2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

I present to you my 2017 fantasy baseball center field rankings.

The top 25 center fielders have been grouped into four tiers, with the top and bottom player of each tier profiled below.

Honorable Mentions: Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Jason Heyward (CHC), Kevin Pillar (TOR), Kevin Kiermaier (TB), Leonys Martin (SEA), Travis Janikowski (SD), Mallex Smith (TB), and Eddie Rosario (MIN).

Exceptions include: Ian Desmond (COL), who is out six to eight weeks after undergoing hand surgery this spring training.  

 

Tier 1

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

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

 

  • Mike Trout LAA

 

By this point, everyone should recognize that Mike Trout stands alone as the top player in fantasy baseball.  The two-time MVP is a perennial threat to bat .300, score 100 runs, produce 100 RBIs, and steal 30 bases. In leagues that take OBP or OPS into consideration, Trout’s value is increased even more so, as he has a monster career OBP of .405 and OPS of .963. The 25-year-old will be the first player taken in all 2017 fantasy drafts.

 

 

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Will Charlie Blackmon finish the season as a Colorado Rocky? (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

 

  • Charlie Blackmon COL
  • Trea Turner WSN
  • A.J. Pollock ARI
  • Yoenis Cespedes NYM
  • Christian Yelich MIA
  • Andrew McCutchen PIT
  • Lorenzo Cain KC

 

Charlie Blackmon surpassed career highs in nearly every category last season, while only appearing in 143 games. Blackmon had 29 home runs, 111 runs scored, 82 runs driven in, and stole 17 bases, while batting an astounding .324. The 30-year-old will continue to bat atop an incredibly strong Colorado Rockies lineup that is guaranteed to produce in 2017.

There has been talk about the Rockies potentially moving Blackmon out of Coors field if they are struggling at the trade deadline, although Blackmon’s talent is sure to translate to another park, team, and position in the lineup. He is well worth a pick in the top 20 as he has 30/30 potential with a career batting average of .298.

Lorenzo Cain is being severally overlooked and undervalued in 2017. The Kansas City Royals’ three-hitter is batting .300 over his last three seasons, while averaging 30 steals per 162 games. Cain managed to hit 16 home runs in 140 games in 2015, which I believe show that he has the potential for a 20/30 season.

The 30-year-old’s major issue is staying on the field, as he is yet to surpass the 140-game mark, although if he can stay healthy, he is a sure-fire top 20 outfielder in 2017.

 

 

Tier 3

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Dexter Fowler is headed to the division rival. (Gene J. Puskar, AP Photo)

 

  • Dexter Fowler STL
  • Adam Jones BAL
  • Adam Eaton WSN
  • Odubel Herrera PHI
  • Carlos Gomez TEX
  • Byron Buxton MIN
  • Keon Broxton MIL

 

Dexter Fowler will move from Chicago to the division rival St. Louis Cardinals in 2017. Fowler will bat leadoff for the always productive Cardinals, who are looking to back bounce from missing the playoffs in 2016.

The 31-year-old has a career .270 average, and will be a threat to score 100 runs and steal 10 to 20 bases. Fowler is a safe a selection within the top 150 players, as he is a lock for above average production in three out of the five major categories, while also offering average production in home runs and RBIs. The only caveat with Fowler is his inability to stay on the field, as he has only reached the 150-game mark once in his nine-year career.

Keon Broxton has yet to play a full season at the major-league level, although 2017 will be his year to break out. As a career .255 hitter at the minor-league level, Broxton clearly has room to improve, although he is averaging 15 home runs and 31 steals per 162 games.

The 27-year-old will receive his first opportunity to play an everyday role, as he will be the starting center fielder and six-hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Broxton’s ADP of 225, according to fantasypros.com, makes him well worth a late round selection if you miss on a more proven commodity.

