2017 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings

Shortstop are commonly known for their glove, but after the explosion of home runs in 2016, shortstops have emerged as a power position heading into 2017. 15 shortstops hit 20 or more homeruns last season, where only two did in 2015. The shortstop position has transitioned from one of the weakest to one of the deepest.

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

Honorable mentions include: Orlando Arcia (MIL), Ketel Marte (ARI), Jose Iglesias (DET), Andrelton Simmons (LAA), and Jose Reyes (NYM).

 

Tier 1

2017 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings

Manny Machado’s consistency warrants a first round pick. (Courtesy of USA TODAY Sports)

  • Manny Machado (BAL)
  • Carlos Correa (HOU)
  • Corey Seager (LAD)
  • Trea Turner (WSH)
  • Francisco Lindor (CLE)
  • Xander Bogaerts (BOS)

 

Manny Machado, primarily a third basemen, played 44 games at shortstop in 2016, after an injury sidelined Baltimore Orioles starter, J.J. Hardy. Machado, a career .285 hitter, has tallied at least 35 home runs and 100 runs in his last two seasons.

The 24-year-old has yet to reach the 100 RBI plateau, although if continues to progress, he could easily see a .300/100/40/100 season in his near future.

Machado’s consistency and potential make him the first shortstop that should be taken in 2017.

Xander Bogaerts is one of the safest picks an owner can make in 2017. The 24-year-old will be entering his fourth season in the majors, where he is a career .286 hitter.

His .320 batting average in 2015, and .330 batting average in the first half of 2016, suggest that he can sustain a well above .300 average for a full season in 2017.

The 6-foot-3 180-pounder raised his home run total from seven in 2015, to 21 in 2016. Bogaerts power is sure to improve one day, although I believe he will focus solely on sustaining contact rates next season.

Whether the power numbers show or not in 2017, Bogaerts is well worth a top 25 pick.

 

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings

Trevor Story is healthy and ready to go for 2017. (Courtesy of Sporting News)

  • Trevor Story (COL)
  • Jonathan Villar (MIL)
  • Jean Segura (SEA)
  • Troy Tulowitzki (TOR)
  • Aledmys Diaz (STL)
  • Addison Russell (CHC)
  • Dansby Swanson (ATL)

 

Trevor Story had one of the greatest rookie seasons of all-time, and only played in 97 games due to a hand injury in 2016. After mashing 27 home runs with 76 RBI’s, Story managed to be one of the most productive players in the league during that stretch.

He will bat in the middle of an electric Colorado Rockies lineup, which may put up historically great numbers this season.

The only drawback on the 24-year-old is his atrocious 31.3% strike out rate, which may suggest that he sees a decline in batting average.

Regression of average or not, Story is well worth a top 35 pick, as his power upside is tremendous.

Dansby Swanson is currently being drafted as the 170th overall player, and 17th shortstop off the board, although I have him ranked as the 13th. The upside with Swanson is incredible, as he has the potential to bat .300 while batting second for the Atlanta Braves. This gives him the potential to score 100 runs in his rookie campaign.

The big power numbers have not shown yet, although he had sneaky power in college, hitting 15 home runs in 71 games. He also hit eight home runs in 84 games at the AA-level, which shows that he has the potential to hit 15 or so this season, giving him a chance to be a top 10 shortstop.

I’m reaching on Swanson’s potential in all drafts in 2017.

 

Tier 3

2017 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings

Can Didi Gregorius continue to improve upon his breakout 2016 campaign?(Courtesy of Getty Images)

  • Didi Gregorius (NYY)
  • Brandon Crawford (SF)
  • Brad Miller (TB)
  • Javier Baez (CHC)
  • Eduardo Nunez (SF)

 

Didi Gregorius, most notably the player that replaced Derek Jeter, quietly had a breakout seasons in 2016. Gregorius has continuously improved his batting average, going from .257 in 2014, to .276 in 2016. He has also seen a huge jump in power numbers, as he hit 20 home runs, which is 11 better than his former career high of 9.

The 27-year-old still has room for improvement, although his power numbers may fall, as the majority of his homers limp out of the Yankees short porch in right field.

Gregorius is a safe late round selection, but may have limited upside.

Eduardo Nunez spent his 2016 split between the Minnesota Twins and San Francisco Giants. The All-Star batted .321 with 12 home runs and 22 stolen bases in the first half of 2016. This shows how good Nunez can be when he is playing every day at his best.

The reason for Nunez’s low ranking is because of his lack of consistency and poor production with the Giants. Hitting home runs as a righty in San Francisco can be quite challenging, which makes me think his home run totals will drop severally.

Nunez has a solid average and will continue to steal some bases, which makes him a good mid to late round pick in all formats.

 

Tier 4

2017 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings

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

  • Jose Peraza (CIN)
  • Elvis Andrus (TEX)
  • Danny Espinosa (LAA)
  • Asdrubal Cabrera (NYM)
  • Marcus Semien (OAK)
  • Matt Duffy (TB)
  • Tim Anderson (CWS)

 

Jose Peraza has been compared to Jose Altuve, in not only their size, but also their skill set. Both have elite speed and get on base at a well above average clip. Peraza will finally have an everyday role with the Cincinnati Reds as they have parted ways with their franchise second basemen, Brandon Phillips, in a trade with the Atlanta Braves.

Peraza has stolen 281 bases in 611 professional games, which is about a half a steal per game. This alone gives Peraza elite stolen base value, as he has the chance to steal over 60 bases. This paired with the fact that he is a career .312 hitter gives him great potential to be a breakout star in 2017.

Tim Anderson commonly flies under the radar, as he will bat at the bottom of an inconsistent Chicago White Sox lineup. 2017 will be Anderson’s first full MLB season, which could mean a breakout is in the making for the 23-year-old.

We cannot forget that he stole 49 bases in 125 games in 2015. While he bats at the end of the order, which limits his run and RBI potential, he should be given plenty of opportunities to swipe bags.

The former first-round pick in 2013 is a career .283 hitter, which is a solid floor for a starting fantasy short stop. Anderson’s ADP of 191 makes him well worth a late pick as a middle infielder or starter in deeper leagues.

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2017 Fantasy Baseball Third Base Rankings

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Third Base Rankings

From Eddie Mathews to Ron Santo, from Mike Schmidt to Wade Boggs, from Chipper Jones to Adrian Beltre; the hot corner has remained a staple of power and production for centuries. Third basemen made up ten of the top 50 fantasy hitters in 2016, including the 2015 AL and 2016 NL MVP’s. With so many options to choose from, third base is one of, if not, the deepest position in fantasy baseball.

 

The top 30 third basemen have been grouped into six tiers, with the top and bottom player of each tier profiled below.

Honorable mentions include: Brandon Drury (ARI), Yulieski Gurriel (HOU), Jose Reyes (NYM), Jedd Gyorko (STL), Ryan Schimpf (SD), Hernan Perez (MIL), Matt Duffy (TB), and Johnny Peralta (STL).

