Reviewing the National League so Far

The season is well underway and teams are starting to show who they really are. Fast starts and slow starts are beginning to even out as we begin to see separation in the standings.

If you’ve missed any of the action, don’t worry. We will go division-by-division and hit all of the high points so far in the National League.

NL East

National League Review

We haven’t seen much of this from Ryan Zimmerman this season (Alex Brandon/AP Photo).

The NL East is beginning to take form, with the Nationals (13-5) having a 3 game lead over the Marlins (10-8) for the division lead.

Leading the way for the Nationals is none other than Bryce Harper. Harper is hitting .393 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in 61 at bats this season. He seems to be showing no signs of what ailed him last season and is producing at a higher level than he did in his MVP season.

He’s not alone in driving the Nationals to the top of the division. Longtime face of the franchise Ryan Zimmerman is having a renaissance year in Washington. He has blasted five homers to go along with 14 RBIs and a .373 batting average. Zimmerman is only 32, so this could be a return to form for him.

Don’t count out the second place Marlins. They’ve relied on production from an unlikely source with catcher J.T. Realmuto leading the team in batting average (.344). Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich have also gotten off to good starts, with both posting over 10 RBIs already on the year. Even so, another NL East rival is not far behind.

Cesar Hernandez has been a revelation for Philly (9-9) so far. His .338 batting average has been a pleasant surprise for Philadelphia, as well as his four homers and three steals. He could be an interesting trade chip for the Phillies if he keeps it up.

Rounding out the division standings are the Mets (8-11) and Atlanta (6-12). The Mets are off to a rough start this season, but still two games back of Miami for the second spot in the division.

Their offense has failed to deliver this season with a team batting average of .211. The pitching staff has carried the Mets, with three starters having an ERA under 3.00. If the Mets can continue to get strong outings from Matt Harvey (2.84 ERA) and have their offense catch fire, they should overtake Miami with ease.

The Braves’ management and fans alike are hoping Dansby Swanson’s slow start (.139 batting average) is just a blip on the radar. He has struggled this season, and has been a hole in Atlanta’s lineup.

NL Central

National League Review

Amir Garrett has been a revelation for Cincinnati this season (Joe Robbins/Getty Images).

After a surprising start from Cincinnati, the Red (10-9) have been unseated atop the division by the World Series champion Chicago Cubs (10-8). The division is still a five-team race, with St. Louis (9-10) third in the division, but only 1.5 games back of first place. This division has started out a tight one, but only time will tell if it remains so.

The Cubs haven’t been world beaters recently, going 5-5 in their last 10 games. It was still good enough to earn them the top spot in the division.

Jason Heyward is finally showing signs of the player Chicago thought they were getting. He’s batting .297 with two homers and 12 RBIs. With such a stacked lineup, if Heyward can keep his production even close to what he’s done this season, Chicago could reach another offensive level.

Cincinnati has been a pleasant surprise this season. After being predicted to sink to the bottom of the division, the Reds have battled all season long.

The pitching staff has been the biggest boon for the club, lead by the young lefty Amir Garrett. He’s started three games for the Reds and posted a 1.83 ERA while striking out 21 batters over 19.2 innings pitched. Veteran Scott Feldman has also thrown well, pitching to a 2.38 ERA. Even in the midst of a rebuild, the Reds have remained competitive.

St. Louis has experienced a power outage of late, but is still third in the division at 9-10. Their 6-4 record in the past 10 games has lifted them out of the cellar of the division.

Milwaukee has also opened some eyes this season. Sitting at 9-11 on the year, the Brewers have blown away preseason predictions. That is due in large part to the hot start put up by Eric Thames. Thames leads the majors with eight home runs and also has a .359 batting average. Needless to say, the Korean import has paid off.

That leaves the Pirates (8-10) as the last team in the division. After losing Starling Marte to an 80-game PED suspension earlier in the week, the outlook is bleak for the Buccos.

NL West

National League Review

The electric rookie has provided a strong presence for the Rockies (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports).

The NL West has truly been wild this season. Colorado (13-6) has gotten off to a hot start this season and sits atop the division, followed by Arizona (12-8) who are 1.5 games back. The Dodgers (9-10) are four games back of the division lead, followed by San Diego (8-12) and San Francisco (6-13) at the bottom of the division.

Colorado has relied on an unexpected source of offense this season. Mark Reynolds has performed exceptionally well in Ian Desmond’s absence, hitting five homers and driving in 16 RBIs.

However, Antonio Senzatela has stolen the show in Colorado. The 22-year-old has won all three of his starts with a 2.08 ERA. Colorado has surprised everyone this season with a strong starting rotation and an exceptional offense.

Arizona has also blown away expectations this season. The offense has been the driving force behind their surge, with seven starters hitting over .250. The pitching staff has also been good for the Diamondbacks, with Zack Greinke posting a 3.28 ERA so far this season. The Diamondbacks have the opportunity to be in the thick of it all season long with a solid offense and pitching staff.

The same could be said of the Dodgers, but their slow start has them looking up at the Rockies and Diamondbacks in the division. The pitching staff has let them down, with Kenta Maeda posting a 8.05 ERA this season. The Dodgers will need to have more support for Clayton Kershaw in the rotation, or it could be a long season for the Dodgers.

San Diego is fourth in the division with a 8-12 record, besting their preseason predictions. Wil Myers has led the way so far with a .354 average and four homers to go along with 11 RBIs. Clayton Richard has also been a surprise contributor for the Padres. His 3.04 ERA is good for first in the starting rotation, and has been the ace of the starting staff.

San Francisco recently lost their staff ace to an off-the-field injury. Madison Bumgarner will be out an unknown amount of time after a dirt bike accident. That only worsens the Giants chances, as their 6-13 record already has them behind.

 

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American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 3 Statistical Standouts

Week three has come and gone and things have begun to normalize around the league. The divisional records remain close with only a few games separating the pack. That is, every division except for the East and Toronto. Sorry Blue Jay’s fans, we feel for you.

Other than the anomaly up north, teams are clearly settling into the regular season groove. This has netted baseball fans some extremely impressive performance so far this season, and that’s what we’ll be highlighting today.

Today we look at the statistical leaders from around the AL and decide if we’re buying or selling that performance over 162 games.

Buy or Sell: Statistical Standouts

Average: Avisaíl García

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 3 Statistical Standouts

(Photo Courtesy of Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Besides having one of the most fun names to say in baseball, Avisaíl García has been on a torrid hitting spree to start the season. As a top 100 prospect back in 2013, the White Sox organization has been patient with Garcia’s development. That patience has certainly paid off as the 25-year-old is slashing .371/.426/.581 with three home runs to start the season.

Season Long Statistical Standout: Sell

What I will buy is that Garcia will end the season as the White Sox best hitter. Given the make-up of the White Sox roster, that isn’t a glowing endorsement, but it’s something.

There’s no reason not to believe Garcia will be a significant part of the Chicago rebuild and a solid ball player for this club. That said, Garcia has hit a .250 average over the last three seasons, so handing him the batting title now may be a bit premature.

