Trey Mancini fantasy

Trey Mancini fantasy: Tale of the tape

Trey Mancini emerged as one of the league’s premier power threats in 2017. In this piece, I will discuss his past and present performance, as well as my expectations moving forward.

Background

Trey Mancini fantasy

Trey Mancini was an eighth-round selection out of the University of Notre Dame by the Baltimore Orioles in 2013. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Mancini was an eighth-round selection out of the University of Notre Dame by the Baltimore Orioles in 2013. That year, a then 21-year-old Mancini played 68 games with low-A Aberdeen in the New York-Pennsylvania League. He rose through the minor leagues at a steady pace, playing in high-A in 2014, double-A in 2015 and triple-A in 2016. After 483 games in four minor league seasons, Mancini totaled 189 extra-base hits and 275 RBIs while slashing .306/.357/.472.

In 2016, the then 24-year-old Mancini made his major league debut. In just five games, he managed to hit three home runs and drive in five RBIs. It wouldn’t be long until we saw what he was capable of at the next level.

2017 season

Mancini’s 2017 campaign exceeded most expectations. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder was an American League All-Star snub after failing to place within the top-15 in outfield voting despite batting .312 with 14 home runs, 15 doubles and 44 RBIs in 74 games in the first half. Carlos Beltran, future Hall of Famer and fan favorite, was the seventh leading vote getter for American League outfielders, even though he batted .227 with just 11 home runs and 35 RBIs in the first half.

Mancini eventually cooled off, batting a respectable .276 with 10 home runs, 11 doubles and 34 RBIs the rest of the way. He concluded 2017 with a .293 batting average, 24 home runs, 54 extra-base hits and 78 RBIs.

He spent the majority of the season batting fifth or sixth, as he had more than 50 at-bats in each lineup spot. Among qualified batters, Mancini registered the 13th highest batting average on balls in play, or BABIP, at .352 and managed to make at least medium contact on 80 percent of his batted balls.

2018 outlook

Trey Mancini fantasy

Trey Mancini’s raw power and contact rates show he is capable of being a catalyst in the heart of an order. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Mancini looks to be an integral piece to the Orioles’ puzzle moving forward. His raw power and contact rates show he is capable of being a catalyst in the heart of an order.

Despite the Orioles’ struggles (75-87), they ranked fifth in home runs (232) and eighth in batting average (.260) in 2017. In a lineup alongside Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, Trey Mancini is sure to be a run-producing machine.

His first base and leftfield eligibilities further enhance his fantasy value, as versatility is key, especially in leagues that use individual outfield positions.

In my estimation, Mancini will be a border-line .300 hitter with a 30-plus home run upside. I am confident he will be drafted within the top-100, although I would be comfortable drafting him within my top-60 selections in 2018.

 

 

Featured image by Getty Images

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2017 AFC North division preview

2017 AFC North division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 NFL season. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 AFC North division preview.

4: Cleveland Browns

2017 AFC North division preview

(Photo Credit: http://www.clevelandbrowns.com)

Last season: 1-15

Strength of schedule: 21

The Cleveland Browns had an atrocious 2016 NFL season but that has become the norm in Cleveland. In the last 10 seasons, the Browns have had more the seven wins only twice. It has been even longer since the Browns have made the playoffs which last occurred in 2002. The struggle has been real but the Browns seem to be moving in the right direction finally.

It isn’t hard to improve on a 1-15 season and the truth is the Browns have nowhere to go but up. Improvement started with the draft and Cleveland did a tremendous job in the draft this year. The selections of Myles Garrett, David Njoku, Jabrill Peppers, DeShone Kizer, Caleb Brantley and Larry Ogunjobi show just how much the Browns are moving in the right direction. All these players will be key pieces for the Browns moving forward.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns will be much better than last years 31st ranking. Danny Shelton and Desmond Bryant will do a solid job plugging the middle allowing Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey to make a lot of tackles. In the secondary, Joe Haden is the veteran star who will attempt to lead this secondary’s improvement in defending the pass which gave up 249.8 passing yards per game.

