Top 5 third basemen

Top 5 third basemen in 2018

Pitchers and catchers have reported. This is not a drill. We are so close to baseball.

As we inch closer to actual baseball, we continue our top-five lists, going with third basemen this time. This was the hardest list so far as this position is ripe with talent.

Just missed the cut

Matt Chapman: Ever since the A’s traded perennial MVP candidate Josh Donaldson for pennies on the dollar, the hot corner has been an infuriating thought for Oakland fans. Not anymore, as Matt Chapman brings some of the best defense in the AL at just 24 years old.

In just 84 games last season, Chapman had a 3.6 WAR, which was second highest on the team for the entire season. Some may question his bat, but last season, Chapman had a .785 OPS and a 110 OPS+, all above average numbers.

He has solid pop with amazing defense. If Chapman can stay consistent, he’ll find his way on this list.

Anthony Rendon: Anthony Rendon had one of the most underrated seasons in 2017. He finished the year sixth in MVP voting with 25 homers, 100 RBIs and an OPS of .937. He wasn’t even selected as an All-Star. Ask Mets’ fans if they think Rendon is an All-Star.

If Rendon is able to keep these stats up, somebody will have to put respect on his name.

Manny Machado: This is a fairly notable omission, but has to be done for two reasons.

First, Machado had a really down year last season, particularly at the plate. He had the worst batting average of his career as well as his second worst OBP. Second, he has been moved to shortstop in the hopes that the O’s will get a better deal once they inevitably trade him.

5. Adrian Beltre

Top 5 third basemen

Two legs? One leg? No legs? Beltre is still gonna hit bombs. (Photo by Eric Risberg/AP Photo)

For what seems like the past 1,000 years, Adrian Beltre has played third base at a very elite level. Last season, while the Rangers struggled, Beltre had one of his best seasons yet, posting his highest OPS since 2012.

In 2018, Beltre will be 39 years old. While he continues to chug the fountain of youth, father time is still undefeated. It’s all a question of when for Beltre, but after last season, it’s hard to say that it will happen soon.

For now, Beltre continues to dominate the AL.

4. Justin Turner

This is where the list gets really hard. Honestly, No. 1-4 are interchangeable.

Justin Turner is unfairly put at No. 4 despite his great offensive numbers and being the MVP of a team that won over 100 games. While Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager are flashier, Turner is the most consistent Dodger.

Turner had a great season at the plate, with 21 home runs and an OBP of .415. Turner’s on the field play coupled with his leadership and great beard make him a phenomenal player for LA.

Close your eyes Mets fans. Turner is the one who got away.

3. Nolan Arenado

Making this list is brutal. Nolan Arenado is a legit MVP-level player, and he’s still third on this list.

Arenado’s numbers are loud and flashy. Last season he hit 37 homers and 130 RBIs while slugging for .586. Those are amazing stats.

But what truly sets Arenado from the rest is his fantastic glove. He has won five straight Gold Gloves. His 7.2 WAR shows that he is not only a top player in the NL, but the entire MLB.

2. Josh Donaldson

A’s fans can only hope Franklin Barreto is worth something because Josh Donaldson isn’t going anywhere.

Donaldson had what some would consider a down year. He only played in 113 games, but was still able to hit 33 home runs. If you want to know how good Donaldson is, watch his 2015 MVP season. You will see one of the most transcendent hitters in all of baseball.

While his time with the Jays may be coming to an end, Donaldson will dominate anywhere he goes.

1. Kris Bryant

Ask any Cubs fan if the drought was worth getting a player like Kris Bryant and consistent shots at a World Series victory and they’ll probably tell you no. Bryant is a great consolation prize though.

At just 26 years old, Bryant put up 29 homers and an OBP of .409. He was responsible for a 6.1 WAR in 2017.

There are a thousand ways to say it, but Kris Bryant is amazing. He’s only going to get better.

 

Featured image by Getty Images

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2018 MLB preview: Seattle Mariners

2017: 78-84 (third place in AL West)

Last Postseason Appearance: 2001

Last World Series Title: NEVER WON A WORLD SERIES (Joined the AL as an expansion team in 1977)

2017 Recap

In 2016, the Mariners won 86 games, but finished three games out of the Wild Card. With some big additions for 2017, Jean Segura, Yovani Gallardo, Mitch Haniger, and Jarrod Dyson, Seattle fell below expectations and won just 78 games. This marked the 16th straight season in which the Mariners failed to make the postseason, which is not only longest current streak in the MLB, but also the longest postseason drought within the Big Four North American Sports.

So what went wrong? Among the 15 AL teams, Seattle’s offense finished sixth in batting average and on base percentage, seventh in runs and hits, which isn’t terrible. As far as pitching, the Mariners staff finished seventh in the AL in runs, and allowed the fifth fewest walks. So when you look at the numbers, Seattle is pretty average at everything, which is not the worst characteristic in baseball.

A glaring number that defines Seattle’s 2017 season was 26. Last season, the Mariners blew a league-high 26 saves. A few less blown saves and this team is easily in the hunt for a spot in the Wild Card Game.

Nelson Cruz hit 39 home runs and had a career high .375 OBP in 2017. (Grantland)

Of course, there were plenty of players who performed well for Seattle in 2017. Nelson Cruz’s 39 home runs was good for sixth in the MLB. He also finished fifth in RBIs, ninth in adjusted OPS, and had a career high .375 OBP. Cruz was the best DH in the league this year, and should continue to mash in 2018.

Mike Zunino finally looks like the catcher the Mariners had hoped for when they selected him third overall in the 2012 MLB Draft. Zunino was sixth in WAR among catchers, and hit 25 home runs with a .331 OBP. In the second half of his breakout year, the 26-year-old hit .281 with 13 home runs.

