2018 MLB preview: Atlanta Braves

2017: 72-90 (third place in NL East)

Last Postseason Appearance: 2013

Last World Series Title: 1995

2017 recap

Remember when the Braves won 11 straight NL East titles spanning from 1995-2005? Boy, that was a long time ago. Fast forward to 2017, and Atlanta is in the middle of a rebuilding process, in hopes of getting back on top.

Not much was expected in 2017 for Atlanta, who finished 21st in runs, 23rd in SLG, 25th in walks, 27th in team WAR, and 28th in home runs. The pitching allowed the fifth most walks in the bigs, finished 24th in ERA, and blew 23 save opportunities. Sounds like a true rebuilding team to me. Still, Atlanta’s attendance was the highest it’s been since 2013, which was the year they won 96 games. Braves fans are on board with the rebuild, and they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Freddie Freeman, who played in just 117 games, hit .307 with 28 home runs. (MyAJC.com)

Atlanta’s season was practically over in May when Freddie Freeman was hit by a pitch from Aaron Loup of the Toronto Blue Jays. An MRI showed that Freeman had a non-displaced wrist fracture in his left hand, and he was out until early July. At the time of the injury, Freeman was leading the league in home runs, and was second in both OBP and SLG. Freeman played in 117 games and hit .307 with 28 home runs, both team highs. He also finished 6th in the MLB in SLG, and 7th in OPS.

Ender Inciarte made his first career All-Star game and finished the year ranking second in singles, and his 201 hits was third-most in the MLB. He set career-highs in home runs (11), RBIs (57), steals (22), and OPS (.759). Inciarte also won his second straight Gold Glove.

Still, this is a team that finished sixth in baseball in hits and batting average. The Atlanta Braves had more hits than the Los Angeles Dodgers. If they can somehow hit for more power, and walk more, Atlanta has a shot to make some noise.

2018: Around the Diamond

Although this may come as a surprise, Atlanta got incredible production out of the catcher position in 2017. Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Flowers, who had the Braves ranked first in WAR for catchers, will continue to platoon behind the plate.

Freeman will be surrounded by a group of young studs in the infield. No more Brandon Phillips means Ozzie Albies will be the everyday second basemen. Albies, 21, dealt with elbow injuries last spring, but is now fully healthy and is ready for a big 2018. As a 20-year-old in 2017, He had a 112 WRC+ in 244 plate appearances. According to USA Today, the only guys to do that in the last 30 years are Rafael Devers, Carlos Correa, Bryce Harper (x2), Mike Trout, Jason Heyward, Giancarlo Stanton, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey Jr. In his 56 games, Albies hit .286 with 6 home runs and a .354 OBP. The switch-hitting Albies will most likely become a top-10 second basemen in his first full season.

The former number one overall pick in the 2015 draft, Dansby Swanson, looks to grow from his first full season at the major league level. In 2017, Swanson hit just .232 with 6 home runs in 144 games. He had just 12 extra-base hits in the second half. Like Albies, Swanson dealt with injuries last spring, which could have played a factor in his poor play. He is ready to put 2017 behind him, so let’s hope for a solid season for him. Atlanta also has acquired Charlie Culberson in the Matt Kemp trade, so expect Culberson to see some time at the middle-infield positions.

Ronald Acuna is the next big thing in Atlanta. (Sporting News)

As of today, Johan Camargo is in line to start at third base. Camargo, 23, appeared in 82 games last season and hit .299 with four home runs and 21 doubles, which was the sixth most in 82 games or less. If he can turn those doubles to home runs, Camargo could be a nice surprise for Atlanta. This is a Braves team who finished 25th in WAR for third basemen.

Nick Markakis, who led the team in RBIs, will remain in right, with Inciarte patrolling center. The number two overall prospect in the MLB, Ronald Acuna, will start in left field. Acuna has a limitless ceiling, and, between A+/AA/AAA, Acuna hit .325 with 21 home runs, 82 RBIs, and 44 steals. He proceeded to win MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League. Acuna, 20, is an absolute stud and will make an immediate impact at the big-league level. This is a guy who has power, and will steal 40+ bases per year.

For inter-league play, the Braves will roll with Lane Adams, Rio Ruiz, or Preston Tucker at DH. This lineup has crazy potential, but we will have to see how it all pans out.

On the Bump

Braves manager Brian Snitker told reporters that Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, and Brandon McCarthy are the only locks for the starting rotation in 2018. That means the last two spots will come down to Luiz Gohara, Sean Newcomb, Max Fried, Lucas Sims, and Scott Kazmir. In all likelihood, Gohara and Newcomb, two young stars, will take the final two spots.

Gohara, a Brazilian born lefty, started five games for Atlanta and went 1-3 with a 4.91 ERA. In 25 starts between A+/AA/AAA, he went 7-4 with a 2.62 ERA and struck out 147 batters in 123.2 innings. Newcomb, a Massachusetts native, started 19 games in 2017, and went 4-9 with a .432 ERA. Newcomb has pitched well in the minors and is entering his age-25 season.

Nonetheless, if Atlanta hopes to compete, they will need more out of their ace, Julio Teheran. Teheran issued the sixth most walks and allowed the 10th most home runs in the league last season. He will need to get his control back if he hopes for a big 2018.

With Jim Johnson now with the Angels, Arodys Vizcaino will be the primary closer. Vizcaino had 14 saves with a 2.83 ERA in 2017, and led the team in K/9 with 10.0. Jose Ramirez, who had 27 holds last year, will serve as the setup man.

