World Series

Five World Series match ups we want to see

Chicago Cubs vs Cleveland Indians

World Series

Cleveland is looking for redemption after their skid in the 2016 World Series (ABC Chicago)

A rematch of the 2016 World Series is on the eyes of many. Last year was one of the most successful World Series of the century in terms of viewership. The narrative of the two teams and their droughts captured the hearts of America.

The series went to extra innings in game seven, and the Indians are surely looking to redeem themselves after giving the title to the Cubs. Cleveland had a 3-1 game lead and were not able to end their drought.

The Indians look like the better and more complete team this year with all the inconsistencies that Chicago has been dealing with. Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor look stronger than ever and would be difficult to stop.

 

New York Yankees vs Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series

Kershaw would love to reverse his postseason woes (Photo Courtesy of: Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports)

We all know the networks are pulling for this one. The two largest markets in the country battling it out in October may be what the league needs to keep the World Series ratings on pace with last year. A rematch between the Cubs and Indians is enticing, but it may not have quite the same sparkle to it as this match up of two iconic teams.
Not only will the markets be battling it out, but the two rookie sensations in Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger would be highlighted. Both of these young stars broke home run records that were thought to be near impossible to break. Both teams have well-rounded hitting and would make for a long series.
The Yankees have had much more success out of these two titans of baseball. The Dodgers have a drought they are looking to break of not going to the World Series in 20 years. A Dodgers-Yankees World Series would make for a great final hurdle for LA to get over in order to win the series.

Houston Astros vs Los Angels Dodgers

Cleveland may have ended up with one more win than Houston, but the Astros and Dodgers were the two teams that had a stronghold as the best two teams in the majors for most of the year. The Astros have the hitting edge with their three headed monster of Correa, Altuve, and Springer. However, the Dodgers have the pitching edge with Kershaw, Wood, and Hill. Not to mention Kenley Jansen, who was one of the best closers in baseball this year.
This would be the superstar match up that many would have predicted in June. Things have changed since then, but they are still 100+ win teams that are not messing around. Both teams are hungry for a World Series title. The TV networks would love this as well as Houston is looking for a win after Hurricane Harvey. A Fall Classic in Houston would bring life to a city that needs it.

Washington Nationals vs Houston Astros

World Series

Bryce Harper is looking to prove the Nationals can play in the postseason (Sports Illustrated)

The last few years we have been talking about World Series droughts. The Cubs broke their 100+ year losing streak last fall, and the Indians are prime candidates to break their drought that goes back to 1948. However, the Astros have never won a Fall Classic, and the Nationals have never even been to one!
The Nationals (formally Montreal Expos) have only been around since 1969, and the Astros were founded in 1962. They reached their first and only World Series in 2005 when they lost to the Chicago White Sox.
So who wouldn’t want to see two teams duke it out for the right to bring the title to their hometown for the first time (excluding the 1924 Washington Senators)?

Cubs vs Red Sox

A rematch of the 1918 World Series, would feature two baseball teams that have the most historic World Series droughts in the game. Both were lead by Theo Epstein, who is probably the best executive we have seen this generation. This match up would be centered around the history behind these two teams as well as the connection with Theo.

Boston and Chicago played at similar levels this season, with a little bit of edge given to Boston. The Red Sox have a solid pitching staff centered around Chris Sale and their stud closer Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox have their own version of Andrew Miller now as well with David Price. It will be interesting to see how he is worked into a World Series.

Another intriguing similarity between the two teams is Jon Lester and John Lackey. That is just one other connection between these two teams that seems to be endless. If these two teams had met in the Fall Classic 15 years ago, it would be a whole other level of excitement. Now that they have both broken their streaks now, it doesn’t have the same pop. However, it would not be surprising for this match up to keep those ratings on par with 2016.

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The Minnesota Twins proved the MLB is the best sport

MLB> NFL, NBA

Before the start of the NFL season, we already knew a few teams that had no shot at winning the Super Bowl, never mind clinching a spot in the postseason. Once the season began, the Bears, 49ers and Browns all had virtually no chance of making the playoffs.

The NBA is even worse. Due to the super teams, only a handful of squads have an opportunity to reach the Finals. According to ESPN’s NBA Basketball Power Index, the Lakers, Kings, Suns, Pacers, Knicks, Nets, Hawks and Bulls have less than a five percent chance to make the postseason. Keep in mind the season has not even started, and eight teams are already considered irrelevant. Another 12 or so teams, who could make the playoffs, have little to no chance at winning the championship.

2016 was a year to forget for Joe Mauer and the Twins (AaronGleeman.com)

In 2016, with a record of 59-103, the Minnesota Twins finished with the worst record in baseball. Today, the Twins will be playing the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card game. Minnesota became the second team in MLB history to have the number one pick in the MLB Draft and make the playoffs in the same year.

