Eric Thames

Evaluating Top Performers in MLB

There are players in the majors that far exceed expectations every year. Whether it’s a young rookie blowing away the competition or a veteran player who has finally found “it,” these are the players that draw the most attention.

Let’s look at four of the most surprising performers this season and see if their success can be explained. The numbers never lie, so let’s take an in-depth look at some of the more advanced metrics on these four players and see what they tell us.

1B Yonder Alonso – Oakland Athletics

Surprise MLB Performers

Yonder Alonso has finally found “it” in Oakland (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

Yonder Alonso has been a revelation for the A’s this year after a lackluster season last year. He’s put up a .303/.389/.687 slash line in 32 games. He also has 11 home runs and 27 RBIs.

The home runs are more than he has slugged in any of his previous seven seasons. How has Alonso been so productive this season?

Numerous metrics vary widely from the norm for Alonso, and they may just be the reason for his resurgence. Alonso has a fly ball rate of 46.7 percent this season. That is much higher than his 27.5 percent last year.

What does this really mean? It means Alonso is putting the ball in the air almost 50 percent of the time he makes contact. That allows him to utilize his power and drive the ball for more doubles and homers.

He has also lowered his ground ball rate from 44.6 percent last year to 26.7 percent this year, causing him to have more opportunities to turn those hit balls into base knocks.

His improved fly ball rate has caused his home run numbers to increase, and his ability to hit the ball up the middle at a 40 percent clip has helped anchor his average. He is also making hard contact on 41.3 percent of the balls he puts into play, far outperforming his career 31.0 percent.

Alonso is having a career season, and it’s easy to see why. His 41.3 percent hard-contact rate combined with his 46.7 fly ball rate have resulted in Alonso being one of the most productive first basemen in baseball this season. If he keeps it up, don’t expect him to remain in green and gold for long.

SP Jason Vargas – Kansas City Royals

Jason Vargas has had an up and down career, but he has transformed himself into a new player in Kansas City. In his four years in a Royals uniform, he has a 3.35 ERA, a solid mark for any starter.

However, he has taken his play to a whole new level this season. He has a 1.19 ERA in six starts and is striking out 8.4 batters per nine innings. How has Vargas gone from solid to spectacular?

One way he has improved is his ability to leave runners on base. His 87.4 left-on-base percentage is much higher than his career 73.3 percent. By leaving runners on base, he has drastically lowered his ERA.

Vargas isn’t relying on smoke and mirrors to produce his minuscule ERA. Opposing hitters have a .282 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). While that is lower than the average .300 BABIP experienced by pitchers, he is still relatively close to the norm. Vargas isn’t relying on an unsustainable BABIP to produce, meaning his performance is strong and should carry on throughout the season.

Another indicator of his sustainable success is his fielding-independent pitching (FIP). FIP measures a pitcher’s ERA independent of the fielders behind him, leading to a more accurate measure of the pitchers performance. With a 2.15 FIP this season, Vargas is performing at an elite level.

Don’t expect his 1.19 ERA to last throughout the season, but he will keep putting up spectacular numbers throughout the season.

1B Ryan Zimmerman – Washington Nationals

Ryan Zimmerman has found the fountain of youth in 2017 (Photo by Cliff Owen/AP).

When you’re hitting like Ryan Zimmerman, it seems like luck is on your side. Zimmerman is having a renaissance year in Washington and is currently tied or leading in all three Triple-Crown categories.

His .393 batting average and 34 RBIs lead all of baseball. He is also tied with Aaron Judge and Eric Thames for the lead in home runs with 13. How has a player that hit .218 last season vaulted himself into contention for the Triple Crown?

The metrics are mixed on Ryan Zimmerman’s performance this season. He has an unsustainable .422 BABIP, which has helped loft his batting average to around .400. His BABIP will surely drop as the season continues, and with it his batting average.

Even so, he is getting hard contact on 45.8 percent of the balls he puts into play. He also has a medium-contact rate of 43.8 percent. His hard-contact percentage will surely drop, but it should increase his medium-contact percentage.

Zimmerman’s home-run-per-fly-ball (HR/FB) percentage is also astronomical, hovering around 36.1 percent so far. It will surely regress, but no one is taking away his league leading 13 home runs.

Even with regression imminent, Zimmerman is still performing exceptionally well this season. He has been a key cog in the Nationals lineup, and he shouldn’t experience too much of a drop off in performance.

1B Eric Thames – Milwaukee Brewers

Eric Thames is close to becoming in the U.S. what he was in Korea: a spectacle of epic proportions. His performance this season has been among the best in all of baseball.

His .331 batting average, 13 homers and 25 RBIs are close to the rate of success he experienced in Korea. Surely major league pitching will figure him out soon, right?

If they do, it won’t be any time soon. Thames is tearing the cover off the ball with a 47.1 percent hard-contact rate. His ability to produce solid hits off of the bat has allowed him to increase his batting average as well as his home run total.