Offensively, the Browns will need to be committed to running the football. Their upgrades along the offensive line will create a solid foundation for improving an offense that only managed to score 16.5 points per game. The quarterback situation is still unfolding but having a solid offensive line will allow them to run the ball well with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. This will make life easier for whoever ends up under center over the course of the season.

No matter who starts, or eventually plays, at quarterback they will have really good receivers to connect with. Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt are capable of having big years and both could find their way to 1,000 yards. Duke Johnson Jr. will also see some time at wideout and with his speed could turn any touch into a house call.

Although the Browns seem to be heading in the right direction, they won’t see a ton of wins this season. Cleveland plays in a tough division and just doesn’t have enough talent to win it. The Browns will be more competitive but are a year or two away from really competing for the division crown.

Prediction: 4-12 (2-4), miss the playoffs

losses: Pit, @Bal, @Ind, @Hou, Ten, Min, @Det, @Cin, @LAC, GB, @Pit, @Chi

3: Baltimore Ravens

2017 AFC North division preview

(Photo Credit: https://www.si.com)

Last season: 8-8

Strength of schedule: 24

Baltimore has struggled since winning Super Bowl XLVII, missing the playoffs three of the last four seasons. The defense hasn’t been as elite and the offense doesn’t seem to have a true identity. The Ravens are in for another tough season and John Harbaugh may be on the hot seat by the end of this season.

As previously mentioned, the Ravens do not have a true identity. Despite having Marshal Yanda on the offensive line, the unit as a whole is a weak spot and Pro Football Focus ranks the unit 23rd out of 32 teams. The offensive line is going to face some tough defenses, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh twice, Jacksonville, Minnesota, and Tennessee are teams capable of dominating the Ravens front.

With a below average offensive line, the running game is going to struggle as it did last season averaging just 91.4 yards per game. There is also a three man committee at running back between Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West and Danny Woodhead. Each has their own specialty, but with three running backs splitting time, none will be able to get into a good enough rhythm to lead the running game to succeed.

Because of this, the running game will not open up the passing game which is a must for Joe Flacco to have success. Aside from an amazing playoff run in 2013, Flacco is rather average. His QBR shows just how average he is at 58.4 last season. In Flacco’s nine year career he has averaged 3,626 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions per season. These numbers scream average. Flacco is also 11-19 in his last 30 starts. His career seems to be trending down and the Ravens are going to hurt this season because of it.

The receiving group has a lot of experience and speed. Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace will cause nightmares for defensive backs but can the offensive line hold up enough for Flacco to get them the ball, that is the question. Breshad Perriman is another speedster that can become a dangerous deep threat.

Defensive has been the strength of this franchise for a long time. Last season was no different as the Ravens ranked ninth in points allowed. Baltimore gave up the seventh fewest yards during the season which was due to their outstanding rush defense. Teams only ran for 89.4 yards per game against the Ravens. The defense will remain good but not good enough to carry a team with a bad offense to the playoffs.

The Ravens really struggled on the road last season going 2-6 and it is likely that the road woes continue. Pair this with an offense that will struggle to score and you get a team that ends up with only a handful of wins.

Prediction: 6-10 (3-3), miss the playoffs

losses: @Cin, @Jax, @Oak, @Min, Mia, @Ten, @GB, Det, @Pit, @Cle

2: Cincinnati Bengals

2017 AFC North division preview

(Photo Credit: George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Last season: 6-9-1

Strength of schedule: 29

After making the playoffs for five straight seasons the Bengals took a step back and only won six games last year. Marvin Lewis is entering his 15th season as the head coach and has gone 0-7 in the playoffs. If he does not win a playoff game this season he will be fired. 15 years is plenty of time to prove you can win a playoff game and if the Bengals don’t do so there needs to be a new voice in the locker room.

