For many children that have grown up playing sports, they have all dreamed of one day making it into the pros at one point. Baseball is one of the most popular destinations for this kind of journey. The rookie class of 2018 is now living out that life-long dream on the big stage.

In this rookie watch, we will be taking a look at the rookies that are making impacts in their inaugural seasons. Establishing their commanding presences, these guys have made their cases early in the “Rookie of the Year” conversations. Whether from the pitcher’s mound or the batter’s box, these rookies are looking to command the respect of the league.

rookie watch: American League

The Boston Red Sox pitching staff has established itself as among the elite in 2018. One of many names blazing on the mound is 29-year-old righty, Hector Velazquez.

MLB rookie watch

(Photo by AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

Do not let the age fool you. Velazquez has given no quarter this season. He boasts a 4-0 record, the best of all AL rookies. He also leads the pack with a 2.38 ERA. Though only starting his MLB career, Velazquez is a can’t miss contender for AL Rookie of the Year, and potentially a Cy Young Award. Boston’s lineup is stacked, but Velazquez has become a vital asset keeping the Red Sox on top.

Speaking of stacked lineups, The New York Yankees are slugging it out with Boston for the AL East. The Pinstripes have become a batting terror this season, and home of the next name in this rookie watch. Meet Gleyber Torres.

Though he is not a home run hitting master, Torres has nevertheless made his presence felt. The 21-year-old second baseman leads all AL rookies in batting average and on-base percentage. He has also hit 11 RBI in his 16 games in the big leagues. With New York closing in on Boston, Torres can be an x-factor if he can continue this kind of batting.

You might be asking, “How come I have not mentioned Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels yet?” Relax, he is still the leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year in virtually everyone’s book. His 3-1 pitching record and .344 batting average have definitely put him among the brightest young stars of 2018. On top of that, Ohtani has belted 14 RBIs and only yielding a .213 batting average from opposing batters. Enough said.

Rookie Watch: National League

The first player in our NL rookie watch is starting to get his name out as a Los Angeles Dodger. Meet right-handed pitcher, Walker Buehler.

MLB rookie watch

(Photo from Sports Illustrated)

Buehler is currently boasting a 2-0 pitching record this season, along with a 1.13 ERA. He has accomplished this within the 16 innings he has pitched so far. The rest of the Dodgers, however, cannot seem to break out from their slow start to the new campaign. Not to mention their legendary ace, Clayton Kershaw, is on the disabled list. Buehler and company will have to step up to keep the Dodgers’ playoff hopes alive.

In the NL East, the Atlanta Braves hold a very thin lead in their division. One rookie that has helped Atlanta to the top is a familiar name around the league: left fielder, Ronald Acuña Jr.

Acuña currently leads all NL rookies in batting average and slugging percentage. Plus, his fielding abilities are razor sharp for his age, having yet to record an error this season. Not only will he be a contender for NL Rookie of the Year but also could be a Gold Glove winner in the not-so-distant future.

Returning to the NL West, Christian Villanueva has turned into a formidable power hitter for the San Diego Padres. However, he has entered a slump in recent games, including a .040 batting average in his last seven. Despite this, Villanueva continues to lead all rookies in both home runs and RBIs. If he can get his batting average back up, the 26-year-old third baseman can help brighten up San Diego’s offense, as well as its season.

Looking ahead

Winning the Rookie of the Year Award can push a player to stardom. It can also preview a bright future for the baseball club. But let us not forget that we have seen some of the game’s greatest not win this particular honor. Not to mention that anyone can enter a cold streak at any time. For all of the new guys, we wish nothing but the best in their baseball careers.

 

Featured image by Karl L. Moore and baseballamerica.com

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MLB Spring Training battles

Baseball is finally back. With Spring Training games beginning in full swing last Friday, we finally have live, MLB baseball in 2018. And with the return of Spring Training comes it’s plethora of starting position battles. Teams across baseball use this time to determine their starting lineups. And this spring will be no different. These five teams will be watching their players extra close this Spring Training.