 

Tier 1

2017 Fantasy Baseball Third Base Rankings

Can Kris Bryant be the first to win back to back MVP’s since Miguel Cabrera? (Courtesy of Chicagostylesports.com)

1. Kris Bryant CHC

2. Nolan Arenado COL

3. Josh Donaldson TOR

4. Manny Machado BAL

 

The reigning NL MVP, Kris Bryant, should be the first third basemen taken in 2017. Bryant was called up in 2015 after mashing 43 home runs at the AA and AAA levels. The minor-league player of the year impressed immediately in the majors, as he hit 26 home runs and drove in 99 RBI’s, resulting in him winning the Rookie of the Year.

The 24-year-old crushed 39 bombs with over 100 runs and RBI’s, which is easily repeatable for many years to come.

Two main reasons why Bryant lands atop this list is because of his steal upside and the lineup in which he plays in. Bryant is athletic for his 6-foot-5 230-pound stature. He stole 13 bases in 2015, and eight in 2016, which gives him a good floor of steals compared to Arenado, Donaldson, and Machado, who combined for nine.

Also, batting ahead of Anthony Rizzo and other elite hitters in the Chicago Cubs offense will give Bryant a great chance to, once again, lead the league in runs. These two factors will help propel him ahead of the other elite third base options.

 

Manny Machado has all of the potential in the world. After having back to back 35 plus home run and 100 run seasons, he remains in the elite category of third basemen.

Machado has batted primarily third in 2016, and still failed to reach the 100 RBI plateau, which is unnerving, as he is set to primarily bat second in 2017. Don’t get me wrong, Machado still has elite value in the two hole, as he will bat around .300, while being a great source of runs, but if you’re looking for 100 RBI’s, Machado may fall short once again.

Machado also failed to steal a base in 2016, after stealing 20 bags in 2015. This may have been a way to limit the stress on his surgically repaired knee, or may have been due to the fact that the Baltimore Orioles were last in stolen base attempts per game, with .2.

The lack of stolen bases and RBI’s compared to Bryant, Donaldson, and Arenado forces me place Machado at the bottom of tier 1.

 

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball Third Base Rankings

Will 2017 be a breakout season for veteran Kyle Seager? (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

5. Kyle Seager SEA

6. Jonathon Villar MIL

7. Adrian Beltre TEX

8. Matt Carpenter STL

9. Todd Frazier CWS

10. Evan Longoria TB

11. Anthony Rendon WAS

12. Justin Turner LAD

 

Kyle Seager has been a consistent source of 160 hits, .270 average, and 24 home runs per season, but 2017 will be the year he breaks out.

Seager will bat behind Jean Segura, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz, which will give him a great chance to finally surpass the 100 RBI mark.

The 29-year-old’s isolated power numbers have jumped from .185 to .221, showing that he has the potential to increase his power numbers as he continues through his prime years.

According to fantasypros.com, he is being selected as the 59th player off the board, and the 6th third basemen. Although Seager’s value does warrant a pick at this position, there are many other third basemen that offer similar value at a much lesser cost.

 

Justin Turner exploded onto the scene in 2016, having a career year, batting .275 with 27 home runs, 79 runs, and 90 RBI’s. The 32-year-old inked a 4-year, $64 million deal, that will lock him in as the everyday third basemen and three-hitter of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the near and distant and future.

Turner provides a great floor of value, as he has a career batting average of .282, while managing to have respectable strikeout and walk rates. I believe Turner is more than likely to repeat his power numbers, and could be a sneaky source of 100 RBI’s come 2017.

 

Tier 3

2017 Fantasy Baseball Third Base Rankings

Can Jake Lamb recover from his atrocious second half n 2016? (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

13. Jake Lamb ARI

14. Maikel Franco PHI

15. Alex Bregman HOU

16. Jose Ramirez CLE

 

Jake Lamb is currently being severally overlooked, as he is being selected as the 19th third basemen, and 165th overall player in drafts.

Lamb finished 2016 with a .249 batting average, 29 home runs, and 91 RBI’s. This stat line may seem underwhelming, but Lambs first half of .291, 20 home runs, and 61 RBI’s suggests that there is elite potential here.

The 26-year-old will join a healthy Arizona Diamondbacks lineup that includes A.J. Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt, and David Peralta, which will give him the opportunity to repeat or surpass his career high RBI total. Lamb will end up on the majority of my teams in 2017, as his ADP is much too low for his potential.

 

The sneaky top 20 MVP candidate in 2016, Jose Ramirez, will be another cheap source of production at third base in 2017. Ramirez is being selected as the 14th third basemen, which I believe is fairly high, although his ADP of 124 gives him significant value.

The 24-year-old will bat in the middle of the Cleveland Indians lineup, and depending on Michael Brantley’s health, may be behind Edwin Encarnacion, Francisco Lindor, and Jason Kipnis, which will give him an incredible opportunity to drive in runs.

Ramirez, a career .275 hitter, is continuously improving, as he batted .312 with 11 home runs, 76 RBI’s, and 22 stolen bases in 2016. Investing in the young Indian will be highly beneficial come 2017.

 

Tier 4

2017 Fantasy Baseball Third Base Rankings

Miguel Sano’s strikeout rate is a red flag heading into 2017. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

17. Miguel Sano MIN

18. Jung-Ho Kang PIT

19. Eduardo Nunez SFG

20. Ryon Healy OAK

21. Yangervis Solarte SD

 

Miguel Sano is currently being selected as the 128th player, and 15th third basemen in 2017. After hitting 18 home runs in 80 games in 2015, Sano increased his totals to 25 in 116 games in 2016. Miguel Sano’s power potential is juicy, although his 2016 strike out rate of 36% is a huge red flag.

Sano’s strikeout rates have continuously increased, which suggests that Sano may strikeout at an obnoxious rate again in 2017. Sano, who has already had a problem finding a position, may experience serious issues if his bat continues to struggle. I believe Sano is being drafted to high, as you can draft safer options in Maikel Franco or Jake Lamb later in drafts.

 

Yangervis Solarte is my sleeper of the year. The 29-year-old is primed for a breakout season, as he will have an everyday role for the first time in his career. He totaled 15 home runs and 71 RBI’s in just 109 games, which would have put him on pace for 22 home runs and 105 RBI’s.

Solarte will be the starting third basemen and cleanup hitter for the San Diego Padres in 2017. This will give him plenty of opportunity for RBI’s and runs, as this young Padres lineup could surprise people.

The ascension of young studs Wil Myers, Hunter Renfroe, and Manny Margot, can immensely improve the Friars underwhelming offense, which will positively impact Solarte’s stats.

His ADP of 319 makes him the 32nd third basemen taken off the board, which means he is currently going undrafted in majority of leagues. Solarte will make an incredible late round pick if you miss early on a third basemen.

 

Tier 5

2017 Fantasy Baseball Third Base Rankings

Nick Castellanos’ fractured hand held him back in 2016, so will he improve in 2017? (Courtesy MLive.com)

22. Nick Castellanos DET

23. Mike Moustakas KAN

24. Adonis Garcia ATL

25. Eugenio Suarez CIN

26. Pablo Sandoval BOS

27. Travis Shaw MIL

28. Martin Prado MIA

29. Danny Valencia SEA

30. Yunel Escobar LAA

 

Nick Castellanos had his 2016 cut short due to a fractured left hand, although in 110 games, he managed to hit 18 home runs, while scoring 54 runs, and driving in 58 RBI’s. The Tigers six-hitter remains a solid source of runs and RBI’s while sporting a respectable career average of .265.

