Arizona Fall League

Arizona Fall League 2017: Youngest Stars

 

The Arizona Fall League is a rite of passage for the very best of the best MLB prospects. Especially for those “kids” down on the farm.

This veritable “proving ground” for major league talent is one of the true gems of the prospect-to-pro pipeline. Every year, each of the 30 teams that make up Major League Baseball send a handful of their brightest up and comers to the desert for closer inspection versus a higher standard of opponent. So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to the youngest stars of the Arizona Fall League. You may not know them now, but you soon will!

 

Glendale Desert Dogs

Feeder Clubs: White Sox, Indians, Dodgers, Phillies, Pirates

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Mitch Keller, Age 21

Parent Club: Pittsburgh Pirates

2017 Finishing Level: Altoona Curve (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Mitch Keller has moved three levels in two seasons in the Pirates organization. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

The No. 6 RHP prospect in baseball, Mitch Keller, will be turning out for Glendale this fall in Arizona. He boasts above average control as well as three projectable major league pitches in his fastball, curveball and changeup. Keller spent most his time this season (15 games) taking the hill for the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League. Over 15 starts he struck out over three batters for every one that he walked. His numbers only improved after getting called up to (AA) Altoona for his final six starts. Keller uses a blistering fastball that sits low-to-mid-90s with nasty sinking action, and above average 11-5 curve to make hitters look foolish.

Promoted to (AA) Altoona to finish out the season, this 21-year-old is mature beyond his years. Judging by the caliber of his well-advanced arsenal of three plus-pitches, this kid should continue rising through the Pirates system at break neck speed. Thus far, Keller has done all that’s been asked of him at every level and he will be looking to impress again in Arizona. For 2018, Keller should be start the season with (AA) Altoona, but he may not be there long. Should this young man continue to miss an epic number of bats at (AA) level, I would expect Keller to end 2018 in (AAA). He’s getting close Pirates fans!

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Cornelius Randolph, Age 20

Parent Club: Philadelphia Phillies

2017 Finishing Level: Clearwater Thrashers (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Randolph, age 20, will be looking to develop his fielding skills even further this fall in Arizona. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Phillies left fielding prospect Cornelius Randolph is not the biggest of players. What Randolph lacks in size however, he makes up with a good eye at the plate working a (.338) OBP in 122 games at (Advanced A) Clearwater. Randolph is a converted infielder who worked tirelessly in 2017 to improve his fielding ability in left field. Because his focus was on improving as a defender, his batting metrics may have taken a hit, yet he still posted a respectable (.250/.338/.402) for the season.

The key to Randolph making the majors is his bat, without question. Many scouts believe his average defensive ability will be overshadowed by a bat that wants to hit, and hit a ton. Touted as the best pure high school hitter in the 2015 MLB Draft, Randolph has done little to disappoint. His 2016 was largely a throwaway season while he battled injuries that kept him from really capitalizing on an inspiring 2015. However, in his latest campaign he mashed his way to a tie for fifth most homers in the Florida State League.

Considering the tender age of the  Phillies’ No. 12 prospect, it is not likely that he will be rushed up the ladder. He could possibly open the season at (AA) Reading depending on how the Phillies see him defensively. He already has a bat good enough for the level.

 

 

Peoria Javelinas

Feeder Clubs: Braves, Red Sox, Padres, Mariners, Blue Jays

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Andres Munoz, Age 18

Parent Club: San Diego Padres

2017 Finishing Level: Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Do not be fooled by the baby-faced Andres Munoz, he wants nothing more than to blow you away with the heater. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Born in 1999, Munoz is easily the youngest player headed to the Arizona Fall League this October. At just 18 years of age, striking out hitters is not the issue for Munoz. No, hitting the strike zone consistently is. Blessed with electric stuff well beyond what is expect from a teenager, he has had a heck of a time reigning in his pitches and throwing consistent strikes. At 18 though, time is smiling on this young hurler.

With a clean easy motion to the plate, Munoz just needs to find his rhythm and learn to repeat his delivery time after time. Munoz has easy gas, with his fastball exploding out of his hand toward the plate with seemingly little effort. If this kid can iron out the kinks in his game, he could become a dominant pitcher in the majors sooner than later. Munoz is the youngest player on any Arizona Fall League roster in 2017 and after watching him throw you can understand why he’s there. Expect Andres to be toeing the rubber for (Low A) Fort Wayne in the Midwest League come spring 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Ronald Acuna, Age 19

Parent Club: Atlanta Braves

2017 Finishing Level: Gwinnett Braves (AAA)

 

Arizona Fall League

If you don’t yet know about Ronald Acuna, you will very soon. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Oh, hot dog! Do I even need to talk about Acuna? I mean, really? Everyone knows this guy by now, right? Look, just the fact he’s on this list should have pitchers everywhere soiling themselves.

Ok, so considering that many of the top ten prospects have mostly graduated to the big leagues (that were ahead of Acuna), this kid should be at the top of the heap come 2018. The No. 5 prospect in all of baseball did everything in his power to make the jump to the majors in 2017. At 19 years of age and with his parent club struggling to win games, the Braves decided to halt his progression at (AAA) Gwinnett. It was a smart move, especially if you regularly attend Gwinnett Braves games. All he did there in 54 games is put up an insane (.344/.393/.548) line, sending baseballs into orbit at a regular pace.

Acuna is just latest Venezuelan to take MLB by storm, well the minors anyway. Acuna’s measurables are out of sight. This is a true 5-tool player by every sense of the word with his blazing speed, howitzer arm, and big bat. Exciting times are afoot in Hot-lanta folks! I mean, this kid did nothing but perform at each level he was at this year. What’s more is that his numbers improved at every stop along the way. Next stop for Acuna in 2018? The Show.

 

 

Scottsdale Scorpions

Feeder Clubs: Reds, Angels, Yankees, Mets, Giants

 

Youngest Pitcher: LHP Justus Sheffield, Age 21

Parent Club: New York Yankees

2017 Finishing Level: Trenton Thunder (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Justus Sheffield is not related to Gary Sheffield. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

The first of two LHP on the list of youngest Arizona Fall League stars, Justus Sheffield is also the No. 6 rated prospect down on the farm. Sheffield is another fireballer on this list that can reach back and grab a 96-mph comet, but will usually sit around the 92-93 mph range. Boasting a curbeball and changeup that are projectable big league pitches, the short in stature Sheffield is certainly long on talent. However, he does have work to do in Arizona. This future Yankee needs to learn to consistently get his above average repertoire over the plate for strikes. If he can master his control, the sky’s the limit for Justus.

Sheffield spent the bulk of 2017 in (AA) with the Trenton Thunder except for two rehab starts in (A) ball. In 17 starts for Trenton, the young hurler went 7-6 with a 3.18 ERA over 93.1 innings of ball. His strike out tally is fantastic at 82, and his walks, while still at 3.1 BB/9, have come down dramatically from seasons past. If Sheffield continues to progress, he should arrive in the majors before the turn of the next decade. For now though, he’ll most likely break camp as a member of the (AAA) rotation in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Estevan Florial, Age 19

Parent Club: New York Yankees

2017 Finishing Level: Tampa Yankees (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Estevan Florial may strike out a ton, but he’ll happily take you yard in return. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Florial is an intriguing 19-year-old signed from the island nation of Haiti in 2015. This kid could be the center fielder of the future for New York, and it might not be much longer before he stakes his claim to a position once held by Mantle and DiMaggio. Now, this isn’t to say Estevan Florial is in the same mold as those two legendary players, but his talent is undeniable.

