The first month of the 2018 MLB season is approaching its final act. The league has seen struggling teams and players trying to find their footing. But on the flip side, we have seen several players dominating right out of the gates. Today, we will be taking a look at some of April’s greatest hits.
These greatest hits are a list of some names starting off red hot in the first few weeks of the season. It seems that the league cannot stop talking about them. Repetitive? Maybe. But these names have grabbed the attention of the entire for good reason.
Here are some of my picks of “Player of the Month,” “Rookie of the Month,” and “Manager of the Month” from both the American and National Leagues.
April’s greatest hits: American League
Player of the Month
The New York Yankees are starting to kick it up a notch, winning their last nine games. With a high-powered batting order, it is no coincidence. Leading the charge from the batter’s box is shortstop, Didi Gregorius.
(Photo from wikipedia.com)
Gregorius has caught fire with his bat in April, tallying 10 home runs and 30 RBIs, along with a .340 batting average. He currently leads the AL in RBIs and is tied for the most home runs. As a team, the Pinstripes lead the AL in home runs and RBIs. No. 18 is most certainly a big part of the Yankees offense, which is why he is my pick for “Player of the Month” for April.
Rookie of the Month
My leading candidate for AL “Rookie of the Month” is Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels. I mean, how can it not be him? Ohtani has belted four home runs to go with 12 RBIs this month. On top of that, No. 17 has a 2-1 record on the mound.
Yes, his ERA is over 4.00, but let’s be honest, even the most elite pitchers have a bad day once in a while. To call this an impressive start to Ohtani’s rookie season would be an understatement.
Manager of the Month
Returning to the AL East, the Boston Red Sox remain at the top. The Red Sox have a stingy fielding corps, a relentless batting crew and a formidable pitching rotation.
They also have my pick for “Manager of the Month” for April. In his first as skipper, Alex Cora has played almost every note perfectly in 2018. Cora has found ways to keep winning, and has adapted to most situations. Boston now boasts the best record in the AL, but with the rival Yankees on a tear, Cora will have to keep up the winning ways.
April’s greatest hits: National League
Player of the Month
My pick for “Player of the Month” comes from the pitcher’s mound. It was not an easy decision to make, but Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals takes my vote. The 33-year-old righty has tallied a 5-1 record and a 1.62 ERA. In addition, opposing teams have only managed to scrape up a .156 batting average against him. The three-time Cy Young award winner is eyeing a fourth, and it is not hard to see why.
Rookie of the Month
The San Diego Padres are struggling to find momentum in the NL West. But one Padre has stood as a one bright spot at the batter’s box. Third baseman Christian Villanueva is my pick for the National League “Rookie of the Month.”
(Photo from USA Today)
Villanueva has caught fire with his bat. So far, he has eight home runs and 18 RBIs to his name. He also boasts a .329 batting average.
The rest of the Padres, however, will need to wake up. San Diego, as a team, has put together a .228 batting average, which is 13th out of 15 NL squads.
Manager of the Month
The Arizona Diamondbacks hold a healthy lead in the NL West. Manager Torey Lovullo has steered the team in the right direction since taking over last season. Not to mention he manned the helm and took the team to the Wild Card last season.
Returning to the playoffs may not seem so difficult if Lovullo can keep it up. With the team at 19-8, the best record in the NL, Lovullo and company have substantial momentum to build off of for the next games to come.
a new month approaches
Several great players have struck it big in April. These names a few of April’s greatest hits. As May approaches, some players look to remain hot, while others look to break out of their cold streaks. But like everyone else, I cannot wait to see who kicks it into gear in May.
Featured image from Wikipedia
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Although he entered the season as the number one prospect in baseball, Los Angeles Angels DH/RHP, Shohei Ohtani, had a very disappointing Spring. The two-way Japanese star not only hit just .125 (4-for-32), but he also struggled on the bump, surrendering eight earned runs, including three home runs, in just 2.2 innings of work.
Fast forward a few weeks, and Ohtani has taken the world by storm. In his first career start on the mound, Ohtani earned his first win, after allowing three runs and striking out six over six innings of work. On Sunday, while most were glued to the TV to watch the ending of the Masters, Ohtani was flirting with a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Oakland. His final line, in seven innings of work, one hit allowed, one walk, zero runs, and a total of 12 strikeouts. He got a ridiculous 25 swings and misses, which is the most by a pitcher at this point in the season.
