Fantasy Baseball 2017: Weekly Update (May 14th – May 20th)

With about a quarter of the MLB season in the books, it is time to continue our fantasy baseball weekly update. We will continue to notify owners about which players are hot, or cold, and whether they will remain trending in that direction. Previous weekly fantasy baseball updates can be found at thegamehaus.com/fantasy.

 

Who’s Hot

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Corey Dickerson has shown flashes of what we all saw two years ago in Colorado. (Photo by MLB.com)

 

Corey Dickerson, Outfielder, Tampa Bay Rays

 

Last seven: .448 BA, 10 R, 5 HR and 9 RBI

 

Dickerson entered 2017 with moderate expectations, as his batting average had regressed from .304 in 2015 to .245 in 2016. He has found himself batting primarily in the two-hole this season, which is a prime spot for fantasy production.

The 28-year-old is scorching hot. He is batting .347 with 11 home runs, 30 runs scored and 22 RBIs in 43 games played. He has improved his walk and strikeout rates, which show he has progressed as a hitter from his days in Colorado.

Dickerson’s performance in 2017 has been astounding so far. However, a bit of regression is in order, as he is sporting a career high ISO of .295, BABIP of .393 and HR/FB rate of 22 percent, which are all unsustainable.

 

 

Jose Berrios, Starting Pitcher, Minnesota Twins

 

Last three: 2-0 W-L, 0.59 ERA, 0.39 WHIP, 15 1/3 IP and 15/2 K/BB

 

Berrios has been immaculate, as he is currently sporting a sub-one ERA and WHIP. The former first-round pick was called up in 2016, but did not find nearly as much success then as he has now.

Through his first 14 major-league starts, Berrios went 3-7 with an 8.02 ERA and 1.87 WHIP. His early struggles could have been due to many things, although I will focus on his .344 BABIP and 16.2 percent HR/FB rate, which were both insanely high and bound to readjust themselves.

So far this year, Berrios has yet to give up a home run, has a BABIP of .118, and an xFIP of 4.17. I understand that Berrios is a top prospect with great potential, but these analytics scream regression. In keeper and dynasty formats, it will be worth holding onto the 22-year-old, although in redraft formats, I would sell as soon as possible.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Avisail Garcia is finally proving his worth in 2017. (Photo by Seth Wenig AP Photo)

Avisail Garcia, Outfielder, Chicago White Sox

 

Last seven: .400 BA, 6 R, 2 HR and 9 RBI

 

Garcia has been one of the league’s hottest hitters this season. He is currently batting .350 with 26 runs scored, eight home runs and 34 RBIs.

The 25-year old has been a hype train due to his minor league success, as he batted .291 with 46 home runs in 586 minor league games. Garcia’s BABIP of .409 and ISO of .253 seem blatantly unsustainable, although his improved walk, strikeout and contact rates show that he has truly progressed as a player.

Garcia will not continue this level of production all season, so using him as trade bait could be a better investment.

 

Lance McCullers, Starting Pitcher, Houston Astros

 

Last three: 2-0 W-L, 0.00 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 19 IP and 14/4 K/BB

 

McCullers has continued his major league success from one year to the next since entering the league in 2015. He has a career ERA of 3.10, WHIP of 1.28 and K/9 of 10.17. His astounding numbers have continued in 2017, as he has an ERA of 2.65 and WHIP of 1.09.

The 23-year-old is quietly becoming one of the league’s premier pitchers. He sports an xFIP of 2.70 and HR/FB rate of 19.2 percent, which both suggest that even more progression is in order. Also, his BABIP of .285 seems fairly sustainable, as his career BABIP is .315.

Now may be the time to grab McCullers before he progresses into a top ten starting pitcher.

 

Who’s Cold

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Odubel Herrera is a low-end 20/20 threat. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports).

Odubel Herrera, Outfielder, Philadelphia Phillies

 

Last seven: .154 BA, 0 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI and 1 SB

 

Herrera has struggled mightily this year, batting .236 with three home runs, 15 runs scored, 13 RBIs and four stolen bases. His walk and strikeout rates have regressed by about four percent each, which is disconcerting.

The 25-year-old is coming off of a 2016 campaign where he hit 15 home runs, stole 25 bases and batted .286. His career BABIP is an astounding .358, although his current BABIP is only .301, which suggests some progression is in order.

