Fantasy Baseball 2017: Weekly Update (May 14th – May 20th)

With about a quarter of the MLB season in the books, it is time to continue our fantasy baseball weekly update. We will continue to notify owners about which players are hot, or cold, and whether they will remain trending in that direction. Previous weekly fantasy baseball updates can be found at thegamehaus.com/fantasy.

 

Who’s Hot

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Corey Dickerson has shown flashes of what we all saw two years ago in Colorado. (Photo by MLB.com)

 

Corey Dickerson, Outfielder, Tampa Bay Rays

 

Last seven: .448 BA, 10 R, 5 HR and 9 RBI

 

Dickerson entered 2017 with moderate expectations, as his batting average had regressed from .304 in 2015 to .245 in 2016. He has found himself batting primarily in the two-hole this season, which is a prime spot for fantasy production.

The 28-year-old is scorching hot. He is batting .347 with 11 home runs, 30 runs scored and 22 RBIs in 43 games played. He has improved his walk and strikeout rates, which show he has progressed as a hitter from his days in Colorado.

Dickerson’s performance in 2017 has been astounding so far. However, a bit of regression is in order, as he is sporting a career high ISO of .295, BABIP of .393 and HR/FB rate of 22 percent, which are all unsustainable.

 

 

Jose Berrios, Starting Pitcher, Minnesota Twins

 

Last three: 2-0 W-L, 0.59 ERA, 0.39 WHIP, 15 1/3 IP and 15/2 K/BB

 

Berrios has been immaculate, as he is currently sporting a sub-one ERA and WHIP. The former first-round pick was called up in 2016, but did not find nearly as much success then as he has now.

Through his first 14 major-league starts, Berrios went 3-7 with an 8.02 ERA and 1.87 WHIP. His early struggles could have been due to many things, although I will focus on his .344 BABIP and 16.2 percent HR/FB rate, which were both insanely high and bound to readjust themselves.

So far this year, Berrios has yet to give up a home run, has a BABIP of .118, and an xFIP of 4.17. I understand that Berrios is a top prospect with great potential, but these analytics scream regression. In keeper and dynasty formats, it will be worth holding onto the 22-year-old, although in redraft formats, I would sell as soon as possible.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Avisail Garcia is finally proving his worth in 2017. (Photo by Seth Wenig AP Photo)

Avisail Garcia, Outfielder, Chicago White Sox

 

Last seven: .400 BA, 6 R, 2 HR and 9 RBI

 

Garcia has been one of the league’s hottest hitters this season. He is currently batting .350 with 26 runs scored, eight home runs and 34 RBIs.

The 25-year old has been a hype train due to his minor league success, as he batted .291 with 46 home runs in 586 minor league games. Garcia’s BABIP of .409 and ISO of .253 seem blatantly unsustainable, although his improved walk, strikeout and contact rates show that he has truly progressed as a player.

Garcia will not continue this level of production all season, so using him as trade bait could be a better investment.

 

Lance McCullers, Starting Pitcher, Houston Astros

 

Last three: 2-0 W-L, 0.00 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 19 IP and 14/4 K/BB

 

McCullers has continued his major league success from one year to the next since entering the league in 2015. He has a career ERA of 3.10, WHIP of 1.28 and K/9 of 10.17. His astounding numbers have continued in 2017, as he has an ERA of 2.65 and WHIP of 1.09.

The 23-year-old is quietly becoming one of the league’s premier pitchers. He sports an xFIP of 2.70 and HR/FB rate of 19.2 percent, which both suggest that even more progression is in order. Also, his BABIP of .285 seems fairly sustainable, as his career BABIP is .315.

Now may be the time to grab McCullers before he progresses into a top ten starting pitcher.

 

Who’s Cold

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Odubel Herrera is a low-end 20/20 threat. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports).

Odubel Herrera, Outfielder, Philadelphia Phillies

 

Last seven: .154 BA, 0 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI and 1 SB

 

Herrera has struggled mightily this year, batting .236 with three home runs, 15 runs scored, 13 RBIs and four stolen bases. His walk and strikeout rates have regressed by about four percent each, which is disconcerting.

The 25-year-old is coming off of a 2016 campaign where he hit 15 home runs, stole 25 bases and batted .286. His career BABIP is an astounding .358, although his current BABIP is only .301, which suggests some progression is in order.

Herrera could make a good buy low target in all formats, as he is a career .284 hitter with low end 20/20 potential.

 

Julio Teheran, Starting Pitcher, Atlanta Braves

 

Last three: 1-2, 8.36 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, 14 IP and 9/5 K/BB

 

The Braves ace has been atrocious so far this year. He sports an ERA of 5.47 and WHIP of 1.52. The major cause for alarm is Teheran’s lack of control, as his walk rate has been inflated from its career mark of 2.50 walks per nine innings to his 2017 mark of 4.20.

Another red flag with Teheran is that his HR/FB ratio and BABIP are right around his career averages. Also, his xFIP of 5.54 suggest that he may see even more regression this season.

On the bright side, the 26-year-old has a career ERA of 3.50 and WHIP of 1.18, although something must be wrong with Teheran, as his control issues have caused him to become one of the most unsuccessful arms in 2017.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Yangervis Solarte started the year on fire, but has cooled off significantly since. (Photo by MLB.com)

Yangervis Solarte, Second Baseman/Third Baseman, San Diego Padres

 

Last seven: .130 BA, 1 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI and 0 SB

 

Solarte was off to a hot start this season, but has cooled off significantly in the recent weeks. He is currently batting .226 with three home runs, 15 runs scored and 21 RBIs.

