Boston Red Sox slump

The fall of the Boston Red Sox

A little over a month ago, the Boston Red Sox were the best team in baseball. They were sitting over four games ahead of the AL East and rolling on both sides of the ball. But since April 20, they are 11-12 and have fallen a game back of the mighty New York Yankees.

The Red Sox are 5-5 in their last 10 and just cannot seem to beat the Oakland Athletics (1-4 this season). The quality starts and the offense have not slowed down, but the bullpen has had a tough time nailing down close games.

The situation

Prior to April 20, the Boston Red Sox were 17-2, playing some of the best baseball in the league and sitting comfortably atop the AL East. Since then they have free fallen. David Price, Hector Velazquez and Carson Smith have all been in and out of the disabled list, hitters have gone cold and besides Craig Kimbrel, it seems like the back end of the bullpen is more than struggling.

There is not really one true problem to point to with the Red Sox so far. Although it was impossible for them to keep up their early season torrid pace, no one had them going 11-12 following a 17-2 start.

David Price

Boston Red Sox slump

David Price (Photo from Boston Sports Journal).

Well here we are with David Price again. Price has a 4.89 ERA with just two quality starts out of his eight. He is averaging the lowest total amount of pitches thrown per start of any Red Sox starter this season. He is averaging a walk every two strikeouts.

He is on pace to have the highest ERA of his career and is already rapidly approaching his season averages for runs allowed, and he has only pitched 42.1 innings.

Obviously it is early in the season, but Price has yet again struggled for the Boston Red Sox. He is on pace to have his worst statistical season of his career.

Hector Velazquez

One of the best pitchers on the staff might not be one that casual baseball fans have heard of. Hector Velazquez is quietly going about his work and has a 2.10 ERA through 25.2 innings.

He has started two games and appeared in eight others. He has given Boston’s offense a chance to shine. He is 5-0 this season, has kept the ball in the ballpark and also has not handed out free passes. He has quietly been one of the best pitchers on staff, and the Red Sox cannot get him back fast enough.

The top of the lineup: The good

1. Mookie Betts, 2. Andrew Benintendi, 3. Hanley Ramirez, 4. J.D. Martinez, 5. Xander Bogaerts.

The top five of the Red Sox order has been the most consistent thing there is.

Andrew Benintendi is on an eight-game hitting streak where he is hitting over .360. Mookie Betts has hit three leadoff home runs this season and is sitting squarely in the MVP conversation. Hanley Ramirez, outside of his recent woes, has been hitting around .300 and is seemingly knocking a runner in every single night. J.D. Martinez is hitting well over .300 and is proving that he is not just a power hitter, but one of the best overall hitters in all of baseball. Finally, Xander Bogaerts has been the most consistent hitter this season. The five of them account for 130 of the Red Sox 213 RBIs thus far.

The pen

There has been some good in the Red Sox bullpen. However, as the Sox are rotating pitchers in and out, the pitchers have hiccuped. Carson Smith was just recently placed on the 10-day disabled list. He was having a solid first half to the season before hurting his throwing shoulder.

The long relief pitching has struggled for the Red Sox. In 19 1/3 innings, Heath Hembree has given up 11 runs. Brian Johnson, who has been in and out of the bullpen, has given up 14 runs in 21 innings. Steven Wright, who has finally returned from injury, has given up two runs in two 1/3 innings. In other words, when the Red Sox are down in a game, they struggle to get back in it. The long relief pitchers have struggled to pick up the starters when they have struggled.

The Boston Red Sox are not a good come-from-behind team this season. In games that Rick Porcello and Chris Sale start, they have seemingly dominated this season. Due to the fact that the two starters can almost always be counted on, the Red Sox always jump out to an early lead. Just to speak the obvious, everyone is more relaxed when a lead is acquired early in a game.

 

Featured image by AP Photo/Richard Rodriguez

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Mookie Betts hot start

Mookie Betts and the Red Sox historic start

In Shohei Ohtani’s first home start, Los Angeles fans sold out Angel Stadium in anticipation of seeing more dominance from the Japanese right-hander. This was the first sellout in four years, the last one being Mike Trout bobblehead day. Against the red-hot Boston lineup, Ohtani lasted just two innings, exiting early due to a blister on a finger on his pitching hand.

While throwing 66 pitches in his two innings of work, Ohtani allowed three runs, on four hits and two walks. Ohtani appeared extremely vulnerable as the Sox swung and missed only three times. This is what happens when you don’t get to face the Oakland Athletics every time you pitch.

Mookie Betts hot start

Ohtani watching as Betts’ lead-off HR clears the fence (San Bernardino Sun)

To lead off the game, Red Sox star Mookie Betts crushed a home run to left field. He wound up finishing the game with three home runs, three runs scored and a pair of walks. This was Betts’ third three-homer game, which ties him with Ted Williams for the most three-homer games in Red Sox history. This was the second time this season that a player in the MLB went 3-for-3 with a trio of home runs, as San Diego’s Christian Villanueva did this two weeks ago against the Colorado Rockies.

Betts is now first in the league in runs (19), doubles (7), batting average (.389), OPS (1.289) and OPS+ (246). In 2016, Betts finished runner-up to Mike Trout in AL MVP voting and became the youngest player in MLB history with a season of 40 doubles, 30 home runs, 25 steals and 350 total bases. The Sox slugger was just 23 years old at the time, passing Alfonso Soriano, who was 26, and previously the youngest player to accomplish this feat.

Last season, Betts’ finished third in doubles, fourth in defensive WAR and ninth in overall WAR for position players. Coming off back-to-back All-Star Game appearances, Betts has solidified himself as one of the top players in the game, offensively and defensively. He is currently on pace for 54 home runs and 75 doubles.

Was Betts always this good? If yes, did he always have a tremendous amount of power despite being listed at just 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds?

YA BETTS BELIEVE

Coming out of high school, scouts, according to Baseball America, claimed Markus “Mookie” Betts “could be a difference-maker for his hitting ability, speed and solid athleticism.” He committed to the University of Tennessee, but decided to sign with the Red Sox after they selected him in the fifth round in the 2011 MLB Draft. His signing bonus was a lofty $750,000.

Betts played in just one Rookie Level Gulf Coast League game in 2011, and boy was it memorable. While he did hit a pair of singles, Betts committed three errors. In 2012, Betts got his first real taste of pro ball, playing in 71 games for the Lowell Spinners in Short-Season A Ball. In 251 at-bats, Betts hit a whopping zero home runs, and just nine extra-base hits. He was drawing plenty of walks and still getting on base, but it was not until mid-April of 2013 in which Betts cleared the fence for his first professional home run.

Mookie Betts hot start

Mookie Betts as a member of the Greenville Drive. (Photo from VAVEL.com)

During that 2013 season, now a member of the Single A Greenville team, Betts started the year ice-cold. In early-May, Betts had a batting average of .145. However, Carlos Febles, then coach of Greenville, saw serious potential in Betts, noting that Betts was hitting the ball extremely hard, and just getting really unlucky.

“At one point, he was hitting the ball at least three times hard during the game and not getting hits. I remember giving him an extra day off just to give him a mental break,” Febles said according to the Boston Globe.

Greenville’s hitting coach, U.L. Washington, saw a star in Betts, even though the numbers said otherwise. Former Red Sox hitting coordinator, Tim Hyers, was quoted saying “U.L. thought he (Betts) would drive the ball one day because his hands are so quick and he’s got such great body control…It was, like, ‘It’s just a matter of time. This guy is going to figure it out.’” Washington believed Betts was a bit too passive, trying to draw walks instead of being aggressive.

