J.D. Martinez free agency: Where should he sign?

Arguably the top free agent in the upcoming 2018 class, J.D. Martinez is anticipated to receive a hefty contract next offseason, although which team he will sign for is unknown.

After missing all of April and part of May, Martinez clearly has no shot of winning league MVP, although after his monstrous second half, he has been propelled into the conversation. The 30-year-old has played a total of 107 games, where he has batted .318 with 39 home runs, 25 of which have come in the second half. When healthy, it is clear that Martinez is one of MLB’s premiere power hitters, and thus will continue to be a sought-after fantasy commodity.

Any Chance of returning to an old club?

J.D. Martinez free agency

J.D. Martinez began his career in Houston after being drafted in the 20th round of the 2009 MLB draft. (Photo by Getty Images)

Houston Astros

Martinez began his career in Houston after being drafted in the 20th round of the 2009 MLB Draft. He failed to make an impact in his 252 games as an Astro, batting only .251 with 24 home runs and 126 RBIs. He was consequently released by the club in 2014.

Now a serious World Series contender, the Houston Astros don’t necessarily need Martinez, although adding his bat to a lineup of George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa would allow the Astros to compete to be the best offense in baseball with the Cleveland Indians.

The Astros will head into 2018 with nine players under contract and over $93 million already on their total payroll. Their total payroll in 2017 was $148 million, which included over $14 million in retained salaries. It is approximated that Martinez will earn a multi-year $25 million offer, so it seems unlikely the Astros would spend nearly half of their remaining salary on an aging outfielder, as they already have Springer, Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher and Kyle Tucker under contract.

Detroit Tigers

After being released by the Astros, Martinez was signed two days later by the Detroit Tigers. Martinez was under the tutelage of future Hall of Famers Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Torii Hunter. Martinez improved drastically, batting .315 in 2014, his first season in Detroit. He would go on to bat .300 with 99 home runs and 285 RBIs in 458 games.

Detroit had a fire sale this summer, trading away the aforementioned Verlander, along with former All-Stars Justin Upton and Alex Avila. It isn’t likely that Detroit would resign Martinez, although with Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos still in the lineup, they should compete in the consistently competitive American League Central.

J.D. Martinez free agency

Since his arrival in Arizona, J.D. Martinez has batted .285 with 23 home runs and 49 RBIs in 50 games. (Photo by the Detroit Free Press)

Arizona Diamondbacks

Martinez was traded to the Diamondbacks in July for three minor league prospects. Since his arrival, he has been phenomenal, batting .285 with 23 home runs and 49 RBIs in 50 games. At this pace over a full season, Martinez would have 74 home runs and 158 RBIs. Although that is clearly an unsustainable pace, it shows how elite Martinez can be during a stretch, especially in a lineup like Arizona.

According to AZcentral.com’s Nick Piecoro, Martinez said “he would love to return to the Diamondbacks”, although their financial situation makes that possibility seem very unlikely.

Where do we want him to land?

Obviously, we would all love to have Martinez sign with our favorite team. For me that would mean Boston. With the Red Sox outfield filled, Martinez would be forced into the everyday designated hitter role. This move is more realistic than I originally thought, as Mitch Moreland is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. So, if the Sox let him walk and move Hanley Ramirez back to first base, Martinez would fit perfectly into the designated hitters role.

He would undoubtedly dominate in Boston, as he bats .444 at Fenway on the career. Also, he would assume the same mentor role that Miguel Cabrera once played for him, as he would join a young lineup with blossoming stars Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers.

Fantasy-wise, where would the optimal landing spot be?

J.D. Martinez

(Photo by Latinoathlete.com)

Aside from the Red Sox, the best landing spot for Martinez would be with the Baltimore Orioles. With Baltimore, Martinez would replace Seth Smith in right field. He would be in line for improbable levels of production, as he be surrounded by the likes of Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Chris Davis, Trey Mancini and Mark Trumbo.

It is clear that Martinez is most comfortable when batting fifth, as his career batting average in that lineup position is .296, compared to .264 when batting third and .266 when batting second. If he were to land in Baltimore, he would likely fit in to the fifth spot in the order due to the depth of their lineup.

Also, Martinez has had incredible amounts of success against American League East foes. He has a batting average at least .300 against the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays. Unfortunately, he has had minor struggles against the Tampa Bay Rays in his career, as he bats .250 when in a dome and more specifically .257 at Tropicana Field, although it is public knowledge that the Rays need a new stadium, so if they were to leave the Trop, Martinez could thrive even further in the AL East.

Martinez is good enough to be an impact fantasy player on any team, although some situations are clearly more beneficial than others.

If J.D. Martinez ended up in San Francisco, which is a very possible move as they are desperate for power hitters and outfielders, it would not bode too well for his fantasy outlook. Although Martinez would be given the opportunity to play a good chunk of games in Arizona and Colorado, he would be forced to play over half of his games in San Francisco and San Diego, creating a disadvantage as San Francisco and San Diego are notorious pitchers ball parks. Also, Martinez would be forced to bat clean-up behind Buster Posey, placing an abundance of pressure and lack of protection around the 30-year-old.

If Martinez can stay healthy and find himself in the middle of an elite offense, he will be a top-10 fantasy player next season.

Featured image by AZcentral.com

 

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Mitch Haniger fantasy baseball

Mitch Haniger is a must-add for your fantasy baseball playoffs

Background

Mitch Haniger fantasy baseball

Mitch Haniger was traded last November to the Seattle Mariners along with blossoming star Jean Segura. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Mitch Haniger was originally drafted out of high school by the New York Mets in the 31st round of the 2009 MLB draft, but he opted to attend Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. The most notable player to come from Cal Poly is Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith.

In his freshman season, Haniger only played in 17 games. He began to become one of the more highly-touted college prospects after earning an every-day role his sophomore year. In his final collegiate season, he batted .346 with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs in 56 games. He was dominating the Big West Conference and MLB teams were taking notice.