Shohei Ruth? (Business Insider)
Oh, and, by the way, Ohtani has three home runs and is slashing .389/.421/.889. His three home runs aren’t just brazing over the fence either. They are going an average of 415 feet. Ohtani currently ranks second in the MLB in regards to highest average exit velocity (97.3 MPH), and fourth in highest average four-seam fastball velocity (97.1 MPH). He’s got more home runs this season than Aaron Judge, and more strikeouts than Max Scherzer.
Thought we were done with Ohtani facts? He is also the third player to ever homer in three consecutive games, while also recording a double-digit strikeout game in the same year. The other two were Ken Brett (1973) and some guy named Babe Ruth (1916). The last time a player earned two wins and hit three home runs in his team’s first 10 games, Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States, and the national average price of gasoline was 25 cents per gallon. That’s right, the last person to accomplish this feat was Jim Shaw in 1919.
Obviously, its only April 10, but are you not entertained by this kid’s start? Guys like Freddie Freeman and Bryce Harper are also off to hot starts, but that’s expected. Below, we will take a look at some surprising starts, and predict if these guys will stay hot throughout the season.
Being the guy to replace Derek Jeter at shortstop is no easy task, but Gregorius has excelled since stepping foot in New York. He is coming off back-to-back 20HR-202B seasons and set career-highs in batting average, home runs, RBIs, runs, SLG, OPS, and total bases. This season, Gregorius is leading the league in runs (10), RBIs (10), walks (9), OBP, SLG, and OPS. He has also launched three home runs.
Gregorius’ scorching start may have a little to do with the players around him. He is in a lineup surrounded by Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez to name a few. In the home opener, the “infield captain”, a nicknamed given to Gregorius by manager Aaron Boone, became the first Yankees shortstop to drive in eight runs in one game.
While he most likely won’t finish atop the leaderboards in the statistics above, Gregorius should continue to have a very solid season, possibly his best as a pro. He may not be mentioned with guys like Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Francisco Lindor, but Gregorius might have a legitimate argument to be amongst the best after 2018.
In 2016, Polanco had a breakout year. He played in 144 games and hit 22 home runs, 34 doubles, and swiped 17 bases. A year later, Polanco battled injuries last season and missed a good chunk of time. In his 108 games, The Pittsburgh outfielder slashed just .251/.305/.391.
Now healthy, although he was scratched on Saturday because of right foot discomfort, Polanco is hitting .310, with three home runs, eight runs, and an MLB-leading, 13 RBIs. With no McCutchen, Polanco is thriving in the heart of the Pirates order. While the average may dip, as he is a career .253 hitter, Polanco has a chance to hit 20+ bombs, with 100+ RBIs.
Polanco’s teammate, Jameson Taillon, is poised for a big 2018. After fanning nine in his 2018 regular season debut, Taillon, on Sunday against the Reds, threw a complete game shutout with seven strikeouts and just one hit surrendered. He is 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA, and 0.49 WHIP.
Taillon’s story is tremendous. He underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2014, and last season, was forced to have surgery for testicular cancer in May. The second overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, Taillon is the real deal. He stands tall at 6-5, and has a fastball which hovers around 95. At 26, Taillon looks to be the ace of the Pirates for the next five years.
A first-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, Chapman had a tough start to his MLB career. In 2017, in 84 games, Oakland’s third basemen hit just .234 with an OBP of .313. However, he finished seventh in defensive WAR, and hit 14 home runs.
Chapman finished seventh in defensive WAR in 2017(ESPN)
Chapman is currently slashing .375/.444/.675 with three home runs, nine runs scored, and eight RBIs. He has always had power, slugging 36 home runs in 135 games between AA/AAA in 2016, and now Chapman looks real comfortable at the plate. This guy has 35+ HR potential in the bigs, and could turn into one of the best third basemen in the AL. Chapman was a first round pick for a reason, and is thriving in the latter half of the order for Oakland.
Let’s be honest, Charlie Morton was a bit of a scrub before joining the Astros. Although he had a few decent seasons in Pittsburgh, Morton was converted to a reliever for the Phillies in 2016. Unfortunately, in April 2016, Morton tore his hamstring and missed the rest of the season. Last season, the Astros brought on Morton, at age-33, as a member of the starting rotation. Morton went on to have his best regular season, posting a 3.62 ERA, and finishing with a record of 14-7.
