Mitch Haniger fantasy baseball

Mitch Haniger is a must-add for your fantasy baseball playoffs

Background

Mitch Haniger fantasy baseball

Mitch Haniger was traded last November to the Seattle Mariners along with blossoming star Jean Segura. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Mitch Haniger was originally drafted out of high school by the New York Mets in the 31st round of the 2009 MLB draft, but he opted to attend Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. The most notable player to come from Cal Poly is Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith.

In his freshman season, Haniger only played in 17 games. He began to become one of the more highly-touted college prospects after earning an every-day role his sophomore year. In his final collegiate season, he batted .346 with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs in 56 games. He was dominating the Big West Conference and MLB teams were taking notice.

At 21 years old, Haniger was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round of the 2012 draft. After failing to standout in low and high-A, Haniger was traded with former 10th-round selection Anthony Banda to the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Gerardo Parra.

In 85 games at the triple-A level, Haniger batted .330 with 23 home runs, 70 RBIs and eight stolen bases. Haniger debuted for the Diamondbacks in 2016, where he played in 34 games and batted .229 with five home runs and 17 RBIs.

After an underwhelming start, he was subsequently traded last November to the Seattle Mariners along with blossoming star Jean Segura and former sixth-round pick Zac Curtis for former first-round pick Taijuan Walker and infielder Ketel Marte.

Haniger was deemed the everyday right fielder after slashing .406/.472/.719 in 32 at bats in spring training. He originally slotted into the two-hole for the Mariners, batting behind Segura and ahead of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. This spot helped Haniger become one of the most productive players in the MLB in April, as he was leading the Mariners in WAR at 1.8 and batting .342 with four home runs, 20 runs scored, 16 RBIs and two stolen bases.

 

Injuries

Mitch Haniger fantasy baseball

Haniger missed half of August due to a mild concussion, small nasal fracture and lacerated upper lip which occurred after being hit in the face by a Jacob deGrom fastball on July 29th. (Photo by NY Daily News)

Haniger is currently owned in only 18.6 percent of fantasy baseball leagues on ESPN.com, which is mainly due to his inability to stay on the field. He missed all of May and the beginning of June due to a strained oblique, which he suffered on April 25.

After returning on June 18, the 26-year-old clearly was feeling the lingering effects of the leg injury, as he only batted .176 in 68 at bats in July.

Most recently, he missed half of August due to a mild concussion, small nasal fracture and lacerated upper lip, which occurred after being hit in the face by a Jacob deGrom fastball on July 29.

 

Picking back up where he left off

Mitch Haniger fantasy baseball

Haniger is batting .455 with two home runs, five runs scored and six RBIs in his 18 games since returning. (Photo by the Seattle Times)

The Mariners outfielder returned from his facial and head injuries on August 19 and returned to his everyday role in right field. So far in September, Haniger is batting .455 with two home runs, five runs scored and six RBIs in 33 at bats.

In his 18 games since returning, Haniger’s lineup position has varied. He has batted second and fifth on four separate occasions, while batting sixth 10 times.

If he can continue to get at bats in the two-hole, his fantasy value will sky rocket. Haniger will be an integral piece to the Mariners success moving forward. If you need outfield depth, Haniger would be a perfect option for your fantasy baseball playoff run.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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Matt Murray sets lofty goals for rest of his career

Is Matt Murray setting expectations of himself too high after winning two Stanley Cups in his first two seasons in the NHL? Who knows; the small sample size only points to success.

The Pittsburgh Penguins win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday to claim Lord Stanley’s cup set off numerous storylines. Debates ignited about Sidney Crosby’s place amongst the greatest players in NHL history. Patric Hornqvist, the last pick for Nashville in the 2005 draft, scores the game-winning goal. Jake Guentzel’s performance in the playoffs has infused youth as the Penguins look to ignite a dynasty.