However, he may be due for regression in the slugging department. His 36.1 percent HR/FB rate is astoundingly high, and will surely regress as the season moves forward.

His .351 BABIP is also pretty high, and has helped carry his batting average. Even with a regression in BABIP, HR/FB rate and a lower hard-contact percentage, Thames will still be a productive player for the Brewers. Look for Thames to be a key piece in the rebuilding Brewers’ lineup.

 

Featured Image by Sporting News

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2017 American League Preview: The AL Central

Last week’s preview of the AL East examined a division where it appears almost any team could see the playoffs. This week’s look at the American League Central tells a different story with far fewer teams in realistic contention. That said, there are no sure things in baseball and this division is certainly no different.

One team looks to harness last year’s postseason success. Two others will fight hard to take advantage of their limited window. The final two teams look to the future and groom this league’s next set of stars.

#5 Minnesota Twins

2017 Projected Record: 61-101

The Twins should plan for some improvement in 2017. The return of ace starting pitcher Ervin Santana should add additional stability to the rotation. Furthermore, another year of experience for Miguel Sanó and Byron Buxton should aid in the offensive campaign. Max Kepler and other developing players give hope for the future, but the upcoming season optimism stops there.

The Twins simply don’t have horsepower to compete in 2017. The likelihood of another incredible power display by Brian Dozier isn’t high and team staple Joe Mauer continues to regress. The Twins have the opportunity for player development in the coming season but should temper expectations past that.

#4 Chicago White Sox

2017 Projected Record: 70-92

2017 American League Preview: The AL Central

Lucas Giolito #27 (Courtesy Getty Images)

The well documented offseason escapades of the White Sox have been widely praised around the league. The unloading of key players Chris Sale and Adam Eaton will undoubtedly hurt the cause in 2017, but it’s hard to argue with the return.  Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito are just the start of the strong prospect class Chicago has accrued.

While the future looks bright, the upcoming outlook is significantly bleaker. There’s plenty of youth that will have the opportunity to earn their spot this season, but few sure things.

Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera are solid veterans, but they alone won’t make the difference. Furthermore, touted slugger Jose Abreu has star potential, but has been inconsistent at times throughout his career.

There’s no reason for Chicago fans to be disappointed with the direction the team’s headed, but may have to wait awhile to get to the destination.

#3 Kansas City Royals

2017 Projected Record: 83-79

The Royals could be an intriguing team in 2017. While the window is rapidly closing, the core of what made Kansas City World Series champions remains.

The Royals have consistently sported a small-ball lineup and strong bullpen that sneaks up on teams late in games. The offseason additions of Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss may even add an element of pop to the lineup.

With the rotation now anchored by the volatile Danny Duffy, the real test for the Royals will be starting pitching. If the Royals can get an early lead, fans should be confident in Ned Yost’s ability to manage the win.

Chances of the Royals making a serious run in 2017 aren’t likely given their divisional opponents. Of course, that’s what everyone said the year they took it all.

#2 Detroit Tigers

2017 Projected Record: 88-74

2017 American League Preview: The AL Central

Miguel Cabrera #24 (Courtesy Getty Images)

The Tigers will get a boost to their win total over last year contingent on one factor: health. Detroit is a team that underachieved given their talent, but that could be attributed to the injury bug.

Watching Michael Fulmer emerge and Justin Verlander reclaim his Cy Young form was impressive to say the least. If the Tigers can add firepower to the bullpen, Detroit can feel good about the arms they’ve assembled.

With pitching in relatively good hands, the real strength of the team will have the opportunity to do some damage. This Tigers lineup is full of savvy veterans who can hurt you in a number of ways. At age 33, Miguel Cabrera remains one of the best hitters in baseball and he is just one of many weapons.

If the Tigers can stay off the DL, look for them to put the heat on the projected front-runners.

#1 Cleveland Indians

2017 Projected Record: 93-69

The team who fell just one game shy of World Series glory last year has not been shy about their future intentions. From players’ comments to front office investment in star slugger Edwin Encarnacion, the goal is clear. Get back and win the World Series. However, stating that goal and achieving it are two very different things, especially in the game of baseball.

That said, there is plenty to feel good about with this Indians bunch. The return of Michael Brantley and the improving health of their rotation is a good sign. Upgrading at first base, a full season of Andrew Miller, and another year of cohesion all have the Tribe in a good spot.

The AL central isn’t going to let Cleveland run away with the division, but it’s going to be an uphill battle to stop them.

 

*Team Logos Courtesy of MLB.com*

 

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2017 MLB Season

Position Rankings for 2017 MLB Season: Catchers

This is the second installment of the 2017 MLB Season Position Rankings. In this installment, we will be focusing on catchers. Catchers will be weighed by their offensive as well as defensive stats.

Lets start our list of backstops at number five.