 

 

Tier 4

2017 Fantasy Baseball Center Field Rankings

Brandon Phillips, Jose Peraza will finally have an open spot in the Cincinnati Reds lineup. (Courtesy of MLBdailydish.com)

 

  • Jose Peraza CIN
  • Billy Hamilton CIN
  • Joc Pederson LAD
  • Randal Grichuck STL
  • Rajai Davis OAK
  • Jarrod Dyson SEA
  • Ender Inciarte ATL
  • Denard Span SFG
  • Tyler Naquin CLE
  • Cameron Maybin LAA

 

Jose Peraza is a top 100 prospect according to MLB.com, Baseballprospectus.com, and Baseball America. He will primarily play second base, and will presumably start the season batting at the bottom of the order, but a promotion to the leadoff spot could occur if he continues to find success at the plate. He has a career batting average of .312 at all levels and has stolen 244 bases in 611 career games. The 22-year-old offers tremendous value through his speed, contact, and versatility in 2017.

Cameron Maybin will move out west to join the Los Angeles Angels in 2017. Maybin is a career .259 hitter, although he managed to bat .315 last season in 94 games for the Detroit Tigers. He is a threat to steal 20 or more bases as well as provide runs with a solid average.

If Maybin can remain healthy, career highs in RBI’s and home runs could be in order as well, as the 29-year-old will bat primarily sixth to start the season.

 

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World Baseball Classic

World Baseball Classic Preview: Pool A

As a baseball fanatic, this time of year can be a little tough. Spring Training is just around the corner, but real competitive baseball is still more than two months away. If this sounds like you, don’t worry my friend.

The World Baseball Classic, a competition held every four years between the top national teams around the world, begins on March 6. Let’s dive in head first and take a good look at the teams in Pool A and predict who will emerge victorious.

 

Israel

After advancing from Qualifier A in 2016, the Israeli team will be participating in it’s first World Baseball Classic. Manager Pete Kurz will have plenty of good players to rely on. Many of them have major league experience.

Slugging first baseman Ike Davis is one of the more notable position players on the team, having hit 81 bombs in his major league career. He will be joined by fellow position players Ty Kelly and defensive specialist Sam Fuld, who also have major league experience.

On the mound, team Israel will be led by journeyman pitcher Jason Marquis. While pitching 15 years in the majors, Marquis garnered a 4.61 ERA. He will lead a pitching staff devoid of major league talent, with the only other pitcher with major league experience being Josh Zeid.

Other names being reported as potential additions include Joc Pederson, Jason Kipnis and Danny Valencia. If skipper Pete Kurz can confirm their additions, he will have a deep roster that could make a surprise run.

Korea

World Baseball Classic

Choi leads a deep Korean team dotted with KBO stars (Yonhap News).

With a pronounced influence in the majors, it is surprising to see Korea so sorely lacking in terms of major league talent. The only current major league player that manager Kim In-Sik will be able to call on is Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh. The 33-year-old broke out in 2016, posting a 1.92 ERA. Oh won’t be the only player with major league experience on the roster.

First baseman Dae-Ho Lee will join Oh to play for Korea. Lee played 104 games with the Mariners in 2016 and hit 14 home runs. He is currently a free agent. Major leaguers like Jung-Ho Kang, Hyun-Soo Kim and Shin-Soo Choo are all expected to miss the WBC. Don’t let the lack of major league talent fool you.

Korea will have plenty of quality players to call upon, most of them from the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). All-Star pitchers Won-Jun Jang and Hyun-Jong Yang will be joined by position player Hyung-Woo Choi. Choi is a star in the KBO, and proved it in 2016 batting .376/.470/.651 with 31 homers and 144 RBIs.

While lacking in terms of major league experience, this team is certainly full of talent. Some of the best KBO has to offer will suit up and join Seung-Whan Oh to try and continue their WBC success.

Chinese Taipei

This team will be one of the most difficult to analyze. The Chinese Taipei Baseball Association (CTBA) has been quiet on potential players it will include on its roster. It is easier at this point to discuss what players will not be on the roster, proving to be more helpful in analyzing this team’s chances.

The Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) decided to boycott the WBC, leaving many of Chinese Taipei’s best players out. Chun-Hsiu Chen, Hung-Yu Lin and Po-Jung Wang, who are three of the best pitchers in the CPBL, will all miss the tournament. There is still hope for Chinese Taipei’s pitching staff.

