Boston Red Sox Pitching: The Success and Failure

Coming into this season, The Red Sox’ pitching was ranked at the top, if not the best. The Red Sox acquired Chris Sale from the White Sox. Rick Porcello was coming off a Cy Young-caliber year. David Price was back, and hopefully healthy. Craig Kimbrel was coming off a 31-save year.

Although Boston sits in first place in the American League East, the pitching has taken a rocky path so far. Lets take a look.

Success: Chris sale

The American League All Star Game starting pitcher is on pace to winning his first Cy Young Award. The 28-year-old was traded in an offseason deal with the Chicago White Sox, involving four minor league prospects including Yoan Moncada.

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (chicagotribune.com)

Sale is cruising with a 13-4 record and the most wins in the American League. He has tallied a whopping total of 211 strikeouts, the most strikeouts in all Major League Baseball.

Sale is on track to tally 300-plus strikeouts. He reached 200 strikeouts in his start this past Friday against the Angels, making him the fastest pitcher in American League history to obtain 200 strikeouts in a season. Sale did this in 141 1/3 innings.

He joins Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan in reaching 200 strikeouts in less than 20 starts. Keep in mind, Pedro did this in close to 150 innings, also known as one of the best pitchers to wear the Boston uniform.

The Red Sox are coming off a 2-4 road stretch. Sale recorded both wins. In a 6-2 win against the Angels, Sale went 6 innings on four hits with nine strikeouts. On Wednesday, he recorded a 4-0 win against the Mariners, going seven innings with three hits with 11 strikeouts.

Sale is dealing for this team. Even in his four losses, he’s been completely dominant. He’s tallied a total of 45 strikeouts in his four losses. Truly, the Sox did not produce runs for him.

Sale is the best pitcher in the American League, if not Major League Baseball. He will continue to dominate.

Success: Drew Pomeranz

For a guy who went 3-5 last season with a 4.59 ERA, Drew Pomeranz has made a complete turnaround for the first place Boston Red Sox.

Pomeranz has turned his record to an impressive 10-4 year. Yes, three wins shy of Chris Sale’s record, the American League Cy Young contender. Pomeranz has tallied 115 strikeouts on a 3.59 ERA.

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (overthemonster.com)

Quite frankly, whatever Pomeranz did for change, its working. He’s defeated second-place rival New York Yankees twice this season, recording 14 strikeouts against them. He tossed 6 1/3 innings and only allowed four hits in the win against the best team in Major League Baseball, Houston Astros.

The Red Sox expected this from the lefty pitcher when they acquired him through a San Diego transaction. Pomeranz was an All-Star at the time of the transaction, and David Ortiz was one foot out the door to retirement, urging the Red Sox to add another All-Star to the team. They needed to add a starter to join forces with Rick Porcello and David Price.

Pomeranz has taken responsibility for his mistakes on the mound last year, and has transformed himself to a top pitcher on the team.

This is exactly what Boston needs, especially when the playoffs come around. The Sox will need their rotation to belly up and give it their all. Look at the 2013 World Series team. Clay Buchholz went 12-1, Jon Lester went 15-8 and John Lackey recorded 10 wins. You need depth to go deep in the playoffs. The facts show it.

success: Craig Kimbrel

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (masslive.com)

The Red Sox closer has been the reliable factor for manager John Farrell. Kimbrel has tallied 25 saves with nearly 80 strikeouts.

Kimbrel reminds the Boston fans of Jonathan Pabelbon and his dominance he had coming out in the bullpen in late save opportunities.

Kimbrel currently sits in fourth in the American League in saves, however many believe he is the best closer in the American League. He holds a 1.27 ERA, as well as a 2-0 record.

Boston looks to have Kimbrel keep his dominant self throughout the last two months of baseball.

failure: rick porcello

Red Sox Nation had big expectations for right-handed pitcher Rick Porcello this season. He was coming off a 22-4 year last season, capturing the American League Cy Young award.

Porcello was the Red Sox go-to guy, last season and this season. Yeah, they brought in Chris Sale, a guy who finished in the top five for the Cy Young race last season, but they were still depending on Porcello to be their number one guy this season.