At the plate Florial seemingly has all the tools to be an excellent major leaguer. He’s fast, he’s got pop, and he’s not afraid to take a walk. In his first season of Class A baseball, Florial posted a (.298/.372/.479) line across both high and lower levels. While his sample size from (Advanced A) is small at only 19 games, he sported an (.855) OPS over 91 games for (Low A) Charleston. He has some holes in his swing and does whiff a lot, but he also walks a lot (once every 8.4 AB) suggesting that, as he develops, the K’s will come down. At any rate, this young slugging center fielder is poised to start 2018 at (AA) Trenton. Only time will tell if he can grasp the strike zone better as he gets a little older.

 

 

Mesa Solar Sox

Feeder Clubs: Cubs, Tigers, Astros, Athletics, Nationals

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Nolan Blackwood, Age 22

Parent Club: Oakland Athletics

2017 Finishing Level: Stockton Ports (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Nolan Blackwood shuts the light off when he leaves. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Nolan Blackwood is a stopper. I mean, this kid can slam a door. Unlike most of the other pitchers on this list, Blackwood is one thing, a harbinger of death to your team’s chances to win. The 2016 14th round draft selection out of Memphis has a scary frame at 6-foot-5 with plenty of room left to fill it out. Oakland always seems to have a top-notch pitcher or two working their way through the farm, and Blackwood is no exception.

Blackwood spent all of 2017 in (Advanced A) ball, shutting down games for the Stockton Ports. Sure, he had a 1-5 record. Sure, he had a 3.00 ERA, but it’s what he did with the game on the line that matters most. In 20 chances to turn out the lights on the opposition, he did so successfully 19 times. As he learns more and puts on more lean muscle, his K/9 should reflect that, although his 7.58 K/9 in 2017 are nothing to sneeze at. Neither is his 1.05 WHIP. Blackwood is slated to begin 2018 at (AA) Midland, in the Texas League.

 

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: 1B/LF Yordan Alvarez, Age 20

Parent Club: Houston Astros

2017 Finishing Level: Buies Creek Astros (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Yordan Alvarez, monstrous young left-handed hitter with jaw dropping pop. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Yordan Alvarez arrived in the Houston farm system via trade with the Dodgers in 2016. Alvarez is a slugger that translates to either left field or first base. While not exceptional with the leather, Alvarez does possess a very good arm in the field. He has been playing in left for much of 2017, but in the Arizona Fall League, he’s penciled in to man first base. At 6-foot-5 225 lbs. the left-handed slugger seems to be destined to play first in the majors.

Alvarez, Houston’s No. 26 ranked prospect has explosive raw power at the plate as shown by his first 32 games at the (Low A) level. Playing for the Quad Cities River Bandits, he mashed (.360/.468/.658) over 111 AB. With nothing left to prove, Houston promoted him to (Advanced A) Buies Creek where his numbers came back to earth with the step up in pitching. Despite only being 20 years old, Alvarez still managed to hack out a (.277/.329/.393) line. Not bad for a player as young as Yordan. Look for Alvarez to be back in the lineup for the Buies Creek Astros at the start of the 2018 campaign.

 

 

Salt River Rafters

Feeder Clubs: Diamondbacks, Orioles, Rockies, Marlins, Brewers

 

Youngest Pitcher: LHP Keegan Akin, Age 22

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles

2017 Finishing Level: Frederick Keys (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

“If you blink, you will miss it.” Is what the baseball cornfield gods say about Akin’s heater. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Keegan Akin is one half of Baltimore’s contribution to the youngest players in the Arizona Fall League. Ryan Mountcastle is the other, but more on him in just a minute.

Akin is a LHP blessed with a fastball that looks more like a vapor trail than it does a ball. The 22-year-old was a second-round pick by Baltimore in 2016 and is coming off his first full professional season at (Advanced A) Frederick. While his numbers might not jump off the page at you right away, there is still a lot to look at. First and foremost being his beastly 10 K/9 stuff. His electric fastball lit up opposing batters while his slider and changeup are both major league projectable pitches. Known for his ability to get nasty, he peppers the strike zone with ease leaving little doubts that the Orioles see him as a starting pitcher for the future.

Baltimore’s No. 8 ranked prospect is not far off getting the call to the show if he continues to improve his secondary pitches. His inability to fully harness his secondary stuff led to a 4.1 BB/9 rate, but as he learns how to pitch to better hitters his walk totals should begin to come back to earth. Orioles fans should be anxiously awaiting the arrival of this left-handed cannon. What level Akin might start at in 2018 is anyone’s guess, it could depend on how he does in the Arizona Fall League. Frederick or (AA) Bowie are his likely landing spots after camp breaks in March 2018.

 

Youngest Position Player: 2B Ryan Mountcastle, Age 20

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles

2017 Finishing Level: Bowie Bay Sox (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Baltimore’s 2015 first-round pick, Ryan Mountcastle, has had a meteoric rise through the minors so far. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Mountcastle is currently the No. 3 prospect in Baltimore’s farm system. At the moment, Baltimore is still holding out hope that this young man can overcome his below average arm strength and stick at short stop. While questions remain about Mountcastle in the field, there are little doubts in the scouting community that he will hit for both power and average at the big-league level. Ryan is a tall prospect with room left on his frame for further growth. And that is scary news for American League pitchers.

In 88 games of (Advanced A) baseball he posted an impressive (.314/.343/.542) line, while smashing 15 round trippers along the way. It was precisely this type of production that ultimately won him promotion to (AA) Bowie, finishing the season against much older competition. Though Mountcastle struggled to come to terms with Double-A pitching in his first 39 games for the Bay Sox (.222/.239/.366), he will almost certainly start 2018 there. This kid is truly one for the future. Get out there to the Arizona Fall League games and take a peek.

 

 

 

Surprise Saguaros

Feeder Clubs: Royals, Twins, Cardinals, Rays, Rangers

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Jordan Hicks, Age 21

Parent Club: St. Louis Cardinals

2017 Finishing Level: Springfield Cardinals (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League 2017

Hicks has eye popping velocity, and a heavy sinking action on his fastball. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

At just 21, Jordan Hicks already has a fastball that would likely leave an exit hole the size of Pluto if it hit you.On top of a fastball that sits in the lower 90’s (but can ramp up to 98 mph), this young fireballer also has an above average curveball that has a chance to be a plus pitch for him in the bigs. Jordan started 2017 with the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League taking the mound in 14 games and posting a healthy 8-2 record while fanning 63 batters along the way.

He has some control issues to sort out, but upon his promotion to (Advanced A) Palm Beach he saw his BB/9 shrink from (4.5) in Peoria to a respectable (2) in his first 27 innings of Florida State League ball. Though the sample is small, this youngster seems to have found another gear with his step up in competition. The Card’s No. 14 prospect posted 32 strike outs and only 21 hits in eight appearances at the (Advanced A) level. On the back of that performance the Cardinals promoted young Jordan to (AA) Springfield in August, though he didn’t log any innings due to late season injury. Expect Hicks to be a key component to Springfield’s rotation in 2018.

