Are the Mets for real

Are the Mets back?

Yoenis Cespedes was recently quoted saying that the 2018 Mets are the best team he has been around. After defeating the Miami Marlins 8-6 on Tuesday, New York improved to 9-1 on the season. They have won seven straight. In their long, storied franchise, the Mets have never started a season 9-1.

So what have been the keys to success so far? For one, their bullpen has been lights out. In 2017, New York’s bullpen ranked 29th in the MLB in ERA. Today, they are third in the MLB with a 1.56 ERA, and recently received Bullpen of the Week Honors. Their closer, Jeurys Familia, in eight innings of work, has six saves, 10 strikeouts and zero runs allowed.

Are the Mets for real

New haircut, same nasty stuff. (Photo from New York Post)

As a team, the Mets have the second best ERA in the NL and rank second in strikeouts. Jacob deGrom is off to a hot start, winning his first two starts and posting a 1.54 ERA in his 11.2 innings of work. Noah Syndergaard is also 2-0, and Matt Harvey looks a lot more like the 2015 version of himself than what we have seen of him over the last two seasons.

Offensively, the Mets are not scoring a crazy amount of runs, but they are getting on base. Last year, New York ranked ninth in the NL in batting average and 11th in OBP. This year, they are second in OBP and third in batting average.

Newcomers Adrian Gonzalez and Todd Frazier have already shown they have plenty left in the tank. Gonzalez has six RBIs and a .387 OBP, while Frazier has an OBP of .386. Their star, Cespedes, leads the team in home runs (three) and RBIs (10). Asdrubal Cabrera is also off to a hot start, slashing .324/.400/.634.

Only two other times in Mets history has the team won eight of its first nine games. The first time was in 1985 and the second more recently in 2006. In both instances, New York won over 95 games.

Does that mean the Mets are destined for success? We now look back at those historic years, and see if those ball clubs relate to the 2018 Mets.

1985 New York Mets

Coming off a 90-win season in 1984, New York rolled into 1985 with essentially an identical roster. Dwight Gooden was fresh off winning NL Rookie of the Year, and finished runner-up in the NL CY Young voting after a stellar 17-9 record with a 2.60 ERA.

Are the Mets for real

Doc Gooden had one of the best pitching seasons in baseball history in 1985. (Photo from Amazin’ Avenue)

In 1985, “Doc” Gooden went on to pitch statistically one of the best seasons we have ever seen. His 13.3 WAR was the highest by a pitcher in over sixty years. Gooden finished 24-4 with a ridiculous 1.53 ERA, 268 strikeouts and 16 complete games in 276 2/3 innings of work. He won the pitching Triple Crown, leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts and unanimously won the NL CY Young Award. Gooden became the youngest pitcher to win the CY Young and Pitcher of the Year honors.

The Mets also had one of the best offenses in the league. Among the 12 NL teams, New York ranked third in runs and home runs, fourth in batting average and fifth in OBP. The offensive surge was led by Gary Carter, who hit 32 home runs and drove in 100 RBIs, and Keith Hernandez, who batted .309 with 183 hits and 91 RBIs. Both finished top-10 in the NL MVP voting.

The 1985 Mets went on to win 98 games, yet missed the playoffs, as this was before the Wild Card era, and only two teams from each league made the postseason. The following season, New York won 108 games and defeated the Boston Red Sox (Thanks Bill Buckner) in seven games to win the 1986 World Series.

Can we draw comparisons? In all honesty, this Mets pitching staff, led by deGrom and Syndergaard, is very similar to the 1985 team, which showcased Gooden, Ron Darling (16-6 2.90 ERA), Ed Lynch and Sid Fernandez. Both teams have All-Star caliber arms, as well as a good back-end of the bullpen.

2006 New York Mets

The 2006 Mets were more well-rounded than the present-day team. New York had a mix of established veterans like Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran and Jose Valentin, along with up-and-coming studs like David Wright and Jose Reyes, who were both 23-years-old at the time.

Are the Mets for real

Four players in the top 12 for NL MVP voting. (Photo from MLB.com)

They finished the season 97-65 and had four players in the top 12 for NL MVP Voting (Beltran fourth, Reyes seventh, Wright ninth, Delgado 12th). Beltran hit 41 home runs and drove in 116 runs. Reyes slashed .300/.354/.487 with 19 home runs and 64 steals. Wright slashed .311/.381/.531 with 26 home runs, 20 steals, 40 doubles and 116 RBIs. Delgado smashed 38 home runs with 114 RBIs.

The pitching staff, which was full of veterans like Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel and Orlando Hernandez, finished second in the NL in strikeouts and third in ERA.