The Bengals offense was nothing spectacular last season. Cincinnati ranked 24th in scoring at just 20.3 points per game. The Bengals offense will need to score more points this season. Rushing the ball seems to be easy for the Bengals as they averaged 110.6 rushing yards per game. Joe Mixon will improve the running game even more as long as the replacements along the offensive line create running lanes.

The passing attack will also be better this season. A.J. Green will still be a beast on the outside but a healthy Tyler Eifert will open up the middle of the field. Speedy receiver John Ross will complement these two players and create mismatches for opposing defenses. Andy Dalton just needs to get the ball out of his hands and into these playmakers hands as quickly as possible to make up for the below average offensive line.

Losing offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler is going to be huge blows to this offense. Cincinnati is hoping they can soften this blow by reacquiring Andre Smith. If the offensive line can replace these losses and hold up, then the Bengals will easily have a top 15 offense in the NFL.

Similar to the Ravens, the strength of the Bengals is on the defensive side of the ball. Cincinnati gave up the seventh fewest points last season at just 19.7 per game. The front four is led by studs Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. Vontaze Burfict returns at linebacker and the Bengals upgraded their middle linebacker from Rey Maualuga to Kevin Minter. The secondary is also not to be messed with as the Bengals return Adam “Pacman” Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and George Iloka.

The success of this season depends on the offense. Defensively, there is little to no concern. If the offensive line can create success then the Bengals will be in the hunt for the playoffs.

Prediction: 8-8 (3-3), wildcard candidate

losses: Hou, @GB, @Cle, @Pit, @Ten, @Den, @Min, @Bal

1: Pittsburgh Steelers

2017 AFC North division preview

(Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com)

Last season: 11-5

Strength of schedule: 27

How did a team that finished 11-5 and made it to the AFC Championship, get such an easy schedule? Pittsburgh has the fifth easiest schedule in the NFL and returns a plethora of talent. The Steelers have plenty of experience on their side and should be one of the best teams in the NFL and a Super Bowl contender.

The Steelers quietly had a very good defense but the offense gets all the recognition. Pittsburgh did rank 10th in points allowed and total yards. The high total yards ranking was because of their rush defense which only gave up 93.2 rush yards per game, ranking eighth.

The biggest area the Steelers need to show improvement in is in third down defense. Pittsburgh could not get off the field and spent an average of 62 plays per game on the field. Opposing offenses converted 41.1 percent of their third downs. The Steelers added rookie T.J. Watt in the draft to get some more pressure thus helping them get off the field more on.

Supringingly Pittsburgh is all about the offense though. The Steelers have a three headed monster on offense that led them to having one of the leagues best offenses. The oldest of the three, Ben Roethlisberger, had another great year. Big Ben threw for 3,819 yards, 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Even at his age, he will still throw for close to 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns as long as he remains healthy.

Le’Veon Bell is who this offense is built around so this hold out is alarming. As long as Bell can play the entire season, the Steelers will have an unstoppable offense. Bell is the first player to ever average 100 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving for a season. He is a key piece to the Steelers success.

The remaining star, Antonio Brown,  contributed 106 receptions, 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns to the high powered offense. Brown consistently dominates the league and with him passing success is easy to come by. These three superstars are the reason the Steelers are going to have another year in which they score a ton of points.

The Steelers have an easy schedule, tough defense and explosive offense. Pittsburgh will win the division and contend for the Super Bowl

Prediction: 12-4 (4-2), division champion

losses: @Bal, @KC, NE, @Hou

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Featured image courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uY9XhulFyM

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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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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World Baseball Classic Preview: Pool C

After examining eight of the 16 teams in the World Baseball Classic, we move on to the most talented pool in the tournament: Pool C. The teams included in this pool are full of major league talent, and are some of the deepest in the WBC. If you missed Pool A or Pool B, you can find them below.

World Baseball Classic Preview: Pool A

World Baseball Classic Preview: Pool B

World Baseball Classic

Ryan Dempster will provide leadership as well as pitching for team Canada (Elise Amendola/AP).

