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

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

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

Rankings will be based on the following questions:

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

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

Not happening this time

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

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

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

Tier 3- Unlikely but Possible

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

Overwatch league expansion

Courtesy of: Knights.gg

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

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

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

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

Tier 2- Close but just out of reach

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

overwatch league expansion

Courtesy of: Dribble.com

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

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

Tier 1- Very Likely

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

Courtesy of: Leagueoflegends.com

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

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

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

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

Overwatch League Expansion

Courtesy of: TheVerge.com

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

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

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Robert!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Here are the Odds of Your Team Winning Season 1 of the Overwatch League

Season 1 of the Overwatch League is nearly over. Only Stage 4 remains as teams battle it out to make the playoffs. As of now, the only team to have officially made it into the playoffs are the New York Excelsior. Their dominance has been well documented, as they have been to every stage final and won the last two.

Who can make the playoffs?

Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Unlike the Stage playoffs, the Season playoffs will have six teams battling it out for the Season 1 title. As of now, the only team to clinch a spot is the aforementioned New York Excelsior. There are also three teams that have been eliminated. These teams include the Dallas Fuel, Florida Mayhem and the winless Shanghai Dragons. That leaves eight teams to battle it out for the five remaining playoff spots.

Stage 4 will feature many important match-ups as many of the teams will be playing for their season playoff lives.

You can keep up to date on Stage 4 as it starts next week on Twitch and the Overwatch League’s official website.

 

“Never tell me the odds”

You may be wondering to yourself: “what are the odds of my team winning it all?” Look no further, there are a bunch of trustworthy betting sites on sportsbettingdime.com that will provide you with the most up-to-date odds. Overwatch League is still a fairly new esports league, compared to others like Dota 2 and League of Legends so not all sportsbooks will have Overwatch League odds. Take your time to look over each site as they each have their own advantages. In this case, try to pick one that offers a sign-up bonus because if you’re planning on betting on a team that’s not the New York Excelsior and your team doesn’t win, at least you get some sort of compensation.

Here are the most recent odds:

Courtesy of: Overwatchleague.com

New York Excelsior (2/3)

London Spitfire (9/1)
Boston Uprising (9/1)
Seoul Dynasty (9/1)
Los Angeles Valiant (19/1)
Los Angeles Gladiators (50/1)
Philadelphia Fusion (100/1)
San Francisco Shock (100/1)
Houston Outlaws (100/1)
The most interesting odds are three of the last four teams. To start, the Gladiators having a better chance than two teams that have been ahead of them in the standings all year is surprising, to say the least. That also brings into question why the Outlaws and Fusions chances are so low.
Is it because of their below average performances in Stage 3? Or is it that all the teams above them are simply getting that much better? Either way, those might be odds worth betting on.
Another team of note is the Seoul Dynasty, as they have been slowly falling down the standings after having a very average Stage 3 with a 5-5 record.

Take ’em or Leave ’em

Leave ‘Em:

The Spitfire and the Dynasty.

Neither team has looked exceedingly strong as of late. This is due to teams finding their groove after a rough start, as teams have added talent either through pickups or players coming of age. Additionally, some of the talent that has been picked up has been at the expense of both of these teams.

Take ‘Em:

The Uprising and the Fusion.

Boston was the best team for most of Stage 3 and should be able to make the changes necessary to put up a fight against the Excelsior. As for the Fusion, they had a down Stage but have been consistent for most of the season. Look for them to make some adjustments as they push for the playoffs and could surprise a couple teams.

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Robert.

Multi-Esport Cities

While the Esports industry is very young, franchising has allowed for it to mature much faster than its traditional sports counterpart. With franchising coming into play there are many different groups and people buying in, and these entities want esports teams in their cities.

This means that many fans will start to want to see their teams in person and thus esports arenas are the next step, you can check out why that is here.

The teams in League of Legends have not officially stated what cities they will be based in, so some of this is a bit of guessing as either they were founded in these cities or have major investments from them.

Now here is a list of US/NA cities that already have multiple teams in them:

Boston:

  • Boston Uprising (Overwatch League)
  • Celtics Crossover Gaming (NBA2k)

Cleveland:

  • 100 Thieves (League of Legends)
  • Cavs Legion (NBA2k)

Dallas:

  • Dallas Fuel (Overwatch League)
  • Mavs Gaming (NBA2k)

Houston:

  • Clutch City (League of Legends)
  • Houston Outlaws (Overwatch League)
  • OpTic Gaming (League of Legends)

Los Angeles:

  • LA Gladiators (Overwatch League)
  • LA Valiant (Overwatch League)
  • The Overwatch League
  • NALCS

Miami:

  • Florida Mayhem (Overwatch League)
  • Heat Check Gaming (NBA2k)

Milwaukee:

  • Bucks Gaming (NBA2k)
  • FlyQuest (League of Legends)

New York:

  • Counter Logic Gaming (League of Legends)
  • Echo Fox (League of Legends)
  • Knicks Gaming (NBA2k)
  • New York Excelsior (Overwatch League)

Oakland/San Francisco Bay Area:

  • Golden State Guardians (League of Legends)
  • San Francisco Shock (Overwatch League)
  • Warriors Gaming Squad (NBA2k)

Philadelphia:

  • 76ers GC (NBA2k)
  • Philadelphia Fusion (Overwatch League)

Toronto:

  • Raptors Uprising GC (NBA2k)
  • Team Solo Mid (League of Legends)

 

We will make sure to continue updating this list as more esports franchise, more teams commit to cities, and more teams join the already franchised leagues. An EU and Asia list will come out once a couple other franchising esports leagues finalize.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Robert!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

London Spitfire

Does London Spitfire’s inconsistency make the league more interesting?

London Spitfire likes to keep the league interesting. Spitfire are easily the second best team in the Overwatch League. With an impressive 15-7 league score so far and a +30 map differential it’s impossible to deny they are among the best. However they are not perfect by any means. They have three more losses then their rivals New York Excelsior, and they have now lost three matches in a row. They lost to rising stars Philadelphia Fusion, then long time road block Houston Outlaws, and then their aforementioned rivals, NYXL.

London are one of the most dominant teams, but they struggle in odd match ups and often lose to opponents considered much worse then them. But admittedly, their inconsistencies have made them a very interesting team to watch. NYXL looks amazing with flashy plays by Park “Saebeyolbe” Jong-ryeol and Kim “Pine” Do-hyeon, but if you’re anything like me, seeing them win every day is a bit…boring. But a team like Spitfire, well anything can happen.

London Spitfire

London’s abysmal start to stage 3 places them with the bottom two teams in the League. Courtesy of the Overwatch League website

Losses against lower teams

It sounds weird praising a team for their losses, but this does make the whole league a bit more interesting to watch. They lost to two teams I would argue they should’ve easily won. That was Boston Uprising and Los Angeles Gladiators. Now since then both have proven themselves as forces to be reckoned with, but neither team has even managed to make it to stage finals before. The Boston match was a heart pounding 2-3 loss for London. It was an amazing game that lead to their first loss. At that point we thought the three Korean teams were going to dominate the league. London vs Boston was the first sign that wasn’t going to happen.

