We may have just had the 2016 NFL Draft but it is never too early for a new one. For this mock I have taken the Las Vegas Super Bowl Odds to determine the order, teams that had the same odds were placed according to which had a worse 2015-16 year. So if one team had the same odds as another but finished worse they were put ahead. I also constructed this mock as if I were the general manager of every team. This is not meant to be a prediction, rather it is a look at all the potential stars in the 2017 draft.
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1. Cleveland Browns - Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama - If the Browns are picking at #1 in 2017 than many will be calling for a QB to be the pick. Right now Deshaun Watson is the best QB available and is worth the #1 overall pick, but let us look a bit deeper here. I believe the Hue Jackson and RG3 combo can be efficient in Cleveland. Landing the #1 pick may say otherwise however the lack of talent throughout the roster is apparent and would most likely be the reason why Cleveland is at the top slot. Instead of trying the replace RG3 the Browns should look to add pieces around him to really gauge how effective he can be. Cam Robinson would be an excellent start as he can step into the LT spot from day one and dominate. Joe Thomas will most likely be off the team next year as he looks to join a contender so Robinson is an easy selection. The Alabama prospect is a flat out bully on the field and would provide RG3 with an excellent blindside protector.
2. Tennessee Titans - Carl Lawson, 3-4 OLB, Auburn - The Titans already have a young QB who they are trying to develop so selecting a star pass-rusher for their defense seems like a good idea. Lawson has had injury issues throughout college but when he is healthy he is effective. Lawson is strong when making contact with offensive lineman and has an quick first step that allows him to get an advantage against his opponent from the jump. Throw in his seemingly non-stop motor and Lawson looks like an easy transition to the NFL.
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3. San Francisco 49ers - Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson - Kaepernick does not have the accuracy to do well in Kelly’s system and Blaine Gabbert is not a starting QB. Deshaun Watson is a player right out of Chip Kelly’s dream. Accuracy is an extremely important trait to have for a Chip Kelly QB and Watson has great touch accuracy. Not only is the Clemson Tiger accurate, but he has excellent arm strength and a great deep ball. Watson can fling it all over the field with great precision. The fact that he is an extraordinary athlete is just icing on the cake. Watson in Chip Kelly’s offense would give the 49ers new life in the NFL.
4. San Diego Chargers - Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida - Florida already had one of the best college cornerbacks last year in Vernon Hargreaves. Now they will again have a top cornerback in Jalen Tabor. Tabor has great cover skills like Hargreaves, but he is a bit taller which NFL teams will love. San Diego is in the process of rebuilding their secondary, if they could get both Tabor and Verrett in their secondary their rebuild would be on the right track.
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5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M - Tampa Bay selected Noah Spence in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft. Spence is a speedy pass-rusher who still has plenty to learn but his potential is sky high. By taking Garrett the Bucs would be getting into a similar situation. Garrett has the frame and tools to be a monster in the NFL, he just has yet to really unlock his potential. It will take a good defensive coaching staff and some patience for Garrett to work out, but if he can reach his ceiling the rewards would be plentiful. If Tampa Bay can get both Garrett and Spence to reach their ceilings than every quarterback will be terrified to play Tampa.
6. Cleveland Browns (PHI) - Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU - This goes back to the Browns getting more help for RG3. Fournette is arguably the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson and that is saying something. Fournette’s strength and balance allow him to consistently churn out yards. Fournette also has the feet to make defenders miss in space while also possessing the speed to take it all the way if the opportunity presents itself. There is truly nothing Fournette can not do and I believe he could be the focal point of Cleveland’s offense from day one. This would help ease the workload for RG3 creating a better situation overall.
7. Detroit Lions - Dalvin Cook, RB, FSU - Cook would be the best Detroit running back since Barry Sanders. The Seminole has had no problem adjusting to a world where he does not have Jameis Winston as his backfield buddy. Cook is a dangerous runner with excellent vision and quick feet. He finds creases with ease and his explosiveness makes him a threat to take it to the house every time he find a hole. The Lions will need to find a new guy to scare defenses with now that Megatron is gone, Cook can be that guy.
