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Scouting the Triple-A Philadelphia Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A team is stacked with elite prospects.  I had a chance to catch their first series in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last week and counted six positional players that will see time in the major leagues; some as early as this year.

I’ve been lucky enough to see many of these players throughout their career and it was interesting to see them in the final step of their development process.  Some are nearly ready (Roman Quinn and Jorge Alfaro) and others, J.P. Crawford in particularly, looked lost and need more development time.

I hope you enjoy the updates on each player and as usual, I look forward to your feedback.

Roman Quinn (OF)

I’ve long been a huge fan of Roman Quinn.  He’s one of the most athletic players that I’ve scouted and has really grown as a player.  He started his career as a shortstop but the Phillies asked him to move to the outfield where he’s become a very good defender.  His routes still need work, but his 80-grade speed allows him to recover.

Offensively, his stand out tool is his speed.  I clocked him at 3.87 from the left-side when he reached on an error made by the shortstop.  He quickly stole second on a walking lead.  It was an easy steal with the Yankees catcher, Wilkin Castillo, having no chance.

While he has below-average power, he’s not void of strength; with more power from his natural right-side.  While I believe he’ll hit five to eight home runs annually, he’ll also hit plenty of doubles that will pump-up his slugging by turning many of those doubles into triples.  His approach continues to be sound, although as with many of his teammates, he’s up there looking to swing the pole.  Since he’ll likely hit at the top of the lineup, improving his plate discipline becomes a critical aspect of his final development.

The best news is that he’s healthy and today is a defensive upgrade in centerfield over Odubel Herrera.  I think we should see him as soon as May, or early June in the big leagues and with his speed, he has a chance to provide instant fantasy goodness.

J.P. Crawford (SS)

In the past, I’ve seen J.P. Crawford in Low-A and Double-A, and each time I’ve come away thinking…he’s going to be a star.  His hit-tool is plus with the ability to control the strike-zone and while his power has yet to develop, I think he could eventually hit double-digit home runs.  I’ve likened him to Francisco Lindor, however that was before Lindor developed way more power than I thought was possible.  But my point is, he’s an elite talent.

Last week, J.P. Crawford looked overmatched.  It was the first time I had ever seen this.  Chad Green had him completely off-balance and consequently, he had no chance against his change-up.  He started guessing and it ended poorly in each at-bat.  What was also disappointing is that Crawford looked defeated.  I’m sure he wasn’t, but when you start to guess at the plate, it’s easy to determine that you’re just not ready for the next step.

Have I turned on Crawford?  No.  Everyone struggles…well, most everyone does (thank you Mr. Trout) and it’s just part of the development process.  What I do know is he’s not ready and I doubt he sees Philadelphia for anything more than a September call-up.

Jorge Alfaro (C)

Jorge Alfaro is one of the most tooled-up players in the minor leagues.   He has two legitimate double-plus tools in his bat-speed and arm-strength.  To-date, he’s always struggled with his approach at the plate and more importantly with his catching skills; both pitch framing and blocking.  These are the primary reasons that he has yet to make his way to the big leagues.  It’s just been taking him a while to hone his craft.  In fact, in feels like I’ve been talking about him for years…wait…

From what I saw last week, he’s nearly ready.  First, he looks like a different player behind the plate.  He use to stab at balls and now he’s quieter and in better position to give a good target to the pitcher.  The transformation reminds me of Gary Sanchez.  When I saw Sanchez in the minors, I thought he couldn’t catch and even suggested a move to first base or even right-field would be in the cards.  But, he improved to the point of being a solid-average defender and I think that’s where Alfaro is heading.

Offensively, his approach is still aggressive but he’s making better contact and really put on a show in batting practice.  If he doesn’t improve his approach, he might post a sub-300 OBP but I think he has enough natural hitting ability to produce a solid .260 batting average.  With his bat-speed, throw in 20 plus home runs and you have the makings of first division starter or maybe more.

Dylan Cozens (OF)

It was only my second time seeing Dylan Cozens, but I left with the same impression I had when I saw him last year.  I’m not sure the hit-tool will play enough for him to get to his power.

