All posts by thakkarparth2

Are You Awake Yet? 2017 Midseason MLB Sleepers

Sure, you’ve got players like Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger; rookie phenoms who are taking the league by storm by hitting (numerous) home runs, making ASG appearances, and being serious contenders in the ROTY and MVP races (Judge even leads the MLB in SLG and OPS and ranks third in OBP and fourth in R). And yeah, you’ve got players like Paul Goldschmidt and Bryce Harper; veterans who are said to be having the best seasons of their lives, leading their respective teams to potential playoff runs. Don’t forget about Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer; lights-out, Cy Young level pitchers who are continuing their superlative forms by leading the MLB in Strikeouts, Wins, and ERA. And of course, who can forget teams like the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks; underdog squads who have risen up after several years of turmoil to have breakout seasons, become poised for deep postseason runs and have fans raving (the Astros being 65-33 and the D-backs 56-42).


On the contrary, you’ve got players and teams that have been struggling, or performing at a mediocre level throughout the first half of the season. Examples include Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles and Jake Arrieta along with his Chicago Cubs.

Don’t count these players and teams out just yet, though. As the second half of the 2017 season gets underway, some of these players and teams are set to break out and finish 2017 in grand fashion.

These players and teams are called sleepers. In essence, a ‘sleeper’ is a player or team that succeeds when no one thought they/it would. Oftentimes in sports, sleepers begin seasons quite sluggishly, without really impacting either the stat sheet or the fans. By the end of that same season, however, these sleepers have defied the odds and the critics by performing tremendously well. Listed below are the sleepers of the MLB in 2017–watch out for these players/teams in the second half of the season as they are projected to bounce back!

Which Players/Teams Are We Not Talking About?

Jake Arrieta (CHC)

Despite posting an ordinary 9-7 record and 4.11 ERA thus far, Arrieta still looks like he will finish 2017 well and lead the Cubs to a good place at the end of the season. You’ve got to remember: both the Cubs and Arrieta have struggled before finding success (the Cubs, well, for 108 years before winning the World Series, and Arrieta’s three poor seasons with the Orioles before going 40-14 in his past two seasons with the Cubs). Arrieta is experienced and has his SO and IP up (he has struck out 111 over 114 IP), so with the likes of Joe Maddon, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, Arrieta should end the year near 14 wins and 10 losses and under a 4.00 ERA if he sticks to his natural fastball-12/6 curve game and keeps racking up the Ks and IP.


Chicago Cubs

43-45. Yeah, the defending champions weren’t too hot to start the year. They’ve been sidetracked with the injuries of Bryant, Hendricks and Zobrist, and that spark from 2016 hasn’t just clicked yet. But again, they are the defending champs, and they’ve retained most of that hardworking and passionate roster that won the World Series last year. They won’t give up on their season just yet, and they’re already back at 51-46. And they shouldn’t give up, either, with Kris Bryant projected to have another solid 35 HR season, Anthony Rizzo to have another dominating 38 HR, 105 RBI year, Jake Arrieta to end about 14-10 from that 8-7 (if my prediction is correct) record he started with, and the hard-work and experience of manager Joe Maddon (Jon Lester is also expected to break out). Whenever I think of today’s Chicago Cubs, I think about 90+ wins, and a definite playoff berth in the weak NL Central.

Josh Donaldson (TOR)

=At the moment, Donaldson, is hitting a mediocre .238 with 9 HR and 29 RBI, mainly because he has been out with knee and calf injuries. However, the 31-year old former MVP is experienced enough to know how to come back after a tough first half and finish strong; all he has to do is somewhat replicate the seasons he’s been having since 2013. Plus, someone’s got to perform on the struggling 2017 Blue Jays. I see Donaldson ending 2017 batting .270 with 25 HR and 80 RBI, with a bit more SO than he prefers (106).

Kyle Freeland (COL)

Before anybody knew about the rampage that Cody Bellinger would go on, Kyle Freeland was a starting pitcher that was expected to be in serious contention for NL ROTY. However, the stat sheets have portrayed something else for the 24-year old. At the end of the first half of the year, Freeland is 10-7 and has given up a LOT of home runs. Despite this, he has kept his ERA down to a mere 3.64, and even took a no-no into the ninth inning in the last game before the All Star Break. Freeland definitely has the talent and the stuff to be successful. With some development and some encouragement from senior players like Nolan Arenado, I see the southpaw finishing 15-10 with around a 3.90 ERA.


Manny Machado (BAL)

.238 AVG. 18 HR. 50 RBI. The O’s star third baseman has been struggling this year. In previous years, Machado has averaged .270 with 20 HR and 60 RBI at this point in the year. Don’t count Manny out just yet, though. Someone has got to perform on this struggling Orioles squad, and if anyone will, it will definitely be the vivacious and passionate Machado. Also, his fantasy projections show him finishing with 35 HR and 100 RBI, so you’ve got to expect that he’ll wake up for the second half of the year.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Rays have secretly been doing extremely well as of late. After starting off slowly, the Rays finished 45-43 at the end of the first half of the season, and currently stand at 51-48. If the season were to end today, they’d be tied with the Royals to face the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card. I expect the Rays (behind Kevin Cash, Logan Morrison and Chris Archer) to get well ahead of the Yanks in the AL East (the Yankees, I feel, will suffer despair this season behind poor management, poor pitching, and tons of injuries to their offense. They over-performed in the first half.) and secure themselves a playoff spot for the 2017 postseason.