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8. Miami Dolphins - Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio St. - Miami will still be trying to rebuild their defense when the 2017 draft comes along and McMillan would be a very nice piece to help speed up that rebuild. McMillan is strong in every facet of the game and can play all three downs in the NFL. He can stick to tight ends in coverage, smash running backs in the open field, and terrorize QBs in the backfield. McMillan is the type of linebacker every team needs and Miami could definitely use some good linebackers.
9. New Orleans Saints - Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami - Drew Brees will be 38 by the time the 2017 season rolls around so the Saints need to find his replacement fast. Kaaya is an excellent option thanks to his high football IQ and potential. The Hurricane has a smooth throwing motion and the physical tools to be a very good passer in the NFL. Kaaya played under an incompetent coaching staff his first two years which stunted his growth, but now that Richt is in town Kaaya’s game should greatly improve. The Saints have the pieces on offense that will allow them to ease Kaaya into the NFL allowing him to grow naturally.
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10. Atlanta Falcons - Jabrill Peppers, LB/S, Michigan - Dan Quinn used versatile defenders in Seattle to create the best defense in the NFL so it makes sense that he would try to do the same thing in Atlanta. Peppers fits into the safety/linebacker hybrid that many NFL teams now employ. Peppers has lived off his high school hype for most of his time in Michigan but he does have the tools that could one day back up his hype. He is an impressive athlete with very good instincts, he just has really yet to have that big jump in production. Dan Quinn will see Peppers’ tools and know that he could play a huge role in improving Atlanta’s defense.
11. Buffalo Bills - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson - Next year both Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin will hit free agency and the Bills will be left with Sammy Watkins and a bunch of bench warmers. Instead, they could create a deadly Clemson combo by taking Mike Williams who would have been the #1 WR in the 2016 draft if it were not for a scary neck injury. Williams is back on track to play this year which is great for Clemson. Williams is a basketball wide receiver with a huge frame and large mitts. This does not mean he is slow, in fact it is just the opposite. His speed makes him even more of a mismatch on the outside allowing him to create space between his defender and himself. Clemson does not ask Williams to run a lot of complicated routes and he is a bit raw, but both can be fixed in time. Watkins and Williams would be a heck of a duo in Buffalo.
12. Chicago Bears - OJ Howard, TE, Alabama - The Bears lost some serious offensive firepower by trading Martellus Bennett to New England. They could replace Bennett with OJ Howard who would actually be an upgrade. Howard is not used often by Alabama since Lane Kiffin usually focuses in on one offensive weapon but Howard proved his ability in the National Championship game where he was arguably the MVP. Perhaps now that Derrick Henry is gone, Kiffin will utilize Howard more. Either way, the Bears could use an super athletic move tight end to really diversify their offense while also giving them another big passing target in the red zone.
13. Tennessee Titans (LA) - Ethan Pocic, C, LSU - If the Titans really want to be a ground and pound team than Pocic is a match made in heaven for them. Pocic paves lanes for college star Leonard Fournette to run through, so there is no reason he can not do the same for Derrick Henry and Demarco Murray. Fournette is unreal in his own right but his center is a major reason for his success. Pocic is an extremely strong player with the ability to move defenders off of their spot. A road-grading center sounds like the type of player Tennessee wants.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars - Roderick Johnson, OT, FSU - The Jaguars are loaded at every offensive position except the offensive line. If Jacksonville can strengthen the line then Bortles and company can really do some damage. Roderick Johnson is a player with amazing physical abilities who still needs to put it all together. Johnson could start at right tackle for the Jags until he can really grasp the position. Then he will be able to flip over to the blind side. At 14 Johnson is worth the gamble for Jacksonville.
15. New York Jets - Desmond King, CB, Iowa - Darrelle Revis is getting old and after him the Jets really do not have any standouts at cornerback. King would be a nice pupil for Revis to teach as he ages and King already has nice coverage skills which were a huge reason for Iowa’s quality season last year. Good cornerbacks are vital in today’s NFL so the Jets should take them when they can.
