15 detailing Nick Castellanos’s “end of innocence” as the Tigers tumble toward the bottom of the AL standings. And one quote from Castellanos is particularly disheartening.

“You hear veterans like Victor [Martinez] and Torii [Hunter] and Austin Jackson, K-Rod [Francisco Rodriguez] talk about it the same way,” Castellenos said. “Be careful falling in love with the name on the front of the jersey, because it's a business."

Castellanos will soon join Martinez, Hunter and Rodriguez as Detroit luminaries shipped out of town as the Tigers rebuild. He leads the AL in doubles and posted an .854 OPS last season, likely to return a solid prospect or two in a trade before he hits free agency in 2020. After seven seasons with the Tigers, Castellanos is potentially on his way out as the franchise continues a frustrating rebuild.

↓ Musgrove vs. Atlanta ↓

We noted the Braves’ destruction of the Pirates above, but perhaps no Pittsburgh player had a tougher week than Joe Musgrove. The 26-year-old righty logged just 2/3 of an inning against Atlanta on June 10, leaving the mound following an altercation with none other than Donaldson. It was a tough ejection for Musgrove, who only grazed Donaldson with an inside fastball, but Pittsburgh’s starter couldn’t exact his revenge later in the week.

Musgrove took to the mound again in Atlanta on June 13, just three days after his ejection. Yet the outing is one Musgrove would like to forget. The Braves blitzed him with nine hits in four innings, posting six runs before chasing Musgrove for his seventh loss of the season. Not exactly a fun road trip for Pittsburgh’s slumping starter, who now holds a 4.87 ERA.

↓ Down Goes Frazier (to the Minors) ↓

Clint Frazier opened the season’s third month with a pair of mind-numbing errors in a loss to the Red Sox followed by a no-show for postgame availability with reporters at Yankee Stadium. A homer against the Blue Jays led to a glare-off with the media two nights later, setting up another mini-firestorm throughout the city. Frazier is a talented player with emerging power. His energy is better focused on opposing pitchers than those in front of his locker.

The media debate died down over the last two weeks as Frazier hit .353 in 37 plate appearances. But bigger problems than media scuffles arrived on Sunday. The Yankees announced they are sending Frazier to Triple-A Scranton after trading for Mariners slugger Edwin Encarnacion, stopping Red Thunder’s MLB career in its tracks. Perhaps Frazier will return to New York during the season due to injury or September call-ups. Though don’t be shocked if June 16 marked his last night in Pinstripes. The Encarnacion deal could portend further moves ahead, and Frazier remains a potential trade piece if New York pursues starting pitching on the trade market.

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