Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Injury Update

As we head deeper into the first month of the baseball season, it is time to identify and analyze some key injuries across the league. This injury update will provide insight to a player’s current health status and their outlook moving forward. The following players are listed on the disabled list as of April 13th, 2017.

 

David Price, starting pitcher, Boston Red Sox, (10-day DL elbow)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

David Price is eager to make his 2017 debut. (Courtesy of Keith Allison)

  • Expected return: mid-to-late May
  • Re-injury potential: medium

 

Price was placed on the 10-day DL after feeling elbow stiffness during a spring training start. The ace-caliber arm tossed a 35-pitch bullpen session on April 12th, which ended with positive results. He felt no additional soreness, which is encouraging, as he plans to increase his pitch totals to 45 come his next bullpen. According to manager John Farrell, Price could begin to see “hitters possibly early next week”, as he will pitch in a handful of simulated games before beginning his rehab starts. Price’s next step is to continue working on his breaking pitches, as an elbow injury can severally flatten out a breaking ball.

Fantasy-wise, Price has been a proven ace, as he sports a career 3.21 ERA, while striking out 200 batters five times in his nine-year career. Although Price managed to win 17 games in 2016, it was by far his worst season in the majors since his rookie year, in 2009. The upside with Price is immense, as he is a proven ace on a championship caliber team, although the injury risk is real for the 31-year-old workhorse, as he has thrown an average of 218 innings over his last seven seasons.

 

JD Martinez, right fielder, Detroit Tigers, (10-day DL foot)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

J.D. Martinez is well ahead of schedule. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

  • Expected return: late April
  • Re-injury potential: low

 

The Tigers’ slugger sprained his foot making a catch in right field this spring, landing himself on the 10-day. Martinez is expected to make his first rehab start “within the next few days”, according to MLB Network Radio reports. This is a great sign, as it shows that Martinez is ahead of schedule, and should return before the end of April.

J.D. Martinez is a very underrated fantasy asset, as many forget about his outstanding 2015 campaign that resulted in 38 home runs, 102 RBI, and a .282 batting average. Injuries have remained a staple of his career, although a healthy Martinez can be as valuable of a fantasy asset as any outfielder, excluding Trout, Harper, or Betts.

 

Jason Kipnis, second baseman, Cleveland Indians, (10-day DL shoulder)

(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Jason Kipnis faces yet another setback after being hit in the hand during rehab start. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • Expected return: mid-to-late April
  • Re-injury potential: low

 

Kipnis found himself on the disabled list after he had inflammation in his shoulder, which is fairly common among infielders, especially those who participate in deep playoffs runs the season before. He was scheduled to return within the next week, although he was hit by a pitch in the hand during a rehab start. This incident will push Kipnis’ return back about a week, as he will miss one or two rehab starts.

The Indians’ franchise second baseman has been a proven producer who will most likely see at bats in the two spot of the lineup, but also may see time batting behind newcomer, Edwin Encarnacion, as the Cleveland lineup is loaded with top tier talent. Kipnis hit 20 home runs for the first time in his career last season, showing that he has power to combine with his speed and batting average. The 30-year-old is a top 10 second baseman when healthy, and should be confidently placed in your lineup once he returns.

 

Wilson Ramos, catcher, Tampa Bay Rays, (60-day DL knee)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Wilson Ramos is ready for an early June return. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

  • Expected return: mid-to-late June
  • Re-injury potential: low

 

The newly acquired catcher has yet to suit up for the Rays this season due to undergoing knee surgery which ended his 2016 season. He will be eligible to return as early as June 1st, although it is anticipated that he will require until mid-to-late June until he is fully recovered and game ready. The Rays also acquired catcher Derek Norris, who should remain the every-day catcher even after Ramos’ return, as it is anticipated for the Rays to ease Ramos back into his everyday role by placing him at designated hitter.

