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

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

rookie watch: American League

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

MLB rookie watch

(Photo by AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

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

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

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

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

Rookie Watch: National League

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

MLB rookie watch

(Photo from Sports Illustrated)

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

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

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

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

Looking ahead

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

 

Featured image by Karl L. Moore and baseballamerica.com

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MLB players of the month

2018 MLB: April’s greatest hits

The first month of the 2018 MLB season is approaching its final act. The league has seen struggling teams and players trying to find their footing. But on the flip side, we have seen several players dominating right out of the gates. Today, we will be taking a look at some of April’s greatest hits.

These greatest hits are a list of some names starting off red hot in the first few weeks of the season. It seems that the league cannot stop talking about them. Repetitive? Maybe. But these names have grabbed the attention of the entire for good reason.

Here are some of my picks of “Player of the Month,” “Rookie of the Month,” and “Manager of the Month” from both the American and National Leagues.

April’s greatest hits: American League

Player of the Month

The New York Yankees are starting to kick it up a notch, winning their last nine games. With a high-powered batting order, it is no coincidence. Leading the charge from the batter’s box is shortstop, Didi Gregorius.

MLB players of the month

(Photo from wikipedia.com)

Gregorius has caught fire with his bat in April, tallying 10 home runs and 30 RBIs, along with a .340 batting average. He currently leads the AL in RBIs and is tied for the most home runs. As a team, the Pinstripes lead the AL in home runs and RBIs. No. 18 is most certainly a big part of the Yankees offense, which is why he is my pick for “Player of the Month” for April.

Rookie of the Month

My leading candidate for AL “Rookie of the Month” is Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels. I mean, how can it not be him? Ohtani has belted four home runs to go with 12 RBIs this month. On top of that, No. 17 has a 2-1 record on the mound.

Yes, his ERA is over 4.00, but let’s be honest, even the most elite pitchers have a bad day once in a while. To call this an impressive start to Ohtani’s rookie season would be an understatement.

Manager of the Month

Returning to the AL East, the Boston Red Sox remain at the top. The Red Sox have a stingy fielding corps, a relentless batting crew and a formidable pitching rotation.

They also have my pick for “Manager of the Month” for April. In his first as skipper, Alex Cora has played almost every note perfectly in 2018. Cora has found ways to keep winning, and has adapted to most situations. Boston now boasts the best record in the AL, but with the rival Yankees on a tear, Cora will have to keep up the winning ways.

April’s greatest hits: National League

Player of the Month

My pick for “Player of the Month” comes from the pitcher’s mound. It was not an easy decision to make, but Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals takes my vote. The 33-year-old righty has tallied a 5-1 record and a 1.62 ERA. In addition, opposing teams have only managed to scrape up a .156 batting average against him. The three-time Cy Young award winner is eyeing a fourth, and it is not hard to see why.

Rookie of the Month

The San Diego Padres are struggling to find momentum in the NL West. But one Padre has stood as a one bright spot at the batter’s box. Third baseman Christian Villanueva is my pick for the National League “Rookie of the Month.”

MLB players of the month

(Photo from USA Today)

Villanueva has caught fire with his bat. So far, he has eight home runs and 18 RBIs to his name. He also boasts a .329 batting average.

The rest of the Padres, however, will need to wake up. San Diego, as a team, has put together a .228 batting average, which is 13th out of 15 NL squads.

Manager of the Month

The Arizona Diamondbacks hold a healthy lead in the NL West. Manager Torey Lovullo has steered the team in the right direction since taking over last season. Not to mention he manned the helm and took the team to the Wild Card last season.

Returning to the playoffs may not seem so difficult if Lovullo can keep it up. With the team at 19-8, the best record in the NL, Lovullo and company have substantial momentum to build off of for the next games to come.

a new month approaches

Several great players have struck it big in April. These names a few of April’s greatest hits. As May approaches, some players look to remain hot, while others look to break out of their cold streaks. But like everyone else, I cannot wait to see who kicks it into gear in May.

 

Featured image from Wikipedia

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fantasy baseball spotlight

MLB 2018 fantasy spotlight

Almost a full month of the new MLB season has passed. Like other professional sports, people are taking part in fantasy leagues once again. Everyone has eyed the big names in the fantasy spotlight, like Mike Trout and Jose Altuve. But when those big names everyone wanted got off the boards, participants needed to adjust at the draft. Now the draft is long gone, and the season is now rolling.