Seattle’s best pitcher was James Paxton. Paxton had multiple stints on the disabled list, but made the most of his time on the field. He was the AL Pitcher of the Month in July when he went 6-0 with a .79 WHIP. Paxton finished the year with a 12-5 record, 2.98 ERA, and 156 strikeouts in 136 innings.

2018: Around the Diamond

Like the previous offseason, Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto made plenty of moves to spruce up his ball club, in hopes of finally getting back to the postseason. The biggest move was the trade for Dee Gordon. Seattle already has future Hall of Famer, Robinson Cano, at second, but the Mariners traded for Gordon to play centerfield. He is clearly quick enough, having led the majors in steals in three of the last four seasons, and he has shown great ability with his glove, having won a Gold Glove in 2015. With Miami in 2017, Gordon hit .308 with 114 runs scored and a .341 OBP. He also stole 60 bases last season, which is almost double the amount that the AL Steals leader, Whit Merrifield (34) had in 2017. With that said, the Mariners should easily lead the AL in steals.

Last season, Dee Gordon hit .308 and stole 60 bases  (Seattle Times)

With Gordon at the top of the order, Seattle now has a pretty lethal offense. Especially with the addition of Ryon Healy to play first base. Last season, the Mariners got little to no production out of the first base positon, finishing 23rd in WAR for 1B. In comes Healy, who hit 25 home runs last year, and .314 against lefties. He doesn’t walk enough, and strikes out a bit too much, but he is clearly an upgrade at the position. Healy will be out 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery to remove bone spur from his right hand, but it is not considered a big deal and he should be fine for the season.

On paper, this Seattle team should do some damage. Even though Cruz is getting up there in age, he is still the best DH, and one of the best power hitters in the game. Zunino is one of the best power-hitting catchers in the league, and Cano is still a top-5 second basemen. In 2017, Cano hit .280 with 23 home runs and 33 doubles. The Mariners will also have a healthy Jean Segura, who hit .300 with 11 home runs with 22 steals in just 125 games, at shortstop. Let’s not forget that, in 2016, Segura was an MVP candidate.

If they hope to make a playoff run, The Mariners desperately need Kyle Seager to get back to his 2016 self. That year, he finished 12th in MVP voting and hit 30 home runs with a .359 OBP. Last season, he hit just .249 with a .323 OBP, and his 107 OPS+ was the worst of his career since becoming a full-time starter. He still hit 27 home runs, but needs to be better in 2018.

Joining Gordon in the outfield will be Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger. Haniger was fantastic in 2017, that is, when he was on the field. He missed a lot of time because of injury but was able to hit .282 with 16 home runs and .352 OBP in only 96 games. Ben Gamel hit .323 in the first half and finished at .275 with 11 home runs.

On the Bump

Not only did Seattle make moves to help with the offense, but they also brought in veteran pitcher Mike Leake. Leake is coming off a solid season, in which he posted a 3.1 WAR, the highest of his career. He had a rough second half, but this is a guy who can give you innings. Leake has thrown at least 175 innings over the last six seasons.

Paxton looks to be in line to start Opening Day, but let’s not forget about Felix Hernandez, who was the face of this organization for so many years. Hernandez was banged up last year and posted a 4.36 ERA, which was his worst since 2006. He also gave up 1.77 HR/9, a career high for the former CY Young Award winner. Yet, this was only in 86.2 innings, and Felix is healthy and ready to go in 2018. Although the man has already thrown over 2500 innings, there has to be something left in the tank.

Rounding out the rotation will be Erasmo Ramirez, and Ariel Miranda. Although, Hisashi Iwakuma, when healthy, and Marco Gonzales should also start some games. Edwin Diaz, who finished eighth in saves last year, will remain the closer. Diaz has great stuff, but gave up 10 home runs in 66 innings last season. If Diaz struggles, Seattle has guys like Juan Nicasio, David Phelps, and Nick Vincent, who are all capable of giving you quality innings out of the bullpen.

The Future

The Mariners top prospect is their 2016 first round pick, Kyle Lewis. Lewis, a 22-year-old outfielder, missed half of last season while recovering from knee surgery. Still, he was able to 7 home runs and 31 RBIs in 49 games between R/A+. In six playoff games for Modesto, Lewis hit .393 with six RBIs. He is now fully healthy, and the plan is to work his way up to AA at some point in 2018.

 

2018 Prediction: 86-76

They will have to fight off the Angels, but Seattle should end their playoff drought in 2018. Had they not blown 26 saves last season, they would have had a shot, and now, with key additions to the lineup and a healthy rotation, there is no reason for Seattle to struggle again. They have a legitimate offense and if they can play better against Houston and Los Angeles, they will be fine.

Featured image by MLB.com

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2018 MLB preview: Los Angeles Angels

 

2017: 80-82 (second place in AL West)

Last Postseason Appearance: 2014

Last World Series Title: 2002

2017 Recap

Although the Angels finished second in the AL West, they were ultimately 21 games back from first place and last led the division on April 13th. Against World Series champion Houston, the Angels went 7-12, and against the Texas Rangers, who won just 78 games, Mike Scioscia’s squad went 8-11.

The loss of Mike Trout, who played in just 114 games because of thumb surgery, obviously derailed this team from getting over the hump. Despite missing nearly 50 games, Trout, who would be a Hall of Famer if he retired today, joined Barry Bonds (1993) as the only players to have a season with at least 33 home runs, 20 steals, slugging percentage of .629 and an OPS+ of 187.