Canada

For the boys north of the border, they will rely on some big name players who have made their hay in the USA. Longtime team Canada manager Erin Whitt has a bevy of major league talent to draw upon.

On the mound team Canada will be lead by 16 year major league veteran Ryan Dempster. While Dempster hasn’t played in the majors since 2013, the 39 year old should still be a top contributor for skipper Erin Whitt. He will also be joined on the mound by current major leaguers John Axford and Jim Henderson. Axford and Henderson are quality relievers, and will be great weapons for team Canada.

While there is plenty of pitching to rely on, the true stars are found off the mound. At first base NL All-Star Freddie Freeman will provide the thump for team Canada. The 27 year old Brave hit 34 bombs in 2016, and put up an impressive 157 OPS+. Former AL MVP and current free agent Justin Morneau will also suit up, giving Whitt plenty of options at first base. Many will also recognize current Blue Jay Dalton Pompey, who will patrol the outfield.

In any other pool, Canada would be one of the top teams, if not the favorite. But playing in Pool C does not bode well for them, as it will be a struggle to get to the second round of tournament play.

Colombia

World Baseball Classic

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

Making their World Baseball Classic debut, Colombia has a good level of talent to rely on. Colombia advanced from the Qualifier 3 round in 2016 to become eligible for the WBC. Pitching will be their strong suit, as they have multiple major league players to toe the rubber.

Chicago White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana became the staff ace after the trade of Chris Sale, but to many he was already a top pitcher in the game. His career 3.41 ERA has been supported by his 7.4 SO/9 innings. The lefty will be the ace for Colombia, and will be joined by NL All-Star Julio Teheran. Teheran has bee the ace of the Atlanta Braves for years, and will be a nice compliment to Quintana.

Catching for team Colombia will be Phillies prospect Jorge Alfaro. After being traded from Texas to Philly, Alfaro made his major league debut in 2016. While his numbers weren’t impressive in limited at-bats, he is seen as the catcher of the future in Philadelphia. He will be joined in the infield by former top prospect Dilson Herrera. In parts of two major league seasons in Flushing, Herrera was less than impressive. But he still has plenty of tools to be a difference maker for Colombia.

Colombia has a good mix of pitching and position player talent. They will need to utilize it to the fullest if they hope to cause an upset and make it out of Pool C.

World Baseball Classic

Robinson Cano led the Dominican Republic to the championship in 2013 (Al Bello/Getty Images).

Dominican Republic

After going undefeated on their way to winning the 2013 WBC, the Dominican Republic is one of the favorites to take home the championship again in 2017. And its easy to see why. The Dominican Republic has one of the most stacked rosters in this years tournament.

With a roster that would rival even the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs in talent, manager Moises Alou will have plenty of players to rely on. On the mound, established veteran starters like Johnny Cueto, Bartolo Colon and Edinson Volquez will be joined by young studs Carlos Martinez and Luis Severino. The bullpen will be anchored by all-stars Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia and Fernando Rodney.

With all of that talent on the mound, you might over look the position players for the Dominican Republic. Just kidding. With players like Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Jose Bautista, Manny Machado, Starlin Marte and many others, that is almost impossible. With an ample supply of power, speed and defense, skipper Moises Alou has a manager’s dream on his hands: too much talent.

The Dominican Republic boasts one of the most stacked squads in WBC history. With stars all over the field, the Dominican Republic is set to make another deep run in the WBC.

United States

World Baseball Classic

Andrew Miller is set to continue his post season dominance in the WBC (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images).

One of the few teams in all of the WBC that can rival the DR in talent is team USA. But in the WBC’s history, the US has yet to win the championship. Will that change in 2017? Manager Jim Leyland sure hopes so.

Leyland will have a treasure trove of talent to utilize, both on the mound and in the field. He will be handing the ball to starting pitchers like Chris Archer, Sonny Gray and Michael Fulmer. The bullpen will be bolstered by some of the game’s best. Cleveland Indians’ playoff hero Andrew Miller will be joined by Sam Dyson and Luke Gregerson to form a shut-down pen. But the cup runneth over in terms of talent, from the mound to the field.