The talks with coaches and the time out of the lineup led to a difference in Betts’ approach. He finished that 2013 season slashing .314/.417/.506 with 15 home runs in 127 games. The following year, Betts, between Double and Triple-A, hit 11 home runs in 99 games and was called-up to the show.

Now, in 2018, the 25-year-old has had quite the start to his MLB career. Below is a table which exemplifies his numbers, based off players younger than 25.

NO. OF SEASONS WITH 18 HR, 20 SB, 40 2B, 160 H (BEFORE TURNING 25)

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
MOOKIE BETTS 3
DAVID WRIGHT 2
HANLEY RAMIREZ 1
GRADY SIZEMORE 1
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 1
NOMAR GARCIAPARRA 1
ROBIN YOUNT 1
VADA PINSON 1

Red Sox hot start

For the first time in franchise history, Boston has won 14 of their first 16 games. Previously, they had won 13 of 15 to start the season in 1946, and began the year 12-4 on seven separate occasions. They lead the AL in batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS and doubles. They rank second in the MLB in ERA and have allowed the fewest home runs in the AL.

Mookie Betts hot start

Does this look like the face of a coach who can lead his team to a title in his first year? YES. (Photo from The Boston Globe)

Clearly clicking on all cylinders, you have to wonder if the coaching change was exactly what the Red Sox needed. In 1912, Jake Stahl, first-year manager of Boston, coached the team to a 105-47-2 record and capped off the season by winning the 1912 World Series. In 1918, Ed Barrow’s first year as manager of the Sox, Boston again, won the World Series. After Grady Little’s inability to pull Pedro Martinez from Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Boston brought in Terry Francona for the 2004 season, the same year that Boston ended its 86-year World Series drought.

After a miserable 2012 season, Boston fired then coach Bobby Valentine and welcomed in John Farrell. In Ferrell’s first year, Boston won the 2013 World Series. Do you see a trend here? In 2018, Alex Cora’s first year as manager of the Red Sox, Boston is one of the best teams in the league. Are they destined for a World Series title because of the “first year as manager with the Red Sox” success in the past?

 

Featured image by NESN.com

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Boston Red Sox: The difference

The 2018 baseball season is just 15 games young, but the Boston Red Sox have the best record in the Major leagues. They have won 13 out of their last 14 and have won their last four in a row. The Red Sox have never jumped out to 10-games above .500 faster than they have this season (14 games). In 15 games they have given up 47 runs which translates to just over three runs a game (3.07 which is fourth in all of baseball).

Their offense is in the top four of baseball in runs (86), batting average (.273), on-base percentage (.349) and slugging percentage (.445). Their pitching has been equally as impressive. The Red Sox have 11 quality starts in fifteen total games which is the best number in all of baseball. They are also fifth in the league in WHIP at 1.16 and eighth in the league in batting average against at .225. The Boston Red Sox have been the most balanced team in baseball.

The Offense:

It seems as though it’s a different bat every night for the Boston Red Sox. They have 14 players on their roster with at least one run batted in and have seven players so far with at least one home run. Every member of their opening day starting lineup has at least nine hits and no one has more than 18 in Mookie Betts. J.D. Martinez and Hanley Ramirez both have three home runs and over 12 RBIs through 15 games this season. Despite the Red Sox slightly increasing their Homerun total comparatively to last season, they are striking out less and turning in better quality starts on the mound.

The Missing Pieces:

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz, (AP Photo/Steve Nesius).

It’s so easy to forget that the Boston Red Sox are missing some of their most important pieces. Hector Valazquez and Brian Johnson, although extremely talented, are just filling in for Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz to come back from injury. Drew Pomeranz is the biggest missing piece. He is a lefty that all of last season pitched like an ace. He finished the season at 17-7 and have a 3.34 ERA which was good for third among the starting pitchers last season. It was one of his best seasons and he is waiting to join the team again.

The other important missing piece is Dustin Pedroia. Many people forget about the former MVP because he hasn’t played in seemingly ever. Dustin Pedroia is the Red Sox everyday second baseman. What will happen when he gets back is a logjam of everyday infielders and one will be on the outside looking in. It might even be Dustin Pedroia who goes from everyday starter and MVP to backup if the lineup stays this hot.

Xander Bogaerts:

There was no one hotter at the beginning of the season than Xander Bogaerts. The shortstop was hitting .368 with two home runs and nine runs batted in in just nine games and 38 at-bats. Half of his 14 hits were doubles and he didn’t make an error in those nine games. Now he has been pushed to the 10-day disabled list and has been seen in a walking boot to protect his injured ankle. Since his injury, however, the Red Sox are 4-1 and Brock Holt and Tzu-Wei Lin have been fantastic since he has left. One thing is for sure, the Red Sox don’t have a bunch of depth in the middle infield on their 40-man roster.

What they can do:

The Boston Red Sox have tons of balance and depth. The pitching staff essentially has four aces on it when healthy and their starting lineup doesn’t have a single easy out in it. Barring a bullpen collapse they would be 14-1. The Boston Red Sox will only go as far as their hitting takes them. The pitching has been there and that has been proven for the last three seasons with the same rotation. J.D. Martinez has been added to an already potent lineup and after scoring 29 more runs than opponents this season, the Boston Red Sox seem to be firing on all cylinders. Despite everyone talking about this new look New York Yankee lineup, the Boston Red Sox have a 3.5 game lead on the AL East, and the Yankees aren’t even the team in second place.

 

Featured image from The Boston Herald.

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2018 Boston Red Sox preview

2018 MLB Preview: Boston Red Sox

2017: 93-69 (first place in the AL East)

Last postseason appearance: 2017

Last World Series title: 2013

2017 Recap

For most fan bases, a 93-win, division-winning season is spectacular. Unfortunately, in the eyes of Boston fans, the 2017 Red Sox failed.

Maybe you can blame the New England Patriots for creating this “championship or bust” culture in Massachusetts. Nonetheless, the Red Sox did not show up when it really mattered, losing the ALDS 3-1 to the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros. Because of the meltdown, and a lot of other things, manager John Farrell was fired and replaced with Alex Cora.

After acquiring Chris Sale in the offseason, Boston became an instant favorite to win the World Series. They started out well, hit a bumpy road in July, but got back on track with a great 18-9 August. Unfortunately, leading up to the playoffs, Boston finished 2-5 to close out the season, and the staff looked worn out in the ALDS, posting a 6.35 team ERA.

2018 Boston Red Sox preview

Chris Sale had a tremendous 2017 regular season for Boston. (Photo from NESN.com)

Sale was lights out throughout the regular season. The lefty ace finished first in K/9, FIP and strikeouts. He was fourth in WHIP, fifth in wins and seventh in WAR for pitchers.

All this was great, but Sale had never pitched in the postseason before, and also led the league in innings pitched. In one start, and one relief appearance during the ALDS, Sale went 0-2 with an 8.38 ERA. Translation: He was tired, and the Red Sox should have managed him better as the season went on.

Boston was fourth in the AL in hits, doubles and walks. They finished third in steals, fifth in OBP and sixth in runs. Although they won a hefty 93 games, they could have been even better had they played well against the Yankees and Orioles, two division rivals that Boston had losing records against.