In this fantasy spotlight, several names have risen to the top of the boards as predicted. But some players are firing hot and grabbed attention from fantasy experts and participants alike. Whether from the pitcher’s mound or the batter’s box, here are some players catching fire this season.

fantasy spotlight: Ascending aces

This pitcher has been somewhat of a journeyman in his big league career. But last year, he was part of the World Series champion Houston Astros. Who is Charlie Morton?

fantasy baseball spotlight

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images & justfantasybaseball)

Don’t let his age fool you. At 34 years old, Morton has brought blistering heat in his second year with Houston. He stands with a 3-0 record and an ERA of 0.72. Not to mention, teams have a measly .176 batting average against him.

With pitchers like Morton on board, fantasy participants, along with the Astros, should look to No. 50 to stay ahead of the competition.

Off to an equally hot start is Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 28-year-old lefty has recorded a 1.89 ERA and a 4-0 record. Also, batters have only scrapped up a .140 average when facing No. 46. Fantasy players might want to look into Corbin before someone else snags him.

Staying in the NL West, Chad Bettis of the Colorado Rockies is another name to look out for. No. 35 has racked up a 3-0 record and yielded a 1.44 ERA. The Rockies will still have more work to do. Their pitching staff has an ERA of 4.83, which is just 13th in the National League. But for those fantasy participants, Bettis could be the one to give their pitching staff a boost.

fantasy spotlight: bruising batters

Stop me if you have heard this before: The Boston Red Sox are off to the hottest start in baseball this season. One of the more noteworthy components, if not the most, is Mookie Betts.

fantasy baseball spotlight

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Betts, as of right now, leads the entire MLB in batting average at .366. Plus, he has belted four home runs in his last seven games. No small part due to Betts, Boston leads the AL in team batting average and RBIs. Fantasy contestants better add the 25-year-old right fielder to their rosters the second they see he is available, because by the time you blink, it is already too late.

Staying in the AL, we have another right fielder fantasy participants should keep on their radars. Meet No. 17 of the Seattle Mariners, Mitch Haniger. In 2018, Haniger has cashed in seven home runs and 22 RBIs. Not to mention his batting average has shot up in the last seven games. If anyone in the fantasy league is in need of a big bat for their lineup, Haniger is a wise choice.

Over the NL West, there is a third baseman making splashes at the batter’s box. From the San Diego Padres, it is Christian Villanueva. The 26-year-old is boasting a .355 batting average, along with seven home runs and 16 RBIs. Three of those home runs and eight of those RBIs came from his last seven games.

For the Padres, No. 22 is a bright spot in an otherwise shaky start to 2018. But for the fantasy league, Villanueva can be a valuable asset to a roster’s offensive production.

conclusion

By no means are these all the players on a hot streak this season. The season is still very young, and anyone can start going on a tear at any time. But the difficult part is staying hot for the weeks to come. On top of that, fantasy league participants need to stay on alert for injuries and occurring slumps. Once more players start tearing it up, the league will take notice. Once that happens, participants will need to be to quick on the draw to bring these names on board.

 

Featured image by Charles Krupa / Associated Press

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MLB top players 2018

MLB spotlight: Impact players

As the 2018 MLB season thunders on, several players are warming up quickly on the diamond. The hot starts from these impact players have already grabbed the attention of the league, as well as fans. Of course, a team’s success cannot rely on one name’s outing alone. But these players have given their clubs plenty of help.

Here is a look at the players starting red hot in 2018. Whether at the plate, on the mound or on the diamond, they have stood out from the rest of the pack. These veterans, rookies and managers have made splashes in less than three weeks of baseball.

From familiar faces to the new kids in town, these are some of the impact players and managers so far.

American League Impact Players

In the AL West, the Oakland Athletics did not start 2018 very well. The A’s sit at 7-10 currently, but one infielder has been dominating in the batter’s box. That would be third baseman, Matt Chapman.

MLB top players 2018

(Photo from ESPN.com)

The 24-year-old has belted five home runs and 12 RBIs to go along with a .317 batting average. Two of those homers and five of those RBIs have come from his last five games. Oakland will have a lot of work to do for their 2018 season, but if Chapman keeps swinging like this, the A’s can find themselves a spark they need to bring in more wins.

Staying in the AL West, the Los Angeles Angels are on a tear with a 13-3 record. It seems that the league cannot stop talking about the one-two punch of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, and why not? Ohtani has played up to the hype and more.

On the mound, Ohtani has a 2.08 ERA and 2-0 record. On top of that, he has tallied three home runs, 11 RBIs, and a .367 batting average. This is a pitcher we are talking about! Although he has showcased his talents as an outfielder, his cleats on the mound and the batter’s box are where he is the most dangerous.

Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox are blazing through April and the rest of the AL East. Alex Cora seems to have found his footing in his first year as Boston’s skipper. The Red Sox are playing razor sharp on offense and defense. Cora has no doubt found winning formulas, and if this continues, taking the AL East will only be the beginning for Cora and company.

National League Impact Players

Over in the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals are off to a more than solid start. One of the players helping bring wins is first baseman, José Martínez.

MLB top players 2018

(Photo from St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

The 29-year-old is catching fire in the batter’s box with 15 RBIs, which is the second most in the National League. Not to mention he has belted three home runs and rocks a .364 batting average. In the National League, St. Louis has become a notable force in offensive production. Martínez is one of the biggest reasons why.

In the NL West, the San Diego Padres are still finding their footing. 7-11 is not a terrible start, but San Diego has more work to do to turn this season around. One of the growing number of bright spots for the club is rookie ace, Joey Lucchesi.

Lucchesi stands with a 2-0 record and 1.66 ERA. In addition, teams have only managed to record a .221 batting average against him. If he can keep this up, his name can pop up in the NL Rookie of the Year conversation.

Moving to the NL East, the New York Mets sit comfortably at the top with a 12-3 record. The Mets now have won eight of their last 10 games, with first-year skipper, Mickey Callaway, at the helm. Callaway, a former pitcher, served as the pitching coach of the Cleveland Indians prior to taking the Mets job. Considering that the Indians have improved as a pitching unit while he was there and the Mets have the second best ERA in the league right now, clearly something is working.

As the Season Progresses

More players are looking to strike big and get their names out there in 2018. With plenty of baseball still in store, anyone can rise to the occasion and make an impact under the lights. But with October on everyone’s minds, one man carrying the team will not stand as a winning formula forever. The whole unit must hunker down to remain ahead or turn around their misfortunes.

 

Featured image by Getty Images

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Fantasy baseball waiver wire

Five names to watch for in fantasy baseball

We are heading into the second full week of the Major League Baseball season, and new names are starting to emerge. Every year there seems to be players that nobody saw coming, but tore it up on the diamond. That being said, now is as good of a time as ever to look at some names that could make a big impact in fantasy baseball in 2018.

Joe Panik

(Second baseman, San Francisco Giants)

Fantasy baseball waiver wire

Joe Panik may have his best season in 2018. (Photo from McCovey Chronicles)

Joe Panik has already established himself as an everyday second baseman in San Francisco. The 27-year-old has played in over 100 games in three straight seasons, but may have his most complete campaign in 2018.

Panik has already racked up four multi-hit games this season, and has knocked three balls out of the park. He has never been known for his power, but with this new generation we are in, he could possibly hit over 20 home runs this season.

The draw with Panik though is he looks like he could hit over .300 this year, which is a huge plus for roto leagues. Panik is also still only owned in 64 percent of ESPN leagues, so it is best to take advantage of the slight availability he his left.

Brian Anderson

(Third baseman, Miami Marlins)

Fantasy baseball waiver wire

Anderson is ready to prove himself in Miami. (Photo from Zimbio)

Anderson is owned in just 29 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues at the moment, but almost all of those teams have picked him up in the last couple of days. Much of this is probably due to Jake Lamb’s absence in Arizona, as Anderson has been a great replacement while Lamb has been out.

Martin Prado is due back for the Marlins within the next couple of weeks, so that could possibly put Anderson’s playing time in jeopardy. However, like Panik, Anderson has the ability to rack up the hits. With the offensive struggles the Marlins are expected to have this year, there would not be much of a reason for Don Mattingly to keep Anderson out of the lineup.

Part of the attraction surrounding Anderson is his hit streak through the first seven games of the season. That streak is over now, but Anderson is a good eye to keep out for in case there is room in the third base or 1B/3B spot.

Preston Tucker

(Outfielder, Atlanta Braves)

Preston Tucker’s ownership in ESPN fantasy leagues has gone from one percent to 45 in the last week. He is currently the hottest player that may still be on the free agent market, so now is the time to go and get him.

Atlanta has Tucker in a pretty good spot in the middle of the lineup, making him a good candidate to rack up the RBIs. Atlanta is currently hot at the moment too. Although they will not be able to keep it up, don’t discount the Braves and the firepower they may be able to produce.

Tucker is in a solid lineup and is in a good situation to succeed. Now may be a good opportunity to snag him while he is still readily available.

Sean Manaea

(Starting pitcher, Oakland Athletics)

Fantasy baseball waiver wire

Manaea is the best free agent pickup available right now. (Photo from Beyond the Box Score)

Sean Manaea is one of the hot young names coming up through the starting pitcher ranks. In two starts this season, the 26-year-old has gone into the eighth inning both times and has given up seven hits and just two runs.

