Overwatch League Expansion Tier List: What cities will we see next?

It was recently reported that the Overwatch League was looking to expand with a price tag of a cool $30 to $60 million. Activision Blizzard also announced that they are now looking to add four or six teams instead of the two they were planning on originally. This adds numerous possibilities, and many different cities will be vying for spots in the league.

With that in mind we are going to look at which cities have the best chance of getting Overwatch League teams and rank them into three tiers.

Rankings will be based on the following questions:

  1. How big is the city?
  2. Has the city had any involvement in esports before? If so, how successful have those events been?
  3. Is there a known investor/franchise that is from that city that would want to put it there?
  4. Are there teams in close proximity to this city already? (i.e. another LA would not be likely)

There will be other factors to keep in mind as well. If they only go with four teams will they just keep the two divisions? If they go six do they split them up? Also, they will want to keep the divisions equal. To do so, there are only so many teams from certain areas that can can be considered.

Not happening this time

There are some cities that will probably be mentioned but, it is very unlikely that they will get a spot for one reason or another.

Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, St. Louis, Kansas City- While all of these cities have a good amount of traditional sports teams, it is unlikely in this first expansion that they will pick two Midwest cities – especially ones that don’t have a huge connection to esports just yet.

Rome, Barcelona- Both are huge for soccer/futbol. That being said they aren’t necessarily known for esports and while they could eventually get teams there is no chance they beat out most of these other cities.

Tier 3- Unlikely but Possible

Brooklyn-  This was originally going to be a complete no, but looking at a couple factors changed that. To start, the Season 1 playoffs are happening at the Barclays Center. Also, most traditional sports have at least two teams in the big apple. Lastly, Los Angeles already has two teams so why not put two in New York as well? The main reason this is a long shot is that the Overwatch League wants to be a global league and there are areas of the United States and Europe that need teams more. Remember, there can only be two or three teams coming from the Atlantic area.

Overwatch league expansion

Courtesy of: Knights.gg

Beijing- The market in Asia is huge for just about any esport, especially China. Beijing did host the 2017 World Finals for League of Legends in an arena that held 91,000. The real problem is that there are at least two other cities that will be on this list that the OWL will want more for their Asian market. Truthfully, if Shanghai hadn’t come first, it is very likely that Beijing would be a higher priority.

Pittsburgh- This city is the least expected one on this list. That being said there is already an established esports organization that is officially the esports team of the city, the Pittsburgh Knights. With investors already coming in and the city backing them, it would be very easy for the OWL to establish a team in this city. Also Rob “Leonyx” Lee, owner, already has a ton of experience within the world of esports and would be able to help grow the new league.

The major problem is that without the already established team, Pittsburgh would never be considered. They don’t host any big events, it’s one of the smaller cities on this list, and the Philadelphia Fusion are in the same state.

Denver- DreamHack being in Denver put this city on the esports map. It’s in a very good location as there aren’t any teams already established anywhere nearby. That is about all it has going for it when it comes to a potential team, though. Unless a major investor with connections to this area comes forward, it is hard to see the Mile High City getting a team this time around.

Tier 2- Close but just out of reach

Atlanta- There is a lot to like about putting a new team in Atlanta. To start, there are no other teams in the area, so they could hit a whole new demographic. Their newest team in the MLS is bringing more fans to their games than any other team which means that this city receives new teams with enthusiasm. Lastly, Atlanta is a hotbed for hosting esports events such as DreamHack, the CWL, and more. The only thing going against Atlanta is that there are a limited number of spots.

overwatch league expansion

Courtesy of: Dribble.com

Washington D.C.- With a plethora of investors to choose from, a brand new NBA2k league team, and it being the capital of the United States it makes it hard not to at least consider D.C. The city is obviously big enough. The problem is that there are already so many teams in close proximity, such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. If D.C. wants a team and they don’t get one this time around, it wouldn’t be surprising to see one in serious consideration next time.

Cleveland- The Midwest desperately needs an Overwatch League team. The closest ones are either on the East coast or in Dallas. While Cleveland may not have been on the list before, that has changed majorly in the last year and a half. There is clearly investment interest as Cleveland has added two major esports franchises in the Cavs Legion from the NBA2k League and 100 Thieves from League of Legends. Both franchises are expected to perform well as the Cavs Legion have a top team lead by Hood and 100 Thieves recently finished 2nd in the NA LCS.

Tier 1- Very Likely

Chicago- We will start with the city that most likely will take Cleveland out of the running this time. Chicago is a major sports city and it has hosted numerous major esports events. Most consider Chicago to be the New York of the midwest and for good reason. It is a very cultural city that has incredibly loyal fans and has the biggest population in the Midwest. Did we mention that the Midwest needs a team? Even if there were only two spots available it is likely that Chicago would be highly considered, now with the possibility of three, Chicago had better be ready for an esports team.

Courtesy of: Leagueoflegends.com

Hong Kong- Like Cleveland being overshadowed by Chicago, Beijing won’t be considered because of this city. Hong Kong has been one of the major Asian cities for the last century and is one of the most Westernized cities on the continent. Combine this with the fact that it is likely that the OWL wants to reach more fans in China, and you get a top tier city. With a company like Tencent being in the area it is highly likely that they may want a piece of the OWL pie as well.