The 2008 Rays, who competed in the World Series, were the only other team to accomplish this outlandish feat. The Twins are also the first team to lose 100 games and then go to the playoffs the next year.

Imagine if the Nets or Browns made the playoffs this year. Except, what the Twins did is even crazier because in the NBA, 53.3 percent of teams make the postseason, and in the NFL, 37.5 percent make it. Only 33 percent of the 30 MLB teams get the chance to compete in October.

A 59-win team just made the playoffs the next year, with essentially the same exact roster. America’s pastime allows all 30 franchises to have a shot at reaching the postseason, while the other major sports can eliminate teams before the first game. So how exactly did the Twins manage to do this?

They learned how to field

At the end of the 2016 MLB season, the Minnesota Twins tallied 126 errors, which was good for worst in the league. In just 80 games on the field, Miguel Sano led the team with 18 errors. In 60 games, Jorge Polanco was right behind Sano, racking up 15.

This season, Minnesota finished first in the AL in fielding percentage. They made 48 less errors than in 2016. In 88 games, Sano cut his errors in half. Max Kepler and Byron Buxton both finished in the top five in total zone runs for their positions. According to Baseball Reference’s definition, total zone runs is “the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made.”

The best defensive centerfielder, Byron Buxton (Star Tribune)

A major factor for the Twins having the opportunity to play the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS is Byron Buxton. Defensively, nobody is better in centerfield than the 23-year-old from Georgia.

The former number two overall pick in the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft, Buxton led all centerfielders in total zone runs, and finished third in defensive runs saved (DRS), which is, “how many runs a player saved or hurt his team in the field compared to the average player at his position” (Fangraphs). Buxton’s 24 DRS was the most among centerfielders. The Twins 2016 leader in DRS was Joe Mauer, with six.

Nobody covers more ground than this kid. Buxton’s .951 Revised Zone Rating, or “the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out” was the best in the majors (Hardball Times). He also ranked top five in out of zone plays, OOZ, which measure the number of plays a fielder makes on balls that were considered out of his zone.

Byron Buxton’s 2017 Defensive Ranks

STATISTIC RANK AMONG CF’S
DEFENSIVE WAR 1ST (3RD OVERALL)
DEFENSIVE RUNS SAVED 1ST (3RD OVERALL)
REVIZED ZONE RATING 1ST (1ST OVERALL)
OUT OF ZONE PLAYS 2ND (5TH OVERALL)
RANGE RUNS 1ST (2ND OVERALL)
PLUS MINUS RUNS SAVED 1ST (3RD OVERALL)
TOTAL ZONE RUNS 1ST (1ST OVERALL)

 

They hit for a better averagE

Last year’s Twins team really wasn’t that bad on offense. For all AL teams, they finished fifth in steals, fifth in walks, fourth in doubles, eighth in homers and first in triples. The problems stemmed from their averages, as well as an inability to score with runners on.

Minnesota finished 11th in batting average in and 11th in on base percentage in 2016. In 2017, the Twins finished fourth in both of those categories. Miguel Sano, who finished last year with a .236 batting average, ended the year at .264. The legend, Joe Mauer, had a rough 2016 and only hit .261. This year, Mauer led Minnesota with a .305 batting average. Buxton’s average also rose nearly 30 points.

Eddie Rosario took the biggest leap of all the Twins. In 2016, Rosario hit .269 with only 10 home runs and 32 RBIs. His breakout 2017 stat line included a .290 average, 27 home runs and 78 RBIs.

2016-2017 Minnesota Twins Offensive Ranks

 

STATISTIC 2016 AL RANK 2017 AL RANK
RUNS 9TH 3RD
SLUGGING PERCENTGAE 9TH 6TH
BATTING AVERAGE 11TH 4TH
OBP 11TH 4TH
RUNS WITH MEN IN SCORING POSITION AND TWO OUTS 14TH 3RD
BATTING AVERAGE WITH RUNNERS ON 13TH 4TH
BATTING AVERAGE WITH BASED LOADED 15TH 2ND

 

The Pitching improved

The 2016 Twins finished dead last in the AL in hits allowed, runs allowed, home runs allowed, earned runs, shutouts and saves. In regards to saves, the Twins only had 26 of them, and converted a save 56.6 percent of the time. It’s pretty hard to be worse than that.

5 complete games, 3 shoutouts for Ervin Santana (Sporting News)

This year’s Twins pitchers weren’t great, but they were much better. After posting a 5.08 ERA in 2016, they bounced back with a 4.59 ERA, which isn’t great, but they were able to knock off about half a run per game. The bullpen racked up 40 saves, and converted 66.7 percent of them.

Ervin Santana was the Twins’ best pitcher in 2017. He finished the year 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA. He was the only Twins pitcher to throw over 200 innings. The Twins finished second in the AL in complete games and shutouts. Santana ranked first in the league with five complete games, and also first in shutouts with three.