At 21 years old, Haniger was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round of the 2012 draft. After failing to standout in low and high-A, Haniger was traded with former 10th-round selection Anthony Banda to the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Gerardo Parra.

In 85 games at the triple-A level, Haniger batted .330 with 23 home runs, 70 RBIs and eight stolen bases. Haniger debuted for the Diamondbacks in 2016, where he played in 34 games and batted .229 with five home runs and 17 RBIs.

After an underwhelming start, he was subsequently traded last November to the Seattle Mariners along with blossoming star Jean Segura and former sixth-round pick Zac Curtis for former first-round pick Taijuan Walker and infielder Ketel Marte.

Haniger was deemed the everyday right fielder after slashing .406/.472/.719 in 32 at bats in spring training. He originally slotted into the two-hole for the Mariners, batting behind Segura and ahead of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. This spot helped Haniger become one of the most productive players in the MLB in April, as he was leading the Mariners in WAR at 1.8 and batting .342 with four home runs, 20 runs scored, 16 RBIs and two stolen bases.

 

Injuries

Mitch Haniger fantasy baseball

Haniger missed half of August due to a mild concussion, small nasal fracture and lacerated upper lip which occurred after being hit in the face by a Jacob deGrom fastball on July 29th. (Photo by NY Daily News)

Haniger is currently owned in only 18.6 percent of fantasy baseball leagues on ESPN.com, which is mainly due to his inability to stay on the field. He missed all of May and the beginning of June due to a strained oblique, which he suffered on April 25.

After returning on June 18, the 26-year-old clearly was feeling the lingering effects of the leg injury, as he only batted .176 in 68 at bats in July.

Most recently, he missed half of August due to a mild concussion, small nasal fracture and lacerated upper lip, which occurred after being hit in the face by a Jacob deGrom fastball on July 29.

 

Picking back up where he left off

Mitch Haniger fantasy baseball

Haniger is batting .455 with two home runs, five runs scored and six RBIs in his 18 games since returning. (Photo by the Seattle Times)

The Mariners outfielder returned from his facial and head injuries on August 19 and returned to his everyday role in right field. So far in September, Haniger is batting .455 with two home runs, five runs scored and six RBIs in 33 at bats.

In his 18 games since returning, Haniger’s lineup position has varied. He has batted second and fifth on four separate occasions, while batting sixth 10 times.

If he can continue to get at bats in the two-hole, his fantasy value will sky rocket. Haniger will be an integral piece to the Mariners success moving forward. If you need outfield depth, Haniger would be a perfect option for your fantasy baseball playoff run.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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Jimmy Nelson

Jimmy Nelson injury impact

Background

Jimmy Nelson

(Photo by Reviewing the Brew)

Jimmy Nelson was the Milwaukee Brewers’ second round selection in 2010. After spending five seasons in the minors, Nelson earned a spot in the rotation in 2014. His minor league success did not translate as smoothly as the Brew Crew had hoped, as Nelson started 14 games, winning only two, while sporting a 4.93 ERA and 1.46 WHIP.

Nelson was solid in his first full season with Milwaukee, posting an 11-13 record with a 4.11 ERA. His WAR of 2.0 placed him within the top 60 pitchers of 2015, showing that at 26 years old he was an above average arm at the time.

Nelson regressed in 2016, winning only eight games, while posting a 4.62 ERA and 4.91 xFIP, or expected fielding independent pitching, which according to fangraphs.com “is a statistic that estimates a pitcher’s expected run prevention independent of the performance of their defense”.

His 4.19 xFIP is considered awful on fangraphs.com’s rating scale. His WAR of 0.7 shows that he was barely better than a replacement level player that season.

2017 Resurgence

Jimmy Nelson

In only 175.1 innings, Jimmy Nelson fell one strikeout short of 200. (Photo by The News and Observer)

Nelson has quietly been incredible this season. His WAR of 4.9 ranks fourth in the MLB, only behind Chris Sale, Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer, showing how serious of an impact Nelson was making in Milwaukee. Also, his 3.49 ERA, 10.21 K/9 and 3.14 xFIP place Nelson statistically within the top-10 in each category in the MLB.

In only 175.1 innings, Nelson fell one strikeout short of 200, which was a huge improvement from his former career high of 148, which were thrown in 177.1 innings in 2015.

One major adjustment Nelson has made from season-to-season has been the usage rate of his curveball. In his respectable 2015 campaign, Nelson threw his curveball 21 percent of the time, although in his poor 2016 season, he only used it at a 12 percent clip.

Now in 2017, Nelson is once again is using his curveball 20 percent of the time, which has been key to his success. According to fangraphs.com, his curveball is currently valued at 9.2, where zero represents average value, positive are considered above average and negative are below.

To put this in better perspective, Clayton Kershaw’s curveball has been valued at a total of 63.8 over the course of his career and is currently valued at 6.4.

Nelson is being slept on because of his unproven track record and lack of exposure due to playing in Milwaukee, although statistically he clearly is performing up to par with the elite. If the season was to end today, it is safe to say that Nelson would have been a top-5 NL Cy young candidate.

Impact of the injury

Jimmy Nelson

Jimmy Nelson will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a partially torn labrum and a strained rotator cuff after sliding head-first back into first base. (Photo by Brew Crew Ball)

The 28-year-old will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a partially torn labrum and a strained rotator cuff after sliding head-first back into first base. According to Matt Carlson of The Washington Post, general manager David Stearns said that “he does not know if surgery is needed.”

Boston Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright suffered a similar injury while pinch running at the end of the 2016 season, jamming his shoulder while sliding back into second base. Wright also missed the remainder of his breakout season, although the injury seems to have had a serious impact on his pitching ability moving forward.

In his 24 innings since returning, he has allowed 24 runs on 40 hits. Obviously with Wright being a knuckle baller, the situation is very different, although it seems fair to say that the future is uncertain for Nelson after sustaining this type of injury.

The Brewers, who are sneakily only four games back of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and three games back of the Colorado Rockies in the wild card race, are going to seriously feel Nelson’s absence because of how successful he has been, although the rest of the rotation is nothing to scoff at.

