2018 Chicago White Sox preview

2018 MLB preview: Chicago White Sox

2017: 67-95 (fourth place in AL Central)

Last postseason appearance: 2008

Last World Series title: 2005 

2017 Recap

2017 was the official start of the rebuilding process for the Chicago White Sox. In the previous offseason, Chicago traded away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, while receiving top prospects to help with the future of the team. While it may take some time, the White Sox will be competing for a title before we know it.

Chicago, a team that has made the playoffs nine times during its franchise history, was far from a contender in 2017. They finished 22nd in slugging, 23rd in runs, 24th in WHIP, 25th in OBP and pitching ERA and 30th in walks per nine innings. They also were a disaster in the field, committing the third most errors in baseball.

2018 Chicago White Sox preview

Avisail Garcia had a career year in 2017 (Photo from ESPN.com)

There were a few bright spots on the south side. Avisail Garcia, the 26-year-old from Venezuela, had his best MLB season by a long shot. Garcia was named to the American League All-Star team and finished the year with a batting average of .330, which ranked third in the MLB.

His insane .392 BABIP, which can be impacted from a little bit of luck, was the best in baseball among qualified hitters. Garcia also slugged 18 home runs, hit .424 against lefties and had a .380 OBP. He also performed when Chicago needed him most, hitting .374 with men on base.

Chicago’s other offensive star was Jose Abreu. Abreu has hit at least .290, 25 home runs and 100 RBIs in each of his first four seasons in the MLB and continues to be one of the most consistent offensive players in the game. The Cuban slugger finished fourth in total bases, fifth in extra-base hits, seventh in doubles and tied for eighth in hits. Abreu also hit .357 with men in scoring position.

The stat that really defined this team was walks. We mentioned they were 25th in OBP, but Chicago really could not walk. Todd Frazier, now a Met, led the White Sox in walks with 48. Frazier’s last game as a member of the team was on July 16.

The pitching was pretty much a total disaster, but because of the highly touted prospects, White Sox fans should stay optimistic and trust the process.

2018: Around the Diamond

On Dec. 1, 2017, the White Sox signed free agent Welington Castillo to start behind the plate. Castillo will bring a nice veteran presence, as well as some pop in the lineup. Since 2015, Castillo has hit 53 home runs and is coming off a career best .282 batting average from 2017.

2018 Chicago White Sox preview

Will Moncada take a big leap forward in 2018? (Photo from FanRag Sports)

Abreu, who in January, avoided arbitration and signed a one-year deal worth $13 million, will remain at first base. Yoan Moncada, who along with Michael Kopech was sent over from Boston in the Sale trade, will start at second. Moncada struck out in 32 percent of his plate appearances. That’s terrible, especially if you aren’t hitting over 30 home runs a season. He had a .325 BABIP, so when he hits the ball, he is good, but the 22-year old has a lot of growing to do. Still, his potential is through the roof.

Shortstop Tim Anderson swung a nice bat in 2017, hitting 17 home runs while stealing 15 bags, but he also led the MLB with 28 errors. He will need to clean it up in the field to keep the White Sox afloat.

Yolmer Sanchez, who finished sixth in triples and hit .303 with men in scoring position, will most likely play third. Chicago will also have Matt Davidson at DH.

Other than Avisail Garcia in right field, the remaining two positions are really up for grabs. Charlie Tilson has a good shot to bat leadoff and start in centerfield, while Leury Garcia, who played in just 87 games last season due to injury, should start in left field after positing decent numbers when healthy. Nicky Delmonico and Adam Engel will also be competing for spots in the lineup.

On the Bump

James Shields, who is owed a whopping $21 million in 2018, will unfortunately remain in the rotation. If you looked up “washed up” in the dictionary, you would probably find a picture of Shields’ face. He had a 5.85 ERA in 2016 and followed that up with a 5.23 ERA last season.

The White Sox also have two young studs, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito, who will continue to get reps as starters and hopefully blossom into big-time pitchers in the MLB. Lopez started eight games in 2017 and posted a 4.72 ERA. Giolito looked great in his seven starts, finishing with a 2.38 ERA. He also never allowed a run in the 16.2 innings he pitched when he faced the lineup the first time through. Giolito could take off and have a great 2018.