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (bostonglobe.com)

Last year, he finished with a 3.15 ERA in 223 innings pitched, finishing an impressive 22-4 year. He tallied nearly 200 strikeouts and was completely dominant the whole way through.

This year, he has a 4-13 record with a sub-5 ERA through 133 innings pitched. He’s currently tied in six place for the most home runs allowed (23). Porcello has let up a total of nearly 80 runs, the most on the team, with the second most having 48.

Truly nothing what Boston had wished for.

However, this can all be forgotten if change starts here. We are only two months shy of October. Boston is on track to winning the American League East, and the Red Sox will need Porcello to do his job to get far.

Failure: David Price

Here come the true opinions. As we all know, David Price has been a dominant pitcher in this league for as long as we can remember.

He signed with Boston in late 2015, agreeing to a record-setting contract of seven years, $2.17 million. That said, Boston is writing a check for $31 million a year for Price.

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (usatoday.com)

Price recorded a 17-9 record last season for the Red Sox, making his Fenway career record a whopping 15-4. Pretty good, right?

Until, this season happened.

Price started off the 2017 season after missing two whole months with elbow pain. Not to mention at the time, Porcello was already starting his current cold streak that he has not broken out of.

Since he has formally recovered, he is 5-3 with a sub-4 ERA. Yeah, he’s pitched 11 games, but throughout those 11 starts, they have not been pretty. He has let up 62 hits with 28 earned runs, allowing eight homers and 22 total walks.

However, we know Price can tend to find himself with off-the-field situations as well. The Price/Eckersley altercation has stirred up in the media, finding yourself to have a new look on left-handed pitcher. For those who aren’t aware, Eckerlsey made a comment regarding Eduardo Rodriguez, which led to Price calling Eckersley out completely on the plane back home from Toronto.

Price, like Porcello, needs to find his old self back. We know what he’s capable of doing. If we didn’t, he wouldn’t be the big talk this season.

 

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Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons Since 2000

Rookies are an anomaly in fantasy baseball, as it is difficult to predict their value due to a lack of minor and major league experience. In order to qualify as a rookie, a player must not have conceded 130 at bats or fifty innings pitched in the majors, and also must have fewer than 45 days on the active roster. Rookies tend to be undervalued in redraft leagues and over valued in keeper and dynasty formats, although in either format, they can make or break your fantasy season.

One rookie, Michael Conforto, who looked to contribute as a starting outfielder for the New York Mets in 2016, and after battling through injuries and demotions, finished the year as the 121st outfielder in fantasy. Conforto’s average draft position of 211, was much too high compared to his performance, as you could have waited and selected top 50 outfielders Odubel Herrera, Nick Markakis or Carlos Beltran.

There is always risk involved when drafting rookies, but the rewards can be plentiful.

In 2016, rookie short stops Corey Seager, Trevor Story and Aledmys Diaz exploded onto the scene, all finishing as top 10 short stops, while commonly being drafted 60th or later, occasionally going undrafted, depending on the date and number of teams in the draft.

AL Rookie of the year Michael Fulmer was another undrafted contributor, as he finished as a top 28th starting pitcher in 2016, after winning 11 games in 26 starts.

After being called up in June, Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals played in only 73 games, but managed to finish as the 10th second basemen, after batting .342 with 13 home runs and 33 stolen bases.

Many owners believe rookies are too risky to take chances on, especially in re-draft leagues, Even though the 2016 rookie class shined, many owners will continue to shy away from drafting rookies over established talent. In order to persuade owners to take a few more chances on rookies in 2017, they must understand what rookies are truly capable of.

Below are the greatest fantasy baseball seasons by a rookie at each position since the year 2000.

Notable rookies to keep your eye out for in 2017 include: Andrew Benintendi (BOS), Yoan Moncada (CWS), Dansby Swanson (ATL), Hunter Renfroe (SD), Tyler Glasnow (PIT), Aaron Judge (NYY), Yulieski Gurriel (HOU), Willson Contreras (CHC), Lucas Giolito (CWS), Bradley Zimmer (CLE), and Ozzie Albies (ATL).