Over his last five starts, including Game 7 of the ALCS, and two World Series starts, Morton has thrown 28.1 innings, allowing just two runs, seven walks, and striking out 29. In his first two 2018 starts, Morton is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA. This is a guy, as a 26-year-old, went 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA in 17 starts. Now, a savvy veteran, Morton has found some magic in Houston. Expect the 34-year-old to have another solid season with the Astros.
Featured image by AOL
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2017: 91-71 (second place in AL East, first in Wild Card)
Last postseason appearance: 2017
Last World Series title: 2009
To say a team that hovers around the top one or two in payroll every year actually exceeded expectations would sound a bit odd. But that is exactly the case with the 2017 New York Yankees. On Opening Day, New York opened as 30-1 odds to win the World Series. When October came around, they were one win shy of a World Series berth.
The Yankees started the season hot and entered the postseason flaming. They went 15-8 in April and 20-9 over the last 29 regular season games. Against the first place Red Sox and third place Rays, New York went a combined 23-15. They also dominated Interleague play, going 15-5.
All Rise. (Photo from The New York Times)
So how did New York surpass expectations? Two names stand out heavily: Aaron Judge and Luis Severino. Judge, a physical freak at 6-foot-7, 282 pounds, struggled during his first stint at the big league level in 2016. In 27 games, Judge struck out 42 times, hit just four home runs and batted .179 with an OBP of .263. A year later and Mr. Judge was the runner-up to Jose Altuve for AL MVP and was named AL Rookie of the Year.
Judge led the AL in runs (128), home runs (52) and walks (127). Overall, he finished second in WAR, OPS and at-bats per home run, third in OBP, slugging percentage, runs created and time on base, sixth in total bases and RBIs and seventh in extra-base hits. When an at-bat started out with a ball, Judge hit .357.
Luis Severino, who in 2016, spent time in the minors and made a handful of appearances out of the bullpen for New York, was one of the 10 best pitchers in baseball in 2017. Severino finished sixth in strikeouts, WHIP and K/9, seventh in ERA+ and FIP and 10th in WAR among pitchers. He was absolutely outstanding on the road, ending the season with a 2.24 road ERA.
As a team, New York finished with the second best run differential in the MLB. Among the 15 AL teams, they ranked first in home runs and walks, second in runs, total bases and OBP and third in hits and slugging percentage. The pitching was also impeccable, finishing with the fewest amount of hits allowed and the third best ERA.
The Yankees had a tremendous season, yet not everyone in New York was happy with the team’s performance. After 10 years as manager, New York decided to relieve Joe Girardi of his duties with the team and hire Aaron Boone to run the team.
2018: Around the Diamond
The biggest splash of the offseason was of course, the Yankees trading for the 2017 NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton. A team that ranked first in home runs now has Stanton, who hit more home runs than anyone in 2017. He also finished first in RBIs and slugging percentage, second in total bases, third in runs and WAR and fourth in OPS. Quite frankly, there wasn’t much any team could do to stop this man. Against lefties, he hit .323, and against righties, Stanton clubbed 44 home runs.
Stanton looks to be the DH while Judge will hold down right field, but these players could flip-flop at any moment. Joining them in the outfield will be Brett Gardner, who is coming off his first 20-20 season of his 10-year career, and Aaron Hicks, who hit 15 home runs in just 88 games. Keep in mind, the Yankees will probably also be forced to play Jacoby Ellsbury, who has three years left on his deal and is owed $64 million.
Starlin Castro, an All-Star for New York in 2017, was sent to Miami in the Stanton trade, and Chase Headley returned to the San Diego Padres in free agency after three and a half seasons with New York. This means the Yankees have some holes to fill in the infield. Unless they make a move, Miguel Andujar, a 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic, will start at third, and Ronald Torreyes will man second.
Expect a lot of big flies in the Bronx. (Photo from Twitter)
It still feels weird to not see Derek Jeter at shortstop, but Didi Gregorius has been terrific in the Bronx. Gregorius is coming off back-to-back 20-home-run seasons and hit .321 on the road in 2017. With the addition of Stanton, as well as Greg Bird being healthy, Gregorius will slide down the order, which is actually where he thrives. Last year, when batting seventh, Didi hit .333, and in the eighth-spot, he hit .563.