In a nut-shell, he’s stiff at the plate, doesn’t use his lower-half very well and has a lot of length in his swing.  The net result will be a lot of pressure on his batting average.  The good news for Cozens is that he has plus raw power.  The power doesn’t come from bat speed but instead, he’s just a really big, and powerfully built guy.  The other good news for Cozens is this is a profile of a lot of big leaguers.  Big swing and miss but power to spare.

I think the upside is an Aaron Judge type of player.  Judge clearly has massive raw power and when he gets his arms extended, can hit the ball as hard as anyone in the league.  The open question for him: will it come with a .200 batting average.  I don’t think we know yet and the same question will follow Cozens.  From what I’ve seen, I also don’t think Cozens has the same level of athleticism I’ve seen in Judge.  In the end, that might be the separator.

Rhys Hoskins (1B)

Rhys Hoskins hit behind Dylan Cozens in the lineup and while Cozens has gotten more “press” than Hoskins, I think Hoskins will be the better major league player.  The simple reason is I think the hit-tool is grade better.  He tracks the ball better and has superior hand-eye coordination.

He’s not as physically imposing as Cozens, who is just a massive human, but has a large lower-half that he uses well.  I think he profiles as a classic right-handed first baseman with the chance to hit 25 plus home runs and bat .250.  That’s not an all-star profile, particularly in today’s game, but it might be enough to allow him to get regular at-bats at the highest level.  As a negative comp, he could be Matt Adams.

Nick Williams (OF)

Nick Williams has been on my Top 100 list for years, and with good reason.  He has plus bat speed, runs well, and has always been able to make contact.  Where he’s struggled is with this approach.  He just loves to swing the pole.

I saw him in four at-bats and he took two balls.  He swung at everything.    This is no different than when I saw him three years ago in the Carolina League, two years ago in the Arizona Fall League and last year in his first tour of duty in Triple-A.    Before the game, one of my readers asked me to check on his swing as they had heard it had been rebuilt.  Well, I didn’t compare his swing with my previous encounters, but in my opinion, the problem has never been with his swing.

He has a small load and gets his hands in good position to hit.  Everything from my viewpoint looks fine.  It’s the approach.  He expands the strike zone too much and if he doesn’t correct that, he’ll get picked apart by pitchers at the next level.

What I find frustrating is that of all the players on this squad, he has the highest offensive upside.  The bat speed is impressive, he can run and his ability to make contact is impressive.  However, if you’re chasing bad pitches and getting yourself into poor hitting counts, that contact can quickly become weak contact.

Mark Appel (RHP)

Every time I see Mark Appel pitch, I’m left with the impression that – “he should be better than this”.  He’s got great size, a clean delivery, three solid, if not plus pitches, and in general, throws strikes.  Yet, he hasn’t posted an ERA below 4.00 since he appeared in eight games in Low-A four years ago.

When I asked a scout with whom I was sitting with, his thoughts on Appel, he simply said…”hitters just see the ball too well off of him”.  Candidly, it’s really not much more complicated than that.  Yeah, he needs to work on his fastball command, but in the end, there’s no deception in his delivery and his fastball just comes out straight.

I’ve said this before and in turn I’ve received feedback from my readers asking …”why doesn’t he just change his delivery?” Well, that’s easier said than done.  He’s been doing the same delivery since he was a teenager, maybe longer and while he’s moved around the rubber, it’s not been enough to make a difference.

Call me crazy and I’ll show you my Dynasty League rosters to prove the point, I’m still not ready to give up on Appel.  I think at some point, he’ll add a two-seamer, a cut fastball, or some deception in his delivery that will enable him to become an effective major league pitcher.  Look, I’ve given up on him being a “One” and that was confirmed last week.  But, I still think he can become a solid, mid-rotation starter.  And hey, I own him now in three Dynasty Leagues and I picked him off the waiver wire.  I’ll take that gamble any day.

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Week 3 Waiver Wire Pickups

Our Week 3 waiver wire pickups are now available.  You can access them here.

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Week 2 Waiver Wire Pickups

Our week two waiver wire pickups can be found here.

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Week 1 Waiver Wire Pickups

The start of the season is here and so are our waiver wire pickups.  Click here to access them.