The outfield will be manned by sluggers Giancarlo Stanton, Adam Jones and Andrew McCutchen. The will also be joined by Stanton’s teammate Christian Yelich to form a star studded outfield. The infield will be led by Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey behind the dish, as well as all-around talent Paul Goldschmidt. Spectacular veterans Ian Kinsler, Brandon Crawford and Daniel Murphy will be joined by the young stud Alex Bregman.

Even with not every team USA player listed, this roster is one of the best in the WBC. With depth at every position, manager Jim Leyland will be able to put multiple solid lineups out on the field.

Verdict

One of the deepest pools in all of the WBC, each team has multiple major league players on their respective rosters. In any other pool, Colombia and Canada would be competitive if not the favorites to advance. But in Pool C, there is really only two teams with a chance to move on to the second round.

The Dominican Republic and the USA are some of the most stacked rosters in the WBC’s history. Both are composed of all-star level talent, making choosing a favorite difficult. But after reviewing both team’s entire rosters, team USA has a slight advantage. With a deeper roster than the Dominican Republic, team USA should be able to get out of Pool C victorious.

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AL East Shenanigans: Just How Close is the Race?

By the time September rolls around, there is generally a couple of teams who have secured playoff spots and can look to rest key players sporadically during the remainder of the season. As of September 9th, Texas had a nine game lead over the 2nd place team in the AL West, the Houston Astros. Cleveland has been cruising lately, going 8-2 in their last 10 games to secure a six game lead in the AL Central. The AL East, on the otherhand, is where it get reals interesting.

What sets the AL East apart from the rest of the American League is that the division has four teams that are within four games of each other. Not only does the division hold a playoff spot for the division leader, but also has both of the wild card spots in the AL, and a fourth team just two games back for a wild card spot. The beauty of September baseball, as well, is that the majority of games that will be played by the teams will be against their division opponents. So not only is it a tight race for the division lead, but the race is nowhere near the finish line as the standings will be in constant flux.

The Boston Red Sox are the current division leaders in the AL East with a one game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays. Buoyed by the fanfare of David “Big Papi” Ortiz’s retirement tour and an MVP-worthy season from youngster Mookie Betts, the Red Sox are looking every bit like a playoff team. The pitching has come around since the beginning of the season, with David Price, Rick Porcello and deadline acquisition Drew Pomeranz (The Killer P’s?) resembling a strong rotation come playoff time.

Rick Porcello has impressed this season, throwing himself into the Cy Young conversation. Photo courtesy of Dan Hamilton of the USA Today

Rick Porcello has impressed this season, throwing himself into the Cy Young conversation. Can he keep up his dominance down the stretch and propel the Sox into the playoffs? Photo courtesy of Dan Hamilton of the USA Today

Porcello especially has impressed, reducing his BB/9 to a career low 1.35 while maintaining a K/9 near 7.5. Porcello’s off-speed pitches have come around this season, which has led to hitters not receiving as many easy pitches to hit and thus leading to more outs generated for Porcello and the Sox. Fangraphs says this season, opponents are only hitting .171 against his change and .212 against his slider, compared to .292 and .342 respectively last season. The weakness of the Red Sox is the bullpen, especially bridging the gap from starter to Kimbrel in the 9th. The Red Sox addressed the issue at the deadline, adding Ziegler from Arizona, but Ziegler has produced mixed results since the move. Look for the bullpen being the reason why the Red Sox will either keep producing efficiently, or start to move down the standings as the month rolls by.

The Toronto Blue Jays currently sit in second by a game and lead the wild card race. I profiled the team briefly in my article on the AL Division Race a week ago, so I will just give a quick rundown. Basically, Toronto has the best offense on paper, headlined by potential AL MVP Josh Donaldson and bat flipping champion Jose Bautista. A supporting cast of hitters including Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, and Edwin Encarnacion rounds out the most potent lineup in the American League, if not all of baseball (I’d argue the lineup is more potent than the Cubs).