Major leaguers Wei-Yin Chen and Chien-Ming Wang are both potential additions to the roster. Chen is coming off a less than stellar year in Miami, posting a 4.96 ERA in 123.1 innings pitched. Chen has stated that he will allow the Marlins to decide on his participation in the tournament, leaving his status up in the air. Wang is also a questionable addition after pitching in relief for the Royals in 2016. The 36-year-old is currently a free agent.

Chinese Taipei is sorely lacking in major league talent, and the questionable state of their roster leaves them in flux. If they are able to land Chen and Wang, they will have a solid one-two punch at the top of their rotation. That may be all they will have, with little other major league options.

Kingdom of the Netherlands

World Baseball CLassic

Simmons lead the Dutch National Team in the 2013 WBC (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images).

The Dutch National Team is the most storied European team in the WBC, and arguably one of the most talented. Manager and San Francisco Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens will be able to call upon multiple current major leaguers, all of whom have had success at the major league level.

The Netherlands will have a loaded infield, highlighted by Oriole Jonathan Schoop and Angel Andrelton Simmons. Schoop provides plenty of power in the heart of the lineup, hitting a career high 25 homers in 2016. Simmons brings the defense. Simmons is arguably the best defender in the majors, and will certainly shine in the WBC.

The best overall player in all of Pool A has to be Red Sox star Xander Bogaerts. He provides a strong overall offensive game, hitting 21 homers and stealing 13 bases in 2016. His 109 OPS+ was the best of his young career, and is something skipper Meulens will be counting on.

What the Dutch National Team does lack is pitching. Former major leaguer Rick van den Hurk is the only confirmed pitcher currently on the roster. He had a career 6.08 ERA across six seasons in the majors. What they lack in pitching they make up for in hitting. The Netherlands has a deep infield to rely on, and should make good use of it.

Verdict

While Israel has a good amount of major league experience on it’s roster, they will be hard pressed to compete. Chinese Taipei is seen to be the least talented team in the pool, even with questions surrounding its roster. That leaves The Netherlands and Korea.

With a deep infield, the Netherlands has a good chance to emerge from Pool A. However, Korea has the edge. With only two players with major league experience set to play for Korea, they will rely on their KBO stars to carry them. Korea is one of the most successful teams in WBC history, and that will continue in 2017.

 

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One Step Closer: NLCS Preview

With the NLDS out of the way, the Cubs and the Dodgers now sit just one series away from the World Series. Both teams showed a flair for late game heroics, with the Cubs tying the largest ninth inning comeback in MLB playoff history to win game four in San Francisco.  The Dodgers scored five runs in the final three innings in games four and five to eke out a series win vs. Washington. During the regular season, the Cubs won the series 4-3, capped by some stellar pitching against some of the Dodgers best bats. Like every series so far, the Cubs vs. Dodgers matchup will pit some of the NL’s best against one another on the mound. Here’s what I think each team will have to do, and who will have to do it to win the series.

Cubs

The Cubs come into the series the favorite, and with good reason. Joe Maddon’s Cinderella Cubs appear to be the team destined to end Chicago’s World Series drought. Jon Lester and the rest of the pitching staff have been fantastic on the mound throughout the year, and Kris Bryant heads a Cubs offense that’s almost unstoppable when it’s running at peak performance.

Image result for kris bryant

Can the NL MVP favorite lead the Cubs to their first World Series since 1945? Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Bryant has to be one guy that everybody is looking at coming into this series. He put up fantastic numbers against the Dodgers during the regular season, batting .320 and hitting four homers in seven games against the team. He hit .375 against a stout Giants rotation, and is one of many weapons the Cubs will look to utilize on offense. Another guy who we may not have expected to be looking at coming into the series is Javier Baez. There’s no denying Baez’s talent, but he wasn’t putting up the same gaudy numbers as Bryant or Anthony Rizzo during the regular season. He showed up big against San Francisco, providing the only run for either team in game one of the series. He also batted .375 throughout the series, and scored four runs during that time.

