Five things we learned Sunday: NL rookie race heats up

1:43 AM ET

Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday and both gave great speeches, had trouble holding back the tears (Griffey lasted 20 seconds) and brought back a flood of memories for Mariners, Dodgers and Mets fans (we’ll pretend those Griffey Reds years never happened). Congrats. Sunday’s other top five:

1. Remember Trevor Story? We haven’t visited Colorado Rockies rookie shortstop Trevor Story much since he tore through the league his first two weeks, but he has quietly been on a tear of late, with six home runs since the All-Star break. He homered on Friday, went 4-for-4 with two home runs on Saturday, and homered again on Sunday. He leads the NL with 27 home runs — two more than teammate Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant of the Cubs — and ranks third in slugging percentage behind Daniel Murphy and Jake Lamb (exactly how I would have had it back in March). He’s hitting .316/.418/.789 in July and while he’s still on pace for 200-plus strikeouts, there are some positive signs of improvement to go with all the home runs:

April/May: 7.6 percent BB rate, 34.1 percent K rate, 29.7 percent chase rate

June/July: 10.7 percent BB rate, 27.8 percent K rate, 26.9 percent chase rate

More walks, fewer strikeouts, slightly fewer swings on pitches out of the strike zone, all reasons to spark this spurt and believe there’s some big upside here. The K rate is still high, which means he’s always going to be streaky, and there’s always the chance he’s the shortstop Mark Reynolds, but I like that he’s done a better job controlling the strike zone.

Also, don’t give that NL Rookie of the Year Award to Corey Seager just yet. Look at the numbers of the rookie shortstop (WAR totals through Saturday):

Seager: .306/.363/.525, 17 HR, 45 RBI, 3.5 WAR

Aledmys Diaz: .315/.382/.521, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 3.1 WAR

Story: .275/.349/.590, 27 HR, 69 RBI, 2.8 WAR

Why the higher WAR for Seager and Diaz? It’s mostly about park effects, not defense, as Story as an incremental edge in Defensive Runs Saved (plus-1 to minus-2 for Seager and minus-4 for Diaz). Still, Story’s big advantages in home runs and RBIs, if sustained, should lead to an interesting vote.

2. Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs? Reports had the New York Yankees trading Chapman to the Cubs for shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, with the Cubs then possibly signing Chapman to a contract extension. Torres was scratched from his game Sunday, although remained in the dugout. The Yankees absolutely should trade Chapman. For starters, as ESPN’s Andrew Marchand noted, the Yankees are 36-3 when leading after six innings; last year, they were 66-3. Chapman has been great, but the Yankees’ bullpen was great last year as well. If they can get a prospect as highly rated as Torres, it’s a no-brainer (Torres ranked No. 26 on Keith Law’s midseason top 50).

If there’s a loser in the Chapman dealings, it’s the Reds, who would have benefited to just keep Chapman rather than trading him to the Yankees for four second-tier prospects who are unlikely to develop into major contributors in the majors.

3. Don’t we deserve some respect? I’m talking about the Baltimore Orioles! Everyone keeps picking the Boston Red Sox or Toronto Blue Jays to win the division, but the Orioles have kept their slim grasp on first place. They impressively swept the Indians this weekend, including this dramatic result on Sunday:

4. Will the Chicago White Sox trade Chris Sale? Saturday’s incident will certainly go into White Sox lore and uniform lore and spoiled athlete lore, but will it affect Sale’s rumored trade status? Of course not. Was Sale really upset with Saturday’s replica uniforms or is he so desperate to escape Chicago — maybe to the Texas Rangers — that he was willing to turn heel? Colleague Christina Kahrl has the fallout here while ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian predicted Sale is still with the White Sox after the trade deadline. My take: Imagine if Sale was told he had to wear the 1976 replicas with the shorts.

5. Have we seen this before? Yes, we have. You have to love Carlos Villanueva of the San Diego Padres pulling out the old 55-mph slow, slow, slow curveball to fool Jayson Werth — just like he did three years ago. Here’s the video.

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