And when they lost to the Los Angeles Gladiators, they lost by a bit of a margin, 1-3. But it again really fit a story line of Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyung claiming victory over his old comrades. In both scenarios, although disappointing for London fans, was actually incredibly hype to see them lose, and totally went against what everyone was expecting.

Roadblock with Houston Outlaws

At this point it’s fair to say that London have a problem with Houston. Maybe it’s that Houston is known as a great anti-dive team. Maybe it’s because all four times they have played Houston it was the same week that they play New York. Or maybe there really is just a mental road block at this point. No matter what it is, if you’re just looking at the regular season they are 0-3 against Houston. Now why is this interesting? Story lines. People like a good story, and a dominant tyrant brought down by a somewhat mediocre (at this point) team is exciting. On top of that once they do win, it’ll be even more exciting since we won’t be expecting it. It was super exciting when they tasted revenge beating Houston 3-1 in the Stage 1 finals. Next win will be just as satisfying as well…if they win.

 

The most interesting rivalry in the league

New York Excelsior is the final boss of Overwatch. With an immaculate 20-2 record and a staggering +54 map differential, they are the top dogs. At this point there aren’t many teams who really put up much of a fight towards NYXL. Heck, only two teams in the entire league have ever actually won against them. Those being Philadelphia Fusion, and of course, London Spitfire. The Spitfire are actually the only team to win twice. Once in the Stage 1 finals and a second time in Stage 2. Unfortunately after a pretty one sided loss against NYXL, they are now 2-2 on sets. Like I said, NYXL always winning does get boring, but as long as London is around, they will never sit too comfortably a the top; if they slip up even a little, London will be looking for blood.

 

Why is this good for the league?

People like to see change; if you watched the same episode of the same show every day it would get boring. Watching the same three teams win day in day out is exhausting and uninteresting. That’s why a team like London is good for the league. Keep it exciting, keep the fans on their toes. There’s a reason in Football no one wants the Patriots to win, they always win. No one wants to see the same result everyday. So London both being the only team to go toe to toe with NYXL while also being a team that any team can strive to beat keeps the league a bit more balanced.

 

The Game Haus Esports Facebook

The Game Haus Esports Twitter

The Game Haus Esports Youtube

Nicolas Villarreal Twitter

Featured photo courtesy of Twitch and MLG channel

NBA 2k Leage Draft

The NBA 2k League Draft: What did and didn’t work

Yesterday was a pivotal moment for the NBA 2k League, and the Esports industry as a whole. For the first time ever, a professional traditional sports league has created and funded an Esports league in its image. While it was a great step in the right direction, not everything the league did was a slam-dunk. Let’s review what did and didn’t work at the inaugural NBA 2k League Draft.

Pre-Draft Hype: Didn’t work

This league’s success, as commissioner Adam Silver indicated, will be determined by viewership. Currently, there are approximately 72,000 people worldwide who are NBA 2k enthusiasts. For the sake of argument, let’s round that number up to 100,000.

At its peak viewership on Twitch, the NBA 2k League Draft topped out at about 30,000 concurrent viewers. These aren’t bad numbers, but let’s put it in perspective. The broadcast of the draft was the eighth most popular stream of the day at its peak.

Meaning, individual streamers without the NBA backing and brand were garnering more viewership. To be fair, it might be too early to measure their success against other established streamers on Twitch. However, those people are going to be their competitors, and eventually, they will have to rival them.

There are two things they could have done to expose this event to a wider audience. First, the league could have put some type of content on their channel leading up to the draft to create some buzz. Even if they just post interviews or highlights of players, it at least lets everyone on Twitch know they’re here.

Second, there didn’t appear to be any advertising of this event on Twitch. Wouldn’t it make sense to sponsor a large streamer just to talk about the NBA 2k League Draft, or play with/against one of the top prospects? Wouldn’t it also make sense to have one of their NBA players do a similar type of event with a prospect on stream?

Overall, I trust the league to make good decisions and come up with smart campaigns. Since I have no idea what their promotional budget was, I can’t definitively say they made a mistake. But, it’s fair to say there were missed opportunities that could have helped boost initial viewership.

Pre-Draft Press Conference: Worked

While it was standard in terms of media press conferences, it was incredibly smart to broadcast it before the draft. For the first time, we had the three most important people in this league on record at the same time. The press conference did a few things well, but there’s one thing it did that was incredibly important for the entire Esports industry.

First, this event further legitimized the league because of the wide range of media outlets in attendance from ESPN, to the Washington Post, to the Sports Business Journal. Having members of different types of media outlets attend and ask questions signals that this league is legitimate and warrants professional coverage moving forward.

The second, and potentially most important, thing this press conference did was categorize these players as athletes. While it doesn’t seem like a big deal, the idea of Esports players being athletes has been a point of contention for both sides. It was monumental when Adam Silver said that he in fact views these players as athletes.

“I do see them as athletes…it takes a unique combination of physical and mental skills to excel. It’s not that different than the NBA, where you have to have incredible physical skills, but our very best players bring a certain mental focus and prowess to the court as well.”

– Adam Silver

If the commissioner wanted to dodge this question he certainly could have. His media training and experience would allow him to give an answer without addressing the question, like so many high profile athletes and CEO’s do. The point is, he felt comfortable calling them athletes, justifying why he thinks so, and putting on the record.

Event Production: Didn’t Work

Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room. While the concept of the NBA 2k League Draft was great, it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. For example, the twenty minute delay wasn’t good. Given the production value of the Overwatch League and League of Legends, this kind of delay is unacceptable if you’re trying to establish yourself as a premiere Esport.

Once the draft started, there were some things aesthetically that didn’t work. The NBA 2k League should be commended for their efforts in broadcasting this draft. It was well done in terms of its quality. However, there were clearly some things they would address if given the chance to do it again.

First, there needed to be some kind of background filler after a prospect was selected. Another way this could have been handled was to play highlights of each player until they reached the stage. It would have been a great opportunity to display their skills for all the viewers even if it was just a few clips.

Second, the interviews were lackluster. This was because the questions being asked were generic and there wasn’t enough time between picks to ask questions that would elicit a thoughtful, interesting response.

Draft Format: Worked

Plain and simple, the snake format worked. It was the best way to ensure a level playing field among all the teams. It also added another layer of strategy when it comes to team building. The franchises at the top got the best prospects, but as a result, they have to adjust the most given the amount of time between their picks.

Now, that can be applied to every team. However, it impacts the teams at the top slightly more because of the difference in skill between their best and their second best player. Thus, they have to have a strong strategy and execute it.

