American League Rookie of the Year: Judge and Benintendi

Nearly a month until October baseball officially starts up, the MLB awards race on. Aside from the MVP and Cy Young awards, the Rookie of the Year award is a major award in the league. Each year, Major League Baseball awards two rookies, one from the American League and one from the National League, based off their talents during their first “full” season in the Major Leagues. For this particular award, the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) votes.

Today we take a look at the American League top contenders for the Rookie of the Year. Aaron Judge, of the New York Yankees and Andrew Benintendi, of the Boston Red Sox. Of course, these are the top two rookies who come from the biggest rivalry of Major League Baseball, making this argument between the fans harder than it should be.

Below, shows the hitting lines between the two rookies as of Aug. 22, 2017.

Aaron Judge, new york yankees

.284 AVG, 37 HR, 81 RBI, 167 SO, 121 Hits, 15 Doubles

Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox

.278 AVG, 18 HR, 71 RBI, 82 SO, 121 Hits, 18 Doubles

Note that these statistics are year-to-date. Now let’s take a look at the statistics Post ALL-Star Game.

Post All-Star Game

Andrew Benintendi: .280 AVG, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 25 SO, 35 Hits, 4 Doubles

Aaron Judge: .169 AVG, 7 HR, 14 RBI, 58 SO, 21 Hits, 2 Doubles

American League Rookie Year

Benintendi delivers walk-off for Boston (bostonglobe.com)

When the season began in April, it was obvious that Judge was on pace to taking home the Rookie of the Year award, possibly being a MVP candidate as well. Going into the All-Star break, he led the majors with 30 total homers.

A couple days later, Judge took home the Home Run Derby trophy after blasting 500+ foot homers in Miami. After that night finished, Judge peaked for the year.

Since the All-Star Game, Aaron Judge has been a complete bust for the Yankees. He currently holds a 37-game streak with at least one strikeout in each of those games.

On the other side, Benintendi is on a hot streak. In his last 30 games, Benintendi is batting .315 with six homers and 16 runs batted in. In Judge’s last 30 games, he put up a whopping .169 batting average with only seven runs batted in.

Judge performed like no other before the All-Star break. Benintendi was different. Benintendi has been consistent in the Red Sox lineup the entire year. His batting average has sat in the .280 range the whole season, as well as creating hot streaks at various times.

He has moved to Boston’s three hole in the lineup, which has led to great success with batting with runners in scoring position. Benintendi is tied in homers with Mookie Betts, a MVP candidate last season, with 18 total.

Voting vs. fan based

Regardless of the the voting, these two players both deserve the award in their own ways. They both will seek great futures for their organizations.

American League Rookie Year

Judge wins the 2017 Home Run Derby (fox5ny.com)

However, Judge has a better chance of taking home the award. His pre All-Star hitting was unlike anything we have seen in any rookie. To take home the Home Run Derby as a rookie is insane.

That doesn’t mean that this competition isn’t close. It gives you a sense of 2012, when Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were both rookies. Of course they both went on to win the Rookie of the Year, due to the fact one was in the AL, and the other in the NL. Anyway, they still get compared today, five years later.

The competition is sparked between the rivalry of New York and Boston.

In a poll from NESN, the fans were asked if they would rather have Andrew Benintendi or Aaron Judge for the next 10 years. Benintendi was selected for 86 percent of the votes. NESN is based in and covers Boston area sports, so the vote was swayed in favor of Bendintendi for sure.

Yeah, Judge will probably take the American League Rookie of the Year award, but that doesn’t mean that Benintendi is a close-second and holds a bright future in the league.

 

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Rookie

The Rookies under the Judge-Bellinger shadow

Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger have been in the limelight this season. On its face, one might think that Judge and Bellinger are the only ones doing anything this year in the world of the rookie. In reality, that is not the case. Names like Paul DeJong, Andrew Benintendi and Josh Bell have been lost in the shadow of the young studs out of New York and Los Angeles. Here is a closer look into those names that might be getting lost.

Andrew Benintendi

Rookie

Photo courtesy of masslive.com

Benintendi has been one of the focal points of a Boston team that has been surging as of late. He has managed to rack up 18 home runs along with a .279/.358/.450 slash line. He also has a 2.0 WAR which ranks 6th among rookies in the MLB.

The Red Sox are not a power hitting club by any means. However, it is still impressive that Benintendi has been able to get himself tied in home runs with his teammates Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez. His slugging ability bodes well for the future of Boston. He also rounds out a club that has had a lot of solid young talent come up recently, including Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts.

Benintendi especially falls victim to being overshadowed by the other sensations in the league, due to the fact he is in the same division as Aaron Judge. Now that Judge is on a cold stretch since the All-Star break, names like Benintendi’s have been coming out of the woodwork more often. Another AL East rookie has been having a heck of a year, but you rarely hear his name.