The best player in the game, Mike Trout (USA Today)

Trout also finished first in offensive win percentage and OPS, second in offensive WAR and OBP, third in slugging percentage, fifth in at bats per home run, and sixth in walks. Can you imagine the type of numbers he would have put up, had he not gotten injured?

The Angels led the league in steals, which is great, but they also finished near the bottom in a lot of other major offensive categories. As a team, Los Angeles finished 22nd in runs/game, 23rd in OBP, 24th in HR/game, 27th in SLG, 28th in batting average, and 29th in hits/game.

On the plus side, Andrelton Simmons had a career year. The shortstop finished first in defensive WAR, and eighth in overall WAR. “Simba” hit .278 with 14 home runs, 19 steals, and 77 runs scored. He, along with teammate Martin Maldonado, earned a Gold Glove Award, marking the third of Simmons’ career.

Even without Garrett Richards for essentially the whole season, the Angels pitching was not all that bad. Among the 15 American League teams, they had the third fewest walks, and the sixth best ERA. Their bullpen wasn’t too shabby as well, finishing with the fourth most strikeouts and the fifth best ERA in the AL.

2018: Around the Diamond

After finishing near the bottom in almost all the offensive categories, the Angels revamped their lineup, and head into 2018 as a serious playoff contender. This offseason, Los Angeles signed second basemen Ian Kinsler. Kinsler, who struggled last season, hitting just .236 with a .313 OBP, is out of his prime, but can still produce. 2017 was probably his worst season as a pro, yet he still hit 22 home runs and scored 90 runs for Detroit.

The Angels also welcomed in Zack Cozart to play third base. Cozart is coming off a career year with the Cincinnati Reds. He was named an NL All-Star and finished the year hitting .297 with 24 home runs and a .385 OBP. The Angels finished 27th in WAR for 3B, and 30th for 2B so bringing in Cozart and Kinsler is a huge positive.

Maldonado, who played a career high 138 games last season, will remain behind the plate, while Simmons will, of course, still be at shortstop. First base will most likely belong to CJ Cron, a former first round pick who hit 16 home runs in 2017. Luis Valbuena, who hit 22 home runs but batted just .199, will also get reps at the corner positions.

The Angels need Justin Upton to mirror his 2017 stats in order to make a run. (SI.com)

Last August, the Angels traded for Justin Upton, who, last season, hit a career high 35 home runs and had a .361 OBP, which was his highest since 2011. He hit .344 against lefties and 23 home runs against righties. The veteran outfielder also excelled with RISP, hitting .336 with 10 home runs. Because of his stellar season, the Angels signed him to a five-year, $106M deal.

Kole Calhoun, who has had four straight seasons of at least 17 home runs, will remain in right. The Angels also have the best player in the league playing center so this outfield for a full-season will be dangerous.

Unless your Tom Brady, father time catches up to everybody. Unfortunately, the Angels are seeing this with Albert Pujols. Pujols saw his OBP dip below .300 for the first time in his career and had a -2 WAR, the first time his WAR had ever been below zero. Pujols will be the primary DH, but it is assumed he will get less at-bats than previous seasons. Still, the future Hall of Famer hit 23 home runs and hit .324 in high leverage situations.

One player that could also get some time at DH is the “Japanese Babe Ruth”, Shohei Otani, but let’s give him a proper introduction as a pitcher.

On the Bump

Otani is listed as the number one prospect in all of baseball. He is the biggest story in 2018, as he hopes to pitch and occasionally hit in the MLB. His fastball has touched 102, while his splitter and hard slider are devastating strikeout pitches. He does have an elbow injury, but the Angels are not too worried.  In 2017, on the mound, Otani went 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA. The year before, in 140 innings, Otani struck out 174 batters and posted a 1.86 ERA. We will have to wait and see how Mike Scioscia will use him.

Otani has arrived. (DailyNews)

Two pitchers to keep an eye on are Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, who both dealt with injuries in 2017. Richards has made just 12 starts over the last two seasons, but is poised for a comeback in 2018. Last season, in 27.2 innings, Richards had a 2.28 ERA and a .904 WHIP. He has shown he can be an ace when healthy, but we will have to see if he can stay on the field.

Shoemaker missed almost the entire second half of 2017 because of a forearm injury. He posted a 4.52 ERA, but is now healthy and good to go.

Tyler Skaggs could be a major sleeper in fantasy baseball for 2018. Skaggs has dealt with injuries throughout the start of his career, but the former first round pick pitched well in the minors and has the stuff to be a quality starter in this league. In 2017, Skaggs started 16 games and posted a 1.388 WHIP. Andrew Heaney, Parker Bridwell, and JC Ramirez, who won 11 games last year, will all be fighting for starts at the end of the rotation.

The Angels hope last year’s bullpen can keep the momentum going into 2018. They brought in veteran Jim Johnson, who could close out some games, but let’s not forget that the Angels had eight different relievers record a save in 2017. Cam Bedrosian looks to be the front-runner to be named the closer.

The Future

Aside from Otani, the Angels have three other members in MLB.com’s “Top 100 Prospects” list. Two outfielders, Jo Adell (No. 62), and Jahmai Jones (No. 93), as well as infielder Kevin Maitan (No. 87). Adell, the Angels first-round draft pick in 2017, had a tremendous start to his professional career. The 10th overall pick hit .325 with 5 home runs in 49 Rookie-Ball games. He is only 18 years old, so give the kid some time to grow.

Jones, whose father and brother played in the NFL, is a raw athlete who has exceptional speed on the base path. In 127 games between A/A+, Jones hit .282 with 14 home runs and 27 steals. Jones is expected to make his MLB debut in 2019.