The Future

Nobody in the majors has more Top 100 Prospects than the Atlanta Braves. Joining Acuna on this list is seven other young studs.  Six of them, Kyle Wright (No. 30), Mike Soroka (No. 31), Luiz Gohara (No. 49), Ian Anderson (No. 51), Kolby Allard (No. 58), and Max Fried (No. 83), are pitchers. Even though Atlanta’s starting rotation appears suspect, help is on the way.

Third basemen Austin Rile, the last Braves prospect on the list, checks in at number 97. Rile, who has drawn comparisons to Troy Glaus, hit .275 with 20 home runs between A+/AA.

2018 Prediction: 81-81

This team will drastically improve from 2017. The rebuild is right on schedule, and we will see this offense make massive changes. Freeman is obviously an MVP candidate, and Albies, Swanson, and Acuna all have major potential to turn into stars. While they might miss out on the postseason in 2018, which will be due to the lack of quality pitching, Atlanta is on the rise.

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Atlanta Braves team profile

Atlanta Braves team profile

The Atlanta Braves finished third in the NL East with a record of 72-90. What makes things difficult for them is the current state of the division. The Miami Marlins have decided not to be a competitor anytime soon, so that has opened things up a bit. However, with the Phillies on the rise and nobody playing close to the same level as the Washington Nationals, the Braves don’t look close to competing for NL East supremacy.

Let’s not forget though, the Braves have some pretty solid talent coming up. They have had a pretty eventful offseason as well.

Scandal in Atlanta

Atlanta Braves team profile

John Coppolella is banned from baseball for life (Photo from SI.com)

The sanctions against the Braves came down from the commissioner’s office this offseason. It had been revealed that the Braves had been dodging some international signing bonus rules over the past few years. The league did not take kindly to the Braves reporting less money than they really paid for some of their players. As a result, they punished the organization accordingly.

The Braves were stripped of 12 prospects, and their former general manager, John Coppolella, was banned from baseball. The ban adds Coppolella to a short list of people who have been banned from baseball for life. The 12 prospects that Atlanta was stripped of will be free to sign elsewhere.

Out of the prospects Atlanta lost, 17-year old Kevin Maitan is the most notable. Maitan signed a $4.25 million contract in 2016. He was considered to be one of the best international prospects at the time. Only time will tell how big of a blow the sanctions will be on Atlanta.

The prospects are here

Atlanta Braves team profile

Ronald Acuna is one of the bright stars of the future (Photo from Baseball Reference)

Atlanta has a ripe young crop of players that are about ready to make a major impact. 23-year-old shortstop, Dansby Swanson, has been considered one of the better prospects in all of baseball. That is why the Braves traded for him and sent away the disappointing Shelby Miller. Swanson has still yet to make a big impact at the major league level in his 182 games played, but he still has lots of time to develop.

Ozzie Albies, the 11th overall prospect according to MLB.com in 2017, did make a good impression in the last three months of the season. His slash line was a solid .286/.354/.456. He is proving to be more than a reliable option at second base for the Braves, especially considering he is only 20 years old.

The duo of Swanson and Albies may be a fixture it Atlanta for years to come. 2018 may be the first time that they both get good playing time in the infield, so it is a moment for them to prove that they are as good as everyone thinks they will be.

Swanson and Albies are not all the Braves’ farm system has to offer though. Ronald Acuna, the sixth best prospect, and Kolby Allard, the 22nd best prospect, are anticipated to make their debuts in 2018.

Acuna is only 20 years old and was named the Arizona Fall League MVP in 2017. There is a chance that he could be the next great five-tool player in the majors. He may not be able to reach a 20-20 mark as he does not possess great power, but he could hit over .300 along with 30 stolen bases. One thing he could work on is his strikeout to walk ratio. However, that comes with the territory with any young prospect. It will improve in time.

2018 Outlook

The NL East is still under the Nationals reign, especially with the demise of the Marlins. The Nationals still have the best chance of winning their division in all of Major League Baseball.

2018 is a key year for the Braves as it is a year for their young prospects to learn from the pros already on the team. Several of their best young players will be joining the club in a more permanent position, so guys like Freddie Freeman will play a key role in making these guys true ball players.

Don’t expect the Braves to be buying or selling at the trade deadline. If you are to follow the team, keep an eye on the young players mentioned earlier. Once they reach their potential, they could be a very solid team in the near future.

 

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Ozzie Albies 2018

Ozzie Albies outlook for the 2018 MLB season

Ozhaino “Ozzie” Albies will be one of the youngest players in the MLB next season, as he will turn 21 in January. The Curacao-born Albies will join the rising crop of Dutch infielders in the MLB a list that includes Xander Bogaerts, Jonathan Schoop, Andrelton Simmons and 2017 playoff hero Didi Gregorius.

Ozzie Albies 2018

Ozzie Albies was invited to spring training in 2016, but opened the season with Double-A Mississippi. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

Albies signed with the Atlanta Braves for $350,000 as an international free agent in 2013. According to Zach Dillard of Fox Sports, Albies was heavily influenced to sign with the Braves due to his personal connection with the aforementioned Simmons and Andruw Jones, who both are former Braves players and natives of Curacao.