Castellanos is very safe option for later in the draft, and if he continues to progress, could be a top 15 third basemen. His current ADP of 239 makes his the 25th third basemen selected, which would be a price well worth paying.

 

Yunel Escobar has quietly been a solid fantasy producer his entire career, as he has a career batting average of .283, and has batted .314 and .304 in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Escobar hasn’t managed to play over 140 games since 2013, but if he can make that happen in 2017, he will be a great fantasy asset.

The 34-year-old will bat leadoff for the Mike Trout lead Los Angeles Angels. The talent behind him along with his great batting average gives him a chance to be an above average run scorer in 2017.

His ADP of 366 makes him the 37th third basemen being selected, which in my mind is astronomical. He will go undrafted in almost all leagues, although he offers great value in deeper leagues with large rosters.

 

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Path to the Majors

Which Path to the Majors has the Most Success?

Major League Baseball is unique compared to the NBA and NFL. Neither allows players to go straight from high school to their respective drafts. The NBA requires at least one year removed from high school and the NFL at least three years. But with baseball, you can go straight from high school to the draft. But is this the best way for a player to make it to the majors? With college being an option for most, many have to decide what path to take to the majors. We will crunch some numbers and see which path has the best track record.

From College to the Draft

Path to the Majors

Chris Sale elevated his draft stock during his time at Florida Gulf Coast University (Credit: Jon Durr/USA TODAY Sports).

Players that choose to go to college out of high school and enter the MLB draft later on are on the rise in recent years. The low point of college players being drafted in recent years came in 2012. A mere 44 percent of players drafted in the first four rounds of the 2012 MLB Draft were from four year universities. But that has been steadily changing. The percentage of college players drafted in the first four rounds hit 58 percent from four year universities in the 2016 MLB Draft. With this rise, does it prove that college is the best route to the majors?

According to the numbers, the answer might be yes. Only 15 percent of the players drafted in the first round since 2013 have played in the majors. But that 15 percent is solely comprised of college players. College players are more developed than their high school counterparts, and can make it to the big leagues faster. Even those high school players who are determined to have first round talent still have a few years before they make it to the majors.

Granted, the benefits of going the college route to the majors may get you there faster. It also provides more opportunities for those players who may not be top prospects to prove their worth in college. But for some, the opportunity to become professionally employed to play baseball is just too good to wait on.

Path to the Majors

Many Machado made a seamless transition from high school to the majors (Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images).

From High School to the Draft

When these players are in high school, they are approached by MLB scouts. These scouts will try to dissuade them from college with signing bonuses. These bonuses are provided to a player when they sign with a respective team’s agent. These signing bonuses are where players earn their money. The first overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, Mickey Moniak, had a $6.1 million signing bonus. But that is certainly not the case for all drafted players.

The salary of an average minor league player can be less than what is considered poverty level in the United States ($11,490 a year for a single person). That is staggering to see, given that minor league players have to provide their own lodging, food and necessary daily items. But even so, if you can earn a good signing bonus, it definitely makes up for it.

To make it to the majors, much more is required than just talent. While that is the basis of a player, it may be necessary to supplement that talent with specialized instruction and equipment. Baseball is one of the most expensive sports to play. With the costs of equipment and training, some players give up the game due to lack of funds. That can make the jump from high school to the MLB Draft even more enticing. After spending countless hours and dollars on their game, some players are ready to get paid. And that may be the best option, given some of my findings.

Which Transition Provides the Most Success?

Using our same sample size from earlier (2009-2016) and using Wins Above Replacement (WAR) to determine success, there is a surprising discovery. High school players have an advantage in career success over their college counterparts. From 2009-2012, only the 2010 draft has produced a college player with a higher WAR than a high school player. Chris Sale entered the draft from college and has a 31.1 WAR, while Manny Machado came straight from high school and has a 24.4 WAR. That is the lone year in our sample size where a high school player has been bested by a college player in terms of WAR.

In terms of short term success, the route from college to the draft is the best choice. Players who gain those few years in college are able to mature physically and have a shorter path to the majors. The 2009 MLB Draft is an excellent example. Even supported by high school phenom Mike Trout’s incredible 48.5 WAR, first found high schoolers have only amassed 72.5 WAR. That does not compared to the 90 WAR put up by college players in that year’s first round draft.

Every year, players across the country are faced with a difficult decision. Whether to play in college or go straight to the MLB Draft. There is a solid argument to be made for both choices, but one of the biggest determining factors is the player himself. Each player is unique. With different circumstances, skills and abilities, there is no definitive answer.

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World Baseball Classic Preview: Pool C

After examining eight of the 16 teams in the World Baseball Classic, we move on to the most talented pool in the tournament: Pool C. The teams included in this pool are full of major league talent, and are some of the deepest in the WBC. If you missed Pool A or Pool B, you can find them below.

World Baseball Classic Preview: Pool A

World Baseball Classic Preview: Pool B

World Baseball Classic

Ryan Dempster will provide leadership as well as pitching for team Canada (Elise Amendola/AP).

Canada

For the boys north of the border, they will rely on some big name players who have made their hay in the USA. Longtime team Canada manager Erin Whitt has a bevy of major league talent to draw upon.

On the mound team Canada will be lead by 16 year major league veteran Ryan Dempster. While Dempster hasn’t played in the majors since 2013, the 39 year old should still be a top contributor for skipper Erin Whitt. He will also be joined on the mound by current major leaguers John Axford and Jim Henderson. Axford and Henderson are quality relievers, and will be great weapons for team Canada.

While there is plenty of pitching to rely on, the true stars are found off the mound. At first base NL All-Star Freddie Freeman will provide the thump for team Canada. The 27 year old Brave hit 34 bombs in 2016, and put up an impressive 157 OPS+. Former AL MVP and current free agent Justin Morneau will also suit up, giving Whitt plenty of options at first base. Many will also recognize current Blue Jay Dalton Pompey, who will patrol the outfield.

In any other pool, Canada would be one of the top teams, if not the favorite. But playing in Pool C does not bode well for them, as it will be a struggle to get to the second round of tournament play.

Colombia

World Baseball Classic

Jose Quintana will bring a strong presence to team Colombia (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images North America).

Making their World Baseball Classic debut, Colombia has a good level of talent to rely on. Colombia advanced from the Qualifier 3 round in 2016 to become eligible for the WBC. Pitching will be their strong suit, as they have multiple major league players to toe the rubber.

Chicago White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana became the staff ace after the trade of Chris Sale, but to many he was already a top pitcher in the game. His career 3.41 ERA has been supported by his 7.4 SO/9 innings. The lefty will be the ace for Colombia, and will be joined by NL All-Star Julio Teheran. Teheran has bee the ace of the Atlanta Braves for years, and will be a nice compliment to Quintana.

Catching for team Colombia will be Phillies prospect Jorge Alfaro. After being traded from Texas to Philly, Alfaro made his major league debut in 2016. While his numbers weren’t impressive in limited at-bats, he is seen as the catcher of the future in Philadelphia. He will be joined in the infield by former top prospect Dilson Herrera. In parts of two major league seasons in Flushing, Herrera was less than impressive. But he still has plenty of tools to be a difference maker for Colombia.