Power: Khris Davis / George Springer

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 3 Statistical Standouts

(Photo Courtesy of Thearon W. Henderson)

Both Davis and Springer are off to excellent starts and currently are tied with an AL leading seven home runs apiece. Both sluggers are in their prime at age 29 and 27 and displayed breakout power in 2016.

Springer is the better-rounded player of the two, but Davis actually appears to have more power upside. Granted there is a small sample size in this department for both, but both have excellent power potential.

Season Long Statistical Standout: Davis – Buy / Springer – Sell

As previously mentioned, this is not a comment on who I believe is the better overall player. That award currently belongs to Springer. Given the current state of the MLB, it is going to take over 40 homers to win this category. Davis has already shown that type of power in 2016, and it’s clear that pace hasn’t slowed.

Unfortunately it appears Springer is dealing with some early-season injury issues, which will clearly impact overall totals. Even so, when it comes to the pure power department, it will be no surprise if Davis is leading at the end of the season.

ERA: Jason Vargas

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 3 Statistical Standouts

(Photo Courtesy of John Sleezer)

Alright let’s be honest, no one saw this coming. Not to say Vargas hasn’t been a solid pitcher over the course of his career, but this was unexpected. A 34-year-old who had Tommy John surgery and sporting a career 4.11 ERA isn’t supposed to lead the entire MLB in this category.

Vargas has been masterful in his first three starts at a time when the Royals desperately need an ace. The question facing this veteran is how long can this continue?

Season Long Statistical Standout: Sell

Vargas is very much the Kyle Hendricks or Rich Hill type of story we saw in 2016. He’s a pitcher who relies on mixing it up and keeping hitters off balance more than overpowering them. It may take the MLB awhile to adjust, but given Vargas’ stuff, it’s likely only a matter of time.

There’s still plenty of reason for optimism, and pitchers like Vargas have experienced increasing success in recent years. However, the next name on the list isn’t going to make it easy for other pitchers to lead in many categories.

Strike Outs: Chris Sale

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 3 Statistical Standouts

(Photo Courtesy of Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)

You knew this guy would show up somewhere. Currently leading the league with 42 strikeouts in four games, Sale has certainly found his groove in Boston. Sale has wasted little time in establishing himself as the undisputed ace in a rotation featuring Rick Porcello and David Price. It was hard to visualize Sale being much more dominant than he has been in years past, but here we are.

Season Long Statistical Standout: Buy

Sale went for eight innings in his last star and didn’t allow a single run while throwing nearly 80 percent of his pitches for strikes. It’s been that kind of command we’ve seen throughout his career, but it has been even more impressive to start the season. There’s little more to say, other than Chris Sale is dominant and the odds-on favorite for AL Cy Young in 2017.

 

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Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Weekly Update (April 16th – April 22nd)

In week three of our fantasy baseball 2017 update, we will continue to notify owners about which player are hot, or cold, and whether they will continue to trend in that direction. The week one and two fantasy updates can be found at thegamehaus.com.

 

Who’s Hot

 

Eugenio Suarez, Third Base, Cincinnati Reds

 

  • 7 for 20 with 4 runs scored, 3 home runs, and 4 RBI.

 

Suarez is officially breaking out in 2017. The 25-year-old has already mashed five home runs in his first 17 games this season. He is primarily batting fifth, which puts him behind All-Stars Joey Votto and Adam Duval, boding extremely well for fantasy his production. Also, he has improved his strikeout and walk rates, which displays his progressed approach. There is no reason he shouldn’t break the 30-home run and 100-RBI plateau this season.

 

Yasmany Tomas, Left Field, Arizona Diamondbacks

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Yasmany Tomas is multi-home run machine. (Courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors)

  • 8 for 25 with 5 runs scored, 3 home runs, and 8 RBI.

 

The Diamondbacks left fielder is picking up just where he left off in 2016. So far this season, Tomas has 10 runs scored, 13 RBI, and four home runs, two of which came in the same game against the Dodgers. He finished 2016 with 31 home runs in only 140 games, and at this pace, he is sure to break that career mark in 2017. The 26-year-old bats fifth for the Diamondbacks, who lead the league in runs scored, which gives Tomas immense fantasy value moving forward.

 

Michael Brantley, Left Field, Cleveland Indians

 

  • 10 for 25 with 7 runs scored, 2 home runs, and 5 RBI.

 

Top-three MVP candidate in 2014, Michael Brantley, has reestablished himself as a premier player in Major League Baseball. The career .292 hitter currently has a .310 batting average with nine runs scored, three home runs, 11 RBI, and three stolen bases in 2017. The 29-year-old is sure to be a high-level producer batting third for the defending American League champion Indians. The health of Brantley’s shoulder remains discomforting, although the Indians seem to be giving him regular days off to ensure he is healthy for their presumed playoff run this season.

 

Austin Hedges, Catcher, San Diego Padres

http://thegamehaus.com/2017/04/17/fantasy-baseball-2017-weekly-update-april-9th-april-15th/

Austin Hedges will be the everyday man for the Padres for years to come. (Courtesy of The San Diego Union Tribune)

  • 6 for 21 with 5 runs scored, 4 home runs, and 9 RBI.

 

The Padres catcher had a monster week, hitting four home runs with nine RBI. Hedges began the season ice cold, as even after this successful week, he is still only batting .179. The 24-year-old is the every-day catcher and five or six-hitter for the Padres, depending on the day, making him a solid fantasy option at catcher in 2017.

 

Jason Vargas, Starting Pitcher, Kansas City Royals

 

  • 1-0 allowing 4 hits, 0 walks, and 0 earned runs with 9 strikeouts in 7 innings pitched.

 

Vargas has been masterful in 2017, having a record of 3-0, while allowing only one earned run, with 23 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings pitched. The 34-year-old veteran has never been this dominant in his 12-year career, as he has a career ERA of 4.11, WHIP of 1.3, and K/9 of 6.0.

It would be crazy to say that Vargas will continue to find success, although I’m ballsy enough to do it.

Over the past two seasons, Vargas has pitched a total of 55 innings, as he missed essentially the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons after suffering a UCL tear in his left elbow. Since last pitching a full season in 2014, Vargas has stopped throwing a slider and cutter, and has begun exclusively throwing a fastball, curveball, and changeup. His new arsenal and approach with Kansas City are the main factors to his extreme success early in 2017.

 

Who’s Cold

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Byron Buxton’s ice cold start continues in 2017. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

Byron Buxton, Center Field, Minnesota Twins

 

  • 2 for 15 with 0 runs scored, 0 home runs, and 0 RBI.

 

Buxton’s struggles have continued in 2017, as the former second over-all pick in 2012 has only six hits in his first 17 games. The 23-year-old is striking out at a mind boggling rate of 47%. It would not surprise me to see Buxton demoted in order to develop a new approach. I would consider holding onto him in only keeper or dynasty formats, as he has plenty of time to capitalize on his immense potential, but 2017 does not look like it will be his year.

 

Dansby Swanson, Short Stop, Atlanta Braves

 

  • 2 for 24 with 2 runs scored, 0 home runs, and 1 RBI.

