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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Position Battles

Position Battles to Watch in Spring Training

Every year, players across the majors use spring training to get their timing down and prepare for the regular season. What is seen as a time for preparation to some is a time of urgency for others. Position battles are a major part of spring training. Accordingly, let’s take a look at the most contested position battles in spring training.

Detroit Tigers: Center Field

Position Battles

Mikie Mahtook came over from the Rays in the off-season (Credit: Norm Hall/Getty Images North America).

With an aging roster and two straight seasons without postseason baseball, the Tigers were looking like a rebuilding team entering the offseason. They acted like one too, sending center fielder Cameron Maybin to the Angels for pitching prospect Victor Alcantara. Many believed this was the first of a flurry of moves to come. The Tigers stood pat the rest of the offseason with a gaping hole left in center field.

 

Even though Maybin only played 91 games in center in 2016, he was worth a 1.9 WAR. The Tigers will struggle to find that type of production from what they have on the roster.

New addition Mikie Mahtook is listed as the starter in center, but don’t count on that being set in stone. Tyler Collins and JaCoby Jones will look to make the most of their spring training at-bats, as all three are in contention for the starting job.

Houston Astros: First Base

As loaded as the Astros are, you would believe that first base, the most offensive minded position in baseball, would be a lock entering spring training. Not so much.

First base has been a hole in the Astros lineup for years. Entering 2016 they have Cuban import Yulieski Gurriel penciled in as the starter. With all of five career starts at first base, he’ll have to perform well in spring training to keep his starting spot.

First base is a five-man competition, with Gurriel leading the pack. Behind him are Colin Moran, Marwin Gonzalez, A.J. Reed and Tyler White, listed in that order on the Astros’ depth chart. Moran is the only one not to play first base in the majors. The former sixth overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft certainly has some talent.

It will be interesting to see if Gurriel will be able to hold off the competition, or if former top prospects Moran or Reed overcome him.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Second Base

Position Battles

Brandon Drury will try to fill the shoes left by Jean Segure (Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America).

After a season of disappointment in the desert, Arizona hopes that 2017 brings better fortune. The roster has talent, but underperformed in last year.

One bright spot in 2016 was the play of second baseman Jean Segura. He put up a 5.7 WAR season for Arizona, solidifying second base. With his trade to Seattle in the offseason, second base is again in question for the Diamondbacks.

The answer could be Brandon Drury. The utility man batted .282 with 16 homers and 53 RBIs in 2016. After playing five different positions for Arizona, Drury will look to stick as the full-time starter at second.

He will have competition in the form of Chris Owings. While Owings did have a below MLB average 89 OPS+ last year, his speed and defense are highly valued in the middle of the infield.

Drury is the incumbent, but could be unseated by Owings if he can turn it on this spring training.

Atlanta Braves: Fifth Starter

Two seasons of rebuilding have left fans in Atlanta longing for a return to glory. The team has 19 playoff appearances since moving to Atlanta in 1966, but don’t expect them to make it 20 in 2017. Even so, the Braves brought in three veteran starting pitchers to try and stabilize their rotation. Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia will fill in behind ace Julio Teheran. That leaves the fifth rotation spot up for grabs.

Starter Mike Foltynewicz leads the competition, as he will go up against Matt Wisler, Lucas Sims and Aaron Blair. Foltynewicz is the most established, having logged 228.2 innings pitched in his major league career. He has also put up a 4.92 ERA in that span, so his spot in the rotation is certainly in question. Sims may give him the biggest competition. As the 21st overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, Sims has the talent and the minor league experience to overtake Foltynewicz in the starting rotation.

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How Baseball’s Offseason Paper Giant stacks up on the Field

grank

Photo: espn.com

Despite being one of the most active teams this winter, the Arizona Diamondbacks are merely a fringe contender.

This offseason the D-backs spent $206.5 million on ace pitcher Zack Greinke, they acquired Shelby Miller via trade, giving up a huge haul, and they recently traded for starting shortstop Jean Segura.

Starting with the big splash, they gave Greinke a huge chunk of change to anchor the rotation. Greinke is coming off a phenomenal season and is undoubtedly one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball right now.

They followed this up with a bold move to acquire Miller to be Greinke’s partner in crime.  This trade saw them give up Ender Inciarte who hit .303 in 524 at bats in 2015, along with the no. 8 and 56 prospects in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline in Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair.

Miller is a quality starter, but, that’s about it. His career xFIP is an unimpressive 4.08. While his 7.56 K/9 and 3.24 BB/9 career totals leave a lot to be desired as well.

He is an adequate no. 2 starter that they gave up an inordinate trade package for. He is certainly not a piece that makes them stand out in a division that included the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants.

The D-Backs rotation will be rounded out by Patrick Corbin and some combination of Archie Bradley, Rubby de la Rosa, and Robbie Ray in the last 2 spots.

Top prospect Bradley and recently back from Tommy John surgery Corbin represent the two highest upside guys, who could catapult the D-Backs into serious contenders. As it sits now though, they are too big of question marks to expect productive seasons from the both of them.

In de la Rosa and Ray they have two decent back of the rotation types, nothing more.

Overall the D-Backs rotation is nothing to scoff at, but, it’s also nothing that stands out to you either.

Onto the position players, the D-Backs are led by underappreciated super star Paul Goldschmidt and the 1st time All-Star from 2015 A.J. Pollock.

Occupying the corner outfield spots will be David Peralta and Yasmany Tomas. The former McDonald’s employee Peralta had a breakthrough campaign in 2015 posting a .893 OPS with 16 HR’s and 78 RBI’s.

Tomas on the other hand had a disappointing 2015 campaign after signing a huge deal out of Cuba. He posted a measly .707 OPS despite posting an unusually high BABIP of .354.

While Goldschmidt, Peralta, and Pollock form a respectable trio, it’s the rest of the lineup that leaves a lot to be desired.

Their two other highest upside players are Tomas and Segura. As previously mentioned, Tomas has the makings of a potential bust, while Segura has not been the same since his All-Star campaign in 2013.

The rest of their lineup is will be composed of below average Major Leaguers in Wellington Castillo, Jake Lamb, and Chris Owings.

While they have 3 potential All-Stars in their lineup it is asking too much for them to carry the rest of the mediocre at best lineup. Overall their lineup does not look like that of a playoff contender.

A slightly above average rotation and a mediocre lineup are not the only things that will keep the D-Backs out of the playoffs. Their most troubling areas are their bullpen and their overall lack of depth.

In Brad Ziegler they have a 36 year old closer who does not strike anyone out. Their other relievers are league average guys at best who will not scare opponents in the later innings.

Brandon Drury and Peter O’Brien are their only two bench options that look even somewhat appealing. Even they are not top prospects and they are young guys who still need to prove themselves.

In the no-DH National League the D-backs lack of depth will hurt them, and that’s not even considering potential injuries.

The D-Backs are a decent team, they will probably finish over .500, but they aren’t anything for the Dodgers, Giants, or the rest of the National League to worry about.