The 29-year-old has dropped his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate from last season. Also, his BABIP of .237 suggests there is even more room for more progression, as his career BABIP is .280. Solarte bats in the heart of the Padres order, which even as the league’s worst offense, still increases his fantasy value compared to most second baseman.

This is a prime buy low period for Solarte, who is a versatile infielder with high RBI upside.

 

Masahiro Tanaka, Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees

 

Last three: 1-2 W-L, 13.11 ERA, 2.66 WHIP, 11 2/3 IP and 13/5 K/BB

 

The Yankees’ All Star has been far from his old self so far this year. He currently has a 6.56 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in 48 innings pitched. His major struggle has been allowing walks, as his current walk rate is 2.81 per nine innings, which is very poor compared to his career rate of 1.66. Also, his strikeout rate has declined by about one per nine innings.

There is a silver lining for the 28-year-old, as his HR/FB rate of 24.5 percent, and BABIP of .329, are not nearly sustainable, and should return to their previous career marks in time. Tanaka is sure to improve his performance this season, although he has blatantly regressed, as his xFIP has risen to 4.42 from his career mark of 3.43, and his 2016 mark of 3.61.

 

(Featured Image by SI.com)

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MLB Trade Deadline Targets

With a quarter of the season in the books, we are drawing ever closer to the trade deadline. Contenders and pretenders are weeding themselves out, and the trade market is forming. Accordingly, we will analyze four of the top trade targets and their potential landing spots.

SS Zack Cozart – Cincinnati Reds

After hitting a career high 16 home runs last season, Cozart has improved his play in 2017. The 31 year old is batting .352/.433/.602 with four home runs and 19 RBIs. He has been a key cog in the Red’s offensive attack, but his days in Cincinnati may be numbered. With the Reds slowly fading to the bottom of the NL Central, the Reds may have no choice.

Sitting at 20-22, the Reds are fourth in their division and 4.5 games back of first place. While they have performed well to this point, they are starting to show their true colors. With a 3-7 record in their past 10 games, Cozart may become expendable. Given his age and his potent season, the Reds may sell high and get a crop of young players in return.

Best Fit – Baltimore Orioles: Sitting at 25-16, the Orioles are primed to wrestle control of the division. J.J. Hardy has not had an OPS+ over 100 in the past five seasons, and at 34, it may be time to move Hardy to the bench.

1B Justin Smoak – Toronto Blue Jays

A solid 8.5 games out of first place and a 18-26 record have the Blue Jays as sellers at the trade deadline. And with all the moves the team has made in recent seasons, the organization could use an influx of young prospects. That leaves first baseman Justin Smoak as a prime target at the trade deadline.

His .279/.344/.537 slash line is by far the best of his career, and Toronto could capitalize on his success. And with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs, Smoak has proven to be a consistent contributor in the Blue Jays’ lineup. Given his hot start and his teams struggles, it makes too much sense to hold onto him.

Best Fit – New York Yankees: Even if trades to division rivals are few and far between, this is one that could be the exception. Chris Carter has been absolutely dreadful in pinstripes. And Greg Bird, when healthy, hasn’t been much better. Given the Yankees’ deep farm system, Smoak should be easy to acquire.

SP Gerrit Cole – Pittsburgh Pirates

As the season progresses, the fate of Pirates ace Gerrit Cole is becoming all too clear. Sitting in the cellar of the NL Central, it seems the Pirates’ window of opportunity has finally closed. And with star center fielder Starlin Marte out for the season, there is little hope in Pittsburgh. But what hope does exist lies with Gerrit Cole.

The staff ace sports a 2.84 ERA in his nine starts this season, providing a great opportunity for the Pirates to earn a W every time he takes the hill. The 26 year old also has four years of MLB service, and will demand top dollar on the open market. And with the Pirates falling deeper into obscurity, the time is now to capitalize on Cole’s value.

Best Fit – Houston Astros: With a 29-14 record, the Astros have seemingly no holes. But if the team is serious about being top flight contenders, then a player like Gerrit Cole would elevate them to the next level. He would fit in perfectly behind Dallas Keuchel to form one of the best one-two punches in any rotation.

SP Andrew Triggs – Oakland Athletics

Andrew Triggs has been a revelation for the A’s (John Hefti/USA TODAY Sports).

The Oakland Athletics are always one of the more active sellers at the trade deadline. And sitting at nine games back of the Houston Astros for first place in the AL West, this season will be no different. But one of their top trade chips is someone you have probably never heard of – Andrew Triggs.

His 2.12 ERA in eight starts for the A’s has been spectacular. The 28 year old was solid in Oakland last season, but has brought his production to new heights in 2017. Given his age, performance and the A’s willingness to trade away players, he won’t be in green and gold for too much longer.

Best Fit – Colorado Rockies: The Rockies are 27-17 and in first in the NL West, but the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are hot on their heels. Pitching has always been a source of woe for Rockies fans, but Triggs could help stabilize the rotation. With a short track record of success, Triggs shouldn’t demand a king’s ransom on the market. Triggs would be a welcome addition in Denver.

Feature image by Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo.

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Surprise Performances Around the MLB

The MLB season is still in its infancy with just one full week in the books. However, there are multiple players who are opening some eyes around the league. Whether it’s just a hot start or a cold spell, players and fans alike take notice. Who is making the most of the opening week of the season, and who could use a mulligan?