5. Yasmani Grandal- Los Angeles Dodgers

2017 MLB Season

Yasmani Grandal will be a steady presence behind the plate for the Dodgers in 2017. (Kevin Sullivan, Dodgers Staff Photographer)

Yasmani Grandal has proven to be a steadying presence behind the plate for the Los Angeles Dodgers. After being acquired from the Padres in the 2014 Matt Kemp trade, he has come into his own. He has provided a solid bat with some good power, knocking 27 long balls to go along with 72 RBI’s in 2016.

Grandal also has good control over the opposing team’s running game. In 2016, Grandal threw out would-be base stealers at an above average 29 percent. Grandal also had 13 defensive runs saved in 2016, providing elite defense behind the plate.

While Grandal does hit for a relatively low average (career .238 hitter), he makes up for it with good power and exceptional defensive skills. Look for Grandal to contend for his second career NL All-Star appearance in 2017.

4. Wilson Ramos- Tampa Bay Rays

Wilson Ramos turned into an offensive force for the Washington Nationals in 2016. With the decline of Bryce Harper from his 2015 MVP form, Ramos was able to pick up some of the slack and help Washington to their third NL Division Series in the last five years. However, the Nationals were unable to get over the hump.

Ramos posted career highs in all major offensive categories. He batted .307 and launched 22 bombs to go with 80 RBI’s. While putting up career highs in offensive numbers, Ramos also exhibited a strong control over the base paths. Ramos was well above league average (27 percent) in throwing out baserunners, limiting opposing teams to 37 percent.

While Ramos did provide ample control of the run game, his overall defense left something to be desired. He posted -1 defensive runs saved in 2016. The Tampa Bay Rays snagged the slugging catcher this off season, and will value him more for his bat than his glove in 2016.

3. Salvador Perez- Kansas City Royals

2017 MLB Season

The base paths are on lock down with Salvador Perez behind the dish. (John Rieger, USA Today Sports)

Salvador Perez has been one of the top catchers in all of baseball since becoming a full-time starter in 2013. In that time, Perez has garnered four AL All-Star appearances to go along with four Gold Gloves. He has provided a steady presence for the Royals and helped fuel their back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014-2015.

While his bat did slip some from his career averages (career .272, .247 in 2016), his power was ever present. Perez slammed 22 home runs, the most of his career to go along with 64 RBI’s.

He also continued to show why he is considered one of the best defensive catchers of the game. Perez threw out opposing baserunners at an astounding 48 percent, easily tops for the catchers in contention for this list. He also provided solid overall defense with 3 defensive runs saved. Perez is set to continue his run as top defensive catcher in all of baseball for years to come.

2. Jonathan Lucroy- Texas Rangers

Jonathan Lucroy saw his season be split between the NL and the AL as the top catcher available was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Texas Rangers at the 2016 trade deadline. Lucroy posted solid numbers in both leagues in 2016, batting .292 while providing exceptional power evident from his .500 slugging percentage. He used his 24 home runs to pad his slugging percentage while pairing them with 81 RBI’s.

Lucroy was a force for the Texas Rangers down the stretch, both behind the plate as well as in the batters box. He threw out runners at a 39 percent clip, more than 10 percent better than the league average. Lucroy also had 4 defensive runs saved in 2016, proving he is one of the top overall catchers in baseball. A change of scenery seemed to fuel Lucroy in 2016. Look for him to continue his ascent while helping lead the World Series contending Texas Rangers in 2017.

1. Buster Posey- San Francisco Giants

Buster Posey has proven to be the total package for the San Francisco Giants. He has four career NL All-Star appearances, three Silver Sluggers, one Gold Glove, and an NL MVP Trophy to go along with his NL ROY award. Posey easily gained the top spot in these rankings, but not just by his trophy case. He posted a batting average of .288 to go along with 14 home runs and 80 RBI’s.

Posey was able to couple his solid offense with his stellar defense to garner his fourth NL All-Star appearance and earn his first Gold Glove. Posey posted stellar defensive numbers, providing 23 defensive runs saved in 2016, easily tops on this list. Combine that with his ability to limit the running game by throwing out 37 percent of baserunners, and you have the best defensive catcher of the 2016 season. Posey will give the Giants a strong glove and bat in 2017.

Catchers play a vital role in the offense and defense of a team. While catchers are more heavily weighed on their defensive stats, in the next installment of this series we will be looking at some of the biggest bats in the game. Stay tuned!

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Why Baseball is the Greatest Sport

Baseball has been dying. America’s pastime is not as popular as it once was. Football and Basketball have risen above it because they are faster and “more” exciting sports. The faster pace is definitely true and nobody would argue that. However, baseball is definitely exciting. In fact, baseball is the best sport.

No Clock

In football, basketball, hockey, soccer, and basically every sport, you have a clock. This allows fans to know how much time is left in the game and when they can expect it to be over. With the clock, teams can also manage it to their advantage. Teams with a small lead can kill the clock to help them win.