Herrera could make a good buy low target in all formats, as he is a career .284 hitter with low end 20/20 potential.

 

Julio Teheran, Starting Pitcher, Atlanta Braves

 

Last three: 1-2, 8.36 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, 14 IP and 9/5 K/BB

 

The Braves ace has been atrocious so far this year. He sports an ERA of 5.47 and WHIP of 1.52. The major cause for alarm is Teheran’s lack of control, as his walk rate has been inflated from its career mark of 2.50 walks per nine innings to his 2017 mark of 4.20.

Another red flag with Teheran is that his HR/FB ratio and BABIP are right around his career averages. Also, his xFIP of 5.54 suggest that he may see even more regression this season.

On the bright side, the 26-year-old has a career ERA of 3.50 and WHIP of 1.18, although something must be wrong with Teheran, as his control issues have caused him to become one of the most unsuccessful arms in 2017.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Yangervis Solarte started the year on fire, but has cooled off significantly since. (Photo by MLB.com)

Yangervis Solarte, Second Baseman/Third Baseman, San Diego Padres

 

Last seven: .130 BA, 1 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI and 0 SB

 

Solarte was off to a hot start this season, but has cooled off significantly in the recent weeks. He is currently batting .226 with three home runs, 15 runs scored and 21 RBIs.

The 29-year-old has dropped his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate from last season. Also, his BABIP of .237 suggests there is even more room for more progression, as his career BABIP is .280. Solarte bats in the heart of the Padres order, which even as the league’s worst offense, still increases his fantasy value compared to most second baseman.

This is a prime buy low period for Solarte, who is a versatile infielder with high RBI upside.

 

Masahiro Tanaka, Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees

 

Last three: 1-2 W-L, 13.11 ERA, 2.66 WHIP, 11 2/3 IP and 13/5 K/BB

 

The Yankees’ All Star has been far from his old self so far this year. He currently has a 6.56 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in 48 innings pitched. His major struggle has been allowing walks, as his current walk rate is 2.81 per nine innings, which is very poor compared to his career rate of 1.66. Also, his strikeout rate has declined by about one per nine innings.

There is a silver lining for the 28-year-old, as his HR/FB rate of 24.5 percent, and BABIP of .329, are not nearly sustainable, and should return to their previous career marks in time. Tanaka is sure to improve his performance this season, although he has blatantly regressed, as his xFIP has risen to 4.42 from his career mark of 3.43, and his 2016 mark of 3.61.

 

(Featured Image by SI.com)

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American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Over-Performing Underdogs

The American League West has been dominated by the Astros, but the other two divisions have been surprising. Cleveland got off to a slow start, creating a tight early-season race in the AL Central. The AL East has arguably been the most competitive division with some surprise contenders rising to the top.

Today’s wrap-up looks at those teams who have exceeded preseason expectations and how they got there.

The New York Yankees

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Over-Performing Underdogs

Photo by Reinhold Matay | USA Today Sports

We knew the Yankees were going to be better than the last few seasons, but not this good. The Yankees have done a masterful job bolstering their young core during prior seasons. Players like breakout rookie Aaron Judge and Ronald Torreyes were advertised as great, but they weren’t supposed to be ready this soon.

While the younger talent has certainly performed, the rest of the team has more then pulled their weight. Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks are all 27 years old and batting above .300. Adding to this strong mix are veterans Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Holliday, who have also been key contributors so far this season.

New York’s lineup has been a wonderfully-balanced attack on offense and has them sitting in the top five in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and RBIs.

The only thing that could have held this offensive juggernaut back was a questionable pitching staff. That rotation currently holds the third best ERA in the AL. Things are firing on all cylinders for the Bronx Bombers as they continue to battle for top position in the East.

The Baltimore Orioles

The other club battling for the top position in the East has been the surprising Baltimore Orioles. Most analysts, including this one, thought the Red Sox were a shoo-in for a repeat of their 2016 performance. However, it’s been the Yankees and Orioles dominating the top of the division.

While the Yankees have the stat lines you’d expect to see at the top of the division, the Orioles are a bit more of an enigma. A look at their statistical standings places them mid-tier in most major pitching and hitting categories. Their pitching staff suffered early season injuries, and their MVP-caliber third baseman, Manny Machado, has struggled early.