The Brewers rank 10th in the MLB in team ERA and 12th in strikeouts and batting average against. Zach Davies is currently leading the team in wins with 16, while Chase Anderson is leading in ERA with 3.06. 27-year-old rookie Brent Suter has emerged seemingly out of nowhere, posting a 3.55 ERA 51 strikeouts in 63.1 innings.

Veterans Matt Garza and Junior Guerra have struggled, both posting ERAs over five, although they have been able to eat innings, pitching a combined 174.2. It is clear that Nelson was not the only quality arm in Milwaukee, although he was their unquestioned ace and will be missed. The anticipated replacement options for Nelson include prospects Brandon Woodruff and Josh Hader.

Woodruff was an 11th round pick in 2014, and has had two very successful seasons at the high-A and double-A levels. He has made four major league starts in 2017, posting a 1-1 record with 1.52 ERA and 7.61 K/9. According to MLB.com, Woodruff ranks 84th among all MLB prospects this season and looks to be the most ready and reliable option for the Brew Crew to go with.

Hader was a 19th round selection, although he has been widely recognized as one of baseball’s top prospects, as in 2016, Hader was ranked 34th on MLB.com’s prospect watch list after posting a 30-31 record with a 3.11 ERA and 10.3 K/9 in 593.1 innings in the minors. In 2017, Hader was called-up to assume a bullpen role, where he has made 28 appearances with zero being starts. He has been successful so far in the majors, so it seems like the Brewers won’t rush Hader into a starter spot even with their current situation.

Featured image by MLB.com

 

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Tyler Glasnow

Tyler Glasnow needs to be on your radar

Tyler Glasnow is flat out dominating

Tyler Glasnow

Tyler Glasnow can’t watch as Giancarlo Stanton takes him deep for his 16th home run of the year. (Photo by APNews.com)

The former fifth-round draft pick in 2011 began the 2017 season at the major league level with the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 12 major league starts, Tyler Glasnow pitched 54.1 innings, allowing 45 earned runs, 75 hits and 29 walks. His struggles prompted a demotion to triple-A Indianapolis, where he has since been baffling hitters with his mid-to-upper 90s fastball, high-80s changeup and devastating sweeping curve.

In 15 starts with the Indianapolis Indians, Glasnow has pitched 93.1 innings, allowing only 57 hits and 32 walks while striking out 140 batters. The 24-year-old has been dominant in the minors throughout his career.

Through 245 innings in triple-A, Glasnow has recorded a 1.95 ERA and 321 strikeouts. He has yet to have a season in the minor leagues where his xFIP, or expected fielding independent pitching, has been above 3.5, which is considered above average by fangraphs.com.

To better understand xFIP, one must under FIP, which according to fangraphs.com “measures what a player’s ERA would look like over a given period of time if the pitcher were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing.” I chose to use Glasnow’s xFIP opposed to his FIP because xFIP “removes some of the randomness in the pitcher’s actual performance… [in order] to give you a better view of how well we think a pitcher pitched over a given period of time” (Fangraphs.com).

Major adjustment

Tyler Glasnow

According to CBSSports.com, Tyler Glasnow himself said the change “has allowed him to relax mentally, and [throw] his fastball [in the] high 90s”. (Photo by IndyStar)

The major adjustment Glasnow has made this summer has been to his mechanics, as he is now pitching from the stretch opposed to the windup. This lets the 6-foot-8 hurler simplify his motion, allowing for better repetition of his mechanics. According to CBSSports.com, Glasnow himself said the change “has allowed him to relax mentally, and [throw] his fastball [in the] high 90s”.

According to Rotoballer.com, Glasnow has yet to be called up due to service time issues, although Rotowire.com has reported that Clint Hurdle said he “doesn’t anticipate… making any call-ups at all until the playoff seasons are over for Altoona and Indy,” which are the Pirates double and triple-A affiliates.

This means Glasnow isn’t likely to be promoted until mid-September, although once he receives the call, he promises to be a staple in the Buc’s rotation for years to come. He has been on fantasy radars for years, although because of his major league struggles, he was dropped in a majority of fantasy leagues. If you play in a deep keeper or dynasty league, adding Glasnow now as a flier would be a great move due to his incredible upside.

Featured Image by BCSN.TV

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What if players retained their eligibilities permanently?

In fantasy baseball, position versatility is integral. Players like Trea Turner, Chris Taylor, Jose Ramirez and Paul DeJong are all eligible to start at three different positions in ESPN standard formats. Having players like them allows for maximum lineup adaptability, as you can move them seamlessly throughout your lineup to accommodate for injuries, off-days and cold streaks.

Superstars like Anthony Rizzo and Freddie Freeman have acquired a secondary position eligibility in 2017, Rizzo with second base and Freeman with third. Both player’s project to be selected within the top two rounds of fantasy drafts in 2018, although now their value is further increased, as their versatility allows for further adaptations in draft strategy. In 2018, if your first-round pick is Paul Goldschmidt, you can be completely comfortable taking another primary first basemen, Rizzo or Freeman, in the second-round due to their versatility.

Be careful evaluating

position eligibilities

Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are in danger of losing important position eligibilities. (Photo by Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)

Position eligibilities can be tricky and you have to be careful when evaluating a player’s versatility. In ESPN formats, a player needs to play a minimum of 10 games at a specific position to retain said eligibility.

Players to be weary of heading into 2018 include Kris Bryant, who has been used all over the diamond in 2017, but has only started one game in left field, Nelson Cruz, who has started 115 games at designated hitter and only five in right field, Travis Shaw, who has only started one game at first base and Javier Baez, who has started just seven games at third base.

Players failing to retain eligibility brings up the question, what if players retained their eligibilities permanently? What if I could start Victor Martinez or Josh Donaldson for that matter, at catcher, or maybe Ryan Zimmerman or Ryan Braun at third base?