SCOREBOARD

Photo: ESPN

In baseball, there is no clock. Baseball has innings. Fans and teams have no idea how long a game can last. It could last two and a half hours, or it could last four hours. Baseball does not let a clock dictate how much time is left in a game. As a result, teams can’t kill clock. Baseball teams can’t take the easy way out. They have to play hard all the way through. They can’t let up and take it easy.

All-Star Game

The MLB All-Star game is better than any other All-Star game in sports. The league that wins the MLB’s All-Star game gets to host the World Series. This gives both teams a reason to play hard.

The NFL’s All-Star game, which is the Pro Bowl, is a joke. The best players rarely play. They are worried about getting hurt. The Super Bowl is also the week after, meaning no one from the two best teams in football will be playing.

Last year, the six quarterbacks on the rosters were Russell Wilson, Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Eli Manning, Derek Carr, and Tyrod Taylor. Those guys are decent quarterbacks, but they are nowhere near the best in the NFL. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Aaron Rodgers were all absent.

allstar_chicagotribune

Photo: Chicago Tribune

The NBA’s All-Star game is filled with entertainment. There is a lot of exciting offense, but that is mostly because zero defense is played. It just becomes guys shooting wide-open threes and throwing alley-oops from all across the court. The best players play, but it is not a hard fought game and the guys mess around more than anything else.

In the MLB’s All-Star game, the best players play. They play hard and they play to win. Home field advantage for the World Series is on the line. Baseball is also not a violent game and no one is worried about getting injured.

Player Rings

NFL players, quarterbacks specifically, and NBA stars get overrated and underrated based on the amount of championships they have won. Dan Marino is hardly ever talked about as a top 5 all-time quarterback, but John Elway is. Fans say Tom Brady is better than Peyton Manning because he has more Super Bowls. Bill Russell is actually considered an all-time great because he won 11 championships in an era where the NBA was small and slow. Elgin Baylor doesn’t get the credit he deserves because his NBA finals record is 0-8.

Seattle Mariners

Photo: Huffington Post

Championships are team accomplishments, and baseball fans seem to understand that better than any other sports fans. No one thinks less of Ken Griffey Jr. or Tony Gwynn for never winning a ring. Griffey and Gwynn were some of the greatest hitters of all time and they get that credit despite not winning a title. Nobody thinks Yogi Berra is the greatest player of all-time due to the fact he has won more World Series than any other player. In baseball, players put up the numbers and get the credit they deserve.

Team Sport

Baseball is more of a team sport than any other. Lebron James lead the 2007 Cavs to the NBA Finals with his best teammates being Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Daniel Gibson. In basketball, one player can lead a team a long way, even to the championship like Lebron. There is no way they are going to win it all though. That season the Spurs swept the Cavs in the Finals 4-0.

Football is more of a team sport. You need a lot more than one star player to lead a team to the championship. Both the offense and defense need to do well. Tom Brady couldn’t save the Cleveland Browns’ season with how bad their team has been.

unpredictability_espn

Photo: ESPN

In baseball, you don’t really need a superstar to win the World Series. Take a look at the 2010 San Francisco Giants. Buster Posey was their only 300 hitter. No one on their team hit 30 home runs. They didn’t even have a batter get 90 RBI’s. They didn’t have a starting pitcher with an ERA below 3. Tim Lincecum lead the starters in wins with 16.

This Giants team beat the star-powered Texas Rangers. Josh Hamilton was the best hitter in the league with a 359 batting average, 32 home runs, and 100 RBI’s. Vladimir Guerrero hit 300 with 29 home runs and 115 RBI’s. Nelson Cruz joined the team late, but hit 318 with 22 home runs and 78 RBI’s. They had two great starting pitchers in CJ Wilson and Cliff Lee and the hottest closer in the league in Neftali Feliz.

The Giants victory over the Rangers proved that baseball is a team game. Championships are a team accomplishment and every position is important.

Unpredictability

clay_bostonglobe

Photo: Boston Globe

The Giants 2010 World Series proves just how unpredictable baseball can be. Last place teams can beat first place teams in the regular season. The Cubs overcame a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series. The 2004 Boston Red Sox overcame a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS and went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter in his second career start. Josh Hamilton, Lou Gehrig, and 14 others once hit four home runs in a single game. You never know what is going to happen. No lead is safe in baseball either. Baseball may be low scoring, but it just takes one swing to put one run on the board.

It is difficult to predict the playoff teams in the MLB at the beginning of the season. Almost everyone can predict most of the NBA playoff teams and almost everyone predicted a Cavs/Warriors rematch in the finals. In the NFL, it is also not too difficult to predict playoff teams. In baseball, it is much more challenging. The season is long. Teams can go hot and cold so quickly. There are always teams that breakout.

Playoffs

padres_sportslogos-net

Photo: SportsLogos.net

You won’t see any team below 500 in the MLB playoffs. The worst team to make the playoffs in baseball was the 2005 San Diego Padres, who finished with an 82-80 record. The 1981 Kansas City Royals made it with a 50-53 record in a strike-shortened season and different system. The bottom line is only the best teams in baseball make the playoffs.