 

The first-overall pick in 2015 is off to a slow start this season. In 17 games, Swanson has nine hits, only two going for extra bases, and 18 strikeouts. His career strikeout rate in the minors suggests that he is good at making adjustments and is sure to improve.

Swanson’s potential is real, as he was a three-year college player who batted .335 with 15 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 71 games as a junior. Swanson will be a legit contributor sooner rather than later.

 

Kevin Gausman, Starting Pitcher, Baltimore Orioles

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Kevin Gausman is off to a tough start, and has an even tougher road ahead. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • 0-1 allowing 8 hits, 3 walks, and 8 earned runs with 2 strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings pitched.

 

Gausman was on many fantasy radars prior the start of the 2017 season, as had struck out 174 batters in just 179 2/3 innings the previous year. The 26-year-old was named the opening day starter for the Orioles once Chris Tillman was placed on disabled list to begin the year.

Gausman has struggled mightily to begin the season, as he has allowed 15 earned runs to go along with only 13 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings pitched. He will have a tough road ahead, as he will face two tough American League East foes, the Red Sox and Yankees, in his next two starts. It will take a miracle for Gausman to get through the rest of the month unscathed.

 

Justin Verlander, Starting Pitcher, Detroit Tigers

 

  • 0-1 allowing 3 hits, 6 walks, and 4 earned runs with 4 strikeouts over 5 innings pitched.

 

The 2016 AL Cy Young runner-up has struggled in his last two starts, although I am confident he will immediately turn things around moving forward. He is currently 1-2 with a 6.04 ERA, 22 strikeouts and 11 walks in 22 1/3 innings pitched. The wily veteran has a career ERA of 3.5, K/9 of 8.5 and has pitched over 200 innings in nine of his last ten seasons. He will look to get things back on track at home against the Seattle Mariners on April 27th.

 

Steven Wright, Starting Pitcher, Boston Red Sox

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Steven Wright’s struggles are due to his shoulder injury from 2016. (Courtesy of Boston.com)

  • 1-1 allowing 18 hits, 1 walk, and 5 earned runs with 1 strikeout over 9 2/3 innings pitched.

 

The 2016 AL All-Star has not been the same since injuring his shoulder after sliding back into second base. The 32-year-old had a 13-6 record with a 3.33 ERA last season in 156 2/3 innings pitched. Wright has allowed a league high 33 hits in 17 2/3 innings pitching this year, which shows his knuckle ball clearly isn’t back to its previous elite form. He told ESPN, “It’s just a matter getting everything back, the muscle memory back, and getting back to where I was before the injury”. Clearly Wright is not fully recovered from his injury, and if he fails to find his release point, he will continue to relinquish hit after hit. It’s only a matter of time until David Price returns for the Red Sox, which may push Wright to a middle reliever roll for the remainder of the year.

 

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Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Minor League Update

The most interesting fantasy baseball formats are keeper and dynasty leagues, as they allow owners to carry a number of players over into the next season, which adds an entire new aspect to fantasy. Keeper and dynasty formats are much more engrossing for the owner.

As weird as this may sound, bonds are created between an owner and their players that are carried from roster to roster over the years.

Also, these formats increase the value of prospects, as an owner may decide to stash a minor-league player in hopes that they receive a call-up to the majors later in the year.

In 2016, players like Trea Turner, Tyler Naquin and Edwin Diaz all began the season in the minor-leagues, but managed to make a serious impact at the big-league level. In Trea Turner’s case, after playing in only 73 games and recording 13 home runs, 33 steals, with a .342 batting average, he became a top 20 overall pick for the following year.

Drafting or adding impact prospects can be the difference between having a good or great team moving forward from season to season

 

This update intends to inform owners about ten minor-league prospects in line to make a lasting impact on Major League Baseball in the near future. Adjacent to the player’s name will be their major-league team, position, and prospect ranking according to MLB.com.

 

Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox, Second base/Third base, (1)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Yoan Moncada is the top prospect in baseball according to MLB.com (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • Position battles: Todd Frazier and Tyler Saladino
  • MLB ETA: 2017

 

Moncada is the number one prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. He is currently batting .292 with three home runs and two stolen bases in eight games at the AAA level. The 21-year-old Cuban has shown the potential to be a transcendent player, as he amassed 15 home runs and 45 steals in only 106 minor-league games in 2016. Moncada will presumably be called-up some time soon after May 15th in order to keep his service time down.  He will be a highly sought after commodity once called up, so pick him up before it’s too late.

 

Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees, Second base/Short stop/Third base, (2)

 

  • Position battles: Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro and Ronald Torreyes
  • MLB ETA: 2018

 

Some people believed Torres would begin the season in the big-leagues, as the Yankees starting short stop, Didi Gregorius, was on the disabled list to start the year; although, Torreyes and Castro were awarded the starting jobs.

Torres was sent down to the AA-level, where he is batting a mere .237 with zero home runs and only three extra base hits in ten games. Torres was recently placed on the 7-day DL as he is suffering from right rotator cuff tendinitis, which was probably the cause of the 20-year-old’s early struggles in 2017. A call-up for Torres won’t likely come until 2018, as he will not see a promotion until he performs at the minor-league level, learns to field at all three positions, and finds an opening in the Yankees lineup.

 

Austin Meadows, Pittsburgh Pirates, Outfield, (7)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Austin Meadows is struggling in 2017, although management is not worried. (Courtesy of Rotoprofessor)

  • Position battles: Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, and Adam Frazier
  • MLB ETA: 2018

 

The top 10 prospect according to MLB.com has gotten off to an ice-cold start in 2017. He is currently batting .156 in 12 games at the AAA-level.

Many expected Meadows to take over in center field for the recently suspended Starling Marte, although Pirates GM states that “He’s not ready right now, but we’re thrilled by where he can go.” This shows the 2017 may not be the year for Meadows, although they are confident that the career .295 hitter will turn things around quickly.

 

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers, First base/Outfield, (10)

 

  • Position battles: Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Van Slyke, and Andrew Toles
  • MLB ETA: 2017

 

The number one prospect in the Dodgers system is continuing to impress. Bellinger is batting .360 with five home runs and 14 RBI in 13 games at the AAA-level. He has mashed a total of 65 home runs and 252 RBI in 356 games.

The 21-year-old is able to play first base, as well as all three outfield positions, which heavily increases his value. If Bellinger continues at this torrid pace, or if an injury were to occur to Gonzalez, Bellinger could see a call up to big leagues this season.

 

Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox, Third base, (15)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Rafael Devers is on fire, but a call-up may not come any time soon. (Courtesy of Masslive.com)

  • Position battles: Pablo Sandoval, Marco Hernandez, and Brock Holt
  • MLB ETA: 2019

 

Devers is on fire to start 2017, slashing .375/.390/.550 at the AA-level. The third baseman has continuously found success at all minor-league levels, batting a career .295 with 204 RBI over 323 games. The 20-year-old has a career high of 11 home runs in a season, but this is sure to improve as he grows into his body and increases his strength.

The Red Sox won’t be looking to rush Devers to the big leagues, as they seem content with Sandoval manning the hot corner for the near future. If a slew of injuries were to occur, which is very possible, Devers could find his way to the majors late in the year.