MLB Spring Training Battles

If Gleyber Torres can impress skipper Aaron Boone, he could be the Yankees Opening Day second baseman. (Corey Sipken/New York Post)

Yankees: Second Base

The Yankees could have double dipped on this list, but addressed third base by acquiring Brandon Drury from the Diamondbacks. This leaves second base as the only real question mark for the Bronx Bombers entering 2018. The Yankees depth chart on MLB.com lists Ronald Torreyes as the starter, but that can’t be taken too seriously this early in camp. Especially with a young prospect breathing down his neck.

Gleyber Torres is the Yankees top prospect, ranking 3rd on among all prospects according to Baseball America. While he has been primarily a shortstop in the Yankees farm system, Torres has been moonlighting at second base. His limited amount of games at the position (18), may cause some concern, but he is more than capable enough to man the position.

While Ronald Torreyes is an established major league player, his career 82 OPS+ proves him to be a below average one. The Yankees may roll with Torreyes to start the season, but it seems the starting second base job is Torres’ to lose. Barring a trade, Torres should be the Yankees starting second baseman in their stretch run.

Opening Day Starter: Ronald Torreyes

MLB Spring Training Battles

Jake Marisnick could make the move from fourth outfielder to starting left fielder in 2018 (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle).

Astros: Left Field

As the defending World Series champions, it would seem the Astros are set to carry over their 2017 dominance into 2018. But there are still some question marks in the starting lineup. Left field specifically. Last season, the Astros rotated Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher, and Jake Marisnick in left, but that could change this season. Skipper A.J. Hinch could be looking for more stability from the position.

The first option listed on the Astros depth chart is Marwin Gonzalez. But that is only because “Utility” isn’t listed as a position. Gonzalez started at least 20 games at four different positions last season, and the Astros would be wise to not lock him in to just one position. Derek Fisher manned left field for the Astros down the stretch, but struggled to adjust to major league hitting.

That leaves Jake Marisnick. Marisnick has always been a stellar defensive outfielder, evident to his 382 starts in center field, but struggled to hit. That is, until last season. Marisnick finally found his power stroke, mashing 16 home runs to propel his 122 OPS+. But he struggled with injuries last season, playing only 106 games and missing the Astros World Series run. Still, if Marisnick can have a strong Spring Training showing, he could lock down the left field spot.

Opening Day Starter: Jake Marisnick

MLB Spring Training Battles

Jonathan Villar will look to return to his 2016 form this season (Getty Images).

Brewers: Second Base

After acquiring Christian Yelich and signing Lorenzo Cain within hours of each other, the Brewers seemed to have one message for the rest of the league; we’re back. The Brewers are likely to compete for an NL Wild Card spot this season, and are a dark horse candidate to win the NL Central. But for a team with high hopes like the Brewers, second base is still a spot the Brewers have yet to address.

Eric Sogard and Neil Walker both split starting time for the Brewers last season. But with Walker still on the open market, that leaves Sogard to battle it out with Jonathan Villar for the starting second base job. Sogard was solid last season, posting a 103 OPS+. But his career high three home runs last season doesn’t inspire much confidence.

That leaves Jonathan Villar as Sogard’s main competition for the job. After having a career year as the Brewers starting short stop in 2016, Villar fell back down to earth in 2017. He hit .241 and posted a 72 OPS+, well below league average. Even so, he’s still just one season removed from hitting 19 home runs and stealing 63 bases. If Villar can find his swing again, he could be the x factor the Brewers would need to exceed expectations.

Opening Day Starter: Jonathan Villar

MLB Spring Training Battles

Joc Pederson will look to ride a strong Spring Training into the Opening Day lineup (John McCoy/LA Daily News).

Dodgers: Left Field

With the World Series loss still fresh in their minds, the Dodgers arrived in Arizona looking to build on last season’s success. They’re also looking for a starting left fielder out in the desert as well. But the Dodgers are in a unique position. One could say they have too much talent in the outfield, leaving left field in particular a question mark. While manager Dave Roberts has plenty of options to pick from, it’s hard to say who will be his answer choice.