Moving Forward

Despite the initial technical difficulties and the awkward moments, the NBA 2k League Draft was a success. The next step in the process will be promoting the league and the players moving forward. If viewership is the key performance indicator of success, the league will have to find a way to compete for audiences’ attention on Twitch and tapping into a whole new audience altogether.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Darren Rovell Twitter (@darrenrovell)

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and Esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Braxton!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

MLB Postseason 2017 wild card bonanza

As the final chapter of MLB’s regular season comes to a close, a new chapter in baseball’s postseason lore is about to be written. Baseball fans are about to witness the MLB Postseason 2017 wild card bonanza!

The one game “play in” scenario is in its sixth season and there is no shortage of drama. We have an upstart young group in Minnesota heading in to Ruth’s house. Then we have division foes Colorado traveling to the desert to face the Diamondbacks. In the match-ups between slugger and pitcher, something’s got to give.

Before we turn the page to both the ALDS and NLDS however, we must first crown our two fully fledged members of the playoff court. When the dust settles, who will have slain the wild card dragon?

Minnesota @ New York  

Probable starters:

Minnesota: Ervin Santana (16-8) 3.28 ERA 7.1 K/9

New York: Luis Severino (14-6) 2.98 ERA 10.7 K/9

During the regular season the Yankees owned the head to head match up with four wins from six games. Each team bagged the home series as Minnesota took two of three from New York in Minneapolis, while New York swept the Twins right out of Yankee Stadium.

Why Minnesota wins:

MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

The Minnesota Twins are hoping to ride another 85-win season to Wold Series glory like in 1987. (Photo courtesy of: sportslogos.net)

Minnesota, while not being world beaters by any stretch of the imagination, are a team that just finds a way to get it done. Finishing in the final wild card spot on the back of an 85-win season is a heck of a turnabout from their diabolical 59-win output a year ago. Included in those 85 wins is a (44-37) road record, which is better than how they fared at Target Field (41-40).

This is the Twins’ saving grace. They have been a slightly better road team this year than they have played at home. In a one game do or die situation on the road they will rely on their best pitcher, Ervin Santana, put together a strong outing. Last time he faced New York, Santana pitched 5.1 innings of two run ball, but the Twins found themselves on the wrong end of the box score losing 2-1.

If the Twins can get to Severino early and Santana can use his veteran guile and steady hand to silence the Yankee bats, they will win this game. The good news for the Twins is that all the pressure is off of them and lies squarely at the feet of New York.

Why New York wins:

Because… well, they are New York. They have a team that is loaded to bear and could do some tremendous damage in the postseason. They have a pitching staff anchored by the amazing young righthander, Luis Severino and a lineup bolstered by baseball bashing phenom, Aaron Judge.

Let’s face it. Most people probably expect the Yankees to walk away with this game and they might be right to think that come Wednesday.The Yankees are better in almost every category, though these teams offensively are much closer than you might expect.

MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

Luis Severino will challenge any hitter brave enough to dig in against him. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

The true difference that separates these clubs is pitching. New York has the fifth ranked pitching staff in all of MLB, and the Twins will get a taste of that when they face Severino on Tuesday. This young hurler is a strikeout artist in the making, and the Twins will most certainly be on their heels (or swinging from them).

And then there is Aaron Judge. What hasn’t already been said about this guy? He’s probably put together the greatest (arguably!) rookie season in the history of baseball. He will be looking to double down on his already growing reputation by stamping his name on Yankee postseason history like the greats that came before him.

My pick:

Look, I love an underdog and Minnesota is just that. New York will be heavy favorites but I’m taking Minnesota to win 5-4. On the back of a big day for the returning Miguel Sano, the Twins will find enough juice to do the unthinkable; break the Yankee Mystique.

 

Colorado @ Arizona

Probable Starters:

Colorado: Jon Gray (10-4) 3.67 ERA 9.1 K/9

Arizona: Zack Greinke (17-7) 3.20 ERA 9.6 K/9

Colorado edged out the Milwaukee Brewers by a slim margin to set up a fateful meeting between two teamsthat see each other often. Arizona leads the 19-game season series (11-8), but the teams split the season in Arizona winning five games each. The Rockies will be looking to turn the tables on Cy Young candidate Zack Grienke and his Diamondbacks teammates.

Why Colorado wins:

MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

Charlie Blackmon runs the bases in his spare time… probably. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Their offense. Colorado has some nice young pitchers who may well bloom in to a fine staff, but the name of the game for the Rockies is scoring runs and they do it well.

It’s not often you will see a lineup that boasts not one but two candidates for league MVP, but this is exactly what Colorado has in 3B Nolan Arenado and CF Charlie Blackmon. Arenado (.309/.373/.586) mashed 37 long balls and drove in 130 runs to keep with the tradition of strong seasons he’s already compiled. While Blackmon (.331/.399/.601) sent his own set of 37 baseballs into the lucky arms of those ball-wanting bleacher bums in the outfield cheap seats.

Jon Gray has been the best pitcher in Colorado’s (shaky at times) rotation. This 25-year-old hurler is the best chance they have at beating Arizona in a one-off game at Chase Field. In his last 11 starts, Gray is (7-2) with a 2.44 ERA.

Why Arizona wins:

Zack Greinke. If Greinke has his best stuff, it’s going to take a Harvey Haddix-esque fluke to derail Arizona’s hopes in this game. Greinke dominates with a heavy heater and a knee buckling curve that, year after year, make the best look weak. Over his last 11 starts though, he’s been a tad shaky at (4-3) with a 3.95 ERA. Of course, when those competitive juices get going though, Greinke should be able to get dialed right in.

MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

Few are as overpowering as the hard throwing Zack Greinke, but hey batter,
watch out for the hammer. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Also in Arizona, you will find an offense that can score at will. If they are feeling the groove at the plate, look out. Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldshchmidt has put together a MVP caliber (.297/.404/.563) season in the arid climes of Phoenix. In a crowded field though, Goldschmidt is a dark horse contender for the NL MVP. He likely won’t take home that hardware, but it doesn’t make his 120 RBI any less valuable to the fans or his team.

For those that don’t know, Arizona won it all in 2001. Backed by a pitching staff bolstered by Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Diamondback fans will be hoping to catch a little of that lightning in a bottle once again in 2017.

My pick:

Greinke is too tough to solve for the Rockies. Zack’s recent run of performances haven’t looked that great, but giving up eight runs in a four inning outing will tend to do that. At any rate, Greinke rebounds with a dominant seven innings and the Diamnondbacks win 6-3 on a late Goldschmidt three-run tater.

 

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Boston CBS)

 

 

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more great sports content from writers like Mark!

“From our Haus to yours”

Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins playoffs: Nobody saw this coming

Seven years ago, the Minnesota Twins headed in to the 2010 postseason as the 94-win AL Central champions. It was their last playoff appearance.

Even the most optimistic of Minnesota Twins fans could not have foreseen what this season had in store. Sure, there are probably a select few who were predicting the postseason in April, but then again, every year is a World Series year for those people. It’s adorable. And as someone who has spent the better part of 30 years rooting for Milwaukee, I get it. We had our own improbable run this year.

