Every Team’s Biggest Draft Steal of the 21st Century

Yesterday I listed each team’s biggest miss in the Draft. Today we’re going to be a little more positive. We’re going to take a look at the biggest steal for each team since 2000. Some ground rules for this. First off, the steal cannot come in the first two rounds, so Brett Favre and Drew Brees going in the second round will not qualify. The 2017 draft class will once again be excluded because even though guys like Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara shined as rookies despite being later picks, we don’t know if they were just flashes in the pan yet. Later rounders will also carry more weight when I consider this, so a steal in the 7th will be worth much more than a steal in the 3rd. Also, their candidacy as a steal applies only for the team that drafted them. So even if Favre were eligible as a steal, he was drafted by the Falcons and traded after his rookie year. I will also be including some players who were taken before the steal in question that were much less successful in their careers to hype up the steal.

Cleveland Browns-Ahtyba Rubin-DL-Iowa State (190th Overall in 2008)

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Not a flashy name by any means, but Rubin has quietly been one of the best interior defensive linemen for some time. He’s a space eater and made life for Browns linebackers much easier.

Players picked ahead of him: Glenn Dorsey-LSU, Sedrick Ellis-USC, Kentwan Balmer-North Carolina, Trevor Laws-Notre Dame, Andre Fluellen-Florida State, Marcus Harrison-Arkansas, Dre Moore-Maryland, DeMario Presley-North Carolina State, Jason Shirley-Fresno State, Carlton Powell-Virginia Tech

New York Giants-Justin Tuck-EDGE-Notre Dame (74th Overall in 2005)

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I still get nightmares over Justin Tuck’s performance in Super Bowl XLII. He absolutely battered the Patriots offensive line in that game and, quite frankly, I think Eli Manning won Super Bowl MVP for that game due to quarterback bias. Tuck was the biggest reason the Giants pulled off the biggest upset in recent memory and he parlayed that success into an excellent NFL career.

Players picked ahead of him: Erasmus James-Wisconsin, Matt Roth-Iowa, Dan Cody-Oklahoma

New York Jets-Demario Davis-LB-Arkansas State (77th Overall in 2012)

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During training camp of his rookie year, Davis was compared to Ray Lewis by his own head coach, Rex Ryan. Pretty high praise for a rookie third rounder out of tiny Arkansas State. Davis hasn’t quite been Ray Lewis, but he’s been one of the best linebackers in the game since he entered it in 2012.

Players picked ahead of him: Nobody ahead of him really sucked, 2012 was a REALLY good year for linebackers.

Houston Texans-Eric Winston-OT-Miami (FL) (66th Overall in 2006)

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This was almost Glover Quin, but I had to go with Winston for two reasons. Number 1, he’s been one of the best right tackles in the game seemingly from the get-go. Number 2, he’s so well-respected around the league that he’s the player’s representative in the Players Association. He’s one of the main guys that negotiates new deals with the NFL. Hard to argue with that.

Players picked ahead of him: Winston Justice-USC, Daryn Colledge-Boise State, Marcus McNeill-Auburn

Denver Broncos-Malik Jackson-DL-Tennessee (137th Overall in 2012)

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There were a lot of options for this spot, such as Brandon Marshall (the wide receiver) and Elvis Dumervil, but I’m going with Jackson just because he went much later than the other two. Jackson has been a dominant force on the interior defensive line for both the Broncos and the Jaguars.

Players picked ahead of him: Kendall Reyes-UConn, Jerel Worthy-Michigan State, Devon Still-Penn State, Mike Martin-Michigan, John Hughes-Cincinnati, Alameda Ta’amu-Washington

Indianapolis Colts-TY Hilton-WR-FIU (92nd Overall in 2012)

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This could’ve been Pierre Garcon or Antoine Bethea, but Hilton hit the ground running as a rookie and he’s been the Colts’ best offensive player and one of the top receivers in the league. In fact, I would argue that he’s the Colts’ best player, period.

Players picked ahead of him: Justin Blackmon-Oklahoma State, Jonathan Baldwin-Pittsburgh, AJ Jenkins-Illinois, Stephen Hill-Georgia Tech, Ryan Broyles-Oklahoma, DeVier Posey-Ohio State

Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Kwon Alexander-LB-LSU (124th Overall in 2015)

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Alexander is one of the most underrated linebackers in the game and he’s formed a deadly 1-2 punch with Lavonte David in Tampa’s linebacking group.

Players picked ahead of him: Stephone Anthony-Clemson, Paul Dawson-TCU, Ramik Wilson-Georgia

Chicago Bears-Jordan Howard-RB-Indiana (150th Overall in 2016)

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This might be a little bit of a bias because we’re both IU guys, but Howard IS the Chicago Bears right now. The entire offense has revolved around him since he took over the starting job as a rookie, when he finished 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards.

Players picked ahead of him: Tyler Ervin-San Jose State, Kenneth Dixon-Louisiana Tech, Paul Perkins-UCLA

San Francisco 49ers-Frank Gore-RB-Miami (FL) (65th Overall in 2005)

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I really wanted to pick NaVorro Bowman or Delanie Walker, mainly because Gore is the earliest pick in this steals list (he was the first pick of the 3rd round). But Gore is the all-time leading rusher for one of the most storied franchises in NFL history. That’s going to win out. Plus, most of Walker’s success came with the Titans.

Players picked ahead of him: Ronnie Brown-Auburn, Cedric Benson-Texas, Cadillac Williams-Auburn, JJ Arrington-California, Eric Shelton-Louisville

Oakland Raiders-Jared Veldheer-OT-Hillsdale (69th Overall in 2010)

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Veldheer went to Hillsdale, a college I’ve never heard of, yet was still a third round pick. Not only that, but he’s been one of the best tackles in the game. There weren’t a ton of options for the Raiders, whose draft track record this millennium has been pretty poor. But Veldheer was definitely a steal.

Players picked ahead of him: Vlad Ducasse-UMass, Charles Brown-USC

Miami Dolphins-Lamar Miller-RB-Miami (FL) (97th Overall in 2012)

of the game at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

This was almost Jay Ajayi, however Ajayi got traded midway through last season to the Eagles after ineffectiveness and attitude, so Miller’s going to get the nod. He was able to turn his success with the Dolphins into a big contract with the Texans. This also could’ve been Olivier Vernon, but I thought Vernon’s best year came with the Giants this past season and he was kind of irrelevant for most of his Dolphins career.