The 2016 Silver Slugger will become an essential part of the Rays lineup, and will presumably bat in the five or six position, giving him ample opportunities to produce RBI. If Ramos is not owned in your league, the time to add him may be soon approaching. Stay aware of his status come June, as you may find yourself a top three catcher for the second half of your season.

 

Sonny Gray, starting pitcher, Oakland Athletics, (10-day DL back)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Athletics’ Ace Sonny Gray aims for March 1st return. (Courtesy of SF Gate)

  • Expected return: early April
  • Re-injury potential: high

 

Gray was placed on the 10-day DL after suffering a strain in his back, which has been causing him severe discomfort when pitching. He has begun a throwing program, which included three separate 15 pitch bullpen sessions, which all went smoothly. Coach Bob Melvin stated that his timetable is “the first of May”, which gives him about three weeks to hone his stuff before he makes his season debut.

The 27-year-old had major success in his first two full major league seasons, having a 3.08 and 2.73 ERA respectively. He also finished third in American League Cy Young voting in 2015 after winning 14 games and recording 169 strikeouts. If Gray is healthy, there is no reason he cannot return to Cy Young caliber.

 

Jean Segura, short stop/second basemen, (10-day DL hamstring)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Jean Segura will bring his newfound power to the Pacific Northwest in 2017. (AP Photo, Ross D. Franklin)

  • Expected return: late April
  • Re-injury potential: medium

 

Segura strained his hamstring diving back into first base, causing himself to be placed on the 10-day DL. Although it is a mild strain, the Mariners are taking every precaution with their starting short stop, as a lingering hamstring injury could seriously derail Segura’s season.

The 2016 top 15 NL MVP candidate has been off to a very hot start in 2017. He is currently batting .313, with six runs scored, three RBI, and three stolen bases. The Mariners leadoff man is sure to be a top fantasy producer this season once he can get back on the field. If you want to make a move for the 27-year-old, the time is now.

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Must Add Players in Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Must Add Players

If you’ve ever played fantasy baseball, you know that your league championship isn’t won on draft day. One key to success is staying active on the waiver wire. As draft day has come and gone, the easiest way to acquire talent is by adding free agents. Below are five players that are under 25 percent owned on ESPN.com, but should be rostered in all formats.

 

Travis Shaw, First Base/Third Base, Milwaukee Brewers, (24 Percent)

Must Add Players in Fantasy Baseball 2017

Travis Shaw will be an everyday player for the first time in his career. (Courtesy of The Tribune)

My Predicted Stat Line: .275 BA/ 80 R/ 25 HR/ 90 RBI/ 5 SB

The newly acquired corner infielder has gotten off to a hot start in 2017. He has batted in the four and five spot in the four games the Brewers have played, tallying one home run and five RBIs while batting .357.

These stats obviously don’t hold much weight, but Shaw’s opportunity does. The 26-year-old will be an everyday player for the young Brewers and bat in the heart of lineup. It will give him plenty of chances to produce RBIs and runs.

The son of former MLB player, Jeff Shaw, has been a streaky hitter his entire career, batting .270 in the first half of 2016 and .194 in the second. However, I believe Shaw’s growing confidence will make him an everyday player. He also has a lack of pressure since he is out of Boston and is no longer on a contending team. He can join the ranks as a top fantasy producer in 2017.

Lance Lynn, Starting Pitcher, St. Louis Cardinals, (22 percent)

My Predicted Stat Line: 15 W/ 170 K/ 3.4 ERA/ 1.3 WHIP

Lynn has officially re-entered the St. Louis Cardinals rotation after missing the entire 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery. He fits in behind Carlos Martinez and Adam Wainwright as their third starter.

The 29-year-old has been a great fantasy pitcher in the past. His 162-game career average of 15 wins, a 3.37 ERA and 8.71 K/9. If he can return anywhere close to this, he will have great fantasy value. He is currently owned in 22 percent of ESPN leagues, which is a travesty for someone who has won 15 games or more three times since 2012.

