Knizner

Five early predictions for the National League offseason

The 2017 World Series has come to a close, and the Houston Astros are champions for the first time in franchise history. That means it is time to look forward to next season as we will be without baseball until the spring. This ought to be an exciting offseason due to a star studded free agent class, especially in the outfield.

Not only are there a lot of good free agents, but this ought to be an interesting winter on the trade market. There are some big names floating around that could shake up the whole league. With that being said, here are five early predictions for the 2017 offseason.

The Los Angeles Dodgers sign Jake Arrieta

The Dodgers are coming off a tough World Series loss against the Astros. The front office knew that 2017 was a prime year to break their 30-year drought since the start. Now that it didn’t happen and a large part of their roster still in tact, they will look to push even harder next year.

National League offseason

The Dodgers may look elsewhere for help after Darvish’s collapse in the World Series. (Photo from Newsweek)

Yu Darvish is a free agent now (which may be a relief for the Dodgers after his World Series performance), and Los Angeles is looking to bolster their rotation. Jake Arrieta may be the best starting option on the market after his proven track record in the postseason and reliable arm in the regular season.

 

He won’t come cheap though. The Dodgers already have the highest payroll in the league, but Magic Johnson and company are surely not going to remain complacent after falling short this year. The Dodgers’ starting rotation and bullpen are what separated them from the rest of the league this season, but it may have been what costed them a championship.

A Kershaw-Arrieta duo would look to accomplish what a Kershaw-Darvish pair couldn’t. Darvish was successful in the NLDS and NLCS. However, he could not manage to put much together in the World Series. Arrieta has proven himself in those situations, so it would make sense for him to give the Dodgers that final push.

The St. Louis Cardinals get a reliable bat

The Cardinals had a glaring issue all season long, and that was their lack of an impact bat in the middle of their lineup. The problem is that St. Louis already has a crowded outfield full of players that they seem dedicated to, due to their high-value in their homegrown players. However, it is time for them to make a move for a big bat.

National League offseason

Christian Yelich would be tough for the Cardinals to get as Miami highly values him. (Photo from CBS Sports)

Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins are looking to cut payroll big time under new ownership. The one name that sticks out immediately is Giancarlo Stanton. St. Louis is not known for taking on such large contracts, even though Stanton is exactly what the Cardinals need.

If the Cardinals do end up trading with the Marlins, it would most likely be for Christian Yelich. Yelich is much more affordable and is under team control until 2022, which is very appealing. He also would provide a solid 3.0-4.0 WAR every year out.

What the Cardinals most likely will accomplish though is getting a corner infielder. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are both hitting the free agent market, and both would fit nicely into the lineup. What is important to keep in mind though is the Cardinals have an eye on the 2018 free agent market as well, and Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson will be available then. Expect the Cardinals to especially push for Machado next year, or even look to trade for him this offseason.

The Diamondbacks will retain J.D. Martinez

National League offseason

J.D. Martinez was one of the hottest hitters in the league after being traded. (Photo from Detroit Free Press)

J.D. Martinez was traded to the Diamondbacks from the Tigers during the summer. He thrived in Arizona, hitting a monstrous 29 home runs and hitting .302. The Los Angeles Angels have already announced that Justin Upton, another Detroit Tigers outfielder traded at the deadline, will be signed through the 2022 season. Now some are wondering if Martinez will do the same and stay in Arizona, or seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Martinez announced on Wednesday that he is switching to contract negotiator extraordinaire Scott Boras. At first glance, this seems like it is a move to negotiate with other teams, but he can still be very helpful in discussions with Arizona’s front office.

In a conversation with azcentralsports.com, Martinez expressed his desire in staying with Arizona long term. Being next to names like Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock makes him a good fit. Martinez may also feel it is the right place to stay after such a successful two months in the desert.

The Diamondbacks will have to give Martinez a large chunk of change in order for him to stay, but it may be what they have to do in order to compete with the reigning NL Champs in the West.

The Cubs will sign RHP Alex Cobb

With Jake Arrieta most likely leaving Chicago due to his high price tag, Alex Cobb could potentially come in and provide a solid third starter role behind Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. Cobb has spent six years in the league and has had at least 20 starts in four of those years. Other than his 2016 campaign where he was sidelined most of the year for an elbow injury, he has been an extremely reliable pitcher for Tampa Bay.