 

Catcher: Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs, 2008

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

2008 National League ROY, Geovany Soto, looks to break camp with the Los Angeles Angels in 2017. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

Honorable mentions include: Bengie Molina 2000 (ANA), Buster Posey 2010 (SFG), Wilson Ramos 2011 (WAS), Wilin Rosario 2012 (COL), and Gary Sanchez 2016 (NYY).

Geovany Soto, was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 11th round of the 2001 MLB draft. After totaling 25 home runs in six years of minor league baseball, Soto broke out, batting .353 with 26 home runs and 109 RBI’s for the Iowa Cubs of the Pacific Coast League in 2007.

The Chicago Cubs finished first in the National League Central in 2007, unfortunately getting swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL Division Series. The Cubs backstop remained a question mark heading into 2008, as veterans Michael Barrett and Jason Kendall departed. This was Soto’s chance.

His transition from the minors to the majors went smoothly, as he batted .285 with 23 home runs, 66 runs, and 86 RBI’s. Soto was named the NL’s starting catcher in the All-Star game, and was also awarded the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year while finishing 13th in NL MVP voting.

Unfortunately for Soto, injuries derailed his career. He has failed to surpass his career high of 141 games, which occurred in 2008.

The 12-year veteran has gone on to bounce around the American League, having brief stints with the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox, and currently the Los Angeles Angels.

We could see a rookie season similar to Soto’s soon, as young catchers Gary Sanchez and Willson Contreras begin to emerge.

 

First Base: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox, 2014

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Jose Abreu continues to torment pitchers in the AL Central. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Honorable mentions include: Mark Teixeira 2003 (TEX), Ryan Howard 2005 (PHI), Prince Fielder 2006 (MIL), Joey Votto 2008 (CIN), Gaby Sanchez 2010 (FLA), Eric Hosmer 2011 (KC), and Freddie Freeman 2011 (ATL).

The Cuban first basemen signed a six-year deal with the Chicago White Sox worth $68 million, in 2013, which was the largest deal in club history.

In a Cuban professional league, Abreu batted .316 with 19 home runs and 60 RBI’s over an 83-game span. The White Sox took a risk, believing that his numbers in Cuba would translate to production in the American League.

The 27-year-old took over at first base for Chicago legend Paul Konerko in 2014, becoming a new corner stone of the White Sox lineup. Abreu didn’t disappoint, batting .317 with 36 home runs and 107 RBI’s. The 2014 All-Star managed to also win the AL Rookie of the Year and Silver Slugger awards, while finishing fourth in the AL MVP voting.

Abreu has remained an elite first basemen throughout his three-year career, having a 162-game average of .299, 32 home runs, and 109 RBI’s. His rookie season remains nearly unrepeatable.

 

Second Base: Dan Uggla, Florida Marlins, 2006

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Dan Uggla looks to make an MLB comeback in 2017. (Courtesy of Onlineathens.com)

Honorable mentions include: Robinson Cano 2005 (NYY), Dustin Pedroia 2007 (BOS), Danny Espinosa 2011 (WAS), and Trea Turner 2016 (WAS).

Dan Uggla remains one my favorite players to this day. He mashed 21 home runs in 2005 at the AA level for the Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies. Fortunately for Uggla, he failed to make the Diamondbacks 40-man roster in 2005, and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the rule-5 draft, forcing the Marlins to keep him on the 40-man roster.

The 5-foot-11, 210-pound second basemen took this opportunity and ran with it, hitting 27 home runs with 90 RBI’s while batting a very respectable .287. The 26-year-old made his first of three All-Star appearances in 2006, while finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year.

Uggla’s career remained explosive, as he managed to hit 30 or more home runs in his following five seasons, finishing 17th in NL MVP voting in 2010.

After two and half inconsistent seasons with the Atlanta Braves from 2011-2013, he has bounced around the minor leagues. The 35-year old is coming off of stints with the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals, as he continues to try to make an impact for a big-league club in 2017.

 

Third Base: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers, 2007

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Ryan Braun’s rookie season remains unmatched. (Courtesy of Youtube.com)

Honorable mentions include: Eric Hinske 2002 (TOR), Garrett Atkins 2005 (COL), Ryan Zimmerman 2006 (WAS), Evan Longoria 2008 (TB), Kris Bryant 2015 (CHC), and Matt Duffy 2015 (SFG).