Players picked ahead of him: Trent Richardson-Alabama, David Wilson-Virginia Tech, Isaiah Pead-Cincinnati, LaMichael James-Oregon

Buffalo Bills-Kyle Williams-DL-LSU (134th Overall in 2006)

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Williams has been one of the best defensive tackles and personalities in the game and it says a lot about a guy when he was a 5th round pick in 2006 and he’s still with the team that drafted him. Williams finally made it to the postseason for the first time in his career last season and watching it unfold was a joy.

Players picked ahead of him: Brodrick Bunkley-Florida State, John McCargo-North Carolina State, Claude Wroten-LSU, Dusty Dvoracek-Oklahoma, Gabe Watson-Michigan, Orien Harris-Miami (FL)

Washington Redskins-Kirk Cousins-QB-Michigan State (102nd Overall in 2012)

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Cousins never got the respect he deserved from the Redskins organization. He wasn’t even the first quarterback Washington took in that year’s draft (he went 100 picks after RG3) and they refused to give him the extension he wanted despite his being the best quarterback they’d had in some time. Cousins just got a huge deal with the Vikings, though so we’ll have to see how that goes.

Players picked ahead of him: Brandon Weeden-Oklahoma State, Brock Osweiler-Arizona State

Green Bay Packers-Mike Daniels-DL-Iowa (132nd Overall in 2012)

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Daniels has been the enforcer on the Packers defense and has wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines for years.

Players picked ahead of him: See Malik Jackson (Daniels was the DL taken right before Jackson)

Arizona Cardinals-Tyrann Mathieu-S-LSU (69th Overall in 2013)

XXX at University of Phoenix Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.

This was ALMOST David Johnson, who might be my favorite runningback in the NFL. However Mathieu gets the nod because Johnson had one season of dominance before getting hurt last season while Mathieu had been doing it for 5 years. He just signed with the Texans, though. The Cardinals are going to miss him.

Players picked ahead of him: Matt Elam-Florida

Baltimore Ravens-Marshall Yanda-OG-Iowa (86th Overall in 2007)

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Yanda was drafted as a tackle but upon moving to guard, he flourished. Yanda is arguably the best guard in the NFL and has been for quite some time.

Players picked ahead of him: Arron Sears-Tennessee, Justin Blalock-Texas

Los Angeles Chargers-Keenan Allen-WR-California (76th Overall in 2013)

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This very easily could’ve been Darren Sproles, but I think Sproles’ best years came with the Saints. As for Allen, he’s been terrific when healthy for the Chargers. Last season he got to prove it and one could argue he’s the Chargers’ best player.

Players picked ahead of him: Cordarrelle Patterson-Tennessee, Justin Hunter-Tennessee, Aaron Dobson-Marshall

Seattle Seahawks-Richard Sherman-CB-Stanford (154th Overall in 2011)

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There are a LOT of candidates for this spot, such as Russell Wilson and Kam Chancellor, but Sherman’s getting the nod here. Sherman has been arguably the game’s best corner and he’s become the prototype for big-bodied corners in today’s game.

Players picked ahead of him: Ras-I Dowling-Virginia, Brandon Harris-Miami (FL), DeMarcus Van Dyke-Miami (FL), Johnny Patrick-Louisville, Curtis Marsh-Utah State, Chimdi Chekwa-Ohio State, Jalil Brown-Colorado, Roc Carmichael-Virginia Tech, Robert Sands-West Virginia, Brandon Burton-Southern Utah, Rod Issac-Middle Tennessee State

Dallas Cowboys-Jason Witten-TE-Tennessee (69th Overall in 2003)

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Another guy that went 69th overall. I swear I’m not doing this on purpose. But Witten is the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver despite being a tight end and he’s still going strong 15 years later. A first ballot Hall of Famer if ever there was one.

Players picked ahead of him: Bennie Joppru-Michigan, LJ Smith-Rutgers, Teyo Johnson-Stanford

Detroit Lions-Cliff Avril-EDGE-Purdue (92nd Overall in 2008)

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This one might be a bit of a stretch because Avril’s best years are probably as a Seahawk, but he was playing very well with the Lions even before getting picked up by Seattle. This easily could’ve been DeAndre Levy as well but Avril was more consistent than Levy was.

Players picked ahead of him: Vernon Gholston-Ohio State, Derrick Harvey-Florida, Lawrence Jackson-USC, Phillip Merling-Clemson, Quentin Groves-Auburn, Chris Ellis-Virginia Tech

Kansas City Chiefs-Jamaal Charles-RB-Texas (73rd Overall in 2008)

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Tyreek Hill was also considered here, but Charles wins out. Owner of the best career yards-per-carry of all time, Charles has been the most electrifying runningback in the game despite having been a third round pick.

Players picked ahead of him: Felix Jones-Arkansas, Kevin Smith-Central Florida

Cincinnati Bengals-Geno Atkins-DL-Georgia (120th Overall in 2010)

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Atkins has been one of the most dominant interior defenders since he came into the league despite being considered undersized coming out of college. Despite the fact he just turned 30, he’s shown no signs of slowing down.

Players picked ahead of him: Brian Price-UCLA, Torell Troup-Central Florida, Terrence Cody-Alabama, D’Anthony Smith-Louisiana Tech

Los Angeles Rams-Richie Incognito-OG-Oregon (81st Overall in 2005)

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Despite some apparent attitude concerns, Incognito has been one of the best guards in the league. He just retired a couple weeks ago. Incognito was a driving force on the offensive lines of the Rams, Dolphins, and Bills. This might’ve been a stretch because Incognito’s best years were probably in Buffalo, but there weren’t a ton of options to choose from for the Rams.

Players picked ahead of him: Marcus Johnson-Ole Miss

Carolina Panthers-Steve Smith-WR-Utah (74th Overall in 2001)

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Josh Norman and Charles Johnson were considered here, but Steve Smith was the face of the Panthers when he was there. Smith was able to show that his diminutive stature didn’t matter, as his leaping ability more than made up for it. He was also one of the game’s best trash talkers and he will surely be inducted into the Hall of Fame when he’s eligible.

Players picked ahead of him: David Terrell-Michigan, Koren Robinson-North Carolina State, Freddie Mitchell-UCLA, Quincy Morgan-Kansas State, Robert Ferguson-Texas A&M

Tennessee Titans-Jurrell Casey-DL-USC (77th Overall in 2011)

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People are just now starting to appreciate just how good Casey is and has been for the Titans. He’s one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game and he wreaks tons of havoc in opposing backfields.

Players picked ahead of him: Phil Taylor-Baylor, Jarvis Jenkins-Clemson, Marvin Austin-North Carolina, Terrell McClain-South Florida

Atlanta Falcons-Devonta Freeman-RB-Florida State (103rd Overall in 2014)

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Freeman broke out in his second season with the Falcons and is one of the quickest backs in the game. He and fellow draft steal Tevin Coleman form arguably the deadliest runningback 1-2 punch in the NFL. Freeman’s getting the nod over Coleman because Freeman went a round later and typically gets more touches.