The Cardinals, who finished fourth in runs scored in 2016, have added lead off specialist Dexter Fowler to improve their already elite offensive. This increases Lynn’s value, who is off to a great spring. He’s pitched a total of 15 innings to result in a 1.20 ERA and a .93 WHIP.

Lynn’s first outing of the year went well. He pitched 5.1 innings with four K’s and two earned runs. The Cardinals missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2010. If they want to make it back in 2017, Lynn will have to be a major factor.

Corey Dickerson, Left Field/Designated Hitter, Tampa Bay Rays, (22 percent)

Must Add Players in Fantasy Baseball 2017

Corey Dickerson sheds 25 pounds in the offseason, signs of good things to come? (Courtesy of Wikipedia.com)

My Predicted Stat Line: .285 BA/ 90 R/ 25 HR/ 75 RBI/ 5 SB

Dickerson had a rough transition from Colorado to Tampa Bay in 2016, as he batted a mere .245 after batting .304 and .312 in the two previous seasons. He still managed to hit 24 home runs to go along with 70 RBIs, which was productive enough to warrant him top 80 outfielder status.

The 27-year-old dropped 25 pounds this offseason, which will make him more athletic than ever before. Dickerson will be an everyday player for the Rays in 2017, batting primarily lead off. He has begun the year batting .300 through the first four games, hitting his first home run at the Trop this Wednesday.

The career .279 hitter is a lock to improve his batting average from last season, which along with his power potential and opportunity as an everyday player, warrant him a spot on your roster.

Kendall Graveman, Starting Pitcher, Oakland Athletics, (17 percent)

My Predicted Stat Line: 11 W/ 140 K/ 3.6 ERA/ 1.3 WHIP

Graveman was the Athletics opening day starter this year and started off hot. He pitched six innings with seven strikeouts while only surrendering two runs. The elite ground ball pitcher has a career groundball rate of 51.5 percent and a fly ball rate of 27.6 percent. That shows he can keep the ball on the ground opposed to in the stands.

Unfortunately, the Athletics have the worst fielding percentage in the MLB, which may hold the groundball pitcher back. A positive is his increased confidence in his fastball. He has increased his use of the pitch consistently every season and increased its velocity from 93 to 95. That may help increase his strikeout rate.

Overall, Graveman will be the most consistent pitcher and a silver lining for the underdog Athletics this season.

Mitch Haniger, Right Field, Seattle Mariners, (17 percent)

Must Add Players in Fantasy Baseball 2017

Mitch Haniger may be sleeper of the year. (Courtesy of Minor League Ball)

My Projected Stat Line: .270 BA/ 95 R/ 20 HR/ 80 RBI/ 15 SB

Haniger was sent to Seattle along with Jean Segura in exchange for Taijuan Walker in the offseason. After slashing .406/.472/.719 in 32 at bats this spring, he has earned the everyday right fielder position against American League foes. He also will be the starting left fielder during interleague play, which will give him dual eligibility in leagues with individual outfield positions.

The 26-year-old will bat second behind Segura and ahead of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, which makes him a likely candidate to score 100 runs. His combination of power and speed makes him a threat to be a serious producer atop one of the most talented lineups in the league, as the Mariners finished sixth in runs scored in 2016.

The rookie is currently owned in only 17 percent of leagues, which is sure to jump as he begins to produce.

 

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Franchise Relocation

Franchise Relocation Roulette

The NFL has seen three franchises relocate in the past year. The St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers both moved to Los Angeles. Two days ago, the NFL owners voted 31-1 in favor of the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas.

One of the main reasons teams end up relocating is stadium troubles. The Raiders could not work out a solution with the city of Oakland which led to them looking for greener pastures. Sports is still a business and owners will do whatever is necessary to keep their business successful.

Another reason a team might locate is attendance. Owners are willing to move if they believe there is more money to be made elsewhere.

There are other franchises who may be looking to relocate their team across all major sports and this article will take a look at which franchises may be relocating sooner rather than later.