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2017 NL Impact Rookies

While the AL Rookie List published earlier this week had some promising kids who should contribute this year, our NL Impact Rookies list is deeper with some significant talent.  If you think about it, it makes sense as there have been several teams in the National League rebuilding over the past few years and now there is talent waiting to emerge.  However, there is no Kris Bryant or Bryce Harper level of talent but instead some very nice players who should provide impact to your fantasy teams in 2017.

I hope the list helps you in drafting your re-draft leagues and as always, I look forward to your feedback.

Significant Impact

Dansby Swanson (ATL, SS) – 550 AB, .285 BA, 14 HR, 17 SB, and 90 Runs

While the ceiling is not that of a perennial all-star, Dansby Swanson is really good.  He should be a high average player with 15-20 home run and stolen base potential with plenty of runs scored.   He’s going to be a mainstay in the Braves lineup and fantasy leagues for a long time.

Manny Margot (SD, OF) – 425 AB, .280 BA, 3 HR, 24 SB, and 65 Runs

I’ve long been a fan of Manny Margot and believe he will be an exciting leadoff batter in the league for years.  He has plus speed and excellent barrel control that should lead to a high batting average.  He’ll likely start the year in Triple-A but I’m anticipating a May call-up.

Robert Gsellman (NYM, RHP) – 20 GS, 7 wins, 3.60 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 130 Strikeouts

The Mets have become a pitching factory and while Robert Gsellman might not have the stuff of some of their current studs, he’s good…really good.  He’ll get his chance and it could be right out of the gate.

Cody Bellinger (LAD, 1B/OF) – 350 AB, .270 BA, 19 HR, 5 SB, and 60 RBIs

It’s a risk to put Cody Bellinger in the “Significant Impact” category but I expect him to be promoted mid-season and contribute immediately.  He has 25 to 30 home run potential with a little bit of speed to make things even more appealing.  He should be drafted in all leagues and not be left to the luck of the FAAB process.

Josh Bell (PIT, 1B) – 550 AB, .265 BA, 18 HR, and 75 RBIs

Josh Bell or John Jaso?  I’m betting Bell gets most of the playing time at first base for the Pirates and while Swanson starts the season as the leading candidate for NL ROY, don’t be surprised if Bell passes him.  He’s a patient hitter with plus power that should lead to several all-star appearances in his career.

Hunter Renfroe (SD, OF) – 300 AB, .220 BA, 11 HR, and 35 RBIs

I’m just not sure about Renfroe.  First, he is country strong with the chance to hit 30 or more home runs annually.  But the approach is poor and he could bat .240 with a .270 OBP.  Is that a profile of a first division player?  Is that a guy you want on your fantasy team?  I think the answer is maybe to both questions.  I would temper my expectation and expect some ups and downs this year, perhaps even some time in the minor leagues.

Could show flashes

Brock Stewart (LAD, RHP) – 16 GS, 6 Wins, 3.50 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 115 Strikeouts

Brock Stewart emerged last year as a legitimate starting pitching option for the Dodgers.  He flashed his potential and should continue to get opportunities in 2017.  He’ll likely need an injury to get playing time.  However, if you’ve looked at the Dodgers starting rotation lately, that seems likely.  Go check…I’ll wait…

Alen Hanson (PIT, 2B) – 250 AB, .265 BA, 4 HR, 18 SB, and 40 Runs

I saw both Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco in Low-A in 2012 and Hanson was the better player.  Spin forward five years and Polanco has $35 million dollars in the bank and Hanson is still trying to establish himself.  He’s out-of-options so he should get a chance this year.  Unfortunately, it’s likely to be in a utility role.  However, he has fantasy friendly skills and with an opportunity, he could impact your fantasy team.

Jesse Winker (CIN, OF) – 300 AB, .290 BA, 6 HRs, and 45 RBIs

Winker is an on-base machine in the mold of Kevin Youkilis.  The question is will he have enough power to make an impact in the major leagues.  While he’s flashed power in the past, he’s never showed it consistently and I expect that to continue, at least early in his career.

Roman Quinn (PHI, OF) – 250 AB, .270 BA, 25 SB, and 35 Runs

With Odubel Herrera’s struggles in center field, Roman Quinn should have a good shot at starting at some point this season.  His problem has always been health and if he can just keep his body in tact, his speed could provide impact to fantasy owners.