Cobb is no Arrieta, but Cobb may be one of the better affordable pitchers on the market this offseason. Lance Lynn is a similar pitcher that could fit in Chicago. However, Cobb’s relationship with Joe Maddon and new Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey could have a big impact on decisions for both sides.

Out of all the potential offseason moves that could happen, this one makes the most sense.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will trade for Giancarlo Stanton

As mentioned earlier, Derek Jeter and the Marlins are trying to cut payroll as much as possible in order to fully engage in a rebuild. Stanton has come out and said that he does not want to go through that process again. He is ready to win now.

National League offseason

Stanton may be on the Dodgers’ radar, as trading for him would make sense for all parties involved. (Photo from CBS Sports)

The Dodgers, despite having the highest payroll, have some money they can spend. Stanton has the most expensive sports contract in the world, so this would be a whole lot to take on. Even with the high payroll, the Dodgers don’t break the bank on one player too often. They are an organization that likes to spread their payroll out between many good players. However, this player is worth it.

Stanton also has the right to veto any trade he doesn’t like. The perfect fit may be in Los Angeles though. He is a California boy who grew up in the Los Angeles area. He also wants to win, as he has not done that much in his MLB career with the Marlins. It would be unlikely if a deal were to be put in front of him that he could deny such a tempting offer.

The Dodgers have a couple of solid prospects in their system with RHP Walker Buehler and Alex Verdugo, who rank 10th and 23rd in the MLB’s best prospects rankings. Those two players, along with the Dodgers taking on the daunting contract, should be plenty to acquire the 2017 home run king. The question is if the Dodgers are willing to put that high of an investment into Stanton, who only put in his third full season of work this year.

There is a lot of upside with this player though. He turns 28 next week, which means he is at the beginning of the hitter’s prime (27-32). Acquiring Stanton, along with signing Jake Arrieta, would make the Dodgers an even bigger juggernaut to fear. One thing for sure though is L.A. is hungry for a World Series after watching the Astros win it on their home turf.

 

Featured image by Getty Images  

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Fantasy Baseball 2017: Heat Check 2.0

In the beginning of June, we looked over some players who were on fire and analyzed if they should be sold. In this heat check, we will identify and analyze some more of the hottest players in baseball right before the deadline.

They are who we thought they were!

These players were drafted early, although they have reached or exceeded expectations. All players were selected within the top 25 overall picks, and are ranked within the top six at their respected position in ESPN standard scoring formats.

Jose Altuve, Second Baseman, Houston Astros

ADP (average draft position): 3.5

Position Rank: 1

2017 Season: .369 AVG, 74 R, 15 HR, 59 RBI & 21 SB

Last seven: .615 AVG, 8 R, 1 HR, 6 RBI & 1 SB

Altuve is having a career year. The 5-foot-6 phenom is legitimately chasing .400 and is nearly a lock to earn his third batting title in four years.

He is currently on a 19-game hitting streak where he has tallied four home runs and 10 doubles, while driving in 19 and scoring 21 runs. Altuve is, and will remain, an elite fantasy asset for the long-term future.

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Heat Check

Chris Sale is having a once in a generation season. (Photo by: USA TODAY Sports)

Chris Sale, Starting Pitcher, Boston Red Sox

ADP: 18.1

Position Rank: 1

2017 Season: 148.1 IP, 13-4 W-L, 211 K, 2.37 ERA & 0.88 WHIP

Last three: 20.2 IP, 2-0 W-L, 33 K, 0.00 ERA & 0.73 WHIP

Sale’s expectations heading into 2017 were enormous, as for the first time in his career he found himself on a contending team. He is currently on pace to set career highs in wins and strikeouts, and career lows in WHIP and hits per nine.

After finishing as the ninth-best fantasy pitcher in 2016, it is safe to say that Sale has exceedingly outperformed his expectations. He is now firmly entrenched in the elite tier of fantasy pitching along with Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw.

Bryce Harper, Outfielder, Washington Nationals

ADP: 9.9

Position Rank: 2

2017 Season: .338 AVG, 86 R, 27 HR, 79 RBI & 2 SB

Last seven: .348 AVG, 6 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI & 0 SB

The first-overall pick in 2010 is healthy and performing like his former MVP self. Harper is on pace to hit 47 bombs, score 151 runs and drive in 139 runners, which would all be career highs.