 

Lewis Brinson, Milwaukee Brewers, Outfielder, (16)

 

  • Position battles: Keon Broxton, Domingo Santana, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis
  • MLB ETA: 2017

 

Brinson is off to a red hot start at the AAA level, slashing .355/.412/.645 in 34 plate appearances in 2017. He is clearly ready for the Major-League level as he has a career batting average of .281, with 81 home runs and 91 steals through six minor-league seasons. The only caveat to the 22-year-old’s game is his poor strikeout rate, as he strikes out over 20% of the time. Brinson is a serious 20/20 threat, although he likely won’t see a call up this season unless there is an injury to a Brewer’s outfielder.

 

Bradley Zimmer, Cleveland Indians, Outfielder, (20)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Bradley Zimmer has a packed road ahead, as the Indians have committed to Austin Jackson and Brandon Guyer in 2017. (Courtesy of Wahoo’s on First)

  • Position battles: Austin Jackson, Brandon Guyer, Lonnie Chisenhall, Abraham Almonte, and Tyler Naquin
  • MLB ETA: 2018

 

The top-20 prospect in baseball has a very crowded road ahead. The Indians have decided to run a platoon in center and right field this season, which presumably was going to give Zimmer or Naquin every day at bats at the major-league level, although this was not the case. Both Zimmer and Naquin have been assigned to the minors, while veterans Jackson and Guyer have earned playing time with the Indians.

Zimmer is a five-tool prospect with plenty of promise. In 2015, he batted .273 with 16 home runs and 44 stolen bases in 127 games. The 24-year-old followed by having a season with a .250 batting average, 15 home runs, and 38 stolen bases in 130 games. Zimmer clearly has the talent and consistency to be an above average fantasy producer, although the call may not come until injuries deplete Cleveland’s outfield.

 

Brent Honeywell, Tampa Bay Rays, Starting Pitcher, (28)

 

  • Position battles: Erasmo Ramirez, Matt Andriese, Blake Snell, and Jose De Leon
  • MLB ETA: 2017

 

Honeywell has a career 2.59 ERA and .992 WHIP over 298 1/3 innings in the minors. This outlandish line has continued in 2017, as he currently has a 2.08 ERA, .615 WHIP, and 20 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched.

The 22-year-old was just called up to AAA, and should see a call to the majors very shortly after the Super Two cutoff, as the Rays currently have placed Jake Odorizzi on the 10-day DL. If another pitcher were to go down, Honeywell could very well get the call sooner than many expect.

 

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, Third base, (31)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may be baseball’s most talented 18-year-old. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • Position Battles: Josh Donaldson and Darwin Barney
  • MLB ETA: 2019

 

The son of future Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, Guerrero Jr., is one of the most talented teenagers in professional baseball. The 18-year-old is batting .295 at the A-level with two home runs and six RBI in 13 games. Guerrero Jr. has shown incredible ability to get on base, on top of his already established power and speed.

The top 50 prospect managed to hit eight home runs to go along with 15 steals in 62 games of rookie ball, showing that he has the potential to be a 20/20 player moving forward. The Blue Jays have no rush to move the teen to the majors, even with their MVP third baseman injured. Although, Guerrero Jr. should be in the big-leagues sooner than later, just not in 2017.

 

Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers, Starting Pitcher, (35)

 

  • Position battles: Matt Garza, Wily Peralta, and Chase Anderson
  • MLB ETA: 2017

 

The lanky lefty remains one of the most electric starters in the minors, as he has a career strikeouts per nine innings of 10.2, which is well above average. The 23-year-old has a career 3.02 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 503 innings pitched. He is currently pitching for Milwaukee’s AAA affiliate, and has a 2-1 record with a 2.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 11 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched.

Hader has struggled with walks over his first three starts, although he has remained effective, allowing only four runs in three starts. If he continues to find success at the minor-league level, he is sure to get the call in 2017.

 

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Where does Marte’s Suspension Leave the Pirates?

Starling Marte will be out 80 games for the Pirates this season after failing a PED test. This is a crushing blow for a franchise that has been struggling in the NL Central since the rise of the Chicago Cubs.

Losing Marte has a much bigger impact than just this season. A full season from Marte may have been just what the Pirates needed. Instead, they must fill the hole left by their star center fielder.

Who will Take his Place?

Pittsburgh Pirates

Andrew McCutchen will have the first shot at the center field job (Jim Mcisaac/Getty Images).

The two-time Gold Glover was making the transition to starting full-time in center field after playing the corner outfield spots for the majority of his career. That move was brought on in part by the decline of Andrew McCutchen last season.

The veteran may make a return to center field, given the lack of major league talent. Gregory Polanco is assumed to be the incumbent in center field, but he’s been out with a groin pull.

Even when Polanco comes back, it will leave an empty outfield spot. Former top prospect Josh Bell has been the presumed incumbent at first base for a while, but could return to his natural position. He played the corner outfield spots well in the minors and has flashed good pop.

Adam Frazier could also be in line for some playing time. The 25-year-old has 185 major league at bats and a .303 career average. Even with Bell and Frazier, the Pirates may be tempted to call on their farm system to fill the hole.

Austin Meadows is ranked as baseball’s sixth best prospect according to Baseball America. He is a natural center fielder with good range and solid power, but still raw at 21 years old. If Bell and Frazier can’t carry the load, he will surely see the major leagues.

Are the Pirates sellers?

Gerrit Cole could net the Pirates a treasure trove of talent in a trade (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images).

The Pirates had a down 2016 season after making the playoffs three straight years from 2013-2015. The team went 78-83 last year and many wondered in the offseason if they would start rebuilding. This question will be brought to the forefront now with the loss of Marte for 80 games.

Marte is arguably the best player on the Pirates roster, and his loss may be too much for the Buccos to overcome. If the Pirates do enter sell mode, who do they move, and at what price?

The first choice would be McCutchen. The outfielder struggled in 2016 and was the talk of trade rumors in the offseason, so expect those to start ramping up again. He’s still a solid player and would be a valuable addition to a playoff contender.

Another trade chip in the Pirates’ possession is Gerrit Cole. The 26-year-old pitcher is one of the best young arms in the majors and would net a major haul for the Pirates if they moved him.

The Pirates very well could move both McCutchen and Cole, or neither one. The roster in Pittsburgh is talented, but the competition in the NL Central is fierce. With a roster devoid of Starling Marte for 80 games, it may be in the Pirates best interest to start moving towards a rebuild.

 

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History Los Angeles Dodgers

History of the Game: Los Angeles Dodgers

As one of the most storied franchises in MLB history, the Los Angeles Dodgers are a staple of American culture. But their history in Los Angeles is relatively short, moving to the city in 1957. To understand the impact the Dodgers have had on the fabric of America, we first must understand their storied history. We begin in 1884 in Brooklyn, New York.

Same Place, Different Name (1884-1920)

What would become the Los Angeles Dodgers began as the Brooklyn Atlantics in 1884. They took their name from the defunct baseball club before them, but the name didn’t stick for long. In their first 36 years of existence, the club went through nine name changes. For a club that has had such a storied history, this inconsistency is surprising to see. But nonetheless, the team’s winning ways began in Brooklyn.