 

Youngest Position Player: 3B Kevin Padlo, Age 21

Parent Club: Tampa Bay Rays

2017 Finishing Level: Charlotte Stone Crabs (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Kevin Padlo is rated as Tampa Bay’s No. 28 prospect. (photo courtesty of: MiLB.com)

Kevin was originally a fifth-round selection of the Colorado Rockies in 2014, the organization he played for in his first two minor league seasons. By January 2016 however, he found himself part of the deal that sent LF Corey Dickerson to Tampa in exchange for pitchers Jake McGee and German Marquez. Though Padlo struggled some at the plate this year posting (.215/.321/.380) across two levels of minor league ball, there is a lot to like about this young man.

While his batting average might seem low, his (.321) OBP suggests a keen eye, that with more experience should translate to a solid average and 20-homer power. At only 21 years of age, the Rays’ No. 28 prospect already possesses a defensive tool set at the hot corner you would normally expect to find on a player much older. Where he could start 2018 might depend on what he does in Arizona this fall, but as it stands now all signs point to another season in Charlotte.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Colorado Rockies)

 

 

 

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Mitch Haniger fantasy baseball

Mitch Haniger is a must-add for your fantasy baseball playoffs

Background

Mitch Haniger fantasy baseball

Mitch Haniger was traded last November to the Seattle Mariners along with blossoming star Jean Segura. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Mitch Haniger was originally drafted out of high school by the New York Mets in the 31st round of the 2009 MLB draft, but he opted to attend Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. The most notable player to come from Cal Poly is Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith.

In his freshman season, Haniger only played in 17 games. He began to become one of the more highly-touted college prospects after earning an every-day role his sophomore year. In his final collegiate season, he batted .346 with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs in 56 games. He was dominating the Big West Conference and MLB teams were taking notice.

At 21 years old, Haniger was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round of the 2012 draft. After failing to standout in low and high-A, Haniger was traded with former 10th-round selection Anthony Banda to the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Gerardo Parra.

In 85 games at the triple-A level, Haniger batted .330 with 23 home runs, 70 RBIs and eight stolen bases. Haniger debuted for the Diamondbacks in 2016, where he played in 34 games and batted .229 with five home runs and 17 RBIs.

After an underwhelming start, he was subsequently traded last November to the Seattle Mariners along with blossoming star Jean Segura and former sixth-round pick Zac Curtis for former first-round pick Taijuan Walker and infielder Ketel Marte.

Haniger was deemed the everyday right fielder after slashing .406/.472/.719 in 32 at bats in spring training. He originally slotted into the two-hole for the Mariners, batting behind Segura and ahead of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. This spot helped Haniger become one of the most productive players in the MLB in April, as he was leading the Mariners in WAR at 1.8 and batting .342 with four home runs, 20 runs scored, 16 RBIs and two stolen bases.

 

Injuries

Mitch Haniger fantasy baseball

Haniger missed half of August due to a mild concussion, small nasal fracture and lacerated upper lip which occurred after being hit in the face by a Jacob deGrom fastball on July 29th. (Photo by NY Daily News)

Haniger is currently owned in only 18.6 percent of fantasy baseball leagues on ESPN.com, which is mainly due to his inability to stay on the field. He missed all of May and the beginning of June due to a strained oblique, which he suffered on April 25.

After returning on June 18, the 26-year-old clearly was feeling the lingering effects of the leg injury, as he only batted .176 in 68 at bats in July.

Most recently, he missed half of August due to a mild concussion, small nasal fracture and lacerated upper lip, which occurred after being hit in the face by a Jacob deGrom fastball on July 29.

 

Picking back up where he left off

Mitch Haniger fantasy baseball

Haniger is batting .455 with two home runs, five runs scored and six RBIs in his 18 games since returning. (Photo by the Seattle Times)

The Mariners outfielder returned from his facial and head injuries on August 19 and returned to his everyday role in right field. So far in September, Haniger is batting .455 with two home runs, five runs scored and six RBIs in 33 at bats.

In his 18 games since returning, Haniger’s lineup position has varied. He has batted second and fifth on four separate occasions, while batting sixth 10 times.

If he can continue to get at bats in the two-hole, his fantasy value will sky rocket. Haniger will be an integral piece to the Mariners success moving forward. If you need outfield depth, Haniger would be a perfect option for your fantasy baseball playoff run.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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Trade

Post-deadline trade market still buzzing

It has been a month since the non-waiver trade deadline passed but there still have been all sorts of wheeling and dealing. It is much more difficult to complete a trade after July 31st, but it can still happen and make an impact for a team. Here is a look at some of the big trades over the past month and the impact it can have on their respective teams.

Curtis Granderson to the Dodgers

Trade

Granderson has ripped 3 bombs since arriving in LA (NBC Los Angeles)

Granderson had been having a good power year but has been struggling otherwise, much like a lot of hitters this season. He has 23 home runs and a .217/.330/.480 slash line on the year. Since making his way to Los Angeles, he is only hitting .135.

It was an interesting move for the Dodgers to make as they have a well-rounded outfield. However, it is evident that Dodgers managements knows that this is their time to go for the whole thing. Thus, they made the decision to do everything they can to improve their offense. The outfield already consists of Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor and rookie sensation Cody Bellinger. Bellinger was recently on the disabled list though, so the Granderson deal may be precaution just in case something goes wrong. He started most games with Bellinger on the DL and was able to hit three home runs in that time.

Replacing Chris Taylor would also be a tough sell given that he is having a breakout year at the plate with a .305/.375/.532 slash line along with 18 home runs. It would be tough to see Granderson starting in the outfield come October barring injury. He would provide impressive pop off the bench in important situations, so look for him to make his impact there.

Mariners make moves for Mike Leake and Yonder Alonso

The Mike Leake trade news came as a surprise this week. This seemed to be more of a salary dump for the Cardinals as they look to add in free agency this winter or re-sign Lance Lynn. Several sources also reported that Leake was not happy in St. Louis, so that may have contributed in him waiving his no-trade clause. Players in the St. Louis clubhouse were not happy with the deal though, asking if it was a joke even.

Leake has been struggling as of late. He was not contributing much as he has a 8.88 ERA in the month of August. He has shown signs of brilliance though. In April he looked to be one of the best pitchers in the National League as he went 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA. The Mariners may be looking for that Mike Leake for the wild card race at hand, as well as the future with his contract running until 2021.

Yonder Alonso was a big bat that the Mariners were looking for. He has managed to hit 24 this season along with a respectable .267 batting average. It is obvious that Seattle is serious about making a run for the wild card, however they are slumping as of late and will need to turn it around. They are 4.5 games behind the Twins for the second spot in the playoffs. It is going to be especially difficult considering the moves that the Angels are making in Anaheim.

Angels acquire Justin Upton from Detroit

Trade

Upton joins Mike Trout in a star-studded outfield (Sports Illustrated)

The Angels traded for a big name in Justin Upton on Thursday. Upton provides a very strong presence in the middle of the Angels lineup. This acquisition is exactly what the team needs in terms of morale and support. It shows that the Angels are not going to sit idly by when they see there is a chance for the team to do something in the postseason.