Bird, whose 2017 was spoiled because of a foot injury, could bounce back and have a really solid season. He will most likely be hitting behind Judge and Stanton and in front of Gary Sanchez, which means pitchers will be forced to go after him. Although he hasn’t had the success at the big league level that he is hoped for, 2018 could be a nice breakout year.
Speaking of Sanchez, the Yankees catcher is one of the best offensive players at his position. In 2017, he led all catchers in home runs (33), RBIs (90) and runs scored (79). All that is terrific, but he also finished first in errors for catchers and first in past balls. He needs to clean it up behind the plate, but this man is a problem with a bat in his hand.
On The Bump
New York will continue to be led by Severino, and it will be interesting to see what Sonny Gray can do in a full season with the Yankees. Although he settled down the second half, Masahiro Tanaka needs to be better if this teams wants to win a title.
Last season, Tanaka allowed the fourth most home runs and finished eighth in walks per nine innings. He had a 5.47 ERA in the first half, and, when it comes to road ERA, the 29-year-old is still probably in disgust. Tanaka finished 2017 with a 6.48 ERA when away from Yankee Stadium.
CC Sabathia is back for another year, which is great for the clubhouse and pretty solid for the product on the field. Rounding out the rotation will be Jordan Montgomery, who had a solid rookie season in 2017, winning nine games with a 3.88 ERA.
The bullpen, which finished third in the MLB in ERA, should without a doubt sustain its previous success. A bullpen that consists of Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson and Dellin Betances is flat-out scary. However, a crazy stat from last year is Betances finishing seventh in hit batters despite being a reliever. He literally tied with Max Scherzer, who threw 140 more innings than him.
Yankees infielder, Gleyber Torres, is regarded as one of the five best prospects in the MLB. Torres, who was acquired from the Cubs in 2016 when the Yankees let them borrow Aroldis Chapman, became the youngest player to win MVP of the Arizona Fall League in 2016. He was off to a great 2017 before getting injured during a play at the plate, which required Tommy John surgery. Still, in 55 games between Double and Triple A, Torres hit .287 and had a .383 OBP. The 21-year-old should see some big league action in 2018.
Gleyber Torres will be playing in the MLB at some point in 2018 (Barstool Sports)
The other infielder on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list is Miguel Andujar, who, like mentioned earlier, could be starting at third base for the MLB club come Opening Day. Andujar hit .315 with 16 home runs between Double and Triple A in 2017, while also going 4-7 in the bigs.
Joining Torres and Andujar on the top prospects list are four other Yankees. This is without counting Clint Frazier, who played in 39 games for the Yanks, but could possibly be traded since their outfield is so stacked.
Speaking of outfielders, Estevan Florial, ranks 44th on the prospects list. In 110 games between A and A+, Florial hit .298, stole 23 bases, had seven triples, and had an OBP of .372. He has potential to become a 30-30 player, but needs to kick back on the strikeouts.
The Yankees top pitching prospect, Justus Sheffield, who was acquired with Frazier in the Andrew Miller trade in 2014, had a solid 2017 in Double A. In 17 starts, the lefty had a 3.18 ERA and struck out 82 batters. The Yankees also have two more pitching prospects in the top 100, as Albert Abreu (No. 74) and Chance Adams (No. 75) could both blossom into something special.
2018 Prediction: 90-72
This offense will be good, but there are questions in terms of production from the corner infield positions. Also, on paper, Boston’s starting pitching is better than New York’s. Severino had a fantastic 2017, but we will see if he can replicate that. Sonny Gray did not look great with New York, and Tanaka clearly cannot be trusted away from New York. However, the roster is too talented, and the Yankees will again, win the Wild Card and make a run at a World Series title.
Featured image by MLB.com
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Didi Gregorius smacked two dingers to lift the Yankees to the ALCS on Wednesday (WKYC)
Didi Gregorius and the New York Yankees stormed back against the Indians to move on to the ALCS on Wednesday. They found themselves in a 2-0 hole without any hope. Joe Girardi’s job even seemed to be on the line. After some questionable decisions early in the series, many were expecting him to have one foot out the door.
Just like they did in the Wild Card game, New York fought its way back to find themselves in the ALCS for the first time since 2012. While there were some offensive heroes such as Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner, the Yankees won in large part thanks to outstanding pitching.