Players picked ahead of him: Bishop Sankey-Washington, Tre Mason-Auburn

New Orleans Saints-Marques Colston-WR-Hofstra (252nd Overall in 2006)

at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Saints’ all-time leading receiver was drafted 4th-to-last out of a school that doesn’t even have football anymore. Had Colston played one more season, he likely would’ve joined the exclusive 10,000 yards club (he’s 241 yards away).

Players picked ahead of him: Too many to list. 28 receivers were picked before him, only about 3 or 4 of them ended up being really good.

Pittsburgh Steelers-Antonio Brown-WR-Central Michigan (195th Overall in 2010)

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What more can you say about Antonio Brown? Not a lot of people realize that the best wide receiver in the game today was drafted around the same spot as Tom Brady, just ten years later. 194 players went before a guy who makes extraordinary catches like it’s nothing.

Players picked ahead of him: Arrelious Benn-Illinois, Damian Williams-USC, Jordan Shipley-Texas, Armanti Edwards-Appalachian State, Taylor Price-Ohio, Mardy Gilyard-Cincinnati, Marcus Easley-UConn, Jacoby Ford-Clemson, David Reed-Utah, Kerry Meier-Kansas, Carlton Mitchell-South Florida, Dezmon Briscoe-Kansas

Jacksonville Jaguars-Telvin Smith-LB-Florida State (144th Overall in 2014)

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Smith has been one of the league’s very best for a while now even though he didn’t start getting the recognition he deserved until the Jaguars broke out in 2017. Smith is a sideline-to-sideline tackler and is amongst the most athletic linebackers in the game.

Players picked ahead of him: Carl Bradford-Arizona State, Khairi Fortt-California, Prince Shembo-Notre Dame

Minnesota Vikings-Everson Griffen-EDGE-USC (100th Overall in 2010)

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It took Griffen a couple of years to really get going, but now that he has he’s become the best pass rusher on arguably the league’s best defense. Stefon Diggs was also considered but I feel that Griffen is more valuable to the Vikings right now than Diggs is.

Players picked ahead of him: Alex Carrington-Arkansas State, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim-Washington

New England Patriots-Tom Brady-QB-Michigan (199th Overall in 2000)

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Biggest draft steal of all time. I’m not going to insult your intelligence by trying to defend this pick any further than that.

Players picked ahead of him: Giovanni Carmazzi-Hofstra, Chris Redman-Louisville, Tee Martin-Tennessee, Spurgon Wynn-Texas State

Philadelphia Eagles-Trent Cole-EDGE-Cincinnati (146th Overall in 2005)

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Cole was the premiere pass rusher for the Eagles for nearly a decade and for a while was the most dangerous player they had. Brian Westbrook was also considered here, but Cole’s lengthy run near the top of the pass-rushing charts gets him over the top.

Players picked ahead of him: everyone ahead of Justin Tuck as well as Vincent Burns-Kentucky, Chauncey Davis-Florida State, David McMillan-Kansas

I hope this blog was your friendly reminder that just because a guy was picked late doesn’t mean he doesn’t matter. Often times these are the guys that change franchises. So don’t sleep on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. You never know when your team picks a Tom Brady. Let me know what you think of these draft steals in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 NFL Draft Positional Rankings

With the 2018 NFL Draft just a couple weeks away, I thought I’d do things a little different. The week of the Draft (more specifically, April 26) I will have my final Mock Draft published. The week before, I’ll have my final Big Board. This week, as you can see because you’re reading it, we’ve got my positional rankings. These rankings are based on my personal feelings about each prospect. I haven’t gotten to watch film on all of them so there are a bunch that will be there based on reports I’ve read and other rankings I’ve seen. These rankings also won’t be reflective about where I think they’ll go in the Draft, as team fits and needs will play a factor in that. However, they will somewhat reflect my Big Board. So without further ado, let’s get to the positional rankings.

Quarterback

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1. Josh Rosen-UCLA

2. Sam Darnold-USC

3. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

4. Josh Allen-Wyoming

5. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

6. Lamar Jackson-Louisville

7. Luke Falk-Washington State

8. Mike White-Western Kentucky

9. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond

10. Logan Woodside-Toledo

Runningback

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1. Saquon Barkley-Penn State

2. Derrius Guice-LSU

3. Ronald Jones II-USC

4. Sony Michel-Georgia

5. Nick Chubb-Georgia

6. Rashaad Penny-San Diego State

7. Nyheim Hines-North Carolina State

8. Bo Scarbrough-Alabama

9. Royce Freeman-Oregon

10. Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

Wide Receiver

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

1. Calvin Ridley-Alabama

2. Christian Kirk-Texas A&M

3. DJ Moore-Maryland

4. Courtland Sutton-SMU

5. DJ Chark-LSU

6. Anthony Miller-Memphis

7. James Washington-Oklahoma State

8. Tre’Quan Smith-Central Florida

9. Jaleel Scott-New Mexico State

10. Dante Pettis-Washington

Tight End

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1. Dallas Goedert-South Dakota State

2. Mike Gesicki-Penn State

3. Hayden Hurst-South Carolina

4. Ian Thomas-Indiana

5. Mark Andrews-Oklahoma

6. Troy Fumagalli-Wisconsin

7. Durham Smythe-Notre Dame

8. Dalton Schultz-Stanford

9. Jaylen Samuels-North Carolina State

10. Tyler Conklin-Central Michigan

Offensive Tackle

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1. Connor Williams-Texas

2. Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame

3. Kolton Miller-UCLA

4. Brian O’Neill-Pittsburgh

5. Tyrell Crosby-Oregon

6. Jamarco Jones-Ohio State

7. Geron Christian-Louisville

8. Martinas Rankin-Mississippi State

9. Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

10. Chukwuma Okorafor-Western Michigan

Offensive Guard

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1. Quenton Nelson-Notre Dame

2. Isaiah Wynn-Georgia

3. Will Hernandez-UTEP

4. Braden Smith-Auburn

5. Wyatt Teller-Virginia Tech

6. Tyrone Crowder-Clemson

7. Sean Welsh-Iowa

8. Taylor Hearn-Clemson

9. Colby Gossett-Appalachian State

10. Sam Jones-Arizona State

Center

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1. James Daniels-Iowa

2. Billy Price-Ohio State

3. Frank Ragnow-Arkansas

4. Bradley Bozeman-Alabama

5. Mason Cole-Michigan

6. Will Clapp-LSU

7. Austin Corbett-Nevada

8. Brian Allen-Michigan State

9. Scott Quessenberry-UCLA

10. Coleman Shelton-Washington

Edge Rusher

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1. Bradley Chubb-North Carolina State