Those issues haven’t deterred the back-half of the Orioles rotation from silencing critics. Dylan Bundy and Wade Miley have been the picture of consistency, posting a combined 2.36 ERA through 15 starts. These impressive performances combined with the recent return of team ace Chris Tillman may signal continued success for this staff. Combine solid pitching with the ever-present power threat of the Orioles lineup and you have a combination that can steal a lot of games.

The Minnesota Twins

Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The 2017 AL Central discussion has been about nearly every team other than the Indians. Cleveland continues to press the top of the standings, but it’s been Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota who have kept it close.

The Twins in particular have been a surprise given their last place finish in 2016. The reemergence of Ervin Santana as a top league ace has certainly helped their cause. The remainder of the Twins pitching staff has posted respectable performances and should get better with the recent call up of José Berríos. Highly-touted young gun Miguel Sano has emerged this season, slashing .297 / .439 / .667 with 10 home runs.

Interestingly enough, Sano is the only member of the Twins lineup hitting anywhere near .300. In fact, the Twins average, slugging percentage and RBIs rank in the bottom half of the league. That said, their on-base percentage is in the AL’s top five, and they’re clearly doing enough to win games. Minnesota is definitely on a hot streak, capturing six of their last ten.

This recent success is promising for the Minnesota fan base. However, unless some of the offensive statistics pick up, it’s hard to foresee a sustained push by the Twins.

 

Featured Image by Tony Gutierrez / AP

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Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Free Agent Frenzy

In fantasy baseball, it is general knowledge that your league championship isn’t won on draft day. One major key to success is staying active on the waiver wire.

As we are a month into the season, the easiest way to acquire talent is by adding free agents. Below, are four players who are under ten percent owned on ESPN.com, but should be rostered in the majority of formats.

 

Delino DeShields, Outfielder, Texas Rangers, (Seven Percent)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Delino DeShields will look to make the most of his opportunities in 2017. (Photo by: Rotoprofessor.com)

With Adrian Beltre injured, and Joey Gallo manning third base, DeShields has earned himself the everyday roll in left field. He was a former first-round pick in 2010, and has bounced between the major and minor-league levels since 2015. The 24-year-old has plenty of fantasy potential, as he is currently batting leadoff, is an elite base stealing threat, and is versatile.

DeShields can be an elite producer of runs and steals as long as he remains atop the lineup. Once Beltre returns, it will be interesting to see what the Rangers do with Gallo and DeShields, although their versatility will presumably allow them to continue to see regular playing time.

 

 

 

Michael Taylor, Outfielder, Washington Nationals, (Three Percent)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Michael A. Taylor will replace Adam Eaton for the remainder of the 2017 season. (Photo by: Gene J. Puskar)

The Washington Nationals lost their starting center fielder, Adam Eaton, to a torn AC, which moves Michael Taylor into an everyday role. Taylor is a career .259 hitter in the minors, with 52 home runs and 140 stolen bases in 560 games played. The 26-year-old’s numbers aren’t overwhelming, although his opportunity to be productive with the Nationals is immense. Taylor will primarily bat seventh, which puts him behind some of the best hitters in the league, including Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon, which increases his opportunity to produce RBI. Also, if veteran Jayson Werth were to struggle, Taylor could sneak up to the two hole, and be an elite run producer and stolen base threat.

 

Amed Rosario, Shortstop, New York Mets, (Three Percent)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Amed Rosario is sure to see a call to the majors sooner rather than later. (Photo by: New York Post)

The 21-year-old is currently batting .402, with one home run, 16 runs scored, 14 RBI, and seven stolen bases at the AAA level. He is in line to be the shortstop of the future for New York, although it looks like he will be called up in 2017. His major-league counter parts, Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera, are playing very poorly, as both are batting under .250, giving Rosario a possible opening to major-league at-bats.

The Mets need a spark, as they have lost many core players to injuries, such as Yoenis Cespedes, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Mats to name a few. Keep an eye out for Rosario, as he is exactly what the Mets need, and should see a call-up sooner than later.

 

Kennys Vargas, First Baseman, Minnesota Twins, (One Percent)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Kennys Vargas will make an impact in 2017. (Photo by: Getty Images)

Vargas was called-up to the Twins in late-April, and has batted .364 with two home runs, eight runs scored and six RBI in six games played. He can hit for contact and power, as he is a career .277 hitter in the minors with 89 home runs, so as long as he continues to bat in the heart of the order, he will have the opportunity to be an elite fantasy producer.