Paris- MSI for League of Legends will be happening here in just a few days. Paris has hosted esports events and is one of the major cities in Europe. Lets not forget that the London Spitfire are the only team representing Europe in a global league. If you don’t think Nate Nanzer is thinking about this then you’d be dead wrong. This city makes a ton of sense and like Chicago, even if they were only bringing in two teams overall it is likely Paris would be near or at the top.

Berlin- Almost everything that has been said about Paris can be said about Berlin. Although there is one distinct advantage, League of Legends EULCS is based there. This shows that people will attend games and the esports scene is growing there quickly. That being said, this may also be a reason why the league wont go here. As of right now it seems as though both leagues aren’t exactly on great terms (check out what happened to Immortals), so it is possible that the OWL could look elsewhere for now.

Seattle- Esports are based on the West Coast. It is where most of the studios are and it is where every team currently is based. With connections to Microsoft, many esports events being hosted there, and the general acceptance of esports in this city, it is likely they would be considered. Seattle would continue building the base of esports in the west and thus continue to grow it.

Overwatch League Expansion

Courtesy of: TheVerge.com

Toronto- The fact that there was not a team in Toronto to start was a little surprising. This city has a massive esports culture. It has hosted many events and it has one of the new NBA2k League teams. Canada needs to be represented in this league and Toronto is an obvious choice to make it happen.

Las Vegas- A year ago this may not have been a top choice. But with their new esports arena (used by Ninja for a Fortnite tournament), a new hockey team that is doing extraordinarily well, and a new NFL team, this city is ripe for an OWL team. The stereotype of Las Vegas being the sin city is still there. However, in the last decade or so it has become much more family friendly. With all of the new major venues and teams coming to Vegas, an OWL team just makes sense to join them.

Tokyo- Last but certainly not least is the biggest city in Japan. There is a massive culture built around gaming and esports in this city and country. They even have heroes and a map representating them in game. If a slot buyer comes forward with connections to the city then it would be very hard for the OWL to pass up the opportunity to bring Tokyo into the mix.

What do you think?

These are some of the top cities that could be considered for Overwatch League spots. As of right now there have been no announcements as to the bidding process, who has made a bid, or just about anything other than what we know from that original report. Speculation will increase the hype as the league starts their last stage this week.

What cities do you think will receive teams? Are there any that were missed? Comment below and let us know!

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Carson Wentz Week 1 start

Carson Wentz is very confident he will play Week 1

Carson Wentz went down with an ACL and LCL tear on Dec. 10, 2017. After a few days, the news broke that the injury was an ACL tear.

Immediately after the announcement, everyone proclaimed that the Philadelphia Eagles were done for the year. They also said that Wentz was unlikely to be able to start the beginning of next season for the Eagles. Looks like both of those statements just might turn out to be wrong.

The standard recovery time of 9-12 months puts him back on the field Sept. 10 at the earliest and Dec. 10 in the near worst case. This time, expectations may be exceeded. Wentz says that he expects to be back for the season opener on Sept. 6 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Could Wentz really be ready for Week 1?

Carson Wentz Week 1 start

Carson Wentz (Photo by Eric Hartline USA TODAY Sports)

Many times, athletes can be overly optimistic about their recoveries from injury. Just last year, the Indianapolis Colts brass and even Reggie Wayne stated that they believed Andrew Luck would be ready for Week 1. However, as the season drug on for the Colts, Luck did not play one game.

Sometimes, an athlete can be a special circumstance and recover much more quickly or effectively. For example, Adrian Peterson tore his ACL in December of 2011. However, he was able to come back and rush for over 2,000 yards in 2012.

In the end, Peterson fell eight yards short of the single season rushing record with 2,097. It is truly remarkable that he was able to get even close to breaking the record in a season where many thought he would not even be able to start Week 1.

That shows that quick recoveries are possible with dedicated rehab, a smart recovery plan and good genetics. This case is especially impressive at the position of running back as they take the most abuse of any player on the field. Wentz is a quarterback, which should help his odds of making it back.

Will Carson Wentz be one of these success stories? Maybe. We probably will not know until we are closer to the season opener.

It sure sounds like he thinks he will be ready though, and if anyone can do it, Wentz can. Wentz was asked on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football about the possibility of starting Week 1 and said this in response.

“I’m very confident,” he said. “It’s a fluid process, so you never know how it’s going to go, but where we’re at, just trying to do what the doctors say and just take it step by step. There are times when you feel great and want to push it more, but you’ve got to stay the course with what the doctors are saying. I feel really good and really confident for Week 1.”

In addition to his confidence, Ian Rapoport recently tweeted some promising news for Eagles fans.

What if Wentz is not ready for the season opener?

It is very likely that Wentz will be back for Week 1. However, at the same time, it would not be surprising if the Eagles held him out just a little longer to make sure that their franchise quarterback stays healthy.

Luckily for the Eagles, that is a very minimal problem for them. Philadelphia has a strong backup in Nick Foles, who just led the team to a Super Bowl victory. After all, Wentz would likely not have much of a problem with not playing immediately if it was in his best interest. Wentz has been very vocal in saying that he will listen to doctors and not risk his health to rush the recovery process.