They started off with a bang, winning the NL Championship in their first year in the league. They were able to capture five NL Pennants in their first 36 years in Brooklyn, but were unable to win the World Series. The team faced the Cleveland Indians in the 1920 World Series, but were bested in seven games. That loss would mark the beginning of a 20+ year playoff drought in Brooklyn.  Even so, the popularity of the ball club grew, and established a strong fan base in Brooklyn and the surrounding area.

One for Brooklyn (1921-1957)

History Los Angeles Dodgers

Dazzy Vance was one of the best players in Dodgers’ history (baseballhall.org).

The years after their 1920 World Series appearance were lean times for Brooklyn fans. From 1921 to 1939, Brooklyn finished better than third in their division only once, coming in second place in 1924. But fans still had a reason to pack the seats in Ebbets Field. And that was none other than Dazzy Vance. Vance first pitched for the rival Yankees in 1915 before coming to Brooklyn in 1922. The 31 year old would spend 10 memorable seasons in Brooklyn before moving on to St. Louis in 1933. Vance won the NL MVP in 1924 and posted two seasons of 10+ WAR in his 10 years in Brooklyn. Dazzy Vance is the 6th best player in Dodgers’ history in terms of WAR.

The team would officially become the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1932, the year that Vance left for St. Louis. The Dodgers were entering new territory without their staff ace, but it wouldn’t be long before they were back to their winning ways. Entering the 1941 season, the Dodgers were one of the favorites in the NL. They had won 88 games in 1940 and were looking to build on their success. And build they did, racking up 100 wins and an NL Pennant. While the Dodgers did lose the World Series to the Yankees, they had made it back to their winning ways. They would have one losing season in their next 10 years. But even with all of their wins, one player made an impact so great, it changed the nation.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson, better known as Jackie, made his MLB debut with the Dodgers on April 15th, 1947. It may have gone down as a footnote in history, but there was one defining factor; Robinson was African-American. He was the first African-American to play in the majors, breaking the color barrier in MLB. He also went on to have a Hall of Fame career, winning the NL ROY in 1947 and NL MVP in 1949. Robinson helped change the fabric of America, but he also helped give Brooklyn a gift they will never forget.

After back to back World Series appearances in 1952 and 1953, the Dodgers failed to make the playoffs in 1954. But in 1955, the Dodgers would come out on top. Driven by Hall of Fame center fielder Duke Snider, the Dodgers bested the New York Yankees in seven games. It was the only World Series title won in Brooklyn, with the franchise moving to Los Angeles in 1957.

A Dynasty is Born (1958-1996)

The Brooklyn Dodgers were in the middle of a strong run, making the playoffs six times between 1947-1957. But when

History Los Angeles Dodgers

Fernando Valenzuela rode Fernandomania all the way to the 1981 World Series (alchetron.com).

majority owner Walter O’Malley wanted to build a new stadium for the team, New York officials were hesitant. After multiple failed attempts to find suitable land in New York for a stadium, O’Malley reached out to officials in Los Angeles. They were looking for a team, and O’Malley was happy to give them one. The Dodgers officially moved to Los Angeles for the 1958 season, changing the course of the franchise forever.

After moving across the country, the Dodgers spent the 1958 season trying to establish themselves. But a 71-83 record was just a blip on the Dodgers’ radar. The 1959 season would signal the beginning of a spectacular run of dominance for the Dodgers. They captured the World Series title, besting the Chicago White Sox in six games. It was a great boon for the Dodgers, and helped establish themselves as a cornerstone in Los Angeles. But it was just the beginning.

From 1959-1966, the Dodgers made four World Series appearances, winning three titles. Two of the greatest pitchers in Dodgers’ history were the driving force behind their run of dominance. Don Drysdale became a Dodgers legend, winning a Cy Young award and making the Hall of Fame. He retired with a sparkling 2.95 ERA and 2486 strikeouts. But Drysdale wasn’t alone in dominating for the Dodgers.

Sandy Koufax was one of the best pitchers of his era, winning three Cy Young Awards and one MVP in his 12 year career. He helped drive the Dodgers to three World Series titles in his career, and retired with a 2.76 ERA. Koufax also became a Hall of Famer, credit to his illustrious career. But the Dodgers would not make the World Series again until the 1974 season.

The Dodgers were able to capture two more World Series titles in the next 30 years, anchored by two other great pitchers. The 1981 season was one of magic in Los Angeles, as Fernandomania swept over the metro area. The 20 year old won the NL Cy Young that season, and led the Dodgers to the World Series title. Another Dodger Cy Young winner anchored the 1988 World Series title team. Orel Hershiser won the NL Cy Young in 1988, and led a Dodger team that won 94 games. They easily won the World Series that season, winning in five games.

Winning became the order of the era for the Dodgers, consistently making the playoffs. But as the turn of the century neared, the Dodgers found themselves on the edge of a new era.

A new age (1997-Present)

After the 1996 season, the Dodgers didn’t make the playoffs again until 2004. The consistently won, but weren’t able to break through to the playoffs. From 2004-2011, the Dodgers made the playoffs four times. But consistent playoff appearances still didn’t lead to a World Series appearance, causing management to overhaul the roster. The overhaul netted the team current stars like Adrian Gonzalez and Clayton Kershaw, and landed them in first place in the NL West from 2013-2016.

With perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw anchoring one of the deepest staffs in the majors, the Dodgers are set to contend in the NL for years to come. Corey Seager will join Kershaw in leading the Dodgers’ dominance, as the young shortstop is just beginning his career in Los Angeles. The future is bright in L.A., with young stars and established veterans leading the way. As one of the most successful teams in baseball history, they’re set to add to their trophy case and hopefully bring a World Series title back to Los Angeles.

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American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week Two

Week two is in the books, and the early season continues to shake up preseason predictions. April batting averages and win records are hardly worth over analyzing, but that doesn’t change the standings.

Last week’s Wrap-Up was dedicated to teams with impressive starts. This week examines those teams on the other end of that spectrum and a few reasons for optimism, because let’s be honest, its still April.

Early Season Struggles

Toronto Blue Jays

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week Two

Image Courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesKendrys

Toronto was facing a seven-game losing streak until a walk-off home run from Kendrys Morales liberated the club. The offseason acquisition of Morales was a nice boost to, what so far, has been an anemic offense. The Jays are clearly missing both the bat and leadership of Edwin Encarnacion, but unfortunately, trouble doesn’t stop there.

Toronto’s luck worsened when team lynch pin Josh Donaldson was placed on the 10-day with a calf injury. Russell Martin is admittedly in one of the worst down hitting streaks of his career. Vocal player Jose Bautista has started with a .136 average and hasn’t generated a single dinger. It has been a cold start in the frozen north, but all is not lost.

Turning it around in Toronto

The Jays pitching staff currently ranks 14th in the MLB. While this isn’t their overall best ERA as seen in 2016, all the pieces remain for a repeat performance.