The Manager

Minnesota Twins

Twins Manager Paul Molitor has done a lot more smiling this year than he did in 2016. (Photo courtesy of: KARE TV)

Unlike the upstart Brewers (who cling to just the faintest of life), you have succeeded in stamping your ticket to the postseason. Although, it did require the help of a legendary Milwaukee Brewer “Igniter” piloting that ship and steadying it through turbulent waters. Obviously, this is tongue in cheek, but let’s face it, Paul Molitor has done a heckuva job with this ball club.

I’ve heard grumblings from Twins fans on social media questioning how Molly runs a pitching staff. I find that a lot of the time, however, you can’t please everyone. The differences in this year’s Twins twirlers compared to that 2016 abomination are something you should be celebrating.

Don’t misunderstand, nobody is saying the Twins staff is dominant, but improvements in team pitching are why you’re here. Last season you finished dead last in the American League in pitching and that had to be painful to watch; 59-win seasons do tend to be pretty awful.

This season however, the Twins pitching staff ranks 10th of 15 in American League total team pitching. This team has shaved close to half-a-run off their team ERA (4.63) in 2017, down from a revolting (5.08) ERA in 2016. It must be at least a little depressing to average giving up five-plus runs per game. What am I talking about? It is depressing, I’ve been there and done that with some of those fine collections of soft-tossing beach ball dealers the Brewers have collected over the years. Doug Davis anyone?

Ask yourself one question: Would you rather have another season where you endure giving up 889 runs, or would you rather give up over 100 fewer runs and play October baseball? This is more than enough reason to get behind your club and your manager in my estimation. Forget about the questionable pitching management, you’re in the playoff club!

Byron Buxton

Minnesota Twins

Byron Buxton, at age 23, already makes center field look way too simple. He should win the Gold Glove in 2017. (Photo Courtesy of: Twincities.com)

It doesn’t hurt a team’s fortunes either when one of your top youngsters flips the switch and begins to figure out the Major League game. This is exactly what Byron Buxton has done in 2017 for the Minnesota Twins.

I’m going to say this right now. Minnesota Twins centerfielder Byron Buxton is a Gold Glove winner. Should he not win the award bestowed upon the season’s best fielders in the AL this year, it will be an injustice.

He is just glove-ly. He uses that blazing speed to his advantage to become the predator lying in wait for any unsuspecting line drive looking only for clean grass to nest in. Even the best hitters regularly find the deep pocket of his cavernous glove.

And you can forget about burning this man. You’re not going to. He gets such an unbelievable jump on the ball and his read off the bat is so sharp, balls that would eat up most normal centerfielders find Buxton effortlessly tracking them down.

Long story short, he makes center field look easy. His (dWAR), or defensive wins above replacement, rating of 2.9 is second best in the majors this year to only all-world short stop, Andrelton Simmons who sits at a not too shabby 4.2 dWAR. And I do say that sarcastically by the way. Simmons is a man-god at short for Los Angeles.

Since the beginning of August, Buxton has been absolutely raking. As we have hit the dog days of summer, Buxton seems to be playing his best baseball at the right time stroking a (.303/.349/.556) line. Down the stretch, his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is a scorching (.380). This suggests he will almost certainly cool off. Twins fans however, hope that happens after the World Series.

It doesn’t matter what way you slice it, Buxton has been  great this year for the Twins. At 23 years old, the best is almost certainly yet to come. But for now, this is a young player on the rise and seemingly coming into his own. Buxton will not be a free agent until 2022, so enjoy your defensive stalwart in centerfield while he’s there.

Please, Not New York… Again

With Boston again losing to the Astros last night 3-2 and the Yankees shutting out the Blue Jays 4-0, the AL East is still in play. New York is sitting two back with a pair left to play entering Saturday.

While it is still mathematically possible the Yankees could walk away with the East, they need to win out. They also need Boston to lose out. And then they would need to win a one game playoff at Yankee Stadium to send Boston into the Wild Card matchup with the Twins. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? No.

The Minnesota Twins are most likely going to New York, folks.

Minnesota Twins playoffs

The 85-win Minnesota Twins record the final out in the 1987 World Series, overcoming a stacked St. Louis Cardinals team. (Photo courtesy of: Minnpost.com)

If you’re a Twins fan, you don’t need to be reminded of the tough luck in October since the 1991 dream season. The Twins successfully went from dead last in 1990 to champs in 1991. Since that season, which culminated in arguably the best World Series of all time, Minnesota’s fortunes have been much different. The New York Yankees have been a main culprit.

In four of the last seven playoff series the Twins have played, the Yankees have been their opponent. The results have been far from resembling competent baseball. In four Division Series hookups, the Minnesota Twins have played to a (2-12) record. The Twins were also swept out of October in each of the last two playoff series they played (2009 & 2010).

Over those 14 games, the Yankees have regularly out-slugged the Twins. Take Derek Jeter for instance, as he hit at a .351 clip through that stretch while also adding eight RBIs to further his team’s cause.

This type of performance wasn’t limited to just Jeter though, because the Yankees also hit 20 homers to Minnesota’s eight. That’s a lot of runs to be giving up over one swing of a bat, so it’s really not surprising they have only taken two wins in 14 games.

Although Jeter has since ascended in to baseball mythology, the Yankees have a new batch of talented players. Of course, this is including Rookie of the Year shoe-in and notorious baseball abuser Aaron Judge.

Here’s the good news though Twins fans, this is a one-off matchup. We all know that on any given day in MLB literally any team can win. This my friends, is the great equalizer. You don’t need to be consistent over a series of games. You only need one performance to pass your first test.

Granted, it’s a big test going on the road with a pitching staff that can be prone to giving up some runs. On top of that, you are facing a good slugging Yankee team.

But, there is always one of those, right? If you can get to the Yankees early and allow defenders like Byron Buxton to salt the game away in the field, you might just pull this baby out. And you might just start exercising some of those historical demons.

Just remember this, in 1987, the Minnesota Twins went 85-77 and won the whole dang thing. Anything is possible, dreamers!

 

(feature photo: KMSP TV)

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more great sports content from writers like Mark!

“From our Haus to yours”

Arizona Fall League

Arizona Fall League 2017: Youngest Stars

 

The Arizona Fall League is a rite of passage for the very best of the best MLB prospects. Especially for those “kids” down on the farm.

This veritable “proving ground” for major league talent is one of the true gems of the prospect-to-pro pipeline. Every year, each of the 30 teams that make up Major League Baseball send a handful of their brightest up and comers to the desert for closer inspection versus a higher standard of opponent. So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to the youngest stars of the Arizona Fall League. You may not know them now, but you soon will!

