Justin Bour

Justin Bour’s outlook for the 2018 MLB season

With the 2017 MLB season winding down, it is time to assess different player’s outlooks moving forward.

In this piece, Justin Bour’s 2017 campaign and 2018 outlook will be analyzed and discussed.

Background

Justin Bour

Bour’s professional baseball career began after being drafted in the 25th round of the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft by the Chicago Cubs. (Photo by The Trading Card Data Base)

Bour’s professional baseball career began after being drafted in the 25th round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. The first baseman spent three seasons between low, single and high-A from 2009 until 2011, hitting 39 home runs and driving in 212 RBIs in 322 games. Bour continued to find success in two seasons at the double-A level, hitting 35 home runs and driving in 174 RBIs in 221 games.

After failing to be placed on the Cubs 40-man roster, he was subsequently drafted in the 2013 rule-5 draft by the Miami Marlins. Bour then spent one season in triple-A, batting .306 with 18 home runs and 72 RBIs in 103 games. His first major league action came with the Marlins in 2014, where he appeared in only 39 games, batting .284 with a home run and 11 RBIs. In his first full season in Miami, Bour batted .262 with 23 home runs and 73 RBIs in 129 games.

In 2016, the Marlins signed corner infielder Chris Johnson to be the right-handed side of a platoon with Bour, which lessened expectations for the then 28-year-old Bour. In the first half of the season, Bour batted .268 with 15 home runs and 46 RBIs through 68 games. Unfortunately, Bour suffered a high-ankle sprain on July 2, forcing him to miss 57 games.

After returning, Bour logged 79 plate appearances, failing to hit one home run. A healthy Bour’s presence in the lineup was clearly missed, as his platoon mate and replacements Chris Johnson, Xavier Scruggs and Don Kelly failed to hit half as many home runs as Bour did in 2016.

2017 Season

Justin Bour

Bour participated in the 2017 Home Run Derby, hitting 22 home runs in his final round against New York Yankee Aaron Judge, who mashed 23. (Photo by Getty Images)

In 2017, Bour assumed more of an everyday role, ceding the occasional at bat to righty Tyler Moore and switch hitter Tomas Telis. Bour’s season began modestly, hitting only four home runs while batting .222 in April. Once May came around, Bour began to explode, batting .344 while mashing 11 home runs and driving in 21 RBIs over the course of 28 games. He ended the first half of the year with a .289 batting average, 20 home runs and 59 RBIs, putting him on pace to hit 42 bombs and drive in 124 RBIs over the course of a complete 162-game season.

Bour participated in the 2017 Home Run Derby, hitting 22 home runs in his final round against New York Yankee Aaron Judge, who mashed 23. The electric performance began to propel Bour’s popularity.

Unfortunately, he strained his right oblique on July 24, resulting in him missing all of August and early September. He has been magnificent in his 13 games since returning, batting .362 with four home runs and 15 RBIs.

2018 Outlook

Justin Bour

The 29-year-old will head into 2018 as an integral piece of a dangerous Marlins lineup. (Photo by WSBuzz.com)

First base is one of the deepest positions in fantasy baseball with 39 first base eligible players (on ESPN.com) with at least 20 home runs. Also, there are 10 first base eligible players ranked within the top-50 batters in standard ESPN fantasy leagues, making lower profile players like Bour fall by the way side in terms of average draft position and percentage owned.

The 29-year-old will head into 2018 as an integral piece of a dangerous Marlins lineup, spearheaded by Giancarlo Stanton, Marcel Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon. It is clear that Bour can be a serious threat to hit 40 home runs and drive in over 100 RBIs next season. I predict his 2018 campaign to mirror that of Justin Smoak, who has nearly identical isolated power, walk and strikeout rates as Bour.

It is safe to say Bour will be overlooked in 2018 due to so many bigger names, like Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Eric Hosmer, Jose Abreu and Cody Bellinger. However, if healthy, there is no reason Bour cannot join this tier of elite first basemen.

 

 

 

Featured Image by ESPN.com

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Rhys Hoskins MLB

Why Rhys Hoskins stands out among young MLB sluggers

The 2017 Major League Baseball season has been nothing short of astounding. On Tuesday, September 19th, the collective single season home run record was broken, as Kansas City Royal Alex Gordon mashed home run number 5,694 of the MLB season. On top of this amazing feat, the MLB has seen a rapid immergence of young power hitters, like Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, Matt Olson, Joey Gallo and Rhys Hoskins, who would all on pace for over 45 home runs if they played a complete 162 game season. I’m here to tell you why Hoskins has been the most impressive of the bunch in 2017.

Background

Rhys Hoskins MLB

Hoskins’ standout season came in 2016, where in 135 triple-A games, he batted .281 with 38 home runs, 116 RBIs and 95 runs scored. (Photo by Yahoo Sports)

Expectations weren’t immediately set high for Hoskins, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 draft. In low-A, he batted just .237, while striking out almost 20 percent of the time. Hoskins progressed in 2015, batting a combined .319 in 135 games in single and high-A.

His standout season came in 2016, where in 135 triple-A games, Hoskins batted .281 with 38 home runs, 116 RBIs and 95 runs scored. Previous to this season, Hoskins was ranked the 11th best prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system by Baseball America, after, he was ranked sixth, behind only J.P. Crawford, Mickey Moniak, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams and Sixto Sanchez.