Each league now allows five postseason teams. There are three division winners and two wildcards. The NFL allows six teams from each conference and the NBA allows eight. Teams below 500 have also made the playoffs in these leagues. It is fairly common to happen in the NBA. The Carolina Panthers recently won their division with a 7-8-1 record and the Seattle Seahawks won with a 7-9 record. You would never see this in baseball and you should never see it in any sport.

Contracts

In baseball, there are no max-contracts or even a salary cap. Max contracts put a maximum on how much players can make based on their years of experience in the league. Max contracts have allowed the NBA to form the “super team” culture that traditional basketball fans hate because teams don’t have to necessarily break the bank to sign a top free agent. For example, Lebron James could have signed with any team he wanted to in free agency. The offer he received from each team would be essentially the same because each team could only offer him a certain maximum amount of money to come play for their team. Money does not talk in situations like this. Instead, the team’s success and location does.

Giancarlo Stanton recently signed a 13-year contract with the Marlins for $325,000,000. This is the largest in baseball history. Before him, Alex Rodriguez had the richest contract of 10 years for $275,000,000. The free market determined the value of these players and not a max-contract. The free market allows talent to be distributed evenly among baseball teams. It is difficult to build a super team in baseball.

stanton_cbssports

Photo: CBS Sports

The NBA, along with the NFL, has a salary cap. A salary cap puts a limit on the amount a team can spend to put together its roster. The MLB does not have a salary cap. This forces teams to make money so they can afford to buy players. Some people may argue and say it is unfair that only the rich can win. This is not always the case. Big-name free agent signings don’t always work out. The 2016 champion Cubs were 14th in payroll. The 2015 champion Kansas City Royals were 16th. The Dodgers and Yankees, who were the top paying teams in both of those seasons, were no where to be found in the World Series. Spending money can make a roster look good on paper, but it does not always guarantee success.

Some fans will say that a salary cap is necessary because it will keep competitive balance. Well, lets look at the NBA as an example. Since the NBA implemented the salary cap for the 1984-85 season, only ten different teams have won the NBA Finals. That is just ten teams in 32 years. Three of those teams, the Cavaliers, Warriors, and Mavericks, have only won the Finals once. Then there are teams like the Lakers, who have won eight. The Bulls have won six. The Spurs have won five. If you are going to make the competitive balance argument, the NBA is not the league to look at. 

Baseball, which does not have a salary cap, has had a much more even spread of world champions. Since 1985 (the same year the NBA added their salary cap), 18 different teams have been crowned world champs. Compare that to the 10 in the NBA. Only eight of those teams have won more than once. The MLB proves that a salary cap does not bring competitive balance.

 

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Players of the Week in the AL Central: 5/23-5/29

The American League Central really started to get competitive this week. The White Sox are currently on a six game skid to move from first place to third. Kansas City has won their last three games to claim the top spot. The rest of the division held serve, with the Indians staying in second and the Tigers and Twins rounding out the bottom of the division. Here are five position players and five pitchers who did the most for each team in the division:

  1. Kansas City Royals (27-22)

    Wade Davis has proven again that he is a premier closer in baseball. Photo courtesy kansascity.com.

Pitcher: Wade Davis

The Royals played six games on the week and Davis managed to pick up three saves to get them to first place. He had five strike outs and no earned runs allowed, to add to his impressive season. With 14 saves and a 0.92 ERA, Davis is in great position to win the Reliever of the Year Award.

Position Player: Salvador Perez, C

Perez only played five games on the week, but still managed to pick up ten hits. His .526 average led the team, and he added four RBI. His power numbers were solid, as he hit two doubles, a triple and a home run.

2. Cleveland Indians (26-22)

Pitcher: Corey Kluber

Kluber had one start this week, going seven and one third innings against the White Sox and picking up a win. He only allowed one run and struck out 9 batters.

Mike Napoli had a great all-around week for Cleveland. Photo courtesy cleveland.com.

Position Player: Mike Napoli, 1B

Napoli hit .318 on the week, but the amazing thing was his power numbers. His three home runs and nine RBI generated some much needed offense for the Tribe. The two stolen bases for Napoli were the lone ones of the season.

3. Chicago White Sox (27-24)

Pitcher: Zach Putnam

Putnam appeared in three games, without allowing a run. His five innings pitched and .125 batting average against made him the most impressive pitcher of the week for the White Sox.

Austin Jackson was the only bat who produced for the White Sox this week. Photo courtesy southsideshowdown.com.

Position Player: Austin Jackson, CF

The bats went cold for the White Sox this week, but Jackson tried his best to keep them hot. He hit .462 with 4 RBI. His 12 hits for the team were four more than the next highest player on the team.

4. Detroit Tigers (24-25)

Justin Verlander had a great start this week for the Tigers. Photo courtesy stack.com.