 

Glendale Desert Dogs

Feeder Clubs: White Sox, Indians, Dodgers, Phillies, Pirates

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Mitch Keller, Age 21

Parent Club: Pittsburgh Pirates

2017 Finishing Level: Altoona Curve (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Mitch Keller has moved three levels in two seasons in the Pirates organization. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

The No. 6 RHP prospect in baseball, Mitch Keller, will be turning out for Glendale this fall in Arizona. He boasts above average control as well as three projectable major league pitches in his fastball, curveball and changeup. Keller spent most his time this season (15 games) taking the hill for the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League. Over 15 starts he struck out over three batters for every one that he walked. His numbers only improved after getting called up to (AA) Altoona for his final six starts. Keller uses a blistering fastball that sits low-to-mid-90s with nasty sinking action, and above average 11-5 curve to make hitters look foolish.

Promoted to (AA) Altoona to finish out the season, this 21-year-old is mature beyond his years. Judging by the caliber of his well-advanced arsenal of three plus-pitches, this kid should continue rising through the Pirates system at break neck speed. Thus far, Keller has done all that’s been asked of him at every level and he will be looking to impress again in Arizona. For 2018, Keller should be start the season with (AA) Altoona, but he may not be there long. Should this young man continue to miss an epic number of bats at (AA) level, I would expect Keller to end 2018 in (AAA). He’s getting close Pirates fans!

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Cornelius Randolph, Age 20

Parent Club: Philadelphia Phillies

2017 Finishing Level: Clearwater Thrashers (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Randolph, age 20, will be looking to develop his fielding skills even further this fall in Arizona. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Phillies left fielding prospect Cornelius Randolph is not the biggest of players. What Randolph lacks in size however, he makes up with a good eye at the plate working a (.338) OBP in 122 games at (Advanced A) Clearwater. Randolph is a converted infielder who worked tirelessly in 2017 to improve his fielding ability in left field. Because his focus was on improving as a defender, his batting metrics may have taken a hit, yet he still posted a respectable (.250/.338/.402) for the season.

The key to Randolph making the majors is his bat, without question. Many scouts believe his average defensive ability will be overshadowed by a bat that wants to hit, and hit a ton. Touted as the best pure high school hitter in the 2015 MLB Draft, Randolph has done little to disappoint. His 2016 was largely a throwaway season while he battled injuries that kept him from really capitalizing on an inspiring 2015. However, in his latest campaign he mashed his way to a tie for fifth most homers in the Florida State League.

Considering the tender age of the  Phillies’ No. 12 prospect, it is not likely that he will be rushed up the ladder. He could possibly open the season at (AA) Reading depending on how the Phillies see him defensively. He already has a bat good enough for the level.

 

 

Peoria Javelinas

Feeder Clubs: Braves, Red Sox, Padres, Mariners, Blue Jays

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Andres Munoz, Age 18

Parent Club: San Diego Padres

2017 Finishing Level: Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Do not be fooled by the baby-faced Andres Munoz, he wants nothing more than to blow you away with the heater. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Born in 1999, Munoz is easily the youngest player headed to the Arizona Fall League this October. At just 18 years of age, striking out hitters is not the issue for Munoz. No, hitting the strike zone consistently is. Blessed with electric stuff well beyond what is expect from a teenager, he has had a heck of a time reigning in his pitches and throwing consistent strikes. At 18 though, time is smiling on this young hurler.

With a clean easy motion to the plate, Munoz just needs to find his rhythm and learn to repeat his delivery time after time. Munoz has easy gas, with his fastball exploding out of his hand toward the plate with seemingly little effort. If this kid can iron out the kinks in his game, he could become a dominant pitcher in the majors sooner than later. Munoz is the youngest player on any Arizona Fall League roster in 2017 and after watching him throw you can understand why he’s there. Expect Andres to be toeing the rubber for (Low A) Fort Wayne in the Midwest League come spring 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Ronald Acuna, Age 19

Parent Club: Atlanta Braves

2017 Finishing Level: Gwinnett Braves (AAA)

 

Arizona Fall League

If you don’t yet know about Ronald Acuna, you will very soon. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Oh, hot dog! Do I even need to talk about Acuna? I mean, really? Everyone knows this guy by now, right? Look, just the fact he’s on this list should have pitchers everywhere soiling themselves.

Ok, so considering that many of the top ten prospects have mostly graduated to the big leagues (that were ahead of Acuna), this kid should be at the top of the heap come 2018. The No. 5 prospect in all of baseball did everything in his power to make the jump to the majors in 2017. At 19 years of age and with his parent club struggling to win games, the Braves decided to halt his progression at (AAA) Gwinnett. It was a smart move, especially if you regularly attend Gwinnett Braves games. All he did there in 54 games is put up an insane (.344/.393/.548) line, sending baseballs into orbit at a regular pace.

Acuna is just latest Venezuelan to take MLB by storm, well the minors anyway. Acuna’s measurables are out of sight. This is a true 5-tool player by every sense of the word with his blazing speed, howitzer arm, and big bat. Exciting times are afoot in Hot-lanta folks! I mean, this kid did nothing but perform at each level he was at this year. What’s more is that his numbers improved at every stop along the way. Next stop for Acuna in 2018? The Show.

 

 

Scottsdale Scorpions

Feeder Clubs: Reds, Angels, Yankees, Mets, Giants

 

Youngest Pitcher: LHP Justus Sheffield, Age 21

Parent Club: New York Yankees

2017 Finishing Level: Trenton Thunder (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Justus Sheffield is not related to Gary Sheffield. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

The first of two LHP on the list of youngest Arizona Fall League stars, Justus Sheffield is also the No. 6 rated prospect down on the farm. Sheffield is another fireballer on this list that can reach back and grab a 96-mph comet, but will usually sit around the 92-93 mph range. Boasting a curbeball and changeup that are projectable big league pitches, the short in stature Sheffield is certainly long on talent. However, he does have work to do in Arizona. This future Yankee needs to learn to consistently get his above average repertoire over the plate for strikes. If he can master his control, the sky’s the limit for Justus.

Sheffield spent the bulk of 2017 in (AA) with the Trenton Thunder except for two rehab starts in (A) ball. In 17 starts for Trenton, the young hurler went 7-6 with a 3.18 ERA over 93.1 innings of ball. His strike out tally is fantastic at 82, and his walks, while still at 3.1 BB/9, have come down dramatically from seasons past. If Sheffield continues to progress, he should arrive in the majors before the turn of the next decade. For now though, he’ll most likely break camp as a member of the (AAA) rotation in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Estevan Florial, Age 19

Parent Club: New York Yankees

2017 Finishing Level: Tampa Yankees (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Estevan Florial may strike out a ton, but he’ll happily take you yard in return. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Florial is an intriguing 19-year-old signed from the island nation of Haiti in 2015. This kid could be the center fielder of the future for New York, and it might not be much longer before he stakes his claim to a position once held by Mantle and DiMaggio. Now, this isn’t to say Estevan Florial is in the same mold as those two legendary players, but his talent is undeniable.