As a 17-year-old in 2014, Albies was more than impressive, batting a combined .364 in 57 games in the Gulf Coast and Appalachian Leagues. Heading into 2015, Albies was ranked within the top-100 prospects in baseball by Keith Law of Baseball Prospectus.

With heightened expectations, Albies did not disappoint, batting .310 with 29 extra-base hits and 29 stolen bases in 98 games. Albies was named to the All-Star Futures Games, where he was the youngest player to take the field. Unfortunately, he fractured his right thumb in early August, causing him to miss the remainder of the 2015 season.

He was invited to spring training in 2016, but opened the season with Double-A Mississippi. In 138 games in Double and Triple-A, Albies batted a combined .292 with 49 extra-base hits and 30 stolen bases.

He was invited to spring training once again in 2017, but was sent to triple-A as the Braves had a log jam in their middle infield with veteran Brandon Phillips at second base and first-overall pick Dansby Swanson at shortstop. In 97 games in Triple-A, Albies batted .285 with 48 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases.

2017 Season

Albies was called-up on August 1 and has since batted .286 with 20 extra-base hits and eight stolen bases in 57 games. This level of production would put Albies on pace to have 56 extra-base hits and 22 stolen bases.

He has an extraordinary 14.8 percent strike out rate and has made at least medium contact on 85 percent of batted balls, which are nearly identical figures to fellow middle infielders Jean Segura and Elvis Andrus.

2018 Outlook

Ozzie Albies 2018

Ozzie Albies promises to be an incredible fantasy asset, as even though he lacks dominant power, he makes up for it with speed. (Photo by Getty Images)

In 2017, the 20-year-old spent the majority of his time batting second and seventh. It is assumed he will be used primarily in the top third of the lineup in 2018. Albies promises to be an incredible fantasy asset. Even though he lacks dominant power, he makes up for it with his speed.

The Braves’ offense was very underrated in 2017, as they were ranked sixth in batting average and had the fourth fewest strikeouts. For fantasy purposes, batting in the top third of any lineup is great, but the Braves promise to be even more productive in 2018 with Freddie Freeman, Matt Kemp and Ender Inciarte all healthy and returning.

The 2018 outlook for Ozzie Albies is incredibly bright. His draft stock is bound to increase by the day as we head toward the 2018 MLB season. The price for Albies will likely be between the 50th and 100th pick, depending on the draft date and league format. I will be buying plenty of Albies stock in 2018, will you?

 

 

 

 

 

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Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Weekly Update (April 16th – April 22nd)

In week three of our fantasy baseball 2017 update, we will continue to notify owners about which player are hot, or cold, and whether they will continue to trend in that direction. The week one and two fantasy updates can be found at thegamehaus.com.

 

Who’s Hot

 

Eugenio Suarez, Third Base, Cincinnati Reds

 

  • 7 for 20 with 4 runs scored, 3 home runs, and 4 RBI.

 

Suarez is officially breaking out in 2017. The 25-year-old has already mashed five home runs in his first 17 games this season. He is primarily batting fifth, which puts him behind All-Stars Joey Votto and Adam Duval, boding extremely well for fantasy his production. Also, he has improved his strikeout and walk rates, which displays his progressed approach. There is no reason he shouldn’t break the 30-home run and 100-RBI plateau this season.

 

Yasmany Tomas, Left Field, Arizona Diamondbacks

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Yasmany Tomas is multi-home run machine. (Courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors)

  • 8 for 25 with 5 runs scored, 3 home runs, and 8 RBI.

 

The Diamondbacks left fielder is picking up just where he left off in 2016. So far this season, Tomas has 10 runs scored, 13 RBI, and four home runs, two of which came in the same game against the Dodgers. He finished 2016 with 31 home runs in only 140 games, and at this pace, he is sure to break that career mark in 2017. The 26-year-old bats fifth for the Diamondbacks, who lead the league in runs scored, which gives Tomas immense fantasy value moving forward.

 

Michael Brantley, Left Field, Cleveland Indians

 

  • 10 for 25 with 7 runs scored, 2 home runs, and 5 RBI.

 

Top-three MVP candidate in 2014, Michael Brantley, has reestablished himself as a premier player in Major League Baseball. The career .292 hitter currently has a .310 batting average with nine runs scored, three home runs, 11 RBI, and three stolen bases in 2017. The 29-year-old is sure to be a high-level producer batting third for the defending American League champion Indians. The health of Brantley’s shoulder remains discomforting, although the Indians seem to be giving him regular days off to ensure he is healthy for their presumed playoff run this season.

 

Austin Hedges, Catcher, San Diego Padres

http://thegamehaus.com/2017/04/17/fantasy-baseball-2017-weekly-update-april-9th-april-15th/

Austin Hedges will be the everyday man for the Padres for years to come. (Courtesy of The San Diego Union Tribune)

  • 6 for 21 with 5 runs scored, 4 home runs, and 9 RBI.

 

The Padres catcher had a monster week, hitting four home runs with nine RBI. Hedges began the season ice cold, as even after this successful week, he is still only batting .179. The 24-year-old is the every-day catcher and five or six-hitter for the Padres, depending on the day, making him a solid fantasy option at catcher in 2017.

 

Jason Vargas, Starting Pitcher, Kansas City Royals

 

  • 1-0 allowing 4 hits, 0 walks, and 0 earned runs with 9 strikeouts in 7 innings pitched.