The Magical Run continues

With virtually the same roster, the Minnesota Twins were able to win 27 more games than they did in 2016. The MLB is the only sport in which the worst team of the previous year can make a run at the postseason with the same players. In a power surge year, the Twins only hit six more home runs this year than in 2016. The pitching was pretty similar both years, and the only thing that changed offensively was timely hitting.

Minnesota, who started the year 22nd in payroll, have a tough task going up against the New York Yankees, who currently rank second in payroll. Fortunately, this is the MLB, and anything can happen in a one game playoff. Ervin Santana will be on the bump, facing Luis Severino. Whether Minnesota wins or loses, their season was an absolute success, and proved that every team has a shot in the MLB. It is fair to say that coach Paul Molitor will be earning a few votes for AL Manager of the Year.

 

Featured image by MPR News

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Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins playoffs: Nobody saw this coming

Seven years ago, the Minnesota Twins headed in to the 2010 postseason as the 94-win AL Central champions. It was their last playoff appearance.

Even the most optimistic of Minnesota Twins fans could not have foreseen what this season had in store. Sure, there are probably a select few who were predicting the postseason in April, but then again, every year is a World Series year for those people. It’s adorable. And as someone who has spent the better part of 30 years rooting for Milwaukee, I get it. We had our own improbable run this year.

The Manager

Minnesota Twins

Twins Manager Paul Molitor has done a lot more smiling this year than he did in 2016. (Photo courtesy of: KARE TV)

Unlike the upstart Brewers (who cling to just the faintest of life), you have succeeded in stamping your ticket to the postseason. Although, it did require the help of a legendary Milwaukee Brewer “Igniter” piloting that ship and steadying it through turbulent waters. Obviously, this is tongue in cheek, but let’s face it, Paul Molitor has done a heckuva job with this ball club.

I’ve heard grumblings from Twins fans on social media questioning how Molly runs a pitching staff. I find that a lot of the time, however, you can’t please everyone. The differences in this year’s Twins twirlers compared to that 2016 abomination are something you should be celebrating.

Don’t misunderstand, nobody is saying the Twins staff is dominant, but improvements in team pitching are why you’re here. Last season you finished dead last in the American League in pitching and that had to be painful to watch; 59-win seasons do tend to be pretty awful.

This season however, the Twins pitching staff ranks 10th of 15 in American League total team pitching. This team has shaved close to half-a-run off their team ERA (4.63) in 2017, down from a revolting (5.08) ERA in 2016. It must be at least a little depressing to average giving up five-plus runs per game. What am I talking about? It is depressing, I’ve been there and done that with some of those fine collections of soft-tossing beach ball dealers the Brewers have collected over the years. Doug Davis anyone?

Ask yourself one question: Would you rather have another season where you endure giving up 889 runs, or would you rather give up over 100 fewer runs and play October baseball? This is more than enough reason to get behind your club and your manager in my estimation. Forget about the questionable pitching management, you’re in the playoff club!

Byron Buxton

Minnesota Twins

Byron Buxton, at age 23, already makes center field look way too simple. He should win the Gold Glove in 2017. (Photo Courtesy of: Twincities.com)

It doesn’t hurt a team’s fortunes either when one of your top youngsters flips the switch and begins to figure out the Major League game. This is exactly what Byron Buxton has done in 2017 for the Minnesota Twins.

I’m going to say this right now. Minnesota Twins centerfielder Byron Buxton is a Gold Glove winner. Should he not win the award bestowed upon the season’s best fielders in the AL this year, it will be an injustice.

He is just glove-ly. He uses that blazing speed to his advantage to become the predator lying in wait for any unsuspecting line drive looking only for clean grass to nest in. Even the best hitters regularly find the deep pocket of his cavernous glove.

And you can forget about burning this man. You’re not going to. He gets such an unbelievable jump on the ball and his read off the bat is so sharp, balls that would eat up most normal centerfielders find Buxton effortlessly tracking them down.

Long story short, he makes center field look easy. His (dWAR), or defensive wins above replacement, rating of 2.9 is second best in the majors this year to only all-world short stop, Andrelton Simmons who sits at a not too shabby 4.2 dWAR. And I do say that sarcastically by the way. Simmons is a man-god at short for Los Angeles.

Since the beginning of August, Buxton has been absolutely raking. As we have hit the dog days of summer, Buxton seems to be playing his best baseball at the right time stroking a (.303/.349/.556) line. Down the stretch, his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is a scorching (.380). This suggests he will almost certainly cool off. Twins fans however, hope that happens after the World Series.

It doesn’t matter what way you slice it, Buxton has been  great this year for the Twins. At 23 years old, the best is almost certainly yet to come. But for now, this is a young player on the rise and seemingly coming into his own. Buxton will not be a free agent until 2022, so enjoy your defensive stalwart in centerfield while he’s there.