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16. Washington Redskins - Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida - The Redskins have been adding quality pieces to their defense the past few years but they still lack that leader on the inside. Davis leads a nasty Florida defense but he has the bite to go along with his bark. He is a rangy linebacker capable of playing in space or coming up to lay the wood on running backs. He is the type of player that makes everyone around him better and that is exactly what Washington is missing on their defense.
17. Houston Texans - Malik McDowell, 3-4 DE, Michigan St. - Watt, Clowney, and Mercilus already form a tremendous pass-rushing trio. Adding McDowell would just make Houston’s defense that much better. The Spartan is insanely strong and has a variety of moves to get to the QB. Him in Houston just would not be fair.
18. New York Giants - Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama - New York loves to spend on their defensive line and secondary while having no one to man their linebacker spots. Perhaps they will finally remedy this issue in 2017 by drafting Reuben Foster. Foster is another vocal middle linebacker with the play to back it up. He is a beast against the run and fully capable of handling himself in coverage. A player of Foster’s caliber behind that defensive line would be a very nice setup.
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19. Baltimore Ravens - JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC - When you have a 37 year old Steve Smith starting for you, chances are your WR corps is not good. The Ravens have added pieces over the past few years to inject new blood into their corps but it has yet to produce results. JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the best athletes in college football which should easily carry over to the NFL. He uses his explosiveness and smooth feet to get open and has an aggressive mentality when he gets the ball in his hands. He sounds like he would fit right into the Ravens organization and fills a big need for them.
20. Oakland Raiders - Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford - More offensive firepower in Oakland is something the other AFC West teams do not want to hear. McCaffery is not the gadget player some make him out to be. The Stanford product is explosive, has excellent vision, and can be effective on every down. On the Raiders McCaffery could fill in the #1 running back start while also flexing out wide in certain situations. Adding another dimension to the offense would improve an already scary scoring attack for the Raiders.
21. Indianapolis Colts - Adoree Jackson, CB, USC - The Colts’ defense has Vontae Davis as a very good cornerback and not much else. Jackson would be a nice addition to the secondary thanks to his athleticism and ability to play anywhere. He can move between the slot and outside giving Pagano some options when deciding how to cover the opposing team’s pass catchers.
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22. Kansas City Chiefs - Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU - The Chiefs have a decent wide receiver corps but there is always room for improvement. Dupre is a big, explosive wide receiver capable of racking up yards after the catch. He is hard to bring down thanks to his big frame and his size makes him very valuable in the redzone. Dupre is a raw wide receiver who has dealt with bad quarterback play while in LSU, I like Andy Reid’s chances at developing him into a great NFL receiver.
23. Dallas Cowboys - Quin Blanding, FS, Virginia - The Cowboys could have created an uber athletic secondary last year by taking Jalen Ramsey but they passed over him. Blanding is not Ramsey but he is a good cover man in his own right. Blanding would allow Byron Jones to play cornerback full time while also being a valuable contributor on defense. Blanding and Jones creates a very nice secondary for Dallas.
24. Minnesota Vikings - Jamal Adams, SS, LSU - For the past two years I have been begging the Vikings to take a good strong safety to pair with Harrison Smith. They could end my cries by taking Jamal Adams out of LSU. Adams is a thick safety with the frame to battle it out in the trenches. He’s a good enough athlete to do his part in coverage and could also be used as a good QB spy when playing mobile quarterbacks. I already believe Minnesota has a very special defensive unit, adding Adams to the mix would just give them another versatile defender to utilize.
25. Cincinnati Bengals - Jon Allen, DT, Alabama - The Bengals consistently have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL which gives them multiple options with what to do with their first round pick. I like the idea of them adding another inside pass-rusher to come in when Geno Atkins gets tired. Allen is a mauler on the defensive line and played a big part in Alabama’s championship run. Offensive lineman would never get a break if Atkins comes off the field only to be replaced by Allen. The Bengals could also put both players in on obvious passing downs to really attack the quarterback.
26. Arizona Cardinals - Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan - The Cardinal’s secondary is already very strong but adding Lewis just gives them more depth to work with. Patrick Peterson already covers the opposing team’s #1 wide receiver which would allow for Lewis to play against lower competition. His coverage skills are already very good and he would have plenty of great mentors to help him master his craft in Arizona.