Ultimately, New York finished one win shy of the World Series, as they lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Conclusion

Let’s be honest, the 2018 Mets, unlike the 1985 and 2006 team, will not have multiple players in the top 15 for NL MVP voting. Aside from Cespedes, no one in this lineup is capable of earning MVP votes.

However, the 2018 Mets pitching staff has a chance to be better than both the 1985 and 2006 teams. Syndergaard and deGrom are two of the best pitchers in the NL, and if Harvey can get back to what he used to be, there is no reason this team cannot make a run in the postseason.

We saw what they were capable of in 2015 when they were a Wild Card team. Now healthy and more experienced, don’t sleep on the Mets.

 

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Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals breakout candidates

The 2018 MLB season is kicking into full gear and teams are taking shape. The St. Louis Cardinals had a rough go of things the first couple days, facing the two-headed monster in Noah Syndergaard and Jacob DeGrom. Since then though, St. Louis has begun to show more promise offensively and pitching wise.

What is special about St. Louis is their ability to find guys with that “it” factor. Something about the fairy dust they sprinkle on guys is able to work wonders for them. The only thing is that the Cardinals have now gone two years without reaching the postseason, which is only the second time it has happened since the turn of the century.

With that being said, the Cardinals are due for another postseason appearance. Seeing as they don’t have the same sort of superstars you might see on other teams, their path will be paved by guys who don’t have as big of reputations. Here is a look at some under the radar players who could make that big difference in 2018.

Jose Martinez

Cardinals

Jose Martinez may be one of the best hitters on the Cardinals in 2018 (VivaElBirdos)

Martinez is one of those guys that bounces around minor league systems for years but never is able to quite make it to the majors. That all changed last year when he finally got the chance to show his stuff in St. Louis. The 29-year-old had some sporadic appearances throughout the beginning of the season, where he made his mark as one of the best pinch hitters in the league. He really started to settle in during the summer though. He finished the year with 14 home runs and a .309 batting average. Also, he took home the NL Rookie of the month in September.

Martinez has picked up right where he left off so far this season. He may be one of the best contact hitters the Cardinals have so far, so it will be exciting to see if he is able to continue that trend.

What is also surprising about this 29-year-old sophomore is that the Cardinals already announced that Martinez will be the solidified first baseman going forward. They mentioned at the beginning of the year that Matt Carpenter will more likely be used in a “super utility role”, so you will see him being moved all over the place.

Despite being 6’7″, Martinez does not have the prototypical power you may see from a first baseman. One thing is for sure though, the guy knows how to hit. If the Cardinals are in a 9th inning situation and need a base hit to tie or win the game, Martinez may be that guy for the Redbirds.

Yairo Munoz

Cardinals

Munoz forced his way onto the Cardinals roster (STL Today)

Yairo Munoz was acquired by the Cardinals in the offseason as a part of the heartwarming Stephen Piscotty trade. While the trade certainly looked to be centered around getting Piscotty back home to be closer to his family, the Cardinals may have known what they were doing by getting Munoz.

The 23-year-old infielder made his mark in the Spring, where he may have been the best offensive performer for the Cardinals. He finished the Spring with a slash line of .323/.364/.516, along with three home runs and 10 RBIs. That performance was good enough for him to earn a spot on the Cardinals bench the begin the season.

Two years in a row now the Cardinals have had breakout infielders. In 2016 it was Aledmys Diaz, and in 2017 it was Paul DeJong. While Diaz is gone now, it certainly looks like DeJong is here to stay with his six-year contract. This presents a problem for Munoz who is looking for room in the crowded Cardinals infield.

What should be watched for is any injuries that may arise where Munoz may get an opportunity to play. If this guy gets some extended playing opportunities, he could certainly be this year’s version of Paul DeJong. Even though the power isn’t there, he is another good candidate for bringing in a high batting average.

Jordan Hicks

Similar to Munoz, Hicks performed too well in the Spring to justify the Cardinals leaving him off the opening day roster. Hicks showcased his ability to strike guys out as well as keep the walks down. What Hicks provides is the sort of late-inning power arm you see in closers these days. Many Cardinals fans were calling for him to fill in the closer role, this of course came before the signing of Holland.

With Holland in the picture now, fans shouldn’t expect to see Hicks occupying that closer role anytime soon. Seeing that Holland only signed a one year deal though, it is a good opportunity for Hicks to be groomed as a closer of the future.

What is surprising about Hicks, is that so far in 2018, he is throwing the fastball even harder than Aroldis Chapman. That may sound hard to believe, but FanGraphs breaks down the stats here. Holland is the perfect signing in this situation as he will likely be taking the ball from Hicks after the eighth inning. Either way, the Cardinals have something special in Jordan Hicks.