The Dodgers depth chart has an unlikely name at the top of the list; Enrique Hernandez. If you just took a quick glance at his stats from last season, you would question why he would be atop that list. But after you consider his three home run, seven RBI performance against the Cubs in the NLCS last season, it’s not so questionable.

Even so, one strong postseason series isn’t enough to earn Hernandez the starting job. That leaves Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson as the remaining options in left field. While Pederson had a similarly strong postseason to Hernandez, Kemp had the better overall season compared to the three. Even so, Kemp only put up a 103 OPS+, barely better than league average. This one seems like a toss up. Pederson has the higher upside, but Kemp has the track record. And as a World Series level team, that could push Kemp over the edge.

Opening Day Starter: Matt Kemp

Feature image by NBC Los Angeles

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2018 New York Yankees preview

2018 MLB preview: New York Yankees

2017: 91-71 (second place in AL East, first in Wild Card)

Last postseason appearance: 2017

Last World Series title: 2009

2017 Recap

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.

2018 New York Yankees preview

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.

2018 New York Yankees preview

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.

The Future

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.

2018 New York Yankees preview

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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New York Yankees trade deadline

Could the Yankees be buyers at the deadline?

The MLB season is still fairly young, but the “Baby Bombers” continue to prove that they’re here to stay. Sitting at first place in the AL East, the Yankees have shocked the baseball world.

If New York keeps up this winning pace, fans will get anxious and start thinking about making it back to the World Series. The Yankees haven’t made it to the World Series since 2009, but that can all change very soon.

As the season progresses, questions will arise about what the Yankees will do at the trade deadline. Could they repeat last season’s deadline and become sellers? After all, players like Matt Holliday, Brett Gardner and Chase Headley could be important additions to other contenders.

Or, the Yankees could do the unthinkable and embrace their old ways.

The Case for Being Buyers

New York Yankees trade deadline

Prospect Clint Frazier could be a key selling piece for New York. (Photo by Sports Illustrated)

It’s no secret that the New York Yankees possess one of the best farm systems in all of baseball.

After acquiring prospects such as Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, they have the pieces to make a splash at the deadline. The Yankees’ plan so far has been to keep their young players and see what they can develop into. Perhaps that plan needs to change though.

With the Yankees lineup proving to be a real threat alongside their dynamic bullpen, it’s evident that the starting rotation will be their downfall. The difference between the Yankees and a contender like the Houston Astros is starting pitching. That brings us to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ ace, Gerrit Cole.

At 26 years old, Cole has shown throughout his early career that he can be a star pitcher. Although he battled injuries last season, Cole is two years removed from a 19-8 season where he posted a 2.60 ERA. Cole has a 2.84 ERA this season, but is also 2-4 due to the Pirates early-season struggles.

New York Yankees trade deadline

Gerrit Cole would be a great addition to the Yankees. (Photo by CBS Sports)

As a borderline ace, Cole could instantly improve the Yankees’ rotation that is in dire need of an upgrade. Cole is also under team control until 2019, which makes him an even more attractive trade target. With Masahiro Tanaka (5.80 ERA) and C.C. Sabathia (4.93 ERA) struggling mightily,  the Yankees could be forced to make a midseason trade.

 

Times have changed and the 27-time World Series Champions have not been as aggressive as years past. Could they really let a potential playoff season slip away in hope of all their prospects working out?

Under no circumstance will the Yankees trade away Torres, nor should they. If there is a chance to swap Frazier for Gerrit Cole, then New York needs to take advantage of that offer. Not only can they make a championship run with their current roster, but also for the years to come.

The future looks undoubtedly bright for the New York Yankees, but they can’t ignore the chance to win it all here in 2017.

 

Featured Image by NJ.com

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Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Minor League Update

The most interesting fantasy baseball formats are keeper and dynasty leagues, as they allow owners to carry a number of players over into the next season, which adds an entire new aspect to fantasy. Keeper and dynasty formats are much more engrossing for the owner.