NHL

Franchise Relocation

(Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes have been rumored to be relocating a few times. Before Las Vegas was awarded an expansion team the Coyotes were considering moving to Vegas. Arizona has the second worst attendance average in the NHL with 13,020 fans per game.

The Gila River Arena in which they play in was built in 2003. 2003 wasn’t that long ago but with the attendance issue, the Coyotes could find more success in other another city.

The Coyotes have had little success on the ice as well, finishing ninth or worse in the Western Conference going on five straight years. The Coyotes could use a fresh start.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are in the same boat as the Coyotes. They rank last in the NHL in attendance with an average of 11,778 fans per home game. Their arena was built in 1999 and they definitely need a new one. The Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs for eight straight seasons and only once in the last 11 seasons. A change of scenery is something the Hurricanes franchise needs.

Both the Hurricanes and Coyotes could be open to moving to the following cities: Quebec City, Toronto, Seattle, Houston, Kansas City, Hamilton and Indianapolis. If the NHL decides to relocate these are the two most likely franchises to move.

MLB

Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay is a city where a lot of people move to retire. The Rays attendance is the worst in the majors, based on average, with just 15,878 fans per game. The franchise has had the worst attendance in the majors since 2012 and the attendance has dropped significantly every year.

Tropicana Field is also almost 30 years old as it was built in 1990. Fans are not going to watch the Rays and their field is getting old.

Franchise Relocation

(Photo Credit: Jeff Chiu AP)

Oakland: The Athletics play on the same field as the Raiders. Golden State couldn’t get a stadium built in Oakland so they got one built in San Fransisco. The Athletics are now in the same boat. Oakland Coliseum opened in 1966 and players have mentioned water leaks in the locker rooms when it rains. It is clear this stadium is one of the worst in the country.

The Athletics have also had some of the worst attendance numbers in the past decade similar to the Rays. Due to the stadium issues in Oakland and the lack of attendance, the A’s may be on the move soon.

Possible relocation cities could include Las Vegas, Mexico City, Montreal, or Vancouver.

NFL

Buffalo Bills: There has been so much relocation as of late in the NFL it is hard to imagine anybody else moving cities. Buffalo is one franchise with a slim chance to relocate. Ralph Wilson Stadium was built in 1973 making it out of date. The city of Buffalo needs to handle this situation with the Bills better than Oakland did with the Raiders or the beloved Bills will find the best option for the franchise.

Possible relocation cities include Portland, St. Louis, Toronto, or Mexico City.

NBA

Milwaukee: The Bucks are usually in the bottom of the NBA when it comes to attendance. They have averaged 14,839 fans per game over the last five years. Their attendance has steadily improved as the team has improved but there is a chance owners think they do better elsewhere.

BMO Harris Bradley Center is 29 years old and needs to be upgraded for modern times. If another city gives the Bucks an offer they can’t refuse they will relocate.

With all that said the fans in the Milwaukee area are extremely passionate and it is hard to imagine them actually moving cities.

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2017 American League West Preview

Each American League division presents its own unique narrative. The East is highly competitive with several contenders and prospective Wild Card candidates. The Central appears to be a one horse race with two others fighting to take advantage of a limited window. Finally, we have the 2017 American League West Preview which may present the most compelling storylines of all.

The AL West runs the gambit of teams at varying stages of competition readiness.

The A’s are a small market team and its famous organization president continues to seek out ways to compete. The Angels will try to put the right supporting cast around the best player in baseball. The middle of the division sports the Mariners who’s active offseason has made them many analysts’ dark horse pick. Finally, the Rangers and Astros sit at the top of the division.

If you’re looking for a late season dogfight for the number one spot this September, look no further than the AL West.

 

#5 Oakland Athletics

2017 American League West Preview

2017 Projected Record: 72-90

The team that made “Moneyball” famous continues to search for ways to build its roster. Unfortunately for Oakland, it appears that approach is going to take some time. With a current lack of depth, limited free agent budget and a below average farm system, the A’s have little to work with in 2017.