Wentz also talked on Good Morning Football about how good of a relationship he has with Foles. He stated that there is no “ruffled feathers” between them and that they are “friends first and foremost before teammates.”

How will Wentz prevent injuries in the future?

Carson Wentz Week 1 start

(Photo by Sports Illustrated)

Much has been said about Wentz struggling with injuries over the last few years. He has suffered broken ribs and now a torn ACL and LCL in his first two seasons in the NFL. Therefore, Wentz was recently asked if he would change his playing style to avoid being injured in the future. Wentz responded by saying that he will always learn from injuries and other lessons he learns while playing. For example, when he watches game tape and realizes that he could have avoided a big hit on a play and only sacrificed a couple yards by sliding.

However, he also stated that he will never change his aggressive mentality because that is just who he is. As uneasy as it can make the fans, his competitive nature is part of what makes him such a great quarterback. He will learn to protect himself more as he gains experience in the NFL.

The full interview of Carson Wentz

Featured image from Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

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Team Kaliber web banner

Team Kaliber makes major changes during Rostermania

After the conclusion of Stage One Finals, Roster Mania ignites within the world of competitive Call of Duty. Every team is in a scramble to make the necessary changes to their roster in an attempt to get ready for Stage 2 and for the next major events. One of the teams surrounding itself in the most drama is Team Kaliber.

They were unable to drop away from the limelight in the recent series of changes because they knocked away two of their most well-known players, Dylan “Theory” McGee and Martin “Chino” Chino.

After Team Kaliber’s astounding success at the CWL New Orleans Open and the Dallas open, they seemed to fall into a bit of a pit where they couldn’t seem to find a rhythm. The team work wasn’t working out for each other, and it seemed none of the players were able to coalesce into something that could help carry them back to the top. They finished 8th in the CWL Atlanta open and then 10th at CWL Birmingham. After these finishes, they decided it was time something happened that could make a difference, whether for better or for worse.

Kosdff

Image courtesy of Dexerto

On Justin “Kosdff” Chandler’s YouTube channel, he released a video explaining most of the recent changes, and why they were made. Following the conclusion of Stage One finals, the team approached the owner and said that they were no longer wanting play as a team. Dylan didn’t want to play with the guys in TK anymore, and the guys in TK weren’t wanting to play with him anymore.

Team Kaliber at Conclusion of Stage One

There just wasn’t great performance. After their blunders at Birmingham and Atlanta, it’s real easy to see why TK might be looking to up their staff, or rearm their players. They needed something to change, and getting fourth at the end of Stage One just wasn’t going to be enough to keep the brand name where they wanted it to be. They decided that some changes needed to happen. The only appropriate changes they could think of was going to be the removal of a couple key players. Or so they hope.

Dropping Dylan “Theory” McGee

This really should not have a come as a surprise, though it sort of did. Theory had some of the worst stats on the team following the conclusion of CWL Birmingham and Stage One finals. As a result of this, Kosdff and Kenny “Kenny” Williams made the decision to drop him in favor of getting a new sub player that could match Kenny’s intensity in the game.

This isn’t to say, however, that the choice was easily done. Kosdff says that he attempted to make a trade with some other teams for three other players in an effort to form a new Team Kaliber around Theory,

Dylan "Theory" McGee

Image courtesy Dexerto gaming

in order to keep him on board. The only problem being that Kosdff believes Theory to be more of a leader. This meaning that Theory is someone you build a team around, not someone you build into a team. Since TK hasn’t been doing so successful at recent events, he decided the only logical thing to do was to remove leadership and fill the roll with someone more adaptable.

This didn’t seem to be enough, however. Kenny and Kosdff decided that the team needed and even bigger change to make it’s success more prominent. Removing Chino was the next best course of action.

Dropping Martin “Chino” Chino

Many regarded Chino as one of the best players on the team, and even one of the better Flex players in Call of Duty. Unfortunately, for these fans of Team Kaliber, Chino was dropped from the team. He wasn’t someone who removed themselves, like Theory. But, rather, he was dropped in an effort to help the team coalesce into something closer to what the brand wants to be. Kenny decided that he and Theory didn’t compliment each other’s play style very well. The team decided that Chino didn’t compliment them well, either. The next step was to drop Chino and try to find two replacements for him and Theory.

Chino tK

Image courtesy of Dexerto

Methodz and FERO

Fortunately, during Rostermania, Rise Nation just decided to ditch Anthony “Methodz” Zinni for Austin “SlasheR” Liddicoat. This left him on the Free Agents list, ready to be picked up by the guys in Team Kaliber. This is a huge pickup for Team Kaliber, since Methodz is one of the top AR players right now. He recently received the MVP award at CWL Atlanta in March. Methodz was not a single grab, however. He came with his own recommendations to replace Chino, and that was Maurice “Fero” Henriquez.

Kenny believes that this new addition of Fero will be a great compliment to his more aggressive play style. The goal was to also add a little bit of knowledge to the teams lack of understanding when it comes to Search and Destroy. They were hoping to learn something along with these trades. Which is what makes them one of the most adaptive, and competitive teams in the CWL Pro League.