Thinking back

position eligibilities

Victor Martinez started 840 games behind the dish. (Photo by Sports Illustrated)

Victor Martinez started 840 games behind the dish and had a career batting average as a catcher of .300. As a designated hitter, he started 746 games, and had a career batting average of .291. According to the ESPN standard player rater, if Victor Martinez was catcher eligible this season, he would be ranked the 16th best catcher, which isn’t too interesting, although in 2016 he would have been ranked number two, just behind Jonathan Lucroy and ahead of Buster Posey.

Many forget but former MVP Josh Donaldson came up through the ranks as a catching prospect for the Oakland Athletics. Donaldson didn’t last at catcher, starting only eight games at the position, although in some fantasy leagues, it only takes five starts to become eligible at a position.

If Donaldson retained his catcher eligibility from 2010, he would have been the best fantasy catcher over the last five seasons. In 2016, Donaldson finished the year as a 9.25 on the ESPN standard player rater (PR), whereas the top catcher, Lucroy, finished as a 5.59. Even with Donaldson’s struggles in 2017, he would be ranked seventh if he were a catcher, compared to 21st as a third baseman. If players retained their eligibility, it would spice things up a bit, and I believe maybe for the better.

Ryan Zimmerman started over 1000 career games at third, while Ryan Braun started just north of 100, although if they both permanently retained their eligibilities, would it really benefit their fantasy value? Zimmerman is having a career year, batting .300 with 29 home runs, which are the highest marks of his career since his last Silver Slugger campaign in 2010. He is currently ranked as the seventh best fantasy first baseman, although if he were eligible at third, he would be ranked fifth, just behind Travis Shaw and Jose Ramirez. It is fair to say his value would increase slightly, although with first and third base having such rich player pools, it may not make such a significant difference.

In Braun’s case, he has been suffering through a multitude of injuries, causing his PR in 2017 to be 2.35, just below fellow banged-up outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who’s at 2.36. As a third baseman, Braun would rank 22nd, just behind former MVP Josh Donaldson at 2.81. Due to his injuries, Braun has been quite useless in fantasy terms, although with an extra eligibility, he could become quite useful depending on the circumstances.

I know, I know

Position Eligibilities

Many forget about Rick Ankiel’s struggles as a pithcer. (Photo by Getty Images)

It’s never going to happen, I know, and it shouldn’t, but we can say what ifs all day about position eligibility. What if Albert Pujols retained his first base, third base and left field eligibilities? What if Hanley Ramirez retained shortstop? What if Rick Ankiel retained his starting pitcher… okay never mind, I’ll stop now. I think eligibilities are one of the most interesting and impactful pieces of fantasy baseball that gets commonly over looked.

 

Featured image by Pintrest.com

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Ronald Acuna

Why has Ronald Acuna not been called up?

Background

Ronald Acuna

Acuna is currently on a 14-game hitting streak, where he is slashing .406/.418/.672. (Photo by Last Words on Baseball)

Ranked eighth by MLB.com on the 2017 prospect watch list, Ronald Acuna has continued to prove himself at every professional level. The Venezuelan international was born on Dec. 18, 1997, and was signed in 2014 by the Atlanta Braves as a 16-year-old for $100,000.

This deal was an enormous steal for Atlanta, as they spent a combined seven million dollars on prospects Kevin Maitan and Abraham Gutierrez, who are both 17-year-olds playing in the Gulf Coast league.

At 17 years old, Acuna spent time in the Gulf Coast and Appalachian Leagues, where in 55 games he batted a combined .269 with four home runs, 18 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. He took a huge leap forward in 2016, batting .312 in 42 games in primarily the South Atlantic League, proving he is one of the Braves top prospects moving forward.

In 2017, Acuna began the year in high-A, although after batting .287 with 19 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 28 games, he was called up to double-A. Acuna continued his tear, batting .326 with nine home runs, 30 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 57 games for the Mississippi Braves.

The 19-year-old was then called-up to triple-A Gwinnett, where he has since batted .358 with eight home runs, 27 RBIs and eight stolen bases in 43 games. Acuna is currently on a 14-game hitting streak, where he is slashing .406/.418/.672 with four home runs, 13 runs scored, 14 RBIs and five stolen bases.

His heroic rise up the minor league ladder has been halted, as he has yet to receive a call to the majors despite his incredible levels of success.

Give this man a chance

Ronald Acuna

According to MLB.com writer Mark Bowman, former Atlanta Brave Superstars Chipper and Andruw Jones had “raved about Acuna” during spring training. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Acuna has continuously decreased his strikeout rate, while increasing his home run to fly ball rate at each succeeding level. He has also shown the ability to hit the ball to all fields, as he is currently hitting 36.8 percent of balls to the opposite field.

His speed is worth noting, as his speed score has ranked anywhere from 5.4 to 9.3 in his career, which is recognized as above average to excellent according to Fangraphs.com. His batting average on balls in play, or BABIP, measures over .400 in 2017, although this seems to be more skill based than luck, as BABIP has not dropped .359 since rookie ball in 2015.

According to MLB.com writer Mark Bowman, former Atlanta Brave superstars Chipper and Andruw Jones had “raved about Acuna” during spring training. The five-tool prospect has been compared to the likes of Starling Marte, who is a two-time Gold Glove winner and one-time All-Star.

With the Braves 19 games back of the Washington Nationals in the National League East, and 11 games back in the wild card race, it seems like a perfect time to bring up the red-hot 19-year-old.

With Ender Inciarte being the everyday center fielder, and veterans Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis in the corners, there is no place for Acuna to play, hence why he has been kept in the minors, as they want him to get as many at-bats as possible.

With no real chance at making the playoffs, the Braves should give Acuna a chance to begin his major league career. He will undoubtedly need to make an abundance of adjustments, so why not allow him to begin progressing, and/or struggling, now when the results do not matter?

The Braves would be stupid to allow veterans like Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis to steal major league at-bats away from their up-and-coming prospects like Acuna, which is why Acuna will likely be called up in September, rather than getting his first shot with the big league club next April.