1B Logan Morrison – Tampa Bay Rays

Surprise Performances

Logan Morrison has been a bright spot in Tampa’s lineup (Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Times).

The 29-year-old first baseman has turned it around so far this season after struggling last year with a .238 batting average. He has helped the Rays to a 5-3 record and been a driving force in their offense. Morrison is currently batting .333 with two homers and six RBIs through eight games.

While it is a small sample size, the Rays don’t seem to mind. The Rays could be in playoff contention if Morrison can come close to continuing this type of production throughout the season.

C Jason Castro – Minnesota Twins

Jason Castro was acquired by the Twins in the offseason as a defensive specialist. He put up uninspiring numbers in Houston and left the city with a .232 career batting average.

It seems Castro may have found something in Minnesota, evident by his hot start. He is currently batting .353 with one homer and six RBIs through six games this season. However, it’s his OBP that draws the most attention. This season’s .542 is astounding compared to his career OBP of .311. Supported by the seven walks he has already drawn, Castro is looking like a steal of a signing for Minnesota.

If he can play close to what he’s shown already, the Twins will have made one of the shrewdest moves of the offseason.

1B Mark Reynolds – Colorado Rockies

Surprising Performances

Mark Reynolds has performed exceptionally well in Ian Desmond’s stead (Denis Poroy/Getty Images).

With the signing of Ian Desmond to play first base in Denver, many thought Mark Reynolds would see few at bats this season. However, a spring training injury to Desmond opened the door for Reynolds, and he’s taking full advantage of it.

Reynolds has always been known as a slugger with 255 career home runs. This season, he has been doing so much more. He’s posted a .345 batting average to go along with four home runs and 10 RBIs. That astounding offense has also been paired with some stellar defense, as Reynolds has made some great plays at first this season.

Reynolds will be going back to the bench when Ian Desmond returns, but if he can keep it up, he just may become a top trade deadline target.

2B Jose Altuve – Houston Astros

Jose Altuve is one of the best players in the game today. His third place finish in the 2016 AL MVP voting only supports that claim. However, he certainly hasn’t shown it to start this season.

The diminutive second baseman has posted a lowly .188 batting average through his first eight games. His poor performance is seemingly out of the blue given he led the AL in hitting with a .338 batting average last season.

With a player of Altuve’s status, it’s only a matter of time before he turns it around.

1B Anthony Rizzo – Chicago Cubs

After winning the World Series in 2016, the Chicago Cubs were consensus favorites to repeat in 2017. One of the main forces for that projected repeat was first baseman Anthony Rizzo, but he has fallen far short of expectations this season.

He is batting .172 to start the year. He has struggled at the plate, but luckily it hasn’t impacted his team. With the Cubs sitting at 5-2 and atop the NL Central, the Cubs should have no worries.

Rizzo will turn it around eventually and should help carry the club back to the playoffs.

1B Edwin Encarnacion – Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians were contenders in 2016 and were favorites by many entering the 2017 season. With the offseason acquisition of Edwin Encarnacion, many believed it would push the Indians over the top. However, seven games into the season, the Indians are 4-3, and Encarnacion is batting .185.

It’s not the kind of start Indians fans were hoping for. Even so, the Indians are still over .500 and treading water. When Encarnacion turns it on (not if), the Indians will be prime contenders in the AL Central. They’ll need to hurry with surprise performer Minnesota and the Tigers in front of them for the lead in the division.

 

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Best Opening Day Performances

Opening Day in Major League Baseball is one of the best times of the year. America’s past time makes it’s return from hibernation to roaring fans and players hungry to play ball. They say everyone is in first place on Opening Day, but that only applies to teams, and not players. These players made the most of the Opening Day spotlight, and put themselves in first place to start the season.

Madison Bumgarner – San Francisco Giants

While the Giants and Diamondbacks game was included in my Opening Day Games to Watch article, even I wasn’t expecting the performance we got out of Madison Bumgarner. The Giants ace opened up the season on a high note, and lead a valiant effort. He dominated on the bump, giving the Giants seven strong innings. While he did give up three earned runs, they only came on six hits. Bumgarner also struck out 11 in his first outing of the season, and kept the Giants in the game. But it wasn’t just his pitching that kept the game close.

Bumgarner has always been keen with the bat, but never like he was on Opening Day. He mashed two long home runs, one off Diamondbacks ace Zach Greinke. That was the first time a pitcher has hit two home runs on Opening Day in MLB history, furthering the legend of MadBum. And after one full day of games, Bumgarner leads all of baseball in batting average (1.000), on base percentage (1.000), slugging percentage (4.000) and OPS (5.000). Needless to say, Bumgarner got off to a pretty good start on Opening Day.

Opening Day

Joc Pederson provided plenty of pop in their Opening Day match up against the Padres. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports).

Joc Pederson – Los Angeles Dodgers

Batting in a deep Dodgers lineup, no one expected the type of performance Joc Pederson put up on Monday. The Dodgers were matched up against the lowly San Diego Padres. And Pederson and the Dodgers took advantage of their juicy match up with San Diego’s “ace”, Jhoulys Chacin. The Dodgers lineup combined to put up 14 runs on the Padres, punishing their pitching staff. But it was the performance of Joc Pederson that drove the offensive explosion for the Dodgers.