Please, Not New York… Again

With Boston again losing to the Astros last night 3-2 and the Yankees shutting out the Blue Jays 4-0, the AL East is still in play. New York is sitting two back with a pair left to play entering Saturday.

While it is still mathematically possible the Yankees could walk away with the East, they need to win out. They also need Boston to lose out. And then they would need to win a one game playoff at Yankee Stadium to send Boston into the Wild Card matchup with the Twins. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? No.

The Minnesota Twins are most likely going to New York, folks.

Minnesota Twins playoffs

The 85-win Minnesota Twins record the final out in the 1987 World Series, overcoming a stacked St. Louis Cardinals team. (Photo courtesy of: Minnpost.com)

If you’re a Twins fan, you don’t need to be reminded of the tough luck in October since the 1991 dream season. The Twins successfully went from dead last in 1990 to champs in 1991. Since that season, which culminated in arguably the best World Series of all time, Minnesota’s fortunes have been much different. The New York Yankees have been a main culprit.

In four of the last seven playoff series the Twins have played, the Yankees have been their opponent. The results have been far from resembling competent baseball. In four Division Series hookups, the Minnesota Twins have played to a (2-12) record. The Twins were also swept out of October in each of the last two playoff series they played (2009 & 2010).

Over those 14 games, the Yankees have regularly out-slugged the Twins. Take Derek Jeter for instance, as he hit at a .351 clip through that stretch while also adding eight RBIs to further his team’s cause.

This type of performance wasn’t limited to just Jeter though, because the Yankees also hit 20 homers to Minnesota’s eight. That’s a lot of runs to be giving up over one swing of a bat, so it’s really not surprising they have only taken two wins in 14 games.

Although Jeter has since ascended in to baseball mythology, the Yankees have a new batch of talented players. Of course, this is including Rookie of the Year shoe-in and notorious baseball abuser Aaron Judge.

Here’s the good news though Twins fans, this is a one-off matchup. We all know that on any given day in MLB literally any team can win. This my friends, is the great equalizer. You don’t need to be consistent over a series of games. You only need one performance to pass your first test.

Granted, it’s a big test going on the road with a pitching staff that can be prone to giving up some runs. On top of that, you are facing a good slugging Yankee team.

But, there is always one of those, right? If you can get to the Yankees early and allow defenders like Byron Buxton to salt the game away in the field, you might just pull this baby out. And you might just start exercising some of those historical demons.

Just remember this, in 1987, the Minnesota Twins went 85-77 and won the whole dang thing. Anything is possible, dreamers!

 

(feature photo: KMSP TV)

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Byron Buxton

Has Byron Buxton hit his stride?

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

Background

Byron Buxton

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ups and downs

Byron Buxton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concerns

Byron Buxton

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

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

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

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

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

 

Featured Image by MLB.com

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Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Weekly Update (April 16th – April 22nd)

In week three of our fantasy baseball 2017 update, we will continue to notify owners about which player are hot, or cold, and whether they will continue to trend in that direction. The week one and two fantasy updates can be found at thegamehaus.com.

 

Who’s Hot

 

Eugenio Suarez, Third Base, Cincinnati Reds

 

  • 7 for 20 with 4 runs scored, 3 home runs, and 4 RBI.

 

Suarez is officially breaking out in 2017. The 25-year-old has already mashed five home runs in his first 17 games this season. He is primarily batting fifth, which puts him behind All-Stars Joey Votto and Adam Duval, boding extremely well for fantasy his production. Also, he has improved his strikeout and walk rates, which displays his progressed approach. There is no reason he shouldn’t break the 30-home run and 100-RBI plateau this season.

 

Yasmany Tomas, Left Field, Arizona Diamondbacks

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Yasmany Tomas is multi-home run machine. (Courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors)

  • 8 for 25 with 5 runs scored, 3 home runs, and 8 RBI.

 

The Diamondbacks left fielder is picking up just where he left off in 2016. So far this season, Tomas has 10 runs scored, 13 RBI, and four home runs, two of which came in the same game against the Dodgers. He finished 2016 with 31 home runs in only 140 games, and at this pace, he is sure to break that career mark in 2017. The 26-year-old bats fifth for the Diamondbacks, who lead the league in runs scored, which gives Tomas immense fantasy value moving forward.

 

Michael Brantley, Left Field, Cleveland Indians

 

  • 10 for 25 with 7 runs scored, 2 home runs, and 5 RBI.

 

Top-three MVP candidate in 2014, Michael Brantley, has reestablished himself as a premier player in Major League Baseball. The career .292 hitter currently has a .310 batting average with nine runs scored, three home runs, 11 RBI, and three stolen bases in 2017. The 29-year-old is sure to be a high-level producer batting third for the defending American League champion Indians. The health of Brantley’s shoulder remains discomforting, although the Indians seem to be giving him regular days off to ensure he is healthy for their presumed playoff run this season.