 

Featured Image by Getty Images

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Bold predictions 2017 MLB season

Results of my ten bold predictions for the 2017 MLB season

On April 3, 2017, I published an article recording my ten bold predictions for the 2017 MLB season. With fantasy baseball playoffs rapidly approaching, it is a good time to look back and assess my projections from early April.

 

Jarrett Parker becomes the everyday left fielder for the San Francisco Giants, and finishes as a top-50 outfielder.

Bold predictions 2017 MLB season

Parker suffered a broken collarbone in mid-April and didn’t return to the big leagues until August 3rd. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)

Well, tough prediction to start to the list. Parker suffered a broken collarbone in mid-April and didn’t return to the big leagues until August 3rd.

Currently the Giants have Brandon Belt, Michael Morse and Austin Slater on the disabled list, allowing Parker to fit in as their everyday left fielder. The 28-year-old has split time in the lineup between batting third and seventh. If he can continue to get at-bats in the three-hole, he will show why I predicted him to be a top-50 outfielder this season.

 

Lance Lynn will win 16 games and finish the season as a top 50 starting pitcher.

Lynn seems to be surpassing my high expectations, as he is currently ranked 15th among starting pitchers in ESPN standard formats. He is currently 10-6 with a 3.05 ERA.

The 30-year-old has eight quality starts in his last eight appearances, making him one of the most consistent and reliable pitchers of the second half.

The former first-round pick in 2008 has career lows in batting average against, or BAA, with .211, batting average on balls in play, or BABIP, with .232 and strikeouts per nine, or K/9, with 7.47.

All of these trends suggest that his luck may be running out, although he has yet to let up all season.

 

Newly acquired Seattle Mariner, Mitch Haniger, will finish the year as a top 25 outfielder.

Although he is far from being a top-25 outfielder, Haniger still has been impressive in 2017. In his first 21 games, Haniger batted .342 with four home runs, 20 runs scored and 16 RBIs. The 26-year-old strained his oblique muscle and missed all of May.

After returning, Haniger was clearly still affected by the oblique, as the former first round pick in 2012 batted a mere .176 in July. Haniger found himself on the disabled list once again in late July after being hit in the face by a 95-MPH Jacob deGrom fastball. Haniger has since returned to the lineup, where on August 19th he went two for four with a home run and four RBIs against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Haniger’s early success was enhanced by the fact that he was batting primarily second in the Mariners order. So, now batting mainly sixth or seventh, Haniger’s fantasy ceiling has dropped significantly. We cannot forget about how successful he was in April, as he will be an integral part to the Mariners success in the future, although his lack of a track record is a bit concerning.

 

Kendall Graveman will become the unquestioned ace of the Oakland Athletics staff, after finishing the season with a sub-4 ERA and over 140 strikeouts.

Bold predictions 2017 MLB season

Kendall Graveman began the season on an incredible tear, posting a 2.25 ERA and 16 strikeouts in his first 24 innings pitched. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Graveman has been another player plagued by injuries in 2017. He began the season on an incredible tear, posting a 2.25 ERA and 16 strikeouts in his first 24 innings pitched.

In the first half combined, he finished with a respectable 3.83 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 47 innings, and besides at-the-time Jesse Hahn, he was the Athletics most consistent and reliable arm. Unfortunately, Graveman was inflicted with a shoulder injury in mid-May which kept him out until early-August, making the 26-year-old completely irrelevant in the fantasy universe.

Next year promises to be bright for Graveman, who was formerly traded for Josh Donaldson, although his health problems are a major issue.

 

David Phelps will finish as a top 20 reliever in standard formats, and a top 10 in formats that include holds.

Phelps began the year as a part of the Miami Marlins, although he was subsequently traded to the Seattle Mariners in mid-July for three minor league prospects.

In the first half of the year, Phelps posted a fair 3.68 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 44 innings. So far in the second half, the 30-year-old has registered a 1.80 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 10 innings.

Since being moved to Seattle, Phelps has only let two earned runs in his seven appearances, both coming in the same game against the New York Mets.

Phelps is currently on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation, although he is expected to return sometime in late August according to MLB.com. When he returns, he will likely be used primarily in the 8th inning behind closer Edwin Diaz or possibly in the 7th behind set-up man Nick Vincent.

Either way, it is valid to roster him in leagues that count holds, especially due to his starting and relief pitcher eligibilities.

 

Yangervis Solarte hits 20 home runs for the first time in his professional career, and finishes as a top 100 hitter.  

Solarte missed nearly all of July as he was plagued by an oblique injury. He has batted primarily in the clean-up spot in the San Diego Padres order, giving him extra RBI and run scoring opportunities.

The 30-year-old has batted .268 and .269 respectively in each half of the year so far, so you can essentially pencil him in for a .270 average, especially as his BABIP is a career low .270.

Also, Solarte has seen a decline in his strikeout rate, as it has dropped from 14.2 percent in 2016 to 11.1 percent in 2017, which shows his progression from years past.

Over the course of a 162-game season, Solarte would be on pace for 23 home runs and 84 RBIs, which would comfortably make him a top-100 player. He has recently gained shortstop eligibility on top of his second and third base eligibilities, making him a very versatile fantasy asset.

 

Gerrit Cole will be a top-5 Cy Young candidate behind a sub-three ERA and 200 strike outs.

Bold predictions 2017 MLB season

Since the All-Star break, Gerrit Cole has recorded a 3.13 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 46 innings. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Cole hasn’t been the same since his 2015 campaign where he finished fourth in the National League Cy Young vote.

His first half was a mess, as he recorded a 4.43 ERA and 7.86 K/9 over 107.2 innings. Although since the All-Star break, Cole has recorded a 3.13 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 46 innings.

The former first overall pick in 2011 has had serious issues giving up home runs, as his home run to fly ball rate is an astronomical 16.8 percent.

His second half so far has given fantasy owners a new-found hope that Cole can return to his 2015 form, although clearly 2017 was not the year for his resurgence.