Colombia has a good mix of pitching and position player talent. They will need to utilize it to the fullest if they hope to cause an upset and make it out of Pool C.

World Baseball Classic

Robinson Cano led the Dominican Republic to the championship in 2013 (Al Bello/Getty Images).

Dominican Republic

After going undefeated on their way to winning the 2013 WBC, the Dominican Republic is one of the favorites to take home the championship again in 2017. And its easy to see why. The Dominican Republic has one of the most stacked rosters in this years tournament.

With a roster that would rival even the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs in talent, manager Moises Alou will have plenty of players to rely on. On the mound, established veteran starters like Johnny Cueto, Bartolo Colon and Edinson Volquez will be joined by young studs Carlos Martinez and Luis Severino. The bullpen will be anchored by all-stars Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia and Fernando Rodney.

With all of that talent on the mound, you might over look the position players for the Dominican Republic. Just kidding. With players like Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Jose Bautista, Manny Machado, Starlin Marte and many others, that is almost impossible. With an ample supply of power, speed and defense, skipper Moises Alou has a manager’s dream on his hands: too much talent.

The Dominican Republic boasts one of the most stacked squads in WBC history. With stars all over the field, the Dominican Republic is set to make another deep run in the WBC.

United States

World Baseball Classic

Andrew Miller is set to continue his post season dominance in the WBC (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images).

One of the few teams in all of the WBC that can rival the DR in talent is team USA. But in the WBC’s history, the US has yet to win the championship. Will that change in 2017? Manager Jim Leyland sure hopes so.

Leyland will have a treasure trove of talent to utilize, both on the mound and in the field. He will be handing the ball to starting pitchers like Chris Archer, Sonny Gray and Michael Fulmer. The bullpen will be bolstered by some of the game’s best. Cleveland Indians’ playoff hero Andrew Miller will be joined by Sam Dyson and Luke Gregerson to form a shut-down pen. But the cup runneth over in terms of talent, from the mound to the field.

The outfield will be manned by sluggers Giancarlo Stanton, Adam Jones and Andrew McCutchen. The will also be joined by Stanton’s teammate Christian Yelich to form a star studded outfield. The infield will be led by Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey behind the dish, as well as all-around talent Paul Goldschmidt. Spectacular veterans Ian Kinsler, Brandon Crawford and Daniel Murphy will be joined by the young stud Alex Bregman.

Even with not every team USA player listed, this roster is one of the best in the WBC. With depth at every position, manager Jim Leyland will be able to put multiple solid lineups out on the field.

Verdict

One of the deepest pools in all of the WBC, each team has multiple major league players on their respective rosters. In any other pool, Colombia and Canada would be competitive if not the favorites to advance. But in Pool C, there is really only two teams with a chance to move on to the second round.

The Dominican Republic and the USA are some of the most stacked rosters in the WBC’s history. Both are composed of all-star level talent, making choosing a favorite difficult. But after reviewing both team’s entire rosters, team USA has a slight advantage. With a deeper roster than the Dominican Republic, team USA should be able to get out of Pool C victorious.

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Players to avoid

Fantasy Baseball Tips and Tricks: Players to Avoid in 2017

The 2017 Major League Baseball season is upon us, as pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than two weeks. In order to ease the drafting process, The Game Haus presents you with its’ second installment of our fantasy baseball tips and tricks series: players to avoid in 2017.

The following players are being valued too high compared to other players at their position, and should be passed on in drafts.

This specific guide is for re-draft leagues only, and does not discuss any keeper or dynasty league strategies.

 

Adam DuvalL CIN OF

In his first full season, Duvall tallied thirty-three homeruns, with 103 runs batted in, while batting .241. He participated in the 2016 homerun derby after hitting twenty-three homeruns in the first half of the year. The twenty-eight-year-old will be the everyday left fielder and cleanup hitter for the Cincinnati Reds come 2017.

Players to avoid in 2017

Adam Duvall looks to prove doubters wrong as he begins his second MLB campaign. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

He is a proven power threat, as he mashed 130 bombs in six minor league seasons, although the hit on Duval is his ability to get on base. His major-league career on base percentage of .291 is a red flag. According to FanGraphs, a player’s OBP should be sixty points higher than their batting average, where Duval’s is only fifty. Also, Duvall will see more off-speed pitches in the cleanup spot. This is a concern as he already sports a poor career walk to strikeout ratio of .24.

Another thing to consider is, the more at-bats he accumulates, the more information pitchers will have on him. I predict a severe drop off in batting average as pitchers gain an understanding of how to approach Duvall.

Finally, we must consider alternative options. According to couchmanagers.com , two players who are being selected after Duvall, are Kole Calhoun and Jay Bruce.

Calhoun offers a solid power upside with much higher floors regarding batting average. He will also bat ahead of Mike Trout in 2017, which gives him a great opportunity to score ninety runs for the third time in his short career.

Bruce offers similar power upside to Duval, as he hit thirty-three homers in 2016, and has a similar career batting average of .248. Although, the major difference between the two is experience, as Bruce has nine seasons under his belt, with 241 homeruns and 737 RBI’s.

 

Matt Harvey NYM SP

2010 first-round pick, Matt Harvey, will enter his fifth MLB season come 2017. After three seasons of a sub three earned run average, he ended his 2016 campaign with a 4.86.

Players to avoid in fantasy baseball

Matt Harvey looks to bounce back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in 2017. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

The major risk with Harvey is his surgically repaired elbow. He underwent season ending surgery to fix thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). TOS can cause a painful, swollen, blue arm, and can also lead to eye problems and vision loss. These symptoms were the prime causes of his lack of production in 2015. The procedure consists of removing one rib to release pressure off of the entrapped nerves in his neck and shoulder.

The only pitcher two pitchers to reach 1000 innings pitched post-surgery are Kenny Rodgers, who underwent the surgery at thirty-six, and Aaron Cook, at twenty-five. Other than Cook, some notable pitchers who underwent TOS surgery before they turned thirty include Kip Wells, Jeremy Bonderman, Alex Cobb, Matt Harrison, and Jamie Garcia.

Harvey’s risk is too high based on where he is being drafted. Pitchers being selected after him include Julio Teheran and Tanner Roark.

Teheran is coming off of his fourth straight 180 plus inning season, while nursing a career 3.39 ERA. The Atlanta Braves’ twenty-six-year-old is a two-time all-star, and a trade to a contending club could sky rocket his value.

Roark is coming off of his second sub three ERA season in three years. He will slot in as the third starter for the heavy favorite in the National League East, the Washington Nationals.

 

Javier Baez ChC 2B

The ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft had his first season of significant playing time in 2016. He finished the year with fourteen homeruns, twelve steals, and a .273 batting average in 450 plate appearances.

Players to avoid in fantasy baseball

Javier Baez hopes to contribute to back-to-back World Series titles come 2017. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

If Baez can amount 600 plate appearances, he has twenty-twenty upside, but 2017 will not be the year. With the excessive amounts of talent in Chicago, the at bats will have to be spread equally. World Series MVP Ben Zobrist will take away playing time at second base when Jon Jay and Albert Almora start in the outfield; as well as when Wilson Contreras moves to left field and Miguel Montero mans the backstop.