Jose Bautista has powered the Jays to the playoffs before...can he do it again? Photo courtesy of Getty Sports

Jose Bautista has powered the Jays to the playoffs before…can he do it again? Photo courtesy of Getty Sports

 

What could be the Blue Jays downfall, and my reason of hesitancy, is that pitching matters, and the Blue Jays do not have the stud pitching seen in other potential playoff team’s rotations. Just this past weekend, the Jays’ starters gave up a combined 11 earned runs in 13.2 innings (in 3 games) against the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that is twenty-one games below .500. That is not pitching a fan wants to see leading into the playoffs.

The Baltimore Orioles are the often forgotten studs in the AL East. The Orioles currently reside only two games back in the AL East standings and are perched in the second wild card spot with a one game lead over the Detroit Tigers. The Orioles also feature a potent lineup starring Manny Machado, Chris “Crush” Davis, and Adam Jones. Yet, those are not the only ones doing the heavy lifting, as the rest of the lineup has been hitting dingers all season as well. Mark Trumbo, most notably, has been a key fixture in the middle of the Orioles lineup, despite being traded for in the offseason for a backup catcher.

Mark Trumbo has been very productive for the Orioles, especially since he was traded a backup catcher. Photo courtesy of Butch Dill of the USA Today

Mark Trumbo has been very productive for the Orioles, especially since he was traded a backup catcher. Will his power be enough to get the Orioles playoff-bound? Photo courtesy of Butch Dill of the USA Today

This season, Trumbo has put up 41 homeruns while maintaining an adequate .255 batting average for the season. Another notable hitter is the underrated second basemen Jonathan Schoop, who despite only having 18 walks this year, has put up a .282 batting average and 21 homeruns for the club.

Despite all the power in the Orioles lineup, the problem comes down to the rotation once again, as the Orioles rotation is filled with veteran journeymen and super young pitchers. Keep an eye on Kevin Gausman though, who despite his record, has pitched well lately, not giving up a run in his last three starts. The rotation will be the question mark for the Orioles as the postseason looms ever closer.

The final team still battling for the AL East is the New York Yankees. The Yankees are interesting because the Yankees were sellers at the MLB Trade Deadline, moving Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Carlos Beltran for a plethora of high upside prospects. Yet, a month after the deadline, the Yankees are only sitting four games back in the division and two back from the Orioles for the final wild card spot. The Yankees have been by their promoted youngsters, especially the polarizing Gary Sanchez.

Gary Sanchez has been raking for the Yankees. Can he keep up the hot hitting down the stretch? Photo courtesy of Brad Penner of the USA Today

Gary Sanchez has been raking for the Yankees. Can he keep up the hot hitting down the stretch? Photo courtesy of Brad Penner of the USA Today

Sanchez was promoted right after the deadline and has played in thirty-one games since, sporting a .336 batting average and knocking out 11 homers. Tanaka has been pitching like the ace that was expected out of his contract and the team has also received decent pitching from Michael Pineda and C.C. Sabathia over the course of the season.

The thing to watch with the Yankees will be whether the hot hitting will continue. The team is currently riding a five game winning streak (as of 9/9), but if the team strings together a couple of losses, it will be interesting to see if the veterans will be able to steer the rookies back on track or the team will fade off.

The battle has been raging all season long for the division, and yet, despite five months of baseball, there is no clear indication who will lead the division at the end of the season. Question marks surround each team as the margins are constantly fluctuating throughout the month. The Red Sox appear to be the most complete team on paper, but a shaky bullpen can turn a few wins into losses and hurt a team’s place in the standings. The Jays and Orioles face question marks surrounding their rotations, despite the electric lineups each team fields. The Yankees have been buoyed by their youngster hitters, but it will be interesting to see what happens when the team starts stringing together a couple of losses back to back instead of riding the hot streak forever. The 2016 AL East is the reason why baseball is exciting in September and will be a fun story to follow for the rest of the month.