27. Denver Broncos - Pat Elfein, OG, Ohio St. - The Broncos continue to try and mix and match their starting offensive line. Elfein would at least give them a solid answer at one of the guard spots thanks to being a solid overall blocker. Elfein is not a flashy pick but he could play a big role in Denver’s success down the road.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers - Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Tennessee - The Steelers seemed to have struck gold with 2014 first round pick Ryan Shazier. Shazier has been an effective presence in the middle next to Lawrence Timmons. Timmons is getting up there in age so the Steelers should look for his replacement. Jalen Reeves-Maybin would be a good replacement for Timmons as he is a solid all around linebacker. Him and Shazier in the middle would be quite the duo for Pittsburgh to build around.
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29. Carolina Panthers - Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia - A great running game was a major aspect to the Panther’s incredible 15-16 season. Carolina will need to ensure their run attack stays strong since Cam Newton is lacking in quality throwing options. Jonathan Stewart is growing old which could lead to new blood in the organization. Chubb is a bruising running back that punishes every defender he touches. His nasty style of play is a perfect match for what the Panther’s want from their offense. A backfield of Newton and Chubb would demolish the smaller defenses that are more prevalent in today’s NFL.
30. Green Bay Packers - Carlos Watkins, 3-4 DE, Clemson - Green Bay loves to stuff their defensive line with big men and Watkins is non different. Watkins is an athletic big man capable of both rushing the passer and stuffing the run. There is no such thing as too much beef on the defensive line and adding Watkins to the Packers would create a suffocating defensive line.
31. Seattle Seahawks - Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee - There is no such thing as too many pass-rushers and the Seahawks know this lesson to be very true. By taking the powerful Barnett, they would be giving themselves quality depth and a future starter that they can develop for a few years. It is a win all around for Seattle and their defense only continues to improve.
32. New England Patriots - Devonte Fields, Pass-rusher, Louisville - New England has a solid array of pass-rushers even after trading Chandler Jones. However, many of them are aging and will start to decline in play so acquiring new blood seems like a good idea. Fields is an excellent pass-rusher capable of getting to the QB no matter where Belichick plays him. Fields has a bit of a history off the field but that looks to be all behind him and the Patriots have taken risks before in the past. Field’s skillset is worth the risk.
Last week Kevin Durant made a decision that sent shockwaves throughout the NBA. Durant decided to sign with Golden St. Warriors who were straight off a 73 win season and back-to-back Finals appearances. This move was something that we have never seen in the history of the NBA. A top three player leaving his team to join an already established super team.
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Likening this decision to LeBron’s is just flat out incorrect. LeBron left Cleveland where he had no help to try and create a super team in Miami. Miami was not already a super team and LeBron’s gamble could have failed. Durant is leaving Oklahoma City which had plenty of great talent around Durant, including a top three point guard. Kevin is also heading to the team that beat him in the Western Finals by coming back from a 3-1 series deficit. As you can see, Durant’s and LeBron’s situations were very different.
The above paragraph does not matter in the long run. Kevin Durant is now a starter for the Golden State Warriors and that is that. A starting five of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green, and Pachulia is downright terrifying. Throw in Livingston and Iguodala coming off the bench and the Warrior look more unbeatable than they were last year which is a major problem for the NBA.
Most NBA teams do not have enough quality defenders to even hope to stop the Warriors on offense. Golden State has three guys who would be #1 scoring options on any other team, if you can defend even two well there is still another out there who will tear you up. The worst part is the Warriors will not just be good on offense, their defense will continue to be stellar. This brings up the issue of teams exerting themselves heavily against the Warriors on defense only to run out of energy when they have the ball.
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The Warriors look unbeatable right now and will have little trouble handling most of the NBA. San Antonio may rough them up a bit and who knows what Westbrook will do when he faces them, but for the most part the Warriors should have little trouble getting back to the NBA Finals. In fact they would have little trouble taking home the Larry O’Brien trophy if it were not for a man by the name of LeBron James.