Kevin Maitan, like Adell, is also just 18 years of age. According to MLB.com, “The Venezuelan teenager had been compared to Miguel Sano and his ceiling has been put side-by-side with the likes of Miguel Cabrera and Chipper Jones.” However, he had a poor start to his professional career in 2017, batting just .241 with 2 home runs in 42 games.

2018 Prediction: 84-78

The Angels will be right in the hunt for the second Wild Card and should get over the hump in 2018. They are in a tough division, but they have the best player in the league, and have made key additions to the lineup. Otani will be exciting, and if the rest of the rotation can stay healthy, there is no reason as to why this team will not be in the playoff hunt when all is said and done.

Featured image by MLB.com

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Miami Marlins update

Miami Marlins update

It seems that every day, the Miami Marlins are always either getting rid of someone or changing something. As the rebuilding process rages on, optimism looks to be in shorter and shorter supply with every passing day.

Although rebuilding teams is not supposed to be easy, faith from the Marlins faithful is wearing thin. Also, some public eyes are doubting that the organization is making all these moves for the good of the team and fans at all.

As the old adage goes, “It gets worse before it gets better.” Now a couple of questions come about here. First, how much worse will it get before it gets better? Second, how soon will the better come?

Miami’s Latest Moves

Recently, ESPN reported that the Marlins will get rid of their “Great Sea” mascot race.  Similar to the Washington Nationals’ “Presidents Race,” the race includes four mascots representing sea creatures and commences in the middle of the sixth inning. The race began in 2012 with the opening of Marlins Park.

Miami Marlins update

Photo from Miami Herald

The mascots Julio the Octopus, Bob the Shark, Angel the Stone Crab and Spike the Sea Dragon will not race down the warning track in 2018.

Speaking of mascots and personnel changes, Miami has fired the man who plays Miami’s mascot, Billy the Marlin, as of last week. Reports indicate that John DeCicco, the just-mentioned man, has worn the outfit at the Marlins’ home games for over a decade. As of right now, the Marlins have not told reason for the firing.

Billy will remain as the team mascot, but with an unnamed successor in costume in this coming season.

Miami’s front office, which has experienced a barrage of personnel changes since last fall, has yet another new addition. Meet Chip Bowers, the new president of baseball operations.

Bowers is currently the chief marketing officer of the Golden State Warriors. Bowers started in Oakland, Oracle Arena’s location, in 2014 just before the Warriors snagged two of the last three NBA titles. He has previously worked for the Orlando Magic, Seattle SuperSonics and San Diego Padres.

Among other things, the Marlins are known for notoriously low attendance at home games, but who is more to blame? Is it the Miami fan base being fair-weather, or is it the front office of the past constantly releasing and trading all of the good players?

Regardless, Derek Jeter believes that hiring Bowers can help attack the low attendance and other financial problems.

Veterans In tow

Although it seems rare for the Marlins roster to stay consistent for long, some veterans will look to set the tone.

Miami Marlins update

Photo from Sun Sentinel

First baseman Justin Bour will look to finish what he started last season. In 2017, he recorded career bests in batting average, home runs and RBIs. However, his tenure with the Marlins came with injuries, including ones in his ankle and oblique in 2017. If the 29-year-old lefty can remain healthy, he can become the next big name terror at the plate.

A testament to Bour’s hitting power was his 22 home runs in one round during last year’s Home Run Derby.

Also, second baseman Starlin Castro will be a more than solid addition to the infield. Although he hasn’t played a season with the fish yet, he has previously expressed interest to places elsewhere. But now it seems that the four-time All-Star, according to ESPN, is now ready to help lead the clubhouse.

Other players will be looking for their chances to put the team back to playoff contention, including Miguel Rojas and JT Riddle, competing at shortstop. The Marlins still have questions about certain positions, particularly their pitching staff, outfield and catcher spots. For the latter, the biggest questions remains as to who steps up if J.T. Realmuto ends up in a different team.

Coming up

Despite all of the criticism, doubt and the countless changes in personnel, Derek Jeter still remains determined to turn matters around for the 23-year-old organization. The new roster will begin its test drive against the St. Louis Cardinals on Feb. 23.

 

Featured image from marlins.com

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2018 Kansas City Royals preview

2018 MLB preview: Kansas City Royals

2017: 80-82 (third place in AL Central)

Last postseason appearance: 2015

Last World Series title: 2015

2017 Recap

Falling one win shy of winning it all in 2014 and then following that season up with a World Series title in 2015, Kansas City’s success was beautiful, but it has run its course. 2017 was understood to be the last season in which the Royals had possession of all three of their best offensive players, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. Unfortunately, the team was unable to do much damage.

Kansas City had a terrible April, going just 7-16, and was never able to own first place in the AL Central over the course of the entire season. They had losing records against the Twins, White Sox and Indians, which made it hard for the Royals to ever gain any momentum.

A team that finished top-five in the AL in ERA from 2013-15, Kansas City finished 10th this past season and 16th in the majors in terms of bullpen ERA. Good pitching had been their identity, and without it, the Royals are just an average ball club.

2018 Kansas City Royals preview

Eric Hosmer was tremendous in 2017. Will he re-sign with Kansas City? (Photo from Royals Review)

Among the AL teams, the Royals offense finished 11th in slugging and home runs, 12th in OPS, 13th in runs and dead-last in OBP. Salvador Perez was able to hit 27 home runs, but had just a .297 OBP. Mike Moustakas, who finished eighth in home runs with 38, had a .314 OBP.

Luckily for Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, two players who were hoping for a big payday after the 2017 season, both had tremendous seasons. Hosmer finished fifth in hits, eighth in batting average and ninth in times on base. Hosmer had career highs in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage and hits. Cain hit .300 with 15 home runs, 26 steals and a career-high .363 OBP. He looked a bit more patient in 2017, walking 54 times, which was 17 more than his previous high of 37.