In the middle of it is a Thunder Bay native with just two years of experience in the legal drinking age. Despite that, he’s the first goalie to ever win the Stanley Cup-clinching game his first two seasons in the league.

Not bad for your first seasons on the world’s biggest stage.

Murray’s performances in the playoffs recently have shifted the organization’s faith in the 2012 third-round pick as their franchise netminder. This was apparent on Monday when Marc-Andre Fleury waived his no-movement clause, allowing the Penguins to protect Murray in the expansion draft. In doing this, Murray had to supplant the team’s best goaltender in history not once, but twice.

With that in mind, how can Murray continue to aid Pittsburgh as they seek their third straight championship next season?

2016

Fleury leads the franchise in wins and games played. He was a staple in net since he first entered the league in the 2003-04 season. However, an ill-timed concussion sidelined him late in the season. This meant the Penguins, finishing a 104-point campaign, had to use a 21 year-old Murray for the postseason.

Matt Murray

Matt Murray with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Photo courtesy of the Penguins official website.

Matt Murray in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was steady in net. A 20-9-1 record with a 2.10 GAA was respectable. Matt Murray in Pittsburgh during the Stanley Cup Playoffs was stellar. He saved over 92 percent of his shots and secured over 15 wins during the run.

Even with an impressive start to the postseason, his spot was still tenuous. Fleury became healthy in the Eastern Conference Finals and was available off the bench in Game Four. Murray subsequently allowed four goals to Tampa Bay, and Fleury replaced him. Fleury, however, lost Game Five, and Head Coach Mike Sullivan went back to Murray, who helped Pittsburgh overcome a 3-2 series deficit to advance to the Final.

This leap of faith for a rookie goalie, especially in favor of one of the team’s best all-time netminders, is unheard of in hockey. Sullivan, at the helm for six months, saw Murray up close in the AHL as his head coach then. He took a calculated risk where only he could predict the upside. It worked for both parties. Murray and Sullivan won the Cup and earned full-time promotions at their jobs.

2017

Penguins goalies Matt Murray (left) and Marc-Andre Fleury look at the scoreboard during the first period of Game 4 against the Washington Capitals on May 4 at Consol Energy Center.

Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Photo by Gene J. Puskar.

While Matt Murray enjoyed a change in position in early 2016, the following year was a challenge for his health. He suffered a broken hand in the World Cup of Hockey before the season started, and then sustained a lower-body injury in late December. Fleury took over the starting job when Murray went down, and the latter played 47 games compared to 38 for the former. The injuries would continue to pile up in the postseason.

As Murray prepared to begin his title defense, he injured himself yet again. Thus, Fleury stepped up moments before Game One against Columbus. The Flower ended up saving a weakened Penguins defense and performed admirably in 15 games.

Ironically, a bad game in the Eastern Conference Finals led to another goalie change. Murray returned from his issue and subbed for Fleury after a rough first period against Ottawa. Sullivan named Murray the starter afterwards. Based on how last year played out, Murray’s leash had to be short. However, he walked away with the opportunity. He willed Pittsburgh to win Game Seven over the Senators and outlasted Nashville in six games.

Matt Murray in the Future

With Fleury’s recent contract developments, it is looking more likely Vegas will snag him in the upcoming expansion draft. This means Murray is the long-term solution for the Penguins. He’s proved his worth in the postseason. In extended time during the regular season, he posted a 2.41 GAA with 26 quality starts. His numbers are solid, but there’s a key factor: health.

Three injuries last season is a cause for concern with a franchise goalie. Including a concussion before the 2016 playoffs, Murray has had four injuries in that span. Pittsburgh has had the benefit of having a starting-caliber goalie to fill in for an injured starter, but if Fleury leaves, that’s no longer the case.

Sullivan has faith in Matt Murray. The two have the potential to be a staple in Pittsburgh for years to come. When he’s on the ice, Murray is a solid weapon. If he can stay on the ice, the Penguins are the typical juggernaut. Penguins fans will be disappointed to hear he probably won’t win a Stanley Cup every year. However, he’s off to a pretty good start in his NHL career.