 

Stats courtesy of fangraphs and standings according to MLB.com

Shoutout to u/twistedlogicx for pointing this out on r/baseball

O’s Quietly on the Verge of Great Offseason

Sep 30, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo (49) leaves the field after the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy of CBS Sports

The Baltimore Orioles are on the verge of taking advantage of an offseason that has moved at a leisurely pace, resulting in several reputable players being available at reasonable rates.

The O’s are linked to several key players still available including Pedro Alvarez, Jay Bruce, Dexter Fowler, and Yovani Gallardo. A combination of Gallardo and one or two of the aforementioned hitters could round out their offseason and make them a serious contender in 2016.

Having already resigned key free agents Chris Davis, Darren O’Day, and Matt Wieters along with acquiring high upside players in Hyun-soo Kim and Mark Trumbo, the O’s look to be on the verge of having an exemplary offseason.

Retaining Davis, O’Day, and Wieters was substantial, especially considering the team lost key contributors Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Andrew Miller the previous offseason. Those loses loomed large in the O’s fall from their AL East throne in 2014 to a .500 record in 2015.

One blemish on their offseason this far is seeing Wei-Yin Chen depart and sign with the Miami Marlins. Saying goodbye to Chen resulted in a compensatory draft pick, but it also left a hole in an already weak starting rotation.

This brings us to the top remaining starter on the free agent market in Gallardo. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney the team and Gallardo are working on a deal in the ballpark of 3 years and 40 to 45 million.

If the sides could come to an agreement in this range it would certainly have the makings of a steal. Consider the 5 year-70 million dollar deal the Kansas City Royals dished out to Ian Kennedy and Gallardo looks even more appealing. Gallardo is not only younger than Kennedy, he is also coming off a better season despite pitching his home games at hitter friendly Globe Life Park.

Gallardo would reinforce the Orioles rotation and make it more respectable. Chris Tillman could be due for a bounce back season after a rough 2015. Meanwhile Kevin Gausman offers a high upside option.

A solid rotation backed by a reliable bullpen led by Zach Britton and O’Day gives the O’s a good enough pitching staff to contend in 2016.

The O’s could further strengthen their offseason by diving into the discount bin for outfielder Fowler who is coming off a solid season for the Chicago Cubs. Also from ESPN’s Buster Olney the O’s are interested in Fowler for a deal similar to what Howie Kendrick received from the Los Angeles Dodgers at 2 years-20 million.

Outside of perennial All-Star Adam Jones in center field the team has question marks at the corner outfield spots. Fowler, especially at a discounted rate of 2 years-20 million, would help offer the O’s a plethora of options in the outfield corners.

With Fowler, Ryan Flaherty, Kim, Nolan Reimold, and Trumbo the team would have an impressive amount of depth. This depth would give them the flexibility to ride the hot hand at the corners. It could also provide an opportunity for Kim to get his feet wet in American baseball by spending some time in the minor leagues.

Taking this hypothetical free agent signing frenzy one-step further, consider the idea of bringing in former Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Alvarez. After hitting 30+ HR’s in 2012 and 2013, Alvarez saw his production drop in 2014 and 2015.

Given he is still relatively young he could sign a 1-year deal to try and re-establish his value. Alvarez would give the O’s more depth at first base, third base, and DH. Camden Yard’s shallow power alleys could be the perfect spot to ignite another 30+ HR season from the former All-Star.

If the O’s were to bring Alvarez in a one-year deal it would be a low risk move that could reap huge rewards in 2016.

There is still work to be done but the best of the Orioles offseason is yet to come. The best news is that the available players left appear to be available at club-friendly rates.

Being patient, acquiring high-upside pieces, and retaining key free agents could result in a phenomenal off season for the Orioles and a return to the top of the AL East in 2016.