Mookie Betts, who finished runner-up to Mike Trout for the 2016 AL MVP, was again Boston’s best player. Betts finished third in doubles, fourth in defensive WAR and ninth in overall WAR for position players.

Not only does he excel at offense, Betts is also one of the best defensive right fielders in the game. In 2017, he finished first in range factor/9 innings and second in total zone runs. Because of his stellar performance in the field, Betts earned his second Gold Glove Award.

His batting average dipped to .264, but he still had an OBP of .344 and hit .355 with runners in scoring position. As a team, Boston finished fifth in batting average with runners in scoring position, led by Betts, Eduardo Nunez (.394, acquired at the deadline) and Andrew Benintendi (.351).

Of course, we were unable to see Boston at full strength because of injuries to David Price. Price, a former Cy Young Award winner, started just 11 games. He was able to get some time out of the bullpen, which finished with the second best ERA in baseball.

2018: Around the Diamond

A major problem for the Boston Red Sox last year was their lack of power. After David Ortiz retired in 2016, Boston, out of the 15 AL teams, finished 14th in slugging percentage and 15th in home runs. J.D. Martinez is still up for grabs, so Boston fans should stay optimistic.

2018 Boston Red Sox preview

Devers looks to be an offensive star in the making. (Photo from The Boston Globe)

Even if they don’t reel in Martinez, this team is still very talented. Behind the plate, the Sox could roll with Christian Vazquez, who hit .348 at home, Sandy Leon or even Blake Swihart, whose last two seasons have been destroyed by injuries. Mitch Moreland will remain at first base, after hitting 22 home runs and 34 doubles last season.

Dustin Pedroia, who missed a chunk of time last season, had knee surgery in October, and is not expected to be back with the team until May or June, although he hopes to be back for Opening Day. If Pedroia is unable to go, the Sox have Brock Holt, Marco Hernandez, Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin. They have also remained in touch with free agent Eduardo Nunez.

At shortstop will be Xander Bogaerts, who finished with the second highest position player WAR on the team in 2017. Rafael Devers will hold down third base as he enters his first full season in the bigs. Devers was on pace for a 28 home run, 84 RBI season in 2017, but is significantly better against lefties (.400 BA), than he is against righties (.250). Although he started in July, Devers somehow finished with the fourth most errors by a third baseman, which should concern the Sox.

Left field will again feature Benintendi, who hit 20 home runs, stole 20 bases and had a .352 OBP during his rookie year. Jackie Bradley Jr., who struck out 22.9 percent of the time, will continue to be an elite defender in center field. And, of course, Betts, their only offensive All-Star, will be in right. Hanley Ramirez, who Boston needs more production out of, will remain at DH.

On the Bump

Pedro Martinez, Red Sox legend and member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, spoke to WEEI recently, a Boston radio station, and believes we will see a different David Price in 2018. He will start the year healthy and his track record shows he is gearing up for a monster year.

2018 Boston Red Sox preview

Expect a monster year from David Price. (Photo from The Boston Globe)

We know what Chris Sale did last year, but what the heck happened to Rick Porcello? Porcello, who won the 2016 AL Cy Young Award, was absolutely terrible in 2017. He gave up more home runs than anyone, allowed the second most hits and finished fifth in earned runs. The major issue was how Porcello would start games. When he faced the order, the first time around, opponents hit .301 against him.

Drew Pomeranz was a nice surprise for Boston, going 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA. He looks to be the third starter with Eduardo Rodriguez, who was banged up last season and had knee surgery in October, and Steven Wright, who missed almost all of 2017 and was also in the news for the wrong reasons.

2016 AL All-Star Craig Kimbrel, one of the best in the game, should continue to dominate in the ninth. Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith look to be good to go for 2018, after both have dealt with injuries. Joe Kelly, who went 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA, will again be a key member of the pen.

The Future

As we know, to acquire Chris Sale, Boston traded Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, who at the time were two of the best prospects in the MLB. They have gone all in to win now, but they still have two members of MLB.com’s “Top 100 Prospects” of 2018. Michael Chavis (No. 79), who can now play first base, along with third, had a monster 2017 season between Class A Advanced and Double A. The 22-year-old smashed 31 home runs with 94 RBIs and had an OPS of .910.

Boston’s first-round pick in 2016, Jay Groome, also cracks the list at No. 85. This offseason, the 19-year-old Groome has been working out with Sale three to four times a week. Groome is a 6-foot-6 lefty who can touch 97 with his fastball. Sounds a little bit like Sale right? Unfortunately, Groome is averaging close to five walks per nine innings as a pro and needs to get his control intact. Only time will tell if the young stud can blossom into something special.

2018 Prediction: 98-64

The Red Sox are still pursuing J.D. Martinez, who would immensely improve this team. However, Price is now healthy and there are pieces in the bullpen.

In his first season as manager, Alex Cora is inheriting quite the roster. Sale and Betts are two of the best players at their positions. Devers and Benintendi appear to be absolute studs. They will need a better season from Porcello, but this team could easily win the World Series if they avoid injuries and get some pop in the lineup.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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Bounce back candidates for 2018 MLB season

Bounce back candidates for the 2018 MLB season

Baseball fans were lucky to witness an incredible 2017 World Series this October, where bounce back players like Dallas Keuchel and Yasiel Puig were significant contributors. It is officially time to look ahead to the 2018 MLB season, where a new group of bounce back performers are sure to emerge.

The following players are not the only bounce back candidates, but are the ones who I believe are most likely to return to their previous form. Keep an eye out for these players heading into the 2018 season, as their price on draft day may be discounted due to their struggles in 2017.

Honorable mentions: Jose Bautista (FA), Jonathan Villar (MIL), Kyle Schwarber (ChC), Addison Russell (ChC), Ben Zobrist (ChC), Odubel Herrera (Phi), Maikel Franco (Phi), Carlos Gonzalez (FA), Kole Calhoun (LAA), Joc Pederson (LAD), Greg Bird (NYY), and Gregory Polanco (PIT).

Players who EVERYONE anticipates to bounce back, whose cases I do not feel are worth explaining: Noah Syndergaard (NYM), Yoenis Cespedes (NYM), Mookie Betts (BOS), Xander Bogaerts (BOS), Josh Donaldson (TOR), A.J. Pollock (ARI), Kyle Seager (SEA), and Jason Kipnis (CLE).

Batters

Hanley Ramirez, Designated Hitter/First Baseman, Boston Red Sox

Games BA/OBP/SLG R RBIs HR XBH SB
2017 Season 133 .242/.320/.429 58 62 23 47 1
162-game AVG 162 .291/.362/.490 103 89 26 66 28
Bounce back candidates 2018 MLB season

Hanley Ramirez had a career low batting average (.242) in 2017. (Photo by the Boston Herald)

At this stage in Hanley’s career, we obviously aren’t expecting a 20/20 MVP candidate season, but his 2017 campaign was a clear disappointment. His .242 batting average was a career low, while his 21 percent strikeout rate was at a career high.

Ramirez dealt with soreness and inflammation in his left bicep and shoulder throughout the year. According to rotoworld.com, he underwent a “relatively minor” surgery on his left shoulder on Tuesday, Oct. 17, which should allow Ramirez to return healthy for 2018 season.

The Red Sox, who finished 27th in home runs in 2017, will rely heavily on Ramirez to provide power in the heart of their order. If the Sox have any chance of returning to the playoffs next year, Ramirez will have to be a major piece to their puzzle.