 

Christian Yelich will put together a 25 home run/25 stolen base campaign for the first time in his career.

Myself and many others anticipated Miami Marlins star to take the next step in 2017, although we were wrong.

In 2016, the former first round pick in 2010 batted .298 with 21 home runs and 98 RBIs. There was a general assumption that Yelich would continue to progress, although he is currently on a 162-game pace to bat only .277 with 18 home runs and 13 stolen bases.

The 25-year-old has a career BABIP of .356, although this season it sits at only .328, which suggests he is getting a bit unlucky.

Yelich continues to bat third for the mighty Marlins, which bodes well for his fantasy value moving forward. He still has a very promising future, although 2017 was clearly not his MVP caliber breakout season.

 

Clayton Kershaw has the best year of his career, winning the NL Cy Young and MVP behind a sub-2 ERA and 300 plus strike outs.

This one is simple, a back injury slowed down Kershaw from continuing his domination as greatest pitcher of his generation.

Before the injury, Kershaw had thrown 141.1 innings while recording a 15-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and 168 strikeouts. The 29-year-old was on pace for 260 plus strikeouts over 220 innings pitched, which would have only been the second time in which he reached this feat.

When healthy, he remains the most reliable and elite pitcher in fantasy baseball.

 

Andrew Benintendi will not only win the Rookie of the Year, but will also be a top 25 finalist in the MVP race.

If Aaron Judge didn’t exist, Benintendi would be the favorite to win American League Rookie of the Year. He is currently batting .276 with 17 home runs, 68 RBIs, 63 runs scored and 14 stolen bases over 113 games.

The seventh overall pick in 2015 has met his expectations head on, as he is on a 162-game pace to hit 24 home runs and 97 RBIs. He has decreased his strikeout rate from 21.2 percent to 16.6 percent, while also raising his walk rate a full two percent.

Benintendi is a lock to finish top three in AL ROY, while also having a strong possibility of finishing within the top-25 in AL MVP voting.

 

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Byron Buxton

Has Byron Buxton hit his stride?

Once touted by ESPN writer Thomas Neumann as being “poised for greatness”, former number one prospect in baseball Byron Buxton has not risen to stardom as quick as we had hoped.

Background

Byron Buxton

Former Minnesota Twins outfielder, four time All-Star and nine time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter referred to Buxton as “Mike Trout 2” (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

Former Minnesota Twins outfielder, four-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter referred to Buxton as “Mike Trout 2” in an interview with Scott Miller of Bleacher Report in 2014.

This is quite a laughable comparison now, although at that time, Buxton had been deemed a “can’t-miss prospect” by a multitude of venerable sources.

The expectations that followed being selected as the second overall pick in the 2012 Amateur Draft have been insurmountable for Buxton, as his inability to stay on the field has significantly restricted his opportunity to improve.

In the midst of a great 2013 campaign, Buxton missed time with a shoulder injury. In 2014, the then 20-year-old spent multiple stints on the disabled list with a sprained wrist and later a season-ending concussion. Mix in a broken finger, thumb and strained hamstring and you have just a snippet of his documented injury history.

Buxton’s speed and fielding ability have allowed him to make some of the most jaw dropping plays we’ve ever seen, although his reckless play style clearly has impacted his health negatively. Although, the fact that none of his injuries seemed linked to one another, or the fact that they have not included significant ligament damage, suggest that he is not injury prone, but simply an aggressive and unlucky player.

The ups and downs

Byron Buxton

Buxton was struggling mightily to begin his major-league career, batting a mere .209 with only two home runs and two stolen bases in his first 46 games. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

His first stint of long-term success came in 2013, where as a 19-year-old, Buxton batted .334 with 12 home runs, 77 RBIs and 55 stolen bases in 125 games at the low and high A levels. After the aforementioned injuries in 2014, Buxton returned to form, batting a collective .305 with seven home runs, 45 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 72 games in 2015 at the double and triple A levels.

Buxton was first called up to the Twins in mid-June of 2015. The 21-year-old Buxton was struggling mightily to begin his major-league career, batting a mere .209 with only two home runs and two stolen bases in his first 46 games.

Buxton began 2016 in triple-A, although after batting .305 with 11 home runs, 38 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 49 games he was recalled. Over the next 92 games Buxton’s major league struggles would continue, as he batted only .225 with 10 home runs, 38 RBIs and 10 stolen bases while striking out at an atrocious 35.6 percent rate.

In 2017, Buxton was afforded another opportunity to prove himself as he began the season with Minnesota. His first half went as many expected, as the now 23-year-old Buxton had batted .216 with five home runs and 16 stolen bases in 79 games while striking out over 30 percent of the time.

Although, since July, the hype around Buxton has reemerged. He finished the first half red hot, batting .387 in 10 games in July. He has continued his success heading into the second half, as he is currently batting .351 in his last 18 games, while decreasing his strikeout rate to a more respectable 22.4 percent over that span.

Buxton was once given an overall rating of 75 on the 20-80 scouting scale, with a 70 hitting tool, 60 power and 80 running. His potential to become a superstar doesn’t seem likely, although he has once again grabbed our attention by being a top five fantasy outfielder over the past 15 days and top 25 over the past 30.

Concerns

Byron Buxton

The future for Buxton is bright, although I do not see him as the type of player that will help win fantasy championships in 2017. (Photo by ThreeSixty Journalism)

It is clear that Buxton has the potential to be a 20-home run/40-stolen base threat, although he undoubtedly has plenty left to prove. His inconsistency at the dish and inability to stay healthy are serious concerns.

Not to mention his BABIP in the second half is absurdly high at .425, which is obviously unsustainable and a concern moving forward. Also, he is batting primarily in the seven, eight and nine spots in the lineup, which limits his current fantasy value.

If he were to be moved back to the leadoff spot, which is where he was originally anticipated to be, his fantasy value would rise immensely.