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2018 MLB preview: New York Mets

2017: 70-92 (fourth place in NL East)

Last Postseason Appearance: 2016

Last World Series Title: 1986

2017 Recap

One word to define the New York Mets 2017 season? Injuries. Throughout the season, New York lost, most notably, Noah Syndergaard, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, David Wright, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zach Wheeler, and Jeurys Familia. Jose Reyes was the only player on the Mets to play in at least 140 games.

It all started in April when Syndergaard declined to undergo an MRI, even though doctors encouraged he do so. Of course, a team like the Mets did not force him to get the test. On April 30, Syndergaard exited a game against the Nationals, and ultimately tore his lat. He did not make it back until the last week of the season.  “Thor” finished the year with a 2.97 ERA in his seven starts.

Besides for Jacob DeGrom, who, in 201 innings, went 15-10 with a 3.53 ERA and finished fifth in strikeouts, the Mets staff was absolutely atrocious. Below is a table which illustrates how poor the other starters for New York performed in 2017. The Mets finished with the fourth most walks and total bases, 26th in Opp. SLG, 27th in Opp. OPS, 28th in ERA, and 29th in BAA and WHIP.

METS PITCHERS WHO MADE AT LEAST 13 STARTS, NOT NAMED JACOB DEGROM

NAME (STARTS) ERA
ROBERT GSELLMAN (22) 5.19
SETH LUGO (18) 4.71
RAFAEL MONTERO (18) 5.52
MATT HARVEY (18) 6.70
ZACH WHEELER (17) 5.21
STEVEN MATZ (13) 6.08

2017 NL All-Star, Michael Conforto (NJ.com)

Among the 15 NL teams, the Mets finished last in steals, and 11th in OBP and hits. In regards to the entire league, New York finished 19th in runs, and 27th in run differential. As a team, they ranked 28th in WAR.

However, some positives came out of this bad situation. Outfielder Michael Conforto, who started the season as the Mets fourth outfielder, worked his way into the lineup and was selected to the 2017 MLB All-Star Game. Unfortunately, in typical Mets fashion, Conforto, after taking a swing in a Late-August game, dislocated his left shoulder and tore his posterior capsule, which required season-ending surgery.

In his 109 games, Conforto hit 27 home runs, with a .279 batting average and .384 OBP. He also led the team in SLG and OPS, and hit .320 with men in scoring position. Because of the offseason shoulder surgery, Conforto will be out until the beginning of May.

2018: Around the Diamond

With an entirely new medical team in place, the Mets hope to turn back into the team that won the NL Pennant in 2015. New York brought back Jose Reyes, who stole 24 bases, and finished seventh in triples, as well as Jay Bruce, who hit 29 home runs and 75 RBIs in 2017. They also signed Adrian Gonzalez, who will start at first base. The 5x All-Star and 4x Gold Glove Award winner fought injuries last season, but still has some left in the tank. As an everyday player in 2016, Gonzalez hit .285 with 18 home runs. The Mets desperately need production out of their first basemen, a position in which they finished 27th in WAR in 2017.

Yoni is ready to go for 2018 (SI.com)

The Mets also struggled with getting any output out of the hot corner. Last season they ranked 28th in WAR for third basemen. To save the day, New York signed Todd Frazier, who hit 27 home runs, walked 83 times, and posted a .344 OBP. Joining Gonzalez and Frazier in the infield will be Asdrubal Cabrera, who was second on the team in OBP and doubles, and Amed Rosario, a former top prospect who struggled in his first 46 MLB games, but hit .328 with seven home runs and 19 steals in 94 AAA games. Rosario strikes out a lot and needs to draw more walks, but let’s hope he turns into the player that the Mets expected.

Mets star Yoenis Cespedes dealt with hamstring injuries in 2017 and played in just 81 games. He still was able to hit .290, 17 home runs and slug .540. He homered in his spring training debut so all seems well for the left fielder. Jay Bruce will remain in right, and Juan Lagares, who has a new swing in 2018, will most likely start in center until Conforto is healthy. Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki will split time behind the plate, and, when the team travels to an American League ballpark, look for Brandon Nimmo, Wilmer Flores or Jose Reyes to get some time at DH.

On the Bump

After DeGrom and Syndergaard, this rotation is filled with giant question marks. Matt Harvey was horrendous last season, especially late, posting a 1-4 record with a 11.28 ERA in September. Zach Wheeler has only made 17 starts since his 2015 Tommy John, and has not been impressive at all. Steven Matz had season-ending elbow surgery in August, but was terrible when he pitched. Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, two pitchers who finished second and third on the team in starts, had poor 2017’s.