In late January, Cain was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers and signed a five-year deal worth $80 million. Hosmer has yet to be signed, but is reportedly looking for a contract worth more than seven years. Kansas City hopes to bring him back, so we will have to see how things pan out.

Like Hosmer, Moustakas is also yet to be signed, but the Yankees, among others, are rumored to be interested in the third basemen.

2018: Around the Diamond

Cain is now in Milwaukee, Hosmer is looking for a big contract and Kansas City does not appear interested in bringing back Moustakas. With that said, the Royals’ lineup will have some big shoes to fill.

Salvador Perez will remain behind the plate. If Hosmer is not with the team on Opening Day, expect Cheslor Cuthbert to fill in at first. Cuthbert made his MLB debut in 2015 and hit .231 in 58 games during the 2017 season.

One of the surprises from last season was second baseman Whit Merrifield. Merrifield finished fourth in the MLB in steals and joined Jose Altuve as the only players to hit at least 18 home runs and steal 30 or more bases. Shortstop Alcides Escobar will remain with Kansas City after signing a one-year deal worth $2.5 million.

The most likely candidate to start at third would be Hunter Dozier. Dozier, a former first-round pick, had a horrific 2017 season, but has potential. In 2016, at the Triple-A level, Dozier hit .294 with 15 home runs in 103 games. Clearly, he has produced at the minor league level, so we will see if that translates over to the bigs.

2018 Kansas City Royals preview

Is 2018 the year for Jorge Soler? (Photo from ESPN.com)

Alex Gordon, who had a dreadful 2017, hitting just .208 with an OBP of .293, will remain in left, while Paulo Orlando is in line to take over for Cain in center. Orlando struggled at the plate last season, hitting just .198 in 39 games. Jorge Bonifacio, who smacked 17 home runs in 113 games, will play right. Bonifacio has some pop and is able to draw a fair amount of walks.

If you are a fantasy baseball guy, make sure to keep an eye on DH Jorge Soler. Soler dealt with injuries in 2017 and was never able to figure it out at the plate, which led to his demotion to Triple-A. In 74 games at Triple-A, Soler mashed 24 home runs with a .388 OBP. Clearly, Soler is talented, and 2018 could be the year where everything comes together.

On the Bump

It doesn’t look like the Royals will be bringing back Jason Vargas, who won a league-high 18 games in 2017. Even if they had Vargas, this staff would still be in trouble.

Danny Duffy will most likely start Opening Day, with Ian Kennedy, who allowed the seventh most home runs last year, following him. Jason Hammel will remain in the rotation after allowing the fourth most hits and fourth most earned runs in the MLB.

The other two spots will most likely go to Nathan Karns, who is recovering from his thoracic outlet surgery in July, and Jakob Junis. Junis went 9-3 with the Royals in 2017 and posted a 1.281 WHIP. Kansas City is also hoping closer Kelvin Herrera can return to the pitcher he was when they were making postseason runs.

The Future

In all honesty, Kansas City has one of the weaker farm systems in baseball. They do not have one single prospect in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list. Their 2017 first-round pick, Nick Pratto had a decent Rookie Ball season, but he still needs more time to develop. Pratto is a first baseman who can hit for power and plays tremendous defense.

Khalil Lee is another name to note. The 19-year-old can play all three outfield positions. In 2017, at the A-level, he hit 17 home runs and stole 20 bases.

2018 Prediction: 75-87

With or without Hosmer, this team will struggle on offense. There is not enough skill around the field, and the pitching is weak. At best, this is a third place team in the weak AL Central.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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Top second basemen 2018

Top 5 second basemen in 2018

With the off-season fading and the sweet light of baseball brightening up, we continue our countdown of the Major League Baseball’s best players. Last week, we looked at the top First Basemen, now we shift in the infield to the top five Second Basemen in baseball.

Just missed the cut

DJ LeMahieu: If there were ever a player who would be the poster child of the “Coors Field Effect,” it would be DJ LeMahieu. His home-away splits are pretty telling. Away from home, LeMahieu’s OBP droped 44 points (.396 to .352), his OPS dropped 60 points (.813 vs .753) and his strikeouts increased (39 vs 51).

LeMahieu is still a very good player with his solid hitting and defense, but it’s hard to rank him in the top five with these splits.

Javier Baez: If you like defense from your second basemen, then Javier Baez is your guy. He has incredible skill and range, making impossible throws look easy. He’s basically the Giancarlo Stanton of fielding grounders.

Where Baez struggles is in his consistency, particularly with his hitting. Baez has flashed some serious power with his bat, especially last season with his career-high 23 home runs. However, his OBP is still fairly below average at .317. His approach at the plate is still very poor, given his 144 strikeouts last season.

Baez needs to clean up his hitting and remain consistent if he’s going to take the step forward the Cubs are expecting.

Dustin Pedroia: Pedroia is typically a mainstay on top second basemen lists. But Pedroia struggled last season, particularly with injuries.

In 2017 Pedroia missed 57 games. He also took a step back last season offensively. His home run total was cut in half from 2016 and his OBP and OPS both dropped.

If Pedroia is able to stay healthy and improve his offensive numbers while still being the defensive stable for the Sox, he’ll move back into this list.

5. Cesar Hernandez

Top second basemen 2018

Cesar Hernandez has been underrated his whole career, but not for much longer.
(Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Cesar Hernandez has flown under the radar as a player for most of his career. It’s probably due to the fact that the Phillies have been pretty awful his entire tenure.