The future for Buxton is bright, although I do not see him as the type of player that will help win fantasy championships in 2017. If he is on my dynasty roster, I would be excited for what the future holds. If I own Buxton in a keeper league format, I would be extremely skeptical of selecting him as one of my limited number of keepers, as I would not be comfortable taking the risk with all of his inconstancies and injury history heading into the 2018 season.

 

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Justin Upton

Justin Upton: The MLB’s hottest hitter

Background

Justin Upton

Justin Upton was selected as the number one pick in the 2005 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

The first overall pick in the 2005 amateur draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Justin Upton had extremely high expectations set from the start. He made his MLB debut in 2007, where he batted .221 with only two home runs and 11 RBIs in 43 games.

His struggles continued in 2008 as he was sent down to triple-A after batting .176 in both May and June. His potential began to reemerge after he was called up in late August, as he batted .276 with 21 hits in 22 games played.

2009 was Upton’s breaking party, as he set then career highs in batting average at .300, in home runs with 26 and RBIs with 86. He was voted an All-Star for the first time and was even recognized as a top-25 National League MVP candidate.

We have seen MVP-caliber levels from Upton on three occasions (2009, 2011 and 2014), although his 2011 campaign remains his most impressive. Upton played in a career-high 159 games, batted .289, hit 31 home runs, drove in 88 runners, scored 105 runs and stole 21 bases which resulted in a fourth-place finish in the American League MVP vote.

MVP Caliber once again

This year Upton’s average draft position was 76th according to ESPN.com. He has been a consistent fantasy player for his entire career, although his batting average had been on a steady decline since batting .289 with the Diamondbacks in 2011.

Now a 29-year-old veteran, Upton has acquired a second wind. He is currently batting .281 with 21 home runs, 77 RBIs and 67 runs scored. So far in the second half of the season, Upton is batting .337 with six home runs, 23 RBIs, 29 hits and a league best 11 doubles in 22 games played. Over a 162-season, he would be currently on pace to set career highs in home runs with 33 and RBIs with 121.

His BABIP is high at .351, although he is currently making 43.7 percent hard contact, which is the highest mark in his career. He also has an identical home run to fly ball rate as he did a season ago, at 18 percent, which makes his home run potential seem sustainable.

Fantasy value moving forward 

Justin Upton

Justin Upton is the hottest hitter in baseball in the second half. (Photo by Detroit Free Press)

Due to the departure of J.D. Martinez, and injuries, Upton has found himself batting primarily in the three-hole, which bodes well for his fantasy value. With 52 games left in the season for the Tigers, Upton will have ample opportunity to continue to climb the fantasy ranks.

With veterans Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler along with emerging star Nick Castellanos, the Tigers lineup remains one of the best on paper. They may be out of contention in the American League Central, but their offense should remain within the top-10.

Upton’s fantasy value moving forward should be similar to the likes of Andrew McCutchen, as they both are veteran center pieces of their offenses who offer 25 home run and 15 steal upside. He will likely be a top-75 pick once again in 2018.

 

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2017 MLB breakout performers

The following MLB hitters have officially broken out in 2017. This piece intends to inform fantasy baseball owners about whether these breakout performers will continue to achieve, or if their level of success is unsustainable.

Honorable mentions include: Whit Merrifield (KAN), Domingo Santana (MIL), Yonder Alonso (OAK), Alex Bregman (HOU), Paul DeJong (STL) and Andrelton Simmons (LAA).

Aaron Judge, Outfielder, New York Yankees

BA/OBP/SLG BABIP HR RBI R K%
2017 Season .300/.426/.627 .389 34 75 83 30.7 %
July .230/.364/.483 .310 7 13 13 36.4 %
2017 MLB breakout performers

Judge has become the best power hitter in baseball in 2017. (Photo by The New York Daily News)

The Yankee slugger has officially broken out in 2017. Judge is the heavy front runner to win American League Rookie of the Year, as he has mashed 34 home runs and 75 RBIs while batting .300 so far this season.

According to the New York Daily News, Major League Baseball’s commissioner Rob Manfred described Judge’s performance as “phenomenal”, and added that Judge is “the kind of player that can become the face of the game.”

While this comment may be justified, Judge’s performance has significantly cooled off since it was made in mid-June.

In July, Judge batted merely .230 while striking out at an atrocious 36.4 percent clip. Also, his 39 strikeouts were the most by any player in July.

On June 17, his BABIP was .433, although inevitably it has dropped .44 points to .389 in less than two months. I documented my opinion in mid-June, exclaiming that it was time to sell Judge, as his value was clearly at its peak.

Selling Judge now may not be the best decision, as his value has declined in the last month. His fantasy value should be similar to that of fellow sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Marcel Ozuna. His value would be closer to that of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout if it wasn’t for his lack of experience and elevated BABIP and strikeout rates, which all raise questions about his consistency.

Cody Bellinger, Outfielder/ First Baseman, Los Angeles Dodgers

BA/OBP/SLG BABIP HR RBI R K%
2017 Season .264/.344/.599 .284 30 71 58 26.9 %
July .263/.372/.463 .298 4 13 9 20.2 %

Bellinger has been quite the producer since being called up in late April. In only 89 games, he has recorded 30 home runs and 71 RBIs, which puts him on pace to hit over 50 home runs and 129 RBIs over the course of a 162-game season.

The 22-year-old has noticeably changed his approach at the plate since the All-Star break, as his strikeout rate has dropped from 29.1 percent in the first half to 18.8 percent in the second. Bellinger slots into to the clean-up spot in the lineup behind the National League leader in batting average, Justin Turner, and 2016 NL Rookie of the Year, Corey Seager.

Bellinger has joined the ranks of elite young sluggers and should be valued similarly to Aaron Judge moving forward.

Justin Smoak, First Baseman, Toronto Blue Jays

BA/OBP/SLG BABIP HR RBI R K%
2017 Season .301/.380/.597 .313 31 74 64 19.7 %
July .310/.410/.610 .354 8 19 17 23.1 %

Despite the Blue Jays’ struggles this season, Justin Smoak has emerged as a silver lining. He was voted an All-Star for the first time and is currently batting .301 with 31 home runs and 74 RBIs.