Carlos Rodon had shoulder surgery in September and won’t be ready for Opening Day, but he will eventually give Chicago quality innings. They also welcomed back Miguel Gonzalez, who was bad in 2017. The 24-year-old Carson Fulmer will also get a chance to prove he can make something happen over a full-year span. Chicago also brought in Joakim Soria to close out games.

The Future

Chicago has seven players on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect list, which is tied for the second most in baseball. While the MLB team doesn’t look up to par, just wait on it. Headlining this list is outfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Michael Kopech. Jimenez is considered the best power hitting prospect in the game and has drawn comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton.

2018 Chicago White Sox preview

Is Jimenez the next Stanton? (Photo from NBC Sports)

Not only does he mash the ball, Jimenez also hits for a great average. In 89 games between A+ and AA, Jimenez hit 19 home runs and batted .312 with a .568 SLG. He has serious potential to be a top power hitter in this league and should see time with the major league club in 2018.

Kopech should also be getting some time at the major league level this season. In just 134 and a third innings between Double and Triple A, Kopech struck out 172 batters and had an ERA of 2.88.

While Chicago’s 2018 staff looks a bit suspect, keep in mind they have Kopech, Alec Hansen, Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning, three right-handed starters who rank in the top 100.

Luis Robert checks in at No. 28 on the top 100 list. Robert, only 20 years of age, hit .310 with three home runs in 28 Rookie-Ball games. Coming in at No. 99 on the prospects list is Blake Rutherford. Rutherford, also 20 years old, did not have a great 2017, but according to MLB.com, has been “compared to a more athletic version of David Justice.” Only time will tell if these top dogs will pan out.

2018 Prediction: 65-97 

Chicago should see some of their top prospects at the major league level, which is fantastic. But this team is at least two or three years away from competing.

 

Featured image by ChicagoNow.com

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Spring Training Spotlight

Top power hitting infielders

As we begin to edge ever closer to spring training, players and fans alike await its return. But what type of return will it be? We saw a record number of home runs hit last season, and that trend seems like it will continue. Given all those homers, who are the best of the best in the infield?

1B Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu has been an absolute force for the Chicago White Sox. After signing to play the 2014 season, Abreu hit 36 home runs in his rookie season. In his four seasons with the White Sox, Abreu has slugged 124 home runs, as well as 144 doubles. That is where Abreu made the difference in these rankings.

Even though Abreu finished seventh for the most home runs among first baseman last season, he finished first in doubles hit with 43. The ability to hit for power consistently, and not be so reliant on the home run, gives Abreu the edge. He has also slugged .524 in his career, proving him to be one of the more consistent power threats in the game. Abreu possesses legitimate power, and he has shown it off time and time again while in Chicago. Don’t be surprised if you see him challenge for a home run title in the near future.

Best Power hitting infielders

Rougned Odor has immense power (Photo by MLB Trade Rumors).

2B Rougned Odor

While Rougned Odor did have a rough season last year, he is still one of the best power hitting second basemen in the game. He launched 30 homers for the Texas Rangers last year, all while his batting average hovered around the mendoza line. Even though he did post a negative WAR last season (-0.2), his power is definitely his strongest tool.

In his four seasons with the Rangers, Odor has hit 88 home runs. For a second baseman to produce that kind of power is exceptional. He has also slugged a respectable .444 for his career, difficult to do at a normally power depleted position. Odor is one of the most powerful second basemen in the game. His ability to drive the ball out of the yard is one of the best among second baseman.  If he can learn to hit consistently, his 30 homers per season could climb even higher.

3B Joey Gallo

As one of the most powerful prospects baseball has seen, Joey Gallo had high expectations. He definitely lived up to them in 2017. As the primary third baseman for the Texas Rangers, Gallo blasted 41 home runs last season. While he also hit around .200 (.209 batting average) like his Rangers teammate, Gallo was much more productive in the power department.

His immense home runs from last season would have put Gallo in the conversation for this spot. But when you consider he only had 94 hits last season and 41 of them were home runs, it easily wins him this spot. And even though he hit only .209, he slugged an amazing .537 on the season. Joey Gallo may have the most raw power in all of baseball. Granted players like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton hit more home runs than Gallo did, Gallo did it while having an extremely low batting average. If he can be more consistent with making contact, Gallo could challenge Judge and Stanton for the home run title very soon.

Best power hitting infielders

Carlos Correa has one of the most powerful swings in baseball (Courtesy of Sporting News).