 

Vargas has been masterful in 2017, having a record of 3-0, while allowing only one earned run, with 23 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings pitched. The 34-year-old veteran has never been this dominant in his 12-year career, as he has a career ERA of 4.11, WHIP of 1.3, and K/9 of 6.0.

It would be crazy to say that Vargas will continue to find success, although I’m ballsy enough to do it.

Over the past two seasons, Vargas has pitched a total of 55 innings, as he missed essentially the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons after suffering a UCL tear in his left elbow. Since last pitching a full season in 2014, Vargas has stopped throwing a slider and cutter, and has begun exclusively throwing a fastball, curveball, and changeup. His new arsenal and approach with Kansas City are the main factors to his extreme success early in 2017.

 

Who’s Cold

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Byron Buxton’s ice cold start continues in 2017. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

Byron Buxton, Center Field, Minnesota Twins

 

  • 2 for 15 with 0 runs scored, 0 home runs, and 0 RBI.

 

Buxton’s struggles have continued in 2017, as the former second over-all pick in 2012 has only six hits in his first 17 games. The 23-year-old is striking out at a mind boggling rate of 47%. It would not surprise me to see Buxton demoted in order to develop a new approach. I would consider holding onto him in only keeper or dynasty formats, as he has plenty of time to capitalize on his immense potential, but 2017 does not look like it will be his year.

 

Dansby Swanson, Short Stop, Atlanta Braves

 

  • 2 for 24 with 2 runs scored, 0 home runs, and 1 RBI.

 

The first-overall pick in 2015 is off to a slow start this season. In 17 games, Swanson has nine hits, only two going for extra bases, and 18 strikeouts. His career strikeout rate in the minors suggests that he is good at making adjustments and is sure to improve.

Swanson’s potential is real, as he was a three-year college player who batted .335 with 15 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 71 games as a junior. Swanson will be a legit contributor sooner rather than later.

 

Kevin Gausman, Starting Pitcher, Baltimore Orioles

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Kevin Gausman is off to a tough start, and has an even tougher road ahead. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • 0-1 allowing 8 hits, 3 walks, and 8 earned runs with 2 strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings pitched.

 

Gausman was on many fantasy radars prior the start of the 2017 season, as had struck out 174 batters in just 179 2/3 innings the previous year. The 26-year-old was named the opening day starter for the Orioles once Chris Tillman was placed on disabled list to begin the year.

Gausman has struggled mightily to begin the season, as he has allowed 15 earned runs to go along with only 13 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings pitched. He will have a tough road ahead, as he will face two tough American League East foes, the Red Sox and Yankees, in his next two starts. It will take a miracle for Gausman to get through the rest of the month unscathed.

 

Justin Verlander, Starting Pitcher, Detroit Tigers

 

  • 0-1 allowing 3 hits, 6 walks, and 4 earned runs with 4 strikeouts over 5 innings pitched.

 

The 2016 AL Cy Young runner-up has struggled in his last two starts, although I am confident he will immediately turn things around moving forward. He is currently 1-2 with a 6.04 ERA, 22 strikeouts and 11 walks in 22 1/3 innings pitched. The wily veteran has a career ERA of 3.5, K/9 of 8.5 and has pitched over 200 innings in nine of his last ten seasons. He will look to get things back on track at home against the Seattle Mariners on April 27th.

 

Steven Wright, Starting Pitcher, Boston Red Sox

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Steven Wright’s struggles are due to his shoulder injury from 2016. (Courtesy of Boston.com)

  • 1-1 allowing 18 hits, 1 walk, and 5 earned runs with 1 strikeout over 9 2/3 innings pitched.

 

The 2016 AL All-Star has not been the same since injuring his shoulder after sliding back into second base. The 32-year-old had a 13-6 record with a 3.33 ERA last season in 156 2/3 innings pitched. Wright has allowed a league high 33 hits in 17 2/3 innings pitching this year, which shows his knuckle ball clearly isn’t back to its previous elite form. He told ESPN, “It’s just a matter getting everything back, the muscle memory back, and getting back to where I was before the injury”. Clearly Wright is not fully recovered from his injury, and if he fails to find his release point, he will continue to relinquish hit after hit. It’s only a matter of time until David Price returns for the Red Sox, which may push Wright to a middle reliever roll for the remainder of the year.

 

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Collecting the Hardware: National League Preseason Predictions

It’s finally here! After waiting all the cold and dreary months for baseball to return, it has finally arrived. Analysts from all over baseball continue to roll out their predictions for what’s sure to be an incredibly exciting 2017 season.

Last week I issued my picks for Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP in the American League. In the AL, Andrew Benintendi, Marcus Stroman and Mookie Betts took center stage. This week we’ll take a look at the National League and take a shot at some additional bold predictions.

The National League

NL Rookie of the Year: Dansby Swanson

Collecting the Hardware: National League Pre-Season Predictions The rookie hype is undoubtedly surrounding Andrew Benintendi on what is sure to a very successful Red Sox team. The Braves aren’t likely to receive the same notoriety, but Dansby Swanson will be key to their success this season. After his second-half call up in 2016, Swanson slashed .302/.361/.442, with three home runs and three stolen bases.

That call-up coincided with a strong Braves performance after the All-Star break and positioned Atlanta nicely headed into 2017. The Braves didn’t stop there. They added veteran pitching and bolstered the farm system in the offseason. This sets the stage for a Braves’ resurgence led by one of the most exciting young rookies in the MLB.