At the plate Florial seemingly has all the tools to be an excellent major leaguer. He’s fast, he’s got pop, and he’s not afraid to take a walk. In his first season of Class A baseball, Florial posted a (.298/.372/.479) line across both high and lower levels. While his sample size from (Advanced A) is small at only 19 games, he sported an (.855) OPS over 91 games for (Low A) Charleston. He has some holes in his swing and does whiff a lot, but he also walks a lot (once every 8.4 AB) suggesting that, as he develops, the K’s will come down. At any rate, this young slugging center fielder is poised to start 2018 at (AA) Trenton. Only time will tell if he can grasp the strike zone better as he gets a little older.

 

 

Mesa Solar Sox

Feeder Clubs: Cubs, Tigers, Astros, Athletics, Nationals

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Nolan Blackwood, Age 22

Parent Club: Oakland Athletics

2017 Finishing Level: Stockton Ports (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Nolan Blackwood shuts the light off when he leaves. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Nolan Blackwood is a stopper. I mean, this kid can slam a door. Unlike most of the other pitchers on this list, Blackwood is one thing, a harbinger of death to your team’s chances to win. The 2016 14th round draft selection out of Memphis has a scary frame at 6-foot-5 with plenty of room left to fill it out. Oakland always seems to have a top-notch pitcher or two working their way through the farm, and Blackwood is no exception.

Blackwood spent all of 2017 in (Advanced A) ball, shutting down games for the Stockton Ports. Sure, he had a 1-5 record. Sure, he had a 3.00 ERA, but it’s what he did with the game on the line that matters most. In 20 chances to turn out the lights on the opposition, he did so successfully 19 times. As he learns more and puts on more lean muscle, his K/9 should reflect that, although his 7.58 K/9 in 2017 are nothing to sneeze at. Neither is his 1.05 WHIP. Blackwood is slated to begin 2018 at (AA) Midland, in the Texas League.

 

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: 1B/LF Yordan Alvarez, Age 20

Parent Club: Houston Astros

2017 Finishing Level: Buies Creek Astros (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Yordan Alvarez, monstrous young left-handed hitter with jaw dropping pop. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Yordan Alvarez arrived in the Houston farm system via trade with the Dodgers in 2016. Alvarez is a slugger that translates to either left field or first base. While not exceptional with the leather, Alvarez does possess a very good arm in the field. He has been playing in left for much of 2017, but in the Arizona Fall League, he’s penciled in to man first base. At 6-foot-5 225 lbs. the left-handed slugger seems to be destined to play first in the majors.

Alvarez, Houston’s No. 26 ranked prospect has explosive raw power at the plate as shown by his first 32 games at the (Low A) level. Playing for the Quad Cities River Bandits, he mashed (.360/.468/.658) over 111 AB. With nothing left to prove, Houston promoted him to (Advanced A) Buies Creek where his numbers came back to earth with the step up in pitching. Despite only being 20 years old, Alvarez still managed to hack out a (.277/.329/.393) line. Not bad for a player as young as Yordan. Look for Alvarez to be back in the lineup for the Buies Creek Astros at the start of the 2018 campaign.

 

 

Salt River Rafters

Feeder Clubs: Diamondbacks, Orioles, Rockies, Marlins, Brewers

 

Youngest Pitcher: LHP Keegan Akin, Age 22

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles

2017 Finishing Level: Frederick Keys (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

“If you blink, you will miss it.” Is what the baseball cornfield gods say about Akin’s heater. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Keegan Akin is one half of Baltimore’s contribution to the youngest players in the Arizona Fall League. Ryan Mountcastle is the other, but more on him in just a minute.

Akin is a LHP blessed with a fastball that looks more like a vapor trail than it does a ball. The 22-year-old was a second-round pick by Baltimore in 2016 and is coming off his first full professional season at (Advanced A) Frederick. While his numbers might not jump off the page at you right away, there is still a lot to look at. First and foremost being his beastly 10 K/9 stuff. His electric fastball lit up opposing batters while his slider and changeup are both major league projectable pitches. Known for his ability to get nasty, he peppers the strike zone with ease leaving little doubts that the Orioles see him as a starting pitcher for the future.

Baltimore’s No. 8 ranked prospect is not far off getting the call to the show if he continues to improve his secondary pitches. His inability to fully harness his secondary stuff led to a 4.1 BB/9 rate, but as he learns how to pitch to better hitters his walk totals should begin to come back to earth. Orioles fans should be anxiously awaiting the arrival of this left-handed cannon. What level Akin might start at in 2018 is anyone’s guess, it could depend on how he does in the Arizona Fall League. Frederick or (AA) Bowie are his likely landing spots after camp breaks in March 2018.

 

Youngest Position Player: 2B Ryan Mountcastle, Age 20

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles

2017 Finishing Level: Bowie Bay Sox (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Baltimore’s 2015 first-round pick, Ryan Mountcastle, has had a meteoric rise through the minors so far. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Mountcastle is currently the No. 3 prospect in Baltimore’s farm system. At the moment, Baltimore is still holding out hope that this young man can overcome his below average arm strength and stick at short stop. While questions remain about Mountcastle in the field, there are little doubts in the scouting community that he will hit for both power and average at the big-league level. Ryan is a tall prospect with room left on his frame for further growth. And that is scary news for American League pitchers.

In 88 games of (Advanced A) baseball he posted an impressive (.314/.343/.542) line, while smashing 15 round trippers along the way. It was precisely this type of production that ultimately won him promotion to (AA) Bowie, finishing the season against much older competition. Though Mountcastle struggled to come to terms with Double-A pitching in his first 39 games for the Bay Sox (.222/.239/.366), he will almost certainly start 2018 there. This kid is truly one for the future. Get out there to the Arizona Fall League games and take a peek.

 

 

 

Surprise Saguaros

Feeder Clubs: Royals, Twins, Cardinals, Rays, Rangers

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Jordan Hicks, Age 21

Parent Club: St. Louis Cardinals

2017 Finishing Level: Springfield Cardinals (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League 2017

Hicks has eye popping velocity, and a heavy sinking action on his fastball. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

At just 21, Jordan Hicks already has a fastball that would likely leave an exit hole the size of Pluto if it hit you.On top of a fastball that sits in the lower 90’s (but can ramp up to 98 mph), this young fireballer also has an above average curveball that has a chance to be a plus pitch for him in the bigs. Jordan started 2017 with the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League taking the mound in 14 games and posting a healthy 8-2 record while fanning 63 batters along the way.

He has some control issues to sort out, but upon his promotion to (Advanced A) Palm Beach he saw his BB/9 shrink from (4.5) in Peoria to a respectable (2) in his first 27 innings of Florida State League ball. Though the sample is small, this youngster seems to have found another gear with his step up in competition. The Card’s No. 14 prospect posted 32 strike outs and only 21 hits in eight appearances at the (Advanced A) level. On the back of that performance the Cardinals promoted young Jordan to (AA) Springfield in August, though he didn’t log any innings due to late season injury. Expect Hicks to be a key component to Springfield’s rotation in 2018.