As weird as this may sound, bonds are created between an owner and their players that are carried from roster to roster over the years.

Also, these formats increase the value of prospects, as an owner may decide to stash a minor-league player in hopes that they receive a call-up to the majors later in the year.

In 2016, players like Trea Turner, Tyler Naquin and Edwin Diaz all began the season in the minor-leagues, but managed to make a serious impact at the big-league level. In Trea Turner’s case, after playing in only 73 games and recording 13 home runs, 33 steals, with a .342 batting average, he became a top 20 overall pick for the following year.

Drafting or adding impact prospects can be the difference between having a good or great team moving forward from season to season

 

This update intends to inform owners about ten minor-league prospects in line to make a lasting impact on Major League Baseball in the near future. Adjacent to the player’s name will be their major-league team, position, and prospect ranking according to MLB.com.

 

Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox, Second base/Third base, (1)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Yoan Moncada is the top prospect in baseball according to MLB.com (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • Position battles: Todd Frazier and Tyler Saladino
  • MLB ETA: 2017

 

Moncada is the number one prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. He is currently batting .292 with three home runs and two stolen bases in eight games at the AAA level. The 21-year-old Cuban has shown the potential to be a transcendent player, as he amassed 15 home runs and 45 steals in only 106 minor-league games in 2016. Moncada will presumably be called-up some time soon after May 15th in order to keep his service time down.  He will be a highly sought after commodity once called up, so pick him up before it’s too late.

 

Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees, Second base/Short stop/Third base, (2)

 

  • Position battles: Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro and Ronald Torreyes
  • MLB ETA: 2018

 

Some people believed Torres would begin the season in the big-leagues, as the Yankees starting short stop, Didi Gregorius, was on the disabled list to start the year; although, Torreyes and Castro were awarded the starting jobs.

Torres was sent down to the AA-level, where he is batting a mere .237 with zero home runs and only three extra base hits in ten games. Torres was recently placed on the 7-day DL as he is suffering from right rotator cuff tendinitis, which was probably the cause of the 20-year-old’s early struggles in 2017. A call-up for Torres won’t likely come until 2018, as he will not see a promotion until he performs at the minor-league level, learns to field at all three positions, and finds an opening in the Yankees lineup.

 

Austin Meadows, Pittsburgh Pirates, Outfield, (7)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Austin Meadows is struggling in 2017, although management is not worried. (Courtesy of Rotoprofessor)

  • Position battles: Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, and Adam Frazier
  • MLB ETA: 2018

 

The top 10 prospect according to MLB.com has gotten off to an ice-cold start in 2017. He is currently batting .156 in 12 games at the AAA-level.

Many expected Meadows to take over in center field for the recently suspended Starling Marte, although Pirates GM states that “He’s not ready right now, but we’re thrilled by where he can go.” This shows the 2017 may not be the year for Meadows, although they are confident that the career .295 hitter will turn things around quickly.

 

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers, First base/Outfield, (10)

 

  • Position battles: Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Van Slyke, and Andrew Toles
  • MLB ETA: 2017

 

The number one prospect in the Dodgers system is continuing to impress. Bellinger is batting .360 with five home runs and 14 RBI in 13 games at the AAA-level. He has mashed a total of 65 home runs and 252 RBI in 356 games.

The 21-year-old is able to play first base, as well as all three outfield positions, which heavily increases his value. If Bellinger continues at this torrid pace, or if an injury were to occur to Gonzalez, Bellinger could see a call up to big leagues this season.

 

Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox, Third base, (15)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Rafael Devers is on fire, but a call-up may not come any time soon. (Courtesy of Masslive.com)

  • Position battles: Pablo Sandoval, Marco Hernandez, and Brock Holt
  • MLB ETA: 2019

 

Devers is on fire to start 2017, slashing .375/.390/.550 at the AA-level. The third baseman has continuously found success at all minor-league levels, batting a career .295 with 204 RBI over 323 games. The 20-year-old has a career high of 11 home runs in a season, but this is sure to improve as he grows into his body and increases his strength.