Two guys that Chicago needs to step up at the plate against the Dodgers are Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo. Heyward had a lot of success against LA during the regular season, batting .360 with a homer in seven games. However, he didn’t provide much at the plate in the series vs. the Giants, squeaking out a lone double in game two for his only hit of the series. Anthony Rizzo also only had one hit during the series against the Giants, but also worked his way on base with two walks in the series. The Cubs will definitely need to see more than that against the Dodgers from their regular season leader in RBI’s.

On the mound for the Cubs, Jon Lester is obviously one guy you have to watch. Lester went eight scoreless against an anemic Giants offense. We’ll have to see how he fares against a Dodgers offense that should provide significantly more resistance. Eyes will also be on Kyle Hendricks, who took a line drive off his arm in game two against the Giants. While he’s been cleared to pitch in game two, we’ll have to see how he fares and if his arm has any lingering tenderness that could take him off of his game. We’ll also have to see how the Cubs bullpen as a whole fares. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts showed that he’s not afraid to go to the pen early and often in the NLDS; we’ll see if Joe Maddon responds in similar fashion, and if the Cubs bullpen is up for the additional pressure.

 

Dodgers

The Dodgers willed their way past the Nationals in a gritty five-game series that came down to the wire. While they aren’t sitting on a drought quite as long as the Cubs, the organization hasn’t been to a World Series since 1988, when they won the series 4-1 against the A’s to cap off Orel Hershiser’s monumental season. Hershiser may be long retired, but this Dodgers pitching staff still looks plenty strong, perhaps even more so in the bullpen than the rotation.

Manager Dave Roberts went to the bullpen early and often against the Nationals. Only one starter made it past the fifth inning, Clayton Kershaw, who went five innings in game one and 6.2 in game four. Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill combined for just ten innings of work in their three starts. The Dodgers bullpen looked very strong for most of the series, just as it had during the regular season. The Dodgers had six of its arms combine for no runs allowed in 14.2 innings over those five games, with only Kanley Jansen and Grant Dayton surrendering runs from the pen during the NLDS. Joe Blanton saw the most work during that time, aside from Jansen, allowing just one hit in five innings of work over four appearances. On the mound, I’ll be watching for him to bridge the gap between Dodgers starters and the back of the bullpen if Roberts continues his current bullpen-centered pitching style.

Of course, I’ll also be looking for the Dodgers starters to step up in this series, to ease the stress of a potential seven-game series on the pen’s arms. Kershaw surrendered eight runs combined in his two starts against the Nationals, and the Cubs offense has a lot more weapons than Washington did. Rich Hill surrendered five runs over seven innings in two starts as well. The Dodgers rotation will have to step up to the postseason pressure to keep the game within striking distance for their offense.

Image result for justin turner dodgers

Justin Turner showed up big vs. the Nationals, can he continue his hot hitting against the Cubs? Image courtesy of Fox Sports.

Speaking of their offense, they’ll have to turn in a stronger performance against the Cubs in the postseason than they did during the regular season. I’m looking at Justin Turner specifically, who was just 2-for-24 with eight strikeouts in seven games against Chicago in the regular season. Turner was a huge performer in the NLDS, batting .400 and driving in 5 RBI’s, including the deciding two-run triple in the seventh inning of game five against Washington. Corey Seager is another guy who will have to step his game up in the NLCS. He had just three hits in the NLDS, including two solo homers, all coming in the first inning of the game. Outside of the first inning, he was 0-for-18. While it’s great to get your team started on the right foot, Seager will have to provide more support at the plate later in the game to give his team a chance. Joc Pederson is the last guy I’m looking at in this series. He, also had an abysmal time against Chicago in the regular season, going 0-for-20 with eight strikeouts. Pederson hit .333 in the NLDS, and provided the catalyst for their game-winning seventh inning in game five with a solo shot on the first pitch from Max Scherzer. He’ll have to continue to come up clutch to help his team overcome the juggernaut that is the Cubs.