SS Carlos Correa

Before bringing Houston it’s first ever World Series title, Carlos Correa put on an absolute show in the regular season. Correa finished 2017 with 24 home runs last season, tying Trevor Story for fourth most among short stops. But what makes it even more impressive is how long it took him to reach 24 home runs. He only played 109 games last season after hurting his thumb during the season. With that much production in so many fewer games, it’s easy to pick Correa for this spot.

Correa also posted an insane .550 slugging percentage. For that much power to come from a defensive first position like short stop is truly impressive. And while Correa is a true five tool player, his power may be the best tool in his arsenal. He also hit 25 doubles in his limited at-bats last season, adding another dimension to his power. Correa has a chance to not only lead short stops in home runs year in and year out, but could challenge for the league lead as well.

Feature image by Getty Images.

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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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2017 Fantasy Baseball First Base Rankings

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball First Base Rankings

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

The first base position is among the deepest in fantasy baseball. Nine first basemen had at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs last season. 23 had at least 20 home runs, and 19 had at least 80 RBIs. First base continues to offer plenty of power and production for your fantasy team.

With the start of spring training games upon us, it is time to rank the top 25 first basemen for 2017. Players have been grouped into three tiers, with the top and bottom player of each profiled below.

Honorable mentions: Joe Mauer (MIN), Lucas Duda (NYM), Chris Carter (NYY), Yulieski Gurriel (HOU), Ryan Zimmerman (WAS), and Dan Vogelbach (SEA).

Tier 1

2017 Fantasy Baseball First Base Rankings

Paul Goldschmidt is the golden standard at first base. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  1. Paul Goldschmidt ARI
  2. Miguel Cabrera DET
  3. Joey Votto CIN
  4. Anthony Rizzo CHC
  5. Freddie Freeman ATL
  6. Edwin Encarnacion CLE

Paul Goldschmidt is the golden standard at first base in 2017. He has completed four consecutive All-Star seasons, finishing as runner up for MVP in 2013 and 2015. He offers five-category production and will bat third for the Arizona Diamondbacks, hit for average and power, and will steal plenty of bases.

The addition of A.J. Pollock and David Peralta to the lineup should increase his value as well. Goldy was without both of them for the majority of 2016. Also, he has 99 career stolen bases with a success rate of 81 percent, which is outstanding. His floor of about 15 steals gives him an edge over other superstar first basemen.

Edwin Encarnacion will make the move from the hitter friendly Rogers Centre to one of the toughest for right handed hitters. However, he remains in the top tier of elite first basemen. He will bat clean-up for a hungry Cleveland Indians team featuring Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana.

Encarnacion remains an elite fantasy option. He has hit at least 30 home runs with 98 or more RBIs. He also has batted at least .260 in his last five seasons. Expect more of the same out of the 34-year-old.

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball First Base Rankings

Wil Myers expects a 40/40 season from himself in 2017. (Courtesy of gaslampbell.com)

  1. Wil Myers SD
  2. Jose Abreu CWS
  3. Daniel Murphy WAS
  4. Ian Desmond COL
  5. Chris Davis BAL
  6. Hanley Ramirez BOS
  7. Matt Carpenter STL
  8. Carlos Santana CLE
  9. Eric Hosmer KC
  10. Adrian Gonzalez LAD

Wil Myers’ 2016 season resembled the likes of a poor man’s Paul Goldschmidt. He finished with 28 home runs and 28 stolen bases. His atrocious second half led to his batting average dipping to an underwhelming .259, causing his value in 2017 to be fairly low. His 20/20 upside should not be overlooked, as he was among only nine players to accomplish this feat last season.

The former rookie of the year completed his first full campaign in 2016, amounting 155 hits in 676 plate appearances. Myers will continue to be a horse in the middle of the San Diego Padres lineup for many years to come.

Adrian Gonzalez has been a consistent fantasy contributor his entire career. He has amassed 600 plus plate appearances in his last 11 seasons, while sporting a career .290 average. His power numbers have dwindled, as he tied a career low of 18 home runs in 2016. However, his production has not faltered, as he has had at least 90 RBIs in 10 consecutive seasons.

The 34-year-old will bat clean-up for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017, giving him ample RBI opportunities once again. Gonzalez looks to be a safe fantasy pick once again for the twelfth consecutive season.