The Red Sox won’t be looking to rush Devers to the big leagues, as they seem content with Sandoval manning the hot corner for the near future. If a slew of injuries were to occur, which is very possible, Devers could find his way to the majors late in the year.

 

Lewis Brinson, Milwaukee Brewers, Outfielder, (16)

 

  • Position battles: Keon Broxton, Domingo Santana, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis
  • MLB ETA: 2017

 

Brinson is off to a red hot start at the AAA level, slashing .355/.412/.645 in 34 plate appearances in 2017. He is clearly ready for the Major-League level as he has a career batting average of .281, with 81 home runs and 91 steals through six minor-league seasons. The only caveat to the 22-year-old’s game is his poor strikeout rate, as he strikes out over 20% of the time. Brinson is a serious 20/20 threat, although he likely won’t see a call up this season unless there is an injury to a Brewer’s outfielder.

 

Bradley Zimmer, Cleveland Indians, Outfielder, (20)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Bradley Zimmer has a packed road ahead, as the Indians have committed to Austin Jackson and Brandon Guyer in 2017. (Courtesy of Wahoo’s on First)

  • Position battles: Austin Jackson, Brandon Guyer, Lonnie Chisenhall, Abraham Almonte, and Tyler Naquin
  • MLB ETA: 2018

 

The top-20 prospect in baseball has a very crowded road ahead. The Indians have decided to run a platoon in center and right field this season, which presumably was going to give Zimmer or Naquin every day at bats at the major-league level, although this was not the case. Both Zimmer and Naquin have been assigned to the minors, while veterans Jackson and Guyer have earned playing time with the Indians.

Zimmer is a five-tool prospect with plenty of promise. In 2015, he batted .273 with 16 home runs and 44 stolen bases in 127 games. The 24-year-old followed by having a season with a .250 batting average, 15 home runs, and 38 stolen bases in 130 games. Zimmer clearly has the talent and consistency to be an above average fantasy producer, although the call may not come until injuries deplete Cleveland’s outfield.

 

Brent Honeywell, Tampa Bay Rays, Starting Pitcher, (28)

 

  • Position battles: Erasmo Ramirez, Matt Andriese, Blake Snell, and Jose De Leon
  • MLB ETA: 2017

 

Honeywell has a career 2.59 ERA and .992 WHIP over 298 1/3 innings in the minors. This outlandish line has continued in 2017, as he currently has a 2.08 ERA, .615 WHIP, and 20 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched.

The 22-year-old was just called up to AAA, and should see a call to the majors very shortly after the Super Two cutoff, as the Rays currently have placed Jake Odorizzi on the 10-day DL. If another pitcher were to go down, Honeywell could very well get the call sooner than many expect.

 

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, Third base, (31)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may be baseball’s most talented 18-year-old. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • Position Battles: Josh Donaldson and Darwin Barney
  • MLB ETA: 2019

 

The son of future Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, Guerrero Jr., is one of the most talented teenagers in professional baseball. The 18-year-old is batting .295 at the A-level with two home runs and six RBI in 13 games. Guerrero Jr. has shown incredible ability to get on base, on top of his already established power and speed.

The top 50 prospect managed to hit eight home runs to go along with 15 steals in 62 games of rookie ball, showing that he has the potential to be a 20/20 player moving forward. The Blue Jays have no rush to move the teen to the majors, even with their MVP third baseman injured. Although, Guerrero Jr. should be in the big-leagues sooner than later, just not in 2017.

 

Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers, Starting Pitcher, (35)

 

  • Position battles: Matt Garza, Wily Peralta, and Chase Anderson
  • MLB ETA: 2017

 

The lanky lefty remains one of the most electric starters in the minors, as he has a career strikeouts per nine innings of 10.2, which is well above average. The 23-year-old has a career 3.02 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 503 innings pitched. He is currently pitching for Milwaukee’s AAA affiliate, and has a 2-1 record with a 2.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 11 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched.