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Lucroy, Catcher, Colorado Rockies

Games BA/OBP/SLG R RBIs HR XBH SB
2017 Season 123 .265/.345/.371 45 40 6 30 1
162-game AVG 162 .281/.343/.433 68 76 16 51 5

Lucroy’s 2017 campaign made people forget that he is only one year removed from being the top ranked catcher in fantasy baseball. Aside from his rookie year where he played only 75 games, he managed to set career lows in home runs, slugging percentage and runs scored.

The 31-year-old was traded for a second time in as many years, this time heading from the Texas Rangers, whose stadium ranks second in terms of runs created by park factors, to the Colorado Rockies, whose stadium ranks first. The difference in scenery may not seem like a significant change, but Lucroy’s slash line in Colorado, .310/.429/.437, was substantially better than in Texas, .242/.297/.338.

Lucroy is currently a free agent, but according to purplerow.com, “there has been a lot of mutual interest expressed by the Rockies and Lucroy in reuniting.”

In Colorado, Lucroy spent the majority of the year batting eighth, which clearly isn’t ideal for your fantasy team. However, any spot in the Rockies’ lineup is fine, as they ranked third in runs scored, fourth in RBIs and second in batting average in 2017.

Whether Lucroy were to re-sign with Colorado or not, he still promises to be a major bounce back candidate in 2018.

Troy Tulowitzki, Shortstop, Toronto Blue Jays

Games BA/OBP/SLG R RBIs HR XBH SB
2017 Season 66 .249/.300/.378 16 26      7 17 0
162-game AVG 162 .290/.361/.495 96 98 28 64 7
Bounce back candidates 2018 MLB season

According to Rotoworld.com, the Blue Jays and manager John Gibbons expect “Tulowitzki (to) be healthy come spring training in 2018”. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Tulowitzki’s production has been on a steep decline since being traded from the Colorado Rockies to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015. The two-time top-five National League MVP candidate slashed .299/.371/.513 in his 10 years in Colorado, while he has slashed just .250/.313/.414 in his three seasons with Toronto.

Now 33 years old, Tulowitzki was placed on the 60-day disabled list after suffering ligament damage in his right ankle in July. According to Rotoworld.com, the Blue Jays and manager John Gibbons expect “Tulowitzki (to) be healthy come spring training in 2018.”

According to Alec Gentry of Sportingnews.com, Gibbons also stated that “Tulo is our shortstop,” showing that despite his struggles, the team will continue to deploy him at shortstop for the foreseeable future.

The only real case for Tulowitzki bouncing back is his track record and opportunity. He is signed through 2020 and must be desperate to prove his worth to the city of Toronto.

 

 

 

Adam Eaton, Outfielder, Washington Nationals

Games BA/OBP/SLG R RBIs HR XBH SB
2017 Season 23 .297/.393/.462 24 13      2 23 3
162-game AVG 162 .284/.358/.416 104 57 11 52 17

There were high expectations for Eaton in 2017, as it would be his first season batting leadoff for his new club, the Washington Nationals, whose star-studded lineup ranked eighth in runs scored, 11th in home runs and seventh in RBIs just a year prior. With Eaton atop their lineup, the Nationals became that much better, as the 28-year-old was coming off of back-to-back seasons with at least a .280 batting average, 175 hits, 90 runs and 14 stolen bases.

Sadly, Eaton’s 2017 campaign was cut short after suffering a torn ACL on April 28. According to Jamal Collier of MLB.com, Eaton stated, “I’m going to work my butt off and give myself the best-case scenario to play. This year would be great, and if that is the case, that means we are playing in October, that is for sure.”

Unfortunately for Eaton, the Nationals failed to make the World Series, which was the earliest Eaton was expected to return. His clear hunger to play and prove doubters wrong inspires me to draft him in 2018. The Nationals lineup improved in 2017, ranking fifth in runs scored, third in RBIs and fourth in batting average.

If Eaton were to bat atop their lineup next season, he would likely return to his top-30 outfielder status.

Pitchers

Masahiro Tanaka, Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees

Games W-L ERA WHIP IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
2017 Season 30 13-12 4.74 1.24 178.1 9.8 2.1 1.8
162-game AVG 34 17-9 3.56 1.10 216 8.6 1.7 1.3
Bounce back candidates 2018 MLB season

Tanaka’s 2017 regular season was an absolute disaster. (Photo by the Japanese Times)

Tanaka’s 2017 regular season was an absolute disaster. The 29-year-old once had a reputation for limiting walks, hits and home runs, but that status has officially been revoked. His 1.8 HR/9 ranked third worst among qualified pitchers, while his ERA ranked ninth worst.

One interesting stat for Tanaka is the decline in the frequency of his fastball, as it has been in decline every season since 2014, where he was throwing it about 40 percent of the time, down to 28 percent in 2017.

In turn, the frequency of his off-speed pitches has continuously risen, which may have contributed to the rise of his strikeout rate, as his 2016 strikeout rate of 7.4 increased dramatically to 9.8 this season.

A positive sign for Tanaka moving forward was his 2017 playoff performances. In his 20 innings pitched, Tanaka allowed just two earned runs, 10 hits and three walks. This was the Tanaka baseball fans expected heading into 2017.

Looking ahead to 2018, Tanaka will once again be expected to play a key role atop the Yankees rotation. If he is able to continue his postseason success into 2018, there is no reason he cannot bounce back to his top-20 fantasy starter status that he earned just a year ago.

Felix Hernandez, Starting Pitcher, Seattle Mariners

Starts W-L ERA WHIP IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
2017 Season 16 6-5 4.36 1.29 86.2 8.1 2.7 1.8
162-game AVG 34 15-10 3.20 1.18 227 8.4 2.6 0.8

Hernandez has been in a downward spiral over the course of his last two seasons. After four straight Cy Young caliber seasons from 2012-15, the 31-year-old has thrown a total of 240 innings while posting a 4.01 ERA. Many factors could be contributing to Hernandez’s struggles, although fatigue and injuries seem to be the main causes.

King Felix has had one of the heaviest workloads among starting pitchers in the last decade, as he has recorded over 190 innings pitched over ten different seasons, most notably in 2010 where he pitched a league high 249.2 innings.

I personally refuse to believe that Hernandez, one of the best pitchers of his generation, is out of gas. Shoulder bursitis and bicep tendinitis cut his 2017 campaign short.

If a healthy Hernandez returns next season, his 2018 campaign will be a very different story.

Aaron Sanchez, Starting Pitcher, Toronto Blue Jays

Starts W-L ERA WHIP IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
2017 Season 8 1-3 4.25 1.72 36.0 6.0 5.0 1.5
162-game AVG 22 11-6 3.01 1.21 158 7.0 3.5 0.8
Bounce back candidates 2018 MLB season

Aaron Sanchez finished seventh in American League Cy Young voting last year after tossing 192 innings that resulted in a 15-2 record, 3.00 ERA and 161 strikeouts. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Sanchez was considered a blossoming star in 2016, as he finished the year seventh in American League Cy Young voting after tossing 192 innings that resulted in a 15-2 record, 3.00 ERA and 161 strikeouts. In 2017, his story was quite different.

Lingering blisters on his right middle finger resulted in four separate stints on the disabled list for Sanchez. Although it may seem like this season was a lost cause for the 25-year-old, he thinks otherwise.

According to Sportsnet.com, Sanchez stated that missing the majority of the year was “a benefit for (himself) honestly… (as) it gave (him) a full year to… rest,” as he had thrown over 200 innings in the regular and postseasons combined in 2016.