Gary Sanchez (NYY)

Gary Sanchez will be one of the few Yankees that will shine to end the rest of 2017. Despite being out for a month early in the year with a strained abductor muscle, Gary Sanchez ended the first half of the season well, batting .265 with 14 HR and 46 RBI. Although the rest of the Yankees will suffer demise behind poor management and pitching (I feel that Tanaka, Pineda and Sabathia will not finish well this year), and although the rest of the Yankees’ offense and bullpen won’t click as well as they did back in May (they may not even have a winning record this year, let alone a playoff berth), Sanchez’s powerful swing and ability to hit strikes will carry him onto a continuation of his rookie season: batting .273 with 27 HR and about 80 RBI.

AL Central (Minnesota Twins/Kansas City Royals)

Everything is up in air for the AL Central. With the Cleveland Indians not performing as well as they’d hoped, opportunity arises for both the Twins and the Royals, teams that ended the first half of the year with mediocre results. If either of these teams is going to stun anyone, they both must play behind their veterans (Joe Mauer, Ervin Santana, Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas, etc.), win the crucial inter-division games, and the Royals especially must play like they did in 2015. All of this, in my opinion, is more than possible.


NL West (Arizona Diamondbacks/Colorado Rockies)

Just like the AL Central, a lot is still pending in the NL West. Sure, the Dodgers should run away with the division title, but both the Rockies and the D-backs have ended the first half of the year with very good records, and are serious contenders for playoff berths. Not to mention Clayton Kershaw’s recent injury. I feel that both teams will make it to at least a wild card berth this year; all they have to do is (much like the teams in the AL Central) play behind their senior players (Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado) and not lose their way either due to inexperience or unfortunate events. One way they can do this is by taking the rest of their season game by game, and correcting the mistakes that they make from every single game.

Are You Awake Yet?

Hype Train

Ezekiel Elliott, Joel Embiid, Dak Prescott and Gary Sanchez make up just a few of the many rookies who have exceeded expectations in the world of sports in the past year.

Ah, rookies: they’re the passionate and energetic youngsters on the team who are eager to get in the game and showcase their talent. While many first-year players can take several months or even years to develop, many top rookies in the MLB, NBA, and NFL from the 2016-2017 season hit the ground running and have never looked back. From 1600 yard rushers like Ezekiel Elliott to home-run hitting machines like Gary Sanchez, the 2016-2017 season was full of several sensational rookies that took their sport by storm and had fans and critics from all over raving about the promising future of sports1 led by these young athletes. However, despite all of the praise and popularity, these rookies have detrimentally impacted the sports that they play in as well, and in a far more negative way than one may think. As a result, these rookies have begun to change the way people will view sports forever. Through statistics and a game-by-game analysis, the rookies in the MLB, NBA and NFL from the 2016-2017 season have impacted sports in ways that are both positive and negative, and are beginning to change the way people will view sports in the future.

 “All Aboard the Hype Train!”

The 2016 MLB season welcomed several lively and vivacious rookie personalities that had every baseball fan talking. As shown by statistics and overall performance reviews, many rookies of the 2016 MLB season went on to benefit their respective team tremendously. A good example of this is starting pitcher Michael Fulmer. Fulmer was taken in the first round of the 2011 draft (44th overall) by the New York Mets, and was then traded to the Detroit Tigers to play four years of minor league ball. 2016 marked his first year in the majors, a year in which Fulmer positively impacted the Tigers greatly, finishing the season with an 11-7 record and an ERA of 3.06. Not too shabby for a rookie. Without the 24-year old youngster’s contributions, the Tigers wouldn’t finish the season with a stable 86-75 record, and Fulmer wouldn’t win American League Rookie of the Year honors.


Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager is another exciting player already who made a name for himself in the MLB his rookie year. Picked up by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2012 draft (18th overall), Seager finished the season as LA’s starting shortstop with a .308 BA, managing 26 HR and 72 RBI for the season. With Seager’s outstanding performance, the Dodgers were able to finish the regular season at 91-71 and reach the NLCS. The 22-year-old was able to be an NL All Star, rank third in MVP race, win a Silver Slugger Award and win NL Rookie of the Year–all in his first season.

Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez surprised everyone by coming out of nowhere in the 2016 MLB season to be one of the most prolific rookies in the league. Coming from the Dominican Republic, Sanchez began his rookie campaign in mid-August, and in just 53 games, he slugged 20 homers and drove in 42 runs with a .299 batting average. The 24-year-old finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting, and tied Wally Berger of the 1930 Boston Braves for the record of “fastest player to 20 home runs.”