Pederson was off to a fast start, blasting a home run off of Padres starter Chacin. He utilized the massive power he has to mash the ball out of the park, giving the Dodgers hope for what could be throughout the season. Pederson utilized the long ball in the perfect situation, unloading the bases to break open a Dodgers lead over the Padres. And while he did only have one hit on the day, his five RBI performance was more than enough to pace the Dodgers impressive offense. Pederson has gotten of to a fast start, one that Dodger fans will carry him through the season.

Dallas Keuchel – Houston Astros

After a lackluster 2016 season, the Astros ace was looking to return to his 2015 Cy Young form. Dallas Keuchel put up a 4.55 ERA in 2016, far removed from his Cy Young campaign 2.48 ERA in 2015. But on Opening Night in Houston, the Dallas Keuchel of old seemed to return. He blanked the Seattle Mariners, scattering two hits and four strikeouts over seven dominant innings. But it wasn’t just Keuchel’s work on the mound that earned him his spot on this list.

Keuchel has long been known for his defense, winning three Gold Gloves in the past three seasons. And Monday night, he showed why he’s already in contention for a fourth straight Gold Glove. Keuchel showed off his arm and athleticism, taking two bunt hits away from the Mariners. He also started a double play on a come backer, helping his own cause in the field as well as on the mound. If Keuchel can string together a couple of strong starts, look for him to start generating some Cy Young buzz.

Noah Syndergaard – New York Mets

Opening Day

Noah Syndergaard continued over his 2016 dominance to 2017 Opening Day (Jeff Roberson/AP).

Noah Syndergaard got the Mets 2017 season off against division rival Atlanta. And while the Braves are still in rebuilding mode, that doesn’t mean they lack legitimate hitters in their lineup. With emerging star Freddie Freeman, veteran Matt Kemp and former top prospect Dansby Swanson, the Braves have a solid offense. But that didn’t matter on Opening Day. With Noah Syndergaard on the bump for the Mets, the Braves had no chance.

Syndergaard gave the Braves more than they could handle on Monday. Debuting a simplified delivery, Syndergaard was able to blow past the Braves hitters. Delivering six solid innings, Syndergaard scattered five hits while racking up seven strikeouts. After finishing eight in the NL Cy Young voting last season, Syndergaard is primed to pick up where he left off in 2017. And he’s already off to a great start.

 

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Tools of the Trade: Top Five in Hitting

Major League Baseball is one of the most heavily scouted games in sports. Whether it be at the high school, college or the major league level, players are always under a microscope. But what do scouts use to grade these players? They are evaluated based on the five basic tools of baseball; hitting, power, speed and base running, fielding and arm strength. In this first installment of our Tools of the Trade series, we will be analyzing the top five players at each tool.

Using the last five seasons for analysis, players will be evaluated and ranked. Sticking with the traditional 20-80 scales, players have been assigned a grade and then ranked accordingly. When a tie grade is encountered, number of games played, total hits within the five year span, and batting average will be used as a tie breaker.

Hitting Tool

Joey Votto has done nothing but rake since his first day in Cincinnati (David Kohl/USA TODAY Sports).

5. 1B Joey Votto- Cincinnati Reds

Hit Tool: 75

Joey Votto has been a mainstay in Cincinnati since his call up in 2007. He wasn’t considered the top player in his draft, going in the second round to Cincinnati, but he hasn’t let that slow him down. Votto has long been known for his ability to get on base, evident by his astounding career .425 OBP. But it’s his ability to put the ball on the bat that earns him the fifth spot in these rankings.

From 2012-2016, Votto put up a .312 batting average. He also amassed 711 hits across those five seasons. Votto’s ability to put the ball in play is bolstered by is impeccable batting eye. By being able to pick and choose the perfect pitch to hit, Votto has become a premium hitter for Cincinnati. But his recent injury history hurts him in these rankings, as he has been limited to 130 games per season in the last five years. Even so, Votto is one of the top hitters in all of baseball.

4. 3B Adrian Beltre- Texas Rangers

Hit Tool: 75

Entering his age 38 season, many believed Adrian Beltre would have been on the decline long ago. But he seems to just get better with age. He was signed as an international free agent by the Dodgers and made his MLB debut way back in 1998. And ever since he has done nothing but hit. But even with a solid career .286 batting average, Beltre has somehow stepped up his game in the past five seasons.

With a .310 batting average from 2012-2016, Beltre has bested his career average by almost 30 points. And to make it even more impressive, Beltre has done all of that at 33 years old and over. He has also been a mainstay in the Rangers lineup, playing an average of 152 games per season over the previous five campaigns. In that time he has accumulated 909 hits, averaging almost 200 hits per season. Even at age 38, Beltre still possesses an elite hit tool, good enough to place him among the games best.

3. CF Mike Trout- Los Angeles Angels

Hitting Tool

Mike Trout has been locked in for years (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Hit Tool: 75

Mike Trout is one of the few true “five tool” players in the game, so don’t be surprised to see his name in our other installments of the Tools of the Trade series. Even as a first round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, Trout is considered one of the greatest steals in draft history. After being selected 25th overall, Trout tore through the Angels minor league system to make his MLB debut at 19 years old. And ever since, all Trout has done is rake.

When looking at Trout’s stats from the past five seasons, they put him among some of the best pure hitters in the game. He boasts a .310 batting average from 2012-2016. Trout also has 890 hits to his credit, far surpassing Votto in that regard. And while Votto does boast a better batting average, Trout has been more reliable. Trout has averaged 154 games per season in the past five years. While Votto does have Trout beat in average, it’s not enough to make up for his lack of playing time. Trout is a mainstay in the Angels lineup that will be a top hitter in the game for years to come.