He is leading the National League in OPS as well as OPS+ and is arguably the favorite to win the NL MVP award. His fantasy value moving forward is just a hair below Mike Trout’s, who is the undisputed number one fantasy player in baseball.

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Heat Check

Corey Kluber has gone full-Klubot in 2017. (Photo by: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)

Corey Kluber, Starting Pitcher, Cleveland Indians

ADP: 22.8

Position Rank: 6

2017 Season: 108.1 IP, 8-3 W-L, 149 K, 2.74 ERA & 0.96 WHIP

Last three: 20.0 IP, 1-0 W-L, 33 K, 2.25 ERA & 0.90 WHIP

Kluber missed almost all of May with a back injury, although he still manages to be ranked a top-10 starter in 2017. He has struck out double digit batters in eight of his last 10 starts and is on pace to set career lows in ERA and WHIP.

If he can stay healthy, the 31-year-old will be a Cy Young candidate for a fourth straight year and possibly an MVP candidate for a third time.

Nolan Arenado, Third Baseman, Colorado Rockies

ADP: 4.5

Position Rank: 1

2017 Season: .313 AVG, 69 R, 23 HR, 89 RBI & 2 SB

Last seven: .350 AVG, 4 R, 1 HR, 7 RBI & 0 SB

Arenado is arguably the best third baseman in the game today. Many overlook his greatness, or dismiss it due to his home and away splits, although he will have the opportunity to go down as the greatest third baseman of all time.

Arenado is on pace to have 148 career home runs and 520 RBIs at the end of this his 26-year-old season, which puts him on pace to be more productive than Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett (74 HR & 461 RBIs at age 26) and Mike Schmidt (131 HR & 373 RBIs at age 26).

Kansas City Resurgence

The Kansas City Royals struggled mightily to begin 2017, as they sported a record of 7-16 through April. In the next three months, the club went 47-31 and now are in second place in AL Central behind the Cleveland Indians.

The Royals’ recent success is due to their red-hot bats, as within the last 14 days, the team is on a nine-game winning streak, in which they are batting .302 with 21 home runs, 76 runs scored and 70 RBIs.

Eric Hosmer, First Baseman, Kansas City Royals

ADP: 88.9

Position Rank: 6

2017 Season: .320 AVG, 63 R, 16 HR, 54 RBI & 6 SB

Last seven: .400 AVG, 8 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI & 2 SB

Hosmer began the year slow, batting only .225 with one home run, five runs scored and six RBIs in his first 23 games. On the contrary, in his last 23 games, he is batting .374 with 6 home runs, 21 runs scored and 19 RBIs.

Hosmer is beginning to prove his true value and is likely to return to the AL MVP conversation, which he has been absent from since 2015.

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Heat Check

Mike Moustakas is an integral piece to this Royals lineup. (Photo by: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Mike Moustakas, Third Baseman, Kansas City Royals

ADP: 187.6

Position Rank: 8

2017 Season: .279 AVG, 53 R, 30 HR, 69 RBI & 0 SB

Last seven: .333 AVG, 6 R, 4 HR, 9 RBI & 0 SB

Moustakas is on the final year of his contact, although he is expected to remain a Royal for the remainder of the year, as the Royals have recently became a contender. His team-high 30 home runs and 69 RBIs have helped carry the load, as he has accounted for over 12 percent of the team’s runs scored and 16 percent of their runs batted in.

The 28-year-old has been, and will continue to be, a great contributor in real life and in fantasy, as he offers well above average power and production in the heart of a red-hot lineup.

Salvador Perez, Catcher, Kansas City Royals

ADP: 177.0

Position Rank: 1

2017 Season: .284 AVG, 44 R, 21 HR, 63 RBI & 1 SB

Last seven: .278 AVG, 3 R, 3 HR, 4 RBI & 0 SB

Perez is the most important piece to the Royals’ puzzle due to his ability behind the plate. The fact that his bat is producing at its current levels is simply a plus.