2017 Season

Rhys Hoskins MLB

Hoskins has been astonishing, batting .293 with 18 home runs, a record 11 coming in his first 64 at bats. (Photo by Rotoprofessor)

Hoskins began 2017 in triple-A, where he continued his minor league dominance, batting .284 with 29 home runs and 91 RBIs in 115 games. One of the most important attributes Hoskins possesses is plate discipline, as he had walked (64) nearly as many times (75) as he struck out in triple-A. His minor league success, along with Tommy Joseph’s struggles made a call-up for Hoskins inevitable.

So far in the big leagues, Hoskins has been astonishing. Through 41 games, he is batting .293 with 18 home runs, a record 11 coming in his first 64 at bats, 45 RBIs and 34 runs scored. He is penciled into the clean-up spot of a young Phillies lineup is trending in the right direction.

What separates Hoskins from the rest

Rhys Hoskins MLB

In terms of contact rates, Hoskins’ 48 percent hard contact would rank him first among MLB hitters, ahead of Gallo (46 percent), Judge (44 percent), Bellinger (43 percent) and Olson (42 percent). (Photo by Theintelligence.com)

An interesting analytic to look at this season is Hoskins’ BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, which represents how often a ball hit into play results in a hit. For hitters, this stat can be used to identify trends in performance. More specifically for Hoskins, his .264 BABIP suggests that he is getting very unlucky at the dish, as his BABIP in the past has consistently been above .280, most notably above .360 in 2015. To compare, New York Yankees star Aaron Judge is batting .277, although his BABIP is currently an exorbitant .355, suggesting that his batting average is fairly unsustainable. I understand that other factors like exit velocity need to be taken into consideration with BABIP, although Judge’s BABIP has been falling since June.

In terms of strikeout rate, Hoskins sits at a very respectable 20 percent compared to other young stars like Judge (31 percent), Bellinger (26 percent), Gallo (37 percent) and Olson (28 percent), who clearly struggle mightily with striking out. In counts were there is one ball and two strikes, Hoskins is batting an impressive .293, compared to Judge (.190), Bellinger (.188), Gallo (.112) and Olson (.144), exemplifying Hoskins’ pure ability, resilience, plate discipline and overarching mentality of not wanting to strikeout.

Getting on base is an integral part of baseball, and Hoskins is doing it better than almost anyone. He currently has a .425 on base percentage, putting him behind only Joey Votto in this category. Another impressive stat for Hoskins is his walk rate, as although he is not qualified due to a lack of at-bats, he would be ranked third in the MLB in walk rate behind only Votto and Judge. In terms of contact rates, Hoskins’ 48 percent hard contact would rank him first among MLB hitters, ahead of Gallo (46 percent), Judge (44 percent), Bellinger (43 percent) and Olson (42 percent).

I understand he does not qualify due to a lack of major league at-bats, although his 41-game sample size is nothing to scoff at. Calling him the next Paul Golschmidt or Joey Votto may sound crazy to some, but not to me. His stats are incredible and his analytics support growth and sustainability. If not already, Hoskins is bound to become a household name in major league baseball.

Featured image by The Ringer

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American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Over-Performing Underdogs

The American League West has been dominated by the Astros, but the other two divisions have been surprising. Cleveland got off to a slow start, creating a tight early-season race in the AL Central. The AL East has arguably been the most competitive division with some surprise contenders rising to the top.

Today’s wrap-up looks at those teams who have exceeded preseason expectations and how they got there.

The New York Yankees

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Over-Performing Underdogs

Photo by Reinhold Matay | USA Today Sports

We knew the Yankees were going to be better than the last few seasons, but not this good. The Yankees have done a masterful job bolstering their young core during prior seasons. Players like breakout rookie Aaron Judge and Ronald Torreyes were advertised as great, but they weren’t supposed to be ready this soon.

While the younger talent has certainly performed, the rest of the team has more then pulled their weight. Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks are all 27 years old and batting above .300. Adding to this strong mix are veterans Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Holliday, who have also been key contributors so far this season.

New York’s lineup has been a wonderfully-balanced attack on offense and has them sitting in the top five in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and RBIs.

The only thing that could have held this offensive juggernaut back was a questionable pitching staff. That rotation currently holds the third best ERA in the AL. Things are firing on all cylinders for the Bronx Bombers as they continue to battle for top position in the East.

The Baltimore Orioles

The other club battling for the top position in the East has been the surprising Baltimore Orioles. Most analysts, including this one, thought the Red Sox were a shoo-in for a repeat of their 2016 performance. However, it’s been the Yankees and Orioles dominating the top of the division.

While the Yankees have the stat lines you’d expect to see at the top of the division, the Orioles are a bit more of an enigma. A look at their statistical standings places them mid-tier in most major pitching and hitting categories. Their pitching staff suffered early season injuries, and their MVP-caliber third baseman, Manny Machado, has struggled early.

Those issues haven’t deterred the back-half of the Orioles rotation from silencing critics. Dylan Bundy and Wade Miley have been the picture of consistency, posting a combined 2.36 ERA through 15 starts. These impressive performances combined with the recent return of team ace Chris Tillman may signal continued success for this staff. Combine solid pitching with the ever-present power threat of the Orioles lineup and you have a combination that can steal a lot of games.

The Minnesota Twins

Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The 2017 AL Central discussion has been about nearly every team other than the Indians. Cleveland continues to press the top of the standings, but it’s been Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota who have kept it close.

The Twins in particular have been a surprise given their last place finish in 2016. The reemergence of Ervin Santana as a top league ace has certainly helped their cause. The remainder of the Twins pitching staff has posted respectable performances and should get better with the recent call up of José Berríos. Highly-touted young gun Miguel Sano has emerged this season, slashing .297 / .439 / .667 with 10 home runs.