Trey Mancini

Rookie

Photo courtesy of mlb.com

Mancini has also been having a great year and has been hitting at a similar level as Benintendi, however you hear his name even less than the rookie from Boston. Mancini has racked up 22 home runs along with a slash line of .282/.333/.503. His name would also be in the mix for Rookie of the Year if this was any other year than 2017.

One aspect of Mancini’s game that is somewhat alarming is his strikeout to walk ratio. Mancini has struck out 103 times and only walked on 26 plate appearances. This demonstrates how Mancini needs to work on his plate discipline as well as his batters eye. If he does not cut down on the strikeouts then major league pitchers will figure him out quickly. This is apparent because he is only hitting .223 since the All-Star break, although he has been able to keep up his home run pace with seven in the past month.

Josh Bell

Rookie

Photo courtesy of ESPN

The power numbers for the Pittsburgh first baseman have been there all year. Josh Bell has 21 home runs along with 72 RBIs. His slash line is a respectable .261/.340/.493 along with a WAR of 2.0.

Bell has been progressively better for the Pirates as time has moved on though. Before the All-Star break his batting average was a lowly .239. Since the break, he has been hitting a more impressive .316. His bat has been complimenting the return of Starling Marte in a great manner, as he is a big reason that Pittsburgh has been able to stay in the race for the NL Central, despite the fact that some teams are starting to make their move to separate themselves.

Among qualified rookies, Bell ranks second behind Benintendi in BB/K rate at a .59. He has not fallen as victim to the typical strikeout problem that happens to many rookies. He has definitely started to figure things out at the big league level though, and really adds a big bat to an already solid Pirates lineup.

Paul DeJong

Paul DeJong has been one of the biggest surprises for an otherwise mediocre Cardinals season. DeJong has 20 home runs and 48 RBIs along with a .299/.330/.580 slash line. He also sports a 2.0 WAR despite only playing in 71 games this season.

DeJong has been cemented at the shortstop position for St. Louis despite the fact he was primarily a third baseman when he was coming up through the system. Not only that, but he has been batting in the three-hole for the Cardinals due to their lack of a big bat. DeJong is the first Cardinals rookie to bat in the three-spot since Albert Pujols.

DeJong would be slightly behind the home run pace of Cody Bellinger if he had as much time in the big leagues. However, he is also a victim to the strikeout. He has been struck out 87 times and has only been walked on 11 occasions, which does not give much hope for the future. It would lead one to believe that major league pitchers will catch up with him, and thus he may not be as dominant down the road. In the meantime though, he has been a huge bright spot for his team.

Rookie of the Year

At this point, it is pretty clear-cut that Cody Bellinger in the National League. Bellinger has been able to keep up his spectacular year since the break, however Judge has been sluggish in the past month.

Judge set the record for most consecutive games with a strikeout. He is also hitting .169 since the All-Star break. The Yankees and Judge are hoping that he will be able to break out of this slump because the Red Sox are starting to pull away with the East. At the moment, Judge has the Rookie of the Year most likely. There is more baseball to be played though. If he does not turn things around then he will get people talking about players like Benintendi and Mancini for Rookie of the Year.

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Bold predictions 2017 MLB season

Results of my ten bold predictions for the 2017 MLB season

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

 

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

Bold predictions 2017 MLB season

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Bold predictions 2017 MLB season

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Bold predictions 2017 MLB season

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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MLB trade deadline: What AL contenders must do to stay in first

Baseball is back and the second half push to the playoffs begins. The MLB trade deadline comes in the second half as well and is Christmas in July for baseball fans. Strategy, money and moves galore (hopefully).

This period is a chance for teams to either sell off parts in order to rebuild or make the trades necessary to help their squad make it to the playoffs and an eventual push for the World Series. These are the moves the teams currently in first place for their respective divisions need to make to remain in first by July 31.

Boston Red Sox

If you follow baseball or this team at all, then you know their weakest position currently is at third base. Pablo Sandoval has been anything but useful or even available and has been designated for assignment. Also they traded away Travis Shaw who is having an excellent season for another first place team.

While everyone believes Todd Frazier is the best and only option available for trade, I would like to look at another in Nick Castellanos.

MLB trade deadline

Courtesy of: Bleacherreport.com

The Detroit Tigers are having a very disappointing season and will most likely be sellers during the trade deadline for the first time in a long time. They also have arguably one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Most of their top players are in Double-A ball and below which means they have a long time to wait to see if they develop.

To speed up the process of their inevitable rebuild, they could and should be looking to trade away as many players as possible.