When he is in the lineup, the NLCS MVP will bat at the bottom half of the order, limiting his opportunity to score runs and produce RBI’s. Second basemen being selected after Baez include Jonathan Schoop, Logan Forsythe, and Dustin Pedroia.

Schoop, who hit twenty-five homeruns in 2016, will bat in the heart of the Baltimore Orioles lineup behind Manny Machado, Chris Davis, and Mark Trumbo. This will give him ample opportunities for RBI’s come 2017.

Forsythe and Pedroia both project to bat leadoff, which, barring injuries, guarantees them each 600 plate appearances. Both will bat ahead of MVP candidates, in Corey Seager in Los Angeles, and Mookie Betts in Boston, which gives them a high chance of scoring over 100 runs.

 

David Dahl COL OF

Like Baez and Harvey, Dahl was a top ten pick in the first round. He was called up for sixty-three games in 2016, finishing the year with seven homeruns, five steals, with a .315 average. If he continued the season at that pace, he would finish with eighteen homeruns, twelve steals, and sixty-one RBI’s. Although he batted primarily in the five hole in 2016, he will move down to the seven spot with the acquisition of Ian Desmond.

Players to avoid in fantasy baseball

David Dahl looks to earn starting left fielders job in 2017. (Courtesy of ESPN.com

One issue with Dahl is that he will be battling for playing time with eight year veteran Gerardo Parra. Parra, the two-time gold glover, struggled in 2016 as he dealt with a lingering ankle injury. Now that he is healthy, he is sure to take some playing time away from Dahl.

Another problem with Dahl is his average draft position. Dahl is selected as a top twenty-five outfielder, which is much to high for a seventh hitter who may share time with a veteran.

Other options in the outfield are Stephen Piscotty and Lorenzo Cain.

Piscotty finished the season with twenty-two homeruns and eighty-five RBI’s in his first full MLB season. He will be the everyday right fielder and will bat cleanup for the Cardinals in 2017. Slotting in behind Dexter Fowler, Aledmys Diaz, and Matt Carpenter will give him plenty of RBI opportunities.

Cain looks to lead the Kansas City Royals back to the promise land in 2017. He will continue to bat third in a star-studded lineup that reached the world series only two years ago. Cain poses as a twenty-twenty threat who can also bat around .300. He is in store for a bounce back candidate after an injury riddled 2016 season.

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Fantasy Baseball Scoring: What is the Perfect Scoring Format

A common debate arises when arguing which fantasy baseball scoring format is best. One of the premier websites for fantasy baseball is ESPN.com. They offer a multitude of scoring options, including three standard scoring formats: rotisserie, season points, and head to head.

Rotisserie

In rotisserie scoring, “teams are ranked from first to last in each statistical category. Points are awarded to the order in each category, then totaled to determine an overall score and league rank” (ESPN.com). This scoring is best suited for leagues who look to avoid the flukes of head-to-head matchups. In head-to-head, you can score the second most points in a week, and lose to the team who scored the most. Rotisserie scoring creates a free for all, where all teams battle for the most total statistics in each category.

Season Points

“Standings are based on the accumulation of points covering all statistical categories and combined into one total points column” (ESPN.com). Season points leagues give point values to individual statistics. A home run may be worth four fantasy points, where a double may be worth two. The team with the most overall points at the end of the season wins.

Head-to-Head: Each Category (H2H)

Head-to-head: scoring each category individually allows the league manager “to select “X” number of statistical categories. For each scoring period, team totals are accumulated, and a win, loss, or tie is credited in each category based on the matchup results” (ESPN.com). The results of an ESPN standard H2H category matchup can look like 5-4-1, indicating that you won five categories, lost four, and tied one. This scoring system creates one on one matchups, where teams fight to cover more categories than their opponent. I believe this is the best scoring format, although the number of categories must be altered in order to be perfect.

What is the perfect scoring system?

Major league teams are split into divisions and play head-to-head matchups, so why should fantasy be any other way? I believe H2H is the best scoring format as it adds realism to fantasy leagues. Rivalries are created as teams match up against each other two to three times a season. The creation of divisions affect trades, rivalries, and the playoffs. Also, this scoring format requires more strategy than points than rotisserie leagues. It forces owners to consider a multitude of categories when drafting their team, opposed to blindly drafting the best player available.

The standard H2H scoring comprises ten categories, five hitting and five pitching. Hitting categories include runs, homeruns, runs batted in, stolen bases, and batting average. Pitching categories include strikeouts, wins, earned run average, and walk/hits per inning pitched. After researching the results of the 2016 season, I found a severe flaw in the standard five by five (5X5) format.

At first glance, you can see that Jonathan Villar and Jean Segura finished above Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado on the player rater. Although Villar and Segura impressed in 2016, Goldschmidt and Arenado finished as the eleventh and fifth respectively in the MVP voting. That was the first red flag. As I continue to scroll, the next name that jumps out is Eduardo Nunez, who finished ahead of Robinson Cano, Ryan Braun, Wil Myers, and Freddie Freeman. Nunez was an all-star for the first time in 2016, but did not have close to a better season than any of the previous names. This was strike two. Finally, I made my way to the forty-fifth overall player and sixth best shortstop, Manny Machado. Seeing a top five most valuable player candidate get disrespected like that was the last straw.

The following are the stat lines for the aforementioned batters in order from highest to lowest on the 5X5 player rater.

You be the judge on whether or not this order is correct.

Villar looks to retain steal title in 2017. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

 

4. Jonathan Villar MIL .285 92 19 63 62

5. Jean Segura ARI .319 102 20 64 33

6. Paul Goldschmidt ARI .297 106 24 95 32

8. Nolan Arenado COL .294 116 41 133 2

17. Eduardo Nunez MIN/SFG .288 73 16 67 40

18. Robinson Cano SEA .298 107 39 103 0

19. Ryan Braun MIL .305 80 30 90 16

21. Wil Myers SD .259 99 28 94 28

Segura looks to make smooth transition to Seattle in 2017. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

22. Freddie Freeman ATL .302 102 34 91 6

27. Manny Machado BAL .294 105 37 96 0

Clearly the 5X5 format is flawed, so what is the solution?

The solution is to dilute the steals category. In order to do this, the league manager will have to add more categories focused around batting statistics. Steals are the most overrated stat in fantasy baseball. In the 5X5 format, steals harshly inflate a player’s value. The ideal number of categories is eighteen, which is a nine by nine (9X9) format.

The added hitting categories include extra base hits, total bases, walks, and on base plus slugging percentage. The added hitting categories enhance value to players who get on base and hit with power. It weakens the worth of players who primarily get their value from steals.

Since hitting categories were added, pitching must be added as well. The new pitching categories include quality starts, batting average against, and strike outs per nine. The additional categories add value to pitchers who eat innings, strike out batters, and keep guys off base.

How the 9X9 format affects the Player Rater

Villar and Segura finished as top 5 overall hitters in 5X5, but in 9X9 they finished at eleven and sixteen respectively.

Goldschmidt looks to continue his search for an MVP in 2017. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

Eduardo Nunez moves from seventeen in the 5X5 format, to fifty-five.