With their backs up against the wall, their starting pitchers in the last three games of the series turned in 18.1 innings with just five earned runs and 25 strikeouts. They made the Cleveland offense look foolish. On top of that, Aroldis Chapman shut down the Indians’ season for the second year in a row.
What already seems to be forgotten is how the Yankees battled their way in the Wild Card game. They were down quick to the Cinderella Twins, giving up three runs in the first 1/3 innings. They quickly responded though and Joe Girardi played a bullpen game for the ages.
Houston has New York’s number
Altuve has proven why he was the best hitter in baseball in 2017 (Yahoo Sports)
The Astros managed to go an impressive 5-2 against the Yankees during the regular season. What was especially impressive was that they managed to average 6.14 runs per game this season against the Bronx Bombers.
Houston played a great series against Boston and clicked on all cylinders. Their offense looked as good as ever and will be a challenge for New York to slow down. The Yankees’ pitching staff has had to work much harder than Houston’s, so something to look for in the series is fatigue.
Justin Verlander’s presence on the Astros pitching staff makes a significant difference this time of year. This Yankees team does not have a whole lot of experience against Verlander despite him pitching in the American League. This will be the first time that Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez will ever see him.
The only starter that the Yankees seem to have success against is Charlie Morton. The team as a collective have a career .327 batting average against him with seven home runs. It will be interesting to see if A.J. Hinch will give Morton the nod this series. Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. do have more success against the Yankees, but it is still in limited appearances. Look for the Astors’ starters to have some success in this series.
The main reason Houston is here, however, is their offense, something that went missing for the Indians in the ALDS. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa especially have good resumes against New York. Altuve is also swinging a hot bat after hitting three home runs in the first game of the ALDS.
How the series will play out
Heroics from Gregorius and Gardner have led to some postseason magic for New York (ABC News)
Despite the Yankees recent success in clutch moments, the Astros are favored to win the ALCS and move on to the World Series according to Vegas odds. It won’t be a cake walk for Houston though.
A large part of the series is going to depend on the Yankees starters keeping up what they were doing against Cleveland. New York had some impressive times at the plate whether it be the two bombs from Gregorius in game five, or the 12-pitch at-bat by Brett Gardner in the ninth that led to insurance runs for the Yankees.
However, the offense as a whole was nothing to write home about.
It is hard to determine whether or not the success of the New York staff came from an Indians offense going cold or an overpowering performance by their starters. They will not be running into a cold Houston offense however. Houston has not been shutout since Aug. 17 and has scored two runs or more in all but four games since that date. Seeing that Houston had the best overall offense in all of baseball in the regular season, it will be tough for Yankees pitching to slow them down.
The postseason is unpredictable of course. Many thought it was all but a lock when the Indians went up 2-0 in the ALDS. New York wasn’t even a favorite coming out of their own division, so anything can happen this time of year.
What has been especially fun to watch with the Yankees is their ability to fight back. Brett Gardner has been a catalyst for New York. His final at-bat on Wednesday was evidence of how badly he wants that second ring. Despite the advantage the Astros have on the offensive side of the ball, the Yankees seem to have that postseason magic that every team is desperate to have.
If the Yankees pitching staff keeps it up then things could get very interesting this series. Nothing will be given in this series because each team knows what is at stake.
ALCS Prediction: Yankees in 7
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After an exhilarating first round in the World Baseball Classic, eight teams move on to the second round. With a few favorites and a few underdogs moving on, there is something for everyone. But as the competition grows more fierce, the cream of the crop will rise to the top. Who will make it out of the second round and make the coveted trip to Los Angeles? Pool E and Pool F have plenty of talent, but only two teams from each pool will be able to say they are one of the four best national teams in the world. All records and standings are accurate as of March 14th.
Aoki brings a WBC championship pedigree to team Japan, winning the WBC championship in 2009 (Brad Mangin).
Japan (5-0 WBC Record)
After mashing their way through Pool B, Japan emerged with a decisive 3-0 record. After scoring 22 runs while giving up only eight in three games, Japan seems to be firing on all cylinders. And they have carried over that momentum into Pool E, running up their winning streak to five games. Supported by Astros outfielder Nori Aoki, NPB slugger Tetsuto Yamata and a 2-0 record in Pool E, Japan should already have their flight booked for Los Angeles.
