Rockies

Can the Rockies hold on to the Wild Card?

The NL West has been wild this year. It seemed as though the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies were all the teams to beat in the National League at one point (apologies to the Nationals).

At the moment, the Dodgers are sliding and the Diamondbacks are rolling. Both of those teams are locks for the playoffs though.

The same thing can’t be said for the Rockies though. On Aug. 5, Colorado found themselves a comfortable 17 games over the .500 mark. Just one month later, the Rockies are nine games over that mark and are only two games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals.

As stated earlier, the Diamondbacks are rolling and have all but mathematically locked up a playoff spot. The Dodgers, although struggling, are also a lock to reach the postseason. The real race is going to be for that second wild card spot that is currently held by Colorado. Here is a look at the two teams that are threatening the Rockies’ playoff hopes.

St. Louis Cardinals

Colorado Rockies wild card

Paul DeJong has been one of the big names in the Redbird renaissance (Photo by KSDK)

Not many people have been talking about what is going on in St. Louis this season. Yes, the Cardinals have been very inconsistent in many facets of their game. However, there has been a Redbird renaissance going on in St. Louis. That is the Memphis Redbirds to be precise.

The Triple-A affiliate Redbirds finished the season with an impressive 91-50 record, and their success is starting to spill into the big leagues. The list of players that have made an impact on the team this season that would typically be considered Triple-A players is long. Those names include Paul DeJong, Jose Martinez, Luke Weaver, Luke Voit, Harrison Bader and many more.

Tommy Pham has played a vast majority of the year in St. Louis and has been their best player, so he doesn’t figure into that crowd. One thing that is worth noticing though is the Cardinals lineup on Tuesday. Seven of the Cardinals starting nine have played significant time down in the minors.

DeJong may even be a favorite for Rookie of the Year if it wasn’t for Cody Bellinger’s breakout campaign. DeJong has been hitting homers at a very similar rate (given that he has a lot less at bats), and has a much better batting average.

This team has been up and down all season long, but may be hitting a stride with these young players. It is going to be a tough test for them coming up though. All of their remaining games are against NL Central opponents. Their record in their own division is pretty strong in most years.

However, this year they have been getting by with a weak 23-31 record inside of an already weak division. It will be interesting to see though if Mike Matheny will continue to play these young surging talents in the stretch. He is not usually one to pick the young guys over the more experienced veterans. It may be in his best interest though to play the hot-hand this time of year, before other teams start to figure out these new faces.

Milwaukee Brewers

Colorado Rockies wild card

Travis Shaw has led the Brewers to contention in September (Photo by ESPN)

The Brewers controlled the NL Central for much of the the season. The Chicago Cubs were at their heels for a long time, and they finally took over as many expected. Catching the Cubs is still not out of the realm of possibility for the Brewers or the Cardinals, but for the purposes of this, we will talk within the context of the wild card.

Milwaukee is now 2.5 games back of the Rockies for second place in the wild card. They just let the Cardinals surpass them, which of course is not something they wanted to let happen.

Their offense has not been playing as well as of late. Eric Thames has slowed down his production, and the supporting cast has not been keeping up. At the moment, the leader in batting average for the team is Travis Shaw at .276. That is very low for the best on the team and does not bode well if they wish to contend.

The Brewers have still been resilient this season and fight back as long as people keep counting them out. They are playing below .500 baseball since the All-Star break, so it is going to be difficult for them to keep up at this juncture.

One of the key moments that kept them from losing a series to the rival Cardinals was a stellar, literal game saving catch by Keon Broxton. That was a shot in the arm that the Brewers needed. They have since fallen behind the Cardinals in the chase for the playoffs, so they are hoping that some of their key players will show up in the stretch.

Can the Rockies fend off the competition?

Colorado has a tough schedule coming up for them. They are about to play a four-game set against the Dodgers in LA, and then fly to Arizona for a four-game set against the red-hot Diamondbacks.

