Major League Baseball
MLB Buy or Sell: Best offense and rotation? Ohtani for MVP? Judge rebound?
Major League Baseball

MLB Buy or Sell: Best offense and rotation? Ohtani for MVP? Judge rebound?

Published May. 9, 2024 2:32 p.m. ET

The Twins are back within striking distance in the American League Central, the Blue Jays are sinking in the East, and A.J. Preller has wasted no time adding more pieces to the Padres in an effort to compete now. 

This week's buy or sell looks at the best rotation and offense in baseball, the early MVP and Cy Young favorites, how the early Luis Arráez trade shakes up the contenders in the National League West and more. 

1. The Twins will come back to win the AL Central

Verdict: Buy 


The Twins recently rattled off a 12-game winning streak that was their longest since the 1991 club won 15 straight. Did they get to play the White Sox in half of those games? Yes. Yes, they did. But the stretch of success seemed to get the bats going in a needed way, and Minnesota has more recently picked up series wins against much more competitive clubs in the Red Sox and Mariners. The rally sausage has no quit in it, and neither does a Twins team that is starting to resemble the group many expected to see — an important development while they're missing Royce Lewis and Byron Buxton

Carlos Correa and Jhoan Duran are now back in action, and they should only get better once Lewis is added back into the fold sometime this summer. Meanwhile, the offenses of the Guardians — who are now without Steven Kwan — and the Royals have slowed down, allowing Minnesota to get within 2.5 games of the division lead. It's a remarkably quick turnaround for a Twins team that started the year 7-13, but the depth of the offense is starting to show. Over the past 15 days, the Twins have the best offense in the American League, with seven different players tallying an OPS over .800 in at least 30 at-bats. 

2. The Phillies will hold off the Braves in the NL East

Verdict: Hold

It wasn't that long ago we were wondering what was wrong with the offense in Philadelphia. That's no longer the case. Alec Bohm is in the midst of a breakout season, Trea Turner looked much more like himself than he did at the start of last year with a .343 average and 10 steals before hitting the injured list, and Bryce Harper, Bryson Stott and J.T. Realmuto have all started to catch fire after a slow start. The Phillies are now tied for the second-highest OPS in the sport and have now scored the fourth-most runs in the majors. 

But it's the rotation that provides the most optimism to believe the Phillies at least have a chance to hold off the Braves this year. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola always provide a high floor, but the work of reigning NL Pitcher of the Month Ranger Suárez gives the Phillies a trio that can compete with any in baseball. There are so many arms producing in the rotation that Spencer Turnbull, who had a 1.67 ERA through his first six starts, had to be bumped to the bullpen with Taijuan Walker now back in action. The Phillies at least have an argument for the best rotation in the sport. 

I'm not ready to definitively say I think they'll win the division. They've had a soft schedule to start the year, and the Braves' bats will get going at some point. But I'm at least starting to believe it's possible, which wasn't the case a couple of weeks ago. 

3. Aaron Judge's slow start will keep him out of the MVP race 

Verdict: Sell 

Don't look now, but after doubling twice and homering on Wednesday, Judge now leads the Yankees in extra-base hits, is slugging north of .792 in May and has his OPS up to .844 on the year — a number that trails only Juan Soto for the highest mark among qualified Yankees players. His hard-hit rates are starting to creep back up to normal levels, right there at the top among the best in the sport. 

Judge is only three homers off the American League lead and one behind Soto as the Yankees sluggers both have it going in the Bronx. Gunnar Henderson and Bobby Witt Jr. should remain among the top contenders for AL MVP honors, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Yankees' two-headed monster battling it out for the award down the stretch. 

4. Shohei Ohtani should be the NL MVP favorite right now 

Verdict: Sell

Look, even by his standards, what Ohtani's doing offensively right now is absurd. I mean, just look at this. Each of the Dodgers' 10 hardest-hit balls of the year have come off Ohtani's bat. He leads the majors in hits, doubles, batting average, extra-base hits, total bases, slugging and OPS. The power to all fields is especially remarkable considering he underwent major elbow surgery less than eight months ago. But, considering he'll only be hitting this year, his teammate has to be the NL MVP favorite right now for the overall value he's providing to the Dodgers. 

Mookie Betts has the highest on-base percentage in the majors — he has 12 more walks than strikeouts this year — and an OPS over 1.000 while playing shortstop full-time for the first time in his career at 31 years old — and doing it remarkably well. It shouldn't come as a huge surprise, then, that he leads the majors in wins above replacement. While Betts' bat has cooled a bit from his blistering start, he has still done enough at this point to be the top contender for the award. I mentioned the possibility that the AL MVP will come down to the Yankees' top duo down the stretch, but that's even more likely for the Dodgers' duo in the NL. 

Speaking of which …

5. MLB's best offense is in Los Angeles

Verdict: Buy  

As just mentioned, the two NL MVP favorites right now are both in the same lineup. That's before getting to Freddie Freeman — who has the fourth-highest OBP in the majors behind only Betts, Ohtani and Juan Soto — but the lineup goes far beyond the vaunted trio at the top. Will Smith is hitting .331. Max Muncy is slugging .556. Newcomer Teoscar Hernández already has 10 home runs and leads the team with 29 RBIs. Rookie Andy Pages' immediate spark has completely changed the look of the bottom of the lineup. 

Five of MLB's top 19 RBI leaders play for the Dodgers, and their offense leads the majors in every slash line category. The Dodgers sport a .808 OPS as a team at a time when no other club is above .750. As previously mentioned, I'd expect the Braves to get going at some point, and the Orioles — who are outhomering the Dodgers — are oozing offensive talent, but right now there's no question about the top offense in the sport. 