Swanson absolutely cruised through the minors and has been a demonstrated winner at every level he’s played at. Some may argue for other rookies and their upside, but Swanson is poised to not only take NL ROY, but also have the best overall rookie performance in 2017, period.

NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard

Collecting the Hardware: National League Pre-Season Predictions The year-over-year obvious choice for the NL Cy Young is Clayton Kershaw. A pitcher who displays such incredible dominance at his position that it’s honestly a privilege to watch him play. With that said, I didn’t choose Kershaw for the award because where is the fun in that?

Noah Syndergaard met every expectation in his first full season, posting a 2.60 ERA with 218 strikeouts. Syndergaard is the clear ace of a Mets pitching staff whose entire rotation could act as the number one or two guy on most teams in the MLB. Coming in this season at 24 years old, the ceiling is scary high for this young flamethrower.

The Met’s have certainly battled injuries, but with “Thor” anchoring the rotation, the organization has to like their chances.

NL Most Valuable Player: Paul Goldschmidt

I admit this is a bit of a protest pick. I think conventional wisdom would say that the MVP typically belongs on a contender, Mike Trout being the exception. However, if we’re going to give Trout the credit (which he absolutely deserves) for carrying the Angels, than “Goldy” deserves some love here too.

Paul Goldschmidt quietly slashed .297 /.411 /.489 with 24 home runs and 32 stolen bases during the 2016 season. This was the same season where he experienced a significant slump early in the year that had many analysts in panic mode.

There are a number of worthy candidates for this pick, but I’d like to put the statistics in perspective. Goldschmidt stole 32 bases in 2016 as a first baseman. That put him ninth overall right behind speedster names like Jean Segura and Trea Turner. Goldy smacked 24 homers in a down year when he’s displayed power of 30 plus and strong slugging percentages.

Most impressive of all is his on-base and walk ratio. Goldschmidt walked 110 times in 2016, second only to Mike Trout. That was down from his previous year where he walked 118 times. Ranking number four in OBP, two spots behind “best eyes in baseball” Joey Votto, Goldschmidt sees the ball as well as anyone in the game.

The Diamondbacks may still be a few pieces away from contention, but without Paul Goldschmidt, it’s not even a discussion.

These predictions are truly fun because there are almost too many good options. This writer could make a case for any number of stars in the game today. Who knows how the season will play out or if any of the name on the list will be up for their listed award? What we do know is that baseball is back and we are in store for another exciting season of America’s great pastime!

 

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Best power hitting infielders

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings

Shortstop are commonly known for their glove, but after the explosion of home runs in 2016, shortstops have emerged as a power position heading into 2017. 15 shortstops hit 20 or more homeruns last season, where only two did in 2015. The shortstop position has transitioned from one of the weakest to one of the deepest.

The top 25 shortstops have been grouped into four tiers, with the top and bottom player of each tier profiled below.

Honorable mentions include: Orlando Arcia (MIL), Ketel Marte (ARI), Jose Iglesias (DET), Andrelton Simmons (LAA), and Jose Reyes (NYM).

 

Tier 1

2017 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings

Manny Machado’s consistency warrants a first round pick. (Courtesy of USA TODAY Sports)

  • Manny Machado (BAL)
  • Carlos Correa (HOU)
  • Corey Seager (LAD)
  • Trea Turner (WSH)
  • Francisco Lindor (CLE)
  • Xander Bogaerts (BOS)

 

Manny Machado, primarily a third basemen, played 44 games at shortstop in 2016, after an injury sidelined Baltimore Orioles starter, J.J. Hardy. Machado, a career .285 hitter, has tallied at least 35 home runs and 100 runs in his last two seasons.

The 24-year-old has yet to reach the 100 RBI plateau, although if continues to progress, he could easily see a .300/100/40/100 season in his near future.

Machado’s consistency and potential make him the first shortstop that should be taken in 2017.

Xander Bogaerts is one of the safest picks an owner can make in 2017. The 24-year-old will be entering his fourth season in the majors, where he is a career .286 hitter.

His .320 batting average in 2015, and .330 batting average in the first half of 2016, suggest that he can sustain a well above .300 average for a full season in 2017.

The 6-foot-3 180-pounder raised his home run total from seven in 2015, to 21 in 2016. Bogaerts power is sure to improve one day, although I believe he will focus solely on sustaining contact rates next season.

Whether the power numbers show or not in 2017, Bogaerts is well worth a top 25 pick.

 

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings

Trevor Story is healthy and ready to go for 2017. (Courtesy of Sporting News)

  • Trevor Story (COL)
  • Jonathan Villar (MIL)
  • Jean Segura (SEA)
  • Troy Tulowitzki (TOR)
  • Aledmys Diaz (STL)
  • Addison Russell (CHC)
  • Dansby Swanson (ATL)

 

Trevor Story had one of the greatest rookie seasons of all-time, and only played in 97 games due to a hand injury in 2016. After mashing 27 home runs with 76 RBI’s, Story managed to be one of the most productive players in the league during that stretch.

He will bat in the middle of an electric Colorado Rockies lineup, which may put up historically great numbers this season.

The only drawback on the 24-year-old is his atrocious 31.3% strike out rate, which may suggest that he sees a decline in batting average.

Regression of average or not, Story is well worth a top 35 pick, as his power upside is tremendous.