 

Youngest Position Player: 3B Kevin Padlo, Age 21

Parent Club: Tampa Bay Rays

2017 Finishing Level: Charlotte Stone Crabs (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Kevin Padlo is rated as Tampa Bay’s No. 28 prospect. (photo courtesty of: MiLB.com)

Kevin was originally a fifth-round selection of the Colorado Rockies in 2014, the organization he played for in his first two minor league seasons. By January 2016 however, he found himself part of the deal that sent LF Corey Dickerson to Tampa in exchange for pitchers Jake McGee and German Marquez. Though Padlo struggled some at the plate this year posting (.215/.321/.380) across two levels of minor league ball, there is a lot to like about this young man.

While his batting average might seem low, his (.321) OBP suggests a keen eye, that with more experience should translate to a solid average and 20-homer power. At only 21 years of age, the Rays’ No. 28 prospect already possesses a defensive tool set at the hot corner you would normally expect to find on a player much older. Where he could start 2018 might depend on what he does in Arizona this fall, but as it stands now all signs point to another season in Charlotte.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Colorado Rockies)

 

 

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more great sports content from writers like Mark!

“From our Haus to yours

Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers: Contenders Now

The Milwaukee Brewers find themselves 3.5 games behind Chicago Cubs in race for the NL Central division crown with 12 to play; also gain on idle Colorado.

In most seasons, it is with little fanfare the weeks of September pass lazily by for the Milwaukee Brewers and their fans. But wait! Hold on! To quote the fictitious Lou Brown “We’re contenders now.” Please allow me to gush about a team none of us saw coming.

Hell, I thought the Brewers last meaningful game would be on or around the first of May! I bet you did too.

Millennials Don’t Understand

Milwaukee Brewers

Legendary fictitious manager, Lou Brown. (Photo courtesy of: bloguin.com)

Many of the younger Brewers fans can’t recall how terrible this club has historically performed. They can’t wrap their heads around how brutal the dual division format was. There was a time when winning 100 games and missing the playoffs actually happened. Yes, really. They can’t feel the disappointment of finishing with 91 wins and being shut out of the playoffs.

The American League East was a meat-grinder in the 1980s. Millennials just don’t remember how hard losing out to the Red Sox by 2 games in 1988 was. This youngest generation of Brewers fans has been spoiled in comparison to us who are getting a little long in tooth these days.

I have to just shake my head at those who are overly pessimistic about the prospects of seeing meaningful October baseball in Milwaukee. Look alive out there! The Brewers are still in this thing!

Sure, at 3.5 games back they have their work cut out for them. But with 12 games left to play and with four at home against the Cubbies, all bets are off. Sure, they need to be almost perfect to take the NL Central crown but what would you rather be doing right now? Talking about the postseason? Or having a round table debate on how fast the Brewers will move Keston Hiura through the farm system? I know what I pick.

The Beermakers have had fairly consistent playoff baseball to look forward to since they slump busted their way to the 2008 postseason. Granted, they lost out in five to the Phillies in the NLDS but nobody will ever take away that lone series win for Dave Bush. Put that one in your pocket Dave, it’s yours to keep forever.

Ok, so the Milwaukee Brewers have not exactly been perennial playoff contenders like St. Louis and the New York Yankees. What the Brewers have done in the last decade however, is double their playoff appearances from two to four. This was all a long time coming too, 26 years between postseason berths is far too long.

The 1970’s

The 1970’s were the decade of bad music (disco) and horrendous Brewers baseball. From 1970, the Brewers’ inaugural season in Milwaukee, through 1977 they won an average of 69 ballgames. Over that span they put up an atrocious (.427) win percentage. Yikes!

Milwaukee Brewers

Unlikely playoff winner Dave Bush floats one in there. (Photo courtesy of: NY Daily News)

The only thing golden about this period of Milwaukee Brewers team history is George Scott’s five consecutive gold glove seasons manning first base.

After the 1977 season concluded Harry Dalton was hired as GM. This keen hire would ultimately change the hard luck fortunes of Milwaukee’s annual celebration of futility when Dalton wasted no time in hiring new manager George Bamberger.

The change in Milwaukee was sudden. In 1978 the upstart Brewers would post not only their first winning season, but suddenly found themselves in the thick of the AL East pennant race. They would romp to a franchise high 93 wins. However, Bambi’s Bombers would fail to bring the pennant home, finishing in third place behind Boston and soon to be World Champion New York.

As suddenly as this renaissance had taken place however, it appeared to be over when Bamberger suffered a heart attack at spring training in 1980. Bamberger would return after having surgery to repair his condition but he would not finish the season at the helm, resigning his post September 7, 1980.

Oh No! We Suck Again!

While it must have been a thrilling time in the early 1980s for Milwaukee Brewers fans, the period from 1993-2006 was anything but.

After the Brewers won 92 games in 1992 to finish four games off the pace of eventual world champion Toronto,

Milwaukee Brewers

The inspiring Davy Lopes. (Photo courtesy of: Reuters)

an era of 12 uninterrupted losing seasons ensued.

If you’re too young to remember much of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1990s, you aren’t missing much. Those teams left scars, man.

Perhaps no scar is uglier and more painful than the 2002 season.

This was the era of Davy Lopes. I’m sure Davy is a good guy in person, I wouldn’t know I’ve never met him. But his teams were a dumpster fire and of course, the front office had plenty to do with that too. I swear Davy Lopes was sleeping in the dugout during most games. And why not? After all, Glendon Rusch doesn’t really inspire anyone but the opposing fans dreaming of catching a home run ball. My god, their odds of catching one had to be about 50-50 when he took the hill, the bleacher seats were more like an artillery practice range.

We Brewer fans didn’t bring gloves to those games. Hell no. You wouldn’t dare. You brought your hard hat or didn’t come back. That’s just how it was.

Oh 2002, how I loathe you. It’s like a bad ex-girlfriend or boyfriend. The memory always there, haunting you, laughing at you. Reminding you just how bad things were. That’s how it feels to witness a 106-loss season finally cave in on itself, forever buried in the past. No grave marker, no eulogy. Just gone. Dust to dust baby, dust to dust.

Milwaukee Brewers Contenders Now

The Milwaukee Brewers are contenders, so don’t be sad. Definitely don’t be that guy. Nobody thought they would be here right now 3.5 behind the Cubs with a fateful four game series on tap for the weekend but only the most delusional among us (don’t worry we love your foresight). Yet, here we are and you’re going to have to deal with the Brewers if you want the NL Central.

Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee’s first playoff team stands for the national anthem in 1981. (Photo courtesy of: onmilwaukee.com)

The Brewers right now are surviving in Pittsburgh hoping to keep pace with Chicago after taking two of three from Miami on the “road” at Miller Park. If that is a bone of contention for you, I urge you to please, contact the MLB office. I’m sure you’ll be the first knucklehead they’ve heard from too! Get over it, it’s done. I mean, it’s not like a hurricane was threatening to sink Miami or anything.