The 27-year-old is currently ranked as the top catcher in fantasy due to his position-high 21 home runs and 63 RBIs. He is on pace to set career highs in almost every major hitting category and should treated as one of the MLB’s elite at his position.

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Heat Check

Whit Merrifield has taken full advantage of his everyday role in 2017. (Photo by Rotoprofessor.com)

Whit Merrifield, Second Baseman/Outfielder, Kansas City Royals

ADP: 260

Position Rank: 6

2017 Season: .294 AVG, 42 R, 11 HR, 43 RBI & 16 SB

Last seven: .360 AVG, 5 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI & 0 SB

Merrifield went undrafted in almost all formats, although he has managed to become a top-10 player at his position in 2017. He has found a home in the leadoff spot, as he has played 54 out of his 68 games in that position, which gives him a better chance to produce than if he were batting in the bottom third of the lineup.

Merrifield’s ceiling isn’t miraculously high, although a 15 home run and 30 steal campaign isn’t out of the question. The 28-year-old is taking full advantage of receiving everyday playing time and is sure to continue his production moving forward.

Jorge Bonifacio, Outfielder, Kansas City Royals

ADP: 260

Position Rank: 64

2017 Season: .265 AVG, 44 R, 14 HR, 32 RBI & 1 SB

Last seven: .400 AVG, 7 R, 3 HR, 4 RBI & 0 SB

Bonafacio is having a very solid rookie year. He was called up in late April and has been particularly impressive, as his 162-game average would predict him to hit 29 home runs, score 90 runs and produce 66 RBIs.

The 24-year-old has batted primarily in the two-hole for Kansas City, which is a pivotal spot in the lineup for production purposes.  His value is low right now, but it should increase as the Royals continue to find success.

 

Featured Image by ESPN.com

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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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Royals Set to Showcase Impressive Depth Amid Injuries

Image Courtesy of MLB.com

Image Courtesy of MLB.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AL Central Weekly: 4/18-4/24

  1. Melky Cabrera has been a huge piece to the White Sox offense. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

    Chicago White Sox, 13-6

The White Sox won two out of four from the Angels and then swept the rangers for five wins this week. Chicago is playing really good baseball and is at the top of the American League Central. Melky Cabrera hit .333 for the week to lead the offense. His two home runs were second on the team behind Todd Frazier who had three home runs this week. Mat Latos has continued his bounce back season and improved to 4-0 with a 0.74 ERA. Chris Sale is also 4-0, but has a 1.80 ERA.

Upcoming games: at Blue Jays (3 games), at Orioles (4 games)

Wade Davis is the best pitcher in one of the best bullpens in the league. Photocourtesy foxsports.com.

2. Kansas City Royals, 12-6

Kansas City took two out of three from the Tigers and Orioles this past week. Mike Moustakas has heated up hitting .375 and two home runs this week. Jerrod Dyson added a .368 average and two stolen bases to bolster the offense. Wade Davis picked up two saves in the last seven days to continue to lead one of the best bullpens in baseball. Yordano Ventura had two starts and two wins for a weak starting rotation.

Upcoming games: at Angels (3 games), at Mariners (3 games)

Francisco Lindor has turned into an offensive star for the Indians. Photo courtesy ohio.com.

3. Cleveland Indians, 9-7

The Indians lost two out of three to the Mariners, but then swept the Tigers. Francisco Lindor hit .409 and added 5 walks for the offense. Carlos Carrasco has had a great start to the season and this week went 1-0 in two starts with a 1.00 ERA. The bullpen has pitched really well, which includes great efforts from Joba Chamberlain, Ross Detwiler, Jeff Manship and Zach McAlister.

Upcoming games: at Twins (3 games), at Phillies (3 games)

Ian Kinsler has used his heady play to keep the Tigers competitive. Photo courtesy zimbio.com.

4. Detroit Tigers, 8-9

Detroit lost two out of three to the Royals and then got swept by the Indians in a rough week. Ian Kinsler was far and above the best player at the plate for the Tigers. He hit .320 with two RBI. Jordan Zimmerman got the only win for the Tigers with 6.1 innings pitched and no runs allowed.

Upcoming games: vs. Athletics (4 games), at Twins (3 games)

Byung Ho Park hit .455 for the Twins this week. Photo courtesy wtsp.com.