The 9X9 player rater for hitters looks as follows.

6. Paul Goldschmidt ARI .297 106 24 95 32

8. Nolan Arenado COL .294 116 41 133 2

9. Freddie Freeman ATL .302 102 34 91 6

11. Jonathan Villar MIL .285 92 19 63 62

16. Jean Segura ARI .319 102 20 64 33

20. Robinson Cano SEA .298 107 39 103 0

21. Manny Machado BAL .294 105 37 96 0

Is Arenado the games best hitter? (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

24. Ryan Braun MIL .305 80 30 90 16

27. Wil Myers SD .259 99 28 94 28

55. Eduardo Nunez SFG .288 73 16 67 40

I believe the format of H2H category leagues must be 9×9 in order to have a player rater that accurately represents the best players in the game. The more categories you add, the more diluted the steals category will become. This enhances the value of MVP caliber players whose value is lessened due to lack of steals.

 

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2017 MLB Season

Position Rankings for 2017 MLB Season: Third Basemen

The sixth installment of our position rankings lands us at the 2017 third basemen rankings. Third base is one of the most top-heavy positions in all of baseball. With steady veterans and young studs all around the league, let’s start our list with number five.

5. Adrian Beltre- Texas Rangers

Like a fine wine, Beltre just seems to get better with age. By the way Beltre has been playing, you wouldn’t know he’s entering his 20th season in the majors. He bested his career averages in 2016 batting (.300/.358/.521.) And while he didn’t earn an All-Star selection in 2016, Beltre was still able to finish seventh in the AL MVP voting by hitting 32 home runs with 104 RBIs. But it wasn’t just his offense that vaulted him into the MVP conversation.

Beltre’s defense has been spectacular throughout his time in Texas, and it continued in 2016. He posted 15 defensive runs saved and was a wizard with the glove down at third base. That fancy glove work and powerful offensive production makes Beltre a solid pick to make the top five. Although he will be entering 2017 in his late 30’s, don’t expect Father Time to catch up with him anytime soon.

4. Manny Machado- Baltimore Orioles

2017 Third Basemen Rankings

Many Machado will try to carry the Orioles to the playoffs in 2017. (Rob Carr, Getty Images).

At 24 years old and entering his fifth season in the majors, Manny Machado will be a mainstay on this list for years to come. Machado really came into his own in 2016, putting up career highs in batting average (.294), slugging (.533) and posting a OBP of .343. Machado was also able to continue to utilize his power in 2016, mashing 37 homers and driving in 96 RBIs.

Like Beltre, Machado was also in the 2016 AL MVP conversation, finishing fifth. Machado also proved to be pretty steady with the glove as well.

Coming up as a shortstop with the Baltimore Orioles, Machado has always been a great fielder. He has been able to utilize his defensive skills at the hot corner, posting 13 defensive runs saved in 2016.

Machado has found his power, and coupled that with an excellent ability to make contact, good batting eye, and stellar defense to up his game even more in 2016. The 2017 season should prove no different for Machado.

3. Josh Donaldson- Toronto Blue Jays

While Josh Donaldson was a great player in 2013 and 2014 with Oakland, he blossomed into a legit MVP player when he was shipped north of the border in 2015. He continued his offensive onslaught in the 2016 season, slashing .284, .404, .549 and launched 37 homers to go along with 99 RBIs.

While Donaldson did have a drop off from his 2015 MVP season to his 2016 season, it is extremely hard to improve on an MVP season. Donaldson also experienced a sight drop off in his defense as well in 2016.

Donaldson had 2 defensive runs saved in 2016, not spectacular, but solid nonetheless. As Donaldson enters the 2017 season, he will look to continue what he accomplished in 2015 and 2016. His glove and his bat are one of the best in all of the majors, and Donaldson has a chance to prove it in 2017.

2017 Third Basemen Rankings

Nolan Arenado has launched 80 plus homers in the past two seasons. (Ben Margot, AP Photo).

2. Nolan Arenado- Colorado Rockies

After two seasons of 40 plus homers, Nolan Arenado has officially cemented himself as one of the best players in the league. He put up a slash line of .294, .362, .570, career bests in average and OBP in 2016. He also earned an NL All-Star appearance, Gold Glove award and Silver Slugger award for the second year in a row.

Arenado has produced at a ridiculous rate in the past two seasons, hitting 83 homers to go along with 263 RBIs. He has certainly found his swing at the plate, but he has always had a stellar glove.

Arenado has been a Gold Glover for his entire major league career, earning the award each season he has been in the majors. And 2016 was no different. He had 20 defensive runs saved in 2016, an amazing number for a third baseman. He is without a doubt one of the best overall defenders in all of baseball, and 2017 will be no different. If Arenado can continue his torrid offensive pace and spectacular defense, he will be a perennial MVP candidate.

1. Kris Bryant- Chicago Cubs

With just two seasons in the majors under his belt, Kris Bryant has done things that many thought would never be done. He helped bring the Cubs a World Series title in 2016 and won the NL MVP in 2016 after winning the NL ROY award in 2015.

Bryant has put up monster numbers since being called up in 2015, batting .284, .377, .522 as well as blasting 65 bombs to go along with 201 RBIs in his career. He has also stole 21 bases in his time in Chicago, exceptional for a slugger like Bryant.

Bryant has also made his name with the glove. Coming up as a third baseman with the Cubs, Bryant was always a solid fielder. But his defensive prowess has grown since being called up to Chicago. He posted 4 defensive runs saved at third base in 2016, providing a solid glove at the hot corner.

But Bryant has also proven to be a solid defender all over the field. Logging time at third, the outfield and first base in 2016, Bryant has become one of the game’s most versatile player. Bryant is a once in a generation talent, and is just beginning his young career.

It is a golden age for third basemen, with multiple young players performing at a high level. From Gold Glovers to Silver Sluggers, the major league landscape is dotted with players who are set to put up monster numbers in 2017.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

How Rob Manfred Can Build on the Game 7 Hype

Game 7 of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians was the most viewed game in the past twenty-five years. The storyline was too good to be true for Rob Manfred, the commissioner of the MLB. The big market Cubs and the beloved Indians were facing the longest World Series droughts in the MLB. Either way, one team was going to break their curse. It was the series that everybody was talking about as the series was unorthodox, but still emotionally gripping. In the end, it was the Cubs that survived victorious.

The hype surrounding the game had even the most casual of sports fans watching. Baseball is a sport often seen as stagnating with the young audience. One of Rob Manfred’s biggest issues is how to help grow a sport often seen as stale and slow. Often referred to as America’s pastime, the game truly does not feel like it has done everything it can to keep up with modern times to help reach an audience that will need to be captivated in order for baseball to flourish over the next couple of decades. This article will provide just a couple things that could be done to help modernize the game.

First off, it is hard for millennials to watch their favorite team play without having to go to a bar. The MLB has been making strides to make the games more accessible for cord-cutters, but truthfully, their efforts have not been enough. MLB.TV was a good first step to providing the entertainment, as $85 to have the ability to watch all or your team’s 162 games is a bargain. Local blackouts, however, hinder the fans who are in their team’s regional TV coverage. For example, if a fan of Cincinnati, Cleveland, or Pittsburgh lives in Columbus, Ohio, they would not be able to watch their team play on MLB.TV due to these blackout rules unless they had a cable subscription (defeating the purpose of buying MLB.TV).