Interestingly enough, Sano is the only member of the Twins lineup hitting anywhere near .300. In fact, the Twins average, slugging percentage and RBIs rank in the bottom half of the league. That said, their on-base percentage is in the AL’s top five, and they’re clearly doing enough to win games. Minnesota is definitely on a hot streak, capturing six of their last ten.

This recent success is promising for the Minnesota fan base. However, unless some of the offensive statistics pick up, it’s hard to foresee a sustained push by the Twins.

 

Featured Image by Tony Gutierrez / AP

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American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Injuries and Ignorance

The MLB season is rolling right along as we are already into the first week of May.

The AL East has dominated headlines of late with the red-hot Yankees and standout rookie Aaron Judge. The Orioles and Red Sox feud has escalated to the point of commissioner involvement and the Blue Jays are the first team to 20 losses.

The Central is a tightly contested race with the Indians only ahead of the next three teams by two wins or less. The West is still the Astros and everyone else, although the angels continue to surprise by holding onto second place.

The divisional standings are starting to take shape, but unfortunately it’s been the negative news that’s been front and center. The recent rash of injuries and nonsense in the AL East has certainly created an interesting news cycle, and provides the focus of the wrap-up today.

An Apple a Day Keeps the DL Away

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Injuries and Ignorance

(Photo by Associated Press)

The number of injuries this season has been staggering. Corey Kluber, James Paxton, J.A. Happ and Tyler Skaggs are just a few of the recent additions.

The laundry list of critical rotation pieces who have suffered early season stints on the disabled list continues to grow. Position players have certainly had their fair share of injuries, but it appears pitching staffs have felt the greatest impact.

Preseason speculation regarding the disabled list duration rule change predicted an uptick in DL stints, but not this many. The reduction of the 15-day duration was intended to give teams additional roster flexibility. Furthermore, the rule change wouldn’t penalize players and teams as harshly for taking needed rest to prevent injury. The rule change certainly worked.

Soreness, tightness and inflammation have been some of the most commonly cited ailments plaguing the league this season. Questions have begun to arise as to whether or not teams are taking advantage of the new system. This isn’t to say players don’t have legitimate injuries, but the new duration has clearly lowered the barrier.

The impact to the team of losing a key lineup piece hasn’t changed. However, the potential of key rotation members to only miss one start as opposed to multiple may help explain the rash of trips to the DL. It will be interesting the monitor the usage of this system throughout the season and if the league addresses the topic after the season ends.

Ignorance in the East

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Injuries and Ignorance

(Photo by TIM BRADBURY/GETTY IMAGES)

There hasn’t been much good to come out the most recent matchups between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen fans hurling peanuts and racial slurs followed by players hurling pitches at each other.

The Adam Jones incident has sparked a great deal of discussion around the league and rightfully so. While it’s truly unfortunate anyone has to endure that type of shameful behavior, it has put a renewed focus on how organizations handle this type of behavior.

The conversation on how teams manage fan behavior will continue to evolve. It was encouraging to see the post-incident fan reaction. The standing ovation Jones received after the story came to light was a particularly classy move by Boston fans.

It’s fine to have rules and policies around this type of behavior. However, as fans, we all have an obligation to hold one another accountable and not let a few individuals ruin the reputation of city, a team or a fan base.

An Eye for an Eye

The Jones incident was ugly, but it wasn’t the only absurdity in the series. The headhunting saga should be at its end now that the commissioner is involved. Rob Manfred was forced to get the managers and general managers of both clubs on the phone to discuss the feud.

The duel has been well-documented, and it raises concerns about the unwritten rules of baseball. The game of baseball has always been played with a not-so-secret honor code that all players abide by. Players who showboat or play recklessly often find themselves on the receiving end of a retaliatory fastball.

Whether you enjoy this aspect of the game or not, there is little doubt this behavior is on its way out. We’ve seen an increased focus on player safety in recent years starting with the “Buster Posey” rule that eliminated catcher collisions. Based on that trend, there can be little doubt that firing pitches at players’ heads won’t be tolerated moving forward.

Suspensions and fines have already been applied in this situation. Don’t be surprised when we see these events become rule-book changes as soon as this offseason.

 

(Featured Image by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

 

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*Featured Image Courtesy of Seth Wenig AP Photo*

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 4 April Standings

It is one month into the 2017 season, and the league has already thrown a number of surprises our way. While April was as tumultuous as years past, it feels as though that early season rust is dissipating. Teams and players alike have begun to settle into regular season form with some standout performances mixed in across divisions.

So far this season we’ve looked at hot and cold starts and individual statistical standouts. Now let’s look at the month in review. This week will highlight the current American League standings and preview of how May is shaping up.

*All statistics as of end of day 04/29*

AL East

AL East Standings W L PCT GB WCGB
NY Yankees 15 7 0.682
Baltimore 14 8 0.636 1 1.5
Boston 12 11 0.522 3.5 1
Tampa Bay 12 13 0.48 4.5 2
Toronto 7 17 0.292 9 6.5
American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 4 April Standings

(Image Courtesy of AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

As expected, the AL east has been one of the most contested divisions in baseball. The Yankees, and standout rookie Aaron Judge leads the division with Baltimore right on their heels. Judge has been excellent so far this season, setting the rookie home run record with ten in April. He’s more than living up to his projected power potential.

Concerns about Baltimore’s pitching staff with the loss of Chris Tillman hasn’t slowed the team down. Strong contributions from both Wade Miley and Dylan Bundy have kept the Orioles in games as their power packed lineup continues to mash.