Tier 3

2017 Fantasy Baseball First Base Rankings

Brandon Belt, under or over rated? (Courtesy of USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Brandon Belt SF
  2. Mike Napoli TEX
  3. Tommy Joseph PHI
  4. C.J. Cron LAA
  5. Justin Bour MIA
  6. Greg Bird NYY
  7. Josh Bell PIT
  8. Mitch Moreland BOS
  9. Eric Thames MIL

Brandon Belt is another consistent fantasy performer. However, he has limited value as he has yet to surpass the 20-home run mark in his six-year career. The career .272 hitter did have a career high 82 RBIs in 2016, which was due to him batting primarily fifth.

The 28-year-old stole zero bases last season but has managed to steal 32 bases from 2011 to 2015. There is a chance that he adds some steals back to his stat line. Belt has a higher floor than most first basemen, although his ceiling is limited.

This Eric Thames is not the same guy we saw in 2011 or 2012. He returns to the U.S. after mashing 124 home runs in three seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). Thames will have to re-adjust to life in the MLB, but was rewarded a three-year $15 million contract with a player option for a fourth. This shows that the Brewers are fully invested in Thames being their current and future first basemen.

The 30-year-old will bat clean-up in an aggressive and youthful Milwaukee Brewers lineup that looks to do damage in 2017. Thames will be a great value pick as his current average draft position according to fantasypros.com is 231.

 

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AL Central Weekly 4/25-5/1

  1. Chicago White Sox, 18-8

    Jose Abreu had 11 hits this week to lead the first-place White Sox on offesne. Photo courtesy mlb.com.

The White Sox swept the Blue Jays in three games to start the week, then split two of four games against the Orioles. Jose Abreu had 11 hits in 29 at bats on the week, while driving in six RBIs. Chris Sale remained undefeated on the season by picking up two wins with a 1.35 ERA during the past seven games.

Upcoming Games: vs. Boston (3 games), vs. Minnesota (3 games)

2. Detroit Tigers, 14-10

K-Rod has been a fix for a bad Tigers’ bullpen. Photo courtesy mlb.com.

Detroit had a great week of baseball by taking three of four from the A’s and sweeping the Twins in three games. Victor Martinez has been the offensive star for the Tigers, with 14 hits in 27 at bats. He and Miguel Cabrera each had three home runs on the week, which generated a lot of offense for Detroit. Jordan Zimmerman picked up two wins and Francisco Rodriguez got three saves in three opportunities to lead the pitching staff to a memorable week.

Upcoming Games: at Cleveland (3 games), vs. Texas (3 games)

3. Kansas City Royals, 13-11

Eric Hosmer is swinging a continually hot bat for the Royals. Photo courtesy foxsports.com.

The defending World Series Champions struggled mightily this week by getting swept by the Angels, then losing two out of three to the Mariners. They remain in contention, but really need to step up there game going into the next couple of weeks. Eric Hosmer highlighted the offensive production by hitting .391 with 2 home runs, but no one got on base for him to drive in, as he had only 3 RBIs all week. Ian Kennedy won one start out of two, but the best pitcher on the staff continues to be Wade Davis, who picked up one save in his only opportunity of the week.

Upcoming Games: vs. Washington (3 games), at Cleveland (3 games)

4. Cleveland Indians, 10-12

Jose Ramirez heated up this week for the Indians. Photo courtesy of ohio.com.

Cleveland had a rough week by losing two out of three to the Twins and then getting swept by the Phillies. Losing to the Phillies three times in a row is concerning as they are not a very good team. Jose Ramirez and Tyler Naquin both hit over .400 for the week, but didn’t knock in any runs. The bullpen has been great as a whole, but the starters need to keep the Tribe in the game longer in order for the team to succeed.

Upcoming Games: vs. Detroit (3 games), vs. Kansas City (3 games)

5. Minnesota Twins, 7-18

The Twins won two out of three games from the Indians before getting swept by the red-hot Tigers. Joe Mauer had eight hits and five walks on the week to lead the Twins’ offense. Kevin Jepsen picked up two wins in relief for Minnesota. The Twins are reeling, and need to have a big week to stay within striking distance.

Upcoming Games: at Houston (3 games), at Chicago White Sox (3 games)

Player of the Week: Victor Martinez

Victor Martinez is the player of the week in the AL Central. Photo courtesy athlonsports.com.

Martinez hit over .500 and hit three home runs to get the Tigers into second place in the division.