Castellanos is only 25 and is under team control until 2020 which means Detroit could ask a decent return. So why would the Red Sox make this trade?

To start, they would get a solid everyday third baseman that could grow with the young players they are building around now like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and more. Rafael Devers is still at least one or two years away and wont be able to help them win now. It is unlikely they would have to part with him to get Castellanos as well.

Castellanos has been in the league for four full years now. You know what you are going to get out of him, whereas you never truly know with a prospect. He has experience, making playoff runs with the Tigers and still has room to grow.

The Red Sox would most likely only have to give up two of their top 25 prospects, most likely ones in the teens and below. They may also throw in a PTBNL or just an extra pitcher to sweeten the deal.

Nick Castellanos would solidify the Red Sox third base problem not only for now but also for the future. Todd Frazier on the other hand may cost only one top 25 prospect but he would also be a free agent at the end of this year and has seemed to have trouble batting for average ever since he was traded to the White Sox.

Cleveland Indians

It took the Indians awhile to catch up to the Twins, but they have taken hold of first and wont let it go for the rest of the season. This team can hit and is being led by its young superstars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor while getting help from players like Edwin Encarnacion who struggled mightily to start the season but has figured it out.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: Sportsblog.com

Another strength of the World Series runner-ups is their bullpen. Their weakness? Outside of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and surprisingly Mike Clevinger, this team’s starters have struggled. Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Josh Tomlin all have ERAs over 5.

There are many attractive options on the market for the Indians. The question will be how much are they willing to give up in order to get the starting pitching help they need?

Last year, they traded away Clint Frazier and a multitude of other prospects in order to get their stalwart setup man, Andrew Miller. That being said the Indians still have some pieces that they could trade. I highly doubt they will trade Bradley Zimmer as he is with the club now and making a solid contribution.

There are a multitude of options for the Indians to help make their second World Series run in as many years. I like Sonny Gray, but I think his asking price will be too high considering how he has pitched in the last two seasons. This leaves two options: Gerrit Cole and Johnny Cueto.

Both the Pirates and Giants respectively have been under-performing and it looks like they will have to be sellers. While Gerrit Cole is better, he and Sonny Gray have a similar problem. They are going to cost more than the Indians are willing to give.

That is why they could trade for Cueto. He has won a World Series and has been in Cy Young contention, but the Indians could get him for a bargain. He has not pitched extremely well this season and the Giants are desperate (or should be) for prospects as they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

The Indians could give up one top 25 prospect not named Zimmer or Mejia and two others right outside their top 25 for Cueto. He would be a great pickup and if he could find his form again, he could be a top of the rotation guy to help the Indians try to make it back to the World Series.

Houston Astros

The Astros were my World Series pick back in January and I am glad that they have yet to let me down. Their lineup can hit from 1 to 8 and Keuchel and McCullers make up an amazing top of the rotation.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: SFgiantsrumors.co

Brad Peacock is finally living up to his potential, whether he is in the bullpen or the rotation. While most are looking at the rotation, and they could improve there, Peacock may actually be a legitimate option that will help them keep their first-place standing. Also, Colin McHugh should be coming off the DL soon and can help to solidify the rotation.

The Astros are missing another reliable bullpen arm. We saw how important they were in last year’s playoffs and right now the Astros have a pretty good bullpen. But if they are going to want to make a real run, they need a great bullpen.

They won’t give up what teams gave up to get pitchers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last season. Instead, they will go for options that are a small step down.

In steps another Giants player and someone who has been a crucial piece in their bullpen for a long time, George Kontos.

Kontos has a career ERA under 3 and he has been in many high-pressure situations, including helping the Giants win multiple World Series. While he is not a flashy pickup, he is a reliable one, and should be relatively cheap, as he’s still under team control until 2020.

The Astros would not have to part with any of their major prospects. They could easily throw the Giants one of their lower top 25 prospects and some cash or another lower level prospect with high potential.

Kontos would solidify the bullpen as the Astros head into October. His experience would help the younger Astros team and again he would cost a lot less than someone like Sonny Gray or David Robertson.

Conclusion

The trade deadline is an unpredictable time and has a major affect on the way the rest of the season and future seasons will play out. Look out for what first place NL teams needs to do in order to stay in first place.

 

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10 Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

Ten Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

Ten Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

Predictions in sports are commonly highly discussed topics, as they can make people look incredible smart or incredible stupid. With that said, here are 10 bold predictions for the 2017 MLB season. Although some of these predictions may be outlandish, all are real possibilities.