Dansby Swanson is currently being drafted as the 170th overall player, and 17th shortstop off the board, although I have him ranked as the 13th. The upside with Swanson is incredible, as he has the potential to bat .300 while batting second for the Atlanta Braves. This gives him the potential to score 100 runs in his rookie campaign.

The big power numbers have not shown yet, although he had sneaky power in college, hitting 15 home runs in 71 games. He also hit eight home runs in 84 games at the AA-level, which shows that he has the potential to hit 15 or so this season, giving him a chance to be a top 10 shortstop.

I’m reaching on Swanson’s potential in all drafts in 2017.

 

Tier 3

2017 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings

Can Didi Gregorius continue to improve upon his breakout 2016 campaign?(Courtesy of Getty Images)

  • Didi Gregorius (NYY)
  • Brandon Crawford (SF)
  • Brad Miller (TB)
  • Javier Baez (CHC)
  • Eduardo Nunez (SF)

 

Didi Gregorius, most notably the player that replaced Derek Jeter, quietly had a breakout seasons in 2016. Gregorius has continuously improved his batting average, going from .257 in 2014, to .276 in 2016. He has also seen a huge jump in power numbers, as he hit 20 home runs, which is 11 better than his former career high of 9.

The 27-year-old still has room for improvement, although his power numbers may fall, as the majority of his homers limp out of the Yankees short porch in right field.

Gregorius is a safe late round selection, but may have limited upside.

Eduardo Nunez spent his 2016 split between the Minnesota Twins and San Francisco Giants. The All-Star batted .321 with 12 home runs and 22 stolen bases in the first half of 2016. This shows how good Nunez can be when he is playing every day at his best.

The reason for Nunez’s low ranking is because of his lack of consistency and poor production with the Giants. Hitting home runs as a righty in San Francisco can be quite challenging, which makes me think his home run totals will drop severally.

Nunez has a solid average and will continue to steal some bases, which makes him a good mid to late round pick in all formats.

 

Tier 4

2017 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Rankings

Jose Peraza will finally have an open spot in the Cincinnati Reds lineup. (Courtesy of MLBdailydish.com)

  • Jose Peraza (CIN)
  • Elvis Andrus (TEX)
  • Danny Espinosa (LAA)
  • Asdrubal Cabrera (NYM)
  • Marcus Semien (OAK)
  • Matt Duffy (TB)
  • Tim Anderson (CWS)

 

Jose Peraza has been compared to Jose Altuve, in not only their size, but also their skill set. Both have elite speed and get on base at a well above average clip. Peraza will finally have an everyday role with the Cincinnati Reds as they have parted ways with their franchise second basemen, Brandon Phillips, in a trade with the Atlanta Braves.

Peraza has stolen 281 bases in 611 professional games, which is about a half a steal per game. This alone gives Peraza elite stolen base value, as he has the chance to steal over 60 bases. This paired with the fact that he is a career .312 hitter gives him great potential to be a breakout star in 2017.

Tim Anderson commonly flies under the radar, as he will bat at the bottom of an inconsistent Chicago White Sox lineup. 2017 will be Anderson’s first full MLB season, which could mean a breakout is in the making for the 23-year-old.

We cannot forget that he stole 49 bases in 125 games in 2015. While he bats at the end of the order, which limits his run and RBI potential, he should be given plenty of opportunities to swipe bags.

The former first-round pick in 2013 is a career .283 hitter, which is a solid floor for a starting fantasy short stop. Anderson’s ADP of 191 makes him well worth a late pick as a middle infielder or starter in deeper leagues.

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National League East

Predicting Each MLB Division: National League East

Opening Day is 44 days away, and Spring Training is already here. We are going to take a division by division look at each team and try to predict their 2017 season. Let’s take a look at the National League East.

Philadelphia Phillies – Fifth

National League East

Odubel Herrera was a Rule 5 Draft steal for the Phillies (Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports).

The 2017 season will be another long one for the Phillies. However, contention is not that far away.

Starting pitcher Aaron Nola will look to make the jump from top prospect to top pitcher. He will be joined by young pitchers Vincent Velasquez and Jerad Eickhoff to form a solid pitching core. They will be supplemented by veterans Jeremy Hellickson and Clay Buchholz.

The bullpen will rely on closer Jeanmar Gomez and reliever Pat Neshek to provide solid seasons. Starters will need to pitch late into games to cover their bullpen.

In the field, sluggers Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph will be joined by speedster Odubel Herrera to form a core of young players the Phillies are counting on. Outfielders Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders add experience to the lineup.

The Phillies are one of the youngest teams in the majors and will rely heavily on their farm system in the coming years. For now their talent level is just not there, and it will be difficult for them to finish better than fifth place in a tough division.

Atlanta Braves – Fourth

National League East

R.A. Dickey will move from the AL East to the NL East in 2017 (Credit: AP Photo/Winslow Townson).

General Manager John Coppolella has been aggressive this past offseason, hoping to draw more fans to their new park. The team has improved all over the diamond, especially on the mound.

Staff Ace Julio Teheran will have some good mentors for the 2017 season with the additions of R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon. Mike Foltynewicz and Jaime Garcia will round out the rotation with something to prove in 2017.

Jim Johnson enters 2017 as the closer for the Braves and headlines a no-name pen. Watch out for youngsters Mauricio Cabrera and Paco Rodriguez. Both players put up a sub 3.00 ERA and should only improve after having gained MLB experience in 2016.