 

 

mlb_blackout_areas

Above is the blackout map for each state. Poor Iowans have up to six teams in their blackout zone, hurting cord cutters in the state. Photo courtesy of wikimedia.

Now, the reason why these blackout rules exist is because cable companies know the only chance to survive the cord cutting trend is to save their sports channels. Of course, their are ways to circumvent the blackout rules through shady means, but truthfully, the casual viewer does not want to go to that length just to watch their local team.  Team owners, Manfred, and cable companies need to come to some agreement to avoid these blackouts. Sadly, this may never be the case, as baseball owners make a ton of money off all these regional sports channel agreements . Oftentimes, these agreements make up a significant portion of the money used to fund the roster of many small market teams. If Manfred is serious about making baseball more appealing to the millennials, he needs to find a way to make baseball more accessible to the fans. He also needs to find a way for an individual to stream their local team.

The second step revolves around a debate that has been surrounding baseball for years now. On one side of the aisle is the viewpoint of baseball as a gentleman’s game, where celebrations are mild and respect is shown by a player to the opposing team. More recently, however, has been a slowly growing movement of players that are not afraid to step out of that zone and celebrate a big hit. Jose Bautista may have received the most venom for his 2015 ALCS Game 6 bat flip, but it is moments like that that resonate with the young fans. Obviously there should be limits to the celebration. I’m not talking about letting a man break dance on home plate after hitting a monster home run, but let the hitter slowly walk out of the box as he hits his moonshot. Maybe, just maybe, let the hitter flip his bat back to his dugout in excitement without being afraid of getting belted by a fastball his next time up to bat.

MLB: Spring Training-Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Dodgers

Jose Bautista is not the only player with a legitimate bat flip. Yasiel Puig, often mired in controversy, has been flipping bats after home runs ever since he started in the majors. Photo courtesy of cbssports.com

It does not stop with the hitters. Pitchers have their fair share of celebrating already. Fist bumps are very common among relievers and closers who pitch out of a jam. The issue is that pitchers normally go unpunished for celebrating, unlike the hitters who may have to go up later in the game and get hit on purpose for celebrating a little too much. Baseball should be promoting these moments of personality, not letting hitters get crushed by both opposing pitchers and media pundits that are stuck in the “old ways” of baseball. Baseball needs personality out on the field, not robots.

Last, but not least, surrounds the World Baseball Classic. The hype machine needs to start today on getting America prepared for it. A rather new tradition, the WBC is the World Cup of Baseball, which is played every four years. Players should be honored to represent their teams, especially as the sport is strong in not just America, but Asia and the Caribbean as well. Most importantly, however, is that baseball needs the best Americans representing the United States. Manfred then needs to get the WBC accessible to all kinds of fans and not try to make people watch the games on FS1 or other weird channels very few people actually utilize.

The last WBC Team USA squad in 2013 definitely had some recognizable names, featuring a young Giancarlo Stanton, prime Ryan Braun and Adam Jones, and Captain America himself, David Wright. Frankly, the rest of the roster was full of players adored in their personal market and team fandom, but often unrecognized on the bigger stages. Think of an infield of Buster Posey, Paul Goldschmidt, Jose Altuve, Manny Machado, and Kris Bryant. Now couple that infield with an outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout, and Bryce Harper. Not only does that give you one of the best teams truly ever assembled in baseball (better than most fan voted all-star teams even), but also gives plenty of young personalities from many different markets all across the US that can get each area to rally around the team.

The downside of the WBC has always been the fear of overuse on the players before the season starts. An understandable fear, and one faced by many sports who have the same international competition. Injuries are avoided as much as possible, but they are also natural and going to occur regardless of players participating in this tournament, or in just regular spring training. Have MLB promote this as truly a world tournament and get people interested, even if it is 1/10th as popular as the FIFA World Cup, and that momentum could carry over into the regular season.

In the end, baseball is such a different sport for viewers than many of the other popular sports. Football, Hockey, and Basketball are all fast paced and timed. Baseball is both untimed and slower moving, with each pitch taking as long as a football play. Josh Burris outlined here why baseball is a fun sport to watch, as many casual fans experienced this World Series. Making local teams more accessible for cord-cutters in the team’s region would be a valuable first step to let younger fans enjoy the sport. Letting the players exhibit more flair and style into their play can make the game more fun and exciting for a group of fans that spend their time watching vines and memes on the internet daily. Finally, sell the crap out of the World Baseball Classic to not only expose the brand on an international market, but also help casual and new American fans meet the biggest American players on a competitive squad. Rob Manfred has a lot on his plate for the future. Only time will tell how baseball’s popularity will transition from here.

 

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AL East Shenanigans: Just How Close is the Race?

By the time September rolls around, there is generally a couple of teams who have secured playoff spots and can look to rest key players sporadically during the remainder of the season. As of September 9th, Texas had a nine game lead over the 2nd place team in the AL West, the Houston Astros. Cleveland has been cruising lately, going 8-2 in their last 10 games to secure a six game lead in the AL Central. The AL East, on the otherhand, is where it get reals interesting.

What sets the AL East apart from the rest of the American League is that the division has four teams that are within four games of each other. Not only does the division hold a playoff spot for the division leader, but also has both of the wild card spots in the AL, and a fourth team just two games back for a wild card spot. The beauty of September baseball, as well, is that the majority of games that will be played by the teams will be against their division opponents. So not only is it a tight race for the division lead, but the race is nowhere near the finish line as the standings will be in constant flux.

The Boston Red Sox are the current division leaders in the AL East with a one game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays. Buoyed by the fanfare of David “Big Papi” Ortiz’s retirement tour and an MVP-worthy season from youngster Mookie Betts, the Red Sox are looking every bit like a playoff team. The pitching has come around since the beginning of the season, with David Price, Rick Porcello and deadline acquisition Drew Pomeranz (The Killer P’s?) resembling a strong rotation come playoff time.

Rick Porcello has impressed this season, throwing himself into the Cy Young conversation. Photo courtesy of Dan Hamilton of the USA Today

Rick Porcello has impressed this season, throwing himself into the Cy Young conversation. Can he keep up his dominance down the stretch and propel the Sox into the playoffs? Photo courtesy of Dan Hamilton of the USA Today

Porcello especially has impressed, reducing his BB/9 to a career low 1.35 while maintaining a K/9 near 7.5. Porcello’s off-speed pitches have come around this season, which has led to hitters not receiving as many easy pitches to hit and thus leading to more outs generated for Porcello and the Sox. Fangraphs says this season, opponents are only hitting .171 against his change and .212 against his slider, compared to .292 and .342 respectively last season. The weakness of the Red Sox is the bullpen, especially bridging the gap from starter to Kimbrel in the 9th. The Red Sox addressed the issue at the deadline, adding Ziegler from Arizona, but Ziegler has produced mixed results since the move. Look for the bullpen being the reason why the Red Sox will either keep producing efficiently, or start to move down the standings as the month rolls by.