2. 2B Jose Altuve- Houston Astros

Hit Tool: 75

Jose Altuve is one of the most diminutive players in the majors. Listed at a generous five feet six inches tall, one would believe that Altuve would have no place in major league baseball. But just like some scouts, Altuve has proven them wrong as well. After debuting for the Astros in 2011, he quickly became the team’s building block. And Altuve has done some building of his own, elevating himself to elite status.

With a .314 batting average from 2012-2016 and two AL Batting Titles thrown in for good measure, Altuve has been an elite hitter for an up and coming Astros organization. During that time he has clubbed 985 hits, by far the most for players in contention for this list. He has also played in about 154 games a season since 2012, providing a reliable spark to the Astros lineup. And at only 26 years old, look for Altuve to add to his already impressive trophy case.

Hit Tool

Expect to see a ton of this from Miguel Cabrera this season (Duane Burleson/Getty Images North America).

1. 1B Miguel Cabrera- Detroit Tigers

Hit Tool: 80

Miguel Cabrera is one of the best pure hitters of his generation. After being acquired by the Tigers in a steal of a trade from the Florida Marlins, Cabrera has been terrorizing opposing pitchers. The two time AL MVP has won seven Silver Slugger awards in his career, and put up a .321 career batting average. His career average would be good enough for tops on this list, but of course, Cabrera has done even better than that in his past five seasons.

From 2012-2016, Cabrera has punished pitchers to a .328 batting average. That is insane production, and easily paces the majors in average over the past five seasons. He has also amassed 922 hits, driving the ball to all fields. While he has average 149 games per season over the past five years, that’s the second lowest amount of games on this list. Even so, that type of insane production can not go unrewarded, making Miguel Cabrera the best pure hitter in all of baseball.

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2017 American League West Preview

Each American League division presents its own unique narrative. The East is highly competitive with several contenders and prospective Wild Card candidates. The Central appears to be a one horse race with two others fighting to take advantage of a limited window. Finally, we have the 2017 American League West Preview which may present the most compelling storylines of all.

The AL West runs the gambit of teams at varying stages of competition readiness.

The A’s are a small market team and its famous organization president continues to seek out ways to compete. The Angels will try to put the right supporting cast around the best player in baseball. The middle of the division sports the Mariners who’s active offseason has made them many analysts’ dark horse pick. Finally, the Rangers and Astros sit at the top of the division.

If you’re looking for a late season dogfight for the number one spot this September, look no further than the AL West.

 

#5 Oakland Athletics

2017 American League West Preview

2017 Projected Record: 72-90

The team that made “Moneyball” famous continues to search for ways to build its roster. Unfortunately for Oakland, it appears that approach is going to take some time. With a current lack of depth, limited free agent budget and a below average farm system, the A’s have little to work with in 2017.

Sonny Gray has been a bright spot on this A’s roster but struggled mightily in 2016 with a 5.69 ERA. At only 26, Gray has plenty of time for a recovery performance and will look to bounce back this season. Assuming all goes well and Gray’s WAR trends closer to 2015 numbers than last season, Oakland will receive minor boost in the win column.

#4 Los Angeles Angels

2017 American League West Preview

2017 Projected Record: 74-88

2017 American League West PreviewIt’s hard to project much of a difference for the Angels in 2017. The pickups of Danny Espinosa and Cameron Maybin provide a lineup boost but that’s not the Angels’ main gap. Some mix of pitching talent and consistent health will have to improve this season to give the Angels a shot.

Garrett Richards is a relatively underrated ace and as solid a starter as you can ask for in the MLB. Outside of Richards, there are a number of question marks surrounding this staff. Unfortunately, other than Tyler Skaggs, most members of the rotation are a known quantity at this point in their careers.

While it’s impossible to completely discount any team with Mike Trout on it, it’s clear the Angels aren’t well-positioned to compete with the rest of the division.

#3 Seattle Mariners

2017 American League West Preview

2017 Projected Record: 88-74

The best prediction one can make for the Seattle Mariners is that your prediction will be miserably wrong. On paper there is a ton to like about this team and this fact was bolstered by an active offseason. Seattle acquired lineup help in the form of Jean Segura and rotation assistance with addition of Drew Smyly. Both players are solid starters and add an additional element of depth to an already well rounded team.

With all of that said there is just something difficult about projecting the Mariners at the top of the division. Just look at the last 5 years:

Year W L Finish Top Player (WAR)
2016 86 76 2nd of 5 R.Cano (7.3)
2015 76 86 4th of 5 N.Cruz (5.2)
2014 87 75 3rd of 5 F.Hernandez (6.7)
2013 71 91 4th of 5 H.Iwakuma (6.9)
2012 75 87 4th of 4 F.Hernandez (4.8)

Their top players are still around, the roster’s makeup is similar and the divisional composition is largely the same with the exception of the improved Astros. The pieces are in place for Seattle to at least make a run at the Wild Card, if not more. However, getting there ahead of the next two teams is no small task.

#2 Texas Rangers

2017 American League West Preview

2017 Projected Record: 91-71

2017 American League West Preview

The Ranges and Astros present options 1 and 1A at the top of the AL West. Both have an unbelievably talented mix of pitching and hitting, power and speed and veterans and youth. The x-factor for the Rangers’ squad will be the top of the rotation combo of Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish.