The infield will be bolstered by newcomer Brandon Phillips. He will mentor top prospect Dansby Swanson and mix well with Matt Kemp and Freddie Freeman to form a potent lineup.

While there is talent in Atlanta, their prospects in 2017 of winning the division are slim. A fourth-place finish will be an achievement for the Braves, as they have the building blocks for a bright future.

Miami Marlins – Third

National League East

Realmuto is the present and future for the Marlins behind the plate (Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports).

After the Jose Fernandez tragedy at the end of the 2016 season, this year will prove to be a tough one in Miami. While the Marlins can’t replace a personality like Fernandez, they will have to replace him in the rotation. That is a tall task.

The additions of pitchers Edinson Volquez and Dan Straily are a step in the right direction, but they need more. Wei-Yin Chen will be the staff ace, and needs to improve on his 2016 ERA of 4.96. Solid years from Adam Conley and Tom Koehler will stabilize the back of the rotation.

In the pen, closer A.J. Ramos will be joined by a deep supporting cast. Brad Ziegler, Kyle Barraclough, David Phelps and Junichi Tazawa provide plenty of talent and experience to form a solid bullpen.

Dee Gordon will return for a full season, and catcher J.T. Realmuto will look to improve his offense. Led by Giancarlo Stanton, the outfield of Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna will power the Marlins’ offense.

If the Marlins can get solid starts out of their rotation, their bullpen will be able to close out games. With an explosive offense headed by Stanton, the Marlins are a dark horse contender in the NL East. A third place finish seems more likely.

New York Mets – Second

National League East

Walker had a good first season in New York, blasting 23 bombs (Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP).

As the 2017 season approaches, the Mets look to build upon their NLWC loss from last season. With the majority of the roster returning, the Mets are a solid team heading into 2017.

Pitcher Matt Harvey comes into the season trying to rebound from shoulder surgery last season and will be a big boost for their staff. Starters Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz will also try to stick in the rotation. Anchored by Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, the rotation is what drives the Mets success.

The bullpen will be centered around NL All-Star closer Jeurys Familia. Bolstered by Hansel Robles and Addison Reed, the Mets have a pen that should work well in tandem with their star-studded rotation.

Off the mound, the Mets will be led by left fielder Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes provides plenty of power in the middle of the lineup. Coupled with veteran Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Lucas Duda and Jay Bruce, the Mets have a potent lineup. Things could be even better for the Mets if franchise cornerstone David Wright can return from injury.

The story for the Mets this season will be how their star players return from injury. With Harvey and Wright both trying to return to stardom, the Mets can’t count on them for the 2017 season. If they do return, the Mets could go much farther than many think. At this point, the Mets are a good bet to finish second in the division.

National League East

Zimmerman will hope to bounce back after a dreadful 2016 (Credit: Alex Brandon/AP Photo).

Washington Nationals – First

With a stacked rotation and lineup, the Nationals have underperformed in the past few seasons. With new additions in the offseason, they should make the playoffs.

The pitching staff remains intact from 2016, headlined by the one-two punch of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Both pitchers have Cy Young capabilities and are set to have terrific seasons. The rotation will be filled out by Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross to form one of the best in the majors.

The bullpen is lacking, with journeyman Shawn Kelley taking over the closer role in D.C. If relievers Blake Treinen and Sammy Solis can repeat their 2016 performances, this weakness may turn into a strength.

The Washington lineup is one of the deepest in the bigs, headlined by Bryce Harper. He will be joined by Trea Turner, Daniel Murphy and Adam Eaton to form a potent offense. Veterans Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman are also solid players that Washington will be counting on.

The Nationals are one of the deepest teams in the league, and their talent level rivals any other team. The 2017 season should be a good one in D.C., as the Nationals have the talent to finish first in the division.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Cream of the Crop: Top Five Prospects from the Farm

As is tradition, MLB.com issued their top MLB prospects list this past week to highlight the games future stars. At the top of the class are five elite youngsters who are already generating a buzz around the league.

Some of these players have already made a contribution at the Major League level while others are rapidly progressing towards a call-up to “The Show”. Today, The Game Haus breaks down the players, their positional fit, and their expected contribution for the 2017 season.

 

No. 5 Amed Rosario

The 21-year-old Amed Rosario may be the one of two prospects on this list we don’t see in 2017. However, given Rosario’s outstanding minor league numbers and the positional need for the Mets, expect him sooner rather than later. Asdrubal Cabrera didn’t have a bad showing in 2016, but a dWAR of -0.1 may prompt the Mets to adjust.

In addition to outstanding fielding ability Rosario has been consistent at the plate through every level. Slashing .280/.328/.388 with good speed on the base paths and developing power, Rosario’s athleticism is unquestionable. For as young as he is the Mets shouldn’t need to rush a call-up, but at the speed he continues to develop, it may be hard for New York to hold off.

No. 4 Dansby Swanson

Top MLB Prospects

(Courtesy Getty Images)

Dansby Swanson was called up in August of last year and made his impact felt early and often. In just 129 at-bats, Swanson slashed .302/.361/.442, smacked three home runs, and stole three bases.

Atlanta made a strong showing in the final months of 2016 and Swanson played a critical role in that effort. Most impressive was Swanson’s ability to take his incredibly brief stint in the minors and immediately translate that skill set to the major league level. With maturity beyond his years and a winning baseball pedigree, the Braves have to feel good about this cornerstone player.