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Featured image courtesy of Scuf Gaming

Loyola Chicago Final Four

Loyola Chicago: From underdog to Final Four

A game-winning shot by Donte Ingram put the Ramblers passed the Miami Hurricanes in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Nine days later, the Ramblers punched their ticket to the Final Four with a win over Kansas State in the Elite Eight.

What does the future hold for the most surprising team in the NCAA Tournament? Can they cut down the nets come early April?

Statistics

Loyola has given up 62.4 points per game this season, which is fifth in Division I basketball. They have played less-talented offensive teams, but allowing under 65 points per game is still impressive. They struggle on the glass (326th in rebounds per game in all of Division I), but are sound on both offense and defense.

They also share the ball extremely well. Loyola averages 15.9 assists per game, which means they are not dominated by scoring off the dribble. They pass to get an open shot and are a balanced scoring team.

How they got here

Loyola Chicago Final Four

Victory over the Miami Hurricanes. (Photo by Kion)

The Ramblers have won four games in this NCAA tournament. The first three of them were won by a total of four points before beating Kansas State in the Elite Eight by 16 to get to the Final Four.

They are doing it through balance. Loyola has had six different double-digit scorers in their four wins in the NCAA tournament. They have had just one player over 18 points in any of those four games. The most impressive thing is how efficient they have been on both offense and defense.

In their most recent game against Kansas State, they held the Wildcats to 34.8 percent shooting from the field and just 23.1 percent from behind the arc. They won the rebounding battle by eight against a bigger team. Had they not turned the ball over nine more times than the Wildcats, they could have truly run away with the game in Atlanta.

The Ramblers have shot over 47 percent in each of their four tournament games. Despite a lack of forced turnovers, the Ramblers have battled on the glass, and have made each possession count on both ends of the floor. They have turned in solid performances and made teams grind out possessions. The Ramblers are a team that wears their opponent down and comes up with big plays because they are built to outlast other teams.

Playing Michigan

Michigan is the team that stands between the Ramblers and the championship game. The strength of Michigan is their spacing. They force teams to spread the floor on defense, which makes a team more vulnerable to cutters and to open shooters. Defenses tend to help and tend to leave open players. Michigan has five guys on the floor at all times that can shoot the three and make a team pay for helping too much.

If Loyola can contain dribble penetration to avoid helping and leaving open shooters, they can limit the threes that the Wolverines have poured in. Michigan struggled against a smaller and more athletic Florida State team, shooting just 4-for-22 from behind the arc. The Ramblers are a smaller team that can mimic what the Seminoles have just previously done.

Their team tends to mimic Florida State more than they mimic Texas A&M, a team that Michigan beat by 27 points less than a week ago. Texas A&M uses two big men, which the Ramblers do not have and do not use. The Ramblers match up well and could cause some problems for the Wolverines.

Can a Cinderella to win a National Championship?

At this point, we really cannot call the Ramblers a Cinderella. They are a very balanced team and not one that is just playing out of their element. The Ramblers clearly belong and are proving that to teams like Miami, Tennessee, Nevada and Kansas State. Three of those teams have been ranked at some point this season. Loyola has a balanced attack and continues to prove that they belong.

They are no longer a Cinderella and proved that no matter the team they play, they are going to be a tough out.

 

Featured image from The Star.

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What is the player stock of Blazt?

Throughout this season in the CWL, Blazt has been in the spotlight a lot. However, his time has been spent in a negative manner for the majority of this time. At the start of the season he came in as an impressive player in the search and destroy community that was switching over to variant play for the first time.

Immaturity

Going into CWL Dallas, he was on Ground Zero with Parasite, Study and Fero. This team seemed to have issues in a both respawn game modes but were strong in search and destroy as expected with Blazt and Fero. Following this event, Parasite and Study decided that it was time for a team change. When this was announced, Parasite posted on twitter that he felt that teaming was Blazt was difficult due to his negativity and his immaturity.

Untrustworthy

The next team that he went on to join was a group of young SnD stars under Doom Clan. The team was Fero, Decemate, Ricky and Blazt. But this team was shot lived, six days before CWL New Orleans, Blazt announced that he was leaving Doom Clan and joining Enigma 6. This change was very influential on the pro points standings. His move knocked his former team down to the open bracket and moved the new Enigma 6 roster into pool play. Many pro players reacted to this by calling him a snake and saying that he is just chasing a high salary and not good chemistry. During the event Enigma 6 struggled in pool play going 0-4, forcing them into a disappointing top 16 placing. The Doom clan roster ended up placing Top 12, which caused Enigma 6 to miss the Pro League by only 135 pro points.

As expected this roster fell apart after the even due to pro points being less of an influence for the remainder of a season. Blazt ended up joining a roster of Nagafen, Mochila, and Censor under the Most Wanted organization. This roster seemed to be pleasing very early into the life of this team when the won one of the Pro League Challenge. But, the roster has fallen apart quickly. Most Wanted streams most of their scrimmages and tournaments, and during these they are frequently arguing and have multiple communication issues. During a scrimmage last week, Blazt ended up leaving mid-game and said to his stream that he could no longer stay playing with this team. The official announcement came out on Friday just 7 days before CWL Atlanta. Blazt is yet to announce who his team is going into Atlanta. However, there are rumors that Blazt will be replacing Bevils on the ERA Eternity roster.