The Rockies are hoping to prolong the Dodgers’ struggles, because this is an eight-game road trip that the team has probably been keeping an eye on for a long time. They have been 7-13 on the road since the All-Star game, so the time is now for them to pick it up outside of their home in Colorado.

The Rockies have a relatively easy schedule after they finish in Arizona on the 14th, so this eight-game stretch could make or break their season. The Cardinals have a fairly easy schedule during that time span, so the standings could look much different if they capitalize on this.

What the Rockies need to hope for is for the Cardinals to continue their struggles against teams in their own division, and go back to their inconsistent ways.

It is hard to imagine a team with the kind of offensive fire power the Rockies have may not make the playoffs. Their division is just that stacked this year. It has been very difficult for them to pull away from other teams in the National League.

If the Rockies are able to take four of the eight games they have coming up, it will be hard to see them not playing the Diamondbacks in the NL Wild Card. However, if they get bullied by their division rivals, the Cardinals may make another push for October, much like they did in 2011.

 

Featured image by Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

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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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Spring Training Spotlight

Spring Training Spotlight: Hot and Cold Starts

With Spring Training in full swing, players and fans are starting to get into the groove of things. Players are hitting their strides at the plate and on the mound. But there are some who are struggling in the early going. Even though Spring Training is just that, training in the spring, players still strive to succeed. Which players are reaching that goal and which need to put in a little more work?

Hot

1B/DH Chris Colabello- Cleveland Indians

Spring Training Spotlight

Chris Colabello is hoping a strong Spring Training will mean a return to his 2015 form (Michael Dwyer/AP Photo).

After a 2016 season that saw Colabello only play 10 major league games for the Blue Jays, he needs a strong showing in Spring Training to shake loose of his PED suspension. But luckily for him, he has made the most of Spring Training so far with the Cleveland Indians, flashing his 2015 form. Colabello slashed .321/.367/.520 good for a 138 OPS+ over 101 games in 2015. And he’s showing signs of resurgence in Spring Training, slashing .333/.474/.667. But even with a hot start, it may be all for naught.

The Cleveland Indians have two top performers at Colabello’s primary positions: first base and DH. And no matter how hot Colabello gets, there is no way he is unseating Carlos Santana at first base or Edwin Encarnacion at DH. The best he can hope for is a spot on the bench, and at worst starting in the minors if he wants to stay with the Indians. But if Colabello continues his torrid pace, don’t be surprised to see him latch onto a new club.

OF Keon Broxton- Milwaukee Brewers

Keon Broxton was somewhat of a surprise last year after coming over from division rival Pittsburgh. While batting .242/.354/.430, he was able to hit nine homers, drive in 19 RBIs and steal 23 bases in 75 games. And at only 26 years old, Broxton is trying to build off his solid 2016 to cement himself in Milwaukee’s rebuild. He’s off to a good start so far, showing off at the plate in Spring Training.

So far, Broxton is batting .412/.444/.941 in Spring Training action. Those are some absurd numbers, even in limited time. At this point in Spring Training, batters usually start catching up to pitchers in terms of preparation and performance, but Broxton is putting others to shame. Broxton certainly came to camp ready to hit the ground running, and he hasn’t stopped yet. He’s in line to start in center, and at this rate his Opening Day job is securely in the bag.

Cold

OF Giancarlo Stanton-Miami Marlins

Spring Training Spotlight

Giancarlo Stanton hopes a poor Spring Training start is just a fluke (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images).

With as much power as Giancarlo Stanton has, you would think he would never run out. But Stanton is currently experiencing a power outage. The slugging outfielder is currently batting .176/.300/.412 in Spring Training, having a difficult time getting into rhythm. But skipper Don Mattingly is hoping that the mammoth Stanton can get back on track.

Stanton has proven to be an offensive force for the Marlins in his seen years in Miami, sending 208 homers into orbit. But he has also been limited by injuries, only playing 145 games or more twice in his career. In those two seasons, he hit a combined 71 homers and drove in 192 RBIs. But at 27 years old when the season starts, Stanton needs to become a more dependable player. Hopefully he’s just scuffling at the plate, and not feeling the impact of years of multiple injuries on his body.