The Netherlands (3-2 WBC Record)
As one of the four teams in Pool E, the Netherlands earned their spot with a solid 2-1 record in Pool A. Powered by the Ranger’s Jurickson Profar and Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorious, the Netherlands was able to produce just enough offense to squeak by Chinese Taipei and score five runs against Korea. But with an offensive explosion that has brought them a 1-1 record in Pool E, their offensive woes seem to be long gone.
Israel (4-1 WBC Record)
With one of the deepest grouping of teams in WBC history, Israel stands out among Japan, the Netherlands and Cuba. But they have certainly earned their place in Pool E. They torched their way through Pool A, putting up an impressive 3-0 record. And they have held their own in Pool E, going 1-1. Jason Marquis and Nate Freiman hope to continue their strong play, as they have bolstered Israel up to this point. But with so much deep competition, Israel will need to play above their talent level to move on. And up to this point, they have.
Cuba (2-3 WBC Record)
Cuba has long been a national powerhouse in the baseball world. And after putting up a 2-1 record in Pool B, they earned their spot in the second round. But their performance in Pool B had many questioning Cuba, and it has only gotten worse since second round play has begun. With Cuba barely able to overcome upstart Australia 4-3 in Pool B, the doubt began to creep in. Cuba’s pitching has been their downfall, with Bladimir Banos and Yoennis Yera letting them down. And that has carried over to the second round with Cuba putting up a 0-2 record.
Pool E Representatives in Semis: Japan and Israel
Japan is just stacked across the board, with MLB players and NPB stars carrying the national team. Their 5-0 overall record in WBC play proves their depth, as they have beaten teams with relative ease. Surprise contender Israel is not far behind, with a 4-1 record in WBC play. They have advanced farther and done better than many thought they would. But don’t think their run is over, as Israel has the potential to be this WBC’s Cinderella.
Dominican Republic (3-0 WBC Record)
Robinson Cano led the Dominican Republic to the championship in 2013 (Al Bello/Getty Images).
As one of the most stacked squads in the WBC, the Dominican Republic certainly did not disappoint in Pool C. Their undefeated record (3-0) was the best of the Pool C competitors, and landed them a spot in the second round. With MLB stars like Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre and Robinson Cano, to just name a few, dotting the roster, the Dominican Republic scored 26 runs in round one of the tournament. If they can keep their offense clicking, don’t expect the Dominican Republic to experience a loss anytime soon.
Puerto Rico (3-0 WBC Record)
Another undefeated team, another talent-rich roster. They rode their impressive MLB talent to a perfect 3-0 record in Pool D, besting each team they faced. With the likes of Carlos Beltran. Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Correa, their talent level is off the charts. They dominated offensively in Pool D, scoring 29 runs. That kind of offensive production is some of the best in the WBC. But don’t think Puerto Rico will run out of gas soon. Their offensive depth drives this club, and they are one of the heavy favorites to move on to the semis.
United States (2-1 WBC Record)
With the top professional baseball league in the world, you would expect the United States to dominate the WBC every year. But with MLB getting so much of it’s talent from all over the world, the United States has to recruit other MLB players to don their nation’s colors. Even so, the talent on the United States roster rivals any other team in the WBC. With Andrew McCutchen, Nolan Arenado and Buster Posey headlining the roster, the United States pummeled north of the border rival Canada 8-0 and eked out a close 3-2 win over Colombia in the first round. Their offense and pitching staff are deep, and they will need every bit of that depth to move on to the next round.
Venezuela (2-2 WBC Record)
After beating Italy 4-3 in the Pool D tiebreaker, Venezuela moved on to the second round. While they have been playing .500 ball in the tournament, they will look to their stars to turn it on in Pool F. With players like Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve and Rougned Odor, Venezuela certainly has the talent to compete in the second round. But they will need to tie it all together, as they were outscored 23-24 in Pool F. If Venezuela’s pitching staff can perform well, the offense will be able to power them all the way to the Championship Round.
Pool F Representatives in Semis: Dominican Republic and United States
The talent for the Dominican Republic is undeniable, and it’s that talent that will drive them to the Championship Round. They boast legitimate MLB stars both on the mound and at the plate. This balance in talent gives the Dominican Republic a massive advantage over some of the other teams in the WBC. But one of those teams is not the United States. Their only loss so far was to, you guessed it, the Dominican Republic. Even so, the offensive firepower of the United States lineup is deafening. And with all of the quality arms skipper Jim Leyland has to call on, a Championship Round appearance seems likely for the United States.