 

10 Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

Jarrett Parker will begin 2017 in a platoon role. (Courtesy of SFGate.com)

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

 

Jarrett Parker will begin the season in a platoon role batting against righties, with Mac Williamson hitting against lefties. Parker, who recorded 23 home runs and 20 steals at the AAA level in 2015, has a career slash line of .267/.371/494 through six seasons of professional ball. The former second-round pick in 2010 has shown an innate ability to walk, as he has a career walk rate of 11.7%, which is well above league average of 8%. Also, the 28-year-old has posted a career ISO of .227, which is once again well above the league average of .140.

Parker will have an immediate opportunity to earn the full time left fielder job, as platoon mate Williamson is currently “battling an injured quad and is likely to miss at least two weeks”, according to Baseball-Reference.com. If Parker does not earn the full-time job within this two-week period, he is sure to outplay his counter-part Williamson, who batted .136 at AT&T Park last season. Parker in an everyday role is more than capable of being a 20/20 player, as he has shown pop at all levels, and will be batting at the bottom half of a Giants lineup that that finished 13th in steal attempts out of all 30 MLB teams in 2016.

 

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

 

Lynn missed the entire 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He spent over 12 months rehabbing, and has officially re-earned his spot in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation, slotting in behind Carlos Martinez and Adam Wainwright as their third starter. The 29-year-old has a career 3.37 ERA and 8.71 K/9, giving him a great ceiling. If he can return anywhere close to this, he will have great fantasy value.

The Cardinal’s, who finished fourth in runs scored in 2016, have added lead off specialist Dexter Fowler, improving their already elite offensive. This increases Lynn’s value, who himself is off to a great spring, pitching a total of 15 innings, resulting in a 1.20 ERA and a .93 WHIP. The Cardinals missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010, and if they want to make it back in 2017, Lynn will have to be a major factor.

10 Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

Mitch Haniger may be sleeper of the year. (Courtesy of Minor League Ball)

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

 

Former Arizona Diamondback, Mitch Haniger, was sent to Seattle, along with teammate Jean Segura, in a trade for Taijuan Walker in 2016. Haniger had an electric spring training, slashing .406/.472/.719 in 32 at bats. This has earned him the everyday right fielder position against American League foes, as well as the starting left field position during interleague play.

The 26-year-old’s combination of power and speed makes him a threat to be a serious producer atop one of the most talented lineups in the league, as the Mariners finished as the sixth best scoring offense in 2016. Mariner’s Manager Scott Servais has stated that Haniger “has the green light” on the base paths, giving him the opportunity to steal plenty of bases in 2017. Haniger will begin the year batting second for the Mariners, giving him a great chance to score over 100 runs. Becoming a top 25 outfielder is easily within reach for Haniger.

 

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

 

Kendall Graveman will be the Oakland Athletics opening day starter in 2017. He is an elite ground ball pitcher, as he has a career groundball rate of 51.5%, (league average is 44%), along with a fly ball rate of 27.6%, (the league average is 35%), showing that Gravemen can be a very effective pitcher at the major-league level.

Unfortunately, the Athletics have the worst fielding percentage in the MLB, although it should not hold Graveman back from emerging as the work horse of this Athletics rotation, as he is the only healthy pitcher on the roster that has logged over 180 innings in a season.

10 Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

David Phelps will assume “an Andrew Miller-like role” according to manager Don Mattingley. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

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

 

Phelps is one of many starters turned relievers whom find themselves in prime position to pick up holds. The 30-year-old pitched 86.2 innings in 2016, finishing the year with a 2.28 ERA, 25 holds, and 114 strikeouts. Miami Marlins manager, Don Mattingley, stated that he believes “Phelps can serve in an Andrew Miller-like role”, which suggests that he will be pitching in the seventh, eighth, and occasionally ninth innings, giving him the chance to improve upon his career high holds total.

The Marlins bullpen appears to be stable, with A.J. Ramos manning the ninth, and Kyle Barraclough and Phelps serving as his bridge. If the Marlins can find success in 2017, Phelps is sure to be a beneficiary in the holds and saves categories on top of his respectable career 8.28 K/9.

 

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

 

Yangervis Solarte has been creeping up fantasy draft boards all spring, but has remained my sleeper of the year. The 29-year-old is primed for a breakout season as he will have an everyday role for the first time in his career. He totaled 15 home runs and 71 RBIs in just 109 games last season, which would have put him on pace for 22 home runs and 105 RBIs over a 162-game span. The everyday third basemen will bat at the top half of the San Diego Padres order ahead of Wil Myers and company, which will positively impact Solarte’s run production.

10 Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

Gerrit Cole will return to Cy Young form in 2017. (Courtesy of warningtrackpower.com)

  • Gerrit Cole will be a top 5 cy young candidate behind a sub-three ERA and 200 strike outs.

 

Gerrit Cole finished as a top five Cy Young finisher and top twenty MVP candidate in 2015. He endured a tough 2016 campaign, where he only managed to start twenty-one games, resulting in a career worst ERA, WHIP, and K/9 due to a lingering rib injury.