 

 

 

No. 3 Gleyber Torres

The third shortstop on the list, Gleyber Torres represents the top prospect at the position. A key trade piece in the 2016 Aroldis Chapman deal with the Cubs, the Yankees certainly netted an impressive return. Torres displays all of the defensive tools, but his power potential is what sets him apart at his position.

The interesting decision for the Yankees will be juggling call-up timing in relation to current up-and-comer Didi Gregorius. That said, at just 19 years old, the Yankees can afford to be very patient. Torres’ already advanced plate discipline will make it difficult to stash him for long, but having too many good shortstops in your system can hardly be considered an issue.

No. 2 Yoan Moncada

Top MLB Prospects

(Courtesy Getty Images)

Long considered to be the top prospect in the MLB, Yoan Moncada has only been recently inched out by number one on this list. However, losing out on the top spot certainly doesn’t take away from this young gun’s incredible potential. Developing through the Boston farm system, Moncada was only recently dealt to Chicago in the Chris Sale trade.

Slashing an impressive .287/395/.480 during his minor league career, with an even more impressive 94 stolen bases, there is no questioning Moncada’s MLB readiness.

A brief eight-game call-up in 2016 gave Moncada a taste of the majors, but not at his true position at second base. Given Chicago’s clear rebuild strategy, there’s no urgency to immediately slot him in. However, whenever the Sox decide he’s ready, there’s no chance Brett Lawrie will inhibit this future stars’ progress.

No. 1 Andrew Benintendi

At the top of the list sits Andrew Benintendi, and for good reason. After demolishing the minors slashing .312/.392/.540 he was called up to play 34 games in 2016. Benintendi kept pace by utilizing those 118 plate appearance to quickly generate a .295/.359/.476 slash line.

Despite his youth, Benintendi has a consistent ability to put the ball in play while also generating solid power. Already being slotted as the Red Sox everyday left fielder before the start of camp demonstrates Boston’s confidence in his readiness. Benintendi has performed at every level and it will be exciting to see how he continues to hone his craft in the 2017 season.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

How Baseball’s Offseason Paper Giant stacks up on the Field

grank

Photo: espn.com

Despite being one of the most active teams this winter, the Arizona Diamondbacks are merely a fringe contender.

This offseason the D-backs spent $206.5 million on ace pitcher Zack Greinke, they acquired Shelby Miller via trade, giving up a huge haul, and they recently traded for starting shortstop Jean Segura.

Starting with the big splash, they gave Greinke a huge chunk of change to anchor the rotation. Greinke is coming off a phenomenal season and is undoubtedly one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball right now.

They followed this up with a bold move to acquire Miller to be Greinke’s partner in crime.  This trade saw them give up Ender Inciarte who hit .303 in 524 at bats in 2015, along with the no. 8 and 56 prospects in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline in Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair.

Miller is a quality starter, but, that’s about it. His career xFIP is an unimpressive 4.08. While his 7.56 K/9 and 3.24 BB/9 career totals leave a lot to be desired as well.

He is an adequate no. 2 starter that they gave up an inordinate trade package for. He is certainly not a piece that makes them stand out in a division that included the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants.

The D-Backs rotation will be rounded out by Patrick Corbin and some combination of Archie Bradley, Rubby de la Rosa, and Robbie Ray in the last 2 spots.

Top prospect Bradley and recently back from Tommy John surgery Corbin represent the two highest upside guys, who could catapult the D-Backs into serious contenders. As it sits now though, they are too big of question marks to expect productive seasons from the both of them.

In de la Rosa and Ray they have two decent back of the rotation types, nothing more.

Overall the D-Backs rotation is nothing to scoff at, but, it’s also nothing that stands out to you either.

Onto the position players, the D-Backs are led by underappreciated super star Paul Goldschmidt and the 1st time All-Star from 2015 A.J. Pollock.

Occupying the corner outfield spots will be David Peralta and Yasmany Tomas. The former McDonald’s employee Peralta had a breakthrough campaign in 2015 posting a .893 OPS with 16 HR’s and 78 RBI’s.

Tomas on the other hand had a disappointing 2015 campaign after signing a huge deal out of Cuba. He posted a measly .707 OPS despite posting an unusually high BABIP of .354.

While Goldschmidt, Peralta, and Pollock form a respectable trio, it’s the rest of the lineup that leaves a lot to be desired.

Their two other highest upside players are Tomas and Segura. As previously mentioned, Tomas has the makings of a potential bust, while Segura has not been the same since his All-Star campaign in 2013.

The rest of their lineup is will be composed of below average Major Leaguers in Wellington Castillo, Jake Lamb, and Chris Owings.

While they have 3 potential All-Stars in their lineup it is asking too much for them to carry the rest of the mediocre at best lineup. Overall their lineup does not look like that of a playoff contender.

A slightly above average rotation and a mediocre lineup are not the only things that will keep the D-Backs out of the playoffs. Their most troubling areas are their bullpen and their overall lack of depth.

In Brad Ziegler they have a 36 year old closer who does not strike anyone out. Their other relievers are league average guys at best who will not scare opponents in the later innings.

Brandon Drury and Peter O’Brien are their only two bench options that look even somewhat appealing. Even they are not top prospects and they are young guys who still need to prove themselves.

In the no-DH National League the D-backs lack of depth will hurt them, and that’s not even considering potential injuries.

The D-Backs are a decent team, they will probably finish over .500, but they aren’t anything for the Dodgers, Giants, or the rest of the National League to worry about.