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LeBron James is the only reason the 73 win Warriors could not secure back-to-back Finals wins. His historical Finals performance this year is one that will be told for centuries. LeBron's win this year was seen as a David and Goliath battle. But now, Goliath has resurrected and he’s 35 feet taller. It will be up to James to defeat this new monster when they inevitably clash in the 2017 Finals, but will he and the Cavaliers be up to the task?
For starters we must remind ourselves that LeBron is the best player on the planet. He proved it in the Finals and there really should be no debate. The Son Of Akron is the best athlete we have ever seen and has one of the best basketball IQs the NBA has ever seen. His ability to utilize both of these gifts on the court is why he has been the best in the business for the past decade. LeBron is capable of carrying a majority of the workload for his team and he will need to do it again in order to beat the Warriors. Questions will arise as to whether he will capable of doing so at 32, but again James is the best athlete ever so he should be up to the challenge.
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Basketball is a team sport so we cannot forget to discuss the men James will be leading against Golden State (barring injuries). Kyrie Irving put on a dazzling Finals performance proving to everyone that he is quickly rising up the point guard ranks and will soon be near the top. Irving is an unbelievable scorer but his solid defense was also on display against Curry. Mo Williams serves as a solid backup.
On the wing the Cavaliers have JR Smith (who should be re-signing any day now) Iman Shumpert, Mike Dunleavy and Richard Jefferson. JR Smith and Iman Shumpert are both good 3nD wings. Dunleavy is a good shooter at SF or PF and Jefferson serves as a solid overall forward. Kevin Love should return as a starter at PF but could also see time coming off the bench as an effective counter to certain Warrior lineups. Seeing as how James can play either forward spot , the Cavs have nice depth between the 2-4 spots. Cleveland will have the rebounding machine known as Tristan Thompson at center with a good vet in Channing Frye backing him up. Thompson had a great Finals and should only continue to develop.
The Warriors will also have a few issues which will harm them in their championship race. Golden State will have to find the right chemistry in their new starting lineup as Durant, Thompson, and Curry will all want the ball in their hands and their separate opportunities to score. Team chemistry is hard to grow so this cannot be overlooked. Adding to the chemistry issue is the Warriors sudden lack of depth. Due to the KD signing the Warriors saw Barnes, Bogut, Barbosa and Ezeli all leave. All four of those players had some role on the roster and it will be up to Steve Kerr to figure out who can fill in those roles.
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Despite these above issues, Golden State will definitely be in the driver's seat to win the 16-17 season. Only LeBron James has a shot to stop them as he is the best player in the world and has surrounded himself with good talent to aid him in his efforts. Still, it will mostly be on James to slay this new Goliath and in doing so change the NBA forever. Beating a super team of Golden States’ caliber would give James a huge boost in the GOAT discussion. It would also sow seeds of discord in Durant’s mind and perhaps cause him to opt out of his two year player option. James beating Golden State again would show the NBA that super teams are not the answer. But if Golden State wins it all, KD would most likely stay with Golden State and go on to win a number of championships.
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LeBron beating this new super team would create more parity in the NBA and could also send Durant out of the Bay area, forever changing the NBA and how it views the Son Of Akron.
In baseball, we here a lot about the Bryce Harpers and Mike Trouts of the world when it comes to good hitters. These guys are typically always up making key offensive contributions from the top of their respective lineups. However, what about the guys at the bottom of the lineup? How are they contributing? Let’s look at the Top 10 hitters that are producing from the bottom of the batting order.
#10) Kurt Suzuki, Minnesota Twins
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Suzuki has never been one to produce consistent numbers throughout his career. I mean, he WAS an all-star in 2014, but part of that falls into the “every team must be represented” rule, and Minnesota was the host that year. Regardless, his .287/.327/.421 batting line is his best since that year. His 5 home runs have also been a small, yet nice boost for a solid year so far. The 10-year veteran of Major League Baseball is finally finding a nice groove in Minnesota, and maybe it’d be even better if he weren’t hitting 8th.
#9) Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks
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What a turnaround from 2015 for Owings! If you look back at 2015, where Owings put up -0.9 oWAR and just a .264 OBP, you can see he has improved mightily in 2016. So far this year, he’s hitting .285/.340/.419, with 18 RBI’s. Now he might have only played in 54 games so far this year, but if Owings can keep up this pace, he’ll definitely earn his way into a more prominent role in Arizona, and possibly a higher spot in the order.