Ryan Braun was the 5th overall pick by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005. From 2005-2007, he batted .313, while hitting 32 home runs in 165 minor league games. The highly touted prospect had matching expectations when he was called up to take over for veteran Jeff Cirillo in May of 2007.

The 23-yaer-old impressed, batted an astounding .324, with 34 home runs, and 97 RBI’s. Braun went on to win NL Rookie of the Year, while finishing top 25 in NL MVP voting. The fact that Braun only played in 113 games goes completely overlooked, as he was on pace to hit 41 home runs and 118 RBI’s over a 600-plate appearance season. Although there have been some stellar rookie seasons by third basemen in the last two decades, Braun’s stands alone.

 

Short Stop: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins, 2006

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Hanley Ramirez may be back in Boston, but no one forgets his MVP caliber days in Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Honorable mentions include: Jimmy Rollins 2001 (PHI), Angel Berroa 2003 (KAN), Troy Tulowitzki 2007 (COL), Alexie Ramirez 2008 (CWS), Carlos Correa 2015 (HOU), Francisco Lindor 2015 (CLE), Corey Seager 2016 (LAD), Trevor Story 2016 (COL), and Aledmys Diaz 2016 (STL).

The former and current Boston Red Sox, Hanley Ramirez, signed with the team in 2000 as an amateur free agent. He began to soar up the ranks, making his way from low-A minor league ball to the majors in only three years. Ramirez was traded to the Florida Marlins in November of 2005, in a deal involving World Series champs Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell.

As a 22-year old, Ramirez won the 2006 NL Rookie of the Year, batting .292 with 17 home runs, 119 runs, 59 RBI’s, and 51 stolen bases. Hanley’s production goes unmatched, as the only other rookie to score over 115 runs in the modern era is Ichiro Suzuki.

Hanley’s career has been an interesting ride so far, as he has battled through some serious injuries that has caused him to lose his MVP form. He has transformed from a perennial .300 hitter with 20 plus steals to a .270 hitter with single-digit steals, which, along with his improved power stroke, is still a very productive player.

 

Left Field: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals, 2001

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Albert Pujols is the greatest player of his generation. (Courtesy of Lehighvalleylive.com)

Honorable mentions include: Hideki Matsui 2003 (NYY), Jason Bay 2004 (PIT), Chris Coghlan 2009 (FLA), Yoenis Cespedes 2012 (OAK).

Arguably the greatest player of his generation, Albert Pujols was drafted in the 13th round of the 1999 MLB draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He accelerated up the minor-league ladder, batting .314 with 19 home runs and 96 RBI’s in 133 games at three different levels in 2000.

The Machine exploded onto the scene in 2001, batting .329 with 37 home runs, 112 runs, and 130 RBI’s. Pujols went on to become an All-Star, win Rookie of the Year and Silver Slugger awards, and finish top five in NL MVP voting. Prince Albert’s 2001 campaign sparked a hall of fame career which included three MVP’s and two World Series rings.

 

Center Field: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, 2012

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

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

Honorable mentions include: Terrance Long 2000 (OAK), Rocco Baldelli 2003 (TB), Scott Podsednik 2003 (MIL), Willy Tavares 2005 (HOU), Jacoby Ellsbury 2008 (BOS), Austin Jackson 2010 (DET), and Billy Hamilton 2014 (CIN).

This generations Mikey Mantle began as a first-round selection by the Los Angles Angels in 2009. In three minor league season Trout batted well over .300, but lacked the power that we are all used to seeing today, as he hit only 23 home runs in 291 games.

Trout started his rookie season after being called up in April of 2012. He went on to play 139 games, batting .326, while mashing 30 home runs, scoring 129 runs, driving in 83 RBI’s, and stealing 49 bases in 56 attempts.

The two-time MVP had the highest WAR ever by a rookie, with 10.0. It may be a long time until we see another 30/40 season by a rookie.

 

Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners, 2001

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Ichiro refuses to quit as he enters his 17th Major League season. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Honorable mentions include: Hunter Pence 2007 (HOU), Jason Heyward 2010 (ATL), Bryce Harper 2012 (WAS), Yasiel Puig 2013 (LAD), and Nomar Mazara 2016 (TEX).