Pitcher: Justin Verlander

There were plenty of pitchers who could’ve been the pitcher of the week for the Tigers, but Verlander led them all with ten strike outs. He only gave up three hits in eight innings against the Phillies. His two walks allowed showed how precise he was with the ball this week.

Position Player: Victor Martinez, DH

Martinez had a blistering-hot week by hitting .500 with 11 hits. He didn’t draw any walks, but did add six RBI to help the Tigers stay in the race for the American League Central.

5. Minnesota Twins (15-34)

Pitcher: Fernando Abad

Abad threw 3.1 innings in four relief appearances on the week. His two hits allowed and .167 batting average against helped the Twins win four games this week.

Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano couldn’t stop hitting home runs if they tried this week. Photo courtesy twincities.com.

Position Player(s): Joe Mauer, C and Miguel Sano, RF

Both Mauer and Sano crushed the ball this week. They both finished with four home runs and seven RBI and hit home runs in three straight games. Without their offensive output, the Twins wouldn’t have won four out of six games on the week.

Royals Set to Showcase Impressive Depth Amid Injuries

Image Courtesy of MLB.com

Image Courtesy of MLB.com

On a 1-0 pitch from Luke Hochever to Melky Cabrera in the bottom of the 7th inning, the Kansas City Royals lost the contributions of two 2015 All-Stars from their lineup.

Mike Moustakas has been ruled out for the season (torn ACL) and Alex Gordon is expected to miss roughly a month with a fractured scaphoid bone in his wrist.

This collision is the type of thing that could ruin a season, but, the Royals have more depth than some in the national media are giving them credit for.

The Royals cannot possibly find another Moose or Gordo out of nowhere, but what they do have is several young players set to be given an opportunity to shine.

Starting at third base, the Royals have Cheslor Cuthbert, Hunter Dozier, and Whit Merrifield who could replace Moose in the lineup.

Cuthbert has received most of the reps at third so far and has been serviceable. His .254/.266/.349 slash line in 16 games so far is not particularly impressive, however, he has flashed a plus glove at the hot corner while holding his own against Major League pitching.

The other more tantalizing option is the possible arrival of the 8th pick in the 2013 MLB draft in Dozier. Dozier, who has struggled at times in his minor league career, looks to be putting it all together in 2016.

In 44 games so far this season in the minors Dozier has already hit 12 HR’s and driven in 36 runs while slashing .300/.367/.582.

Cuthbert rightfully will get the first opportunity at third base. If he fails to seize the job, or struggles at the plate, the Royals will pull the trigger on Dozier and give the youngster a chance to showcase his power at the Major League level.

Another option at 3rd base could be the super utility man Merrifield. In his first seven major league games Merrifield has hit an impressive .370 while logging starts at second, third, and in left field.

Merrifield made a strong push for a bench job out of spring training before falling short to Reymond Feuntes and Terrance Gore to start the season. Now given the chance to contribute at the major league level amid injuries, the 27-year-old rookie looks poised to make the most of his opportunity.

Dozier has the highest upside of the bunch, and if he continues to mash in Omaha he will certainly force the Royals hand. If that ends up being the case, Cuthbert and Merrifield could help take over the second base job where veteran Omar Infante’s contract continues to look like a mistake.

Moving on to shorter void that Alex Gordon’s injury has opened, the Royals also have several options at the corner outfield spots.

Currently on the big league roster Jarrod Dyson, Brett Eibner, Merrifield, and Paulo Orlando are all capable of playing both corners and should fill in well in Gordo’s absence.

Jorge Bonifacio and Fuentes are also producing well in AAA and even Dozier has logged 8 games in left field in 2016.

The former Brazilian track star Orlando has been destroying the baseball of late. Seen mostly as a role player, although this could just be a hot streak, Orlando is trying to prove he deserves and everyday job with his .390 batting average and solid defense in right field.

Dyson, who is also probably best suited as a role player, is a known quantity at this point. He provides elite speed on the base paths and elite defense in the outfield while providing zero pop with the bat. He may be best suited as a 4th outfielder, but he’s nothing to scoff at as an everyday player either because of those 2 elite tools.

Eibner, who went 1-3 in his major league debut with a run scored, has proven that he can hit AAA pitching with great numbers at the highest level of the minors over the past 2 seasons. Finally it was enough for the Royals to give him a chance, and should he harness his power, he could end up as the everyday right fielder even after Gordo’s return.

Looming in the minors is Bonifacio who was once regarded as one of the Royals better prospects. After several down years in the minors, Bonifacio looks to finally be putting in together with AAA Omaha this year.

Through 45 games he has crushed 9 HR’s and driven in 37, all while hitting .318. Much like Dozier at the hot corner, Bonifacio has the highest upside of the list of potential corner outfielders, and should he continue to hit in AAA, will be given the opportunity to showcase his skills in the Royals lineup.