Regardless, he has been an extremely solid player for the team. He has seen consistent growth offensively, particularly using his speed, evidenced by his 26 doubles and six triples. He gets on base well, with an OBP of .373. His defense is very good as well.

Once the Phillies move from tanking to actually participating, maybe Hernandez will get the attention he deserves.

4. Daniel Murphy

Above Hernandez is another player from the NL East, Daniel Murphy. Murphy is one of the most gifted hitters in the MLB today. Murphy’s 2015 postseason was some of the greatest hitting ever.

His time for Nationals has been very good, with him falling just shy of a MVP in 2016. His offense has been incredible for the Nationals, knocking in at least doubles in back-to-back years, coupled with at least 20 homers both years. In 2017, he had a .384 OBP and a .543 slugging percentage.

So why the low ranking? Murphy plays pretty bad defense. Murphy will never be a good defender, and he’s not even an average defender. While his offensive stats are impressive, his defense hurts him overall.

3. Robinson Cano

When Robinson Cano signed that staggering 10-year $240 million contract in 2013, many thought there was no way Cano would be able to keep up his production by the end. Well, we are not exactly at the end, but we are getting there, and he’s still putting up the numbers.

Last season, Cano was an All-Star. His numbers were 23 homers, .338 OBP and .453 slugging percentage, and it was a down year. If he’s able to put up a season like 2016, where he finished eighth in the MVP race, he’ll put those doubters completely to rest.

2. Brian Dozier

Top second basemen 2018

You may not be able to tell by this picture, but Dozier is a great hitter. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The Twins shocked many in the baseball world last season by making it into the last Wild Card spot only one year after finishing with over 100 loses. Many will point to the defense of Byron Buxton and the revival of Ervin Santana.

However, Brian Dozier deserves a lot of credit as well. Coming off a season with 42 homers, Dozier hit 34 more with an OBP of .359. Dozier was the heart of the offense for the Twins last season and will be for many seasons to come.

1. Jose Altuve

There’s no way this could be a surprise. Altuve is the reigning AL MVP with a ridiculous 8.3 WAR. In 2017, Altuve had a batting average of .346, which earned him the batting title. His OBP was .410, which is insane. He hit 24 homers, leading to a slugging percentage of .547 and an OPS of .957. This is all coupled with excellent speed (32 stolen bases) and defense.

It’s not even close. Sorry Dozier, Cano, Murphy and Hernandez.

 

 

Featured image by Troy Taormina / USA TODAY Sports / Reuters

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fantasy baseball top picks

Fantasy baseball: New season

With spring training just two weeks away, fans from all over the world will be tuning in to see their favorite teams hit the diamond, as baseball returns for another season. Some fans will tune to see how the newest team additions will flourish in changes of scenery. Others will just want to see their favorite players and teams return to action.

For those taking part in fantasy baseball, a few other things are on the line, like bragging rights and possibly a cash prize. Many will have their own strategies going to the upcoming draft. Also, questions arise such as which position to pick first. When the player they want is taken off the board, who do they go with?

Every pick and every adjustment will count for those who wish to climb to the top of their leagues. Fantasy baseball can be fun, but also a grind considering the season consists of 162 games.

Let’s take a look at some of the top picks in the draft pool, and some of my own.

top Picks

ESPN.com indicates that Los Angeles Angels outfielder, Mike Trout, is the projected No. 1 overall pick on the draft board. This is surprising to some people solely on the fact that he missed a quarter of the 2017 season due to a thumb injury. But what he accomplished was nothing to sneeze at.

fantasy baseball top picks

Photo from artobaseball.net.

The six-time All-Star finished last season with a .306 batting average, 33 home runs and 22 stolen bases, not to mention he had a career-high slugging percentage at .629.

Following Trout is Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.  The league leader in batting average and American League MVP was an instrumental piece in the Astros’ title run. The 27-year-old has posted at least a .313 batting average in each of his last four seasons. Do not let the 24 home runs fool you. He has messed with the best on the pitcher’s mound.

MLB.com has identified Dodgers ace, Clayton Kershaw, as the top pitching prospect in the fantasy pool, and with good reason. Kershaw has consistently shown the danger he brings to the opponent’s batting lineup, not to mention he is a seven-time All-Star. Kershaw led the NL in ERA in five of the last seven seasons and has won three Cy Young awards in a four-year span at one point.

More High-Profile Names

Another top-five pick to come after before anyone else is Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. Although his defensive prowess has landed him in the spotlight, his batting has been catching fire in recent years. The 26-year-old smashed at least 37 homers in each of the last three seasons, and his .309 batting average last season is the highest of his career.

fantasy baseball top picks

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

And how about Arenado’s defense? He has won a Gold Glove award in each of his five seasons, along with Wilson Defensive Player of the Year honors for his position in each of the last three seasons. Must I present further proof?

Another pitcher that should be on everybody’s radar is Boston Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale. The six-time All-Star pitched with the White Sox in his first seven seasons before being traded to Boston in 2017. It is safe to say that he hasn’t lost a step. Sale went 17-8 in his first season in Boston and posted a 2.90 ERA.

Sale still hasn’t won a Cy Young yet, but blink once and you will foolishly miss what Sale can deliver.

Moving Forward

As the draft approaches, here are a few pieces of advise for anyone getting into fantasy sports for the first time.

First, keep an eye on any notifications from the league, specifically for injuries. The sooner you find out any of your players are injured, the sooner you can react and adjust to fill in the ranks.

Second, do not be afraid if you are not very satisfied with your picks. You are not forced to keep all players you picked for the entire season. Throughout the season, you can pick and choose from the hundreds of players still in the pool after the draft has passed.

And with that, I wish the many taking part in the next fantasy season good luck.