Hader has struggled with walks over his first three starts, although he has remained effective, allowing only four runs in three starts. If he continues to find success at the minor-league level, he is sure to get the call in 2017.

 

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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”

Chapman, Cubs: First Potential Big Deadline Deal

With the MLB Trade Deadline less than a week away, the MLB rumor market is packed with potential deals that could have huge impacts on the 2016 playoff race. Already, some teams have begun to make moves, shoring up weaknesses in their current roster, or acquiring new young talent that will hopefully mature into superstar talent down the road.

The Chicago Cubs, who are reportedly in talks with the New York Yankees about acquiring closer Aroldis Chapman, acquired Seattle Mariners’ reliever Mike Montgomery last Wednesday in an attempt to bolster their bullpen. Montgomery provided some much needed diversity in the bullpen: prior to his arrival, Travis Wood and Clayton Richard were the only left-handed hurlers in Chicago’s bullpen.

Chapman, a lefty, would only go to further this diversity, and would provide a more seasoned and experienced arm than Montgomery, who is in his third Major League season. Chapman is currently in his seventh year in the MLB, his first with the Yankees after six years with the Reds, and has posted a career 2.16 ERA in 350.1 innings in the bullpen. In 2016, Chapman has made 31 appearances, posting a 2.01 ERA and notching 20 saves in 21 attempts through 31.1 innings of work.

He may have a smaller sample size this year after missing the first 30 games of the season for violating the MLB’s domestic abuse policy, but I don’t think any team would argue that Chapman can bring the heat on the mound. According to MLB.com, his average pitch speed this year is just a tick above 100 mph, and currently holds the record for the fastest recorded pitch in the MLB, at 105 mph.

The Cubs also acquired Joe Nathan on Sunday, showing just how much they prioritize getting their bullpen to a higher level as we near August. Nathan made just his second appearance in as many years yesterday, going a full inning against the Brewers and picking up his first win since 2014.

The Cubs’ bullpen hasn’t been horrible this year, but it certainly hasn’t performed the way a top five team in the MLB would want it to in 2016. The current bullpen as a whole (discarding Nathan and Montgomery, who both have just one appearance with the team) combines for a 3.28 ERA, and is 18-for-26 in save situations. Regardless of what Chapman’s role in the bullpen is, if the deal goes through, he’s sure to provide a much-needed left-handed option from the bullpen.

Gleyber Torres is the centerpiece in the Cubs potential trade with the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman. Photo courtesy of minorleagueball.com

On the other side of the proposed deal, the Yankees would acquire single-A prospect Gleyber Torres. Torres, a shortstop, is the highest ranked prospect in the Cubs organization, and is the number 15 prospect nationally according to ESPN’s Keith Law.

This deal will depend a lot on how the Yankees feel heading into August. They’re in a strange state of limbo right now where they aren’t realistically out of the playoff hunt in the American League, but they are 7.5 games behind the Orioles in the division, and 4.5 back of Toronto in the second Wild Card spot.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see this deal wait a while longer just to see if the Yankees begin streaking one way or the other as the deadline nears. Regardless, if the Cubs are able to acquire Chapman, then the rest of the National League will need to beware The Cuban Missile’s return to the NL Central, this time with a World Series favorite.

 

UPDATE

The Cubs and Yankees have agreed on a deal. The exact players have not yet been released. Keep it here at The Game Haus to find out who!

Gleyber Torres, the #1 Cubs prospect according to MLB.com is in the deal.

The Yankees are also receiving Adam Warren. He was traded to the Cubs just last season.

Minor League outfielder Billy McKinney will also be in the trade. He is the Cubs #5 prospect according to MLB.com.

The fourth player is CF Rashad Crawford from the Cubs. He was playing at Advanced A Myrtle Beach.

 

Information from ESPN.com was used in this report.

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