Albert Pujols is not the hitter he used to be but he is a great compliment to Justin Upton and Mike Trout. Andrelton Simmons is also having one of his best years at the plate, so there is potential for the offense to take the Angels to the playoffs. Their main issue is pitching though. The performance of their pitching staff is vital in order for the Upton trade to work out this season.

What the Upton trade also shows is that the Tigers are in selling mode. They have now unloaded Alex Avila and their star outfielder Justin Upton. Is there going to be a Verlander-sized domino that falls next? Many teams would love to have an arm with the kind of experience Verlander has at this point in the season. Look for him to be moved soon as multiple sources are reporting that the Tigers want to deal their ace. It is not a sure thing but there are plenty of teams, even the Angels, that are probably calling Al Avila.

Johnathan Lucroy to Colorado

This trade went a tad under the radar, but it has been paying off for Colorado. Lucroy provides solid veteren experience to a relatively inexperienced pitching rotation. He is a good guy to have behind the plate if the Rockies make it to October and have their young pitchers go up against the league’s best.

Lucroy has a solid .299/.415/.448 slash line since being traded to Colorado from Texas. He had a -0.5 WAR in Texas as well but has been looking better with a .4 WAR in his 22 games with the Rockies. He also rounds out one of the better offenses in the league and is making a difference down the line.

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Dodgers

What NL team has the best shot at dethroning the Dodgers?

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the creme of the crop in baseball right now. No other team looks remotely close to reaching their level of dominance. However, we have seen teams like this before. The 2001 Seattle Mariners won 116 games, but lost in five to the Yankees who only had 95 wins in the playoffs. That means these regular season super teams can be touched.

The Dodgers are only 4-4 in their last eight games. This may be because Cody Bellinger has been on the DL, but he will be coming back on Wednesday. The 4-4 “skid” may also be a sign that the Dodgers are not as untouchable as we all thought. While they are still the highlight of baseball this year, here is a look at National League teams that could have a shot of keeping the Dodgers away from the World Series for the 29th consecutive season.

Washington Nationals

Dodgers

Harper’s absence has not slowed the Nationals down (USA Today)

The Nationals have been without their star since the 12th of August. However, Washington has managed to stay more than afloat with an 8-5 record. They are a lock for October at this point as they are 12 games up on the second place Marlins.

Washington has proved that they have the depth that is needed in order to do well in the postseason, unlike in the past. Part of the reason for that is because of their acquisitions at the trade deadline.

Howie Kendrick has been spectacular since joining the Nats as he has slashed .341/.374/.600 slugging percentage since being traded and has five home runs.

Sean Doolittle has also been bolstering the previously struggling bullpen. Other than a three-run blemish against the Brewers, he has been all the Nationals could have asked for. The team has also won in every appearance he has made.

How can the Nationals beat the Dodgers? Well if these teams were to meet in the postseason, it would be in a must-see NLCS showdown. The Nationals have the second best rotation in the NL after the Dodgers. The return of Max Scherzer also gives Washington some hope in that category. Clayton Kershaw historically is not nearly as good in the postseason as he is during the regular season. The Nats may have the edge in a Kershaw vs Scherzer matchup.

The Nationals also have their shortstop, Trea Turner, returning from injury. Once he is back to the mix along with Harper, the Nationals ought to give the Dodgers a run for their money if they meet in October.

Chicago Cubs

Dodgers

Lester has the postseason poise to give the Dodgers a run for their money (Photo by dailyherald.com)

The boys from the north side have been having a relatively rough year. Last season they managed to win the NL Central handily with a 103-58 record. Chicago looked to be the team to beat this year as well. There was no reason to think Joe Maddon’s ball club would regress at all. It did however.

Much of the regression can be credited to a weak starting rotation and an underperforming offense. The Cubs have the fifth worst rotation in the National League despite the fact they have Lester and Arrieta.

They addressed the rotation problem by trading their best prospect, Eloy Jiminez, to the cross-town rivals for Jose Quintana. Quintana looked very promising as he pitched a scoreless seven innings with 12 strikeouts in his first start. Things were looking up for the Cubs, but Quintana has gone back up to a 4.50 ERA since joining the Cubs.

Kyle Schwarber did not play for Chicago for most of last year. However, they were relying on him big time this year to be the big bat they know he could be. It would round out their stud hitters in Bryant and Rizzo. He has not lived up to expectations though as he was sent down for a Triple-A stint in June.

Wilson Contreras was a nice surprise for them as he was the best hitter on the team since the All-Star break before going down with a hamstring injury. He should be back by the end of September though.

The Cubs are on this list because they have the potential to beat the Dodgers in October. However, they are no guarantee to reach the postseason. They are only 2.5 games in front of the Brewers at the moment, so they still have a division race to be concerned with. The thing is that if the Brewers win the division, it will be highly unlikely they would be able to beat the Dodgers or even face them.

The reason why the Cubs are here is because they have the kind of talent that could breakout at any time. They have one of the most threatening lineups top to bottom when healthy. If the hitters show up, then they have a shot.

The rotation is also in good shape for the postseason. Lackey and Lester are both experienced playoff pitchers, and Lester may be one of the best in recent memory. Thus, we know they have the potential to go head-to-head with the Dodgers rotation if they do meet.

Arizona Diamondbacks

It’s difficult to believe that a team that is 19 games out of first place in their division in August is going to make the playoffs. At the moment though, Arizona has the best bet to take the first wild card spot.

Arizona would feasibly meet with the Dodgers in the NLDS. Zack Greinke would hypothetically start the Wild Card game, so they would not be able to get two starts out of him if need be against the Dodgers.

Arizona has been able to match up with the Dodgers okay this season. They are 5-8 against the best team in the league but three of those losses came in the last series they played. Arizona has also been an excellent home team so if they can manage to win one in Los Angeles if they play in the NLDS, then they have a shot at doing something.

The Diamondbacks do not have the same kind of firepower as the Dodgers do of course. They do have Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke who can put up a fight against Los Angeles. They also have Paul Goldschmidt who is a perennial MVP candidate at this point who can take the Dodgers for a ride. However, it is unlikely that they could prevent the Dodgers from moving on especially with the Wild Card game being played.

The reason the Diamondbacks made it on the list is because they have not been pushed around by the Dodgers nearly as much as other teams have. Arizona also has the capability of going on a role at any time, so if they can manage to get hot in late September then the Dodgers ought to be on the lookout.

Will the Dodgers win the NL?

Oddsmakers would give a heavy advantage to Los Angeles moving onto the Fall Classic. However, with the history there is in dominate regular season teams and their performance in the postseason, it could be easy to see the Dodgers losing in the NLCS.

The Cubs and the Nationals have the talent that can match up with the Dodgers pretty well, so the Dodgers should not coast into the playoffs for any reason. Either way, these matchups ought to be must-see come October.

 

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Bold predictions 2017 MLB season

Results of my ten bold predictions for the 2017 MLB season

On April 3, 2017, I published an article recording my ten bold predictions for the 2017 MLB season. With fantasy baseball playoffs rapidly approaching, it is a good time to look back and assess my projections from early April.

 

Jarrett Parker becomes the everyday left fielder for the San Francisco Giants, and finishes as a top-50 outfielder.