Credit: dexerto.com

What does this mean for the future of his career?

Blazt has not had the strongest start to his career, through three events he has now went through four team changes. Through three of these teams changes they have been due to personality issues between Blazt and his teammates. Many people are seeing him as a toxic player in the community and is deterring many pro and top amateur players from teaming with him in the future.

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Featured image from dotesports.com

 

Arizona Fall League season awards

Arizona Fall League season awards

The Peoria Javelinas claimed the Arizona Fall League title on Nov. 18. Powered by league MVP and Braves top prospect, Ronald Acuna, Peoria dispatched the Mesa Solar Sox 8-2 in the season finale. For the Javelinas, this marks their sixth AFL title since the league was founded in 1992. But while the AFL recognizes a league MVP, there are no Cy Young award equivalents for the league’s best pitcher. If there were such an award, it would have most likely been a clean sweep for the Braves in the Arizona Fall League season awards in 2017.

League MVP, CF Ronald Acuna

AFL Season slash line: .325/.414/.639/1.053

Arizona Fall League season awards

Seattle prospect Eric Filia won the AFL batting title, but lost out to Ronald Acuna in the MVP race. (Photo: Baseball America)

Much has been written about the season that Ronald Acuna posted in 2017. At 19 years of age, soon to be 20 in December, Acuna has risen through the Braves system this year like a man on fire. Starting the season in Advanced-A with the Florida Fire Frogs, Acuna would reach the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate, the Gwinnett Braves, by season’s end. What’s more, his numbers got better at each level he played at this year.

The young Venezuelan native played at three levels this year, four if you include his inclusion in the AFL. And, quite frankly, it is reasonable to consider the AFL “another level” on the prospect ladder, to be fair. It is, after all, the proving ground for elite talent in MLB’s prospect pipeline. And Acuna wasn’t just good he was dominant in Arizona this fall, leading Peoria to the AFL championship.

Though Acuna didn’t lead the league in batting, on-base percentage, slugging, or even OPS for that matter, he was the league’s best player when you look at the sum of the whole. This young center fielder finished second in OPS, 12th in batting, second in slugging and sixth in on-base percentage, respectively.

This future star was a league leader though, make no mistake about it. Acuna led the AFL in home runs with seven, and total bases with 53. On top of that, he drove in 16 runs, good enough for fifth in the AFL in 2017.

There is no way this kid doesn’t break camp with the big club next spring. Acuna has absolutely nothing left to prove in the minors. He’s ready for his call to the big leagues right now.

AFL Cy Young, LHP Max Fried

AFL Season pitching line: (3-1) 1.73 ERA, 26 IP, 32 K’s, 0.88 WHIP

The AFL’s “Cy Young” award, if one were given out, would’ve been a trickier call than league MVP. Four pitchers could’ve easily walked away with this award. In no certain order, the New York Yankees’ Cody Carroll, Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller, Philadelphia’s J.D. Hammer and Atlanta’s Max Fried all pitched well enough to be considered the best pitcher in Arizona this fall.

Arizona Fall League season awards

Max Fried was the best pitcher in the AFL in 2017. (Photo courtesy of: Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports)

At the end of the day, however, only one can player can take top honors. And this year, Atlanta’s Max Fried would have to be the guy to get the nod. Over his six starts for eventual AFL champions, Peoria, Fried was as dominant as they come. The Braves’ young southpaw was second among all starting pitchers in WHIP (0.88), only bested Yankee’s prospect Justus Sheffield (0.84).

Fried was also the AFL’s strikeout champion for 2017 as well. He finished with 32 strikeouts in his 26 innings of work, good enough for an outstanding ratio of 11 K’s per nine innings. Making Fried’s case even better, he also showed good control walking only 2.77 batters per nine innings. Even though Fried wasn’t as efficient as Mitch Keller in this category (1.9 BB/per 9), he outpaced Keller’s (4.9 K/per 9).

In the cases of Hammer and Carroll, however, both pitchers were closers. This isn’t to slight these two future big leaguers, but generally it’s a rarity that a reliever will win an award for league’s best pitcher. It’s happened only nine times at baseball’s top level, with the last occurrence being Eric Gagne’s 2003 Cy Young season. While Hammer and Carroll both had outstanding seasons in Arizona, the volume of work by Fried must be the deciding factor here.

Based on his body of work, Fried is the AFL’s best pitcher of 2017.

Atlanta’s prospects ready to contribute

Both Fried and Acuna progressed along the prospect ladder in leaps this year. The Braves have moved these young men up the ladder quickly, and they have responded by showing a maturity beyond their years. There is little doubt that both players will more than likely be on the opening day roster come 2018.

It is worth noting that Fried has already made the jump to MLB in 2017. His performance in the AFL this year should solidify his place in next year’s Braves rotation. Especially when you look at his performance in his limited exposure at the major league level. While it is a very small sample, it is apparent that the lights aren’t too bright for this future staff ace.