Sanchez won’t begin throwing until December, so we won’t know the status of his finger until then. What we do know is that Sanchez is one of the top young talents in the game and is sure to be overlooked in fantasy circles due to his “wasted” 2017 season.

 

 

 

Gerrit Cole, Starting Pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates

Starts W-L ERA WHIP IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
2017 Season 33 12-12 4.26 1.25 203 8.7 2.4 1.4
162-game AVG 34 16-11 3.50 1.22 209 8.4 2.3 0.8

Although Cole started a career high 33 games in 2017, he had career worsts in ERA at 4.26, hits allowed with 199 and HR/9 at 1.4. Cole ranked 10th worst in home runs allowed with 31, which is nerve-racking, although in 2015, Cole ranked fourth best in HR/9 at .48, and home runs allowed at 11.

At only 27-years-old, it is more than realistic for Cole to bounce back to his Cy Young caliber form we saw just two years ago. The former first overall pick in 2011 needs to be on your draft radar next season, as his price is sure to be discounted due to his mediocre 2017 campaign.

 

Featured image by 710 ESPN Seattle

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J.D. Martinez free agency: Where should he sign?

Arguably the top free agent in the upcoming 2018 class, J.D. Martinez is anticipated to receive a hefty contract next offseason, although which team he will sign for is unknown.

After missing all of April and part of May, Martinez clearly has no shot of winning league MVP, although after his monstrous second half, he has been propelled into the conversation. The 30-year-old has played a total of 107 games, where he has batted .318 with 39 home runs, 25 of which have come in the second half. When healthy, it is clear that Martinez is one of MLB’s premiere power hitters, and thus will continue to be a sought-after fantasy commodity.

Any Chance of returning to an old club?

J.D. Martinez free agency

J.D. Martinez began his career in Houston after being drafted in the 20th round of the 2009 MLB draft. (Photo by Getty Images)

Houston Astros

Martinez began his career in Houston after being drafted in the 20th round of the 2009 MLB Draft. He failed to make an impact in his 252 games as an Astro, batting only .251 with 24 home runs and 126 RBIs. He was consequently released by the club in 2014.

Now a serious World Series contender, the Houston Astros don’t necessarily need Martinez, although adding his bat to a lineup of George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa would allow the Astros to compete to be the best offense in baseball with the Cleveland Indians.

The Astros will head into 2018 with nine players under contract and over $93 million already on their total payroll. Their total payroll in 2017 was $148 million, which included over $14 million in retained salaries. It is approximated that Martinez will earn a multi-year $25 million offer, so it seems unlikely the Astros would spend nearly half of their remaining salary on an aging outfielder, as they already have Springer, Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher and Kyle Tucker under contract.

Detroit Tigers

After being released by the Astros, Martinez was signed two days later by the Detroit Tigers. Martinez was under the tutelage of future Hall of Famers Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Torii Hunter. Martinez improved drastically, batting .315 in 2014, his first season in Detroit. He would go on to bat .300 with 99 home runs and 285 RBIs in 458 games.

Detroit had a fire sale this summer, trading away the aforementioned Verlander, along with former All-Stars Justin Upton and Alex Avila. It isn’t likely that Detroit would resign Martinez, although with Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos still in the lineup, they should compete in the consistently competitive American League Central.

J.D. Martinez free agency

Since his arrival in Arizona, J.D. Martinez has batted .285 with 23 home runs and 49 RBIs in 50 games. (Photo by the Detroit Free Press)

Arizona Diamondbacks

Martinez was traded to the Diamondbacks in July for three minor league prospects. Since his arrival, he has been phenomenal, batting .285 with 23 home runs and 49 RBIs in 50 games. At this pace over a full season, Martinez would have 74 home runs and 158 RBIs. Although that is clearly an unsustainable pace, it shows how elite Martinez can be during a stretch, especially in a lineup like Arizona.

According to AZcentral.com’s Nick Piecoro, Martinez said “he would love to return to the Diamondbacks”, although their financial situation makes that possibility seem very unlikely.

Where do we want him to land?

Obviously, we would all love to have Martinez sign with our favorite team. For me that would mean Boston. With the Red Sox outfield filled, Martinez would be forced into the everyday designated hitter role. This move is more realistic than I originally thought, as Mitch Moreland is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. So, if the Sox let him walk and move Hanley Ramirez back to first base, Martinez would fit perfectly into the designated hitters role.

He would undoubtedly dominate in Boston, as he bats .444 at Fenway on the career. Also, he would assume the same mentor role that Miguel Cabrera once played for him, as he would join a young lineup with blossoming stars Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers.

Fantasy-wise, where would the optimal landing spot be?

J.D. Martinez

(Photo by Latinoathlete.com)

Aside from the Red Sox, the best landing spot for Martinez would be with the Baltimore Orioles. With Baltimore, Martinez would replace Seth Smith in right field. He would be in line for improbable levels of production, as he be surrounded by the likes of Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Chris Davis, Trey Mancini and Mark Trumbo.

It is clear that Martinez is most comfortable when batting fifth, as his career batting average in that lineup position is .296, compared to .264 when batting third and .266 when batting second. If he were to land in Baltimore, he would likely fit in to the fifth spot in the order due to the depth of their lineup.

Also, Martinez has had incredible amounts of success against American League East foes. He has a batting average at least .300 against the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays. Unfortunately, he has had minor struggles against the Tampa Bay Rays in his career, as he bats .250 when in a dome and more specifically .257 at Tropicana Field, although it is public knowledge that the Rays need a new stadium, so if they were to leave the Trop, Martinez could thrive even further in the AL East.

Martinez is good enough to be an impact fantasy player on any team, although some situations are clearly more beneficial than others.

If J.D. Martinez ended up in San Francisco, which is a very possible move as they are desperate for power hitters and outfielders, it would not bode too well for his fantasy outlook. Although Martinez would be given the opportunity to play a good chunk of games in Arizona and Colorado, he would be forced to play over half of his games in San Francisco and San Diego, creating a disadvantage as San Francisco and San Diego are notorious pitchers ball parks. Also, Martinez would be forced to bat clean-up behind Buster Posey, placing an abundance of pressure and lack of protection around the 30-year-old.

If Martinez can stay healthy and find himself in the middle of an elite offense, he will be a top-10 fantasy player next season.

Featured image by AZcentral.com

 

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The Importance Of Baseball For Dominican Youth

After studying abroad and experiencing the culture in the Dominican Republic, I am very much aware of the greater importance of global sport. I can say that baseball in particular stands out for many reasons in the Dominican Republic.

First off, baseball isn’t just a sport in the Dominican Republic; it’s a lifestyle. Long working hours combined with limited break time and low salaries reflect typical jobs in the Dominican Republic and allow us to understand just how special baseball is in the Dominican Republic. Baseball is the alternative, better, more sustainable option for hardworking families.

Image result for dominican republic sugar plantations

A family in the Dominican Republic that lives next to others working on a sugar cane plantation.

My study abroad group and I attended a professional Dominican baseball game. Apparently, this game was a pretty big deal since it was a playoff match between two teams I had never heard of. That said, attendance at MLB games in America is definitely much higher.

Security in the Dominican Republic was much more tolerant of our goofy American behavior, even if there were several officers on the streets. We would yell and jump up and down like fools and they didn’t seem to care. Baseball is such a huge deal in the Dominican Republic and this nation is so poor that the stadium employers are probably thankful that they are making any profit at all. This stadium also features American options like Pizza Hut and Subway – a clear example of Americanization.