The 26-year-old has taken over for Joe Mauer twice at first base, but is playing majorly designated hitter this season. The Twins have plenty of flexibility with their bats, as they can move Vargas or Sano to a corner outfield spot to ensure they continue to get at-bats.

 

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Surprise Performances Around the MLB

The MLB season is still in its infancy with just one full week in the books. However, there are multiple players who are opening some eyes around the league. Whether it’s just a hot start or a cold spell, players and fans alike take notice. Who is making the most of the opening week of the season, and who could use a mulligan?

1B Logan Morrison – Tampa Bay Rays

Surprise Performances

Logan Morrison has been a bright spot in Tampa’s lineup (Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Times).

The 29-year-old first baseman has turned it around so far this season after struggling last year with a .238 batting average. He has helped the Rays to a 5-3 record and been a driving force in their offense. Morrison is currently batting .333 with two homers and six RBIs through eight games.

While it is a small sample size, the Rays don’t seem to mind. The Rays could be in playoff contention if Morrison can come close to continuing this type of production throughout the season.

C Jason Castro – Minnesota Twins

Jason Castro was acquired by the Twins in the offseason as a defensive specialist. He put up uninspiring numbers in Houston and left the city with a .232 career batting average.

It seems Castro may have found something in Minnesota, evident by his hot start. He is currently batting .353 with one homer and six RBIs through six games this season. However, it’s his OBP that draws the most attention. This season’s .542 is astounding compared to his career OBP of .311. Supported by the seven walks he has already drawn, Castro is looking like a steal of a signing for Minnesota.

If he can play close to what he’s shown already, the Twins will have made one of the shrewdest moves of the offseason.

1B Mark Reynolds – Colorado Rockies

Surprising Performances

Mark Reynolds has performed exceptionally well in Ian Desmond’s stead (Denis Poroy/Getty Images).

With the signing of Ian Desmond to play first base in Denver, many thought Mark Reynolds would see few at bats this season. However, a spring training injury to Desmond opened the door for Reynolds, and he’s taking full advantage of it.

Reynolds has always been known as a slugger with 255 career home runs. This season, he has been doing so much more. He’s posted a .345 batting average to go along with four home runs and 10 RBIs. That astounding offense has also been paired with some stellar defense, as Reynolds has made some great plays at first this season.

Reynolds will be going back to the bench when Ian Desmond returns, but if he can keep it up, he just may become a top trade deadline target.

2B Jose Altuve – Houston Astros

Jose Altuve is one of the best players in the game today. His third place finish in the 2016 AL MVP voting only supports that claim. However, he certainly hasn’t shown it to start this season.

The diminutive second baseman has posted a lowly .188 batting average through his first eight games. His poor performance is seemingly out of the blue given he led the AL in hitting with a .338 batting average last season.

With a player of Altuve’s status, it’s only a matter of time before he turns it around.

1B Anthony Rizzo – Chicago Cubs

After winning the World Series in 2016, the Chicago Cubs were consensus favorites to repeat in 2017. One of the main forces for that projected repeat was first baseman Anthony Rizzo, but he has fallen far short of expectations this season.

He is batting .172 to start the year. He has struggled at the plate, but luckily it hasn’t impacted his team. With the Cubs sitting at 5-2 and atop the NL Central, the Cubs should have no worries.

Rizzo will turn it around eventually and should help carry the club back to the playoffs.

1B Edwin Encarnacion – Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians were contenders in 2016 and were favorites by many entering the 2017 season. With the offseason acquisition of Edwin Encarnacion, many believed it would push the Indians over the top. However, seven games into the season, the Indians are 4-3, and Encarnacion is batting .185.

It’s not the kind of start Indians fans were hoping for. Even so, the Indians are still over .500 and treading water. When Encarnacion turns it on (not if), the Indians will be prime contenders in the AL Central. They’ll need to hurry with surprise performer Minnesota and the Tigers in front of them for the lead in the division.

 

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Major League Baseball Weekly Wrap-Up: Opening Week

The experience of an opening day is like few others in sports. There is something truly special about the crack of the bat after a long winter. A new season means new hope and the chance at unforeseen excitement from around the league.