Boston and Tampa Bay are both sporting 12 wins in the middle of the division, but don’t expect this to continue. The Red Sox have been led by utterly dominant performances by Chris Sale. Boston’s lineup has the second best team average in baseball, but is last in home runs, and bottom five in RBIs. Expect the team that generated the most offense in baseball last year to pick up its pace and its win total in May.

Tampa Bay and Toronto round out the bottom of the division, but have had two very different starts. While the Rays have shown impressive resilience behind a young core of players, Toronto is floundering. It’s hard to predict what’s next for the Jays, but below average pitching and an anemic offense don’t exactly spell future success.

AL Central

AL Central Standings W L PCT GB WCGB
Chi White Sox 13 9 0.591
Cleveland 13 10 0.565 0.5
Minnesota 11 11 0.5 2 1.5
Detroit 11 12 0.478 2.5 2
Kansas City 7 15 0.318 6 5.5

After offloading their top talent in the offseason, Chicago has decided it would like to be in first place anyways. Struggling stars Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier have contributed little, while Avisaíl García has slashed .376 / .418 / 1.053. Best bet is Chicago comes back to earth soon, but then again, no one expected this either.

Cleveland’s slow start to the season has been met with a recent resurgence and plenty of optimism. The defending AL champs have three of their five starters clicking on all cylinders with lock-down contributions from the bullpen. The not-so-surprising star of the offense has been Jose Ramirez. After a breakout campaign in 2016, Ramirez has slashed .333 / .388 / .997 with six home runs and 21 RBIs so far this season.

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 4 April Standings

(Image Courtesy of Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

Minnesota and Detroit are locked up at 11 wins each and have continued to press the front-runners. The Twins have seen an outstanding come-back performance from Ervin Santana who currently holds a 0.77 ERA through four starts.

While Byron Buxton has continued to struggle at the plate, Minnesota has seen great contributions elsewhere. Young guns Miguel Sano and Max Kepler are both off to excellent starts with strong averages and decent pop.

Detroit is in a bit of a tail spin after dropping its last four games of the month. They will have one more opportunity to snap that in April against a hot Chicago White Sox team.

Justin Verlander and the rotation are off to a shaky start. The good news is Justin Upton has looked every bit the player Detroit expected when they acquired him last year. Between Upton and the cast of veterans on this squad, the Tigers should have plenty of run support for a struggling rotation.

Kansas City needs a turnaround, and fast. The Royals have seen minuscule production from an offense that has them last in the league in the run category. An impressive start from Jason Vargas and solid hurling from Danny Duffy has kept the royals pitching numbers respectable, but it’s not enough.

Kansas City is facing the potential departure of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Vargas at the end of the season. If the Royals are going to make one final run with this group, they will need a whole other level of urgency heading into May.

 

AL West

AL West W L PCT GB WCGB
Houston 15 9 0.625
LA Angels 13 13 0.5 3 1.5
Oakland 11 13 0.458 4 2.5
Texas 11 13 0.458 4 2.5
Seattle 11 14 0.44 4.5 3

 

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 4 April Standings

(Image Courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

In the West, it’s been the Astro’s and the rest. The Astros are off to an excellent start in 2017 and have received contributions from every part of the club. While it’s easy to be excited by the young talent in the lineup, it’s actually the rotation leading the way.

The resurgence of 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel has been instrumental to a rotation ranking third in ERA. If the remainder of the rotation can keep pace with Keuchel’s great start, it could be a runaway race in the west.

The Angels are actually the surprise second-place team in this division. The Angels were riding a five-game hot streak until it was broken up by Carlos Gomez and the Rangers. Mike Trout continues to quietly be Mike Trout slashing .365 / .436 / 1.155 with seven home runs.

In typical Angels fashion, other than Trout, everything has been mediocre. The offseason acquisitions, the pitching and essentially every other player has been average to start the year. It is overall an impressive start for Los Angeles, especially considering the myriad of injuries the team has faced.

The bottom of the division is essentially a three-way tie between Oakland, Texas and Seattle. It’s clear the Mariners and Rangers are underperforming, while Oakland has overachieved considering the loss of Sonny Gray.

There have been some impressive individual performances such as Seattle’s James Paxton and Mitch Haniger. Oakland’s Khris Davis has put on an impressive power display thus far, and Carlos Gomez just hit for the cycle with Texas. It’s still early in the season, so I would expect at least one, if not two of these teams, to challenge the top of the division before the year ends.

 

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Major League Baseball Weekly Wrap-Up: Opening Week

The experience of an opening day is like few others in sports. There is something truly special about the crack of the bat after a long winter. A new season means new hope and the chance at unforeseen excitement from around the league.

162 games is a haul, but opening week always presents a reminder of the great things to come every year. This year is certainly no different. The Game Haus is committed to highlighting all the action from around baseball all season long, starting with Opening Week.

Off to the Races

A few teams always seem to start hot out of the blocks. With many games to be played, there is certainly no crowning of a champion yet. However, for fans around the league, it’s hard not to get excited about a great start. Here are a few teams that have emerged quickly out of the gates.

Colorado Rockies

MLB Opening WeekThe Colorado Rockies are off to a hot start with five quick wins under their belt. They are tied for the best record in the MLB with the equally hot Diamondbacks. The NL West looks extremely exciting.

Nolan Arenado has led the charge, treating fans to a ninth inning shot giving Colorado an early season 2-1 win.

Later in the week, Clayton Kershaw experienced the power of this offense after giving up back-to-back home runs to Mark Reynolds and Gerardo Parra.

We knew the offense was going to be good, but up to this point, the pitching has been impressive as well. A solid young rotation and the resurgence of Greg Holland makes this Rockies team look incredibly promising in 2017.