2. Marcus Davenport-UTSA

3. Harold Landry-Boston College

4. Sam Hubbard-Ohio State

5. Uchenna Nwosu-USC

6. Lorenzo Carter-Georgia

7. Josh Sweat-Florida State

8. Arden Key-LSU

9. Dorance Armstrong Jr-Kansas

10. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo-Oklahoma

Defensive Line

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1. Da’Ron Payne-Alabama

2. Vita Vea-Washington

3. Maurice Hurst-Michigan

4. Taven Bryan-Florida

5. Harrison Phillips-Stanford

6. Rasheem Green-USC

7. BJ Hill-North Carolina State

8. Tim Settle-Virginia Tech

9. Derrick Nnadi-Florida State

10. Will Geary-Kansas State

Linebacker

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1. Tremaine Edmunds-Virginia Tech

2. Roquan Smith-Georgia

3. Rashaan Evans-Alabama

4. Leighton Vander Esch-Boise State

5. Malik Jefferson-Texas

6. Shaquem Griffin-Central Florida

7. Josey Jewell-Iowa

8. Jerome Baker-Ohio State

9. Tegray Scales-Indiana

10. Micah Kiser-Virginia

Cornerback

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1. Denzel Ward-Ohio State

2. Josh Jackson-Iowa

3. Isaiah Oliver-Colorado

4. Jaire Alexander-Louisville

5. Mike Hughes-Central Florida

6. Carlton Davis-Auburn

7. Donte Jackson-LSU

8. Duke Dawson-Florida

9. MJ Stewart-North Carolina

10. Anthony Averett-Alabama

Safety

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1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama

2. Derwin James-Florida State

3. Justin Reid-Stanford

4. Ronnie Harrison-Alabama

5. Deshon Elliott-Texas

6. Jessie Bates III-Wake Forest

7. Jordan Whitehead-Pittsburgh

8. Quin Blanding-Virginia

9. Terrell Edmunds-Virginia Tech

10. Marcus Allen-Penn State

Those are my positional rankings for the 2018 NFL Draft class. Let me know what you think of them in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 MLB Season Preview

Thank you all once again for sticking with me and reading my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Now is the part it’s all been leading up to: the 2018 MLB Season Preview. In this preview I’m going to use what I wrote in my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series to paint a picture of how this season is going to go. This will range from player rankings to World Series predictions and everything in between. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

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Season Predictions:

Here’s the compilation of the regular season standings from the projected records I did for each team. An asterisk (*) represents the teams that I predict will win the Wild Card spots.

AL East

1. New York Yankees: 98-64

2. Boston Red Sox*: 95-67

3. Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians: 99-63

2. Minnesota Twins: 84-78

3. Kansas City Royals: 74-88

4. Chicago White Sox: 70-92

5. Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

1. Houston Astros: 101-61

2. Anaheim Angels*: 86-76

3. Seattle Mariners: 85-77

4. Texas Rangers: 82-80

5. Oakland Athletics: 77-85

NL East

1. Washington Nationals: 95-67

2. New York Mets: 84-78

3. Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

4. Atlanta Braves: 71-91

5. Miami Marlins: 62-100

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs: 94-68

2. Milwaukee Brewers*: 88-74

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 76-86

5. Cincinnati Reds: 69-93

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 100-62

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*: 91-71

3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77

4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81

5. San Diego Padres: 70-92

So based on this information, we can see which teams are ready for success in 2018. Now let’s take a look at my postseason predictions even though game 1 out of 162 hasn’t been played yet.

Wild Card Games:

Boston Red Sox defeat Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks defeat Milwaukee Brewers

LDS:

Houston Astros defeat Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs

LCS:

Cleveland Indians defeat Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals

World Series:

Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

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Congratulations to the Cleveland Indians on your 2018 World Series victory. In my predictions, the Tribe exorcise their postseason demons from the last couple seasons and win their first World Series since 1948 and third overall. For the Dodgers, their first title since 1988 continues to elude them as they fall in the World Series for the second year in a row. It is also worth mentioning that this matchup is between the two previous World Series losers, as the Indians lost to the Cubs in 2016 and the Dodgers lost to the Astros in 2017.

Power Rankings:

1. Houston Astros

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Cleveland Indians

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

6. Washington Nationals

7. Chicago Cubs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Milwaukee Brewers

10. Anaheim Angels

11. St. Louis Cardinals

12. Seattle Mariners

13. San Francisco Giants

14. New York Mets

15. Minnesota Twins

16. Texas Rangers

17. Colorado Rockies

18. Baltimore Orioles

19. Toronto Blue Jays

20. Philadelphia Phillies

21. Oakland Athletics

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

23. Kansas City Royals

24. Atlanta Braves

25. Chicago White Sox

26. San Diego Padres

27. Cincinnati Reds

28. Tampa Bay Rays

29. Detroit Tigers

30. Miami Marlins

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Gotta put the reigning champs atop the initial Power Rankings. Plus, they lost virtually nothing in the offseason while getting even stronger with the addition of Gerrit Cole to a pitching rotation that already features two former Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. I also have to put the Marlins as the worst team in baseball simply for how much they gave up in the offseason. I also don’t think they will be any good for at least another 3 or 4 years, maybe even 5 because of the generally weak prospect pool they received for their troubles. I still can’t believe Giancarlo Stanton didn’t warrant a return of everything the Yankees had in their farm system. The guy hit 59 home runs and was NL MVP last season. Now let’s get into the positional rankings for this season.