Moving onto Acuna, now, here’s a player that has absolutely no need to take another swing in the minor leagues. The Braves’ top prospect, and fifth ranked prospect in all of MLB, has shown he’s ready for the call. When the Braves break camp next spring, Acuna should be the man roaming center field in Atlanta every day.

This young man, at 20 years old, will most likely become the youngest player in the majors in 2018 and it’s exciting to speculate how he will handle the jump to MLB. If 2017 is anything to go by, we might be talking about the NL Rookie of the Year here. He will almost certainly be a training camp favorite for the award, no doubt about it.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: sportsnewsinstant.com)

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Prospect Max Fried’s 2018 season outlook

Prospect Max Fried’s 2018 season outlook

The Arizona Fall League will name a champion on Nov. 18, and Braves prospect Max Fried could have a key role to play. The southpaw has fully overcome Tommy John surgery to reestablish himself as a top prospect in MLB.

For the Braves, Fried’s rise couldn’t have come at a better time. With many prospects like the much heralded Ronald Acuna ready to make the major league jump, Max Fried has tasted MLB, and is ready to take the ball every fifth day in Atlanta. This is prospect Max Fried’s 2018 season outlook.

The injury

Entering 2014, Fried was one of the hottest left-handed pitching prospects in baseball. Drafted with the seventh overall pick in 2012, the San Diego Padres were sure they had an “ace of the future” waiting in the wings. They might have been right, had Fried not injured that prized left arm of his.

At just 20 years old, in 2014, Fried was the third ranked prospect in San Diego’s farm system as rated by Baseball America. Everything seemed to be going according to plan, until early in the spring months, Fried began feeling soreness in his left forearm.

As a result, the Padres medical staff shut down all throwing activities for the young hurler. He wouldn’t see live action again in 2014 until mid-July. However, he didn’t last long. In his third start after his return, he began to complain of soreness in his arm, this time in his elbow. And this time, it would require surgery to repair. Tommy John surgery and the resulting rehab would cost Fried nearly two years of his career, and he wouldn’t again pitch until 2016.

The comeback

Prospect Max Fried’s 2018 season outlook

Max Fried as a fresh-faced draft pick of the San Diego Padres. (Photo courtesy of: AP/Alex Gallardo)

Although Max Fried would lose nearly two years of his development to rehab after undergoing Tommy John, he remained committed to the cause. However, when he resumed pitching he would no longer be doing it for the team that drafted him. During December of 2014, Fried was part of a trade that sent Braves’ outfielder Justin Upton to San Diego in return for a load of top-end prospects. Fried was one of them.

In 2016, Fried would break camp with Low-A Rome in the Braves system. While he started slowly, the surgically repaired elbow stood up to the test of live action. By season’s end, Fried would be firmly entrenched as one of the most dominant pitchers in the Sally League.

In 21 games (20 starts) Fried pitched 103 innings, striking out 112 batters, and posted a 3.93 ERA for the year. Excellent work for a young pitcher coming back from the vaunted Tommy John surgery.

Building off a strong 2016, the Braves decided to challenge Fried by jumping him two levels to Double-A. In 19 starts for Mississippi, Fried pitched to a 5.92 ERA and won two while losing 11. However, the strikeouts were still there. He fanned 85 over 86.2 innings of work. This would suggest that his pitches were taking time to find their bite at an advanced level.

If that were all there was to go on, you might think of Fried as a ho-hum type of prospect, but he buckled down when the Braves moved him to Triple-A Gwinnett. In two starts at Gwinnett, spanning six innings of work, the youngster only surrendered one hit, walking two and striking out six. It was on the back of this performance that Fried earned his first big league call-up. And he didn’t disappoint.

For Atlanta, their eighth ranked prospect, fared well in his first taste of MLB. In nine appearances (four starts), Fried went 1-1 with a 3.81 ERA striking out 22 and walking 12 in 26 innings of work.

For Fried, the road back has been long, but his outlook for 2018 is bright.

Prospect Max Fried’s 2018 season outlook

Max Fried fires one to home as a member of the Atlanta Braves.
(Photo courtesy of: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

As it stands now, into the last week of the Arizona Fall League’s schedule, Fried has arguably been the best pitcher in the league. What Fried has done in Arizona, considering his past injury, has been remarkable. His line this fall 3-1 with a 1.73 ERA has shown that this young man is ready for the big-time. Fried has tested himself in Arizona against baseball’s most elite prospects, and has come through in fine style.

The strikeouts are still there as well. In 26 innings of work for the Peoria Javelinas, Fried has struck out 32 batters, while only walking eight. Mitch Keller and Justus Sheffield are the only other starting pitchers in Arizona with a better WHIP than Max Fried. Neither of those two pitchers, however, has posted as many innings of work as Fried has this fall.

Based on the late season call-up to Atlanta, and the success he had there, it would be inconceivable to see Fried start anywhere but Atlanta. It’s a bonus for the Braves’ front office personnel that Fried has dominated in Arizona like he has.

The kid is ready. Give him the ball.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: David Banks/Getty Images)

 

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“From our Haus to yours”

MLB trade deadline: NL contenders moves to stay in first

The trade deadline is only five days away. After diving into what AL contenders must do to stay in first place, let’s jump into what NL contenders need to do.