The lineup more than provided the run support needed to win games but the staff lived and died with Hamels. If Darvish can reestablish himself as a top starter, Texas is looking at one of the nastier 1-2 punches in the MLB. The rest of the rotation could still use a boost, but the quiet addition of Tyson Ross may just be the boost it needs.

 

#1 Houston Astros

2017 American League West Preview

2017 Projected Record: 92-70

The Astros undoubtedly have one of the most exciting groupings of young players in baseball. George Springer and Jose Altuve have already established their excellence with Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman not far behind. Free agent acquisition of veterans like Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick further cement the completeness of this Astros team.

Pitching remains the question of the season for the top of this division. After a Cy Young performance in 2015, Dallas Keuchel struggled in 2016, posting a 4.55 ERA. If Keuchel can reclaim some of that domination, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers provide strong second and third options. With little doubt surrounding the Astros and Rangers lineups, the true test for these clubs will be which rotation can reclaim past dominance.

 

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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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Injury Update

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Second Base Rankings

The Game Haus presents our 2017 fantasy baseball second base rankings.

In the past, the second base position is where one can find steals and average, although in 2016, 15 second base eligible players hit 20 or more home runs. The steals and average have remained constant as well, as 15 second basemen had double-digit steals and nine batted over .280 (Min. 500 AB’s). Second base remains one of the deeper positions in fantasy baseball in 2017.

With spring-training officially underway, it’s time to give our second base rankings for the 2017 season.

 

Players have been grouped into four tiers, with the top and bottom player of each profiled below.

Honorable mentions include: Brandon Drury (ARI), Jedd Gyorko (STL), Howie Kendrick (PHI), Brett Lawrie (CWS), and Ryan Schimpf (SD).

 

Tier 1

2017 Fantasy Baseball Second Base Rankings

Jose Altuve is pound for pound the most talented player in the MLB. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  1. Jose Altuve HOU
  2. Robinson Cano SEA
  3. Daniel Murphy WAS
  4. Ian Kinsler DET
  5. Brian Dozier MIN
  6. Rougned Odor TEX
  7. Matt Carpenter STL

 

Jose Altuve is pound for pound the most talented player in the MLB. He offers above average contributions in all five categories, while offering elite levels of batting average and stolen bases. Altuve will have all of the opportunity in the world, as he will bat third behind budding stars George Springer and Alex Bregman, with All-star Carlos Correa batting clean-up.

The 26-year-old managed to set a career high marks across the board; in plate appearances, home runs, runs, and RBI’s. Even if the 5-foot-7 super-star regresses in all departments, he will remain an elite option in the first round of drafts.

 

The St. Louis Cardinals lifer, Matt Carpenter, is being severely over looked in 2017. Due to an oblique injury, he finished 2016 with only 566 plate appearances, whereas he had averaged 697 per season from 2013 to 2015. Carpenter was on a tear in the first half of 2016, batting .298 with 14 home runs and 53 RBI’s.

The 31-year-old will continue have the opportunity to produce as he will bat third in a very talented young Cardinal’s lineup. I expect Carpenter to severally outperform his current ADP of 68, as I believe he will bat around .290 with a possibility to produce both 100 runs and RBI’s.

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball Second Base Rankings

Trea Turner has a bright future, but what is his ceiling? (Courtesy of Federal Baseball)

  1. Trea Turner WAS
  2. Jean Segura SEA
  3. Jonathon Villar MIL
  4. Jason Kipnis CLE
  5. J. Lemaheiu COL

 

According to FantasyPros.com, Trea Turner is currently being drafted as the 11th player off the board, which is why he will not be on any of my teams in 2017. Turner was called up in June of 2016 and exploded, batted .342 with 13 home runs, 40 RBI’s, and 33 steals in only 73 games. I understand the hype, but let’s pump the breaks.  We are talking about a player who has never hit, or has never been on pace to hit, 20 home runs in a full 162 game season. He will bat at the top half of a stacked Washington Nationals lineup, giving him plenty of value in the runs department.

His career average of .329 and stolen base floor of around 30 should translate to a great fantasy season, although I do not believe he is worth a draft pick at his current ADP.

 

D.J. Lemahieu, is currently being drafted as the 88th overall player, and 13th second basemen off the board in 2017. Lemahieu was awarded the 2016 National League batting champion after having an astounding .348 average. The 6-foot-4 second basemen has only hit 26 career home runs in 672 games, although playing at his stature, as well as at Coors Field gives him a possibility to increase those totals in 2017.

The 28-year-old will bat second in one of the most prolific offenses in the MLB, with the Colorado Rockies. Lemahieu’s floor gives makes him well worth a top 50 pick, and he is being drafted in the top 100.

Tier 3

2017 Fantasy Baseball Second Base Rankings

The aging-veteran Dustin Pedroia will continue to dominate in 2017. (Courtsey of alchetron.com)

  1. Dustin Pedroia BOS
  2. Jonathon Schoop BAL
  3. Ben Zobrist CHC
  4. Devon Travis TOR
  5. Logan Forsythe LAD
  6. Neil Walker NYM
  7. Starlin Castro NYY
  8. Javier Baez CHC
  9. Brandon Phillips ATL

 

Dustin Pedroia remains a solid fantasy option once again in 2017. The 33-year-old’s 2016 was arguably his best season since his 2008 MVP year. Pedroia had 200 hits for the second time in his career, while hitting 15 home runs with 74 RBI’s atop the Boston Red Sox order.