Baltimore Orioles

Mark Trumbo showed everyone just why he was worth that contract in an opening day display. He blasted a walk-off home run in an 11-inning showdown with Toronto to help Baltimore set the tone early. The power on this Orioles team is unquestioned, but it was the pitching that presented the biggest unknown.

This Orioles’ staff has collectively posted a 3.64 ERA through five games. With Chris Tillman out, the remainder of the rotation was thought to be suspect at best. This hasn’t stopped Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy from picking up the slack and putting on impressive displays in week one. Look out AL East. Don’t sleep on the Orioles.

Minnesota Twins

MLB Opening Week

The hot start in the Central belongs to the defending AL champions, right? Not quite. Minnesota currently leads the Central and is tied for the most wins in the AL with five.

The Twins weren’t exactly saddled with high expectations to start the season, but this doesn’t seem to bother Minnesota. So what’s going on?

The return of Ervin Santana has certainly helped to anchor the rotation, and the bullpen has shown surprising upside. Names like Miguel Sano, Max Kepler and Byron Buxton should give Twins fans something to be excited about.

If veterans Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer can lead the way for these young players, the Twins may end up much better off than originally thought.

The Twins haven’t exactly played world beaters in the Royals and the White Sox, but a W is a W, and you can’t take those away.

 

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Collecting the Hardware: National League Preseason Predictions

It’s finally here! After waiting all the cold and dreary months for baseball to return, it has finally arrived. Analysts from all over baseball continue to roll out their predictions for what’s sure to be an incredibly exciting 2017 season.

Last week I issued my picks for Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP in the American League. In the AL, Andrew Benintendi, Marcus Stroman and Mookie Betts took center stage. This week we’ll take a look at the National League and take a shot at some additional bold predictions.

The National League

NL Rookie of the Year: Dansby Swanson

Collecting the Hardware: National League Pre-Season Predictions The rookie hype is undoubtedly surrounding Andrew Benintendi on what is sure to a very successful Red Sox team. The Braves aren’t likely to receive the same notoriety, but Dansby Swanson will be key to their success this season. After his second-half call up in 2016, Swanson slashed .302/.361/.442, with three home runs and three stolen bases.

That call-up coincided with a strong Braves performance after the All-Star break and positioned Atlanta nicely headed into 2017. The Braves didn’t stop there. They added veteran pitching and bolstered the farm system in the offseason. This sets the stage for a Braves’ resurgence led by one of the most exciting young rookies in the MLB.

Swanson absolutely cruised through the minors and has been a demonstrated winner at every level he’s played at. Some may argue for other rookies and their upside, but Swanson is poised to not only take NL ROY, but also have the best overall rookie performance in 2017, period.

NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard

Collecting the Hardware: National League Pre-Season Predictions The year-over-year obvious choice for the NL Cy Young is Clayton Kershaw. A pitcher who displays such incredible dominance at his position that it’s honestly a privilege to watch him play. With that said, I didn’t choose Kershaw for the award because where is the fun in that?

Noah Syndergaard met every expectation in his first full season, posting a 2.60 ERA with 218 strikeouts. Syndergaard is the clear ace of a Mets pitching staff whose entire rotation could act as the number one or two guy on most teams in the MLB. Coming in this season at 24 years old, the ceiling is scary high for this young flamethrower.

The Met’s have certainly battled injuries, but with “Thor” anchoring the rotation, the organization has to like their chances.

NL Most Valuable Player: Paul Goldschmidt

I admit this is a bit of a protest pick. I think conventional wisdom would say that the MVP typically belongs on a contender, Mike Trout being the exception. However, if we’re going to give Trout the credit (which he absolutely deserves) for carrying the Angels, than “Goldy” deserves some love here too.

Paul Goldschmidt quietly slashed .297 /.411 /.489 with 24 home runs and 32 stolen bases during the 2016 season. This was the same season where he experienced a significant slump early in the year that had many analysts in panic mode.

There are a number of worthy candidates for this pick, but I’d like to put the statistics in perspective. Goldschmidt stole 32 bases in 2016 as a first baseman. That put him ninth overall right behind speedster names like Jean Segura and Trea Turner. Goldy smacked 24 homers in a down year when he’s displayed power of 30 plus and strong slugging percentages.

Most impressive of all is his on-base and walk ratio. Goldschmidt walked 110 times in 2016, second only to Mike Trout. That was down from his previous year where he walked 118 times. Ranking number four in OBP, two spots behind “best eyes in baseball” Joey Votto, Goldschmidt sees the ball as well as anyone in the game.

The Diamondbacks may still be a few pieces away from contention, but without Paul Goldschmidt, it’s not even a discussion.

These predictions are truly fun because there are almost too many good options. This writer could make a case for any number of stars in the game today. Who knows how the season will play out or if any of the name on the list will be up for their listed award? What we do know is that baseball is back and we are in store for another exciting season of America’s great pastime!

 

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2017 Fantasy Baseball Right Field Rankings

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Right Field Rankings

I present to you my 2017 fantasy baseball right field rankings.

The top 30 right fielders have been grouped into four tiers, with the top and bottom player of each tier profiled below. The average draft position of each player, according to FantasyDraftPros.com, are listed adjacent to the player.