Washington Nationals

This team could do exactly what it has been doing and it would stay in first place. The Nationals have a 11.5-game lead going into Tuesday night’s games and Hotlanta would need a miracle to catch up.

The problem in our nation’s capital has not been getting to the playoffs, but getting to the World Series. With that in mind they still desperately need bullpen help.

The Nationals made a deal to get Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the A’s about a week ago. This has obviously been a great upgrade for them but they still could use at least one more rock solid piece to give them the best chance in October.

In steps, no not Brad Hand (Padres want way too much for him), A.J. Ramos. The Marlins have not been able to put it together for the last two years and their team is up for sale in two different ways (let us pray that the baseball gods will rid the MLB of Jeffery Loria).

MLB Trade Deadline: nl contenders

Courtesy of: Faketeams.com

A.J. Ramos is a hot target, but from it sounds like he is not as expensive as other relievers like Hand and the Reds’ Raisel Iglesias are. He is also having a down year compared to his normal for his career, so he may end up costing even less than he would have last year.

As far as his contract goes, he is still owed some of his $6.5 million and is arbitration eligible next year. So, he has some team control but would could cost a bit more next year.

Taking this all into consideration, the Nationals need to try to make this deal. Their farm system is weaker due to the deals they have already done in the last year. But most people are hearing that they will not give up top prospect Victor Robles.

Right now most of the top Marlins top prospects are pitchers and outfielders so it is likely that they would like some infielders to go along with them or just more pitching.

I can see the trade being A.J. Ramos to the Nationals for Carter Kieboom (SS), Drew Ward (3B) and a hard throwing pitching prospect outside of the Nationals top 30 prospects. While this may seem like a lot, let’s look back at what Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman cost last year. Relievers are valued very highly (overpriced in my opinion) but at least three prospects seems to be the standard for closers and other top tier bullpen pieces.

Milwaukee Brewers

MLB Trade Deadline: nl contenders

Courtesy of: Nolanwritin.com

Raise your hand if you picked the Brewers to be in first place in July. No one? Yeah, me neither. This team has played well and some of their pieces are melding together very well. Some players may be a bit of a fluke, but overall their young players are really looking solid. The problem is that they are in the same division as the Cubs.

The Brewers should actually sell. It sounds crazy, but they are doing well and have an amazing farm system to boot. They won’t go far in the playoffs this year so it doesn’t make sense to trade away strong assets for rentals.

That said, this is a piece about staying in first place and if they want any chance at holding off the Cubs, then they will have to make a move.

Their biggest weakness is their starting pitching. While some of them have good records such as Zach Davies at 11-4, only Chase Andreson has an ERA below 3.45. There are some good options out there, and if the Brewers can get someone for the right price, then they will make the trade. This means staying out of what will probably be a bidding war for Sonny Gray.

While his ERA might not be exactly what they are looking for, he does provide experience and a lively arm. Andrew Cashner would be a relatively cheap rental and a player that most have forgotten was a big trading chip for the last few years. It also helps that everyone else will be focused on Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray.

Marcos Diplan (RHP) and a player to be named later would get this deal done. The Brewers would take on the rest of his salary which is not cheap, but they would not be giving up much in terms of prospects. Cashner would appease those who want the Brewers to make a move and would slot in well as another solid veteran along side Matt Garza.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs may not be in first place, but they are just a half game out.

MLB Trade Deadline: nl contenders

Photo: Athelticsnation.com

The Cubs are the defending World Series champs and until recently they have not been playing like it. Luckily they are in a very weak central division (sorry Brewers fans). They also already made a big trade getting Jose Quintana and at this point their farm system is depleted.

Considering all of that it, seems like the Cubs will do whatever they have to do to make it back to the Series. Their bats are coming back to life and Jose Quintana was the shot in the arm the rotation needed.

But if they had to make a move, it might be worth going back to the rotation. John Lackey has been a great pitcher for a long time, but age is catching up to him. His ERA is the second highest it has ever been and his strikeouts are down. While he has said he would not move to the bullpen, it may end up being that or getting let go.

The Cubs have one prospect in the top 100, Jeimer Candelario (3B/1B). Would they be willing to give him up? From the looks of things, they could. He plays two positions that are taken up by the two biggest stars in Bryant and Rizzo. With that in mind, Sonny Gray will be the guy they go for.

The A’s are selling everyone, again. Thus, they will take the best prospects they can get and see who pans out. The trade will be Sonny Gray to the Cubs for Candelario, Oscar De La Cruz (RHP), Justin Steele (LHP) and a prospect outside of the Cubs’ top 30.

Los Angeles Dodgers

MLB Trade Deadline: nl contenders

Courtesy of: Outsidepitchmlb.com

This team has been on an unreal tear. They look primed for October and we still have around 62 games left. They are up by 12.5 games and even with the injury to Clayton Kershaw, they will still keep that big lead.

One thing that has hurt the Dodgers has been injuries. Scott Kazmir, Branden McCarthy and Clayton Kershaw are all missing from the rotation. They need someone to fill this hole now. The great thing for Dodgers fans is unlike the Cubs, they still have plenty of prospects to trade. That is why they will get Yu Darvish.