Sonny Gray has been a bright spot on this A’s roster but struggled mightily in 2016 with a 5.69 ERA. At only 26, Gray has plenty of time for a recovery performance and will look to bounce back this season. Assuming all goes well and Gray’s WAR trends closer to 2015 numbers than last season, Oakland will receive minor boost in the win column.

#4 Los Angeles Angels

2017 American League West Preview

2017 Projected Record: 74-88

2017 American League West PreviewIt’s hard to project much of a difference for the Angels in 2017. The pickups of Danny Espinosa and Cameron Maybin provide a lineup boost but that’s not the Angels’ main gap. Some mix of pitching talent and consistent health will have to improve this season to give the Angels a shot.

Garrett Richards is a relatively underrated ace and as solid a starter as you can ask for in the MLB. Outside of Richards, there are a number of question marks surrounding this staff. Unfortunately, other than Tyler Skaggs, most members of the rotation are a known quantity at this point in their careers.

While it’s impossible to completely discount any team with Mike Trout on it, it’s clear the Angels aren’t well-positioned to compete with the rest of the division.

#3 Seattle Mariners

2017 American League West Preview

2017 Projected Record: 88-74

The best prediction one can make for the Seattle Mariners is that your prediction will be miserably wrong. On paper there is a ton to like about this team and this fact was bolstered by an active offseason. Seattle acquired lineup help in the form of Jean Segura and rotation assistance with addition of Drew Smyly. Both players are solid starters and add an additional element of depth to an already well rounded team.

With all of that said there is just something difficult about projecting the Mariners at the top of the division. Just look at the last 5 years:

Year W L Finish Top Player (WAR)
2016 86 76 2nd of 5 R.Cano (7.3)
2015 76 86 4th of 5 N.Cruz (5.2)
2014 87 75 3rd of 5 F.Hernandez (6.7)
2013 71 91 4th of 5 H.Iwakuma (6.9)
2012 75 87 4th of 4 F.Hernandez (4.8)

Their top players are still around, the roster’s makeup is similar and the divisional composition is largely the same with the exception of the improved Astros. The pieces are in place for Seattle to at least make a run at the Wild Card, if not more. However, getting there ahead of the next two teams is no small task.

#2 Texas Rangers

2017 American League West Preview

2017 Projected Record: 91-71

2017 American League West Preview

The Ranges and Astros present options 1 and 1A at the top of the AL West. Both have an unbelievably talented mix of pitching and hitting, power and speed and veterans and youth. The x-factor for the Rangers’ squad will be the top of the rotation combo of Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish.

The lineup more than provided the run support needed to win games but the staff lived and died with Hamels. If Darvish can reestablish himself as a top starter, Texas is looking at one of the nastier 1-2 punches in the MLB. The rest of the rotation could still use a boost, but the quiet addition of Tyson Ross may just be the boost it needs.

 

#1 Houston Astros

2017 American League West Preview

2017 Projected Record: 92-70

The Astros undoubtedly have one of the most exciting groupings of young players in baseball. George Springer and Jose Altuve have already established their excellence with Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman not far behind. Free agent acquisition of veterans like Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick further cement the completeness of this Astros team.

Pitching remains the question of the season for the top of this division. After a Cy Young performance in 2015, Dallas Keuchel struggled in 2016, posting a 4.55 ERA. If Keuchel can reclaim some of that domination, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers provide strong second and third options. With little doubt surrounding the Astros and Rangers lineups, the true test for these clubs will be which rotation can reclaim past dominance.

 

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Fantasy Baseball Tips

Fantasy Baseball Tips and Tricks: Who, What, When, Where, and Why?

The Game Haus presents its first installment of our fantasy baseball tips and tricks series. We intend to give fantasy baseball owners, new and old, some advice to improve their outcomes in 2017.