LF/3B Joey Gallo- Texas Rangers

Joey Gallo is a player in the same vein as Giancarlo Stanton; a massive slugger with tremendous power. Unfortunately for Gallo, he is also struggling at the plate. Gallo is batting .111/.304/.278 in Spring Training. But as bad as that sounds, it’s an improvement over his 2016 season when he slashed a horrendous .040/.200/.160 in 17 games for the Rangers. After spending years as the Rangers top prospect, Gallo finally exhausted his rookie status in 2016. It’s now or never for him to show his minor league production wasn’t his high water point.

Gallo entered the Rangers farm system with massive power, grading out on the 20-80 scale with 80 raw power. He has always been a pure slugger, never hitting over .272 in a minor league season, but also posting two seasons with at least 40 homers. It was thought with Adrian Beltre at third base that Gallo would take over left field, but he is not even listen in left field in the Rangers’ depth chart. If Gallo can turn his Spring Training performance around, he may be able to get his career back it’s former trajectory.

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Players to Keep Your Eye On: Early 2017 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

With the 2017 Major League Baseball season quickly approaching, it is time to start talking fantasy. In 2016, we witnessed the most strike outs, as well as the second most home runs ever in a season. After an electric 2016 campaign, it is time to start preparing for a wild 2017. It is too early to release positional rankings, as it is only January. So I intend to inform you about early 2017 fantasy baseball sleepers.

What qualifies a player as a “sleeper”? 

First, a player must be undervalued.

To be undervalued, a player’s average draft position, or ADP, must be below the ADP of other players with similar statistics. In 2016, according to ESPN.com, Rick Porcello was selected as the 230th player off the board. He finished as the 6th best starting pitcher in 5X5 ESPN standard leagues. His teammate, David Price, was selected as the 27th player off the board, yet he finished as the 21st overall pitcher. Porcello was tremendously undervalued in 2016, and I intend to help find undervalued players that can help contribute to 2017 fantasy championship.

Second, a player must be overlooked.

Some people argue that players can be considered “sleepers” if they are drafted in the third round, but have first round value. I argue that this makes a player undervalued. To be a sleeper, a player must be overlooked and passed on until later rounds in the draft. In 2016, Jose Ramirez went undrafted in majority of leagues, and managed to finish as a top 50 overall player. Ramirez went overlooked in 2016, and I aim to inform you about players that cannot be overlooked heading into 2017.

David Peralta – OF Arizona Diamondbacks

In 2017, David Peralta will continue his ascension from mediocre minor league pitcher to impact middle of the order bat. Peralta, who was originally signed in 2006 by the St. Louis Cardinals as a relief pitcher, was transformed into a corner outfielder in 2011. He subsequently slashed .392/.429/.661 with 17 home runs, 81 runs batted in and 30 doubles in 85 games in the independent North American League.

Peralta’s first minor league experience came in 2014 with the Arizona Diamondbacks Double-A affiliate, where he batted .297 with 17 doubles and 6 home runs in 53 games. He was then called up to the bigs, where Peralta impressed, batting .286 with 12 doubles, 9 triples, 8 home runs, 40 runs, and 36 runs batted in.

In 2015, Peralta’s first full season in the majors, he slashed .312/.371/.522. He also lead the league in triples with 10, along with 26 doubles, 18 home runs, and 78 runs batted in. Peralta dealt with a lingering wrist injury in 2016, which limited him to only 183 plate appearances in 48 games played. When healthy, he has massive upside.

It is only January, but Peralta is currently being severely under-valued. His ADP on couchmanagers.com is currently 221, which means he is being selected as the 63rd outfielder. I believe that Peralta is easily capable of being a top 30 outfielder, as he is expected to rejoin a star-studded Arizona Diamondbacks lineup. He will bat clean up behind four-time all-star and two-time runner-up MVP, Paul Goldschmidt, and 2015 all-star and top 15 MVP candidate, A.J. Pollock. Peralta has shown his ability to hit for power and average and will help contribute to many fantasy championships.