Expect big seasons from both Syndergaard and DeGrom (FOX Sports)

Last week, New York signed Jason Vargas, who, last season, went 18-11 with a 4.16 ERA with Kansas City. New York also brought in AJ Griffin to help with depth. In all likelihood, Vargas, Harvey, and Wheeler will join DeGrom and Syndergaard in the starting rotation. But don’t sleep on Gsellman, who had a 3.50 ERA in the second half of 2017.

In 2017, The Mets finished 29th in bullpen ERA. Familia missed time, but is good to go for 2018, and will serve as the primary closer. Joining him in the bullpen, most notably, will be Jerry Blevins, who in 75 appearances, went 6-0 with a 2.94 ERA, AJ Ramos, and Anthony Swarzak.

The Future

Although New York has no members on MLB.com’s, 2018 Top 100 Prospect’s list, there a few names to remember. Andres Gimenez, New York’s top prospect, is a 19-year-old shortstop who is a nice defender, with above average speed, and a good eye at the plate. David Peterson, the Mets first round pick in 2017, pitched well in his three A-Short starts, and has potential to be a solid number three at some point.

Peter Alonso could be the future starting 1B for the Mets. A former second round pick. Alonso, in 93 games between A+/AA, slashed .289/.359/.524 with 18 home runs. Dominic Smith may be ahead of him on the depth chart, but if Alonso continues to hit, there is no reason as to why he will not become an everyday player. As far as player comparisons, Alonso looks like a right-handed Justin Bour.

2018 Prediction: 78-84

With the majority of their better players now healthy, New York will improve from last year’s win total, but don’t expect this team to be playing in the postseason. DeGrom and Syndergaard are great, but the backend of the rotation cannot be trusted. This lineup is weak and, besides for Cespedes and maybe Jay Bruce, no one in this order is feared.

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New York Mets offseason

New York Mets offseason in review

The New York Mets have been one of the most active teams in free agency this offseason, making shrewd and solid moves in an otherwise stagnant offseason for most clubs.

Many teams have chosen to adjust their rosters via trade, rather than increase payroll. However, the Mets have made the most of their budget and reconnected with some familiar names.

With spring training underway, the season has begun for the Mets and they are ready to embark on the 2018 season. Let’s recap the team’s most significant acquisitions and signings thus far.

Anthony Swarzak

New York Mets offseason

Anthony Swarzak delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Photo from NY Daily News)

This signing was made to bolster the Mets’ bullpen depth, although he essentially replaces Addison Reed from last year’s team. It was still a necessary pickup to give new manager Mickey Callaway another option out of the pen besides Jerry Blevins, AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia.

Callaway has stated that there will be a closer by committee this season for the bullpen, so there is no defined role yet for Swarzak. However, it will become clearer as the season goes on. 

Jay Bruce

New York Mets offseason

Jay Bruce celebrates with Yoenis Cespedes after hitting a home run against the Philadelphia Phillies. (Photo from Forbes.com)

The Mets realized they traded away too much of their power from last season, so they brought back Jay Bruce to fill a hole in the outfield, and provide depth at first base. He will also take on a role as a leader in the clubhouse that was sorely needed for how young the team is.

Bruce led the Mets in hitting, home runs and RBIs before he was traded to Cleveland last summer. The team will expect more of the same productivity moving forward.

Adrian Gonzalez

The Mets brought in Gonzalez to be a placeholder at first base until Dominic Smith is ready for his next chance in the big leagues. He replaces Lucas Duda from last season.

While he won’t provide the offensive firepower that Duda had, he is a veteran and a natural at the position with a smooth glove that will help the youngsters around the infield improve their overall game.

Jose Reyes

This move was made purely for infield depth and allows the team to reconnect with a fan favorite. It also gives Reyes the opportunity to play for the one team that has always accepted him. He will be around to mentor the young Mets’ infielders, specifically Amed Rosario, who expressed his desire to the club to bring Reyes back in the offseason.

He will look to establish himself as a future star in his first full big league season. Reyes will provide infield depth as he is capable of playing third base, shortstop and second base.

Todd Frazier

New York Mets offseason

Todd Frazier in the home run derby. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

In a much-needed move, the Mets not only improved their offense by plugging Frazier’s power into the middle of their lineup, but also solidified the team’s defense, as Frazier can pick it at third with the best of them. He has been rated one of the best defensive third basemen ever since he came up with the Cincinnati Reds.

He is also a large presence in the clubhouse. The team will hold him in high regard for his leadership skills on and off the field to go along with the many hits he will hopefully swat for the team during his tenure.

Jason Vargas 

New York Mets offseason

Jason Vargas being formally introduced as the newest member of the New York Mets. (Photo from NY Daily News)

In a surprising late offseason signing, the Mets added some valuable pitching depth behind Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard by signing Vargas. He will almost certainly take up one of the five rotation spots for the Mets this season.