Positional Rankings:

Catcher

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1. Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2. Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3. Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4. Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5. Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

6. Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

7. Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

8. Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

10. Brian McCann-Houston Astros

1st Base

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1. Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2. Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4. Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5. Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Eric Hosmer-San Diego Padres

7. Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

8. Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9. Greg Bird-New York Yankees

10. Matt Carpenter-St. Louis Cardinals

2nd Base

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1. Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2. Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

3. Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

4. Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

5. Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

6. DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

7. Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

8. Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

9. Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10. Starlin Castro-Miami Marlins

3rd Base

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1. Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2. Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

3. Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

4. Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5. Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6. Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7. Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

8. Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

9. Evan Longoria-San Francisco Giants

10. Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Shortstop

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1. Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2. Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3. Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

5. Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

6. Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7. Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

8. Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

9. Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10. Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Left Field

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1. Marcell Ozuna-St. Louis Cardinals

2. Christian Yelich-Milwaukee Brewers

3. Yoenis Cespedes-New York Mets

4. Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

5. Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

6. Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

7. Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8. Corey Dickerson-Pittsburgh Pirates

9. Trey Mancini-Baltimore Orioles

10. Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

Center Field

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1. Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2. Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3. George Springer-Houston Astros

4. Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

5. Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

6. Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7. Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

9. Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

10. Michael Conforto-New York Mets

Right Field

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1. Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2. Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

3. Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

4. Andrew McCutchen-San Francisco Giants

5. Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Steven Souza Jr-Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

8. Jay Bruce-New York Mets

9. Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

10. Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

Designated Hitter

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1. Giancarlo Stanton-New York Yankees

2. JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

3. Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

4. Nelson Cruz-Seattle Mariners

5. Khris Davis-Oakland Athletics

Starting Pitcher

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1. Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3. Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4. Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5. Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6. Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

7. Madison Bumgarner-San Francisco Giants

8. Luis Severino-New York Yankees

9. Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

Relief Pitcher

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1. Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

4. Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

5. Aroldis Chapman-New York Yankees

6. Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

7. Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

8. Zach Britton-Baltimore Orioles

9. Wade Davis-Colorado Rockies

10. Pat Neshek-Philadelphia Phillies

And now onto the preseason awards where I award people for things they haven’t done yet and may not even do at all.

American League MVP: Aaron Judge-RF-New York Yankees

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National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

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American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

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American League Rookie of the Year: Willy Adames-SS-Tampa Bay Rays

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National League Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuna-OF-Atlanta Braves

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American League Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia-Anaheim Angels

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National League Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell-Milwaukee Brewers

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And finally, on to my bold predictions for the 2018 MLB season. Some will be as harmless as saying “I don’t think the Yankees are going to hit as many home runs as everybody says they will,” and others could get me fired if I had a real job. So let’s get to some predictions.

Prediction: Clayton Kershaw will show slight signs of slowing down now that he’s 30 years old, will post an ERA over 2.50, something he hasn’t done since 2012. People will freak out and panic accordingly.

Prediction: The Yankees’ season will be filled with peaks and valleys en route to 98 wins. Considering Judge and Stanton strike out as often as anyone in baseball, this could lead to some rough slumps at times for the two and their team as a result. However, when they’re on, nobody will be able to beat the Yankees.

Prediction: The Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado to a contender at the trade deadline. The Orioles won’t be super competitive in 2018 and Machado’s contract is up at the end of the year. The smart thing to do would be to trade him to a contender and load up on top prospects. Predicted landing spot? Uhhhh…how about the Brewers? I would say the Yankees but the Orioles’ brass has made it clear they’d prefer not to trade Machado within the division.

Prediction: The Yankees will not break the team home run record. This is mainly because I think teams are going to try and pitch the Yankees a little more carefully this season. Knowing the type of power this team possesses, I doubt they’re going to get great pitches to hit. This may lead to higher walk rates for the team, though.

Prediction: The Marlins won’t be nearly as bad as people think. But let’s be honest, the opinions of the Marlins’ talent can’t be much lower at the moment. However every season there’s a team that everyone thinks is going to be the worst and yet somehow they find ways to be just bad, not historically bad.

Prediction: The American League’s home run king will be an Oakland Athletics player. I can envision this happening, considering the power Khris Davis and Matt Olson showed last season. Matt Chapman could also be a sneaky home run threat as well.

Prediction: Mike Trout will finish outside the top 2 in AL MVP voting for the second consecutive season. This isn’t to say that I think Trout will struggle this season. Far from it. Last season was the first time in Trout’s Major League career (since 2012) that he didn’t finish in the top 2 in AL MVP voting and I think it’s going to happen again. As you saw in my awards predictions, I have Aaron Judge taking home top honors and Trout will have to compete with the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, and many, many more.

Prediction: Don Mattingly will be out as Marlins manager before June. This won’t be Mattingly’s fault, nobody can succeed with this roster. However new ownership has pretty much let go of everyone else and Mattingly just logically seems to be the next domino to fall, especially when the Marlins inevitably struggle.

Prediction: Pace of Play will continue to be a topic of discussion and the new mound visit rule will be hated by catchers even though we could probably count the number of issues this rule causes on one hand. The new mound visit rule limits non-pitching-change mound visits to 6 per 9 inning games. There have already been players such as Willson Contreras who are outspoken against this, however if you think about it, catchers don’t really visit the mound all that much, especially if their guy is pitching really well. I don’t think this will cause nearly as many problems as some guys think it might.

Prediction: The newly-signed pitchers (Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta) will struggle. Darvish has had injury problems throughout his Major League career and Arrieta has been trending downward since winning the 2015 NL Cy Young Award. Im predicting both guys finish with ERA’s in the low-4’s.

So that’s going to do it for my MLB 2018 season preview. Words can’t express how excited I am for Thursday’s Opening Day to roll around, when all 30 teams will be opening on the same day for the first time in over 50 years. Let me know how you think this season’s going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Atlanta Braves

The big story outside of baseball for me today is the fact that Dallas Mavericks owner and Indiana alumnus Mark Cuban got fined $600K by the NBA for openly admitting that it was in the Mavericks’ best interest to tank this season. I mean, he’s right and bad teams tanking is not some unknown phenomena going around, it’s pretty well established at this point. But you can’t openly say that’s what your team is doing, especially considering the league sees tanking as a big issue and is trying to take steps to prevent it. That being said, the $600K fine is ENORMOUS overkill. Let’s take it easy, here, Adam Silver. I know Cuban wipes his ass with $600K, but you’re setting a pretty rough precedent here. Tanking really isn’t THAT bad for the league, I actually think it’s good for eventual parity, as it ensures the top college prospects aren’t going to the teams that are already absolutely loaded already. Speaking of tanking, we are in Day 3 of my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series and today we’re focusing on the Atlanta Braves. Let’s take a look at how the Braves are projected to do in 2018.