We spotted Hanley Ramirez, a former MLB player, playing for one of the teams in the game.  Oddly enough, he was 0 for 3 in his at-bats.

Towson University’s study abroad students attending a baseball game in the Dominican Republic.

In addition to watching baseball, we also played a lot of baseball.

A group of us played catch with one of the locals during one of our beach days. I got my first glimpse into how popular baseball is by playing catch with this friendly young Dominican man. We were even using baseball gloves. This local was quite good at playing catch, bringing heat with every throw, which caught some of us off guard. I asked him, cuanto tienes anos (how old are you) and he said 22. It wouldn’t surprise me if he has been playing baseball for a long time.

I asked him if I could take a photo with him in Spanish and we did.

Another Dominican, a much younger boy, also began playing catch with us in the ocean water. This kid could throw the ball well too, although it was hard to catch the ball because he was usually inaccurate and catching a baseball with bare hands sort of hurts.

Not only were these locals clearly very skilled in baseball already, they were completely open to playing with American strangers. I was not used to being so welcomed so fast. The people here were up to chat even if we speak different languages. This little boy was no different.

I also spotted some little kids playing catch with dirty gloves and baseballs in a narrow ally, which made me think that kids play baseball every chance they get.  Competition is high and wide in the Dominican Republic, so practicing even in your down time is probably a wise option.

A few days later, we played a game with some very talented Dominican baseball players for fun. To make the game fairer for us, we split the Dominican players on both teams. Everyone could tell that these players were going easy on us Americans.

Me with one of the locals on the beach who played catch with us.

It was insane to witness this talent first-hand. This game opened up my mind because I saw Dominicans and Americans attempting to communicate with each other in Spanish and English – a rare instance of two different cultures trying to understand each other simultaneously. Sports are, after all, a very unifying platform; they enable us to put our differences aside and work towards the mutual goal of winning.

At one point, I was running home and my momentum actually carried me crashing into the fence behind the catcher’s box, provoking much laughter from everyone. I received high fives from several Dominican players for pulling off that feat.

I haven’t played baseball in 8 years now, but I am always so excited to get another chance. This brought back a lot of fun memories playing recreational league baseball with my Dad as my coach. I played for many years with many players. Contrary to popular belief, baseball was actually my first love, not football.

Towson University students with Dominican baseball players.

Baseball in the Dominican Republic is like an escape.  It is an opportunity to excel at something and bring home a lot of money.  The alternative is working on a sugar plantain or some other low-wage job.  The Dominican Republic isn’t like the American dream where you can be rewarded for any old thing you do as long as you work hard.  The Dominican Republic is poor and baseball is the gateway to success.

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Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons Since 2000

Rookies are an anomaly in fantasy baseball, as it is difficult to predict their value due to a lack of minor and major league experience. In order to qualify as a rookie, a player must not have conceded 130 at bats or fifty innings pitched in the majors, and also must have fewer than 45 days on the active roster. Rookies tend to be undervalued in redraft leagues and over valued in keeper and dynasty formats, although in either format, they can make or break your fantasy season.

One rookie, Michael Conforto, who looked to contribute as a starting outfielder for the New York Mets in 2016, and after battling through injuries and demotions, finished the year as the 121st outfielder in fantasy. Conforto’s average draft position of 211, was much too high compared to his performance, as you could have waited and selected top 50 outfielders Odubel Herrera, Nick Markakis or Carlos Beltran.

There is always risk involved when drafting rookies, but the rewards can be plentiful.

In 2016, rookie short stops Corey Seager, Trevor Story and Aledmys Diaz exploded onto the scene, all finishing as top 10 short stops, while commonly being drafted 60th or later, occasionally going undrafted, depending on the date and number of teams in the draft.

AL Rookie of the year Michael Fulmer was another undrafted contributor, as he finished as a top 28th starting pitcher in 2016, after winning 11 games in 26 starts.

After being called up in June, Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals played in only 73 games, but managed to finish as the 10th second basemen, after batting .342 with 13 home runs and 33 stolen bases.

Many owners believe rookies are too risky to take chances on, especially in re-draft leagues, Even though the 2016 rookie class shined, many owners will continue to shy away from drafting rookies over established talent. In order to persuade owners to take a few more chances on rookies in 2017, they must understand what rookies are truly capable of.

Below are the greatest fantasy baseball seasons by a rookie at each position since the year 2000.

Notable rookies to keep your eye out for in 2017 include: Andrew Benintendi (BOS), Yoan Moncada (CWS), Dansby Swanson (ATL), Hunter Renfroe (SD), Tyler Glasnow (PIT), Aaron Judge (NYY), Yulieski Gurriel (HOU), Willson Contreras (CHC), Lucas Giolito (CWS), Bradley Zimmer (CLE), and Ozzie Albies (ATL).

 

Catcher: Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs, 2008

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

2008 National League ROY, Geovany Soto, looks to break camp with the Los Angeles Angels in 2017. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

Honorable mentions include: Bengie Molina 2000 (ANA), Buster Posey 2010 (SFG), Wilson Ramos 2011 (WAS), Wilin Rosario 2012 (COL), and Gary Sanchez 2016 (NYY).

Geovany Soto, was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 11th round of the 2001 MLB draft. After totaling 25 home runs in six years of minor league baseball, Soto broke out, batting .353 with 26 home runs and 109 RBI’s for the Iowa Cubs of the Pacific Coast League in 2007.

The Chicago Cubs finished first in the National League Central in 2007, unfortunately getting swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL Division Series. The Cubs backstop remained a question mark heading into 2008, as veterans Michael Barrett and Jason Kendall departed. This was Soto’s chance.

His transition from the minors to the majors went smoothly, as he batted .285 with 23 home runs, 66 runs, and 86 RBI’s. Soto was named the NL’s starting catcher in the All-Star game, and was also awarded the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year while finishing 13th in NL MVP voting.

Unfortunately for Soto, injuries derailed his career. He has failed to surpass his career high of 141 games, which occurred in 2008.

The 12-year veteran has gone on to bounce around the American League, having brief stints with the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox, and currently the Los Angeles Angels.

We could see a rookie season similar to Soto’s soon, as young catchers Gary Sanchez and Willson Contreras begin to emerge.

 

First Base: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox, 2014

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Jose Abreu continues to torment pitchers in the AL Central. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Honorable mentions include: Mark Teixeira 2003 (TEX), Ryan Howard 2005 (PHI), Prince Fielder 2006 (MIL), Joey Votto 2008 (CIN), Gaby Sanchez 2010 (FLA), Eric Hosmer 2011 (KC), and Freddie Freeman 2011 (ATL).

The Cuban first basemen signed a six-year deal with the Chicago White Sox worth $68 million, in 2013, which was the largest deal in club history.

In a Cuban professional league, Abreu batted .316 with 19 home runs and 60 RBI’s over an 83-game span. The White Sox took a risk, believing that his numbers in Cuba would translate to production in the American League.

The 27-year-old took over at first base for Chicago legend Paul Konerko in 2014, becoming a new corner stone of the White Sox lineup. Abreu didn’t disappoint, batting .317 with 36 home runs and 107 RBI’s. The 2014 All-Star managed to also win the AL Rookie of the Year and Silver Slugger awards, while finishing fourth in the AL MVP voting.

Abreu has remained an elite first basemen throughout his three-year career, having a 162-game average of .299, 32 home runs, and 109 RBI’s. His rookie season remains nearly unrepeatable.