The 27-year old rookie was purchased from the Orix BlueWave for $13 million in 2000. In nine seasons in Japan, Ichiro batted .313, with 658 runs, 118 home runs, and 508 stolen bases. After winning seven batting titles and three MVP awards in Japan, Ichiro decided to make the transition to the MLB.

In 2001, he set the record for the most hits ever by a rookie with 242. The Rookie of the Year finished the season batting .350, while scoring 127 runs, driving in 69 RBI’s, and stealing 56 bases. He was subsequently rewarded the AL MVP.

Suzuki’s career is well known as he has surpassed the 3000-hit plateau and has a career average of .313. Ichiro will remain with the Miami Marlins in 2017, where he will continue to add to his historical career.

 

Starting Pitcher: Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins, 2013

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Jose Fernandez, what could have been?(Findagrave.com)

Honorable mentions include: Rick Ankiel 2000 (STL), Roy Oswalt 2001 (HOU), Dontrelle Willis 2003 (FLA), Francisco Liriano 2006 (MIN), Daisuke Matsuzaka 2007 (BOS), Edinson Volquez 2008 (CIN), J.A. Happ 2009 (PHI), Jaime Garcia 2010 (STL), Jeremy Hellickson 2011 (TB), Yu Darvish 2012 (TEX), Wade Miley 2012 (ARI), Shelby Miller 2013 (ATL), Hyun-Jin Ryo 2013 (LAD), Julio Teheran 2013 (ATL), Matt Shoemaker 2014 (LAA), Jacob deGrom 2014 (NYM), Noah Syndergaard 2015 (NYM), Michael Fulmer 2016 (DET), Kenta Maeda 2016 (LAD), and Jon Gray 2016 (COL).

In 2013, the late, great, Jose Fernandez, managed to out-perform all other rookie starters since the year 2000. After being selected as the 14th pick of the 2011 MLB draft, Fernandez pitched one full season in the minors, going 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA, while striking out 158 batters in 134 innings pitched.

The young hurler started 28 games in his rookie season, going 12-6 with a 2.19, while striking out 187 batters in 172.2 innings. The 20-year old lead the league in hits per nine in 2013, which helped him earn the NL Rookie of the Year award, his first All-Star appearance, and a 3rd place finish in NL Cy Young.

In 2016, Fernandez lead the league in K/9, with 12.5, as he had 253 strikeouts in only 182.1 innings. Unfortunately, Fernandez’ life was cut short in boating accident, so we can only speculate to what could have been. Rest in peace.

 

Releif Pitcher: Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves, 2011

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Craig Kimbrel may be in a new uniform, but his antics remain as they did in Atlanta. (Courtesy of Jeffschultz.blog.myajc.com)

Honorable mentions include: Kazuhiro Sasaki 2000 (SEA), Huston Street 2005 (OAK), Jonathan Papelbon 2006 (BOS), Andrew Bailey 2009 (OAK), and Neftali Feliz 2010 (TEX), Jordan Walden 2010 (LAA), Dellin Betances 2014 (NYY), Roberto Osuna 2015 (TOR), Edwin Diaz 2016 (SEA), and Seung-hwan Oh 2016 (STL).

After being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 33rd round of the 2007 MLB draft, Craig Kimbrel decided to forgo the MLB, and attend Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Alabama. He finished the 2007-2008 collegiate season with a 2.89 ERA, while striking out 123 batters in 81 innings.

Kimbrel went on the be re-drafted by the Braves in the third round of the 2008 MLB draft. He had some slight struggles in the minors, sporting a 3.97 ERA in 70.1 innings pitched at four different levels in 2009, but recovered in 2010, where he had a 1.62 ERA at the AAA level.

Kimbrel received the official call up in 2010, where he recorded 46 saves, struck out 127 batters, and lead the league in games finished with 64. The 23-year old went on to win NL Rookie of the Year, make his first All-Star appearance, all while receiving votes for the Cy Young and MVP.

The flamethrower has managed to improve on his rookie season, as he has had an illustrious seven-year career with a career ERA of 1.86 and over 250 career saves.

 

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Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 5 Setup Men for 2017

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 5 Setup Men for 2017

The Game Haus presents our fantasy baseball rankings: top 5 setup men for 2017.