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2017 Results:

Record: 72-90, 3rd in NL East, 25 games behind Washington Nationals, 15 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: RP Peter Moylan, C Chris Stewart, RP Chase Whitley

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Jason Motte, RP Ian Krol, 1B Matt Adams, SP RA Dickey, 2B Jace Peterson, 3B Adonis Garcia, CP Jim Johnson

Best Position Player: 1B Freddie Freeman

Best Pitcher: Julio Teheran

Depth Chart

C-Tyler Flowers, Kurt Suzuki, Chris Stewart

1B-Freddie Freeman

2B-Ozzie Albies

3B-Johan Camargo, Rio Ruiz

SS-Dansby Swanson, Charlie Culberson

LF-Lane Adams, Preston Tucker

CF-Ender Inciarte

RF-Nick Markakis

SP-Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Sean Newcomb

Bullpen-Arodys Vizcaino (CP), Peter Moylan, Rex Brothers, Chase Whitley, Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman, Dan Winkler

Coaching Staff

Manager-Brian Snitker (2nd Season with Braves)

Hitting Coach-Kevin Seitzer

Pitching Coach-Chuck Hernandez

1st Base Coach-Eric Young

3rd Base Coach-Ron Washington

Bench Coach-Walt Weiss

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I’m not going to sugarcoat things, it’s going to be a long season for the Braves. The thing I would look forward to the most if I’m a Braves fan is the later part of the season, August-Septemberish, when they start making their September call-ups because their farm system is absolutely loaded and it’d be exciting to see what kind of young talent the team has for the future. Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies were the first in this talented group to really get their first taste of action but the Braves also feature Ronald Acuna (MLB.com’s #2 prospect), Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard, and Max Fried, all of whom could get their shot with the big club this season. Something worth noting, all those guys I just mentioned with the exception of Acuna are pitchers so perhaps the Braves may be in for a Mets-like rotation within the next couple of years. But offensively, Atlanta is going to struggle. Here’s how they’re projected to look to start the season.

1. Ender Inciarte-CF

2. Ozzie Albies-2B

3. Freddie Freeman-1B

4. Nick Markakis-RF

5. Tyler Flowers-C

6. Dansby Swanson-SS

7. Lane Adams-LF

8. Johan Camargo-3B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Not good. Not good at all. One thing I pride myself in is knowing who everybody in baseball is. I’m sorry to report that going into this blog I had no idea who Lane Adams and Johan Camargo were. It’s bad that you have one guy I’ve never heard in your starting lineup but these guys have two. Plus they’ll be featuring Nick Markakis near the top of their order, who hasn’t been worth more than 2 WAR since 2014. The only positives are Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman. Granted, they are HUGE positives for this lineup, but not enough to get them out of the bottom third of the league in runs scored like they were last season. But these two guys really are the only offensive threats the Braves have right now. Inciarte is one of the most underrated centerfielders in baseball both defensively and offensively. Last season, Inciarte hit .304 with 11 home runs, 57 RBI, 22 stolen bags, a DRS of 5 in centerfield, and a WAR of 3.0. Meanwhile Freeman continued to put himself in the discussion for best first basemen in the game as he hit .307 with 28 home runs, 71 RBI, slugged .586, and was worth 4.5 WAR despite battling injuries all season. But if the Braves are going to head in the direction they need, Dansby Swanson has to take the next step forward. The former #1 overall pick that the Braves traded Shelby Miller to the DBacks to acquire (a trade that would an all-timer of a steal if he can develop) struggled in his first full season of action, hitting just .232 with 6 home runs and 51 RBI with -7 DRS and only had a WAR of 0.1 in 144 games played. Not good at all. He is a very talented player but another season like that could be really damaging for the Braves’ rebuilding process.

during a game  at Marlins Park on September 28, 2017 in Miami, Florida.

Pitching is not a strong suit for the Braves either. Julio Teheran is easily the most talented pitcher on the roster but he’s also the most inconsistent. His seasons seem to always be good-bad-good-bad. Last year he had a career-worst ERA of 4.49 a year after making the NL All Star team in 2016 and finishing with an ERA of 3.21. Teheran also had an ERA of 2.89 in 2014 but followed that up with an ERA of 4.04 in 2015. Based on that trend, it appears that 2018 will be a strong season for Teheran but the rest of the Braves staff leaves much to be desired. Mike Foltynewicz (pronounced FOLT-in-EV-ich) is very talented but he hasn’t been able to put that talent together for a full season. You’ve also got over-the-hill starters like Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir who were basically the excess from the Dodgers’ pitching staff that they were trying to get rid of. Once upon a time both guys were quality starters (in Kazmir’s case, an ace), but nowadays they’re just drifting off towards the sunset.

There are some decent pieces in the Braves’ bullpen that I think could be assets for playoff-caliber teams. Arodys Vizcaino has some really dominant stuff and pitched well last season with a 2.83 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. Newly-signed Peter Moylan is an underrated middle relief guy who, despite being 39 years old, can still pitch well, as he had an ERA of 3.49 last year with the Royals. He’s one of those submarine pitchers, which I have noticed tends to add a couple of years to a pitcher’s career as long as they can remain productive. He could be a guy that can help the Braves out late in games. There’s also some young talent in that bullpen such as Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman, and Dan Winkler who could quietly have strong seasons for the Braves’ ‘pen.

Overall, I don’t expect much out of the Braves this season, but I’m sure they’re well aware of that. But their plethora of prospects is so loaded that I don’t think they’re going to suck for a whole lot longer provided their coaches can properly develop them (Swanson’s 2018 season will be a big barometer for whether or not these guys are up to the challenge). The only thing that’s really going to keep them out of the cellar of the NL East this season is a healthy Freddie Freeman because he’s such a good hitter that he can take over games if you’re not careful. Unfortunately, there is absolutely zero protection around him right now so if he’s on a hot stretch, opposing pitchers have literally no incentive to pitch to him. This season is basically an opportunity for the organization to see what the younger guys can do and plan for the future.

Projected Finish: 71-91, 4th in the NL East

That’s going to do it for Day 3 of the 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Join me tomorrow on my 22nd birthday where I will be previewing the Baltimore Orioles, who are kind of in no-man’s land at the moment, as the front office will have some HUGE decisions to make when July rolls around. Let me know what you think of the Braves’ chances this season in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Measuring Luck in Baseball

So I’m sure you’ve seen the stats on certain players and thought “this guy can’t be that good, can he?” Or you’ve seen those one-year wonders that never came close to that level of production ever again. A lot of times, you can go back to advanced metrics to try and project who is due for a big breakout season or who might be in for a major decline. I’m going to try and do that here by using statistics to determine who the luckiest and unluckiest hitters in Major League Baseball are. Now I will preface this by saying that this may not be entirely accurate, as I have no way of gaining stats such as “bad hops that turn sure outs into base hits” or “plays where the defender robbed you of a base hit” unless I go back and literally watch every single at bat of every player in the Majors. That’s just not happening, I’ve got stuff to do. I will however, use the stats that I have gained from Fangraphs.com to try and find the best way to paint a picture for you as to who is the luckiest hitter in the game. Ideally, there would be a way for me to combine all of the following stats I will be using into one encompassing number, but my skills as a statistician just aren’t at that level. I will more or less be taking each stat that I think is important in determining luck and giving you the players who fall into these categories. So without further ado, let’s dive into the numbers.