Health concerns have always been an issue for the 5-foot-9 (more like 5-foot-6) veteran, although after completing a full season in 2016, there is no reason to assume he cannot repeat this once again in 2017.

 

Brandon Phillips will leave Ohio for the first time in his MLB career as he heads south for Atlanta. The 35-year-old hasn’t lost a step as he has batted over .290 in his last two seasons, while averaging about 10 home runs, 70 runs, 70 RBI’s, and 16 steals.

Phillips will bat in middle of a very underrated Atlanta Braves lineup, behind the likes of Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson. Phillips’ talent and lineup position give him a great floor for his current ADP of 321.

Tier 4

2017 Fantasy Baseball Second Base Rankings

Josh Harrison looks to complete his first full MLB season in 2017. (Courtesy of Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Spors)

  1. Josh Harrison PIT
  2. Danny Espinosa LAA
  3. Joe Panik SFG
  4. Cesar Hernandez PHI

 

Josh Harrison has yet to play in over 145 games in a season in his MLB career, although he has shown promise to become a great fantasy asset in 2017. Harrison’s finished 2016 with a .283 average, 57 runs, 59 RBI’s, and 19 stolen bases. If Harrison played a complete season, he would have been on pace for 72 RBI’s and 22 steals, which, along with his average, would have put him in the top 15 for second basemen in 2016.

The 29-year-old will bat atop a Pittsburgh Pirates lineup that looks to redeem itself from a poor 2016 campaign. Batting ahead of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Gregory Polanco will make him a great source of runs in 2017. His ADP of 322 makes him well worth a pick late in your draft.

 

Cesar Hernandez was quietly a top 20 second basemen in all formats in 2016. He offered a great source of speed and average as he stole 17 bases while batting .294. The 26-year-old also managed to lead the league in triples in 2016, which is always a good sign.

He will bat atop a young Phillies lineup, which will make him a great source of runs and steals, as the Phillies were a top 10 team in stolen bases attempted per game in 2016. Hernandez is a great low risk pick for the last rounds of your draft.

 

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Comeback Candidates for the 2017 MLB Season

Every year across the majors there are players that fail to meet expectations. Whether it be from injury or poor performance, it is usually unexpected. With a new season comes new opportunities. These players are MLB comeback candidates for the 2017 season.

Bryce Harper- Washington Nationals

Much has been written about Nationals star phenom Bryce Harper. Comparisons to the games late greats have set expectations sky high. Harper seemed to finally meet them in 2015 with an astounding 198 OPS+. All was right, until the start of the 2016 season.

Only a player like Bryce Harper could have a season with a 116 OPS+ and have it labeled a “down year.” His .243 batting average was the lowest of his career. Much of his struggles were blamed on an injury he suffered during the season. Harper played through it, proving he is able to deal with pain.

Even though Harper was hampered by injury in 2016, he was still able to garner his fourth NL All-Star appearance of his career. With a full offseason to rest and recuperate, Harper is poised to be closer to MVP form. Look for Harper to drive the ball and improve his average in 2017.

MLB Comeback Candidates

Matt Harvey looks to return to Flushing refreshed in 2017 (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images).

Matt Harvey- New York Mets

Coming off a World Series appearance in 2015, Matt Harvey was the linchpin of a young, talented New York Mets rotation. They were picked by many to make a return to the World Series in 2016, but fate would prove otherwise.

Matt Harvey started off slow in 2016 and never recovered. Like his NL East rival Bryce Harper, it was discovered that Harvey was suffering from a shoulder injury. This was not something that could be played with, and the Mets shut Harvey down after 17 starts in 2016. A 4-10 record with a 4.86 ERA tell the story. Those are not numbers you would expect from a staff ace like Harvey.

After being shut down in July and having surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, Harvey should return in 2017. Harvey has been a fixture in Flushing since his debut in 2012, and is just entering his prime. At 28 years old, don’t bet against Harvey making a full recovery in 2017.

A.J. Pollock- Arizona Diamondbacks

A.J. Pollock seemed to be a star in the making after a stellar 2015 season. Pollock hit 20 bombs, stole 39 bases and put up an impressive 130 OPS+. After the Diamondbacks signed Zack Greinke and traded for Shelby Miller, 2016 looked bright in the desert.

That is, until Pollock was limited to 12 games in 2016. Pollock suffered a fractured elbow in an April spring training game against the Royals, effectively ending his season. While he was able to come back towards the end of the season, he struggled with a .244 batting average and .390 slugging percentage.

Pollock has proven throughout his time in Arizona to be a tough out, and 2017 is looking to be no different. His recovery has gone well and he is set to start Opening Day in center field. The 2016 season may have been dark for Pollock and the Diamondbacks, but 2017 provides a new opportunity to shine.

Dallas Keuchel- Houston Astros

MLB Comeback Candidates

While Dallas Keuchel’s beard was on point, his game was off in 2016 (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images).

Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel was on top of the world in 2015. Keuchel struck out 216 batters over 232 innings pitched on his way to the 2015 AL Cy Young award. After a strong 2014 season and a stellar 2015, it was thought Keuchel had finally proved he was legit, until the 2016 season began.

Keuchel struggled from the beginning of the season, mirroring his team’s mediocre start. He finished with a 4.55 ERA and a 9-12 record in 2016, far from the marks he set in 2015. While he did make 26 starts, he was ineffective and left many wondering: what is wrong with Keuchel? He did struggle with some injuries, but avoided any major ones and pitched 168 innings.