Cole is only one year removed from having 19 wins and a 2.60 ERA, and with his injury officially gone by the way side, the twenty-six-year-old a great chance to return to form in 2017. I fully believe he will rejoin the Cy Young conversation once again.

 

  • Christian Yelich will put together a 25/25 campaign for the first time in his career.

 

Yelich had his first breakout year in 2016, reaching career highs of 21 home runs and 98 RBIs. The 25-year-old has a career .293 batting average and is averaging 19 steals per 162 games. He is a perennial 20 home run and 20 steal-candidate, as he has stolen over 20 bases three times in his professional career. The Miami Marlins three-hitter will be a candidate to win MVP as well as the batting title in 2017.

10 Bold Predictions for the 2017 MLB Season

Clayton Kershaw looks to return to Cy Young form in 2017 (Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images).

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

 

Clayton Kershaw remains the golden standard of major league pitching. He has eight consecutive seasons with an ERA in the twos and a career K/9 of 9.8. If the 28-year-old retired today, he would be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Kershaw has endured some adversity over the last year as he has dealt with a serious back injury as well as a tough playoff loss in the NLCS. This extra motivation will keep Kershaw above all other pitchers in 2017.

 

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

 

Andrew Benintendi, has an uncertain potential. His MLB sample size is a mere 118 plate appearances. The former Golden Spikes award winner is a five-tool player who has batted .313, .312, and .295 in three seasons at five different levels, including the MLB.

The 22-year-old will begin the year batting second, although may slide back to third if manager John Farrell feels like he needs to shake things up. Batting ahead of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Hanley Ramirez will allow him to become an extremely productive player. Benintendi has also put on 25 pounds of muscle this offseason, giving him some boosted power for the upcoming year. A .300 batting average, 25 home runs, 100 runs, and 20 steals isn’t out of the question for the rookie.

 

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Collecting the Hardware: American League Pre-Season Predictions

*Feature Image courtesy of Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Stringer (Getty Images)*

The regular season is so close you can almost taste that dollar hot dog promotion. That means it’s time for baseball analysts to release their “Bold” (and not so bold) predictions for the 2017 season.

The names here would hardly be considered daring, but each will need a monster year to secure the hardware. This list looks at the potential league leaders we may be discussing at the end of the 2017 season.

 

American League

AL Rookie of the Year: Andrew Benintendi

(Photo courtesy of Icon Sportswire)

Largely viewed as the consensus top prospect heading into the 2017 season, Andrew Benintendi carries some significant expectations. Slashing .292/ .364 / .905 with 2 home runs during spring training, Benintendi appears poised to exceed those projections. Batting third amidst and absolutely stacked Red Sox lineup, the opportunities will be there and the runs should be plentiful.

The questions that faces all young players is how that level of production holds up over the course of 162 games. Many, if not all of Benintendi’s AL rookie counterparts will start the 2017 in the minors. This positions him perfectly to establish an early track of success and lock up the award come year end.

 

AL Cy Young: Marcus Stroman

This may be the “boldest” prediction on this list given the volatile nature of Stroman’s past performances. However, fresh off an outstanding World Baseball Classic performance Marcus Stroman appears poised to make a statement in 2017.

The career statistics don’t exactly backup this assertion, but when Stroman’s locked in, his performance certainly passes the eye test. He’s currently listed as number four in the rotation, a testament to the strength of the Jay’s staff. Given his skillset, Stroman can establish himself as the team ace if he can demonstrate some consistency throughout the season.

The fiery young pitcher represented well in the WBC, and should be an absolute treat to watch in 2017.

 

AL Most Valuable Player: Mookie Betts

(Photo courtesy of Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The young Red Sox star was already hot on the heels of the best player in baseball during the 2016 season. Mike Trout isn’t going anywhere anytime soon but that doesn’t mean Mookie Betts won’t be challenging for top dog every year. Betts has already established himself as a top player in the game, but where is his ceiling?

In 2016 Betts slashed .318 / .363 / .897 with 34 home runs and 26 stolen bases. Entering the Majors at age 21 Betts has already displayed incredible improvement year over year. Granted, Betts played the most games of his career in 2016, but the improvement in ratio statistics validates the jump.

Given his current performance, Betts is already incredibly close to 30/30 performance. Most players power and slugging improves as their career progresses while speed typically diminishes. Based on Betts youth, speed doesn’t appear to be in danger and his stellar OBP ensures he will have the opportunities to steal. If these factors play out in a traditional way it wouldn’t be surprising to see Betts trend even closer to a 40/30 or even 40/40 season, if health permits.