The Donaldson injury is frustrating, but before that, he led the team in average, OBP and homers. If Donaldson can continue his typical MVP-caliber play, the Jays’ star can keep them in contention. Joey Batts and Martin won’t hit this way forever, and both represent a power threat that can surprise opponents.

Finally, the return of closer of Roberto Osuna should give Toronto confidence they can secure wins when they carry the lead.

Seattle Mariners

After a busy offseason, Seattle can’t be thrilled with the slow start to the season. The offense currently ranks in the bottom third of the MLB, and the pitching is not far off.

With key veterans Robinson Canó and Nelson Cruz off to a slow start, it’s no surprise the Mariners have struggled to generate runs. Further compounding these issues has been the fact that every game, and therefore every loss, has been against divisional opponents.

Silver Lining in Seattle

It’s fine to be a little disappointed with the early start, but there are significant reasons for optimism in Seattle.

How about the fact that James Paxton has tossed 21 scoreless innings to start the season? Many analysts, including this writer (who snagged Paxton in fantasy), believe this was the year Paxton established himself. Early signs point to Paxton’s ability to establish himself as the ace, and that is until you remember that King Felix is still on this team. There is also plenty of talent in the back half of the rotation that shouldn’t be discounted, despite a slow start.

Pitching will be a strength for this team, but the offense has some work to do. Fortunately, early performance is proving out the acquisition of Jean Segura, who has started the season batting an impressive .313.

On top of that, there is plenty of veteran’s offense on this ball club. The start may have been slow, but if there’s any group that understands the baseball rollercoaster, it’s this team.

Cleveland Indians

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week Two

(Photo Courtesy of Ron Schwane / Associated Press)

Best bets wouldn’t have placed the defending AL champs at the bottom of the division two weeks into the season. After an impressive series against the Rangers to start off 2017, the Tribe has struggled as of late. Most shocking is the Indians highly touted rotation currently sporting the worst ERA in Major League Baseball through 12 games.

The offense has been a strange mixture of extremely hot and ice cold. Failing to get nearly anything going against the Diamondbacks and White Sox, the Indians have also crushed multiple grand slams in the first two weeks. It’s hardly time to panic, but the Indians could undoubtedly benefit from a little more consistency.

 

Turning the Corner in Cleveland

Cleveland has traditionally been a slow starting team in April, but there are already signs of life from the Tribe. Carlos Carrasco has been brilliant in his first two starts, sporting a 2.13 ERA and displaying top notch command. Danny Salazar wasn’t able to secure the win, but in his most recent start, he fanned 11 to tie a career high. Corey Kluber, stoic as ever, continues to generate solid performances despite the occasional blow-up inning. Long story short, pitching will be just fine in Cleveland.

On the offensive front, Cleveland currently sports a top 10 offense despite missing a few key pieces. The Indians appear to be easing Michael Brantley back into the mix. Lonnie Chisenhall returned in grand slam fashion and Jason Kipnis is just a few Minor League starts away from his debut. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez have both been off to torrid hitting starts, and the rest of the team has been contributing regularly.

Slow starts are nothing new in Cleveland, and it certainly appears the Tribe is about ready to turn the corner.

 

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Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Weekly Update (April 9th – April 15th)

In week two of our fantasy baseball 2017 update, we will continue to notify owners about which players are hot, or cold, and whether they will continue to trend in that direction. The week one fantasy update can be found at thegamehaus.com.

 

Who’s Hot

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Marcell Ozuna is off to a red hot start in 2017. (Courtesy of Walsh Sports Analytics)

Marcell Ozuna, Center Fielder/Left Fielder, Miami Marlins

 

  • 7 for 22 with 4 runs scored, 4 home runs, and 11 RBI

 

Ozuna struggled through March and April in 2016, but rebounded to finish with a .307 batting average in the first half. He finished the 2016 season batting .266, after a .209 second half, which shows that he is a streaky hitter. So far in 2017, Ozuna is making the most of his opportunities. When batting while ahead in the count, the 26-year-old is hitting .500. The Marlins’ slugger is thriving in the sixth spot in the batting order this season, as he is the National League leader in RBI.

His hot start can be contributed to his inflated isolated power and walk rates, although there is no reason to say this cannot continue moving forward. He is currently top 15 in five major hitting categories, (BA, RBI, HR, SLG, OBP), and if you are lucky enough to have him on your roster, you will continue to reap the benefits.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Ervin Santana goes nine strong, allowing only one hit and one walk. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

Ervin Santana, Starting Pitcher, Minnesota Twins

 

  • 2-0 allowing 0 earned runs, 3 hits, and 3 walks in 15 IP with 12 Ks

 

After being suspended in 2015 for violating MLB’s drug policy, Santana rebounded with a fairly successful 2016 campaign, resulting in a 7-11 record, 3.38 ERA, and 149 strikeouts in 181 1/3 innings pitched. The 13-year veteran is off to red hot start in 2017, currently being 3-0, with a minuscule 0.41 ERA, and 15 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched. The fastball, slider, change-up pitcher has found profound success, as he has managed to allow only 20% hard contact on batted balls this season, which is excellent for a starting pitcher.

The 34-year-old has found some of Johan Santana’s left over mojo in Minnesota, as he managed to pitch a complete game, one hitter, in his last outing. The fact that he has yet to struggle in any of his first three starts gives me confidence to trust him moving forward. Santana may see himself traded to a contender if the Twins begin to struggle, which could help Santana’s fantasy value rise even further.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Eric Thames’ success in the KBO is translating quite smoothly to the MLB. (Courtesy of Madison.com)

Eric Thames, Left Field/First Base, Milwaukee Brewers

 

  • 8 for 18 with 7 runs scored, 4 home runs, and 7 RBI

 

Former KBO star Eric Thames is coming off of three consecutive 37 plus home runs and 120 RBI. Obviously, we can’t expect anything even close to this level of production out of the Brewer in 2017, although he is off to quite a start. The 30-year-old is currently batting .382, which is sure to fall, although he has mashed four home runs in his last four games. The KBO MVP may have found a home in Milwaukee, as he is playing nearly every day at first base, while also being comfortable occasionally moving to left field.

Thames will continue to see playing time, as Milwaukee is invested in him for the long term. Thames has issues striking out, although in today’s game, striking out is not a deal-breaker, especially when you match them with home runs.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

James Paxton is anchoring down a struggling Seattle rotation. (Courtesy of Generated by IJG JPEG Library)

James Paxton, Starting Pitcher, Seattle Mariners

 

  • 2-0 allowing 0 earned runs, 6 hits, and 3 walks in 15 IP with 17 Ks

 

Paxton has yet to make 30 starts in a season, as he made a career high 20 last season, resulting in a 3.79 ERA with 117 strikeouts in 121 innings. The 26-year-old is having a breakout 2017 campaign, as he is currently 2-0 with 22 strikeouts, without letting up an earned run in 21 innings pitched. He has worked in his curveball at a 10% higher rate than in previous seasons, which has helped him increase his strikeout rate.

The Mariners’ offense is currently struggling, although with their stacked lineup, they are sure to turn things around. Paxton is sure to set career bests in wins and ERA this season. He has never logged more than 121 innings in a season, so struggles down the line are sure to occur, although he is off to the hottest start among lower profile pitchers this season.