The foul pop up off the bat of Cabrera could have been devastating for the Royals. Instead, because of the impressive depth that Dayton Moore has compiled, it is an opportunity to see what else the Royals have to offer.

With question marks at second base, third base, and in the corners of the outfield the Royals have plenty of options to find consistent production.

The infusion of new players could be exactly what the Royals, who are off to a sluggish start in their World Series defense, need. With several options at each key opening, someone should take reigns of the open big league jobs.

It’s matter of who will emerge, not a matter of if someone will emerge for the now crippled 2016 Royals.

AL Central Weekly: 5/16-5/22

  1. Chicago White Sox, 26-18

    Tyler Saladino started to heat up this week. Photo courtesy mlb.com.

The White Sox remain at the top of the AL Central, despite losing four out of six games on the week. They dropped two games to the Astros and two more to the Royals to finish off their worst week of the season. Tyler Saladino was the most impressive hitter of the week, with a .400 batting average and two RBI. The power numbers weren’t there for Chicago this week, as they hit just two home runs and had 16 RBI. Chris Sale had a complete game, four-hitter to secure one of the two wins for the White Sox this week. The bullpen had a few solid performers as three different pitchers didn’t allow a run.

Upcoming games: vs. Cleveland (4 games), at Kansas City (4 games)

Cody Allen was the best pitcher in a very good bullpen. Photo courtesy cleveland.com.

2. Cleveland Indians, 22-19

Cleveland swept the Reds over four games, before losing two out of three to the Red Sox. Rajai Davis really heated up this week, tallying two home runs and nine RBI on the week. The Indians proved that they have one of the best bullpens in baseball, with five pitchers not allowing an earned run. Cody Allen was the most impressive, giving up no hits in four innings of relief.

Upcoming games: at Chicago White Sox (4 games), vs. Baltimore (3 games)

Paulo Orlando is an unsung hero for the Royals. Photo courtesy alchetron.com.

3. Kansas City Royals, 22-21

The Royals won four out of their six games against the White Sox and Red Sox on the week. Paulo Orlando had the week of his life, collecting nine hits in 14 at-bats. His 7 RBI led the team, even though he only played in four games. The Indians and the White Sox had great bullpen performances this week, but the Royals had great performances from plenty of pitchers. Eight of the 14 pitchers who pitched this week for Kansas City didn’t allow an earned run. Seven of the eight were relief pitchers.

Upcoming games: at Minnesota (3 games), vs. Chicago White Sox (4 games)

Jordan Zimmermann’s injury is going to be tough to deal with for the Tigers. Photo courtesy Freep.com.

4. Detroit Tigers, 21-22

Detroit won five out of six to get back in the thick of things in the Central race. Cameron Maybin returned from injury with a bang. He hit .600, with five RBI and four stolen bases. Jordan Zimmermann has the fifth best ERA in the American League and won his two starts this week, but had to leave his latest start with a groin injury. This along with Miguel Cabrera’s banged up knee may cause problems for the Tigers in the future.

Upcoming games: vs. Philadelphia (3 games), at Oakland (3 games)

Danny Santana has been one of the few bright spots for the Twins this season. Photo courtesy startribune.com.

5. Minnesota Twins, 11-32

The Twins had another miserable week, picking up just one win against the Blue Jays. Danny Santana had eight hits and four RBI on the week. Fernando Abad picked up the only win for the Twins and didn’t allow a run in two appearances.

Upcoming games: vs. Kansas City (3 games), at Seattle (3 games)

Cameron Maybin has no apparent setbacks from his injury. Photo courtesy gettyimages.com.

Player of the Week: Cameron Maybin

Maybin hit .600 in his first week off of the disabled list to help the Tigers have their best week yet.

AL Central Weekly: 5/9-5/15

Todd Frazier had big power numbers this week. Photo courtesy mlb.com.

  1. Chicago White Sox, 24-14

The White Sox only had two wins on the week, by dropping two out of three games to both the Yankees and the Rangers. They are still tied for the most wins in the American League with 24 wins and only behind the Orioles in win percentage. Todd Frazier heated up by hitting .333, with four home runs and 12 RBI. He also had an unfortunate injury by diving into the stands while going after a foul ball. Frazier is fine, but it was a scary moment nonetheless. Chris Sale was the best pitcher of the week once again for the White Sox, picking up another win with a 1.00 ERA.

Upcoming games: vs. Houston (3 games), vs. Kansas City (3 games)

Kipnis has started to heat up. Photo courtesy cbssports.com.

2. Cleveland Indians, 17-17

Cleveland also had a tough week by losing two out of three games to the Astros and Twins. Jason Kipnis got off to a cold start to the season, but really turned it on this week by getting eight hits and three RBI. The offense needs Kipnis to keep on producing if they want to stay in the AL Central race. Joba Chamberlain pitched well this week, giving up no earned runs in three appearances, while holding opposing hitters to a .100 average.