 

Second Base: Dan Uggla, Florida Marlins, 2006

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Dan Uggla looks to make an MLB comeback in 2017. (Courtesy of Onlineathens.com)

Honorable mentions include: Robinson Cano 2005 (NYY), Dustin Pedroia 2007 (BOS), Danny Espinosa 2011 (WAS), and Trea Turner 2016 (WAS).

Dan Uggla remains one my favorite players to this day. He mashed 21 home runs in 2005 at the AA level for the Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies. Fortunately for Uggla, he failed to make the Diamondbacks 40-man roster in 2005, and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the rule-5 draft, forcing the Marlins to keep him on the 40-man roster.

The 5-foot-11, 210-pound second basemen took this opportunity and ran with it, hitting 27 home runs with 90 RBI’s while batting a very respectable .287. The 26-year-old made his first of three All-Star appearances in 2006, while finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year.

Uggla’s career remained explosive, as he managed to hit 30 or more home runs in his following five seasons, finishing 17th in NL MVP voting in 2010.

After two and half inconsistent seasons with the Atlanta Braves from 2011-2013, he has bounced around the minor leagues. The 35-year old is coming off of stints with the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals, as he continues to try to make an impact for a big-league club in 2017.

 

Third Base: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers, 2007

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Ryan Braun’s rookie season remains unmatched. (Courtesy of Youtube.com)

Honorable mentions include: Eric Hinske 2002 (TOR), Garrett Atkins 2005 (COL), Ryan Zimmerman 2006 (WAS), Evan Longoria 2008 (TB), Kris Bryant 2015 (CHC), and Matt Duffy 2015 (SFG).

Ryan Braun was the 5th overall pick by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005. From 2005-2007, he batted .313, while hitting 32 home runs in 165 minor league games. The highly touted prospect had matching expectations when he was called up to take over for veteran Jeff Cirillo in May of 2007.

The 23-yaer-old impressed, batted an astounding .324, with 34 home runs, and 97 RBI’s. Braun went on to win NL Rookie of the Year, while finishing top 25 in NL MVP voting. The fact that Braun only played in 113 games goes completely overlooked, as he was on pace to hit 41 home runs and 118 RBI’s over a 600-plate appearance season. Although there have been some stellar rookie seasons by third basemen in the last two decades, Braun’s stands alone.

 

Short Stop: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins, 2006

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Hanley Ramirez may be back in Boston, but no one forgets his MVP caliber days in Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Honorable mentions include: Jimmy Rollins 2001 (PHI), Angel Berroa 2003 (KAN), Troy Tulowitzki 2007 (COL), Alexie Ramirez 2008 (CWS), Carlos Correa 2015 (HOU), Francisco Lindor 2015 (CLE), Corey Seager 2016 (LAD), Trevor Story 2016 (COL), and Aledmys Diaz 2016 (STL).

The former and current Boston Red Sox, Hanley Ramirez, signed with the team in 2000 as an amateur free agent. He began to soar up the ranks, making his way from low-A minor league ball to the majors in only three years. Ramirez was traded to the Florida Marlins in November of 2005, in a deal involving World Series champs Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell.

As a 22-year old, Ramirez won the 2006 NL Rookie of the Year, batting .292 with 17 home runs, 119 runs, 59 RBI’s, and 51 stolen bases. Hanley’s production goes unmatched, as the only other rookie to score over 115 runs in the modern era is Ichiro Suzuki.

Hanley’s career has been an interesting ride so far, as he has battled through some serious injuries that has caused him to lose his MVP form. He has transformed from a perennial .300 hitter with 20 plus steals to a .270 hitter with single-digit steals, which, along with his improved power stroke, is still a very productive player.

 

Left Field: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals, 2001

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Albert Pujols is the greatest player of his generation. (Courtesy of Lehighvalleylive.com)

Honorable mentions include: Hideki Matsui 2003 (NYY), Jason Bay 2004 (PIT), Chris Coghlan 2009 (FLA), Yoenis Cespedes 2012 (OAK).

Arguably the greatest player of his generation, Albert Pujols was drafted in the 13th round of the 1999 MLB draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He accelerated up the minor-league ladder, batting .314 with 19 home runs and 96 RBI’s in 133 games at three different levels in 2000.

The Machine exploded onto the scene in 2001, batting .329 with 37 home runs, 112 runs, and 130 RBI’s. Pujols went on to become an All-Star, win Rookie of the Year and Silver Slugger awards, and finish top five in NL MVP voting. Prince Albert’s 2001 campaign sparked a hall of fame career which included three MVP’s and two World Series rings.

 

Center Field: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, 2012

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Mike Trout or Micky Mantle? (Courtesy of the Huffington Post)

Honorable mentions include: Terrance Long 2000 (OAK), Rocco Baldelli 2003 (TB), Scott Podsednik 2003 (MIL), Willy Tavares 2005 (HOU), Jacoby Ellsbury 2008 (BOS), Austin Jackson 2010 (DET), and Billy Hamilton 2014 (CIN).

This generations Mikey Mantle began as a first-round selection by the Los Angles Angels in 2009. In three minor league season Trout batted well over .300, but lacked the power that we are all used to seeing today, as he hit only 23 home runs in 291 games.

Trout started his rookie season after being called up in April of 2012. He went on to play 139 games, batting .326, while mashing 30 home runs, scoring 129 runs, driving in 83 RBI’s, and stealing 49 bases in 56 attempts.

The two-time MVP had the highest WAR ever by a rookie, with 10.0. It may be a long time until we see another 30/40 season by a rookie.

 

Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners, 2001

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Ichiro refuses to quit as he enters his 17th Major League season. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Honorable mentions include: Hunter Pence 2007 (HOU), Jason Heyward 2010 (ATL), Bryce Harper 2012 (WAS), Yasiel Puig 2013 (LAD), and Nomar Mazara 2016 (TEX).

The 27-year old rookie was purchased from the Orix BlueWave for $13 million in 2000. In nine seasons in Japan, Ichiro batted .313, with 658 runs, 118 home runs, and 508 stolen bases. After winning seven batting titles and three MVP awards in Japan, Ichiro decided to make the transition to the MLB.

In 2001, he set the record for the most hits ever by a rookie with 242. The Rookie of the Year finished the season batting .350, while scoring 127 runs, driving in 69 RBI’s, and stealing 56 bases. He was subsequently rewarded the AL MVP.

Suzuki’s career is well known as he has surpassed the 3000-hit plateau and has a career average of .313. Ichiro will remain with the Miami Marlins in 2017, where he will continue to add to his historical career.

 

Starting Pitcher: Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins, 2013

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Jose Fernandez, what could have been?(Findagrave.com)

Honorable mentions include: Rick Ankiel 2000 (STL), Roy Oswalt 2001 (HOU), Dontrelle Willis 2003 (FLA), Francisco Liriano 2006 (MIN), Daisuke Matsuzaka 2007 (BOS), Edinson Volquez 2008 (CIN), J.A. Happ 2009 (PHI), Jaime Garcia 2010 (STL), Jeremy Hellickson 2011 (TB), Yu Darvish 2012 (TEX), Wade Miley 2012 (ARI), Shelby Miller 2013 (ATL), Hyun-Jin Ryo 2013 (LAD), Julio Teheran 2013 (ATL), Matt Shoemaker 2014 (LAA), Jacob deGrom 2014 (NYM), Noah Syndergaard 2015 (NYM), Michael Fulmer 2016 (DET), Kenta Maeda 2016 (LAD), and Jon Gray 2016 (COL).