There is really no clear answer to why Keuchel struggled. Keuchel just seemed to never get it together in 2016, but 2017 provides a new opportunity. With a loaded roster and high expectations in Houston, the Astros and Keuchel are expected to make some noise in 2017.

Baseball is one of the most difficult sports to predict. With so many variables and a grueling 162 game season, maintaining a high level of play is the biggest challenge the sport presents. Sometimes it’s injury, others it’s just the grind of the season.

These aforementioned players have proven at one point or another to be some of the best in the game. With a fresh start in 2017, they will be determined to make the most of it.

 

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Position Rankings for 2017 MLB Season: Right Field

In this ninth installment of our Position Rankings for the 2017 MLB season, we will cover right field. Right field is akin to left in the fact that defense and speed is becoming much more prominent. Let’s take a look at our list starting at number five.

2017 MLB Season

CarGo will look for plenty of balls to carry out of the park in 2017 (Chris Humphreys, USA TODAY Sports).

5. Carlos Gonzalez- Colorado Rockies

Ever since Carlos Gonzalez became a full-time starter for the Colorado Rockies in 2010, he has been a force to be reckoned with.

He hit .298/.350/.505 on his way to his third NL All-Star game appearance in 2016. Gonzalez also provided run support, mashing 25 homers and driving in 100 RBIs. Those are the type of numbers you expect from a middle-of-the-order bat, and CarGo delivers.

He also plays well in the field, as evident last season. Gonzalez had four defensive runs saved in right field this past season, proving him to be a great fielder. He has actually been a much better right fielder than a left fielder, with 18 defensive runs saved in right and -4 in left over his nine year career.

His ability to drive the ball out of the park and hit for average make Gonzalez one of the premier hitters in the game, but it’s a combination of his glove and bat that land him the number five spot on our rankings.

4. Giancarlo Stanton- Miami Marlins

With a career 142 OPS+, you would think Giancarlo Stanton would be hands down number one on this list. However, there’s more to the story. Stanton has been a beast at the plate, when he plays. He has only played two full seasons over his seven-year career.

In a limited number of games, Stanton has still earned his spot on these rankings. In 2016, Stanton hit .240/.326/.489 to go along with 27 homers and 74 RBIs. While his offense is like a dream come true, don’t sleep on his defense.

Stanton has been a solid fielder in right, posting four defensive runs saved in 2016 and 39 over his career. It is even more impressive when considering Stanton’s size at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds. He is able to use his massive frame to drive balls out of the park at a prodigious rate.

At age 27, Stanton is entering his prime and already has 208 career home runs. If he can stay healthy, Stanton has a legitimate chance to join the 500 or even 600 home run club.

3. George Springer- Houston Astros

2017 MLB Season

George Springer provides a little bit of everything for the Houston Astros (Otto Greule Jr, Getty Images North America).

The Astros have returned to relevancy, evident by their surprising playoff run in 2015. One player responsible for that is George Springer.

Springer was drafted by the Astros in the middle of their rebuild, and has been a building block since his inception into the franchise. In 2016, Springer played 162 games while batting .261/.359/.457 as well as slugging 29 homers and driving in 82 RBIs. Springer has been solid offensively since being called up in 2014 with a 126 OPS+.

Springer has also been solid in the outfield, specifically in right field. He had five defensive runs saved in 2016 in right field, showcasing his defensive abilities.

While Springer played his first full season in the majors in 2016, he was still able to show the Astros why he has been called a five-tool player. He will have every chance to showcase his five tools in 2017.

2. Bryce Harper- Washington Nationals

With five years in the majors at age 24, Bryce Harper has been one of the youngest players in the game since his debut in 2012 at 19 years old. He had been one of the most hyped prospects in recent history, and lived up to expectations. He brought home the NL MVP Award in 2015.

He followed up in 2016 with a solid season. He batted .243/.373/.441 while hitting 24 homers and driving in 86 RBIs. He also set a career high in stolen bases with 21. His overall offensive game helps make up for his sometimes subpar defense.

Harper had -3 defensive runs saved in 2016, nothing to write home about but acceptable with his offensive output. Harper has had 7 defensive runs saved in right field throughout his career, so 2016 could be an anomaly. With a staggering 198 OPS+ in 2015, Harper brought home the NL MVP award and set himself up for massive expectations for 2016. While he didn’t quite live up to them, he was solid nonetheless. Not even close to his prime, Harper will look to continue to improve in 2017.

1. Mookie Betts- Boston Red Sox

2017 MLB Season

Mookie Betts will lead the Red Sox in 2017 after David Ortiz’s retirement (Jim Davis , Globe Staff).

While Mookie Betts wasn’t able to stick in the majors in his first call up with the Red Sox, he was able to turn it around in his second call up.

His 2016 season was easily the best of his young career as he hit .318/.363/.534 while blasting 31 homers. He also became a premier run producer, driving in 113 RBIs to go along with 26 stolen bases. That elite level of offensive production gave him a 131 OPS+, easily the best of his career.

Betts was able to blow away expectations both in the batter’s box as well as the outfield. In 157 games in right field, Betts had 32 defensive runs saved. That is a staggering amount for any player in Major League Baseball, let alone one who was only 23 years old in 2016.

If Betts can produce even half of those defensive numbers and continue his offensive pace in 2017, he will loft himself into the elite tier of players in today’s game.

Right field seems to be in good, young hands. With Carlos Gonzalez being the elder statesman of the list at 31 years old, this position is primed to dominate the bigs for years to come.

 

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