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Aaron Judge looks to lead the way for rookie mashers. (Courtesy of NJ.com)

Aaron Judge, Right Fielder, New York Yankees

  • 6 for 18 with 5 runs scored, 3 home runs, and 6 RBI

 

The Yankees rookie had struggled when originally called up in 2016, as he batted a mere .179 in 27 games. His 2017 campaign has gotten off to solid start, as he has already hit three home runs in his first ten games. The 24-year-old is currently the league leader in highest exit velocity this season, with a ball going 116.5 MPH.

Judge is a great young talent, although he is not a great hitter for average and struggles with strikeouts, making me believe his success will be short lived this season. I would sell high on Judge in 2017.

 

Who’s Cold

Josh Bell looks to help the Pirates get back on track in 2017. (Courtesy of Rumbunter.com)

Josh Bell, First Baseman, Pittsburgh Pirates

 

  • 3 for 21 with 1 run scored, 0 home runs, and 1 RBI

 

Josh Bell’s best attributes are his approach and plate discipline, although he has begun the season batting a mere .156. In five minor league seasons, Bell has batted .303 with 44 home runs, showing he has the potential to be a very productive asset at the top half of the Pirates lineup.

The 24-year-old has similar upside to Brandon Belt, although, Bell will continue to lose playing time to counter-part John Jaso if his struggles continue. He is worth riding out in dynasty or keeper formats, although it may be time to go in another direction in traditional formats.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Jose Quintana will bring a strong presence to team Colombia (Getty Images North America).

Jose Quintana, Starting Pitcher, Chicago White Sox

 

  • 0-2 allowing 7 earned runs, 14 hits, 6 walks in 12 IP with 12 Ks

 

Yet to record a victory, White Sox ace Quintana has had some severe struggles. The 28-year-old has allowed 13 earned runs in 17 1/3 innings pitched, while striking out 14. The White Sox are sure to struggle all year, although Quintana should find success within his next few starts.

He has a career 3.47 ERA and has struck out over 160 batters in his last four seasons. Quintana has quietly been one of the league’s most consistent pitchers since 2012, and should have no problem overcoming his early struggles in 2017.

 

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Dexter Fowler is the leadoff man the Cardinals were looking for, although his cold start is unnerving.(Courtesy of Viva El Birdos)

 

 

Dexter Fowler, Center Fielder, St. Louis Cardinals

 

  • 2 for 24 with 4 runs scored, 0 home runs, and 0 RBI

 

The veteran center fielder is off to an atrocious start in 2017, batting .137 with seven runs scored, zero RBI, zero home runs, and one steal. The Cardinals leadoff hitter has yet to make a real impact on the stat sheet, although success is sure to come soon for the 31-year-old.

He has a career .270 average, and will be a threat to score 100 runs a top a talented and hungry Cardinals lineup which missed the playoffs in 2016 for the first time since 2010. Fowler will be a solid producer in batting average, runs, and stolen bases as the season continues. The only caveat with Fowler is his inability to stay on the field, as he has only reached the 150-game mark once in his nine-year career. Besides his health problems, owners should be confident in Fowler turning it around sometime in the near future.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Tyler Anderson is a young stud off to a rough start in 2017. (Courtesy of Purple Row)

Tyler Anderson, Starting Pitcher, Colorado Rockies

 

  • 0-2 allowing 9 earned runs, 10 hits, 5 walks in 9 IP with 4 Ks

 

Anderson has also struggled mightily in 2017, having an ERA of 8.59 in three starts. He has yet to log six or more innings in a game this season, which is due to his brutal WHIP of 1.64, as he cannot keep batters off of base.  He has made two of his three starts at Coors field, so it may be too early to ride off the 27-year-old.

Anderson has a career 2.38 ERA in 358 2/3 innings in the minor leagues. He is not a huge strikeout pitcher, as his career K/9 is just 7.5, but he has plenty of success at recording outs in the past. In 2016, Anderson recorded a 3.54 ERA at the major-league level, although he had an astounding 3.00 ERA at home, which is unheard of for a Rockies pitcher. All the signs point up for Anderson, who will have a long leash as the Rockies have a severe lack of starting pitching in 2017.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Devon Travis may be feeling the lingering affects of his knee wurgery from 2016. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Devon Travis, Second Baseman, Toronto Blue Jays

 

  • 1 for 19 with 1 run scored, 0 home runs, and 0 RBI

 

Travis has been ice cold in first month of the 2017 season, which has been a common occurrence with many Blue Jays. He has only four hits in nine games, with zero going for extra bases. He has also struck out ten times, which puts him at a pace to set a career high.

Travis had missed 60 games in 2016 due to a knee injury, which may be contributing to his struggles this season. The 26-year-old was benched for his last two games, and had even been moved down to the nine spot in the batting order, taking away his at bats and scoring chances. Travis has shown flashes of great potential in the past, although 2017 does not seem like his year.

 

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Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Injury Update

As we head deeper into the first month of the baseball season, it is time to identify and analyze some key injuries across the league. This injury update will provide insight to a player’s current health status and their outlook moving forward. The following players are listed on the disabled list as of April 13th, 2017.

 

David Price, starting pitcher, Boston Red Sox, (10-day DL elbow)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

David Price is eager to make his 2017 debut. (Courtesy of Keith Allison)

  • Expected return: mid-to-late May
  • Re-injury potential: medium

 

Price was placed on the 10-day DL after feeling elbow stiffness during a spring training start. The ace-caliber arm tossed a 35-pitch bullpen session on April 12th, which ended with positive results. He felt no additional soreness, which is encouraging, as he plans to increase his pitch totals to 45 come his next bullpen. According to manager John Farrell, Price could begin to see “hitters possibly early next week”, as he will pitch in a handful of simulated games before beginning his rehab starts. Price’s next step is to continue working on his breaking pitches, as an elbow injury can severally flatten out a breaking ball.

Fantasy-wise, Price has been a proven ace, as he sports a career 3.21 ERA, while striking out 200 batters five times in his nine-year career. Although Price managed to win 17 games in 2016, it was by far his worst season in the majors since his rookie year, in 2009. The upside with Price is immense, as he is a proven ace on a championship caliber team, although the injury risk is real for the 31-year-old workhorse, as he has thrown an average of 218 innings over his last seven seasons.

 

JD Martinez, right fielder, Detroit Tigers, (10-day DL foot)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

J.D. Martinez is well ahead of schedule. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

  • Expected return: late April
  • Re-injury potential: low

 

The Tigers’ slugger sprained his foot making a catch in right field this spring, landing himself on the 10-day. Martinez is expected to make his first rehab start “within the next few days”, according to MLB Network Radio reports. This is a great sign, as it shows that Martinez is ahead of schedule, and should return before the end of April.

J.D. Martinez is a very underrated fantasy asset, as many forget about his outstanding 2015 campaign that resulted in 38 home runs, 102 RBI, and a .282 batting average. Injuries have remained a staple of his career, although a healthy Martinez can be as valuable of a fantasy asset as any outfielder, excluding Trout, Harper, or Betts.