 

Featured image from supportespn.com/fantasy baseball

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New playoff teams in 2018

Every season is filled with breakout players and teams. The 2018 season will be no different. But what teams have the best chance to make that break through? The following four teams have the best chance to make a return to relevance in 2018.

Oakland Athletics

New Playoff Teams in 2018

Khris Davis has mastered the third base high five during his tenure with Oakland. (Ben Margot, AP).

After finishing in last place in the American League West last season, the Athletics are the trendy pick to make some noise this season. With a young roster littered with some veteran contributors, the A’s could definitely fight for an AL Wild Card spot. One reason for all the optimism is their young corner infield duo.

With both Matt Chapman and Matt Olson both entering the season with starting jobs all but secure, don’t be surprised to see them combine for 50+ home runs and 150+ RBIs. In only 59 games last season, Matt Olson mashed 24 home runs. He also had a .651 slugging percentage and a 164 OPS+. That combined with a strong rookie season from Matt Chapman (110 OPS+) has the A’s feeling confident entering 2018.

While the Athletics should improve in 2018, they play in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. With the World Series Champion Houston Astros, the overhauled Los Angeles Angels, and solid teams in Seattle and Texas, Oakland could struggle. But if their young talent develops, they could be a force to be reckoned with.

Atlanta Braves

While the Braves finished third in the National League East last season, they posted a paltry 72-90 record. That’s not to say it was a lost season in Atlanta though. The Braves seem to be on the tail end of their rebuild, with some of their prospects finally making it to the major leagues. And its that young talent that could push them over the top in 2018.

Led by superstar (yes, superstar) Freddie Freeman, the Braves could challenge for an NL Wild Card spot next season. Freeman has developed into an offensive force for the Braves. He hit the second most home runs of his career in 2018 (28 home runs) despite playing the fewest number of games since his rookie season (117 games). He is also likely to be joined by Baseball America’s number one prospect, Ronald Acuna, sometime this season.

With Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies already in the majors, their development and the addition of Acuna has the Braves looking dangerous in 2018. When you add stud pitchers Sean Newcomb and Luis Gohara, the Braves could have the makings of another dominant dynasty.

San Francisco Giants

New Playoff Teams in 2018

Buster Posey is the backbone of the San Francisco Giants (Courtesy of MLBtraderumors.com)

After years of postseason success, it feels odd to see a team like the Giants on this list. But a season after posting the fewest wins in the National League (64), nothing is a sure thing with the Giants. Even so, their off-season moves have made them a trendy favorite to return to the playoffs this season.

When you add star caliber players like Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, that’ll happen. But it’s not like the Giants were a team without talent. They have arguably the best catcher in the game in Buster Posey, and a dominant ace in Madison Bumgarner. Add in solid veterans Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, and you have a playoff caliber team. It was this core that drove the Giants to their playoff success, and McCutchen and Longoria will look to help them do it again.

This team is different than the previous two teams on this list. While the Braves and Athletics look to contend with youth, the Giants are counting on a veteran core to lead them back to the World Series. While it is a long shot for them to get past the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Rockies (who all made the playoffs last season), it is an even year.

Milwaukee Brewers

If the Athletics and Braves are going young and the Giants are counting on experience, the Brewers are trying to have the best of both worlds. After a surprisingly strong 2018 season, the Brewers made some even more surprising moves this off-season. With the additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, the Brewers are definitely one of the better teams in the National League.

But it’s not just Yelich and Cain that have made the Brewers contenders. Korean import Eric Thames and former Astro Domingo Santana both found their power stroke in 2017, belting 30+ home runs each. The Brewers also had a breakout season from Corey Knebel, as he provided solidity for the bullpen. Factor in the production that veterans Travis Shaw and Ryan Braun provide, and the Brewers have one of the better offenses in the National League.

The one weak spot for the Brewers is their starting rotation. Having players like Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo in the starting rotation is something to worry about. But if the Brewers can sign Jake Arrieta or even one or two of the other free agent pitchers on the market, it could push the Brewers over the top.

Feature image by Sports Illustrated. 

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best first basemen 2018

Top 5 first basemen in 2018

As the painfully slow and boring offseason grinds to a halt, baseball pundits and junkies look to pass the time one way or another.

One of the best ways to do that is to remind fans who the greats of the game are. This series will break down the best of the best at each position, starting with first base.

Just missed the cut

Matt Olson – The A’s rookie phenom put on a show last season in his limited playing time. In just 189 at-bats, Olson blasted 24 home runs with a .651 slugging percentage.

With no more Yonder Alonso, Olson will have full reign at first base with many expecting another huge step forward. Keep your eye on Olson.

Jose Abreu – Unfortunately for Abreu, he’s currently stuck on the tanking White Sox. Because of this, a lot of baseball fans don’t know how good Abreu is. Last season, Abreu put up 33 home runs, 102 RBI and an OPS of .906.

While the White Sox have shown no interest in trading Abreu, a move to a winning club would help give Jose the recognition he deserves.

Eric Hosmer – Eric Hosmer’s stock might be low right now while he holds out for his billion dollar contract, but it should not be forgotten how good he is. Hosmer is a four-time Gold Glove winner with who hit 25 homers with a .318 batting average last season. He’s good, not stupid free agent contract good, but good.

5. Cody Bellinger

On a team full of talent, Cody Bellinger stands out as one of the best and brightest. Under the lights in Los Angeles, Bellinger shined.

In his first season of MLB action, the 22-year-old hit 39 homers. Those are insane numbers. Coupled with his great defense, he stole Adrian Gonzalez’s job like a thief in the night.

While it’s unlikely he’ll repeat that output of home runs, Bellinger will only improve as he gets older. The NL West should be very afraid.