The 30-year-old has set career highs in all major hitting categories, while also dropping his strikeout rate from 32.8 last season to 19.7 percent in 2017.

In July, Smoak’s success continued, although it seems majorly due to his BABIP as he sported a .354 BABIP. Also, his strikeout rate has risen up to 23.1 percent which is a bit concerning.

Smoak should finish the year batting under .300, although chances that he hits 40 bombs and drives in 100 are very likely. He is firmly entrenched within the top 10 first baseman right now, although his value in keeper and dynasty formats is weaker than in standard re-draft due to lack of sample size and consistency.

Travis Shaw, First Baseman/ Third Baseman, Milwaukee Brewers

BA/OBP/SLG BABIP HR RBI R K%
2017 Season .288/.361/.555 .329 24 74 61 23.1 %
July .305/.400/.622 .367 7 17 19 27.4 %
2017 MLB breakout performers

Travis Shaw was a first time All-Star in 2017. (Photo by Pintrest)

Shaw came over to the Brewers this offseason in a deal that sent reliever Tyler Thornburg to the Boston Red Sox. Thornburg has yet to pitch an inning for the Red Sox, whereas Shaw has become an All-Star.

The 27-year-old has found a home batting clean-up for Milwaukee, as he has hit a career-high 24 home runs while driving in a career-high 74 RBIs.

Shaw’s BABIP of .329 is significantly higher than last season’s .299 mark, although this may be due to an increase in hard contact, as he has raised his hard contact rate from 29 percent in 2015, to 33 percent in 2016 and now 37 percent this season.

His improved approach has allowed him to become an elite fantasy producer in 2017. His value moving forward is similar to the likes of Jake Lamb and Mike Moustakas, as his batting average is still extremely BABIP driven and his strikeout rates are high and continuously rising.

Chris Taylor, Outfielder/ Second Baseman, Los Angeles Dodgers

BA/OBP/SLG BABIP HR RBI R K%
2017 Season .316/.383/.545 .419 14 52 60 27.7 %
July .394/.412/.660 .523 3 15 15 26.8 %

Taylor was a fifth-round pick by the Seattle Mariners in 2012. He was acquired by the Dodgers in a trade that sent prospect pitcher Zach Lee to Seattle in 2016.

Since arriving in Los Angeles, Taylor has stumbled upon some newfound success, as he has hit more home runs in 91 games this season than he did in 249 games at the AAA-level.

The 26-year-old has become the everyday lead-off hitter for the Dodgers, which bodes well for his fantasy value, although his rising strikeout rate and inflated BABIP are cause for concern.

Taylor, whose BABIP in July measured .523, has an unsustainable BABIP of .419 on the year. Also, his home run to fly ball rate of 18.7 percent is unsustainable, as that would put him the same conversation as Paul Goldschmidt and Logan Morrison in terms of HR/FB rates.

Taylor’s fantasy value seems to be at its peak, which makes this a prime time to sell high. He will continue to be a valuable asset as he bats lead-off for arguably the best team in baseball, although his BABIP and home run to fly ball rate are sure to plummet.

Michael Conforto, Outfielder, New York Mets

BA/OBP/SLG BABIP HR RBI R K%
2017 Season .296/.399/.566 .355 21 56 62 25.0 %
July .301/.363/.658 .313 7 14 12 22.5 %

Conforto has been the lone bright spot for the Mets during thier abysmal 2017 season. He has batted primarily in the lead-off spot for New York, although due to a lack of talent around him, he has only scored 62 runs in his 91 games. His BABIP of .355 is very high, although his BABIP in July of .313 and batting average of .301 suggest that his .300 batting average may be sustainable over the course of a full season.

The 24-year-old is not in the upper echelon of outfielders just yet. It is fair to value him similarly to Corey Dickerson or Domingo Santana moving forward due to his lineup potential, production, upside and age.

Jonathan Schoop, Second Baseman, Baltimore Orioles

BA/OBP/SLG BABIP HR RBI R K%
2017 Season .302/.352/.550 .337 24 79 68 21.5 %
July .343/.377/.638 .355 9 28 21 19.3 %
2017 MLB breakout performers

Jonathan Schoop has emerged as a center piece of the Orioles future. (Photo by Alchetron)

Schoop had a successful 2016 campaign, although he has taken his talents to the next level this season. He is a lock to set career bests in all major hitting categories, as he is on pace to hit 36 home runs and drive in 119 RBIs.

He has found a fantasy friendly spot in the three-hole of a dangerous Baltimore lineup and promises to be a big part of their future moving forward.

His BABIP of .337 suggests that his batting average is in line for a small amount of regression, although his improved strikeout rate and incredible July totals insinuate that he is trending upward.

He ranks just below Jose Ramirez in terms of value due to a lack of steals and batting average, although his production puts him firmly in the top tier of second basemen, well behind Jose Altuve of course.

 

Marwin Gonzalez, First Baseman/ Third Baseman/ Shortstop/ Outfielder, Houston Astros

BA/OBP/SLG BABIP HR RBI R K%
2017 Season .311/.388/.578 .346 20 65 50 20.5 %
July .307/.378/.591 .344 7 18 17 21.4 %

Marwin Gonzalez, once known as a backup utility player, has officially broken out. Many didn’t expect Gonzalez to receive everyday at-bats due to the Astros having such a deep roster, although due to injuries and his hot bat he has found himself in an everyday role.

The 28-year-old has set career highs in home runs and RBIs, while being on pace to set a career-high in batting average. Gonzalez is a great fantasy asset, as he has a multitude of position eligibilities and bats in the heart of the Astros’ dangerous lineup.

His BABIP is high, which does cause concern regarding his .300-plus average, although his production and power seem to be sustainable. His playing time shouldn’t falter even when stars Carlos Correa and George Springer return from the disabled list, as his production has been arguably the team’s best of late.

 

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