162 games is a haul, but opening week always presents a reminder of the great things to come every year. This year is certainly no different. The Game Haus is committed to highlighting all the action from around baseball all season long, starting with Opening Week.

Off to the Races

A few teams always seem to start hot out of the blocks. With many games to be played, there is certainly no crowning of a champion yet. However, for fans around the league, it’s hard not to get excited about a great start. Here are a few teams that have emerged quickly out of the gates.

Colorado Rockies

MLB Opening WeekThe Colorado Rockies are off to a hot start with five quick wins under their belt. They are tied for the best record in the MLB with the equally hot Diamondbacks. The NL West looks extremely exciting.

Nolan Arenado has led the charge, treating fans to a ninth inning shot giving Colorado an early season 2-1 win.

Later in the week, Clayton Kershaw experienced the power of this offense after giving up back-to-back home runs to Mark Reynolds and Gerardo Parra.

We knew the offense was going to be good, but up to this point, the pitching has been impressive as well. A solid young rotation and the resurgence of Greg Holland makes this Rockies team look incredibly promising in 2017.

Baltimore Orioles

Mark Trumbo showed everyone just why he was worth that contract in an opening day display. He blasted a walk-off home run in an 11-inning showdown with Toronto to help Baltimore set the tone early. The power on this Orioles team is unquestioned, but it was the pitching that presented the biggest unknown.

This Orioles’ staff has collectively posted a 3.64 ERA through five games. With Chris Tillman out, the remainder of the rotation was thought to be suspect at best. This hasn’t stopped Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy from picking up the slack and putting on impressive displays in week one. Look out AL East. Don’t sleep on the Orioles.

Minnesota Twins

MLB Opening Week

The hot start in the Central belongs to the defending AL champions, right? Not quite. Minnesota currently leads the Central and is tied for the most wins in the AL with five.

The Twins weren’t exactly saddled with high expectations to start the season, but this doesn’t seem to bother Minnesota. So what’s going on?

The return of Ervin Santana has certainly helped to anchor the rotation, and the bullpen has shown surprising upside. Names like Miguel Sano, Max Kepler and Byron Buxton should give Twins fans something to be excited about.

If veterans Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer can lead the way for these young players, the Twins may end up much better off than originally thought.

The Twins haven’t exactly played world beaters in the Royals and the White Sox, but a W is a W, and you can’t take those away.

 

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2017 American League Preview: The AL Central

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

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

#5 Minnesota Twins

2017 Projected Record: 61-101

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

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

#4 Chicago White Sox

2017 Projected Record: 70-92

2017 American League Preview: The AL Central

Lucas Giolito #27 (Courtesy Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

#3 Kansas City Royals

2017 Projected Record: 83-79

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

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

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

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

#2 Detroit Tigers

2017 Projected Record: 88-74

2017 American League Preview: The AL Central

Miguel Cabrera #24 (Courtesy Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

#1 Cleveland Indians

2017 Projected Record: 93-69

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

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

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

 

*Team Logos Courtesy of MLB.com*

 

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2017 MLB Season

Position Rankings for 2017 MLB Season: Second Basemen

In this fourth installment of our Position Rankings for the 2017 MLB season, we are going to take a base from first to second. Second basemen proved to be strong offensive contributors in 2016 as we saw homers, steals and batting averages that rivaled players at any positions.

With second basemen starting to emerge into the spotlight, lets take a look at the top second basemen.

5. Daniel Murphy- Washington Nationals

2017 MLB Season

The Nationals will hope Murphy can continue his offensive dominance in 2017. (Jeff Curry, USA TODAY Sports).

After Daniel Murphy’s offensive explosion in the 2015 MLB Playoffs, many questioned if he would be able to match his playoff performance over a full season. Those questions were laid to rest early in the 2016 season. Murphy posted the best slash line of his eight year career, batting .347, .390, .595. Those numbers, along with his 25 homers and 104 RBI’s vaulted him to a second place finish in the 2015 NL MVP voting. But as his offensive numbers reached new heights, his defense continued to stay well below league average.

Murphy had a horrendous -9 defensive runs saved at second base in 2016. That was easily the worst defensive performance of any player on this list. Murphy’s saving grace, as it has been throughout his career, is his offense. As the 2017 MLB season approaches, Murphy will try to continue his torrid offensive pace.