5. Minnesota Twins, 5-14

After taking two out of four from the Brewers, the Twins were swept by the Nationals. The Twins had a great offensive week with Byung Ho Park, Kurt Suzuki, Eduardo Nunez, Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario all hitting above .300. Ricky Nolasco had one of the two wins for the Twins this week with a 1.42 ERA.

Upcoming games: vs. Indians (3 games), vs. Tigers (3 games)

Todd Frazier has increased his power numbers this week. Photo courtesy gettyimages.com.

Player of the Week: Todd Frazier, 3B, White Sox

Frazier hit .292 with three home runs this week to get his season back on track.

AL Central Weekly: 4/3/16-4/10/16

The first week of the American League Central wasn’t complete as there were a lot of games cancelled, but there was still a lot of baseball played. Here is how the week went for the teams in the AL Central:

Mike Moustakas’ bat has been solid for the Royals so far. Photo courtesy dromfhg.top.

  1. Kansas City Royals 4-1

The Royals had a solid opening week to the season. In their opening series, they split games with the New York Mets in a rematch of the World Series. They followed that up by sweeping the Minnesota Twins. Kansas City has only scored 19 runs this season, but have only allowed 11 through their first five games.

Mike Moustakas has been the best player on offense so far for the Royals, hitting two home runs and totaling three RBIs on 12 total bases.

The pitcher of the week for Kansas City, as will be the case a lot of weeks, is Wade Davis. He has yet to give up an earned run and notched two saves already.

Upcoming games: at Houston (4 games), at Oakland (3 games)

Ian Kinsler is hitting over .400 so far this season. Photo courtesy bcsn.tv.

2.  Detroit Tigers 3-1

Detroit beat the Marlins in the first two games of their season and then split two games with the Yankees. They had one of their games against the Yankees postponed.

Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler are both hitting over .400 on the season, which could be one of the best offenses in baseball this season.

The best pitcher for the Tigers has been new acquisition Jordan Zimmerman, who only gave up two hits and no runs against the Yankees. If he can continue to pitch well, the Tigers may be able to get into the playoffs.

Upcoming games: vs. Pittsburgh (2 games), at Pittsburgh (2 games), at Houston (3 games)

Adam Eaton can be a lethal lead off hitter. Photo courtesy m.mlb.com.

3. Chicago White Sox 4-2

The White Sox had their first game of the season postponed against the Indians and split the remaining two games. They then took three out of four from the A’s on the road. They have the fifth-best offense in the AL Central thus far with 24 runs scored, but have played six games, which is tied for most in the division.

Adam Eaton has been a spark-plug for the offense, hitting .450 with an OBP of .500.

Chris Sale has two wins already for the pitching staff and Mat Latos has a win and no runs allowed in one start.

At 4-2, the White Sox have had a solid start to what could be a promising season.

Upcoming games: at Minnesota (3 games), at Tampa Bay (3 games)

Francisco Lindor has picked up the slack for the injured Michael Brantley. Photo courtesy cleveland.com.

4. Cleveland Indians 2-2

Cleveland has had three games postponed already this season, two against the Red Sox and one against the White Sox.

Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor are both hitting above .300 to lead the Tribe. Their offense has been good, as they have scored 19 runs thus far, but they have already given up 20 runs on the short season.

Joba Chamberlain has two quality appearances where he hasn’t allowed a run.

So far the Indians are coping well without Michael Brantley, who is due to return from injury soon.

Upcoming games: at Tampa Bay (3 games), vs. New York Mets (3 games)

Joe Mauer has been crushing the ball in the first week of the season. Photo courtesy cotternews.com.

5. Minnesota Twins 0-6

The start to the season has been rough for the Twins. They were swept by the Orioles and the Royals.

Joe Mauer has been a force on offense. He leads the Twins in average, OBP, HR, RBIs and hits.

Ervin Santana has been a bright spot for the pitching staff with two starts with a 2.25 ERA.

Upcoming games: vs. Chicago White Sox (3 games), vs. Los Angeles Angels (3 games)

Chris Sale has two wins to lead the White Sox at this point. Photo courtesy sportingnews.com.

Player of the Week: Chris Sale, SP, White Sox

Sale had two wins in the opening week and has the White Sox in good position to compete.