Much like the MLB, the NBA also features tons of first-year flair that has impressed fans and critics around the country, including guard Malcolm Brogdon of the Milwaukee Bucks, forward Brandon Ingram of the Los Angeles Lakers and forward Dario Saric of the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite the fact that this rookie class is weaker than rookie classes of the past, there seems to be one rookie in particular that is shining at the top of the ladder: center Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers. Along with the aforementioned rookies, Embiid has helped out the struggling 76ers franchise in a big way. Embiid was the third overall pick made by the Sixers in 2014 from the University of Kansas. In 2016-2017, he has played only 31 games, but has averaged 20.2 PPG (leads team), 2.1 APG, 7.8 RPG (leads team), 0.9 STL and 2.5 BLK (leads team) with a cumulative FG percentage of 46.6%.

Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer even says, “It’s not so much about blocking shots as it is making them more difficult, and no big man in the NBA has been better at doing that this season than Embiid.”


Opponents are shooting 41% when attacking Embiid’s defense, and not one of the other 126 players who contest at least three close-range baskets per game matches Embiid’s toughness; Embiid defends almost eight of those shots a night. At the center position, and only at the age of 23, it is possible that Embiid has potential to win 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year after playing less than half the season, on his way to possibly be the best center in the NBA at one point in time in his career.

The NFL had a surplus of rookies this past season that made their mark on their respective team, along with football fans all across America. This included DE Joey Bosa (San Diego Chargers), speedy WR Tyreek Hill (Kansas City Chiefs), RB Jordan Howard (Chicago Bears), S Keanu Neal (Atlanta Falcons), CB Jalen Ramsey (Jacksonville Jaguars), among others. Despite all of this talent, when asked about the most memorable rookies this past season, Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott immediately come to mind.

Tyreek Hill’s (pictured) blinding speed and midseason play last season leads Chiefs fans to have high hopes about his Sophomore campaign.

Halfback Ezekiel Elliott was the 4th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft out of Ohio State, and he put up phenomenal numbers in the 2016-2017 season. In 15 games, Elliott ran for 1,631 yards with 15 TD (averaging 108.7 yards/game), and caught 32 passes for 363 yards and 1 TD (averaging 17.6 yards/game). Other than winning the FedEx Ground Player of the Year Award, Ezekiel Elliott was also known for leading the Dallas Cowboys to the NFC Divisional Playoffs with a record of 13-3, as well as for his clutch 33-yard TD run to take the lead late in the 4th quarter against the Steelers in Week 10. As for Dak Prescott, the 23-year-old 4th round (135th overall) pick from Mississippi State was intended to be the eventual successor to Pro Bowler Tony Romo. However, Dak stepped into the spotlight when he replaced an injured Romo and ended up throwing 23 TDs for 3,667 yards and only 4 INTs. He earned the accolade of 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

How are last year’s rookies different from rookies of all other years? Well, they’ve just put up much better numbers and broken many more records than rookies of previous years. Thus, these rookies have been far more popular. Along with their jaw-dropping stats, these rookies have also affected the respective fanbases and societies for each of their teams in ways that are both positive and negative.

Positive Effects of Rookies in Society

Rookies of the 2016-2017 season have inspired other young athletes and kids from all over the world to pursue their passion and set the example that one can make a significant contribution in professional sports no matter the age. All of a sudden, kids are inspired to be more like Dak Prescott, who went from a replacement to starting rookie sensation, or like Gary Sanchez, who came from a foreign country without knowing the English language, to a slugger who put himself in the record books in just 53 days.


Everybody wants to be right. The stunning numbers of rookies and other young players around leagues this season combined with their popularity has brought forth a conversation of who will be the next big thing in their respective sport or team. People have already predicted the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft (DE Myles Garrett), and even the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft (QB Sam Darnold).

Negative Effects of Rookies in Society:

The popularity that comes with the excitement of emerging rookies can also come as a disadvantage to them, and to future prospects in sports. A player’s over-popularity can lead to unrealistic projections, and when that player doesn’t play up to the hype or gets injured, a head coach’s entire season can be jeopardized, and the player’s career is immediately deemed a hoax until proven otherwise.

Player flops have happened a number of times with rookies and other young players in previous years. Nick Foles, now a backup QB for the Philadelphia Eagles was a one-and-done type of guy after stepping in for Michael Vick in a season where he went for 30 total touchdowns and only two interceptions. He could never duplicate that success and immediately fell through the cracks, in which he found himself playing unsuccessful stints for the Rams and the Chiefs. He now returns to Philadelphia to play under the emerging Carson Wentz who is coming off of a lot of rookie hype himself. Trevor Story, a shortstop for the Colorado Rockies, was playing amazingly well–until he got hit with a season-ending UCL tear which cut his fun short. It is very hard to play through a full season, or multiple seasons, living up to the hype that was established from good early play.

Nick Foles (pictured) finds himself in Philadelphia once again after flopping for the Rams and the Chiefs.

If Lonzo Ball and Myles Garrett don’t perform to their expectations, the teams that depend on their star-level performance could suffer colossally. Furthermore, despite the talented upcoming NBA draft class, it is highly improbable to get another talented rookie group like last year’s; if more teams utilize younger players like draft picks, sports leagues will be less experienced, leading to more injuries, more juvenile play, and a popularity declination of the sport.

Maybe we need to disembark this so called “hype train” after all.