4. Brian Dozier- Minnesota Twins

Brian Dozier had a historic year for the Minnesota Twins in 2016. While the Twins fell below expectations, Dozier certainly did his part to try and propel them back to relevancy. He blasted 42 homers, besting the AL record for homers by a second baseman set by Alfonso Soriano in 2002. Just like Murphy, Dozier also put up the best slash line of his career at .268, .340, .546. Dozier was also able to couple his steadily growing power with his ever-present base running prowess. He fell just short of his career high 21 stolen bases in 2014, swiping 18 in 2016.

While Dozier was able to improve his overall offensive game, he also turned his defense around from 2015. Dozier had a respectable 3 defensive runs saved in 2016. After putting up one of the best power seasons of any second baseman in MLB history, it will remain to be seen if Dozier can come close to his historic 2016 season in 2017. Either way, he has cemented his place as one of the top second basemen in baseball.

3. Ian Kinsler- Detroit Tigers

2017 MLB Season

With a strong bat and slick glove, Ian Kinsler is the total package for the Tigers. (Leon Halip, Getty Images).

After being traded straight up in 2013 for slugger Prince Fielder, Ian Kinsler has provided a steady presence in Detroit for the past three seasons. Kinsler continued a strong career with another stellar offensive season in 2016. While batting .288, .348 and .484, Kinsler also hit 28 bombs to go along with 83 RBI’s. Kinsler wasn’t just a one-trick pony in 2016 either. After stealing 14 bases in 2016, Kinsler will enter 2017 with 211 career stolen bases and 212 career homers. That is plenty of power and speed over his career.

Kinsler has also flashed the leather throughout his time in the majors, and 2016 was no different. After having 12 defensive runs saved last season, Kinsler earned his first Gold Glove. Being one of the most balanced second basemen in all of Major League Baseball has given Kinsler a stellar reputation. The 2017 season is just another opportunity for Kinsler to continue his exceptional career.

2. Robinson Canó- Seattle Mariners

When Canó left New York for Seattle after the 2013 season, it was thought that he would be able to guide the Mariners to their first playoff appearance since 2001. Although that hasn’t come to fruition, it can’t be blamed on Canó. Canó proved why he has been widely considered the top slugger at second base, hitting a career high 39 homers to go along with 103 RBI’s in 2016. He also displayed his overall hitting ability with a slash line of .298, .350, .533. While Canó’s first two seasons in Seattle left much to be desired, he returned to vintage form in 2016. That included his defense as well.

Canó improved on his defense vastly in 2016 compared to his 2015 campaign. He had 11 defensive runs saved this past season after having a poor defensive season in 2015 in which he had -9 defensive runs saved. After struggling his first two years in Seattle, it seemed Canó was finally able to shake his jet lag. 2017 will be a big season for Canó, one in which we will find out if he has truly returned to All-Star form or if Seattle made a $240 million mistake.

1. José Altuve- Houston Astros

2017 MLB Season

José Altuve has never let his short stature keep him from reaching new offensive heights. (Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports).

Altuve is one of the reasons why baseball is the best sport in the world. At 5’7″ I am proud to say I am taller than All-Star second baseman José Altuve (5’6″). Even though Altuve’s stature is diminutive, his game has reached astronomical heights. While winning his second AL Batting Title in the past three years, Altuve was able to improve his overall hitting ability. His 2016 slash line of .338, .396, and .531 were career highs in OBP and slugging. Altuve fueled his .531 slugging percentage by blasting 24 homers to go along with 96 RBI’s. His 24 homers were more than his first four seasons combined! Altuve has also shown off his wheels throughout his career, stealing 199 bases over parts of six seasons.

Although Altuve is steadily becoming the top offensive second basemen in the majors, his glove has always trailed his bat. Altuve posted -2 defensive runs saved at second base in 2016, proving to be below league average on defense. While his defense certainly isn’t anything to write home about, Altuve’s offense is more than enough to launch him into the top spot in these rankings. Altuve will only be 26 years old when the 2017 season starts, and will just be entering his prime.

Second base has long been seen as a less than premium position. But with the emergence of some stellar players at second base in the past few seasons, the position is primed to become on of the most talented in Major League Baseball.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

Sudden Change is a Huge Part of the NFL’s Charm

As I was looking at the NFL playoff picture earlier this week, the stories of two teams jumped out at me. Both are examples of another characteristic that differentiates the NFL from any other sport in America. We are barely a month into the NBA season and teams like the Mavericks and Nets are already pretty much done. Similarly, the Braves and Twins were toast before the calendar in the long baseball season even flipped to May. In college football, losing a single game is the end of national title hopes for many teams.