 

Austin Hedges, Catcher, San Diego Padres

http://thegamehaus.com/2017/04/17/fantasy-baseball-2017-weekly-update-april-9th-april-15th/

Austin Hedges will be the everyday man for the Padres for years to come. (Courtesy of The San Diego Union Tribune)

  • 6 for 21 with 5 runs scored, 4 home runs, and 9 RBI.

 

The Padres catcher had a monster week, hitting four home runs with nine RBI. Hedges began the season ice cold, as even after this successful week, he is still only batting .179. The 24-year-old is the every-day catcher and five or six-hitter for the Padres, depending on the day, making him a solid fantasy option at catcher in 2017.

 

Jason Vargas, Starting Pitcher, Kansas City Royals

 

  • 1-0 allowing 4 hits, 0 walks, and 0 earned runs with 9 strikeouts in 7 innings pitched.

 

Vargas has been masterful in 2017, having a record of 3-0, while allowing only one earned run, with 23 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings pitched. The 34-year-old veteran has never been this dominant in his 12-year career, as he has a career ERA of 4.11, WHIP of 1.3, and K/9 of 6.0.

It would be crazy to say that Vargas will continue to find success, although I’m ballsy enough to do it.

Over the past two seasons, Vargas has pitched a total of 55 innings, as he missed essentially the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons after suffering a UCL tear in his left elbow. Since last pitching a full season in 2014, Vargas has stopped throwing a slider and cutter, and has begun exclusively throwing a fastball, curveball, and changeup. His new arsenal and approach with Kansas City are the main factors to his extreme success early in 2017.

 

Who’s Cold

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Byron Buxton’s ice cold start continues in 2017. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

Byron Buxton, Center Field, Minnesota Twins

 

  • 2 for 15 with 0 runs scored, 0 home runs, and 0 RBI.

 

Buxton’s struggles have continued in 2017, as the former second over-all pick in 2012 has only six hits in his first 17 games. The 23-year-old is striking out at a mind boggling rate of 47%. It would not surprise me to see Buxton demoted in order to develop a new approach. I would consider holding onto him in only keeper or dynasty formats, as he has plenty of time to capitalize on his immense potential, but 2017 does not look like it will be his year.

 

Dansby Swanson, Short Stop, Atlanta Braves

 

  • 2 for 24 with 2 runs scored, 0 home runs, and 1 RBI.

 

The first-overall pick in 2015 is off to a slow start this season. In 17 games, Swanson has nine hits, only two going for extra bases, and 18 strikeouts. His career strikeout rate in the minors suggests that he is good at making adjustments and is sure to improve.

Swanson’s potential is real, as he was a three-year college player who batted .335 with 15 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 71 games as a junior. Swanson will be a legit contributor sooner rather than later.

 

Kevin Gausman, Starting Pitcher, Baltimore Orioles

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Kevin Gausman is off to a tough start, and has an even tougher road ahead. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • 0-1 allowing 8 hits, 3 walks, and 8 earned runs with 2 strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings pitched.

 

Gausman was on many fantasy radars prior the start of the 2017 season, as had struck out 174 batters in just 179 2/3 innings the previous year. The 26-year-old was named the opening day starter for the Orioles once Chris Tillman was placed on disabled list to begin the year.

Gausman has struggled mightily to begin the season, as he has allowed 15 earned runs to go along with only 13 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings pitched. He will have a tough road ahead, as he will face two tough American League East foes, the Red Sox and Yankees, in his next two starts. It will take a miracle for Gausman to get through the rest of the month unscathed.

 

Justin Verlander, Starting Pitcher, Detroit Tigers

 

  • 0-1 allowing 3 hits, 6 walks, and 4 earned runs with 4 strikeouts over 5 innings pitched.

 

The 2016 AL Cy Young runner-up has struggled in his last two starts, although I am confident he will immediately turn things around moving forward. He is currently 1-2 with a 6.04 ERA, 22 strikeouts and 11 walks in 22 1/3 innings pitched. The wily veteran has a career ERA of 3.5, K/9 of 8.5 and has pitched over 200 innings in nine of his last ten seasons. He will look to get things back on track at home against the Seattle Mariners on April 27th.

 

Steven Wright, Starting Pitcher, Boston Red Sox

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Steven Wright’s struggles are due to his shoulder injury from 2016. (Courtesy of Boston.com)

  • 1-1 allowing 18 hits, 1 walk, and 5 earned runs with 1 strikeout over 9 2/3 innings pitched.