Setup men have become a premier aspect of baseball in the last decade as teams have begun to acquire multiple high-level relief pitchers in order to lock down the final innings of the game.

Standard fantasy baseball leagues generally do not include holds in their scoring formats, although I believe holds are integral to the game of baseball and thus belong as a stat in the fantasy version as well.

For anyone unfamiliar with a hold, it is a statistic that measures the effectiveness of relievers. A pitcher is rewarded with a hold when he enters the game with his team in the lead in a save situation, which is a lead of no more than three runs, and hands over that lead to another reliever without giving up the lead.

 

Below are the top five setup men heading into the 2017 season.

Exceptions include: Addison Reed, who will close games while Juerys Familia serves his looming suspension, and Cam Bedrosian, who could take Huston Street’s closer job.

Honorable mentions include: Will Harris, Luke Gregerson, Tyler Clippard, Darren O’Day, Kyle Barraclough, Hunter Strickland, Will Smith, and Derek Law.

 

5. Nate Jones, Chicago White Sox

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 5 Setup Men for 2017

What do David Robertson trade rumors mean for Nate Jones? (Courtesy of zimbio.com)

Nate Jones commonly goes overlooked as he is on the rebuilding Chicago White Sox, although he offers great value as a setup man in 2017.

He finished 2016 with a 2.29 ERA, 10.19 K/9, and 28 holds. This was his second consecutive season of over 10 K/9 and a sub-one WHIP.

Jones had an excellent 2.93 FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, which measures what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if they were to receive average fielding results on balls in play.

With David Robertson trade rumors lurking, Jones may be moved to the closer role, but for the time being he is the fifth best option for holds in 2017.

 

4. Tyler Thornburg, Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox acquired the Milwaukee Brewers reliever in December of 2016 in exchange for Travis Shaw, two minor league prospects, and cash considerations.

Thornburg flourished as Milwaukee’s top setup man in 2016, finishing the season with a 2.1 ERA, 20 holds and 13 saves. His mid-90’s fastball and devastating curve helped him strikeout over 12 batters per nine innings. He also had an excellent FIP of 2.83, which suggest that he will find continued success no matter who is fielding behind him.

The 28-year-old will act as the bridge to Craig Kimbrel in 2017, giving him plenty of hold opportunities. Also, if Kimbrel were to go down, Thornburg would be the next man up.

 

3. Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 5 Setup Men for 2017

Brad Brach looks to build on his 2016 All-star campaign heading to 2017. (Courtesy of The Baltimore Sun)

Brach expanded on his 2015 breakout by exploding in 2016. The first-time All-star finished the year with a 2.05 ERA, 10.48 K/9, and 24 holds.

He improved his career averages across the board, most notably cutting his walks per nine innings down by 1.46, to a very manageable 2.85 BB/9.

I do not see any signs of regression for Brach in 2017, as his BABIP (batting average on balls batted in play), ground ball percentage, and homerun to fly ball rates have remained steady over his last three seasons.

Brach is cemented in as the Orioles’ eighth inning guy, with Darren O’Day working the seventh, and closer Zach Britton shutting it down in the ninth.

 

2. Dellin Betances, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees fireman finished 2016 with 28 holds, 12 saves, and an ERA of 3.08. His ERA was his highest in three seasons, although his FIP was an astounding 1.78, suggesting that his fielding contributed largely to his struggles.

The 6 foot 8, 260-pound hurler has increased his K/9 in every consecutive season, and sports a career average of 14.28. He exhibited a career high 15.53 K/9, which lead the league among qualifying relief pitchers in 2016.

He will return to a setup role as the Yankees reacquired closer Aroldis Chapman in free agency.

Betances will continue to dominate batters with his demoralizing cutter, similar to the likes of Kenley Jansen and Mariano Rivera.

The all-world reliever will be an asset for any fantasy team in 2017, whether the league awards points for holds or not.

 

1. Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 5 Setup Men for 2017

Andrew Miller is set to continue his regular season dominance in 2017. (Courtesy of Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Arguably the most dominant pitcher in the game, it is no surprise to see Andrew Miller at the top of this list. His 2016 campaign resulted in an astounding 1.45 ERA, 14.89 K/9, 25 holds and 12 saves.