Honorable Mentions: Michael Saunders (PHI), Brandon Drury (ARI), Aaron Judge (NYY), Shin-Soo Choo (TEX), Josh Reddick (HOU), Avisail Garcia (CWS), Danny Valencia (OAK), Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE), Steven Souza Jr (TB), and Travis Jankowski (SD)

Tier 1

2017 Fantasy Baseball Right Field Rankings

Besides Mike Trout, Mookie Betts is the only other player you should consider for the first overall pick in 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox, (4)
  • Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals, (10)

 

Mookie Betts is the only player other than Mike Trout you should consider for the first overall pick this season. Betts had a breakout campaign in 2016, batting .318 with 31 home runs, 122 runs scored, 113 RBIs, and 26 stolen bases.

The runner-up in MVP batted .338 in the second half, suggesting we could see further improvement from Betts in the near future. The five-category contributor will remain in the MVP conversation for years to come.

Bryce Harper had a rough 2016 and battled injuries all season. The 2015 MVP had a career low batting average of .243, while only hitting 24 home runs. That is quite low by his standards.

Harper decided to forgo the World Baseball Classic in order to be fully healthy come opening day. Be confident in a bounce back season for the 24-year-old because he has all of the potential in the world.

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball Right Field Rankings

George Springer will finally prove himself as a contender for 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. (Courtesy of The Unbiased MLB Fan)

  • George Springer, Houston Astros, (28)
  • Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates, (54)
  • Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners, (42)
  • Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies, (34)
  • Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins, (39)
  • Matt Kemp, Atlanta Braves, (96)
  • J.D. Martinez, Detroit Tigers, (40)
  • Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays, (67)
  • Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles, (77)
  • Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals, (118)
  • Adam Eaton, Washington Nationals (103)

 

George Springer is a highly sought after commodity in all fantasy leagues, and for good reason. The 26-year-old played in all 162 games last season and finished with a .261 average, 29 home runs, 116 runs scored, 82 RBIs and nine stolen bases.

Springer lead the league in times caught stealing in 2016, although he stole 37 and 45 bases in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Be confident in drafting Springer in 2017, as his 30/30 potential is very real.

Adam Eaton will join Bryce Harper and company in Washington D.C. in 2017. The 28-year-old will bat in the leadoff or two-hole for the Nationals, which will give him a great chance to eclipse the 100-run mark for the first time in his career.

The move from Chicago to Washington will also help Eaton increase his steal totals, as the Nationals are a much more aggressive base stealing team than the White Sox. Eaton will be a great source of runs and speed with solid floors in all other categories, which makes him well worth a top 100 pick.

Tier 3

2017 Fantasy Baseball Right Field Rankings

Stephen Piscotty went overlooked in 2016 fantasy drafts, but this will not be the case this season. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • Stephen Piscotty, St. Louis Cardinals, (98)
  • Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels, (144)
  • Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants, (122)
  • Carlos Beltran, Houston Astros, (174)
  • Jay Bruce, New York Mets, (153)
  • Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins, (122)

 

Stephen Piscotty flew under the radar in 2016 after playing in 63 games in 2015 when he finished with a .305 batting average, seven home runs and 39 RBIs.

If you invested in Piscotty last season, you reaped the benefits, as he ended the year with a .273 batting average, 22 home runs, 86 runs scored and 85 RBIs. The St. Louis Cardinals clean-up hitter is a safe top 100 selection in all formats, as he is a career .282 hitter entering only his third major league season.

Miguel Sano’s upside has been duely noted for years. He has hit 107 home runs in only 453 minor league games. The knock on Sano has been his atrocious strike out rate of 36 percent. It severally limits his upside, especially in leagues that consider OBP.

I don’t see myself drafting Sano this season as his ADP is fairly high at 122. However, the 23-year-old has all the time in the world to prove me wrong.

Tier 4

2017 Fantasy Baseball Right Field Rankings

Hunter Renfroe should be on everyone’s radar come 2017. (Courtesy of the San Diego Union Tribune)

  • Hunter Renfroe, San Diego Padres, (262)
  • Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers, (205)
  • Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs, (123)
  • Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins, (230)
  • Yasmany Tomas, Arizona Diamondbacks, (191)
  • David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks, (279)
  • Domingo Santana, Milwaukee Brewers, (297)
  • Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers, (258)
  • Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs, (232)
  • Curtis Granderson, New York Mets, (181)
  • Jarrod Dyson, Seattle Mariners, (219)

 

Hunter Renfroe was called up by the San Diego Padres in September of 2016. He batted an astounding .371, with four home runs and 14 RBIs in his short stint of 11 games.

I understand this sample size is too small to consider relevant, but his minor-league statistics also suggest that he will be successful. In four minor-league seasons, he has batted .281 and hit 77 home runs in 438 games. The upside is real, and the ADP is very low. Renfroe will be a game changer in deeper leagues come 2017.

Jarrod Dyson will be an everyday player for the first time in his career. The 32-year-old will bat lead-off for the Seattle Mariners to begin the season. This alone makes him a candidate to score 100 runs.

The career .260 hitter is most known for his prowess as an elite base stealer, who has stolen 176 bases in 550 MLB games. Dyson could be everything fantasy owners are looking for in Billy Hamilton, except Dyson is going 150 picks later. If you need cheap speed, Dyson is your man.

 

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2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

I present to you my 2017 fantasy baseball center field rankings.

The top 25 center fielders have been grouped into four tiers, with the top and bottom player of each tier profiled below.

Honorable Mentions: Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Jason Heyward (CHC), Kevin Pillar (TOR), Kevin Kiermaier (TB), Leonys Martin (SEA), Travis Janikowski (SD), Mallex Smith (TB), and Eddie Rosario (MIN).

Exceptions include: Ian Desmond (COL), who is out six to eight weeks after undergoing hand surgery this spring training.  