 

The 2016 AL All-Star has not been the same since injuring his shoulder after sliding back into second base. The 32-year-old had a 13-6 record with a 3.33 ERA last season in 156 2/3 innings pitched. Wright has allowed a league high 33 hits in 17 2/3 innings pitching this year, which shows his knuckle ball clearly isn’t back to its previous elite form. He told ESPN, “It’s just a matter getting everything back, the muscle memory back, and getting back to where I was before the injury”. Clearly Wright is not fully recovered from his injury, and if he fails to find his release point, he will continue to relinquish hit after hit. It’s only a matter of time until David Price returns for the Red Sox, which may push Wright to a middle reliever roll for the remainder of the year.

 

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Fantasy Baseball 2017: Weekly Update (April 2nd – April 8th)

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Weekly Update (April 2nd – April 8th)

In this weekly segment, I intend to inform fantasy owners about who’s hot and who’s cold during a specific week, and whether or not I believe they will continue to trend in that direction.

Who’s Hot?

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Veteran Mark Reynolds is taking advantage of every opportunity he gets in 2017. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

Mark Reynolds, First Basemen, Colorado Rockies

 

  • 9 for 22 with 4 runs scored, 3 HR, and 8 RBI

 

Reynolds has taken over for an injured Ian Desmond as the Rockies first basemen to start 2017. The 33-year-old veteran has been incredibly productive over the first week, as he is tied with Brandon Belt as the National League home run leader. Reynolds has been a prototypical home run or bust player over the years, as he has hit over 250 career home runs, while also leading the league in strikeouts four consecutive times. On the contrary to Reynolds perennial struggles at the plate, he batted .282 with 14 home runs in 393 at bats during the 2016 season. His playing time is sure to become sparse once Desmond returns, but until then, Reynolds will remain a comfortable source of production as he will continue to be an everyday player in the middle of the Rockies lineup.

 

Yasiel Puig, Right Fielder, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

  • 7 for 19 with 5 runs scored, 3 HR, 5 RBI, and 1 SB

 

Puig has been one of the biggest teases in recent fantasy baseball history, as he batted .319 with 66 runs scored, 42 RBI, 19 HR, and 11 SB over a 104-game span in 2013. After dealing with nagging injuries and on and off the field issues in 2015 and 2016, he is finally showing his potential once again. The 26-year-old has begun the year batting in multiple positions in the order including fourth, fifth, seventh, and eighth. It is a bit concerning that he is batting .000 in the four and five spots, although on the bright side, he may have found a home at the bottom of the lineup as he is batting over .500 as the seven or eight hitter.

Puig will continue to be a tantalizing fantasy option, but be aware of possible struggles. His plate discipline is league average, as he swings at about 30 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone, which could be a cause for concern as he will begin to see more off-speed pitches when batting in the heart of the order.

 

J.T. Realmuto, Catcher, Miami Marlins

Fantasy Baseball 2017

J.T. Realmuto is off to red hot start. (Courtesy of the Sun Sentinel)

  • 10 for 18 with 6 runs scored, 2 HR, and 6 RBI

 

The Marlins catcher is flat out on fire. Realmuto has begun the year batting primarily in the two-hole, which has worked great so far as he is currently batting over .500.  I wasn’t expecting this to type of success to happen to Realmuto, nor am I expecting it to continue.

The 26-year-old has a career ISO of .141, which suggests that his home run totals will not spike any time soon. This paired with his atrocious career walk rate of 4.7 percent makes me uneasy when thinking about Realmuto going forward.

 

Nomar Mazara, Right Fielder, Texas Rangers

 

  • 10 for 21 with 5 runs scored, 2 HR, and 9 RBI

 

The Rangers outfielder is off to a hot start in his second major league season. He has already mustered up nine RBI along with two home runs, all while batting just under .500. The 22-year-old has been a highly touted prospect since he was signed in 2012, and for good reason. He has hit 20 home runs twice, once at the minor-league level, and the other time being last season in 145 at bats in the majors. He is also a career .271 hitter at all levels, which is very respectable. In a full season, Mazara should have no problem hitting 20 bombs and batting .270 plus.

 

Dallas Keuchel, Starting Pitcher, Houston Astros

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Dallas Keuchel is looking to return to Cy Young form in 2017 now that he is healthy. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images).

  • 1-0 allowing 1 ER, 4 H, and 3 BB over 14 IP with 8 Ks

 

The 2015 Cy Young struggled last season as he dealt with nagging shoulder and back injuries throughout the year. He has come into 2017 at 100 percent, and is ready for the season, which has shown in his first two appearances. Keuchel’s two starts have resulted in one win, and only one earned run over 14 innings pitched. The Astro’s are beginning to look like one of the American League’s most dangerous teams, which along with Keuchel’s improved health, gives him good chances of becoming the Cy Young once again.

Who’s cold?