Fantasy baseball is complicated. Owners must adjust to the grueling 162 game season, deeper rosters, and longer drafts. To start, we have developed this quick guide to aid your difficult drafting decision. This specific guide is for re-draft leagues only, and does not discuss any keeper or dynasty league strategies.

Who do you draft?

With so many available options, it is often hard to make a selection. You will have to make a difficult decision between two or more players at some point in your upcoming draft. Before you come to a verdict, consider the following criteria.

What team do they play for?

Great teams produce great fantasy performers. The top five scoring offenses in 2016 were the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals. Players in these lineups have a greater chance of producing and scoring runs, as they have more talent around them.

An example of a possible draft dilemma could be between Edwin Encarnacion of the Cleveland Indians and Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves. Both players will be selected around the same draft position, as they are both first basemen and offer similar upside. However, I would select Encarnacion, as Cleveland had a top five scoring offense in 2016, while the Braves finished with the third worst.

For pitchers, the more runs that their offense scores, the better chance they have to accumulate wins. A third pitcher on the Red Sox or Cubs, who finished with top five offenses, may be a more attractive pick than an ace on the Oakland Athletics or Philadelphia Phillies, who finished with bottom two offenses in 2016.

When are they getting drafted?

Draft position is an imperative factor when deciding who to select. Two players may offer the same amount of value, but will be drafted three rounds apart. One key to decision making is understanding alternative options.

Ranking players in tiers is a good strategy to help decision making. Tiers allow you to identify steep drop offs in talent at specific positions. If there are multiple players left in one tier, you will be able to pass on that position until a later round. Also, if there is only one player left in a tier, it alerts you that their will soon be a steep drop off in talent at that position.

Where do they bat?

We can all agree that runs (R) and runs batted in (RBI) are lineup dependent. In other words, players batting third, fourth, and fifth will have more RBI opportunities than someone batting seventh, eighth, or ninth.

A common drafting mistake is missing out on RBI opportunities. In order to avoid this mistake, make notes of players who will be batting in the middle of lineups, as even the worst offenses have middle of the order contributors.

Why are you selecting them?

If you are in a points league, selecting the best player on your draft board is a good strategy, but do you select a pitcher or a hitter? This depends on how your roster is already filled out. Keeping your team balanced is key. Filling out your pitching rotation and starting lineup simultaneously will help keep your roster balanced.

If you are playing in a categories league, you must know which categories you are covering when selecting a player. If you finish a draft and realize that Joey Votto will lead your team in steals, you may be forced to punt that category.  In order to avoid these types of mistakes, make a list of your teams desired amount of home runs, rbi’s, runs, and steals. During your draft, add up the projections to see how your team stacks up.

 

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2017 MLB Season

Position Rankings for 2017 MLB Season: Left Field

In this seventh installment of our Position Rankings for the 2017 MLB season, we will move from the infield to the outfield. Left field has long been known as a place to stash the slugger, but that is changing. With defense and speed changing the way the game is played, let’s see if it has spilled over into the top five left fielders.

5. Khris Davis- Oakland Athletics

2017 MLB Season

Khris Davis has mastered the third base high five during his tenure with Oakland. (Ben Margot, AP).

Khris Davis was a force in 2016. After putting up solid power numbers in Milwaukee, Davis was shipped to Oakland in 2015 and was able to tap into his power even more. He slashed .247, .307, .524 in his first season in Oakland. While his average and OBP are nothing to write home about, his .524 slugging percentage, as well as his 42 homers and 102 RBI’s certainly warrant some credence. With a newfound power stroke at the plate, Davis is the big bat the Athletics have been searching for. Although Davis has been a monster at the plate, he was a behemoth in the outfield.

Davis performed below league average on defense in 2016, putting up -1 defensive runs saved. While he was only slightly below average in the field, his bat certainly made up for it in 2016. Davis is only 28 years old and entering the prime of his career. While his defense may not improve, his bat certainly seems here to stay. If Davis can survive another season in Oakland without being traded, he will be relied upon to produce again in 2017.