There is an amazing amount of young talent throughout the MLB today. The margin between the top players may be closer than ever. Baseball has always been a game of parity between competing teams. The fact this has extended to individual competition truly adds to the excitement and enjoyment of the game. Whether it’s witnessing the best young player or best overall, there is no doubt the 2017 season should be chalk full of amazing performances.

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Injury Update

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Left Field Rankings

I will begin my outfield rankings with one of the more intriguing positions in 2017: left field. This position hasn’t been this deep since the early and mid 2000s when we witnessed Manny Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Matt Holliday and Ryan Braun dominate fantasy as perennial top ten picks.

Many left fielders, young and old, have begun to emerge and make the position much deeper than many people originally anticipated.

The top 30 left fielders have been grouped into five tiers, with the top and bottom player of each tier profiled below.

Honorable mentions include: Alex Gordon (KC), Brandon Drury (ARI), Roman Quinn (PHI), and Matt Holliday (NYY).

Exceptions include: Ian Desmond (COL), who will miss six to eight weeks, approximately 50 games, after undergoing hand surgery, and Yasmany Tomas (ARI), who may start on DL with an oblique injury, and currently no time table for return.  

Tier 1

2017 Fantasy Baseball Left Field Rankings

Kris Bryant headlined a World Series roster for the Cubs (Credit: Michael Zagaris/Getty Images).

  • Kris Bryant (CHC)  

Kris Bryant is the lone man in tier 1 of left fielders in 2017. He exploded onto the scene in 2015 to smash 26 home runs and drive in 99 RBIs. That was good enough to win the NL Rookie of the Year award.

Bryant continued to improve in 2016 with 39 home runs, 121 runs scored and 102 RBIs. That resulted in him winning the NL MVP award.

The 25-year-old is a career .284 hitter and has stolen 21 bases in two years. Bryant will be the first left fielder selected in 2017.

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball Left Field Rankings

Ryan Braun will look to continue his strong play in 2017. (Jeff Curry, US Presswire).

  • Yoenis Cespedes (NYM)
  • Ryan Braun (MIL)
  • Starling Marte (PIT)
  • Christian Yelich (MIA)

Yoenis Cespedes is once again an elite fantasy option in all formats heading into 2017. The three-time MVP candidate has been on pace for 100 RBIs per 162 games in four of his five MLB seasons.

The 31-year-old, who is batting .277 since 2014, remains an integral producer in the New York Mets lineup and is sure to be a top 25 overall hitter if healthy.

Christian Yelich had his first breakout year in 2016 with career highs of 21 home runs and 98 RBIs. The 25-year-old has a career .293 batting average and is averaging about 19 steals per 162 games.

Yelich is a perennial 20 home run and 20 steal candidate. He could be a menacing 30/30 threat for years to come should he continue to improve. The Marlins three hitter will be selected within the top 50 picks in 2017.

Tier 3

2017 Fantasy Baseball Left Field Rankings

Michael Brantley is poised for a bounce back in 2017. (Courtesy of TLA Worldwide)

  • Gregory Polanco (PIT)
  • Kyle Schwarber (CHC)
  • Justin Upton (DET)
  • Matt Kemp (ATL)
  • Khris Davis (OAK)
  • Michael Brantley (CLE)

Like Yelich, Gregory Polanco was another left fielder who broke out in 2016. The 24-year-old managed to reach career highs in home runs with 22 and RBIs with 86 in only 144 games.

Polanco has averaged 25 steals per 162 games, which shows his five-category potential. The 6-foot-5 230-pounder is also bound to increase his power numbers as he continues to grow into his frame. A 30/30 season isn’t out of the realm for Polanco, which warrants him as a top 60 pick in all formats.

Michael Brantley is arguably the most overlooked player in 2017. He is healthy and ready to bounce back. The 29-year-old has been battling a chronic shoulder injury since the end of 2015. He is now officially ready to go for opening day.

The third-place finisher in the AL MVP in 2014 will rejoin the most talented Cleveland Indians lineup since the late 1990s. With the emergence of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, and the addition of Edwin Encarnacion, Michael Brantley should have no problem producing. He is currently being selected as the 140th player on ESPN according to fantasypros.com. I believe he is well worth a top 120 pick.

Tier 4

2017 Fantasy Baseball Left Field Rankings

Andrew Benintendi intends to take home the AL Rookie of the Year in 2017. (Photos via Getty Images)

  • Andrew Benintendi (BOS)
  • Jose Ramirez (CLE)
  • Willson Contreras (CHC)
  • Marcel Ozuna (MIA)
  • Carlos Gomez (TEX)
  • Adam Duval (CIN)
  • Ben Zobrist (CHC)
  • David Dahl (COL)
  • Nomar Mazara (TEX)

My selection for AL Rookie of the Year, Andrew Benintendi, has an uncertain potential. His MLB sample size is a mere 118 plate appearances. The former Golden Spikes award winner is a five-tool player who has batted .313, .312, and .295 in three seasons at five different levels, including the MLB.