 

Sam Dyson, Relief Pitcher, Texas Rangers

 

  • 0-2 allowing 8 ER, 7 H, and 2 BB over 1 IP with 0 Ks

 

Dyson has gotten shelled in his first two appearances this season, pitching a total of one inning, allowing eight runs, walking two, and striking out none. Of course, his first two outings are disconcerting, but manager Jeff Banister has said he is not ready to move Dyson out of the closer role yet.

Dyson had a very successful 2016, pitching a total of 70 1/3 innings, resulting in a 2.43 ERA and 55 strike outs. I have confidence in Dyson retaining the closer job for the long-term future, as he has had enough success in the past to warrant a longer leash than most closers.

 

Masahiro Tanaka, Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Masahiro Tanaka is off to a shaky start in 2017. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • 0-1 allowing 10 ER, 14 H, and 6 BB over 7 2/3 IP

 

After allowing 10 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings over his first two starts, Yankees’ ace Tanaka will take the mound Thursday, April 13th, at home against the Tampa Bay Rays. His first two appearances came away against American League East foes, which are commonly the toughest starts this pitcher will make all season. Yes, he has struggled mightily this year, although I’m confident he will turn it around.

The 28-year-old has a career 3.26 ERA over 497 2/3 innings pitched. He has no chance of losing his job, although his injury history is a bit unnerving. A partially torn UCL brought up talks of tommy john surgery last season, although he opted to forgo the surgery in order to avoid a long and tedious recovery process. Tanaka will remain an injury risk all year, but his numbers should return to form.

 

Byron Buxton, Center Fielder, Minnesota Twins

 

  • 1 for 22 with 0 runs scored, 0 HR, 0 RBI, and 0 SB

 

Unfortunately for baseball fans, Buxton is off to a brutal start. With only one hit in his first 22 at bats, once touted as the next Mike Trout, Buxton has consistently disappointed. He has batted an underwhelming .214 over 449 at bats at the major-league level.

The 23-year-old still has untapped potential, as he batted .322 with 15 home runs, 119 runs scored, 85 RBI, and 57 steals in 2013 at multiple minor league levels. In keeper leagues, he is definitely worth holding on to. Although, in redraft leagues, it may be time to go in another direction.

 

D.J. Lemahieu, Second Basemen, Colorado Rockies

Fantasy Baseball 2017

D.J. Lemahieu has only one hit in his first 22 at bats, although it is too early to give up on the 2016 NL Batting Champ. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

  • 1 for 23 with 2 runs scored, 0 HR, 0 RBI, and 0 SB

 

The 2016 National League Batting Champion is off to an ice-cold start this season. He has only one hit in his first 23 at bats, which has resulted in him receiving a day off this Sunday. Lemahieu will remain atop the Rockies lineup for the time being, but a move to the bottom half of the order could help rejuvenate the All-Star. The 28-year-old is a career .298 hitter who should have no problem getting back on track.

 

Jonathan Lucroy, Catcher, Texas Rangers

 

  • 1 for 15 with 1 run scored, 0 HR, 0 RBI, and 0 SB

 

The Rangers backstop also has only one hit to start this season, although once again, I’m not worried about the future production of All-Star. Lucroy is a career .283 hitter, who hit 24 homers just a year ago. He is also in a contract year, so he has more to prove then most players. There is no reason to worry about arguably the best two-way catcher in baseball.

 

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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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2016 American League Central Preview

Photo courtesy cnn.com.

The American League Central Division is likely going to be one of the most competitive divisions in all of baseball. Five out of the last 11 years a team from this division has represented the American League in the World Series, which is the most by any division. The 2016 season looks like it will be another great season for the AL Central, and could include another team from the division taking a trip to the World Series. Here are where the teams will finish in the division:

Yordano Ventura has the potential to be an ace. Photo courtesy denverpost.com.

  1. Kansas City Royals

The reigning World Series champions will be the front-runners in this division. Kansas City has appeared in the last two World Series and can easily make it a third straight appearance this season. The Royals return almost all of their starters from their World Series Championship team. The lone starter from last season that isn’t returning is Alex Rios, who is still a free agent. They also lose Ben Zobrist, who was acquired from Oakland to help with their playoff push last year. Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain in the middle of the Royals’ lineup  Their offense will likely have very similar numbers to last year, when they were tied for the second best batting average in the league and the seventh most runs scored. The Royals will need their offense to carry their team once again as the pitching staff won’t be great. Edinson Volquez, Chris Young, Yordano  Ventura, Ian Kennedy and Kris Medlen will be the starting rotation. They are all decent starting pitchers, but this team lacks an ace at the top of their pitching staff. Johnny Cueto, who was acquired from the Reds last July, left for the San Francisco Giants in free agency. Cueto struggled while pitching for the Royals, so they got by without a true ace, but may not be able to do so this year. Another deadline trade for a good starter may be in store again this season for the Royals. The bullpen should be one of the best in the league for Kansas City. The key reliever for the Royals is Wade Davis, who proved last season he is one of the best closers in baseball.