4. Justin Upton- Detroit Tigers

Tigers fans were ecstatic when Justin Upton moved to Detroit last season. Upton was an established run producer and he was slotted into a deep Tigers lineup. As the season progressed, Upton’s offense stagnated. He was able to turn around an otherwise poor season with a torrid finish in 2016, putting up a slash line of .246, .310, and .465. He also hit 31 homers and drove in 87 RBI’s. Upton fits the traditional mold of a left fielder: a big slugger who will hit tanks and drive in runs. He has also proven to provide more than just power.

Upton posted 1 defensive run saved while playing 146 games in left field for the Detroit Tigers last year. That is solid, but not spectacular glove work. He was also able to swipe nine bags in 2016, a good amount for a slugger like Upton. Upton has always been known as a streaky hitter, but he has always been consistent in one category: putting up above average offensive seasons. That won’t change in 2017 as the Tigers look to regain the AL Central crown.

3. Ryan Braun- Milwaukee Brewers

2017 Season

Ryan Braun will look to continue his strong play in 2017. (Jeff Curry, US Presswire).

Ryan Braun has been a star player in Milwaukee for almost the entirety of his time there, but his PED use has but a black mark on an otherwise stellar career. He has admitted to PED use in his NL MVP season in 2011, but has since passed all drug tests from Major League Baseball. Braun is assumed to be clean of any PEDs, and is putting up good numbers for the Brewers. He batted .305, .365, .538 in 2016 and slugged 30 homers to go along with 91 RBI’s. Braun also stole 16 bases, proving to be one of the top speed/power players in the majors.

Braun was also able to utilize his speed in the outfield. His six defensive runs saved in 2016 were second best of his career, proving him to be a more than capable fielder. Braun is the total package in left field. His power and speed make him a premier offensive player, and his defense lifts his overall game to a whole other level. If Braun can put up more clean seasons like he did in 2016, he will certainly climb this list. Until then, he remains one of the best left fielders, just not the best.

2. Starling Marte- Pittsburgh Pirates

Ever since Starling Marte was called up by Pittsburgh in 2012, he has been a spark plug for the Pirates’ lineup. He is one of the new breed of left fielders becoming more prominent in the majors, utilizing his speed and defense to become a game changer. Marte stole 47 bases in only 129 games played in 2016, proving to be an elite base stealer. He also was able to make a huge impact in the field. He also provided elite defense 19 defensive runs save. His offensive game, while trailing his base running and defense, is still better than advertised.

Marte was able to hit .311, .362, and .456 last year, all three being career highs. While his nine homers and 46 RBI’s won’t blow anyone away, it is still solid production for a limited season. Marte will always be known for his glove and base running, but don’t sleep on his bat. If he can put up a full season in 2017, look for Marte to accumulate some monster numbers.

1. Yoenis Cespedes- New York Mets

2017 MLB Season

From flipping bats over and over, to flipping balls over the fence, Yoenis Cespedes can do it all. (Brad Penner USA Today Sports).

Yoenis Cespedes was shipped from Detroit to New York at the trade deadline in 2015, and has been an offensive juggernaut for the Mets ever since. He was so good in his first full season with the Mets that he finished eighth in the NL MVP voting. Cespedes achieved this by batting .280, .354, and .530 as well as hitting 31 bombs and driving in 86 RBI’s. He has been the run producer the Mets have sorely needed since the departure of Daniel Murphy and the decline of David Wright. Cespedes has also flashed the leather and his arm during his tenure in New York.

Cespedes had four defensive runs saved while playing left field in 2016. He was helped in large part by the cannon attached to his right shoulder. Video of Cespedes firing the ball to home plate will be played for years to come. His arm strength is already legendary. Cespedes combines stellar offensive production with strong defensive skills to claim the top spot in the left field rankings. He is poised to maintain his perch with 2017 providing another chance for Cespedes to dominate.