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We now know two of the four teams in the World Baseball Classic who will compete in Pool E with the conclusion of Pool A play. If you have missed any of the action, The Game Haus has you covered.
We will be reviewing each round of WBC play, beginning with Pool A in Seoul, South Korea. Each of the four teams put up a valiant effort, but only two could move on. Let’s go team by team and see how each fared in WBC play.
Jason Marquis helped propel Israel to a perfect 3-0 record in Pool A play (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images).
Israel was one of the biggest underdogs in Pool A and blew away the competition. They had a strong opening day with a double header and upset powerhouse Korea 2-1.
Jason Marquis started the game for Israel and held Korea to two hits and one walk in three innings. Won-Jun Chang started for Korea and gave up one run in four innings pitched. Israeli pitcher Josh Zeid closed it out for Israel to earn the win.
Israel crushed Chinese Taipei in the second game of its double header. Israel exploded for 15 runs in the game to win 15-7. They were fueled by Ike Davis and Nate Freiman, who each had three hits in the game.
Israel then pulled off another upset victory on Wednesday over the heavily favored Dutch team 4-2. The Netherlands was limited to two runs on five hits by nine different Israeli pitchers.
Even with a resounding tour through Pool A, Israel still has its toughest test awaiting them. Don’t expect them to go undefeated in Pool E.
The Dutch team is littered with MLB players, and their talent showed through in Pool A play. The Netherlands had a resounding opening to the WBC by shutting out Korea. The Netherlands only needed three pitchers for the shutout and relied on their offense to deliver the 5-0 win. Jurickson Profar fueled the offense by hitting a homer and driving in two runs.
The Netherlands then split their doubleheader on Wednesday. They won the first game but dropped the second. Chinese Taipei gave the Netherlands all they could handle in the opener on Wednesday. The Dutch were able to pull out a tough 6-5 win.
Didi Gregorius paced the offense by hitting three doubles to driving in three runs. Mike Bolsenbroek and Shairon Martis picked up Jair Jurrjens to pitch four shutout innings to finish the game.
They then dropped their second game of the doubleheader to Israel with a 4-2 loss. The Netherlands will move on to Pool E with Israel with a 2-1 record in Pool A play.
Kyumin Woo struggled in his start against against the Netherlands (Ahn Young-joon/AP).
Korea struggled in WBC play after being considered one of the heavy favorites to move on from Pool A. They opened the tournament against Israel and lost a close contest 2-1.
The game went into extra innings after the game was tied 1-1 after nine innings. Israel came through in the clutch to score the eventual game-winning run on an RBI ground out.
Korea then was matched up against a deep Netherlands team on Tuesday. Korea scuffled offensively in the game with only six hits. They also found themselves in a hole early on after starting pitcher Kyu-min Woo gave up three earned runs in three and two thirds innings. With the offense going 0-6 with runners in scoring position, Korea was not able to overcome their rough start and lost 5-0.
Korea was able to earn a WBC win with an 11-8 slugfest against Chinese Taipei. Although Korea was able to win their final game, they have to consider their 1-2 performance in the WBC a huge letdown.
Chinese Taipei came into the tournament as one of the biggest underdogs in the WBC, and it showed from the start of Pool A play. They began the tournament on Monday against Israel. This may have been their best chance to earn a win with Israel coming into the second game of their double header that day.
However, Chinese Taipei’s pitching couldn’t perform. They gave up 14 runs on 20 hits to Israel and lost the game 14-7. While the offense did perform well, their pitching staff would continue to haunt them.
They came into their matchup with the Netherlands with some confidence offensively, but that couldn’t cure their pitching woes. Starter Chia-Hao Sung gave up four runs in three and one third innings pitched. It again put Chinese Taipei in an early hole. Even though they only gave up two runs after that point, they couldn’t overcome the deficit. The Netherlands came out victorious 6-5.
After dropping their last game to Korea 11-8, Chinese Taipei leaves WBC play without a win. While their offense did score 20 runs in three games, their pitching staff limited their hopes of moving on to the next round.
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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).
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.
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.
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.
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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