BABIP

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Avisail Garcia had a career year in 2017, could he be due for regression? (photo credit: Detroit Free Press)

BABIP stands for “Batting Average on Balls In Play” and basically measures what a player’s batting average would be if you were to take their strikeouts and home runs out of the equation. This is probably the best stat we have towards measuring luck as it shows how often guys are getting hits when defenders have a chance at making a play on the ball. Here are the Top 10 players in the 2017 season according to BABIP:

  1. Avisail Garcia-CHW: .392
  2. Charlie Blackmon-COL: .371
  3. Jose Altuve-HOU: .370
  4. Tommy Pham-STL: .368
  5. Tim Beckham-TBR/BAL: .365
  6. Domingo Santana-MIL: .363
  7. Chris Taylor-UTIL-LAD: .361
  8. Aaron Judge-NYY: .357
  9. Marcell Ozuna-MIA: .355
  10. Dee Gordon-MIA: .354

Now a few of these guys I can safely say is due to skill at the plate, namely Blackmon and Altuve (my two MVP picks for this season) because they’ve been ranking highly on these lists for some time now. It’s guys like Garcia, Pham, and Beckham who make me nervous just simply because I hadn’t seen production like this out of them prior to 2017. Now for the Top 10 Worst BABIPs in the majors this season:

  1. Rougned Odor-TEX: .224
  2. Todd Frazier-CHW/NYY: .226
  3. Curtis Granderson-NYM/LAD: .228
  4. Maikel Franco-PHI: .234
  5. Jose Bautista-TOR: .239
  6. Ian Kinsler-DET: .244
  7. Scott Schebler-CIN: .248
  8. Albert Pujols-ANA: .249
  9. Joey Gallo-TEX: .250
  10. Yangervis Solarte-SDP: .258

Todd Frazier has been very high on this list for the last few years now yet he is still a productive player, being worth a WAR of 3.0 this season, which is above average. You’ll also notice some other big names on this list, such as Jose Bautista, Ian Kinsler, and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. Pujols’ production has been on a steep decline ever since he signed a huge contract with the Angels back in 2012 so his inclusion isn’t unfathomable here. It’s guys like Kinsler being on this list that surprised me.

Quality of Contact

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Joey Gallo was about as all-or-nothing a hitter as you will find in 2017 (photo credit: Fan Rag Sports)

Typically when a ball is hit hard, it suggests that the hitter got a good piece of it or squared it up really well. We all see those plays where a guy absolutely smokes the ball and it’s hit right at the third baseman for a quick out, which affects their batting average the same way as a strikeout despite not missing the ball. This is an imperfect tool because sometimes, you get guys like Giancarlo Stanton who are just flat out stronger than everyone and could hit a hard hit ball on a check swing. A ball is considered hard hit when it travels at roughly 100 mph off the bat. Below is a list of the guys who hit the ball hardest in 2017. I want you to keep in mind that the best hitters have contact rates of about 40-45-15:

Player                           Hard Contact                       Medium Contact                  Soft Contact

Joey Gallo-TEX                        46.4%                                        38.9%                                  14.7%

Aaron Judge-NYY                    45.3%                                        43.5%                                  11.2%

Paul Goldschmidt-ARI          44.3%                                         44.3%                                  11.3%

Corey Seager-LAD                  44%                                           43.1%                                 12.9%

Nicholas Castellanos-DET      43.4%                                     45.1%                                  11.5%

Cody Bellinger-LAD               43%                                          43%                                      14%

Miguel Cabrera-DET             42.5%                                       47.5%                                   9.9%

Matt Carpenter-STL            42.2%                                       45.7%                                    12.1%

Khris Davis-OAK                  42.1%                                        44.4%                                    13.5%

Chris Davis-BAL                  41.5%                                        45.7%                                   12.8%

One thing I want to draw your attention to on this list is Joey Gallo. Yes, he hit the ball hard the most consistently, but he also had the highest percentage of softly hit balls among guys in the top 10 as well as the lowest percentage of medium hit balls in this group. Gallo was a go-big-or-go-home type of swinger this season, as also evidenced by his 41 home runs and 196 strikeouts on the season. Here are the guys who hit the ball softly the most frequently in 2017:

Player                      Hard Contact                         Medium Contact              Soft Contact

Jose Peraza-CIN              21.4%                                        52%                                      26.6%

Jose Reyes-NYM                26.7%                                        47.2%                                    26.1%

Manuel Margot-SDP         25.4%                                     48.7%                                    25.9%

Yangervis Solarte-SDP      31.1%                                     43.8%                                   25.2%

Billy Hamilton-CIN          16%                                         59%                                      25%

Dee Gordon-MIA               16.1%                                      59.2%                                  24.7%

Didi Gregorius-NYY         23.1%                                       52.4%                                 24.4%

Odubel Herrera-NYY       29.4 %                                     46.3%                                  24.4%

Cesar Hernandez-PHI      22.1%                                    54.4%                                  23.5%

Todd Frazier-CHW/NYY             32.2%                                      44.6%                                 23.2%

A few guys on this list won’t be considered for “luckiest” or “unluckiest” because a lot of times this soft contact is a result of them playing to their speed. Guys like Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon often drop down bunts because they are freakishly fast, so using their soft contact against them isn’t really fair in this case. You may also notice a couple guys in the top 10 softest hit balls who were also in the top 10 worst BABIP: Todd Frazier and Yangervis Solarte, so you can pretty much rule these two out for consideration for “unluckiest.” They just aren’t hitting the ball hard and it’s hurting them.

Pop Up %

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Had Freddie Freeman not missed a large chunk of the season due to injury, he may have been a leading candidate for NL MVP (photo credit: AJC.com)

Pop ups can be killers and often happens when a guy tries to get the ball airborne and dips his back shoulder a little too much. I often find that pop ups can be a good indicator of a guy who is due for a big home run season, because usually when the ball is popped up, the hitter got a little too far under the ball. And when they hit those balls that are skied in the air with terrific hang time, you can probably guess that if they squared it up properly, it’d be going a long way at a more horizontal level. It will just take a little bit of tweaking in their swing to turn those pop-ups into bombs. I must also clarify that a ball is considered a pop up as long as it remains in the infield or fieldable by an infielder. Here are the guys who popped out most frequently:

  1. Todd Frazier-CHW/NYY-18.5%
  2. Jose Reyes-NYM-18.1%
  3. Tommy Joseph-PHI-18.1%
  4. Byron Buxton-MIN-17.7%
  5. Yangervis Solarte-SDP-17.4%
  6. Giancarlo Stanton-MIA-16.9%
  7. Alex Bregman-HOU-16.7%
  8. Jose Bautista-TOR-16.5%
  9. Maikel Franco-PHI-16.3%
  10. Jonathan Schoop-BAL-16%