The signing also increases competition for the last two spots among the other young Mets hurlers like Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. This will make an entertaining spring training.

 

 

 

 

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New York Mets team profile

New York Mets team profile

The New York Mets finished in fourth place in the NL East with a 72-90 record. They were a team that dealt with a plethora of injuries, and it ended up costing them its season. David Wright has not been able to get over the injury bug, and the team’s two best hitters, Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto, saw extended time on the disabled list.

It was not only at the plate, but on the mound the Mets saw its fair share of issues. Matt Harvey has not been able to break out of his rut, and Noah Syndergaard was only able to start seven times. Jacob deGrom was the only one that was able to cross the 25-start threshold in 2017, so the Mets have a fair amount to deal with before being able to compete in the near future.

Offseason moves

New York Mets team profile

Jay Bruce will reunite with the Mets in 2018 (Photo from FanRag Sports)

The New York Mets have taken strides to improve in the near future. It was reported on Wednesday that Jay Bruce would be returning to the Queens with a three-year contract. This is a solid signing that is lighting a mini spark into the hot stove. Since not many other moves have been made, the Mets look serious about improving in 2018.

So far, the only loss for them has been Jose Reyes, who did not have a great 2017 season. It was also reported that the Mets were very close to a deal with the Cleveland Indians for second baseman, Jason Kipnis. While he may not have provided the impact that the Mets need, it would have been a step in the right direction to show they are serious about improvements.

The three-year contract that Bruce signed also shows that the Mets are nowhere near thinking about a rebuilding phase despite its current place in the division. The rest of the NL East is in for some trouble with how successful the Nationals have been during the regular season. This move shows that the Mets want to try their hand though, and they may not be that far off.

The pitching

The New York Mets ranked 28th in pitching in 2017. This is nowhere near the expectations for the players they have on the team at the moment. New York has some of the best young pitching in the league, but due to injuries and underperforming, they took a step in the wrong direction.

The Mets have built a very good base in the rotation with Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. As mentioned, due to injuries and poor performance, it does not look as solid as it once did. The top two in the rotation still look like they have a promising future, but Harvey, Matz and Wheeler will have a pivotal year in 2018. If they don’t show signs of improvement, the Mets will know it will be time to move on.

Anthony Swarzak had the best year of his career in 2017. He may have been one of the better middle relievers in all of baseball. He, along with A.J. Ramos and Addison Reed, should provide a reliable core to the bullpen.

2018 outlook

New York Mets team profile

Matt Harvey needs to get back on track in 2018 (Photo from USA Today)

As stated previously, the Nationals are still at the forefront of the NL East, and the National League as a whole. No team from the East will most likely compete with them for the division.

This is a year for the Mets to build up and see if they are ready to compete by 2019 perhaps. Washington is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, and even the Wild Card is going to be tough to come by as it will take more than 87 wins most likely.

This is a big year for Matt Harvey as well. After stellar seasons between 2012-15, Harvey looks like he has lost his touch. This especially looked to be the case last year after finishing with a -1.1 WAR and 6.70 ERA. Something has to change in order for him to stick around the team. Whether it is mechanical or mental, the Mets can not afford to let him throw games away much longer.

With Noah Syndergaard coming off injury and deGrom looking to improve, there is a lot of room to improve. Their health is key too, as we may see a much better team in 2018 if the Mets are able to keep guys on the field.

 

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Top MLB prospects 2018

Four prospects to watch for in 2018

With spring training just a few short weeks ahead, it is time to start thinking about this year in prospects.

For this article, we will be looking at four prospects that could make a big league impact in 2018. Not only that, but they could be players to keep an eye out for rookie of the year.

Nick Senzel: Cincinnati Reds

Top MLB prospects 2018

Senzel is the brightest name in the Reds’ farm. (Photo from Cincinnati Enquirer)

Senzel, the second overall pick of the 2016 draft, will likely be making his major league debut in 2018. He is a plus defender at third base and has excellent speed that can turn him into a base-stealing threat.

Senzel also possess an excellent batter’s eye and should be able to draw walks at the big league level. There is no doubt that he is the best prospect in the Reds ranks, so he will be an excellent addition to an already solid Reds offense in 2018.

The Reds, and the rest of the MLB, considered Senzel to be one of the most big-league ready bats in the 2016 draft. This is a big reason why the Reds took him so high, along with the fact he may be the best bat in that class. Expect him to make a large improvement to a Reds offense that could possibly go toe to toe with anyone in the league.