Miller will remain as a late inning work horse for the Indians, offering availability in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. The 31-year-old will remain as Cody Allen’s setup man in 2017 and will be a key contributor in the tribe’s hunt for October.

The lethal lefty offers great value to all leagues, as he will contribute elite ratios and inevitably a few rogue saves.

 

 

 

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NL East Roundup: Atlanta Braves

It’s time to continue my preview of the National League East with the Atlanta Braves.  The Braves raised some eyebrows before the season even began by trading away highly touted closer Craig Kimbrel to the Padres for a multitude of players, headlined by Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin. Despite the trade, the Braves went just 67-95 in 2015.

Unfortunately, I don’t see the Braves improving much, if at all, in their final season at Turner Field.  The Braves have acquired a surplus of young pitching talent over the past few years, trading away many staple players (such as Kimbrel) in order to get it.  But young pitching talent takes time to develop, as well as an offense that can provide them with run support so they can throw with confidence.

fred

Freddie Freeman looks to come off his wrist injury and provide a huge season in Atlanta. Photo: USA Today Sports

Luckily, the Braves top two hitters, Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman, remained in Atlanta through the offseason.

Freeman, despite missing 44 games due to a wrist injury last year, led the team with 18 home runs and 66 RBI.  While it is good to see that Freeman can still produce solid stats while missing over a quarter of the Braves’ games last season, it’s worrisome that his 66 RBI (which was tied for 39th total in the National League) led the team.

The Braves management is playing it smart with Freeman, easing him back into the lineup; they have made it very clear that their main priority is to have him 100% by Opening Day, and won’t be doing anything to risk re-injury prior to then.

Acquiring Nick Markakis was definitely the most productive offseason move the Braves made last year, leading the team with a .296 batting average and 181 hits.  The ex-Oriole did a great job at the top of the order, primarily leading off and moving to the 3 spot when Freeman wasn’t playing.  Markakis should continue to be an offensive leader on this Braves team, which offers a solid mix of youth and experience in their position players.

The Braves offense as a whole looks like a decent small ball team on paper, with veteran A.J. Pierzynski currently the starter behind the dish, and offseason addition Erick Aybar being added at shortstop.

One dark horse for this team could be Ender Inciarte, currently slated in center field.  Inciarte is entering his third season in the MLB, his first with the Braves; his previous two season with the Diamondbacks are nothing to scoff at, hitting .303 in 524 at-bats with Arizona last season and swiping 21 bases in 2015. Combine him with Michael Bourn and the Braves have a duo of speedsters that have to be respected when they make it on base.

The biggest concern with the Braves coming into the season has to be their pitching.  While they have acquired several young hurlers over the years, a lot of them are still in Minor League ball or are coming into the Majors with very little experience.

The rotation is currently headed by Julio Teheran, who led the Braves with 11 wins in 2015.  While some are hesitant towards Teheran, I think he has the highest ceiling of any of the five men on the rotation, highlighted by his 2.89 ERA in 221 innings in 2014.  While I don’t think his numbers will be quite that strong, I certainly think Teheran deserves to be given the #1 slot in the rotation and can keep the Braves in games.

The rest of the Braves rotation is the biggest question mark coming into 2016. Bud Norris, the only one with a full MLB season under his belt, struggled tremendously last season with the Orioles and Padres, going just 3-11 with a 6.72 ERA, being moved to the bullpen by the end of the year.  It will be interesting to see if Norris is able to pitch with the confidence he began to show by the end of his time with Houston, or if he will continue to slump.

The remaining three starters, Matt Wisler, Manny Banuelos, and Williams Perez, have just 44 starts between them.  In a division hosting dangerous batters like Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper, the young pitchers could find themselves outmatched.

Although anything can happen in baseball, the Braves do not appear to be set up to move out of Turner Field in a blaze of glory.  This season will probably be a lot of Atlanta starters struggling to keep the score low and give their offense a chance to squeak some runs across.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see some young arms currently not in the rotation get a chance to start a couple of games to get some experience.

The Braves, much like the Phillies, look like they will be strong in a few years, but this year I see them around 60 to 70 wins.