Bold predictions 2017 MLB season

Parker suffered a broken collarbone in mid-April and didn’t return to the big leagues until August 3rd. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)

Well, tough prediction to start to the list. Parker suffered a broken collarbone in mid-April and didn’t return to the big leagues until August 3rd.

Currently the Giants have Brandon Belt, Michael Morse and Austin Slater on the disabled list, allowing Parker to fit in as their everyday left fielder. The 28-year-old has split time in the lineup between batting third and seventh. If he can continue to get at-bats in the three-hole, he will show why I predicted him to be a top-50 outfielder this season.

 

Lance Lynn will win 16 games and finish the season as a top 50 starting pitcher.

Lynn seems to be surpassing my high expectations, as he is currently ranked 15th among starting pitchers in ESPN standard formats. He is currently 10-6 with a 3.05 ERA.

The 30-year-old has eight quality starts in his last eight appearances, making him one of the most consistent and reliable pitchers of the second half.

The former first-round pick in 2008 has career lows in batting average against, or BAA, with .211, batting average on balls in play, or BABIP, with .232 and strikeouts per nine, or K/9, with 7.47.

All of these trends suggest that his luck may be running out, although he has yet to let up all season.

 

Newly acquired Seattle Mariner, Mitch Haniger, will finish the year as a top 25 outfielder.

Although he is far from being a top-25 outfielder, Haniger still has been impressive in 2017. In his first 21 games, Haniger batted .342 with four home runs, 20 runs scored and 16 RBIs. The 26-year-old strained his oblique muscle and missed all of May.

After returning, Haniger was clearly still affected by the oblique, as the former first round pick in 2012 batted a mere .176 in July. Haniger found himself on the disabled list once again in late July after being hit in the face by a 95-MPH Jacob deGrom fastball. Haniger has since returned to the lineup, where on August 19th he went two for four with a home run and four RBIs against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Haniger’s early success was enhanced by the fact that he was batting primarily second in the Mariners order. So, now batting mainly sixth or seventh, Haniger’s fantasy ceiling has dropped significantly. We cannot forget about how successful he was in April, as he will be an integral part to the Mariners success in the future, although his lack of a track record is a bit concerning.

 

Kendall Graveman will become the unquestioned ace of the Oakland Athletics staff, after finishing the season with a sub-4 ERA and over 140 strikeouts.

Bold predictions 2017 MLB season

Kendall Graveman began the season on an incredible tear, posting a 2.25 ERA and 16 strikeouts in his first 24 innings pitched. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Graveman has been another player plagued by injuries in 2017. He began the season on an incredible tear, posting a 2.25 ERA and 16 strikeouts in his first 24 innings pitched.

In the first half combined, he finished with a respectable 3.83 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 47 innings, and besides at-the-time Jesse Hahn, he was the Athletics most consistent and reliable arm. Unfortunately, Graveman was inflicted with a shoulder injury in mid-May which kept him out until early-August, making the 26-year-old completely irrelevant in the fantasy universe.

Next year promises to be bright for Graveman, who was formerly traded for Josh Donaldson, although his health problems are a major issue.

 

David Phelps will finish as a top 20 reliever in standard formats, and a top 10 in formats that include holds.

Phelps began the year as a part of the Miami Marlins, although he was subsequently traded to the Seattle Mariners in mid-July for three minor league prospects.

In the first half of the year, Phelps posted a fair 3.68 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 44 innings. So far in the second half, the 30-year-old has registered a 1.80 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 10 innings.

Since being moved to Seattle, Phelps has only let two earned runs in his seven appearances, both coming in the same game against the New York Mets.

Phelps is currently on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation, although he is expected to return sometime in late August according to MLB.com. When he returns, he will likely be used primarily in the 8th inning behind closer Edwin Diaz or possibly in the 7th behind set-up man Nick Vincent.

Either way, it is valid to roster him in leagues that count holds, especially due to his starting and relief pitcher eligibilities.

 

Yangervis Solarte hits 20 home runs for the first time in his professional career, and finishes as a top 100 hitter.  

Solarte missed nearly all of July as he was plagued by an oblique injury. He has batted primarily in the clean-up spot in the San Diego Padres order, giving him extra RBI and run scoring opportunities.

The 30-year-old has batted .268 and .269 respectively in each half of the year so far, so you can essentially pencil him in for a .270 average, especially as his BABIP is a career low .270.

Also, Solarte has seen a decline in his strikeout rate, as it has dropped from 14.2 percent in 2016 to 11.1 percent in 2017, which shows his progression from years past.

Over the course of a 162-game season, Solarte would be on pace for 23 home runs and 84 RBIs, which would comfortably make him a top-100 player. He has recently gained shortstop eligibility on top of his second and third base eligibilities, making him a very versatile fantasy asset.

 

Gerrit Cole will be a top-5 Cy Young candidate behind a sub-three ERA and 200 strike outs.

Bold predictions 2017 MLB season

Since the All-Star break, Gerrit Cole has recorded a 3.13 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 46 innings. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Cole hasn’t been the same since his 2015 campaign where he finished fourth in the National League Cy Young vote.

His first half was a mess, as he recorded a 4.43 ERA and 7.86 K/9 over 107.2 innings. Although since the All-Star break, Cole has recorded a 3.13 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 46 innings.

The former first overall pick in 2011 has had serious issues giving up home runs, as his home run to fly ball rate is an astronomical 16.8 percent.

His second half so far has given fantasy owners a new-found hope that Cole can return to his 2015 form, although clearly 2017 was not the year for his resurgence.

 

Christian Yelich will put together a 25 home run/25 stolen base campaign for the first time in his career.

Myself and many others anticipated Miami Marlins star to take the next step in 2017, although we were wrong.

In 2016, the former first round pick in 2010 batted .298 with 21 home runs and 98 RBIs. There was a general assumption that Yelich would continue to progress, although he is currently on a 162-game pace to bat only .277 with 18 home runs and 13 stolen bases.

The 25-year-old has a career BABIP of .356, although this season it sits at only .328, which suggests he is getting a bit unlucky.

Yelich continues to bat third for the mighty Marlins, which bodes well for his fantasy value moving forward. He still has a very promising future, although 2017 was clearly not his MVP caliber breakout season.

 

Clayton Kershaw has the best year of his career, winning the NL Cy Young and MVP behind a sub-2 ERA and 300 plus strike outs.

This one is simple, a back injury slowed down Kershaw from continuing his domination as greatest pitcher of his generation.

Before the injury, Kershaw had thrown 141.1 innings while recording a 15-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and 168 strikeouts. The 29-year-old was on pace for 260 plus strikeouts over 220 innings pitched, which would have only been the second time in which he reached this feat.

When healthy, he remains the most reliable and elite pitcher in fantasy baseball.

 

Andrew Benintendi will not only win the Rookie of the Year, but will also be a top 25 finalist in the MVP race.

If Aaron Judge didn’t exist, Benintendi would be the favorite to win American League Rookie of the Year. He is currently batting .276 with 17 home runs, 68 RBIs, 63 runs scored and 14 stolen bases over 113 games.

The seventh overall pick in 2015 has met his expectations head on, as he is on a 162-game pace to hit 24 home runs and 97 RBIs. He has decreased his strikeout rate from 21.2 percent to 16.6 percent, while also raising his walk rate a full two percent.