The 22-year-old may begin the year at the bottom half of the order. However, he will find his way to the top in no time. Batting ahead or directly behind of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Hanley Ramirez will allow him to be an extremely productive player.

He is currently being selected as the 111th player on ESPN, and certainly warrants a pick this early.

Nomar Mazara has seen his draft stock fall as of late. Word of a possible platoon against lefties has concerned owners about his at bat totals in 2017. I’m a full believer in Mazara’s ability to be an everyday player in this league, He has continuously improved his batting average throughout his minor-league career.

The 21-year-old has shown he has the potential to be a .280 hitter with 20 or more home runs over a full season. If an injury or poor performance were to occur to his platoon partner, Mazara could take the everyday spot and run with it.

He is being selected as the 260th player on ESPN, which makes him a sleeper in the majority of leagues. I wouldn’t hesitate selecting him top 200, especially in keeper leagues and dynasty leagues.

Tier 5

2017 Fantasy Baseball Left Field Rankings

Corey Dickerson sheds 25 pounds in the offseason, is this a sign of good things to come? (Courtesy of Wikipedia.com)

  • Corey Dickerson (TB)
  • Jayson Werth (WSH)
  • Eric Thames (MIL)
  • Melky Cabrera (CWS)
  • Jorge Soler (KC)
  • Curtis Granderson (NYM)
  • Michael Saunders (PHI)
  • Rajai Davis (OAK)
  • Brett Gardner (NYY)
  • Jarrod Dyson (SEA)
  • Ender Enciarte (ATL)

People tend to forget about Corey Dickerson’s success in Colorado. He batted .312 and .304 in consecutive seasons. The 27-year-old has dropped 25 pounds in order to obtain the starting left field spot as opposed to being the designated hitter, which is where he spent the majority of his time in 2016.

Either way, Dickerson will be an everyday player for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017 and is a threat for 30 home runs and solid RBI production. His current ADP on ESPN is 276, which is very low for someone with .300/80/30/80 potential.

Ender Inciarte has quietly been a career .292 hitter while averaging about 24 steals per 162 games. Inciarte will be the leadoff hitter once again for a young but talented Atlanta Braves lineup that commonly goes under the radar.

Although there is a lack of power, it isn’t out of his realm to sport a stat line of .300 100/10/50/20. The 25-year-old is currently being selected as the 196th player on ESPN, putting him just outside the top 50 outfielders, which I believe he is.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Cream of the Crop: Top Five Prospects from the Farm

As is tradition, MLB.com issued their top MLB prospects list this past week to highlight the games future stars. At the top of the class are five elite youngsters who are already generating a buzz around the league.

Some of these players have already made a contribution at the Major League level while others are rapidly progressing towards a call-up to “The Show”. Today, The Game Haus breaks down the players, their positional fit, and their expected contribution for the 2017 season.

 

No. 5 Amed Rosario

The 21-year-old Amed Rosario may be the one of two prospects on this list we don’t see in 2017. However, given Rosario’s outstanding minor league numbers and the positional need for the Mets, expect him sooner rather than later. Asdrubal Cabrera didn’t have a bad showing in 2016, but a dWAR of -0.1 may prompt the Mets to adjust.

In addition to outstanding fielding ability Rosario has been consistent at the plate through every level. Slashing .280/.328/.388 with good speed on the base paths and developing power, Rosario’s athleticism is unquestionable. For as young as he is the Mets shouldn’t need to rush a call-up, but at the speed he continues to develop, it may be hard for New York to hold off.

No. 4 Dansby Swanson

Top MLB Prospects

(Courtesy Getty Images)

Dansby Swanson was called up in August of last year and made his impact felt early and often. In just 129 at-bats, Swanson slashed .302/.361/.442, smacked three home runs, and stole three bases.

Atlanta made a strong showing in the final months of 2016 and Swanson played a critical role in that effort. Most impressive was Swanson’s ability to take his incredibly brief stint in the minors and immediately translate that skill set to the major league level. With maturity beyond his years and a winning baseball pedigree, the Braves have to feel good about this cornerstone player.

 

 

 

No. 3 Gleyber Torres

The third shortstop on the list, Gleyber Torres represents the top prospect at the position. A key trade piece in the 2016 Aroldis Chapman deal with the Cubs, the Yankees certainly netted an impressive return. Torres displays all of the defensive tools, but his power potential is what sets him apart at his position.