Josh Bell – 1B/OF Pittsburgh Pirates

A former 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates’ second round pick, Bell was called up in early July to see his first major league action in 2016. He batted .273 with 19 runs batted in and 11 extra base hits in a mere 128 at bats. He will be eligible at first base and outfield in fantasy leagues next season.

Bell projects as a first basemen with limited power, although he has an uncanny ability to get on base. He spent two seasons at the Triple-A level, amassing 629 plate appearances, while slashing .306/.396/.476, hitting 16 home runs, 53 extra base hits, and 78 runs batted in.

2017 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

Josh Bell looks to help the Pirates get back on track in 2017. (Courtesy of rumbunter.com)

He is projected to bat second in a star-studded lineup, ahead of former MVP Andrew McCutcheon, all-star Starling Marte, and budding star Gregory Polanco. For Bell, this is an ideal spot in the lineup, as he has excelled at getting on base at all minor-league levels.

According to couchmanagers.com, Bell is currently being selected as the 22nd first basemen off the board, with an average draft position of 202. This places him thirty spots behind unsigned first basemen, Mike Napoli, as well as eighty spots behind aging superstars Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols.

Bell has already dropped his weight from 248 to 225 to start training camp, which shows he is ready to tackle a spot at the top half of the order. Also, Bell could possibly steal a few more bases, as he only stole five bases through two seasons at the AAA level. His power can and will improve as he gains experience at the plate. I believe Bell can contribute across all hitting categories, and is being moderately overlooked and undervalued.

Greg Bird – 1B New York Yankees

Another 2011 draft pick, New York Yankees first baseman Greg Bird, was called up in August of 2015. He batted .261 with 11 home runs and 31 runs batted in, in only 178 plate appearances.

If this pace were to have continued over 500 plate appearance sample size, Bird would project 30 home runs and 87 runs batted in.

2017 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

Greg Brid expects full recovery from torn labrum heading into 2017. (Courtesy of   thesportquotient.com)

He has impressed in his minor league career, hitting a total of 48 home runs, 192 runs batted in, while slashing .282/.395/.483 over 347 games. Yankees General Manager, Brian Cashman, exclaimed that Bird is “A patient, power hitter. Best young hitter in organization”.

Bird is recovering from undergoing season ending surgery for a torn labrum in 2016. The twenty-four-year-old will compete with veteran Matt Holiday and youngster Tyler Austin for the starting first base job.

When Bird is awarded the starting job, he will slot in to the middle of the order. This will give him a great opportunity to produce in a Yankees lineup behind the likes of Gary Sanchez, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brett Gardner.

Bird’s current ADP is 260, which means he is currently going undrafted. This means you could take Bird as a flyer, which is a pick at the end of the draft for a player with lower value but possibly high upside. If Bird’s ADP stays stagnant, he will be unforgivingly undervalued and overlooked.

Keon Broxton – OF Milwaukee Brewers

Another player going undrafted in leagues is Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton. Broxton, a 26-year-old former 3rd round pick, will hold down the Brewers center field to start 2017.

2017 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers

Keon Broxton has high hopes for 2017. (Courtesy of fantasybaseballcrackerjacks.com)

He spent two seasons at the AAA level, batting .267 with 15 home runs, 68 runs batted in, and 42 steals over 566 plate appearances. Broxton projects as a five-tool player with plus speed and above average power.

During the 2016 season, Broxton had 244 plate appearances, slashed .242/.354/.426 with 9 home runs, 19 runs batted in, and 24 steals. In a 500 plate appearance sample size, Broxton would have been on pace for 18 home runs and 47 steals.

Broxton’s speed alone gives him value, as he stole 203 bases in 273 attempts during his short career so far. Now with the Milwaukee Brewers, who stole 42 more bases than the next best team, Broxton has an even higher floor, as he will be aggressive on the base paths.

He will be limited by batting at the bottom half of the order, although his above average power upside mixed with his elite speed will make him a reliable fantasy producer and top 50 outfielder.

 

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