Ronald Acuna: Atlanta Braves

Acuna is one of the younger prospects that could be making a difference in 2018. He is just 20 years old, but may have one of the brightest futures. He has the chance to be one of the next great five-tool players. Although he has power potential, he has yet to show it too much in the minors. He has lots of time to get stronger and develop that potential power down the road.

What Acuna has been able to show in the minors is ability to hit well to all fields. He has hit for a high average and is a great base-stealing threat.

Acuna was named the Arizona Fall League MVP in 2017. In 23 games, he was able to hit for .325/.414/.639 along with seven home runs. The potential is great for the young Braves phenom, and he could force himself to be in contention for Rookie of the Year in 2018.

Alex Reyes: St. Louis Cardinals

Top MLB prospects 2018

Alex Reyes still has some time before he reaches the starting rotation. (Photo from ESPN)

Reyes is one of the top prospects in the Cardinals system and already had major league time in 2016. In 12 games, he was able to post a 1.57 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 46 innings. He would have played in 2017 as well, but he missed the whole year after getting Tommy John surgery.

The 23-year-old out of New Jersey has a stellar fastball that has already been able to blow away major league hitters. His fastball coupled with an 88-90 mph changeup has high strikeout potential. He will be an excellent major league starter given the opportunity.

In the case of 2018, Reyes may not get many extended looks at the starting role. Since Reyes is still very young and is coming off a big surgery, the Cardinals are going to be very careful with him in 2018. They have already stated that he may not get work until late April, and at that point will get a bullpen role.

The Cardinals are in need of a closer at the moment. If they do not trade for one or sign someone like Greg Holland, there are rumors that Reyes could get looks in the closer role. Either way, Reyes is going to be a big name in the big leagues.

Michael Kopech: Chicago White Sox

Kopech is the kind of starter that tops out at 100 mph that can still reach the high 90s late in games. He is ranked as the second best prospect in an absolutely stacked White Sox system.

Kopech has been compared to Noah Syndergaard due to his wide arsenal. That is largely why he was a centerpiece in the Chris Sale trade with the Boston Red Sox.

He still has some work to be done before he is the fine tuned starter that he could be one day. Kopech can strike guys out like no other, but still has some control issues that can be worked on over time. It is nothing that you don’t see with high-velocity young pitchers. Chicago still has time before they are where they want to be on the big league level, but Kopech will get some solid time in 2018 where he can prove his star potential.

 

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Best Opening Day Performances

Opening Day in Major League Baseball is one of the best times of the year. America’s past time makes it’s return from hibernation to roaring fans and players hungry to play ball. They say everyone is in first place on Opening Day, but that only applies to teams, and not players. These players made the most of the Opening Day spotlight, and put themselves in first place to start the season.

Madison Bumgarner – San Francisco Giants

While the Giants and Diamondbacks game was included in my Opening Day Games to Watch article, even I wasn’t expecting the performance we got out of Madison Bumgarner. The Giants ace opened up the season on a high note, and lead a valiant effort. He dominated on the bump, giving the Giants seven strong innings. While he did give up three earned runs, they only came on six hits. Bumgarner also struck out 11 in his first outing of the season, and kept the Giants in the game. But it wasn’t just his pitching that kept the game close.

Bumgarner has always been keen with the bat, but never like he was on Opening Day. He mashed two long home runs, one off Diamondbacks ace Zach Greinke. That was the first time a pitcher has hit two home runs on Opening Day in MLB history, furthering the legend of MadBum. And after one full day of games, Bumgarner leads all of baseball in batting average (1.000), on base percentage (1.000), slugging percentage (4.000) and OPS (5.000). Needless to say, Bumgarner got off to a pretty good start on Opening Day.

Opening Day

Joc Pederson provided plenty of pop in their Opening Day match up against the Padres. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports).

Joc Pederson – Los Angeles Dodgers

Batting in a deep Dodgers lineup, no one expected the type of performance Joc Pederson put up on Monday. The Dodgers were matched up against the lowly San Diego Padres. And Pederson and the Dodgers took advantage of their juicy match up with San Diego’s “ace”, Jhoulys Chacin. The Dodgers lineup combined to put up 14 runs on the Padres, punishing their pitching staff. But it was the performance of Joc Pederson that drove the offensive explosion for the Dodgers.

Pederson was off to a fast start, blasting a home run off of Padres starter Chacin. He utilized the massive power he has to mash the ball out of the park, giving the Dodgers hope for what could be throughout the season. Pederson utilized the long ball in the perfect situation, unloading the bases to break open a Dodgers lead over the Padres. And while he did only have one hit on the day, his five RBI performance was more than enough to pace the Dodgers impressive offense. Pederson has gotten of to a fast start, one that Dodger fans will carry him through the season.