Strikeouts are obviously extremely valuable in head-to-head point leagues, but for head-to-head by category or roto, he could prove to be a very valuable piece on any fantasy roster.

The only concern for the young starter is the teams he will be facing. Being in the American League West, the Athletics will be facing some very high-powered offenses. Manaea has made both of his starts against AL West teams, but it will be vital for him to keep up that performance against more of the high-powered teams once they come around.

Either way, Manaea should be a pitcher that is readily available and could be used throughout any fantasy rotation.

Christian Villanueva

(Third baseman, San Diego Padres)

Villanueva is another smaller name that broke out for three home runs, much like Matt Davidson. Villanueva may not have the consistent power all year long, but it is at least worthy to watch if any room is available at the third base position.

Villanueva is only 26 years old and is starting to see consistent MLB time for the first time in his career. He is certainly someone who can make an impact on the Padres’ roster, so he may be able to do the same for a fantasy team as well.

What the young third baseman has been able to do in the minors is rack up the RBIs, so that is certainly something he showed in his three home run performance.

Although he still has much to prove in the big leagues, he could certainly come up clutch in the fantasy world.

 

Featured image from MyAJC.com

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2018 MLB preview: San Diego Padres

2017: 71-91 (fourth place in NL West)

Last Postseason Appearance: 2006

Last World Series Title: HAVE NEVER WON A WORLD SERIES TITLE

2017 Recap

The 2017 San Diego Padres were the worst offensive team in the MLB. They finished 27th in walks, 28th in SLG, 29th in OPS, and dead-last in runs, OBP, and hits. According to FanGraphs, Jose Pirela led all San Diego position players in WAR, despite playing just 83 games. Think about that.

Wil Myers and Mike Trout were the only two players to post a 30HR-20SB season in 2017. (Sporting News)

Although Wil Myers struck out the sixth most times in the MLB, he also joined Mike Trout as the only two players to hit 30 home runs and steal 20 bases. He led San Diego in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, steals, and walks.

In his rookie season, Manuel Margot finished 6th in NL ROY voting, and seventh in triples. He was one of five rookies since 2008 (Trea Turner, Mike Trout, Andrew Benintendi, Bryce Harper) to hit at least .260, 13 home runs, and finish with at least 17 steals and a .700 OPS.

Much like the offense, the pitching struggled mightily. Among the 15 NL teams, the Padres ranked 10th in walks, 11th in earned runs, and 14th in home runs allowed. On the positive side, Clayton Richard threw two complete games, and Brad Hand had 21 saves with a 2.16 ERA. Hand also struck out 104 batters in just 79.1 innings of work.

2018: Around the Diamond

Fortunately for San Diego fans, the Padres are headed in the right direction. Yes, the last time they made the postseason, Mike Piazza, Mike Cameron, Trevor Hoffman and Los Angeles Dodgers coach Dave Roberts were on the roster, but this team is on the rise.

San Diego made a big splash in February when they signed Eric Hosmer to the largest contract in franchise history. Hosmer is coming off a monster year, in which he finished fifth in hits, eighth in batting average and ninth in times on base. He had career highs in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage and hits. The 4x Gold Glove Award winner is a perfect guy to bring in to this team, as he plays hard, and will be a great veteran leader in the clubhouse.

Hosmer signed the biggest deal in Padres franchise history. (MLB.com)

The Padres also brought in third basemen, Chase Headley, and shortstop Freddy Galvis. Headley, who played his first 7.5 years in San Diego, posted a .352 OBP in 2017, which was his best since 2012, the year he finished fifth in NL MVP voting. Galvis has played in 150+ games in each of the last three seasons, including all 162 in 2017. He doesn’t get on-base as much you would hope, but he has good speed and proved he has some pop when he hit 20 home runs in 2016.

The starting second base job is a battle between Carlos Asuaje and Cody Spangenberg. Asuaje is the favorite, as he is hitting .353, with four doubles, three triples, two home runs, and 15 RBIs in 22 Spring Training games. In 2016, in AAA, Asuaje hit .321, with 32 doubles and 11 triples in 134 games. Austin Hedges will start behind the plate, with AJ Ellis getting the occasional start.

Because of a Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery on his left elbow, Alex Dickerson will be out all of 2018. This leaves left field up for grabs. Margot will hold down center, while Myers will start in right, but left field will be a battle between Jose Piera, Hunter Renfroe, Francy Cordero, and Travis Jankowski.