The interesting decision for the Yankees will be juggling call-up timing in relation to current up-and-comer Didi Gregorius. That said, at just 19 years old, the Yankees can afford to be very patient. Torres’ already advanced plate discipline will make it difficult to stash him for long, but having too many good shortstops in your system can hardly be considered an issue.

No. 2 Yoan Moncada

Top MLB Prospects

(Courtesy Getty Images)

Long considered to be the top prospect in the MLB, Yoan Moncada has only been recently inched out by number one on this list. However, losing out on the top spot certainly doesn’t take away from this young gun’s incredible potential. Developing through the Boston farm system, Moncada was only recently dealt to Chicago in the Chris Sale trade.

Slashing an impressive .287/395/.480 during his minor league career, with an even more impressive 94 stolen bases, there is no questioning Moncada’s MLB readiness.

A brief eight-game call-up in 2016 gave Moncada a taste of the majors, but not at his true position at second base. Given Chicago’s clear rebuild strategy, there’s no urgency to immediately slot him in. However, whenever the Sox decide he’s ready, there’s no chance Brett Lawrie will inhibit this future stars’ progress.

No. 1 Andrew Benintendi

At the top of the list sits Andrew Benintendi, and for good reason. After demolishing the minors slashing .312/.392/.540 he was called up to play 34 games in 2016. Benintendi kept pace by utilizing those 118 plate appearance to quickly generate a .295/.359/.476 slash line.

Despite his youth, Benintendi has a consistent ability to put the ball in play while also generating solid power. Already being slotted as the Red Sox everyday left fielder before the start of camp demonstrates Boston’s confidence in his readiness. Benintendi has performed at every level and it will be exciting to see how he continues to hone his craft in the 2017 season.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

New Year, Same Goal: MLB Rookies Look to Continue Impressive Play in 2017

“New year, new me!” That phrase will be spoken by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people within the next few weeks. Change seems to be as much of a new year’s tradition as fireworks and black eyed peas. But in another realm, the 2017 MLB rookies are hoping that a new year will bring the same results as previous years.

From Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in 2012 to Corey Seager and Michael Fulmer in 2016, rookies have exceeded expectations. This year’s rookies will strive to continue this trend. Below are four players set to continue the rookie run of dominance in 2017.

OF Manuel Margot- San Diego Padres

Manuel Margot has seen his baseball career take him from the Boston Red Sox to the San Diego Padres. He was the

2017 MLB rookies

Manuel Margot looks to provide a much needed spark in San Diego this season. (Photo: Baseball America)

prized player in the Craig Kimbrel trade in 2015, and it’s easy to see why. While posting a solid .424 slugging percentage, Margot also stole 162 bases over five minor league seasons. He profiles as a dynamic lead off hitter and has the inside track to the 2017 starting centerfield job for the Padres.

IF Yoan Moncada– Chicago White Sox

The talk of baseball since his departure from Cuba in 2014, Yoan Moncada achieved top prospect status after receiving comparisons to All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano. The Red Sox trade for pitcher Chris Sale in the offseason sent Moncada to the south side of Chicago, giving him the opportunity to take over at second base for the White Sox. Moncada brings an advanced batting eye, posting an on-base-percentage of .395 in parts of two minor league seasons, as well as elite speed, swiping 94 stolen bases. Moncada can bat anywhere from 1-5 in the lineup, giving the White Sox much needed flexibility.

OF Andrew Benintendi- Boston Red Sox

Andrew Benintendi burst into the majors at the end of the 2016 season.

Benintendi combined his even blend of speed and power to make it to the big leagues a year after being drafted. He provided a new dimension to a Red Sox lineup that was already one of the deepest in baseball. While his 2016 season was cut short due to injury, he is on track to start for Boston on Opening Day. Benintendi posted an impressive .540 slugging percentage across parts of two minor league seasons. He also posted more walks than strikeouts. He is set to provide Boston with a Rookie of the Year type season in 2017.

2017 MLB rookies

Aaron Judge looks to lead the way for rookie mashers. (Photo: Steve Mitchell | USA Today Sports)

OF Aaron Judge- New York Yankees

Aaron Judge has as much power as any other rookie in the 2017 class, provided by his massive frame. Listed at 6′ 7″ and 275 lbs, Judge would seem to fit better on the hardwood than the diamond. But Judge uses his frame to his advantage, leveraging massive power from the right side of the batter’s box. Judge is also more physically advanced than the other rookies on this list, checking in at 24 years old. Judge mashed 56 homers in parts of three seasons in the minors, as well as posting a solid batting average of .278. He will provide plenty of massive moonshots this season, fitting into the Bronx Bomber lineup nicely.

As the MLB season approaches, these four players will look to build on solid minor league resumes and continue the run of rookie success in the majors. While many are looking to change in 2017, these four would love to just stay the same.

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