Dallas Keuchel – Houston Astros

After a lackluster 2016 season, the Astros ace was looking to return to his 2015 Cy Young form. Dallas Keuchel put up a 4.55 ERA in 2016, far removed from his Cy Young campaign 2.48 ERA in 2015. But on Opening Night in Houston, the Dallas Keuchel of old seemed to return. He blanked the Seattle Mariners, scattering two hits and four strikeouts over seven dominant innings. But it wasn’t just Keuchel’s work on the mound that earned him his spot on this list.

Keuchel has long been known for his defense, winning three Gold Gloves in the past three seasons. And Monday night, he showed why he’s already in contention for a fourth straight Gold Glove. Keuchel showed off his arm and athleticism, taking two bunt hits away from the Mariners. He also started a double play on a come backer, helping his own cause in the field as well as on the mound. If Keuchel can string together a couple of strong starts, look for him to start generating some Cy Young buzz.

Noah Syndergaard – New York Mets

Opening Day

Noah Syndergaard continued over his 2016 dominance to 2017 Opening Day (Jeff Roberson/AP).

Noah Syndergaard got the Mets 2017 season off against division rival Atlanta. And while the Braves are still in rebuilding mode, that doesn’t mean they lack legitimate hitters in their lineup. With emerging star Freddie Freeman, veteran Matt Kemp and former top prospect Dansby Swanson, the Braves have a solid offense. But that didn’t matter on Opening Day. With Noah Syndergaard on the bump for the Mets, the Braves had no chance.

Syndergaard gave the Braves more than they could handle on Monday. Debuting a simplified delivery, Syndergaard was able to blow past the Braves hitters. Delivering six solid innings, Syndergaard scattered five hits while racking up seven strikeouts. After finishing eight in the NL Cy Young voting last season, Syndergaard is primed to pick up where he left off in 2017. And he’s already off to a great start.

 

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Collecting the Hardware: National League Preseason Predictions

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

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

The National League

NL Rookie of the Year: Dansby Swanson

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

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

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

NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard

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

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

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

NL Most Valuable Player: Paul Goldschmidt

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

With only a week until opening day, it is time to revisit my starting pitcher rankings for 2017. My original rankings can be found at Thegamehaus.com, which were done on January 27th, 2017.

The top 120 starting pitchers have been grouped into eight tiers. The average draft position, (ADP), of each player according to FantasyDraftPros.com, are listed adjacent to the player.

Exceptions include: Rasiel Iglesias (CIN) and David Phelps (MIA) who both will be primarily relievers in 2017.  

 

Tier 1

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Clayton Kershaw looks to return to Cy Young form in 2017 (Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images).

  • Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers, (5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

Max Scherzer is looking to add hardware to his cabinet in 2017 (Courtesy of Getty Images)

  • Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals, (13)
  • Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants (14)
  • Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets, (18)
  • Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox, (19)
  • Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians, (22)
  • Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers, (39)
  • Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals, (50)

 

 

 

 

Tier 3

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Justin Verlander will hope his 2016 success carries over to 2017. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

  • Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs, (34)
  • Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers, (39)
  • Jake Arrieta, Chicago Chicago, (29)
  • Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants, (41)
  • Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays, (52)
  • Jacob deGrom, New York Mets, (58)
  • Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals, (66)
  • Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians, (59)
  • Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs, (64)
  • Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees, (73)
  • Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers, (79)
  • David Price, Boston Red Sox, (73)

 

Tier 4

2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

Rick Porcello has impressed this season, throwing himself into the Cy Young conversation. (Courtesy of Dan Hamilton of the USA Today)

  • Rick Porcello, Boston Red Sox, (88)
  • Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox, (91)
  • Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves, (99)
  • Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians, (111)
  • Felix Hernandez, Seattle Marines, (115)
  • Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays, (106)
  • Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals, (97)
  • Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates, (91)
  • Kenta Maeda, Los Angeles Dodgers, (98)
  • Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks, (89)
  • Lance McCullers, Houston Astros, (146)
  • Michael Fullmer, Detroit Tigers, (123)

 

Tier 5

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Marcus Stroman anchors teams USA’s rotation in route to a WBC title. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

  • Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays, (124)
  • Rich Hill, Los Angeles Dodgers, (114)
  • Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals (139)
  • Steven Matz, New York Mets, (142)
  • Dallas Kuechel, Houston Astros, (122)
  • Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles, (130)
  • John Lackey, St. Louis Cardinals, (136)
  • Jared Eickhoff, Philadelphia Phillies, (217)
  • Matt Harvey, New York Mets, (134)
  • Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates, (150)
  • Jonathan Gray, Colorado Rockies, (176)
  • Carlos Rodon, Chicago White Sox, (177)
  • Vincent Velasquez, Philadelphia Phillies, (179)
  • Sean Manaea, Oakland Athletics, (167)
  • Julio Jurias, Los Angeles Dodgers, (180)
  • Jake Ordorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays, (171)
  • Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels, (211)
  • Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals, (195)
  • Drew Smyly, Seattle Mariners, (185)