The Toronto Blue Jays currently sit in second by a game and lead the wild card race. I profiled the team briefly in my article on the AL Division Race a week ago, so I will just give a quick rundown. Basically, Toronto has the best offense on paper, headlined by potential AL MVP Josh Donaldson and bat flipping champion Jose Bautista. A supporting cast of hitters including Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, and Edwin Encarnacion rounds out the most potent lineup in the American League, if not all of baseball (I’d argue the lineup is more potent than the Cubs).

Jose Bautista has powered the Jays to the playoffs before...can he do it again? Photo courtesy of Getty Sports

Jose Bautista has powered the Jays to the playoffs before…can he do it again? Photo courtesy of Getty Sports

 

What could be the Blue Jays downfall, and my reason of hesitancy, is that pitching matters, and the Blue Jays do not have the stud pitching seen in other potential playoff team’s rotations. Just this past weekend, the Jays’ starters gave up a combined 11 earned runs in 13.2 innings (in 3 games) against the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that is twenty-one games below .500. That is not pitching a fan wants to see leading into the playoffs.

The Baltimore Orioles are the often forgotten studs in the AL East. The Orioles currently reside only two games back in the AL East standings and are perched in the second wild card spot with a one game lead over the Detroit Tigers. The Orioles also feature a potent lineup starring Manny Machado, Chris “Crush” Davis, and Adam Jones. Yet, those are not the only ones doing the heavy lifting, as the rest of the lineup has been hitting dingers all season as well. Mark Trumbo, most notably, has been a key fixture in the middle of the Orioles lineup, despite being traded for in the offseason for a backup catcher.

Mark Trumbo has been very productive for the Orioles, especially since he was traded a backup catcher. Photo courtesy of Butch Dill of the USA Today

Mark Trumbo has been very productive for the Orioles, especially since he was traded a backup catcher. Will his power be enough to get the Orioles playoff-bound? Photo courtesy of Butch Dill of the USA Today

This season, Trumbo has put up 41 homeruns while maintaining an adequate .255 batting average for the season. Another notable hitter is the underrated second basemen Jonathan Schoop, who despite only having 18 walks this year, has put up a .282 batting average and 21 homeruns for the club.

Despite all the power in the Orioles lineup, the problem comes down to the rotation once again, as the Orioles rotation is filled with veteran journeymen and super young pitchers. Keep an eye on Kevin Gausman though, who despite his record, has pitched well lately, not giving up a run in his last three starts. The rotation will be the question mark for the Orioles as the postseason looms ever closer.

The final team still battling for the AL East is the New York Yankees. The Yankees are interesting because the Yankees were sellers at the MLB Trade Deadline, moving Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Carlos Beltran for a plethora of high upside prospects. Yet, a month after the deadline, the Yankees are only sitting four games back in the division and two back from the Orioles for the final wild card spot. The Yankees have been by their promoted youngsters, especially the polarizing Gary Sanchez.

Gary Sanchez has been raking for the Yankees. Can he keep up the hot hitting down the stretch? Photo courtesy of Brad Penner of the USA Today

Gary Sanchez has been raking for the Yankees. Can he keep up the hot hitting down the stretch? Photo courtesy of Brad Penner of the USA Today

Sanchez was promoted right after the deadline and has played in thirty-one games since, sporting a .336 batting average and knocking out 11 homers. Tanaka has been pitching like the ace that was expected out of his contract and the team has also received decent pitching from Michael Pineda and C.C. Sabathia over the course of the season.

The thing to watch with the Yankees will be whether the hot hitting will continue. The team is currently riding a five game winning streak (as of 9/9), but if the team strings together a couple of losses, it will be interesting to see if the veterans will be able to steer the rookies back on track or the team will fade off.

The battle has been raging all season long for the division, and yet, despite five months of baseball, there is no clear indication who will lead the division at the end of the season. Question marks surround each team as the margins are constantly fluctuating throughout the month. The Red Sox appear to be the most complete team on paper, but a shaky bullpen can turn a few wins into losses and hurt a team’s place in the standings. The Jays and Orioles face question marks surrounding their rotations, despite the electric lineups each team fields. The Yankees have been buoyed by their youngster hitters, but it will be interesting to see what happens when the team starts stringing together a couple of losses back to back instead of riding the hot streak forever. The 2016 AL East is the reason why baseball is exciting in September and will be a fun story to follow for the rest of the month.

 

Stats courtesy of fangraphs and standings according to MLB.com

Shoutout to u/twistedlogicx for pointing this out on r/baseball

Manny Machado Will Be as Good as Harper, Trout

Manny Machado

Manny Machado is about to be known as one of the greatest of his generation. (Photo: MASN Sports)

In recent years, the battle for the best player in Major League Baseball has been between two players: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. There hasn’t been a player that has come close to challenging the two MVP’s since they were thrust into conversation as the next prodigies and faces of baseball in 2012.

The two-headed monster of baseball is impressive, but there’s about to be another player who’ll be drooled over just as much as Harper and Trout.

That player is Manny Machado.

Through 16 games in 2016, Machado has led his Baltimore Orioles to an 11-5 record atop the crowded American League East. Machado owns a .397 batting average, placing him at first in the American League. He’s also tied for second in the majors in home runs, with six. He owns the third-best on base percentage (.446), and the best on base plus slugging percentage (1.225) in the American League.

Obviously, it’d be nearly impossible for Machado to sustain his numbers. He’ll probably see his average and other percentages drop a little by the time May comes. But still, starting the season this hot can only mean he’s a little farther ahead of others when his slump comes.

Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are still looking for their fifth tool. Harper can hit for average and power, throw and field exceptionally, but is yet to find his stride on the base paths. That could change this season. Mike Trout has four tools as well, but is searching for a top level batting average, while possessing the other four tools.

Manny Machado

Not only can Machado hit at a high clip, but he’s a highlight reel waiting to happen with his glove. (Photo: Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

Manny Machado has the ability to possess all five tools at season’s end. With 35 home runs last season, and six already this season, Machado has elite power. On the base paths, Machado’s skills are nothing to scoff at. He swiped 20 bases a season ago, proving he’s good enough to rattle any pitcher when he gets on. A reigning 2015 Gold Glove winner, Machado is one of the best defensive third basemen in the MLB with his glove and arm.

The only thing the O’s third baseman needs to do this season is maintain his high average, and he will be known as one of the most elite players in the majors.

Both Trout and Harper are durable, and so is Machado. The third baseman played in just 82 games in 2014 due to a nasty knee injury, but shook it off and played all 162 games last season; he was the only player to play in every single game last season.

And it’s also not like Machado will be getting beat by shifts anytime soon. So far this season, Machado has sprayed balls all over the field. On balls put in play to the outfield, Machado has hit 11 of his balls to left field, seven to center, and nine to right. There’s no advantage in an outfield shift on Machado, as he’ll spray it anywhere.

In the infield, it’s a different story. All but one of the balls Machado batted that were hit into the infield were on the left side. But that shouldn’t be a problem, as 35 of 56 balls put in play by Machado were fly balls so far this season.

Whether your opinion on Machado is that he’s a confident player or total toolbag is up to you, but it’s certain that Machado is capable of possessing all traits needed to become a five-tool player.

Pending he hits and defends the way he has in the past two seasons, Manny Machado will be known as one of the top three players in Major League Baseball by the end of 2016.