 

Jason Kipnis, second baseman, Cleveland Indians, (10-day DL shoulder)

(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Jason Kipnis faces yet another setback after being hit in the hand during rehab start. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • Expected return: mid-to-late April
  • Re-injury potential: low

 

Kipnis found himself on the disabled list after he had inflammation in his shoulder, which is fairly common among infielders, especially those who participate in deep playoffs runs the season before. He was scheduled to return within the next week, although he was hit by a pitch in the hand during a rehab start. This incident will push Kipnis’ return back about a week, as he will miss one or two rehab starts.

The Indians’ franchise second baseman has been a proven producer who will most likely see at bats in the two spot of the lineup, but also may see time batting behind newcomer, Edwin Encarnacion, as the Cleveland lineup is loaded with top tier talent. Kipnis hit 20 home runs for the first time in his career last season, showing that he has power to combine with his speed and batting average. The 30-year-old is a top 10 second baseman when healthy, and should be confidently placed in your lineup once he returns.

 

Wilson Ramos, catcher, Tampa Bay Rays, (60-day DL knee)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Wilson Ramos is ready for an early June return. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

  • Expected return: mid-to-late June
  • Re-injury potential: low

 

The newly acquired catcher has yet to suit up for the Rays this season due to undergoing knee surgery which ended his 2016 season. He will be eligible to return as early as June 1st, although it is anticipated that he will require until mid-to-late June until he is fully recovered and game ready. The Rays also acquired catcher Derek Norris, who should remain the every-day catcher even after Ramos’ return, as it is anticipated for the Rays to ease Ramos back into his everyday role by placing him at designated hitter.

The 2016 Silver Slugger will become an essential part of the Rays lineup, and will presumably bat in the five or six position, giving him ample opportunities to produce RBI. If Ramos is not owned in your league, the time to add him may be soon approaching. Stay aware of his status come June, as you may find yourself a top three catcher for the second half of your season.

 

Sonny Gray, starting pitcher, Oakland Athletics, (10-day DL back)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Athletics’ Ace Sonny Gray aims for March 1st return. (Courtesy of SF Gate)

  • Expected return: early April
  • Re-injury potential: high

 

Gray was placed on the 10-day DL after suffering a strain in his back, which has been causing him severe discomfort when pitching. He has begun a throwing program, which included three separate 15 pitch bullpen sessions, which all went smoothly. Coach Bob Melvin stated that his timetable is “the first of May”, which gives him about three weeks to hone his stuff before he makes his season debut.

The 27-year-old had major success in his first two full major league seasons, having a 3.08 and 2.73 ERA respectively. He also finished third in American League Cy Young voting in 2015 after winning 14 games and recording 169 strikeouts. If Gray is healthy, there is no reason he cannot return to Cy Young caliber.

 

Jean Segura, short stop/second basemen, (10-day DL hamstring)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Jean Segura will bring his newfound power to the Pacific Northwest in 2017. (AP Photo, Ross D. Franklin)

  • Expected return: late April
  • Re-injury potential: medium

 

Segura strained his hamstring diving back into first base, causing himself to be placed on the 10-day DL. Although it is a mild strain, the Mariners are taking every precaution with their starting short stop, as a lingering hamstring injury could seriously derail Segura’s season.

The 2016 top 15 NL MVP candidate has been off to a very hot start in 2017. He is currently batting .313, with six runs scored, three RBI, and three stolen bases. The Mariners leadoff man is sure to be a top fantasy producer this season once he can get back on the field. If you want to make a move for the 27-year-old, the time is now.

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Surprise Performances Around the MLB

The MLB season is still in its infancy with just one full week in the books. However, there are multiple players who are opening some eyes around the league. Whether it’s just a hot start or a cold spell, players and fans alike take notice. Who is making the most of the opening week of the season, and who could use a mulligan?

1B Logan Morrison – Tampa Bay Rays

Surprise Performances

Logan Morrison has been a bright spot in Tampa’s lineup (Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Times).

The 29-year-old first baseman has turned it around so far this season after struggling last year with a .238 batting average. He has helped the Rays to a 5-3 record and been a driving force in their offense. Morrison is currently batting .333 with two homers and six RBIs through eight games.

While it is a small sample size, the Rays don’t seem to mind. The Rays could be in playoff contention if Morrison can come close to continuing this type of production throughout the season.

C Jason Castro – Minnesota Twins

Jason Castro was acquired by the Twins in the offseason as a defensive specialist. He put up uninspiring numbers in Houston and left the city with a .232 career batting average.

It seems Castro may have found something in Minnesota, evident by his hot start. He is currently batting .353 with one homer and six RBIs through six games this season. However, it’s his OBP that draws the most attention. This season’s .542 is astounding compared to his career OBP of .311. Supported by the seven walks he has already drawn, Castro is looking like a steal of a signing for Minnesota.

If he can play close to what he’s shown already, the Twins will have made one of the shrewdest moves of the offseason.

1B Mark Reynolds – Colorado Rockies

Surprising Performances

Mark Reynolds has performed exceptionally well in Ian Desmond’s stead (Denis Poroy/Getty Images).

With the signing of Ian Desmond to play first base in Denver, many thought Mark Reynolds would see few at bats this season. However, a spring training injury to Desmond opened the door for Reynolds, and he’s taking full advantage of it.

Reynolds has always been known as a slugger with 255 career home runs. This season, he has been doing so much more. He’s posted a .345 batting average to go along with four home runs and 10 RBIs. That astounding offense has also been paired with some stellar defense, as Reynolds has made some great plays at first this season.

Reynolds will be going back to the bench when Ian Desmond returns, but if he can keep it up, he just may become a top trade deadline target.

2B Jose Altuve – Houston Astros

Jose Altuve is one of the best players in the game today. His third place finish in the 2016 AL MVP voting only supports that claim. However, he certainly hasn’t shown it to start this season.

The diminutive second baseman has posted a lowly .188 batting average through his first eight games. His poor performance is seemingly out of the blue given he led the AL in hitting with a .338 batting average last season.

With a player of Altuve’s status, it’s only a matter of time before he turns it around.

1B Anthony Rizzo – Chicago Cubs

After winning the World Series in 2016, the Chicago Cubs were consensus favorites to repeat in 2017. One of the main forces for that projected repeat was first baseman Anthony Rizzo, but he has fallen far short of expectations this season.

He is batting .172 to start the year. He has struggled at the plate, but luckily it hasn’t impacted his team. With the Cubs sitting at 5-2 and atop the NL Central, the Cubs should have no worries.

Rizzo will turn it around eventually and should help carry the club back to the playoffs.

1B Edwin Encarnacion – Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians were contenders in 2016 and were favorites by many entering the 2017 season. With the offseason acquisition of Edwin Encarnacion, many believed it would push the Indians over the top. However, seven games into the season, the Indians are 4-3, and Encarnacion is batting .185.

It’s not the kind of start Indians fans were hoping for. Even so, the Indians are still over .500 and treading water. When Encarnacion turns it on (not if), the Indians will be prime contenders in the AL Central. They’ll need to hurry with surprise performer Minnesota and the Tigers in front of them for the lead in the division.

 

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