The NFL is a whole different ballgame though. There are two teams this year that are almost unrecognizable from the start of the season. Here is a look at each sudden turnaround.

Miami Dolphins

I was in attendance to watch this team struggle to break 200 yards of total offense in a Thursday night loss in Cincinnati. The loss dropped them to 1-3. At that point, I was not sure they would win another game. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill looked lost and rookie head coach Adam Gase seemed to be in over his head.

A spark on the ground from little known running back Jay Ajayi completely changed this team’s fortunes. Ajayi was not even on the active roster when the season began. He rattled off a string of 100+ yard games and led them on a hot streak.

NFL

photo from washingtontimes.com

Even with last Sunday’s blowout loss at Baltimore, Miami still sits at 7-5, and just a game out of the final AFC wild-card spot. Tannehill is a more than adequate starting quarterback when he does not have to make plays all on his own. The ground game of Ajayi has helped control the clock and keep the defense fresh as well.

Whether they make the playoffs or not, Dolphins fans have gone from hopeless to hopeful in about two months. All it took was some very small changes in personnel and philosophy. Again, to see such a dramatic turnaround so quickly in any other sport is extremely rare, but in the NFL, the Dolphins are not the only great turnaround story this year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Quite a few folks thought Tampa Bay may be a pleasant surprise heading into the season. Despite the optimism, a 1-3 start that included a home loss to the hapless Rams seemed to be a death nail for their season.

NFL

photo from news965.com

Unlike the Dolphins, it is difficult to pinpoint the roots of this turnaround, but somewhere along the line everything started to click. The play of young quarterback Jameis Winston stabilized under the guidance of rookie head coach Dirk Koetter. He committed just a few less turnovers and started to carry this team to a few wins, all while dealing with a revolving door of starters at running back.

However, the big story in Tampa Bay is the defense. Over the last three games, the Chiefs, Chargers, and Seahawks have all been held under 25 points. That is as impressive a three-game stretch as you will ever see from a defense, particularly when you consider that the Kansas City game was on the road.

The line backing and secondary groups have some of the most low-profile good football players in the entire NFL. I am talking about guys like Lavonte David and Bradley McDougald.

The Bucs are holding down the last NFC playoff spot. They are also very much alive in the NFC South division race. Much like in Miami, even if Tampa Bay does not make the playoffs, this season has to be considered a massive step in the right direction.

Falling Franchises

Turnarounds in the NFL can be just as quick and dramatic in the other direction. The Eagles and Vikings were surprise hot starters this year and are now sinking faster than the Titanic, but that sudden nature is part of what makes the NFL so fascinating. There are a few of these stories every year.

Reversals in NFL fortune can take place over the long haul too. Two years ago, the Raiders flirted with going winless. They are now legitimate Super Bowl contenders behind Derek Carr. The Broncos were 4-12 in 2010 before John Elway came back into the picture as an executive. They have not missed the playoffs since.

So, if you like where your team is at, enjoy the view while it lasts. If you are an unhappy fan, all it takes is a few good moves to get things going in a good direction. Even the Browns will be good someday… I promise.

 

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

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

  1. Kansas City Royals (27-22)

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

Pitcher: Wade Davis

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

Position Player: Salvador Perez, C

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

2. Cleveland Indians (26-22)

Pitcher: Corey Kluber

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

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

Position Player: Mike Napoli, 1B

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

3. Chicago White Sox (27-24)

Pitcher: Zach Putnam

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

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

Position Player: Austin Jackson, CF

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

4. Detroit Tigers (24-25)

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

Pitcher: Justin Verlander

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

Position Player: Victor Martinez, DH

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

5. Minnesota Twins (15-34)

Pitcher: Fernando Abad

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

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

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

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

AL Central Weekly: 5/16-5/22

  1. Chicago White Sox, 26-18

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

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

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

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

2. Cleveland Indians, 22-19

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

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

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

3. Kansas City Royals, 22-21

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

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

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

4. Detroit Tigers, 21-22

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

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

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

5. Minnesota Twins, 11-32

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

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

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

Player of the Week: Cameron Maybin

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

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