I should also note that Schoop was number 11 in soft contact. This surprised me, especially considering the fact that he hit 32 home runs this season. But once again, Frazier and Solarte appear on a list they don’t want to appear on for futility. I was surprised at first to see Stanton on this list, but then I got to thinking about it and it started to make sense as, considering the guy was chasing 61 home runs, he probably hit a few pop ups trying to get to that number. Here we have the guys who hit the fewest pop ups in 2017:

  1. Freddie Freeman-ATL-0%
  2. Joey Votto-CIN-0.5%
  3. Shin-Soo Choo-TEX-0.9%
  4. Nicholas Castellanos-DET-1.6%
  5. Domingo Santana-MIL-2.1%
  6. Miguel Cabrera-DET-2.5%
  7. Christian Yelich-MIA-2.5%
  8. Buster Posey-SFG-2.8%
  9. Chris Davis-BAL-2.9%
  10. Dee Gordon-MIA-2.9%

Freddie Freaking Freeman didn’t hit a single popup this season. That’s just unbelievable to me. That’s a guy who is totally fundamentally sound with his swing on every single hack he takes. Not surprised to see Dee Gordon on this list. As a guy who bunted for more hits than anybody else (he had 18 bunt hits, next closest was Buxton at 11), I’m sure he was trying to hit the ball on the ground as much as humanly possible. This is how I imagine a discussion between Gordon and Marlins manager Don Mattingly would go.

Line Drives

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Daniel Murphy has hit .334 since joining the Nationals in 2016 (photo credit: CBS Sports)

This is the last stat we will consider when trying to determine luck. There really isn’t a definitive way to consider a line drive except by the eye test. I’m not going over every single swing to clarify information, so I trust the guys at Fangraphs have these numbers up to par. Typically a line drive is affiliated with hitting the ball perfectly. Here is a list of the guys who had the highest percentage of line drives in 2017:

  1. Daniel Murphy-WAS-27.6%
  2. Domingo Santana-MIL-27.4%
  3. Miguel Cabrera-DET-27.3%
  4. Jed Lowrie-OAK-27.1%
  5. Shin-Soo Choo-TEX-25%
  6. Joe Mauer-MIN-24.9%
  7. Chase Headley-NYY-24.9%
  8. Corey Seager-LAD-24.8%
  9. DJ LeMahieu-COL-24.7%
  10. Nicholas Castellanos-DET-24.5%

Not surprised to see Daniel Murphy on this list. The guy hits lasers and ever since 2015 he’s been one of the most consistently solid hitters in the game. Chase Headley was a bit of a surprise for me, I always knew he was more of a doubles guy but he’d been having his struggles with the Yankees this season. Now we have the worst at hitting line drives in 2017:

  1. Hunter Pence-SFG-13.4%
  2. Javy Baez-CHC-15.4%
  3. Manny Machado-BAL-15.8%
  4. Giancarlo Stanton-MIA-16%
  5. Mark Trumbo-BAL-16.1%
  6. Yasiel Puig-LAD-16.1%
  7. Scott Schebler-CIN-16.2%
  8. Rougned Odor-TEX-16.3%
  9. Yangervis Solarte-SDP-16.4%
  10. Carlos Beltran-HOU-16.4%

Hunter Pence had the lowest line drive rate by a WIDE margin, a full 2% below Javy Baez for the next lowest rate. Yet again, we find Solarte on a list that he REALLY doesn’t want to be on. It was well documented throughout the season that Manny Machado struggled and we may now have the reason why: he’s not hitting line drives, third worst rate in the majors.

And now the moment this article has been building up to: the Luckiest and Unluckiest hitters in baseball for the 2017 season. I don’t have a clear-cut singular number to round all of these stats into, but I tried to find the guys who found themselves ranking highly the most frequently in these specific categories.

Luckiest Hitter: 

Hosmer_e8lpxjnp_ycjvjaqp.jpg

Eric Hosmer was the luckiest hitter in 2017 (photo credit: MLB.com)

Eric Hosmer-1B-Kansas City Royals

This may have come as a bit of a surprise to some of you because Hosmer didn’t appear in any of the Top 10’s for the chosen stats. However he wasn’t far off from making all of them. Hosmer slashed .318/.385/.498 with 25 home runs and 94 RBI, all really impressive numbers for a guy set to become a free agent. However, those numbers were inflated by a .351 BABIP, 14th best in the Majors out of 144 qualifiers. He also was 15th in soft-hit balls at 21.8% and was 116th in hard hit balls at 29.5%. He was 49th in pop-up rate at 7.2%, which isn’t too bad, it’s right around average, and his line drive rate was 22.2%, which ranked 36th. So for any team that is ready to hand Hosmer a $100M contract this offseason, I say buyer beware, he’s due for regression.

Unluckiest Hitter:

Super angry Miguel Cabrera Detroit Tigers 2017_1492802100716_9568344_ver1.0_1280_720

Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera had terrible luck in 2017 (photo credit: ClickOnDetroit)

Miguel Cabrera-1B-Detroit Tigers

I knew there had to be some explanation as to why Miggy was having such a shitty season. Cabrera’s slash line was .249/.329/.399 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI. It seemed to be the symptoms of getting older (despite remaining one of the most baby-faced players in the game) but it turns out, the baseball gods hadn’t been doing Cabrera any favors. His BABIP was .292, which was 97th in the Majors out of 144 qualifying players, his line drive percentage was third best at 27.3% and his pop up percentage was 6th best at 2.5%. Only Justin Turner hit the ball softly less frequently (9.8%) than Cabrera did (9.9%). Cabrera also hit the ball 7th hardest this season at a 42.5% rate. While the lower home run totals may be concerning, I expect Cabrera to have a bounce back year in 2018. He’s a much better hitter than what his base stats showed this year and these advanced stats proved it to me that his 2017 season was probably just an aberration.

Thank you for bearing with me being a gigantic super nerd with all these stats. I had a lot of fun doing this and it answered a lot of questions for me. I’ve always had a soft spot towards guys with shit luck simply because that was me in high school. I used to hit the ball right at guys so often that I eventually gave up and stopped swinging the bat in the hopes of getting walked. It worked for a little while (I had a two-game stretch where I got walked 7 times in 8 plate appearances. The one appearance that I didn’t walk was when I swung at the first pitch. I hit a hard ground ball right at the shortstop.). Do you want to see more blogs like these? Did you absolutely despise it because you hate nerds? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.