J.P. Crawford (PHI, SS) – 300 AB, .280 BA, 4 HRs, 9 SB, and 40 Runs

While the power has yet to develop, Crawford has proven he can hit and that should be enough to get him to the major leagues in 2017.  You might have to wait on the secondary tools for a while but I still think long-term, the production will be worth it.

Jorge Alfaro (PHI, C) – 275 AB, .250 BA, 8 HRs, 3 SB, and 40 RBIs

Alfaro has some of the best tools for a catcher in the minor leagues.  He has plus raw power and a canon for an arm.  He still needs to work on his approach at the plate but he should see significant playing time in the second half in Philadelphia.

Tom Murphy (COL, C) – 250 AB, .240 BA, 11 HRs, and 40 RBIs

Assuming he stays healthy, Murphy should get significant playing time in Colorado this year.  He has plus power but will strikeout a fair amount.  In other words, he’s a catcher.

I wrote the above paragraph before it was reported that Murphy fractured his hand and will miss the first 4 to 6 weeks of the season.  So frustrating!  I’ve adjusted his stat line accordingly.

Tyler Beede (SF, RHP) – 15 GS, 6 Wins, 3.90 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 110 Strikeouts

Beede should see San Francisco by mid-season and could hit the ground running.  He doesn’t have overwhelming stuff but knows how to pitch and has AT&T Park at his back.

Josh Hader (MIL, RHP) – 80 IP, 4.10 ERA, 1.35 ERA and 100 Strikeouts

Is Josh Hader the next Chris Sale or a bullpen arm?  I’m betting on the latter but Hader should see time in the Brewers rotation at some point this year.  I’m not sure how good he will be, but if you’ve never seen him pitch, the highlights WILL impress you.  His stuff, particularly against lefties is indeed impressive.

May need more time, but…

Erick Fedde (WAS, RHP)

With the trade of Lucas Giolito, Fedde becomes the top pitching prospect in the Washington Nationals system.  He only has 29.1 innings above High-A but is a polished 24-years-old college pitcher who is now two years removed from Tommy John Surgery.  Don’t be surprised if you see him in the second half of the season and also don’t be surprised if he shoves it.

Tyler Glasnow (PIT, RHP)

Glasnow did not pitch well in his only spring training outing to-date and needs to step it up if he’s to make the rotation out of spring training.  The stuff is undeniable but he continues to struggle with his control as he learns to sync his 6-foot-8 body with his pitching mechanics.  I’m confident he’ll get it, but I doubt it will be this season.

Austin Meadows (PIT, OF)

There’s no room in Pittsburgh for the talented Austin Meadows to play but with an injury OR a trade of Andrew McCutchen, he would get the call.  Of course one of those events would have to occur after mid-June as after all, it’s the Pirates.  He’s a hit-first player with more double-power than over-the-fence power, but I still see a 20/20 player once he learns to put more backspin of the ball.

Lewis Brinson (MIL, OF)

I’ve long had a man crush on the uber-talented Lewis Brinson but with the emergence of Keon Broxton, which I still don’t fully believe, the Brewers can marinate Brinson a little longer in Triple-A.  Once promoted, I expect him to start slow and be an up-and-down guy for the first year or two.  Long-term, I think he figures it out with an upside of Carlos Gomez (the good one).

Dom Smith (NYM, 1B)

Dom Smith has the upside of an all-star, gold glove first baseman.  The power has started to emerge and I believe it will continue with a chance to hit 20 plus home runs annually.  Terry Collins doesn’t have a good track record with rookies but Smith is more polished than other rookies who have “served at the discretion of the manager”.  Plus, Duda is always injured and Wilmer Flores…well, is Wilmer Flores, so I think he gets the call.

Nick Williams (PHI, OF)

Nick Williams is the poster child for an uber-talented player with a poor approach who got buzz-sawed once he moved to Triple-A.  If he’s promoted to the major leagues now, the results will be even worse.  Fix the approach and he’s an all-star.  Regardless, I think he gets a chance this year.  I’m just not sure what the results will be.