Impact Player: Yordano Ventura SP

Without a true ace on the Royals, Ventura could really help by returning to the form he had in the 2014 season. He is only 24 years old so the sky is the limit for his progression.

Jordan Zimmerman will have to pitch well for the Tigers this season. Photo courtesy freep.com.

2. Detroit Tigers

Detroit should be back in contention again this season after having a down year last season. The Tigers still have one of the best hitters in all of baseball in Miguel Cabrera. He has had some injury problems, but says his goal is to play 160 games this season. With Ian Kinsler hitting in front of him and J.D. and Victor Martinez hitting behind him, the middle of the lineup will be tough. Detroit hit .270 last season, which led the league. The key for this team is going to be the pitching. Last season the Tigers only had one pitcher who started more than 25 games, and that was Alfredo Simon, who has since rejoined the Reds. Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez will have to stay healthy in order for this team to succeed. The Tigers added Jordan Zimmerman to their pitching staff this off-season, who is a good pitcher, who is less likely to get injured than Verlander and Zimmerman. The bullpen could be an issue again this season, but Detroit signed Francisco Rodriguez, which will help them a lot in end of game situations.

Impact Player: Jordan Zimmerman SP

Zimmerman was acquired to pitch well, but also make all of his starts. If he does so Detroit will have a much improved pitching staff this season.

Todd Frazier has to produce good power numbers this season. Photo courtesy wcpo.com.

3. Chicago White Sox

The White Sox had some excitement and buzz around them going into this season. Then Adam LaRoche’s son wasn’t allowed in the clubhouse anymore and it showed the divide that exists in this team. Chicago still has a team that should be able to compete in this division. Their offense was sub-par last year, but have added some players who should help that this season. Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie will most likely hit in the middle of the lineup and provide a spark for this offense. Frazier will likely hit behind Jose Abreu a lot, which will protect him and give him pitches to hit. Abreu will have a career year if Frazier does a good job behind him in the lineup. The bottom of the lineup might not be the best, but if the middle of the lineup can produce like they can, it won’t be an issue. Chicago has one of the best pitchers in Chris Sale. He is a leader in the locker room, which may be a huge need this season. His location of his fastball makes him really hard to hit. Carlos Rodon has the potential to be a starand should take a step forward this season. The bullpen could also be a weak point for the White Sox. Closer Dave Robertson blew seven saves last season and has a tendency to give up home runs. The rest of the bullpen may have trouble holding leads and keeping the White Sox in games.

Impact Player: Todd Frazier 3B

Frazier will have to protect Jose Abreu, which means hitting for power and driving in runs are what is needed of him.

Francisco Lindor looks like he will be playing shortstop for the Indians for years to come. Photo courtesy cbssports.com.

4. Cleveland Indians

The Indians’ offense should be average once Michael Brantley returns from his shoulder surgery that he had this off-season. The problem is they may not be able to generate much offense with him out of the lineup. If they can weather the storm without Brantley, who is looking like he might be in the lineup sooner than originally expected, they might be able to compete. Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana will have to pick up the slack on the offensive end with Brantley out. The pitching staff has two top of the line starters in Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. Kluber will be competing for the Cy Young award this season. The rest of the starters had good years last season and will need to continue their success. Cody Allen has been a good closer for the Indians and can even improve in the next few seasons. The rest of the relievers make up a bullpen that is above average this season.

Impact Player: Francisco Lindor SS

Lindor looks like he can be the Indians’ shortstop for years to come and will have to shoulder some of the offensive load without Brantley in the lineup to start.

Byron Buxton needs to improve his stats at the plate. Photo courtesy startribune.com.

5.Minnesota Twins

Minnesota is a team that has a lot of young players that need to develop. While this shouldn’t be an awful season for the Twins, they won’t be contending for the playoffs this season. Joe Mauer will lead the offense as he has for the past decade for the Twins. Brian Dozier should produce runs at the top of the lineup as well. Minnesota will need Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano to improve upon their numbers last season to have a good offense. New-comer Byung Ho Park from South Korea can also be a difference maker as he hit 105 home runs over the past two seasons in the Korean League. The starting pitchers finished right on the American League average era of 4.14 and should end the season around their again, which is impressive considering they don’t have a true ace. Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana and Kyle Gibson should be solid, but not elite. The bullpen was below average last season and shouldn’t be much better this year. Glen Perkins was great in the first half of last season, converting all 28 saves, but was injured in the second half of the season and didn’t do so well. Kevin Jespen should be a great set up guy for Perkins, but the rest of the relievers will have to perform better this season.

Impact Player: Byron Buxton OF

Buxton is a great prospect, but needs to improve at the plate this season to help the Twins’ chances.