 

Tier 6

(Courtesy of Dan Hamilton of the USA Today)

Michael Pineda has untapped potential, can he progress in 2017?(Courtesy of Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Michael Pineda, New York Yankees, (183)
  • Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks, (204)
  • Matt Shoemaker, Los Angeles Angels, (186)
  • James Paxton, Seattle Mariners, (153)
  • Aaron Nola, Philadelphi Phillies, (162)
  • Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants (164)
  • J.A. Happ, Toronto Blue Jays, (168)
  • Matt Moore, San Francisco Giants, (181)
  • Marco Estrada, Toronto Blue Jays, (191)
  • Drew Pomeranz, Boston Red Sox, (208)
  • Taijuan Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks, (211)
  • Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics, (212)

 

Tier 7

2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

Anthony Desclafani was named the Ace for 2017, although an injury may cause him to begin the year on the DL. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • Anthony Desclafani, Cincinnati Reds, (242)
  • Junior Guerra, Milwaukee Brewers, (249)
  • Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals, (263)
  • Collin McHugh, Houston Astros, (253)
  • Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals, (256)
  • Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians, (274)
  • Robert Gsellman, New York Mets, (267)
  • Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh Pirates, (268)
  • Joe Ross, Washington Nationals, (224)
  • Jharel Cotton, Oakland Athletics, (240)
  • Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins, (256)
  • Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays, (220)
  • Daniel Norris, Detroit Tigers, (272)
  • Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays, (277)
  • Francisco Liriano, Toronto Blue Jays, (282)
  • Zach Davies, Milwaukee Brewers, (285)
  • Mike Montgomery, Chicago Cubs, (274)
  • Jason Hammel, Kansas City Royals, (278)
  • Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners, (235)
  • Jordan Zimmerman, Detroit Tigers, (278)
  • Ivan Nova, Pittsburgh Pirates, (254)
  • Ervin Santana, Minnesota Twins, (266)
    2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

    Eduardo Rodriguez has made the necessary corrections to start the year with the big club. (Courtesy of Nancy Lane)

  • Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals, (266)
  • Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles, (268)
  • Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox, (295)
  • Tyler Skaggs, Los Angeles Angels, (303)
  • Joe Musgrove, Houston Astros, (300)
  • Tyler Anderson, Colorado Rockies, (310)
  • Dan Straily, Miami Marlins, (312)
  • Brandon Finnegan, Cincinnati Reds, (336)
  • Shelby Miller, Arizona Diamondbacks, (376)
  • Scott Kazmir, Los Angeles Dodgers, (350)
  • Tyler Chatwood, Colorado Rockies, (361)
  • Adam Conely, Miami Marlins, (321)

 

Tier 8 (The Rest)

  • Chris Tillman, Baltimore Orioles, (308)
    2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

    Chris Tillman looks to recover from his disastrous second half of 2016. (Courtesy of csnmidatlantic.com)

  • Mike Leake, St. Louis Cardinals, (341)
  • Edinson Volquez, Miami Marlins, (390)
  • Michael Foltynewicz, Atlanta Braves, (298)
  • Jamie Garcia, Atlanta Braves, (338)
  • Steven Wright, Boston Red Sox, (321)
  • Wie-Yin Chen, Miami Marlins, (332)
  • C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees, (361)
  • Clay Buchholz, Philadelphia Phillies, (355)
  • Charlie Morton, Houston Astros, (386)
  • Tyson Ross, Texas Rangers, (314)
  • Andrew Triggs, Oakland Athletics, (358)
  • Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox, (331)
  • Chris Devenski, Houston Astros, (336)
  • Luke Weaver, St. Louis Cardinals, (341)
  • Luis Severino, New York Yankees, (344)
  • Jose De Leon, Tampa Bay Rays, (350)
  • Zack Wheeler, New York Mets, (361)
  • Mike Fiers, Houston Astros, (384)
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers, (414)
  • Nathan Karns, Kansas City Royals, (420)
  • Ricky Nolasco, Minnesota Twins, (432)
  • Seth Lugo, New York Mets, (412)

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National League East

Predicting Each MLB Division: National League East

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

Philadelphia Phillies – Fifth

National League East

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlanta Braves – Fourth

National League East

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miami Marlins – Third

National League East

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York Mets – Second

National League East

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

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

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

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

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

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

National League East

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

Washington Nationals – First

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

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

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

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

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

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