Benintendi is a lock to finish top three in AL ROY, while also having a strong possibility of finishing within the top-25 in AL MVP voting.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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Dodgers

Should the Dodgers consider rest instead of 116 wins?

The Los Angeles Dodgers currently sit at a staggering 84-34 record. That puts them 11.5 games ahead on the next best team in all of baseball. They are now on pace to win 114 games when it is all said and done. Don’t expect them to slow down at all though, because they have the ninth easiest schedule remaining in the big leagues.

The Dodgers are currently looking at reaching the major league record of 116 wins in a single season, set by the 1906 Chicago Cubs and the 2001 Seattle Mariners. The question is: Are they really chasing the record though?

Should Roberts rest his team?

Dodgers

Dave Roberts has a lot to consider going down the stretch (LA Times)

In the end, the most you can ask for in a regular season is to get the best record in the National League. At this point, the Dodgers would have to try to lose the best record. This puts them at an interesting juncture in their season.

Yes, it would be quite the feat to tie or break the single season win record. However, the most important goal for the Dodgers is winning the World Series. This begs the question: Is it really worth it trying to reach 116 wins?

By no means does this imply the Dodgers should just give up on the regular season because it is in the bag. What this means is Dave Roberts might consider resting his players more regularly. The problem that this brings up is that there is such a thing as too much rest.

There are not many statistics on rest this far out of the postseason. However, for the Dodgers’ pitching core, it would be best to give them an extra day or two of rest in between starts. What this will do most importantly is reduce the risk of injury for any of their premier players.

Injuries

Dodgers

Dusty Baker feared the worst when his superstar went down (WTOP)

There have been some major injuries with contenders in the recent weeks. Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Correa, Bryce Harper, and Wilson Contreras all have missed or will miss a significant chunk of time. All of these players are key members of these contending teams, and the last thing anyone wants to happen is for their star player to get hurt at the most important part of the season.

The most notable injury of the bunch was Harper slipping on first base and bruising a bone in his leg. It was a scary moment that could have been prevented. The Nationals are a lock to win the NL East and Dusty Baker had Bryce Harper playing after heavy rainfall.

Now, it is extremely difficult to pull players that want to play because you want to save them. It is still vital to be careful though because Baker would’ve hated to lose his best player in the postseason for something as silly as slipping on a base. They got lucky and he should return in September.

Dave Roberts should look at the Harper injury and realize that the worst things can happen at any given time. He must be careful if he wants the team to be in the best shape it can be in October.

How about those Mariners?

What happened to that Mariners team that won 116 games in 2001? Well, they got knocked out by a solid Yankees team in five games in the ALCS. That is not to say they made a mistake by not giving their players more rest at the end of the season, but it is a reminder that no matter how many games you win in the regular season, anybody can sneak up and knock you out. The Mariners actually finished with a postseason record of 4-6 that year, so the Dodgers should be weary of that.

Will they reach 116?

As I stated earlier, the goal is not to reach the coveted 116-win mark. The goal is to win a World Series title, an accomplishment that has eluded the Dodgers’ organization for 30 years.

Los Angeles is a city with many attractions that fans can go out and see. The Dodgers are one of the best ones out there. Fans are starting to get antsy though as this is the time for the Dodgers to go for it. They have showed they are serious with the acquisition of Yu Darvish, who they traded for specifically for the starts he would make in the playoffs.

Dodgers

Kershaw’s health will play a key role in the Dodgers’ success in October (Baseball Essential)

One-hundred-sixteen wins is in the backseat to the World Series title. Because of this, Dave Roberts should be very cautious with his star players so they don’t run the risk of injury. Clayton Kershaw got hurt out of nowhere, and they are lucky that he is coming back soon.

Since the postseason is the most important thing on their mind right now and they don’t want a repeat occurrence of Kershaw, it is doubtful that the Dodgers will reach 116 wins. Especially considering that the Diamondbacks and Rockies are in a dead heat for the Wild Card with several NL Central teams.

It will be a race to the final day of the season and every team will be doing all they can to get a ticket to October.

 

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Transcending eras: Clayton Kershaw

When you think of the great pitchers of the game, there is generally a consensus on most of the names. Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan, Pedro Martinez. The list could go on and on with dominant pitchers who have played the game. Even so, how about we add one more name to that list; Clayton Kershaw.

The burly lefty may only be 29 years old, but when you review his career so far, it’s hard not to see how truly dominant he has been. But does he truly match up to the likes of Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan? Let’s delve into the numbers and see how the Dallas native compares to the past greats.

Best pitcher of all-time

Clayton Kershaw is arguably one of the best pitchers of all-time (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images).

Mature beyond his years

That could be one of the more accurate statements made in regards to Kershaw. When the southpaw made his major league debut at the ripe old age of 20, no one could have predicted what he was to become. After being drafted seventh overall in the 2006 MLB Draft, he was pegged to be a future top of the rotation arm, a potential ace. Kershaw quickly proved that to be true after he posted a 2.79 ERA in his 21 year old season. He also punched 185 tickets in 171 innings pitched that season, proving to have electric stuff.

That season was just a glimmer of what Kershaw would become. Throughout his twenties he pitched like a grizzled veteran, compiling Hall of Fame type numbers. In his first 10 seasons in Los Angeles, he has a career 2.38 ERA with 2,033 strikeouts in 1,863.1 innings pitched. Kershaw became the second fastest to reach 2000 career strikeouts this season, bested by only Randy Johnson. The pitchers behind Kershaw on that list read like a who’s who of great MLB pitchers; Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, to name a few.

Even so, it’s much to early to mention Kershaw in the same breath as the likes of Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson, isn’t it?

Lefty on lefty

When Kershaw became the second fastest player to reach 2,000 career strikeouts, many people both in and out of the game of baseball took notice. But if that was their first exposure to the Dodgers’ ace, then they have been missing one of the most masterful pitchers in baseball history. That may sound blasphemous to some die-hard baseball fans, but when put up against the game’s greats, Kershaw does more than hold his own. Let’s take Randy Johnson for example.

The Big Unit didn’t make his major league debut until he was 24 years old. Even so, we will compare his first 10 seasons to Kershaw’s, given that is the breadth of Kershaw’s career so far. In Johnson’s first 10 years in the league, he posted a 3.37 ERA, over one full run more than Kershaw’s 2.38 ERA.

Johnson also struck out an even 2000 batters over 1734 innings in those 10 years, 33 less than Kershaw. Even though Johnson was 33 strikeouts off of matching Kershaw, Johnson pitched 129 fewer innings than Kershaw, so that statistic can be misleading. That explains Johnson’s edge in SO/9, with 10.4 compared to Kershaw’s 9.8 SO/9. With the small difference in SO/9, Kershaw still easily bests Johnson in run prevention, the main responsibility of a pitcher. It can be reasoned that Kershaw has pitched better than Johnson in his first 10 seasons, but what about another great?

Righty on lefty

Best pitcher of all-time

Nolan Ryan’s greatness was on display for decades, but Kershaw might be catching up with him (baseballhall.org).