Left field is slowly changing. No longer can you have a plodding slugger in the outfield. Players with strong defense and good speed are taking over left, and seem here to stay.

 

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Rich Hill and The Perfect Game That Almost Was

This past Saturday, September 10th, Rich Hill was pitching a gem of a game. Hill pitched seven innings, dishing out nine K’s without giving up either a hit or walk. Hill was on the verge of throwing a perfect game, with only two innings left and sitting at only 89 pitches going into the 8th inning. Yet, amidst the potential perfection, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled Hill in favor of a reliever fresh from the pen. The move drew the ire of fans post game, as the feat of a perfect game has only occurred twenty-three times in major league history and Hill was only six outs away.

Rich Hill could make a significant impact for the Dodgers playoff run...so long as his blisters do not get worse. Photo courtesy of Mark Terrill of the AP.

Rich Hill could make a significant impact for the Dodgers playoff run…so long as his blisters do not get worse. Photo courtesy of Mark Terrill of the AP.

Roberts did not pull Hill simply because he wanted to ruin Hill’s perfect game chances, but actually had legitimate reasons for doing so. Rich Hill has spent the past month and a half battling painful blisters on his throwing hand, making only three starts since July 17th. Every inning during the perfect performance, a trainer checked Hill’s hand to make sure the blisters were not becoming worse. The blister’s condition was the true reason Roberts pulled Hill despite his historic performance.

The situation Roberts was put in was a lose-lose situation. Leaving Hill in there could lead to another DL, or season ending stint for Hill due to inflammation of the blisters. How would Dodgers fan react if their trade deadline acquisition was going to miss the rest of the season/the playoffs because of overuse, especially since there was no guarantee that Hill could have closed out the final two innings of the game perfectly? The truth is, nobody will ever know, but what we do know is that Hill may still have a shot at pitching for the Dodgers come playoffs time, as the Dodgers currently reside in first place of the NL West with a four game lead.

Rich Hill as a young pitcher early in his career with the Cubs. Photo Courtesy of Jamie Squire of Getty Images

Rich Hill as a young pitcher early in his career with the Cubs. Photo Courtesy of Jamie Squire of Getty Images

Hill’s career, historically, has seen a lot of bouncing around various clubs. Hill started in the rotation for the Cubs before bouncing back and forth between rotation and bullpen for the Orioles, Red Sox, Indians, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox again, Athletics and finally the Dodgers. Hill pitched well as a reliever, but was never really used in high leverage situations, never recording a save. 2016, however, has seen a new Hill rise from the ashes of the old one, as he started fourteen games for the Athletics, amassing an ERA of only 2.25. Hill was one of the few bright spots on the Athletics team, which led to Athletics’ GM Billy Beane moving him at the deadline for prospects.

The blister issue was known before the trade was finalized, but the Dodgers were paying for the potential Hill could provide to the rotation once healthy. The Dodgers’ rotation has been decimated by injuries already, but even healthy, Hill could still slot in to the middle of the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw and Kenta Maeda. The truth is, there is no guarantee that Hill’s blisters will subside by the postseason, but monitoring and being conservative with them can give the best opportunity to help the Dodgers in the long run.

Perfect games are a rarity in baseball, with the idea of twirling one a fantasy for about all pitchers in the modern game. Rich Hill came close, going seven perfect innings for the Dodgers before being pulled after 89 pitches by the manager Dave Roberts. Roberts made the right call, however, for the good of the team, despite the backlash from baseball fans nationwide. If saving Hill’s throwing hand for two innings now can lead to two more innings in the playoffs, then I’d say it is worth it for the Dodgers, especially if he keeps pitching the way he has been all season. I mean, just check out how nasty of a curveball Hill can unleash

Rich Hill unleashing his devastating curveball to Brad Miller of the Rays. GIF courtesy of giphy.com

Rich Hill unleashing his devastating curveball to get Brad Miller looking absolutely silly, on a full count no less. GIF courtesy of giphy.com

 

All stats courtesy of baseball reference