Renfroe has five home runs this spring, but has struck out 14 times compared to just two walks. Cordero has a groin injury that is bothering him, which leaves Pierla as the favorite. Pirela is raking this Spring, slashing .444/.509/.689 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 45 at-bats.

On the Bump

San Diego didn’t do much to confront their pitching woes. Clayton Richard will start Opening Day, while Dinelson Lamet is in line to pitch Game 2. Lamet led all Padres starters with a 1.24 WHIP and 10.9 K/9. If he can develop better control, Lamet could be a solid pitcher in this league. Following these two will be Bryan Mitchel and, most likely, Luis Pedromo. The last spot will be a battle between Chris Young, Robbie Erlin, Tyson Ross, and Joey Lucchesi.

Brad Hand will be closing out games, while Craig Stammen, Kirby Yates, Carter Capps, and Phil Maton will all play critical roles throughout the season.

The Future

Now, for the fun part. San Diego has a total of SEVEN prospects in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list. Highlighting this list is shortstop, Fernando Tatis Jr. (No.8). Tatis Jr. is the future of the Padres at short. He is an offensive beast, who, one day, will be mentioned in the same breath as Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Francisco Lindor. In 2017, between A/AA, Tatis Jr hit 22 home runs and stole 32 bases in 131 games. He has eight RBIs in 12 Spring games.

Tatis Jr is a future star at SS (East Village Times)

The third overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, Mackenzie Gore (No.19), will eventually be the ace of the Padres. A lefty, Gore has a fantastic curveball, with a fastball that hovers around 92-95 MPH. In 21.1 innings of work at Rookie-Level Arizona League, Gore had a 1.27 ERA.

Second basemen, Luis Urias (No.36), should get some playing time as early as this season for San Diego. Urias, who was signed out of the Mexican League in 2013, knows how to get on-base. In 2017, Urias posted a .398 OBP in 118 AA games. This is a top-of-the-order guy who will get plenty of hits and play solid defense.

According to MLB.com, Cal Quantrill (No.40), has the best changeup among all pitching prospects. Quantrill’s fastball can get up to 97 mph, and we should expect to see him in 2019. Another pitcher, Michael Baez, sits two spots behind Quantrill, at No. 42. Baez stands tall at 6’8”, and is a flame thrower who consistently throws in the mid-90s. In 63.2 innings between R/A, Baez went 7-2 with a 2.54 ERA and a .83 WHIP. He also had 89 punch outs. If he keeps it up, Baez could be a star at the MLB level.

Two more pitchers round out San Diego’s top prospects, lefty Adrian Morejon (No.50), and Anderson Espinoza (No.89). Espinoza missed all of last season because of Tommy John Surgery, but was highly touted out of Venezuela, and was acquired from Boston in the Drew Pomeranz trade.

2018 Prediction: 72-90

While they will most likely finish last in the tough NL West, San Diego is clearly built for success down the road. They have a plethora of young arms who will hopefully blossom into quality starters, as well as guys like Tatis Jr and Luis Urias, who look to be studs at the big-league level.

Featured image by MLB.com

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national league teams regress

Teams likely to regress in the National League

It is always fun speculating about what teams will step up in the upcoming year. After an offseason full of speculation and player movement, we are approaching the promised land that is Opening Day.

Teams like the Brewers and Yankees have reloaded their rosters and will expect great things in 2018. Who will be the ones to take a step back though?

Los Angeles Dodgers

national league teams regress

The Dodgers lost a key starter in Yu Darvish. (Photo from SI.com)

The Dodgers finished 2017 with 104 wins, which almost turned out to be a disappointment as some people thought they would have a shot at the coveted 116 mark. They hit a snag late in the summer though with just one win over a 17-game stretch from late August into September.

Nonetheless, Los Angles picked themselves up by the bootstraps and dominated in October. They only lost five games in the entire postseason, but that was not good enough as they fell one short by falling to the Astros.

Winning the World Series is about as much improvement as this team can make after losing in seven games last year. There isn’t anywhere else to go if they are to improve. That is why they are a prime candidate to regress in 2018.

The only notable move the Dodgers made was a salary dump in which they also acquired former Dodger, Matt Kemp. Some thought that Kemp would immediately be released, but it looks like they are holding onto him and they may even start him. However, the addition of Kemp is not enough for this team.

Yu Darvish is now a Chicago Cub, and even though the Dodgers are still a prime contender, it is still conceivable to see the Nationals, or even the Brewers, outplay them in October.

Miami Marlins

This one is a no-brainer. Ever since Derek Jeter and his ownership group gained control of the Miami Marlins, things have gotten ugly. Miami managed to win 77 games in 2017, which is nothing to write home about, but they didn’t have that bad of a team.

With Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich being one of the best outfield trios in baseball, things looked good in Miami. Jeter and company did not see it that way though. They elected to blow the whole thing up by trading all those guys away along, with Dee Gordon. Now, Miami is one of the least desirable places to play baseball.

Jeter has acknowledged that this process will take time, but the pushback has not been easy. Dan Le Batard lit up Rob Manfred for letting this sale happen, which led to the destruction of the current Marlins. If you were to ask ownership though, the current cast was not going anywhere.

We will look back in six or seven years and have a better grasp on whether or not this was the right call for a floundering organization. For the time being though, it does not look good.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Another team from the NL West will be taking a step back in 2018. The Arizona Diamondbacks put in a solid 2017 season, coming in second place in the West behind Los Angeles. After beating Colorado in the Wild Card, Los Angeles let them know why they were a second place team by sweeping them out of October.

Arizona has not had any key losses by any means, but they could possibly fall victim to the powerful division that is the National League West. Both San Francisco and San Diego saw how their divisional counterparts were doing and decided to make some moves to get more competitive. The Giants especially have shown that they take their even years seriously by acquiring Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria.

The Diamondbacks still have some solid rotational pitching along with great bats like Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. They won’t have the same teams to beat up on in the bottom of the division anymore. On top of that, they still have to deal with the Dodgers, who may regress, but are still a dominant team in the National League.

Pittsburgh Pirates

national league teams regress

The Pirates sent Gerrit Cole off to Houston this offseason. (Photo from USA Today)

The Pirates fall into the same category as the Miami Marlins. Although they did not have the same sort of future potential as the Marlins, they pretty much jumped ship on their current roster.

The two faces of the franchise were Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Neal Huntington did not hesitate to keep them though as he shipped both of them out West. The Pittsburgh faithful were not happy with this decision, as they are pretty much abandoning the coming seasons.

They may have realized that nothing was coming from the current core, or they could have recognized the other teams in the division and seeing what they were looking like.

The entire league looks tough right now, and that is why the Pirates may be looking to invest in their future now. After all, it is not ridiculous to try to pull off the same sort of success achieved by Theo Epstein in Chicago and Jeff Luhnow in Houston.

 

Featured image from ABC15Arizona

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fantasy update: MLB

Prospects watch: Fantasy baseball

As fantasy baseball takes on a new season, everyone participating is looking for the next ace or slugger to put them ahead of their leagues. Whether for money from the pool or bragging rights, people will have to bull through 162 games with utmost awareness.

One injury could dent teams even worse if one is not paying attention. When assembling the team, one question must come to mind among others: “If the players I want are taken off the board, who do I get?”

Everyone wants a big fish in their ponds. Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, Clayton Kershaw and Bryce Harper are usually among the ones taken first. But every so often, an unknown name will step up, create waves and becomes the big thing on the MLB Fantasy talk.

At times, these names are young guns looking for a breakthrough season. When they establish themselves as secret weapons, new prospects can help teams reach new height alongside respected veterans of the game.

Let’s take a look at the 2018 prospects to consider for fantasy.

Fantasy Prospects: outfield

fantasy baseball prospects

Photo from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In the outfield, these names can take over for injured players or improve the team right out of the gates.

The first name to keep an eye out for is Lewis Brinson of the Miami Marlins. Although he already made his MLB debut last season, the 23-year-old has so much more to show than his 21 games played as a Milwaukee Brewer.

His six seasons in the minors, fall and winter leagues have yielded solid numbers at the plate and on defense. In this spring session, he has raised his batting average to .409, on top of showing continuous growth on defense. With the Marlins’ outfield in need of filled ranks, no doubt that the Florida native will make his case to be a starter.

Another outfielder to consider is Eloy Jimenez of the Chicago White Sox. The 21-year-old has made himself a top prospect for 2018. In his four seasons in the minors, he has recorded 43 home runs, 206 RBIs and a .302 batting average. His talents on defense are solid on their own merits, showcasing his discipline and lack of errors.

Though he hasn’t made a lot of noise in this spring training, the young right fielder will look at every opportunity he gets to show what he can bring to the 40-man roster. Fantasy participants might want to keep his name written down, if they’re looking for a solid batting presence.

Although names like Ronald Acuna and Shohei Ohtani seem like bigger and better names, Brinson and Jimenez should in no way be overlooked in the outfield conversation.