Losing Jimmy Nelson has hurt, he was just starting to get locked in and it’s an absolute shame that we’ve lost him. You know this guy wants nothing more than to be on that mound, trusting in his grind. I feel bad for him. But be that as it may the Brewers are not done, they are contenders now.

And you know what? I am not even going to hide my homerism here. How can I? It took 26 years at one point in my life already to suckle the sweet, sweet nectar of glorious October baseball. And let’s get real, postseason baseball is a white unicorn for anyone rocking the hottest gear in sports. The ball and glove logo of the Milwaukee Brewers is by far the best logo in MLB for sure, hands down.

And for the love of god, please don’t be like Randy Quaid’s rendition of “angry Indians fan” from Major League II.

Milwaukee historically doesn’t play many meaningful games this late in the year, and winter is coming folks. The long frigid winter. It chills my bones just thinking about it because we very rarely get to warm ourselves by the hot stove either. I urge you all to put aside the speculation on who the next Eric Thames-esque signing is going to be next January. That’s seriously about as much fun to think about as getting a root canal by a meth-head dentist who has since graduated to PCP. Sounds fun doesn’t it?

Let’s hold on to our boys of summer just a little bit longer! I’m headed over to Milwaukee this Saturday and I don’t even have a ticket yet.

What’s your excuse?

 

(feature photo courtesy of: gorillabaseball.com)

 

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more great sports content from writers like Mark!

“From our Haus to yours!”

Angelique Kerber

Endless Intrigue: 2017 U.S. Open Women’s Preview

The U.S. Open draws are out. An astonishing eight women could leave New York as World No.1. Throw in the return of Maria Sharapova, to Grand Slam play after nearly two years and this is one of the most intriguing events in recent memory. Here are some opening round matches to watch.

(2) Simona Halep vs. Maria Sharapova- Holy smokes folks. Everyone in tennis had to hit the floor when they saw this first round pairing. The Romanian second seed has had a very good year and Sharapova’s much publicized comeback has yet to really get out of the blocks.

On that alone, this should be fairly routine for Halep, but dig deeper. All six of their previous meetings have gone the embattled Russian’s way, including a classic in the 2014 French Open final. Sharapova has always managed to eventually overpower Halep.

Simona Halep

photo: onetennis.com

There are many questions about Sharapova right now. However, her mental toughness is never in doubt. She has had loads of adversity over the years, some of it self-inflicted. She easily could have called it a career during her recent doping suspension, but she keeps coming back.

These moments are what get Sharapova out of bed in the morning. Even though this is just an opening rounder, winning matches like this are what has made her a five-time Grand Slam champion. The same cannot be said of Halep who has had plenty of heartbreak this year. She blew a huge lead in the French Open final and has failed to take over the top ranking despite having three separate opportunities.

Something tells me Sharapova will find a way if she can stay close early, but it is a coin flip. Whoever wins this one has a very manageable path to the final weekend of the tournament. Regardless, the world cannot wait to watch this one.

(31) Magdaléna Rybáriková vs. Camila Giorgi- The Slovakian used her surprise run to the semifinals of Wimbledon to snag a seed here. Her streaky Italian opponent is on a good stretch this summer. Giorgi has also developed a reputation for knocking off seeded players over the years. Her power will be an interesting test for the finesse of Rybáriková.

(21) Ana Konjuh vs. Ashleigh Barty- Konjuh made a name for herself by reaching the last eight at this event last year. She is one of a precious few teenagers inside the world’s top 100.

Barty possesses a funky but good all-around game, she is not afraid to come into the net and is very capable of pulling a minor upset here. 2017 has been a year of comeback for the Aussie who returned to the tour this year after taking a hiatus to pursue professional cricket. She scored her biggest win yet by beating Venus Williams in Cincinnati.

Roberta Vinci vs. Sloane Stephens- The veteran Italian is still plugging away during her final year on tour after her Cinderella run to the finals at this event two years ago. She will have to deal with playing an American on home soil.

Stephens is really starting to build momentum again after missing nearly a year with a foot injury. She reached consecutive semifinals in Canada and Cincinnati this summer. Her forehand will be the biggest shot on the court, but Vinci’s slices are capable of irritating any opponent.

Predictions:

Top Half: World No. 1 and top seed Karolína Plíšková leads off the draw. The big serving Czech has been playing just okay this summer. Fortunately for her, she landed in the weaker half of the draw.

Defending champion Angelique Kerber, French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, tenth seed Agnieszka Radwańska, and two time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova have all struggled to win matches this summer.

The biggest threats to Plíšková in this half are (4) Elina Svitolina and (15) Madison Keys. Keys hits the ball harder than many of the men. However, the most promising prospect in all of American tennis has yet to figure out how to win matches when she’s not playing her absolute best. Her time will come at a Grand Slam, but not here. Her form probably hit its peak a little too early when she won the title in Stanford and played a couple really tough matches in Cincinnati.

Unseeded American teenager CiCi Bellis may not be a legitimate threat to reach the semis, but this youngster is already well-known inside tennis circles and has a draw that could allow her to reach the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time

Svitolina is a very complete player. Nothing in her game stands out, but she does everything well. She leads the tour tournament victories this year, including her biggest title yet a few weeks ago in Canada. The only thing missing is a deep run at a Grand Slam. She has done a lot of winning this year and it feels like she is primed for it.

Elina Svitolina

Photo: eurosport.com

Semifinal prediction: Svitolina d. Plíšková

Bottom Half: The winner of Sharapova/Halep is almost certain to make a deep run. They too are surrounded by struggling seeds and not as many dangerous floaters.

Wimbledon and Cincinnati champion Garbiñe Muguruza is a popular pick to win the title.  For me though, six weeks of brilliance is not enough to erase a career of erratic play. Danish human backboard Caroline Wozniacki is surprisingly under the radar. The veteran came in to this event last year ranked outside the top 70 and reached the semifinals.

This year, she comes in leading the tour match wins, despite losing all six finals she has played. Always the bridesmaid never the bride could be Wonzniacki’s career slogan. If she is ever going to breakthrough at a major, it is now or never. Both of her Grand Slam finals came at this venue and she has had a handful of other deep runs. She has so much more experience than many of the other top contenders. It has to pay off at some point.

It would be foolish to completely discount ninth seed Venus Williams. 18th  seed Caroline Garcia is a young player who has been living off the unlimited potential label for a while. She is well-positioned to put it all together here.

Semifinal prediction: Wozniacki d. Sharapova

Championship: Wozniacki d. Svitolina

Caroline Wozniacki

Photo: nydailynews.com

The U.S. Open begins Monday at 11 AM ET on Tennis Channel with ESPN taking over coverage two hours later. I will tweet out my full brackets for each singles draw before the start of play. You can follow me on Twitter below.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Dylan!