Feature Image courtesy of Yahoo Sports

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Battling the Injury Bug: NL East

Injuries are an inevitability in the MLB with the season lasting almost half of the year, but four teams in the NL East are seeing some of their top players return from injury riddled seasons. Here, we’ll address who the player is and what’s been ailing him over the past year.

Braves – Freddie Freeman

While the Braves may not be slated to have the best season, first baseman Freddie Freeman’s health could have a significant impact on just how well Turner Field’s final season will go. Photo courtesy of ajc.com.

Freddie is one of the few Braves staples that hasn’t been shipped out or retired over the past few seasons. The first baseman is entering his 6th year as an Opening Day starter on the Atlanta roster. He’s done great for the Braves, batting a career .285, belting 104 HRs, and piling up 424 RBI thus far. However, Freeman missed a month, from mid-June to mid-July, and a couple of weeks in August due to a wrist injury that seemingly is still plaguing him somewhat in the preseason. Manager Fredi Gonzalez has been smart up to this point with Freeman in Spring Training, limiting his appearances to ensure that he is as close to 100% as possible by April. Losing Freeman would be losing the Braves returning leader in HRs (18), and RBI (66), and the Braves would be hard pressed to find someone else to share the burden with Nick Swisher, who was the Braves’ other top hitter in 2015.

Mets – David Wright

I know I said that the Mets’ greatest asset would be their pitching, and that it could carry them far this season. I still believe that, but I also believe that David Wright  is one of the biggest weapons the Mets have offensively if he remains healthy. Wright is the Mets’ career leader in runs, and RBI, as well as second in batting average and home runs, so to say he’s been a boon to the franchise would be an understatement. Wright has had five 100 RBI season already in his 13 year tenure as a Met and hit .282 in 44 games last year with New York. Wright has yet to play this spring, but is set to make his Grapefruit League debut this Friday. Wright claims to be feeling great, but Terri Collins is playing it safe with him all the same, wanting to make sure that his lingering back issues do not become a problem less than a month before the start of the regular season.

Nationals – Stephen Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg has been on and off injury watch since elbow surgery in 2010. If he can scrounge together a healthy year, the Nationals rotation has a lot of potential. Photo courtest of usatoday.com.

Name a body part, and chances are, Stephen Strasburg has injured it in the past few seasons with the Nationals. Last year Strasburg suffered an array of injuries ranging from ankle tightness, to oblique strains, and still managed to toss 23 starts. Nationals fans have been worried about Strasburg ever
since he first had surgery on his elbow in 2010. It has been a rocky road to recovery since then, but the #1 draft pick from 2009 continues to post solid seasons despite injuries constantly plaguing him. Luckily for Washington, Max Scherzer emerged as a real gem on the mound last season, but Scherzer alone will not be enough to carry the rest of these young starters. Strasburg provides a bridge between the youth and experience on the Nats rotation, and if he can remain healthy for 2016, the Nationals could have a staff that rivals New York in the East.

Marlins – Giancarlo Stanton

Stanton popped 27 dingers in less than half a season in 2015.  A broken bone in his hand prevented him from putting up some potentially monstrous numbers.  2015 wasn’t the first year Stanton was cut short by injuries, however; he missed over 40 games in 2013 and has currently reported knee soreness in the preseason.  Stanton returned to the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Mets, but claimed to only feel, “relatively good.”  I’m sure the Marlins and their fans would prefer their star slugger to feel a bit more than “relatively good” by the time April rolls around, and would feel even better if he still felt that good by September.  Stanton’s bat provides some much needed pop in the middle of the Marlins lineup alongside first baseman Justin Bour.  If Stanton ends up missing extended time again in 2016, I don’t see anybody on the roster who can shoulder some of the load that would then fall on Bour as the sole remaining power threat.