Sleepers

Alex Verdugo (LAD, OF)

I think by mid season, Cody Bellinger will be locked into an outfield spot and Alex Verdugo could be chomping at the bit.  He has 20/20 upside with great contactability.  My one concern is Brett Lawrie…he kind of reminds me of him.  Tatted up and intense.  Stereotyping?  Unfair?  Perhaps, but that’s what he reminded me of when I saw him in the Arizona Fall League.  Just saying…

Anthony Banda (ARI, RHP)

A Diamondback on a list?  Yep…  Look, Anthony Banda doesn’t have huge upside and he’ll play in the desert, but sometimes #4’s can catch fire when they get promoted.  Perhaps he does.

Ozzie Albies (ATL, 2B)

I cleverly, I thought, drafted Ozzie Albies late in my NFBC draft-and-hold league.  That was before the Braves traded for Brandon Phillips.  The move makes it unlikely Albies gets the call this year, but a lot can happen in six months and Albies can hit with double-plus speed, so keep him on your short list.

Ian Happ (CHC, 2B)

Ian Happ seems like the perfect guy to get dealt at the trading deadline.  There’s no room in Chicago for him and he’s nearly ready for the show.   If and when the trade occurs, fantasy owners need to jump.  He has 20 home run potential with a little speed and a pretty good understanding of the strike zone.  He does strikeout too much, averaging a 23% strikeout rate for his career.  If he can push that to a one-handle, the upside goes way up.

Nick Senzel (CIN, 3B)

Nick Senzel can hit.  He hit in college and he’s hit at every level in the minor leagues.  While there’s no reason for the Reds to promote him, I think they just might.  When they do, there is plenty of fantasy goodness to be had.

Brett Phillips (MIL, OF)

The development of a player is rarely linear.  There are growth spurts and setbacks.  2016 was a setback for Phillips as he posted an ugly 30% strikeout rate in Double-A.  He’s a better player than that but has clearly lost his way and needs to re-work his swing.  Assuming he does, he has a nice combination of speed and power that will play well on a fantasy team.

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2017 AL Impact Rookies

While the crop of young talent waiting to make their mark in the major leagues is not what it was just two year ago, 2017 still has a number of players who should make an impact.  I’ve broken the list down into players that will likely start the season off in the majors, players who will be called up mid-season, and then players that will see playing time at some point but I just can’t tell you when.

I hope the list helps you in drafting your re-draft leagues and as always, I look forward to your feedback.

Significant Impact

Andrew Benintendi (BOS, OF) – 500 AB, .280 BA, 17 HR, 22 SB and 90 Runs

Benintendi just started to scratch the surface last year on the impact he can have in the major leagues.  He’s hit at every level and I believe he’ll hit right out of the gate this year.  There is 20 plus home run potential in the bat and while I think he’ll show some pop this year, it might be 2018-19 before we see his full breakout.

Lucas Giolito (CHW, RHP) – 25 GS, 3.60 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 10 Wins, and 160 Strikeouts

While moving to the American League usually hurts pitchers, in Lucas Giolito case, it actually will help him as he will be under the watchful eye of White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.  The stuff remains elite and with improved command, the ceiling is still a top-of-the-rotation arm.

Mitch Haniger (SEA, OF) – 500 AB, .260 BA, 25 HR, 8 SB, and 90 RBI

The sneaky player in the Jean Segura for Taijuan Walker trade over the winter was Mitch Haniger.  He’ll have the full-time gig out of the gate and should hit enough to get to his plus power.  He’s been a late bloomer and that rose should continue to blossom during 2017.

Dan Vogelbach (SEA, 1B) – 450 AB, .280 BA, 18 HR, 75 RBI

After toiling in the Cubs organization for years with no chance to see the major leagues, Dan Vogelbach was traded to Seattle and will get his chance to contribute in 2017.  He can really hit with plus power and while he’s a poor defender, I think the Mariners will find a place for his bat in the lineup.

Jharel Cotton (OAK, RHP) – 25 GS, 3.75 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 9 Wins, and 145 Strikeouts

Jharel Cotton was my deep sleeper in last year’s rookie write-up and once promoted, flashed the potential I thought he had.  He’s developed a cutter to go along with his plus change-up and at least for now, will be hard to hit.  He could be really good this year with a chance to challenge Benintendi for rookie of the year.