If you are a team in a five-game series and you have to go up against Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood, then you are most likely sitting in a corner crying.

Even going to a seven-game series like the World Series you might think, phew we got through those three, now we get a break– nope. Rich Hill, a healthy (hopefully) Scott Kazmir or Kenta Maeda could all come in for at least one game.

Yu Darvish to the Dodgers for Walker Buehler (RHP), Willie Calhoun (2B/OF), Mitchell White (RHP) and DJ Peters (OF) could be a trade the Dodgers make. While the Dodgers are giving up a ton, they are also giving themselves a great chance at a World Series run.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed my take on the trade deadline. The trade deadline is a very interesting time for baseball. Hopefully this year will produce the craziness we have seen in the past.

 

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MomoCon’s Smash 4 Event To Feature ZeRo, Nairo, MKLeo, Fatality, and Abadango

MomoCon 2017 is slated to be another can’t miss Smash 4 event. In attendance will be top players, like Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada, Griffin “Fatality” Miller, Leonardo “MKLeo” Lopez Perez, and Yuta “Abadango” Kawamura.

The main event for the esports side of one of the fastest growing conventions in America will be the Smash 4 tournament. Each year, Smash has a strong showing at MomoCon, and this year will be no exception. It will all be commentated by the community’s own D’Ron “D1” Maingrette and Phil “EE” Visu.

Aside from Smash, MomoCon 2017 will host 34 other events with $15,000 worth of prizes. The games range from an Overwatch tournament all the way to BlazeBlue. Pokken was also provided a $1k pot bonus as one of the ten sponsored events by Evo. It has something for everyone and I haven’t even talked about the anime side of the convention…

Now back to Smash, MomoCon is clearly putting an emphasis on the Smash scene this year. With all the top players making the trip, it’s become a premier tournament. Winning this tournament will be a difficult task. Taking out the talented southern region players will be tough, but going through the gauntlet of elite skilled players feels impossible.

MomoCon’s competitive gaming side is starting to take off, and it’s become beneficial for so many developing esports scenes. Throwing 34 individual events shows MomoCon’s dedication to providing a quality event for the competitive video game fans in attendance.

Who takes the MomoCon 2017 trophy?

It’s tough to say, considering five players are capable of taking this tournament. The favorite will be Zero, as always, but MKLeo should be looked at as a legitimate threat. Abadango has also stayed consistently in the top five and continues to have strong results in Japan.

Find out more about MomoCon 2017 on their website and get tickets before the event happens on May 25th through the 28th in Atlanta, Georgia

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Fighting Game Invitationals vs. Open Tournaments: Can the two coexist?

Fighting game tournaments are evolving. As the scene moves out of the basement, a plethora of opportunities have been presented. The world discovered there’s a market and dedicated audience that not only loves the games themselves but follows each top players tournament performances.

Enter the new era of fighting games. An era where potentially new players would rather sit back and watch the best players than invest the time into becoming a strong player themselves. Welcome to the age of fighting games as a spectator sport.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/el

In the Joseph “Mango” Marquez Cloud9 Melee documentary, he mentioned the fact that the growth of Melee’s player base has stalled but that viewership has risen considerably in the last three years. Yes, the Melee renaissance brought in plenty of new players but it also exposed the scene to potential investors and showed that there’s money to be made here.

Consider this: five years ago a tournament like the Smash Summit would have been nearly inconceivable to the Melee or fighting game community. Today, it’s accepted as one of the premiere events and most of the audience could care less because the Summit puts on an entertaining show for fans.

A tournament with no open bracket has been accepted by a community founded and based on the ability for anyone to compete. It’s a dramatic switch in philosophy.

Open tournaments are what separate fighting games from other esport titles. The fact that any random fighting game player can enter a major tournament, face the world’s best players, lose, and still get that entire tournament feel is unique and special. Most players, at the end of the day, could care less about their record. It’s more about the culture and tournament atmosphere that keeps bringing people out.

However, invitationals are going to have a strong presence moving forward. The benefits are the fact that payouts are typically higher at these events ($250k ELEAGUE prize pool, $100k for Smash Summit) and top players themselves love the events. The viewers still tune in despite the lack of a real tournament feel. Numbers don’t exceed the Evo’s and Genesis tournaments but get enough attention to justify these events to the community.

Regardless of how players feel about invitationals, they still watch to see the best players play the best players. Investors see a studio product like ELEAGUE as the next step and a chance to profit off the fighting game community. The actual community is not prepared to move away from open tournaments as some top players have projected.

Photo courtesy of twitter.com/ThatMikeRossGuy

Despite what top players might say, open tournaments aren’t going anywhere. Without them, it’s no longer the fighting game COMMUNITY anymore. As invitationals become more prevalent, it should, in turn, strengthen open tournaments as well. It’s not a situation where we, as a community, have to decide between the two. Both can coexist and strengthen the other.

Finally, invitationals are the only viable way to present fighting games to a national audience. Of course, Turner decided to display 32 of the best players rather than invest in actual tournaments. Studio tournaments are the only possible way for these networks taking an interest in fighting games to control their product and squeeze as much profit out as possible. But this will help legitimize the scene as a whole and if the two can coexist, it can create a better future for all fighting game players.

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