 

Tier 1

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Mike Trout or Micky Mantle? (Courtesy of the Huffington Post)

 

  • Mike Trout LAA

 

By this point, everyone should recognize that Mike Trout stands alone as the top player in fantasy baseball.  The two-time MVP is a perennial threat to bat .300, score 100 runs, produce 100 RBIs, and steal 30 bases. In leagues that take OBP or OPS into consideration, Trout’s value is increased even more so, as he has a monster career OBP of .405 and OPS of .963. The 25-year-old will be the first player taken in all 2017 fantasy drafts.

 

 

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Will Charlie Blackmon finish the season as a Colorado Rocky? (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

 

  • Charlie Blackmon COL
  • Trea Turner WSN
  • A.J. Pollock ARI
  • Yoenis Cespedes NYM
  • Christian Yelich MIA
  • Andrew McCutchen PIT
  • Lorenzo Cain KC

 

Charlie Blackmon surpassed career highs in nearly every category last season, while only appearing in 143 games. Blackmon had 29 home runs, 111 runs scored, 82 runs driven in, and stole 17 bases, while batting an astounding .324. The 30-year-old will continue to bat atop an incredibly strong Colorado Rockies lineup that is guaranteed to produce in 2017.

There has been talk about the Rockies potentially moving Blackmon out of Coors field if they are struggling at the trade deadline, although Blackmon’s talent is sure to translate to another park, team, and position in the lineup. He is well worth a pick in the top 20 as he has 30/30 potential with a career batting average of .298.

Lorenzo Cain is being severally overlooked and undervalued in 2017. The Kansas City Royals’ three-hitter is batting .300 over his last three seasons, while averaging 30 steals per 162 games. Cain managed to hit 16 home runs in 140 games in 2015, which I believe show that he has the potential for a 20/30 season.

The 30-year-old’s major issue is staying on the field, as he is yet to surpass the 140-game mark, although if he can stay healthy, he is a sure-fire top 20 outfielder in 2017.

 

 

Tier 3

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Dexter Fowler is headed to the division rival. (Gene J. Puskar, AP Photo)

 

  • Dexter Fowler STL
  • Adam Jones BAL
  • Adam Eaton WSN
  • Odubel Herrera PHI
  • Carlos Gomez TEX
  • Byron Buxton MIN
  • Keon Broxton MIL

 

Dexter Fowler will move from Chicago to the division rival St. Louis Cardinals in 2017. Fowler will bat leadoff for the always productive Cardinals, who are looking to back bounce from missing the playoffs in 2016.

The 31-year-old has a career .270 average, and will be a threat to score 100 runs and steal 10 to 20 bases. Fowler is a safe a selection within the top 150 players, as he is a lock for above average production in three out of the five major categories, while also offering average production in home runs and RBIs. 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.

Keon Broxton has yet to play a full season at the major-league level, although 2017 will be his year to break out. As a career .255 hitter at the minor-league level, Broxton clearly has room to improve, although he is averaging 15 home runs and 31 steals per 162 games.

The 27-year-old will receive his first opportunity to play an everyday role, as he will be the starting center fielder and six-hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Broxton’s ADP of 225, according to fantasypros.com, makes him well worth a late round selection if you miss on a more proven commodity.

 

 

Tier 4

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Brandon Phillips, Jose Peraza will finally have an open spot in the Cincinnati Reds lineup. (Courtesy of MLBdailydish.com)

 

  • Jose Peraza CIN
  • Billy Hamilton CIN
  • Joc Pederson LAD
  • Randal Grichuck STL
  • Rajai Davis OAK
  • Jarrod Dyson SEA
  • Ender Inciarte ATL
  • Denard Span SFG
  • Tyler Naquin CLE
  • Cameron Maybin LAA

 

Jose Peraza is a top 100 prospect according to MLB.com, Baseballprospectus.com, and Baseball America. He will primarily play second base, and will presumably start the season batting at the bottom of the order, but a promotion to the leadoff spot could occur if he continues to find success at the plate. He has a career batting average of .312 at all levels and has stolen 244 bases in 611 career games. The 22-year-old offers tremendous value through his speed, contact, and versatility in 2017.

Cameron Maybin will move out west to join the Los Angeles Angels in 2017. Maybin is a career .259 hitter, although he managed to bat .315 last season in 94 games for the Detroit Tigers. He is a threat to steal 20 or more bases as well as provide runs with a solid average.

If Maybin can remain healthy, career highs in RBI’s and home runs could be in order as well, as the 29-year-old will bat primarily sixth to start the season.

 

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Twilight Zone Season 1 Episode 35 The Mighty Casey

Baseballs Twilight Zone: If Spring Training Mattered

No matter the sport, the importance of preseason win/loss outcomes is debated year after year. While spring games are undoubtedly managed differently, the same question remains. Is it reasonable to draw any conclusions from the wins and losses in these matchups?

The answer is no, at least not in the short-term. A number of interesting studies such as this one by Michael R. Summers look more deeply into the topic. Unsurprisingly, a team’s year over year regular season performance matters far more than their spring record. There is something to be said for this spring correlation over time, but any single season provides little predictive evidence.

However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to look at the standing in this pseudo baseball universe where starters pitch three innings and minor league players log more time then starters. Today we’ll take a look at the 2017 playoff picture if it was determined based on spring training performance. What are the match-ups? Who has clearest path to the World Series? Who will win the fall classic?