Nolan Ryan has largely been lauded as one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. The 12th round MLB Draft pick out of Refugio, Texas defied expectations, making his MLB debut at 19 years old. He put up a 3.09 ERA in 21 games in 1968, and struck out 133 batters in 134 innings pitched. In his first 10 seasons, Ryan was a force for both the Mets and Angels. With a 3.11 ERA and 2085 strikeouts in 1935 innings pitched over his first 10 seasons, Kershaw matches up well with his fellow Texan.

Kershaw again has the lead in ERA, with a 2.38 ERA compared to Ryan’s 3.11 ERA. Ryan has more strikeouts than Kershaw (2085 compared to 2033), but their SO/9 is eerily similar. Ryan possesses a 9.7 SO/9 compared to Kershaw’s 9.8 SO/9. The similarity in SO/9 is remarkable, and means Kershaw and Ryan have been about the same in regards to their strikeout ability. Even so, Kershaw again has an edge over his counterpart, with a lower ERA and similar SO/9 in their first 10 seasons.

Kershaw’s dominance can not be overlooked. And when you compare his career to some of the game’s greats, his dominance becomes even more evident. If Kershaw retired today, he would garner considerable Hall of Fame consideration. But with no signs of slowing down on the horizon, and at only 29 years old, Kershaw could continue dealing at a high level for years to come.

Feature image by USATSI.

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Fantasy Baseball 2017: Injury Update (May 17, 2017)

As we dive deeper into the 2017 fantasy baseball season, it is time to once again identify and analyze some key injuries around the league. This injury update intends to provide insight to a player’s current health status and their outlook moving forward. The following players have been listed on the disabled list as of May 17, 2017.

 

Josh Donaldson, Third Baseman, Toronto Blue Jays

Injury Update

Josh Donaldson plans to return within the week. (Photo by of Patrick Semansky of the Associated Press)

 

Injury: Right calf soreness

Status: 10-day DL

Expected return: Late May

 

Donaldson was placed on the 10-day disabled list after reaggravating his calf in which he originally injured during spring training. He has dealt with reoccurring lower half injuries his entire career, although he has still managed to play at least 155 games in four straight seasons.

The 31-year-old has been a perennial MVP candidate since 2013, and is an invaluable fantasy asset. Before the reaggravation, Donaldson was batting .310 with two home runs, five runs and four RBIs in only nine games. His toughness and mental fortitude have allowed him to succeed even when playing injured, which increases his fantasy value even more so.

 

Robinson Cano, Second Baseman, Seattle Mariners

Injury Update

Robinson Cano has unexpectedly been placed on the 10-day DL with a right quadriceps strain (Photo by MLB.com)

 

Injury: Right quadriceps strain

Status: 10-day DL

Expected return: May 23

 

Cano was placed on the 10-day disabled list after missing five consecutive games due to his strained right quadriceps. The Mariners expect Cano to return after the minimum 10-day period, as he was originally expected to forgo a stint on the disabled list entirely.

The 34-year-old’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .286 suggests that his batting average will rise once he returns to the field. Also, he set a career high in home runs last season, showing that he is no-where near the end of his Hall-of-Fame career.

 

Yoenis Cespedes, Outfielder, New York Mets

Injury Update

Yoenis Cespedes eyes a return for May 23 after battling reoccurring lower body injuries. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann of Getty Images)

 

Injury: Left hamstring strain

Status: 10-day DL

Expected return: May 23

 

Cespedes has been sidelined since late April by a left hamstring injury that has been lingering since spring training. He has begun his running program and expects to be ready to return by May 23.

The 31-year-old had been on fire to start 2017, totaling six home runs, 12 runs and 10 RBIs in only 18 games. Cespedes is an elite-caliber fantasy outfielder when healthy and will resume his production in about a week.

 

Ryan Braun, Outfielder, Milwaukee Brewers

Injury Update

Ryan Braun will look to continue his strong start after he returns from his calf injury in late May. (Photo by Jeff Curry of the US Presswire).

 

Injury: Left calf strain

Status: 10-day DL

Expected return: May 23 – May 30

 

The Brewers lost a major piece of their puzzle after placing former MVP Ryan Braun on the 10-day disabled list with a calf injury. The injury has been called a grade one strain, which is the lowest grade on the spectrum. The Brewers expect Braun to be back after the minimum 10-day period, although Braun owners must be cautious of a minor forearm injury that may cause another setback.

The 33-year-old has been one of the most productive players in the last decade. An average 162-game season for Braun includes a .304 batting average, 34 home runs, 112 RBIs and 105 runs. He will remain a top-tier fantasy outfielder until the day he retires.

 

A.J. Pollock, Outfielder, Arizona Diamondbacks

Injury Update

A.J. Pollock has reinjured his groin, which held him out of almost the entire 2016 season. (Photo by MLB.com)

 

Injury: Right groin strain

Status: 10-day DL

Expected Return: Early – Mid-June

 

Pollock, who missed almost the entire 2016 season due to a left groin sprain, has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right groin strain. The strain was given a grade one and does not seem too serious.

However, for someone who utilizes their speed as much as Pollock, this could be very bad news. There is no exact time table for his return, but he expects to be back sometime in June.

The 29-year-old has only played one full season in the big leagues, but he has already made a name for himself as an elite fantasy commodity. In 2015, he batted .315 with 20 home runs, 111 runs, 76 RBIs and 39 steals. This may be the only time that Pollock is attainable through trade, as his fantasy potential is through the roof.

 

(Featured Image by Calltothepen.com)

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Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Early Season Promotions

With the 2017 fantasy baseball season in full swing, it is time to examine this year’s early promotions. The following players have all been called up recently, and may offer significant fantasy value now and in the future. Each player will be listed along with their age, team and position.

Daniel Vogelbach, Seattle Mariners, First Baseman

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Dan Vogelbach is the first baseman of the future in Seattle. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

Vogelbach was called up on April 23 and is expected to be the left-handed half of a platoon with Danny Valencia at first base. Valencia is also expected to platoon in right field with newly called up Ben Gamel after starting right fielder Mitch Haniger went out due to an oblique injury. This means that Vogelbach could see a bit more playing time than originally anticipated.

Vogelbach was originally a second-round pick by the Chicago Cubs and made his way to Seattle in the Mike Montgomery trade in 2016.

He has shown the ability to hit for contact and power in the minor leagues, as he has a career .287 minor league batting average with 85 home runs in 560 games. The 24-year-old is Seattle’s anticipated first baseman of the future, although their reluctances to start him against lefties confirms his lack of readiness for everyday at bats.

Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers, Starting Pitcher

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Julio Urias will be apart of the Dodgers rotation for the remainder of the season. (Courtesy of NBC Sports)

The 20-year-old phenomenon has officially received the call up and is expected to stay with the club for the remainder of the season. This is huge news, as Urias has drawn comparisons to his teammate Clayton Kershaw in delivery and arsenal. They both are hard-throwing lefties who primarily use a fastball, curveball and slider while occasionally working in a changeup.

Urias has been astounding in the minor leagues with a career ERA of 2.62, WHIP of 1.09 and K/9 of 10.9. The Dodgers’ star prospect pitched over 100 innings for the first time in his career in 2016, which shows that they have been patient with workload. This decreases his injury risk and puts less mileage on his arm moving forward.

There may be a few more learning curves for Urias, but he will be a star in the Dodgers’ rotation for years to come, and is sure to improve as he matures physically and mentally.