6. The Mariners' surging rotation is the best in baseball

Verdict: Buy 

As sensational as Boston's rotation has been all year, I'd still tab Seattle's as baseball's best. Though the Twins got to them a bit this week, Mariners starting pitchers still boast the lowest ERA in the sport over the past 30 days, and now they're about to add Bryan Woo back into the fold. Until Bryce Miller surrendered four runs in six innings on Sunday, Mariners starters had gone 21 straight games allowing two earned runs or fewer, which was tied for the second-longest streak in MLB history. 

The individual performances are all staggering: George Kirby has 45 strikeouts and only five walks. Logan Gilbert ranks in the top five in the majors in ERA (1.69), WHIP (0.79) and batting average against (.152). Miller also sports a WHIP under 1.00, while Luis Castillo has a 1.93 ERA over his past five starts. There are other deep rotations — the Phillies, Red Sox and Royals have all been sensational — but I see Seattle sustaining its starting pitching success better than any group in the majors. 

7. One of April's Pitchers of the Month will win the Cy Young 

Verdict: Sell 

José Berríos' 1.44 ERA in March and April came with a 4.01 FIP that brought something of a red flag to the stellar stretch. Still, he had not allowed more than two runs in any of his first seven starts of the year and was providing length to a pitching staff that needed it, going at least six innings in six of those seven starts. Well, things came crashing down Tuesday, when the Phillies tagged him for eight runs in 3.2 innings. The peripherals right now are troubling, particularly a hard-hit rate that's the highest of his career and an expected ERA close to 5.00. It'll be interesting to see if he can still find a way to continue his early-season success — the Blue Jays certainly need it — but it's hard to count on that happening. 

It's much easier to believe right now in Ranger Suárez — just look at the difference in their Statcast pages — who's allowing almost no hard contact while sporting the lowest WHIP among all qualified starters (0.72) and surrendering just six walks over his first 47 innings. Still, he pitches in a rotation with ace Zack Wheeler, who has looked more and more terrific as the year has progressed. Suárez is a vital piece in the Phillies' standout rotation, and his success has played an important part in Philadelphia's placement atop the NL East, but I have more confidence in Wheeler sustaining that success. The way that Wheeler, Tyler Glasnow, Dylan Cease are racking up strikeouts, and the way that Shōta Imanaga is transitioning effortlessly to MLB action, there are too many other likely Cy Young candidates. 

8. The Blue Jays will finish last in the AL East  

Verdict: Buy 

Two years ago, the Blue Jays featured one of the most feared lineups in the sport but couldn't pitch reliably. Last year, they had one of baseball's top rotations but couldn't hit. Now, they can't do either. Their offense, which is being carried by Danny Jansen, Davis Schneider and Justin Turner, ranks in the bottom five in baseball in home runs, hard-hit rate and average exit velocity. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is hitting around league average, while Bo Bichette (.513 OPS) and George Springer (.574) are hitting far worse than that. 

The pitching staff, meanwhile, has a 4.64 ERA as a group, is surrendering the highest hard-hit rate in the majors and is tied for the MLB lead in home runs allowed. It feels like a bit of a miracle that the Blue Jays are only three games under .500. But in their division, that's not going to cut it. The rest of the East is too good, and they've burned my belief over the past few years enough that I'm close to sticking a fork in them. 

9. The Luis Arráez trade makes the Padres a contender 

Verdict: Buy

There's a lot of debate about how much Arráez — whose value derives entirely from his contact skills — is really worth to a team. He doesn't walk much or run fast. He can play the right side of the infield, but he won't provide much help there, and his inability to slug makes him an atypical designated hitter. 

But, man, those contact skills are elite. 

With Manny Machado back at third base, the Padres could afford to add another somewhat full-time DH — at-bats that no longer need to go to Eguy Rosario, Graham Pauley or Tyler Wade. Arráez, a back-to-back batting champion who has hit above league average every season and sports an OPS over .800 since the start of the 2022 season, represents a clear upgrade for an offense that just sent one of the three best left-handed hitters in baseball to New York this offseason. 

There are still questions in San Diego, particularly in a thin rotation, but there is no doubting the firepower of this offensive group, which suddenly looks a lot deeper now. I don't envision the Padres challenging the Dodgers for the top spot in the West, but second place certainly seems within reach. And, as San Diego demonstrated in 2022 and the D-backs displayed last year, that can be enough to make some noise. 

10. The D-backs' bullpen will determine whether they make the playoffs 

Verdict: Sell

While it will certainly play a role — the bullpen ranks in the bottom 10 in ERA, strikeouts per nine and strikeout-to-walk ratio, and the team could have done more to address the deficiency this offseason — the group at least got Paul Sewald back earlier this week. As last year's Sewald addition demonstrated, they could add someone there at the deadline if they're still in the hunt. 

Whether they're contending at that time will come down primarily to the growth (or lack thereof) of Arizona's young standouts. Corbin Carroll's OPS is .567 on the year, and his batting average was under .200 at the start of last weekend. He is striking out less and walking more, but it appears to be at the expense of doing damage. He had lost the ability to hit the ball hard to start the year, though there have been some encouraging signs over the past week. He laced a single 109.2 mph off the bat Sunday for the hardest-hit ball of that game and knocked in five runs Tuesday, including a home run with a 104.3 mph exit velo. So far, Ketel Marte, Christian Walker and Joc Pederson have carried the offense. They'll need more from Carroll, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Gabriel Moreno to recapture last year's magic. 

Rowan Kavner is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the L.A. Dodgers, LA Clippers and Dallas Cowboys. An LSU grad, Rowan was born in California, grew up in Texas, then moved back to the West Coast in 2014. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.

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