Fantasy Prospects: infield

In addition to the outfield, there are a couple of names to take notes on for drafting infielders. By bat and glove, they look to appear on the national radar as the next superstars in Major League Baseball, in addition to fantasy draft boards.

fantasy baseball prospects

Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post, Getty Images

Starting off is Rockies first baseman, Ryan McMahon. Though he already has some regular season experience from last year, the 23-year-old is turning into a rising force at the plate. In his five seasons in the minor leagues, he has tallied 79 home runs, 392 RBIs and a .298 batting average.

His batting continues to improve in spring training, along with his fielding prowess. McMahon, along with Nolan Arenado could be shutting down both sides of the infield in the near future.

Another prospect looking to strike it big in 2018 is Luis Urías of the San Diego Padres. Urías has shown seemingly endless potential due to his huge skill set, not just in his batting improvements, but also in his fielding knowledge. His experience at numerous positions in the infield can open up options for San Diego, as well as problems for batters.

Throughout his tenure in the minors, he has played shortstop, second base and third base. On top of this level of versatility, he has racked up a .310 overall batting average in the minors and a .444 overall average in spring training.

Though he has to make his MLB debut, fantasy league enthusiasts and experts alike should not take Luis Urías lightly.

As March 29 Draws Closer

In addition to the regular season, fantasy baseball participants should stay tuned in as spring games come and go. With injuries, and retirement announcements, they will have to adapt quickly to remain in fantasy contention. Come the regular season, the fantasy marathon will truly begin.

 

Featured image from supportespn.com/fantasybaseball

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MLB free agency 2018

Turning up the heat on the hot stove

As is tradition in baseball, the long winter months are kept warm by the hot stove. But that stove has been running cold this winter. So we’re gonna turn up the heat and predict where some of the top MLB free agents will play in 2018.

Jake Arrieta

MLB free agency 2018

Jake Arrieta will look to join another World Series contender. (Photo from sportingnews.com)

The former Baltimore Oriole and World Series Champion Cub is a free agent this offseason and is testing the waters. Att 31 years old, not many fish are biting.

That can’t be blamed on Arrieta though. The burly right-hander went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA last season. Any team would take that kind of production out of a starter. That is, any team that already had him.

While the Astros, Rangers, Twins, Blue Jays, Rockies, Brewers and Cardinals have all been linked to Arrieta, no deals have been offered. Arrieta is an ace-caliber pitcher and will have significant contract demands. Deals of 4-6 years and upwards of $180 million have been rumored to be what Arrieta is searching for. But in the prime of his career, it will be interesting to see what Arrieta values more: financial security or World Series aspirations. Look for Arrieta to have his cake and eat it too.

Prediction: Twins

Yu Darvish

After making 31 starts last season, Yu Darvish is out to prove he’s worth an ace’s salary and workload. He pitched to a 4.01 ERA with the Rangers in 2017, but pitched well for the Dodgers after being moved at the trade deadline.

But all of that work in the regular season won’t be able to change what Darvish did in the postseason. After two solid starts against the Diamondbacks and the Cubs, Darvish imploded on the biggest stage in baseball; the World Series.

In two starts against the Astros, Darvish posted a 21.60 ERA in only 3.1 innings pitched. Even in those limited innings, it’s the last impression the baseball world has of Darvish. He has been rumored to make a return to Los Angeles, but with the reacquisition of Matt Kemp, those rumors may be put to rest.

The Astros, Yankees, Cubs and Twins seem to be his remaining suitors. After bludgeoning him in the World Series, the Astros don’t seem like a good fit. The Cubs could really use a replacement for Arrieta though.

Prediction: Cubs

J.D. Martinez

MLB free agency 2018

J.D. Martinez is still looking for a long-term deal. (Photo from Arizona Sports)

The failed Astro and successful Tiger and Diamondback is looking to cash in coming off one of the best seasons of his career. After being sent from Detroit to Arizona, Martinez proceeded to tear the cover off of the ball for the remainder of the season. In 62 games with the Diamondbacks, Martinez blasted 29 bombs and slugged .741. Those are eye-popping numbers and are good enough to earn him a big pay day. At least, they seem to be.

Martinez has also been slow on receiving long term offers, with the Boston Red Sox five-year deal being the only one reported. Granted, there are other teams interested, like the Diamondbacks, Blue Jays and Giants, but they have yet to make a concerted effort to acquire Martinez.

The Giants seem like the best fit, with them in win-now mode after trading for Evan Longoria. But something special is brewing in the desert, and the Diamondbacks don’t want to change that recipe.

Prediction: Diamondbacks

Eric Hosmer

For Eric Hosmer and the Kansas City Royals, the World Series parade of 2015 seems long ago. Hosmer is now a free agent, and the Royals face one of the toughest rebuilds in the majors.