4. Freddie Freeman

best first basemen 2018

Freeman looks to stay healthy in 2018 (Photo by John Bazemore/Associated Press)

This ranking is unfair to Freddie Freeman. Freeman missed 45 games last season due to injury and had to move positions for a little while due to the emergence of Matt Adams.

Freeman will now likely stay back at first and continue to dominate like he has in the past. Last season, Freemen put up 28 home runs and had a .989 OPS.

If Freeman is able to stay healthy next season and use his offensive versatility, he’ll move up this list.

3. Anthony Rizzo 

While the Nationals didn’t respect him (sorry, had to do that), baseball fans across America see Anthony Rizzo as one of the top first basemen in baseball.

Last season, Rizzo had somewhat of a down year, with a slight drop in batting average and OPS. However, he was still able to put up 32 home runs, 109 RBI and a .507 slugging percentage, which is well above the MLB average.

Expect Rizzo to take a step forward as the Cubs look to make another championship run.

2. Paul Goldschmidt 

Paul Goldschmidt has been one of the most underrated players in the MLB. Maybe it’s the fact he had only played in the postseason once before last season. Maybe it’s the small(ish) market or maybe it’s the fact players like Giancarlo Stanton and the aforementioned Rizzo stole the spotlight.

Regardless, Goldschmidt has arrived as one of the most well known and best first basemen. Last season, Goldschmidt had 36 homers, 120 RBIs and a OPS of .966.

If Arizona is able to put together another playoff run, Goldschmidt could finally capture the MVP trophy that has alluded him throughout out his career.

1. Joey Votto

Joey Votto could be one of the greatest hitters of all time. Last season, Votto had 36 home runs, drew a league high 134 walks and had an OPS of 1.032. Those are insane numbers. That can’t be stated enough. While NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton was the more flashier candidate, one could argue Votto was the much more complete player. in 2017 Votto had an OBP of .454, Stanton had a OBP of .376. Votto is going to continue to rot on a Cincinnati team that has been rebuilding for what feels like 500 years but when it’s all said and done, Votto will likely be looked at as one of the greatest ever.

 

Featured image by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

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Barry Bonds number retired

Does the Giants retiring Bonds’ number change anything?

The San Francisco Giants announced this week that they will be retiring the No. 25 this summer in honor of Barry Bonds. Bonds, who has one of the most complicated careers in baseball history, is still being kept out of Cooperstown by his peers.

Bonds finished eighth in the Hall of Fame voting this year, bringing in a 56.4 percent, just three percent higher than 2017. With that small of a change, it does not look like he will be getting in any time soon. His stats and accolades are there, but the hall still eludes him.

Does the Giants’ acceptance help his case?

Barry Bonds number retired

The steroids didn’t fully account for the time Bonds stole 40 bases in a season. (Photo from SI.com)

The announcement that the Giants stand with Bonds comes over a decade after he ended his career. With the accomplishments Bonds had, you would think that San Francisco would not hesitate to honor him. However, the amount of time it took to reach this point symbolizes just how iffy they were on the whole thing.

The fact that the Giants will spend a day this summer honoring Bonds’ career does mean something. It means that there are parts of the baseball community that accept the situation and still feel that he deserves to be honored, and they are right. Barry Bonds absolutely deserves his day because even before he became a juiced up version of himself, he was still playing at Hall of Fame standards.

The question at hand though is whether or not the Giants changed anything by planning to retire his No. 25. The answer is yes.

San Francisco has accepted Bonds for who he is and all the luggage and flak that comes along with supporting the all-time home run king. Yes, there are reasons to keep him away from the hall. However, they are not good enough to warrant some of the other players getting in over him.

Should the steroids matter anymore?

Many players have been thrown in with lots of guys that were users during the steroid era. Even Edgar Martinez may be feeling some of the repercussions of the steroid era as he has falling just short of reaching the hall, despite never being accused of taking performance enhancing drugs.

Many baseball fans are quick to call steroid users cheaters and disgraces to the game. Yes, many performance enhancing drugs are banned by baseball. Many of these give guys more energy, drive and an extra kick to go even harder in the gym.

All the lifting and working out is absolutely going to make it easier for players to get stronger and hit the ball a lot further away. It may not be fair to players who do not have the same access to these drugs or do not want to break the rules. However, do these drugs really warrant keeping some of the best players ever out of the hall?

Many people who are already in the Hall of Fame have had sketchy pasts. There are all sorts of cheating, immoral racists in the hall as it is today. Cap Anson is largely responsible for segregating baseball, as he would not step on the same field as an African-American player.

Of course everybody lived in different times and by different standards. But why should the writers ignore that, but focus on the performance enhancing drugs?

Steroids rejuvenated baseball

Barry Bonds number retired

The 1998 home run chase did wonders for baseball. (Photo from SI)

This is going to be an unpopular statement, but steroids helped bring baseball back.

After the 1994 strike, baseball was suffering some of its worst support in history. Before the strike, there was no doubt baseball was still towards the top in popularity in the United States. However, the strike did not help their cause as many players were deemed greedy for wanting to boost their already enormous paychecks.

Steroids, while they may have been unethical, brought a new sort of excitement to the game. Guys were hitting balls out of the park like never before, and it filled the stadiums back up again. The home run chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, along with Bonds’ chase to catch Hank Aaron, brought in all sorts of viewership.

The steroid era in baseball may be looked back on as controversial, but it did provide a necessary boost for the game.

This all comes back to whether or not the Giants have done something to help Bonds this week. Well, of course it is nice that he will be getting a day to be remembered. It will also serve as a signal that some of baseball is willing to let bygones be bygones though.

 

Featured image from CBS News

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