Could show flashes

Reynaldo Lopez (CHW, RHP) – 15 GS, 3.90 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 7 Wins, and 100 strikeouts

Lopez has a tremendous arm but his size and lack of incorporating his lower half has always bothered me.  If Don Cooper can fix the delivery, Lopez upside becomes Marcus Stroman.  If he can’t, he’s likely a bullpen arm; but, a potential dominate closer.

Jose De Leon (TB, RHP) – 15 GS, 3.75 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 5 Wins, and 80 strikeouts

De Leon will be a very good pitcher but lacks the stuff to be a true top-of-the-rotation arm.  Unless he signs a team-friendly deal, he’ll start the year in the minor leagues with a likely mid-June call-up.  The upside is a solid mid-rotation starter; not bad for a 24th round pick.

Aaron Judge (NYY, OF) – 400 AB, .235 BA, 18 HR, and 55 RBIs

Judge’s power is undeniable, but his swing-and-miss could provide a significant stumbling block as he begins his major league career.  It will come down to his ability to adjust and close up the holes that his long swing presents.  For the record, I’m worried.

Yoan Moncada (CHW, 3B) – 300 AB, .240 BA, 7 HR, 15 SB, and 40 Runs

Nobody has more upside in the minor leagues than Yoan Moncada.  The physical tools are impressive but so is his ability to strikeout.  Currently, there are a lot of holes in his swing, but once he learns to adjust to pitches inside, he could become a force.  That said, there is a non-zero chance he hits his ceiling.  But if he does…

Francis Martes (Hou, RHP) – 12 GS, 4.25 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 5 Wins, and 80 strikeouts

The Astros love Francis Martes and have refused to move him in the quest for acquiring a big-time starting pitcher.  He’s a big boy with big boy stuff but control issues will likely plague him early in his career.  I don’t see a major contribution from him in 2017, but 2018 and 2019 could be a different story.

Brad Zimmer (CLE, OF) – 250 AB, .250 BA, 10 HR, and 10 SB

Zimmer has very fantasy friendly tools but his inability to hit lefties has become a problem.  His stock has dropped and that could present an interesting buying opportunity for fantasy owners.  The upside is 20/20 and while I don’t think he comes close to that this year, I will continue to monitor.

May need more time, but…

Tyler O’Neill (SEA, OF)

I came away very impressed with O’Neill after seeing him in the AFL last fall.  There is big time power and he could see platoon time in the outfield if Jarrod Dyson proves he can’t he left-handers or if Mitch Haniger falters.

Franklin Barreto (OAK, SS/2B)

I’ve long been a fan of Franklin Barreto and while he’s primarily played shortstop in his career, he could slide over to second and see playing time in Oakland in the second half.  He has a nice combination of power and speed but as he fills out, that 20/20 potential could turn into 25/10 very quickly.

Sleepers

Zack Burdi (CHW, RP)

If you believe, like I do that David Robertson will not see September in Chicago, then Zack Burdi is a guy to monitor.  The White Sox have moved him quickly through their system and he should start the year in Charlotte.  He’s good, really good and could see save opportunities in the second half.

Joe Jimenez (DET, RP)

Frankie Rodriguez is the closer in Detroit, but you see older closers get moved all the time in the second half.  If that happens, Joe Jimenez could get a shot to close games.  He’s a name to clearly monitor, particularly if the Tigers get off to a slow start.

Derek Fisher (HOU, OF)

Fisher is really good, but yet he gets no love.  I think he has a chance to be a significant force, particularly in fantasy baseball with his combination of speed and power.  I think he finally gets a chance this year and the rest as they say…will be history.

Hunter Dozier (KC, 3B)

Hunter Dozier doesn’t have the highest upside on this list but makes hard contact with a chance to hit 20 home runs annually.  If the Royals decide to start selling off pieces, he could get a look in the second half with a chance to pop a few home runs in the process.

 

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2017 Fantasy Starting Pitcher Rankings

Our ranking of the 2017 Fantasy Starting Pitchers is now available.  Click here to read.