*Standings locked in Saturday night 3/12*

American League National League
Team W L PCT GB Team W L PCT GB
NY Yankees 13 3 81% Pittsburgh 11 4 73%
Oakland 9 4 69% 2.5 St. Louis 10 4 71% 0.5
Seattle 10 5 67% 2.5 Colorado 8 6 57% 2.5
Minnesota 8 4 67% 3 Milwaukee 9 7 56% 2.5
LA Angels 9 5 64% 3 Arizona 8 7 53% 3
Baltimore 8 6 57% 4 LA Dodgers 8 7 53% 3
Chi White Sox 8 6 57% 4 NY Mets 8 8 50% 3.5
Cleveland 7 7 50% 5 Philadelphia 7 7 50% 3.5
Kansas City 7 7 50% 5 Washington 6 7 46% 4
Boston 7 8 47% 5.5 San Diego 6 8 43% 4.5
Tampa Bay 6 7 46% 5.5 Chi Cubs 5 7 42% 4.5
Houston 5 7 42% 6 San Francisco 6 10 38% 5.5
Toronto 4 9 31% 7.5 Miami 4 8 33% 5.5
Texas 3 11 21% 9 Cincinnati 5 11 31% 6.5
Detroit 3 12 20% 9.5 Atlanta 4 10 29% 6.5

The American League Playoff Picture

American League Divisional Series

  • New York Yankees vs. (Wild Card Winner)
  • Oakland Athletics vs. Minnesota Twins
  • Wild Card Matchup: Seattle Mariners vs. LA Angels

 

How’d we get here?

In one of the most stunning regular season sagas in baseball history, all preseason predictions have been shattered. The New York Yankees sit firmly atop the AL East with the best record in baseball (also somehow playing more games than anyone else).

The Oakland Athletics and the Minnesota Twins have defied every prediction by winning their divisions instead of landing in last.

Finally, it’s the year of Mike Trout and the Angels as they take on the veteran Seattle Mariners in a winner take all bid for glory.

American League Championship Series

  • Seattle Mariners vs. Minnesota Twins

 

What Happened Next?

Baseballs Twilight Zone: If Spring Training Mattered

King Felix throws a perfect game to secure the wild card over the hapless Angels. Angels management realize the futility of their efforts and trade Trout in the offseason for an entire farm system. The Twins ignite an unforeseen hitting spree carried by Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano to secure victory over the A’s.

The Yankees have dominated all year with their young rookie class, which appears to be the second coming of the 90s dynasty. They are promptly dispatched by Seattle, which experts can only chalk up to “a lack of playoff experience.”

Finally, the stage is set for the Mariners to take on the Twins. James Paxton realizes his full potential, and along with Hernandez and Iwakuma, finds a way to silence one of the hottest hitting teams in baseball. The Seattle Mariners become American League Champions.

 

The National League Playoff Picture

National League Divisional Series

  • Pittsburgh Pirates vs. (Wild Card Winner)
  • Colorado Rockies vs. New York Mets
  • Wild Card Matchup: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Milwaukee Brewers

How’d we get here?

In a pitiful display, the NL East somehow scrounges up the Mets as division champs with the seventh best record in the NL.

The Pirates and Cardinals have a late season war for first place in the central. This turn of events clearly stuns the heavily favored Cubs, who are imploding under the weight of last seasons success.

Out West, the dark horse Rockies establish themselves over what appeared to be tough divisional competition prior to the season. Similar to the AL, we are witnessing an incredibly unusual turn of events. That’s baseball for you.

National League Championship Series

  • Colorado Rockies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

 

What Happened Next?

Baseballs Twilight Zone: If Spring Training MatteredThe long-established Cardinals make short work of a Brewers team that stunned the MLB with their uncharacteristic finish. The Rockies prolific offense puts the lumber to a Mets team whose rotation is clearly plagued by the injury bug.

All of this to create a classic showdown between the divisional rivals who battled for the top seed heading into the playoffs. The Pirates and Cardinals engage in a brutal five game series that sees multiple extra-inning games and depleted bullpens.

In the end, players and fans are exhausted by a tight, 20-inning game, with the Pirates winning 3-2. This is the result of a suicide squeeze play by Andrew McCutchen to score the go ahead run. With no closers remaining, McCutchen also takes the mound to close the 20th inning with a 1-2-3 inning on 9 strikes. How’s that for a comeback season?

Unfortunately for the Pirates, this success is short lived. After the brutal engagement with the Cardinals, the depleted forces of Pittsburgh simply cannot hang with a well-rested Rockies team. The Colorado Rockies become the National League Champions.

 

The World Series Matchup

Seattle Mariners vs. Colorado Rockies

A matchup simply no one predicted at the beginning of the 2017 season, but not an entirely unrealistic one. On one side there is an absolutely stacked Rockies offense with a young pitching staff beginning to establish themselves. On the other is a strong three-man rotation with a lineup sporting solid veterans like Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz.

The smart move is to go with the veteran team with superior pitching. In baseballs twilight zone, clearly the Rockies take it all. Jon Gray establishes himself as team ace by carrying multiple, deep-inning games that allow Greg Holland to close out. The Rockies offense is unstoppable with Nolan Arenado leading the way and slashing .399/.499/.599 for the series. Arenado is named the undisputed MVP and king of Colorado as he leads the Rockies to their first World Series victory in franchise history. The Colorado Rockies are the 2017 World Series Champions.

What did I just read?

So in fairness, this is an absurd way of giving an update on the current spring training records. That said, if there was ever a sport where a ridiculous scenario could play out, it would be baseball. Spring training records really don’t matter. It’s an opportunity for players to get into shape, work on technique and for managers to get lineups dialed in. We all can’t wait for the regular season to begin. In the meantime, we can sit back and wonder what the 2017 season has in store for us.

 

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