In 2013, the late, great, Jose Fernandez, managed to out-perform all other rookie starters since the year 2000. After being selected as the 14th pick of the 2011 MLB draft, Fernandez pitched one full season in the minors, going 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA, while striking out 158 batters in 134 innings pitched.

The young hurler started 28 games in his rookie season, going 12-6 with a 2.19, while striking out 187 batters in 172.2 innings. The 20-year old lead the league in hits per nine in 2013, which helped him earn the NL Rookie of the Year award, his first All-Star appearance, and a 3rd place finish in NL Cy Young.

In 2016, Fernandez lead the league in K/9, with 12.5, as he had 253 strikeouts in only 182.1 innings. Unfortunately, Fernandez’ life was cut short in boating accident, so we can only speculate to what could have been. Rest in peace.

 

Releif Pitcher: Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves, 2011

Greatest Rookie Fantasy Baseball Seasons

Craig Kimbrel may be in a new uniform, but his antics remain as they did in Atlanta. (Courtesy of Jeffschultz.blog.myajc.com)

Honorable mentions include: Kazuhiro Sasaki 2000 (SEA), Huston Street 2005 (OAK), Jonathan Papelbon 2006 (BOS), Andrew Bailey 2009 (OAK), and Neftali Feliz 2010 (TEX), Jordan Walden 2010 (LAA), Dellin Betances 2014 (NYY), Roberto Osuna 2015 (TOR), Edwin Diaz 2016 (SEA), and Seung-hwan Oh 2016 (STL).

After being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 33rd round of the 2007 MLB draft, Craig Kimbrel decided to forgo the MLB, and attend Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Alabama. He finished the 2007-2008 collegiate season with a 2.89 ERA, while striking out 123 batters in 81 innings.

Kimbrel went on the be re-drafted by the Braves in the third round of the 2008 MLB draft. He had some slight struggles in the minors, sporting a 3.97 ERA in 70.1 innings pitched at four different levels in 2009, but recovered in 2010, where he had a 1.62 ERA at the AAA level.

Kimbrel received the official call up in 2010, where he recorded 46 saves, struck out 127 batters, and lead the league in games finished with 64. The 23-year old went on to win NL Rookie of the Year, make his first All-Star appearance, all while receiving votes for the Cy Young and MVP.

The flamethrower has managed to improve on his rookie season, as he has had an illustrious seven-year career with a career ERA of 1.86 and over 250 career saves.

 

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2017 Fantasy Baseball First Base Rankings

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball First Base Rankings

The Game Haus presents our 2017 fantasy baseball first base rankings.

The first base position is among the deepest in fantasy baseball. Nine first basemen had at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs last season. 23 had at least 20 home runs, and 19 had at least 80 RBIs. First base continues to offer plenty of power and production for your fantasy team.

With the start of spring training games upon us, it is time to rank the top 25 first basemen for 2017. Players have been grouped into three tiers, with the top and bottom player of each profiled below.

Honorable mentions: Joe Mauer (MIN), Lucas Duda (NYM), Chris Carter (NYY), Yulieski Gurriel (HOU), Ryan Zimmerman (WAS), and Dan Vogelbach (SEA).

Tier 1

2017 Fantasy Baseball First Base Rankings

Paul Goldschmidt is the golden standard at first base. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  1. Paul Goldschmidt ARI
  2. Miguel Cabrera DET
  3. Joey Votto CIN
  4. Anthony Rizzo CHC
  5. Freddie Freeman ATL
  6. Edwin Encarnacion CLE

Paul Goldschmidt is the golden standard at first base in 2017. He has completed four consecutive All-Star seasons, finishing as runner up for MVP in 2013 and 2015. He offers five-category production and will bat third for the Arizona Diamondbacks, hit for average and power, and will steal plenty of bases.

The addition of A.J. Pollock and David Peralta to the lineup should increase his value as well. Goldy was without both of them for the majority of 2016. Also, he has 99 career stolen bases with a success rate of 81 percent, which is outstanding. His floor of about 15 steals gives him an edge over other superstar first basemen.

Edwin Encarnacion will make the move from the hitter friendly Rogers Centre to one of the toughest for right handed hitters. However, he remains in the top tier of elite first basemen. He will bat clean-up for a hungry Cleveland Indians team featuring Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana.

Encarnacion remains an elite fantasy option. He has hit at least 30 home runs with 98 or more RBIs. He also has batted at least .260 in his last five seasons. Expect more of the same out of the 34-year-old.

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball First Base Rankings

Wil Myers expects a 40/40 season from himself in 2017. (Courtesy of gaslampbell.com)

  1. Wil Myers SD
  2. Jose Abreu CWS
  3. Daniel Murphy WAS
  4. Ian Desmond COL
  5. Chris Davis BAL
  6. Hanley Ramirez BOS
  7. Matt Carpenter STL
  8. Carlos Santana CLE
  9. Eric Hosmer KC
  10. Adrian Gonzalez LAD

Wil Myers’ 2016 season resembled the likes of a poor man’s Paul Goldschmidt. He finished with 28 home runs and 28 stolen bases. His atrocious second half led to his batting average dipping to an underwhelming .259, causing his value in 2017 to be fairly low. His 20/20 upside should not be overlooked, as he was among only nine players to accomplish this feat last season.

The former rookie of the year completed his first full campaign in 2016, amounting 155 hits in 676 plate appearances. Myers will continue to be a horse in the middle of the San Diego Padres lineup for many years to come.

Adrian Gonzalez has been a consistent fantasy contributor his entire career. He has amassed 600 plus plate appearances in his last 11 seasons, while sporting a career .290 average. His power numbers have dwindled, as he tied a career low of 18 home runs in 2016. However, his production has not faltered, as he has had at least 90 RBIs in 10 consecutive seasons.

The 34-year-old will bat clean-up for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017, giving him ample RBI opportunities once again. Gonzalez looks to be a safe fantasy pick once again for the twelfth consecutive season.

Tier 3

2017 Fantasy Baseball First Base Rankings

Brandon Belt, under or over rated? (Courtesy of USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Brandon Belt SF
  2. Mike Napoli TEX
  3. Tommy Joseph PHI
  4. C.J. Cron LAA
  5. Justin Bour MIA
  6. Greg Bird NYY
  7. Josh Bell PIT
  8. Mitch Moreland BOS
  9. Eric Thames MIL

Brandon Belt is another consistent fantasy performer. However, he has limited value as he has yet to surpass the 20-home run mark in his six-year career. The career .272 hitter did have a career high 82 RBIs in 2016, which was due to him batting primarily fifth.

The 28-year-old stole zero bases last season but has managed to steal 32 bases from 2011 to 2015. There is a chance that he adds some steals back to his stat line. Belt has a higher floor than most first basemen, although his ceiling is limited.

This Eric Thames is not the same guy we saw in 2011 or 2012. He returns to the U.S. after mashing 124 home runs in three seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). Thames will have to re-adjust to life in the MLB, but was rewarded a three-year $15 million contract with a player option for a fourth. This shows that the Brewers are fully invested in Thames being their current and future first basemen.

The 30-year-old will bat clean-up in an aggressive and youthful Milwaukee Brewers lineup that looks to do damage in 2017. Thames will be a great value pick as his current average draft position according to fantasypros.com is 231.

 

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