Upcoming games: vs. Cincinnati (2 games), at Cincinnati (2 games), at Boston (3 games)

Lorenzo Cain has been a bright spot for the Royals’ offense. Photo courtesy kansascity.com.

3. Kansas City Royals, 18-19

The defending World Series Champions are struggling to get above .500. Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer are both carrying the offense lately, as they both hit over .300 on the week. Cain added 8 RBI to lead the Royals. The pitching needs to get better, but three bullpen pitchers did well. Danny Duffy, Luke Hochevar and Peter Moylan all didn’t allow an earned run.

Upcoming games: vs. Boston (3 games), at Chicago White Sox (3 games)

Kyle Ryan had a great week in relief for the tigers. Photo courtesy of mlb.com.

4. Detroit Tigers, 16-21

Detroit is slowly slipping further below .500. They lost five of their seven games to the Orioles and Nationals, making it another forgettable week. Victor Martinez hit over .500 on the week, with 13 hits, but only 3 RBI. This is mostly a factor of the rest of the offense not doing so well. Kyle Ryan had four appearances this week and gave up no earned runs, while picking up a save.

Upcoming games: vs. Minnesota (3 games), vs. Tampa Bay (3 games)

Plouffe is one of the few players stepping up for the Twins. Photo courtesy cbssports.com.

5. Minnesota Twins, 10-26

The Twins lost three out of their five games on the week, with one game against the Orioles postponed due to rain. Trevor Plouffe and Danny Santana both hit over .300, but Joe Mauer had a down week, hitting .250. Tyler Duffey threw seven scoreless innings and picked up a win in his only start of the week.

Upcoming games: at Detroit (3 games), at Toronto (4 games)

Victor Martinez has put the Tigers’ offense on his back. Photo courtesy washingtontimes.com.

Player of the Week: Victor Martinez

Martinez hit over .500 on the week, and could have had better numbers if the rest of the team had stepped up.

 

AL Central Weekly: 5/2-5/8

  1. Adam Eaton has been great at the top of the order for the White Sox. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

    Chicago White Sox, 22-10

The White Sox dropped two out of their first three games of the week to the Red Sox, but swept the Twins to maintain the best record in the American League. Melky Cabrera and Adam Eaton both had good weeks at the plate with .333 averages, but Chicago really needs Todd Frazier to get his .194 average on the season up. Frazier does have eight home runs to lead the team. Jose Quintana picked up two saves on the week, while David Robertson finished with two saves to secure a great week for the White Sox.

Upcoming Games: at Texas (3 games), at New York Yankees (3 games)

Francisco Lindor has been producing from the shortstop position in the Indians lineup. Photo courtesy baseballfam.com.

2. Cleveland Indians, 15-13

Cleveland leads the tightly competitive battle for second place in the AL Central following an impressive week. The Indians swept the Tigers and then took two out of three from the Royals to stake their second-place claim. Offensively the Indians were led by their two shortstops, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, who both hit over .400 on the week. Michael Brantley has returned in a big way by hitting .389 in his first full week of action. The bullpen has been the unsung hero for this team, but Corey Kluber also helped the team out by picking up a win in his one start on the week, with no earned runs allowed.

Upcoming Games: at Houston (3 games), vs. Minnesota (3 games)

Ian Kennedy has been a solid starter for the Royals this season. Photo courtesy kansascity.com.

3. Kansas City Royals, 15-15

The Royals continued to struggle early on this season by losing two out of three to the Indians and Nationals. Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar all had good weeks by hitting over .350, with Hosmer adding six RBI. Ian Kennedy picked up another win by allowing no runs, which brings his season record to 4-2. The rest of the starters will need to be better next week for the Royals to make a push to the top of the standings.

Upcoming Games: at New York Yankees (4 games), vs. Atlanta (3 games)

Nick Castellanos heated up for the Tigers this week. Photo courtesy zimbio.com.

4. Detroit Tigers, 14-16

Detroit surely is glad that the week is over, as they failed to win a game in the past seven days. Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera were the only ones on the Tigers who hit above .300, while the next highest average on the team was .269. Castellanos had a .429 average and six RBI to be the ultimate offensive force. Buck Farmer, Blaine Hardy and Drew VerHagen each had good weeks in relief by not giving up any earned runs, but the rest of the pitching staff had terrible weeks, to cement them in fourth place.

Upcoming Games: at Washington (3 games), at Baltimore (3 games)

5. Minnesota Twins, 8-23

After starting the week with a win, the Twins lost five straight to end the week. Brian Dozier hit .545 and had six RBI in only four games. Jose Berrios got the only win of the week for the Twins, while Brandon Kintzler and Trevor May didn’t give up any runs in relief.

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

Brian Dozier is the player of the week in the American League Central. Photo courtesy aarongleeman.com.

Player of the Week: Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins

The Twins may not be having the best of seasons, but Brian Dozier had a great week for only playing in four games. His six RBI and .545 batting average were huge for the twins this past week.

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.

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