Even so, it is because of Hosmer. The 2017 season was arguably the best in Hosmer’s career, as he posted career highs in batting average (.318) and OPS+ (132). Coming off a career year like that, Hosmer will look to get paid this offseason.

But even coming off the best year of his career isn’t enough to move the market on Hosmer. Just like every other major free agent, Hosmer still sits unsigned as Spring Training inches ever closer. He does have one advantage over his contemporaries though; multiple long term offers.

Both the Padres and Royals are rumored to have offered the first baseman seven-year deals of more than $140 million. While the Royals offer seems to be chasing what they already had, the Padres offer seems like a chase of what could be.

With the Padres on the rise (one of the best farms systems in baseball) and the Royals on the decline (one of the worst farm systems in baseball), Hosmer will have to decide on where his loyalties lie.

Prediction: Royals

 

Feature image by Julie Jacobson/AP Photo. 

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Ohtani

Where will Shohei Ohtani land?

Shohei Ohtani is the king of the offseason at the moment. The MLB has not seen anything like him since Babe Ruth was smacking home runs nearly a century ago. Ohtani has the potential to be a two-way star, so when he was posted, every team in the majors wanted a piece of him. Right away though, Ohtani has slashed the field down to seven teams already. Out of those seven teams, where might he sign?

The only two teams that are deeper into the mainland of the United States who still remain are the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. The other five teams are the San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani prefers the west coast

The west coast has a much more prevalent Japanese population compared to elsewhere in the country. On top of that, it would be closest to his homeland. Ohtani has already informed 23 teams that he would not sign with them, and they almost all are outside of the west coast.

You can’t blame Ohtani for picking the California teams as well as Seattle, as he still wants to remain close to his roots and there is nothing wrong with that. The 23-year-old has the freedom to choose whatever team he wants as he is the hottest commodity this offseason. Many people thought that his preference would have to do with money or a DH, but it always came down to geography for him.

Which teams fit?

Shohei Ohtani

Dipoto and the Mariners have been working on their pitch for Ohtani all year long (Photo Courtesy of NW Sports Beat)

The DH position may be more in Ohtani’s scope now that he has narrowed down the west coast. Money is not a huge factor at this point though. Due to rules on rookie contracts, there is only so much money he can make at first. That is, he will make the maximum salary for a rookie the first three years before he is available for arbitration.

It has also been reported by the New York Times that Ohtani prefers a smaller market. Considering Los Angeles does not fit that bill, it will be unlikely he goes to the Angels or Dodgers even though he is expected to meet with both teams.

Although it has not been reported how big of a factor the DH is, it would not be wild to assume that an American League team would make much more sense for the Japanese star. That would knock out the Padres, Cubs and Giants from the Ohtani sweepstakes. The Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers would the remaining candidates.

The Mariners have a history of Japanese ballplayers playing for them. Most notably, one of the all-time baseball greats, Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro built up a real reputation for players across the pond, as if you were to combine his NPB and MLB hits, he would have the most in baseball history. Along with that, the Mariners fit the bill for being on the West Coast, more so than the Texas Rangers.

That is why the Mariners are the most likely destination for Ohtani. Seattle is not far off from being a contending team, so a spark from Ohtani could boost them into the playoffs.

How will Ohtani translate to the MLB?

Shohei Ohtani

MLB teams will try to figure a way to get Ohtani’s bat into the lineup (Photo courtesy of Kazuhiro Nogi–Getty Images)

There doesn’t seem to be much of a question that Ohtani’s pitching will translate to the United States. He has an impressive strikeout to walk ratio and has a career 2.52 ERA in his five seasons in the NPB.

Some wonder if his hitting will be at the same level in the major leagues. He has been able to hit over .300 the past two seasons, and has shown signs of power as well. It would be hard to believe him not getting steady opportunities throughout 2018 to prove his ability at the plate.

The one thing that Ohtani is not custom to is the grueling process of a 162-game season. Also, the month of spring training along with a month long playoff can be very physically demanding. Former NFL and MLB athlete, Brian Jordan, stated that playing a 162-game baseball season is one of the toughest things to do in sports.

Ohtani has not come too close to that mark, however he may not when he is playing in the majors anyway. In order to ensure he is an effective pitcher and hitter, it will be imperative that the coaching staff is able to manage his fatigue well in order to get maximum effectiveness from the star.

Overall, Ohtani could prove to be one of the best players that has come from Japan. Only time will tell if he will be able to make the jump to the majors, but signing with Seattle could give him the opportunity to showcase everything he has in a place he would be happy to be.

 

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