 

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers, First Baseman/Outfielder

Fantasy Baseball 2017

The tenth ranked prospect in baseball, Cody Bellinger, has officially been called-up to the bigs. (Courtesy of True Blue LA)

The top prospect in the Dodgers’ farm system was called up after Joc Pederson was placed on the 10-day disabled list due to a groin injury. With injuries to Pederson, as well as Logan Forsythe, Franklin Gutierrez and Andre Ethier, the Dodgers expect to play Bellinger primarily in left field. They plan to play Andrew Toles, Trayce Thompson and recent call-up Brett Eibner in center.

Bellinger’s combination of power and speed make him a very intriguing target in fantasy baseball. He batted .271 with 65 home runs and 36 stolen bases in only 361 games.

His versatility also increases his value. He is a first baseman who can comfortably play all three outfield positions. The 21-year-old will have to play his way into a full-time roll with the big-league club because they may send him down once Pederson and/or Forsythe return.

 

Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles, Designated Hitter/Left Fielder

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Trey Mancini is tearing it up so far in his first big-league action. (Courtesy of Camden Chant)

Mancini was promoted by the Orioles in early April and has continued to find success. He has shown the ability to hit for power and contact in the minor leagues with a career batting average of .306 with 54 home runs in 483 games. He currently has five home runs and 11 RBI in 13 games.

The 25-year-old has found himself playing first base, left and right field and designated hitter so far this season. That bodes well for his fantasy versatility moving forward.

Mancini has done incredibly well so far. However, with Seth Smith back from injury, it may be harder for him to find the field this year.

 

Christian Arroyo, San Francisco Giants, Shortstop

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Christian Arroyo is ranked the 84th prospect in baseball and will replace Brandon Crawford for the time being. (Courtesy of What Pros Wear)

Arroyo was given the call this weekend after starting shortstop Brandon Crawford was placed on the three-day bereavement list due to the passing of his sister-in-law. Crawford is also nursing a groin injury, and has yet to get an MRI, which complicates his timetable for return.

Arroyo was a first-round pick in 2013, and is a career .300 hitter in the minor leagues. He is currently the 84th ranked prospect by MLB.com and will be a part of the Giants infield in the future.

Once Crawford returns, Arroyo will likely be sent down. When that will be is unknown as of right now.

 

 

 

 

Gift Ngoepe, Pittsburgh Pirates, Shortstop

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Gift Ngoepe is the first South African player to reach the major-leagues. (Courtesy of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

The first ever South African-born MLB player was promoted to the majors this week since starting third baseman David Freese has been hampered by a hamstring injury. The Pirates will presumably move utility man Josh Harrison to third base in the meantime, while Phil Gosselin and Alen Hanson platoon at second.

Ngoepe is a career .232 hitter in the minor leagues, with only 37 home runs in 704 games. Although the utility infielder may not be an impact player of the future for the Pirates, he is an inspiration to South Africans and baseball fans world-wide.

 

 

 

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American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week Two

Week two is in the books, and the early season continues to shake up preseason predictions. April batting averages and win records are hardly worth over analyzing, but that doesn’t change the standings.

Last week’s Wrap-Up was dedicated to teams with impressive starts. This week examines those teams on the other end of that spectrum and a few reasons for optimism, because let’s be honest, its still April.

Early Season Struggles

Toronto Blue Jays

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week Two

Image Courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesKendrys

Toronto was facing a seven-game losing streak until a walk-off home run from Kendrys Morales liberated the club. The offseason acquisition of Morales was a nice boost to, what so far, has been an anemic offense. The Jays are clearly missing both the bat and leadership of Edwin Encarnacion, but unfortunately, trouble doesn’t stop there.

Toronto’s luck worsened when team lynch pin Josh Donaldson was placed on the 10-day with a calf injury. Russell Martin is admittedly in one of the worst down hitting streaks of his career. Vocal player Jose Bautista has started with a .136 average and hasn’t generated a single dinger. It has been a cold start in the frozen north, but all is not lost.

Turning it around in Toronto

The Jays pitching staff currently ranks 14th in the MLB. While this isn’t their overall best ERA as seen in 2016, all the pieces remain for a repeat performance.

The Donaldson injury is frustrating, but before that, he led the team in average, OBP and homers. If Donaldson can continue his typical MVP-caliber play, the Jays’ star can keep them in contention. Joey Batts and Martin won’t hit this way forever, and both represent a power threat that can surprise opponents.

Finally, the return of closer of Roberto Osuna should give Toronto confidence they can secure wins when they carry the lead.

Seattle Mariners

After a busy offseason, Seattle can’t be thrilled with the slow start to the season. The offense currently ranks in the bottom third of the MLB, and the pitching is not far off.

With key veterans Robinson Canó and Nelson Cruz off to a slow start, it’s no surprise the Mariners have struggled to generate runs. Further compounding these issues has been the fact that every game, and therefore every loss, has been against divisional opponents.

Silver Lining in Seattle

It’s fine to be a little disappointed with the early start, but there are significant reasons for optimism in Seattle.

How about the fact that James Paxton has tossed 21 scoreless innings to start the season? Many analysts, including this writer (who snagged Paxton in fantasy), believe this was the year Paxton established himself. Early signs point to Paxton’s ability to establish himself as the ace, and that is until you remember that King Felix is still on this team. There is also plenty of talent in the back half of the rotation that shouldn’t be discounted, despite a slow start.

Pitching will be a strength for this team, but the offense has some work to do. Fortunately, early performance is proving out the acquisition of Jean Segura, who has started the season batting an impressive .313.

On top of that, there is plenty of veteran’s offense on this ball club. The start may have been slow, but if there’s any group that understands the baseball rollercoaster, it’s this team.

Cleveland Indians

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week Two

(Photo Courtesy of Ron Schwane / Associated Press)

Best bets wouldn’t have placed the defending AL champs at the bottom of the division two weeks into the season. After an impressive series against the Rangers to start off 2017, the Tribe has struggled as of late. Most shocking is the Indians highly touted rotation currently sporting the worst ERA in Major League Baseball through 12 games.

The offense has been a strange mixture of extremely hot and ice cold. Failing to get nearly anything going against the Diamondbacks and White Sox, the Indians have also crushed multiple grand slams in the first two weeks. It’s hardly time to panic, but the Indians could undoubtedly benefit from a little more consistency.

 

Turning the Corner in Cleveland

Cleveland has traditionally been a slow starting team in April, but there are already signs of life from the Tribe. Carlos Carrasco has been brilliant in his first two starts, sporting a 2.13 ERA and displaying top notch command. Danny Salazar wasn’t able to secure the win, but in his most recent start, he fanned 11 to tie a career high. Corey Kluber, stoic as ever, continues to generate solid performances despite the occasional blow-up inning. Long story short, pitching will be just fine in Cleveland.

On the offensive front, Cleveland currently sports a top 10 offense despite missing a few key pieces. The Indians appear to be easing Michael Brantley back into the mix. Lonnie Chisenhall returned in grand slam fashion and Jason Kipnis is just a few Minor League starts away from his debut. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez have both been off to torrid hitting starts, and the rest of the team has been contributing regularly.

Slow starts are nothing new in Cleveland, and it certainly appears the Tribe is about ready to turn the corner.

 

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