#8) Cesar Hernandez, Philadelphia Phillies
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I can’t think of any player who’s been as quietly consistent as Cesar Hernandez. For a guy hitting 8th, .286/.327/.377 is not a bad line at all, especially when you are a small package at second base. His 6 triples also can vouch for how much Hernandez has contributed offensively this season. You could easily make the case for Hernandez being a major catalyst in Philadelphia’s winning run back at the beginning of the year. I can’t wait to see more out of this guy.
#7) Mark Reynolds, Colorado Rockies
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Mark Reynolds was lucky to even have a job this year, let alone put up a .291/.356/.464 batting line as a 32-year old. The journeyman infielder wound up in Colorado this year after spending last season in St. Louis. And if Reynolds’ batting line isn’t good enough for someone hitting 7th and 8th, maybe his 9 home runs, 19 doubles, and .820 OPS is. When you think of great infielders in Colorado, you obviously think of Arenado and Story. Maybe it’s time you start thinking about Reynolds.
#6) Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals
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Danny Espinosa is not at this spot on my list because of his batting average (.242 through 85 games). If I were making this list based off of batting average, Espinosa wouldn’t even be an honorable mention considering this is actually one of his better years in that category. What IS impressive, however, is that Espinosa has a .469 slugging percentage, an .806 OPS, and 18 home runs. And he’s done all of it while typically hitting 7th or 8th. If Espinosa could simply raise his average up a bit, then Espinosa could be a potential All-Star.
#5) Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
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Elvis Andrus, at the beginning of his Rangers career, was a very good top of the lineup hitter. Then time moved along and Andrus cooled off a bit, and so he slid in the lineup. Now with Shin-Soo Choo and Ian Desmond lighting things up at the top of the Rangers order, Andrus has found himself hitting at the bottom. However, this hasn’t stopped him. In 2016, Andrus holds a batting line of .289/.344/.401, which is (debatably) his best season at the plate ever. His 15 doubles and 38 RBIs are also very impressive. Maybe a move to the bottom of the order was what Andrus needed to get his career turned around.
#4) Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics
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This is a bit borderline as far as the term “bottom of the lineup” goes, but considering Vogt never typically hits any higher than 5th, then I consider that good enough for this list. The 31-year old currently holds a batting line of .266/.311/.413, with 17 doubles and 24 RBIs. This was good enough to make him an AL All-Star for the second year in a row. Vogt has seemingly transformed himself into one of the premier catchers in the American League, and yet he’s doing it out of the bottom of the order.
#3) Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
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Brandon Crawford is a player who is known for his defensive abilities. It’s what got him his first Gold Glove last season. Yet whether you realize it or not, Crawford is a solid hitter as well. Through 84 games, Crawford owns a line of .271/.344/.425, with 8 home runs, 4 triples, and 55 RBIs. With all of the young shortstops coming up to the majors, Crawford is holding his own as a veteran at the position, and plans to keep it that way for however long is necessary.
#2) Paulo Orlando, Kansas City Royals
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I’m sure Billy Beane is salivating at this guy. If there’s anyone who fits the Moneyball bill more than Orlando in baseball currently, please let me know. The guy is hitting .321 out of the bottom of the Royals order. He also owns an on base percentage of .346, and those are honestly the only stats worth noting. The guy gets singles, and he gets on base, and he does it consistently. What more can you ask of a player? Orlando, currently in his 2nd year in the Majors, has a very bright future in front of him.
#1) Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox
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Jackie Bradley Jr. has used 2016 to become the poster child for good “bottom of the order” hitters. As if his .293/.380/.552 batting line wasn’t enough, he also has hit 14 home runs, with 21 doubles and 54 RBIs, as well as a .921 OPS. Oh, and did I mention him having a 29-game hit streak earlier in the year as well? Bradley Jr. has contributed much more than anyone could ask for out of the bottom of the order, and that’s why he’ll be a starter on this year’s all-star team. Bradley Jr. will be a shining star of our game one day, he just needs to move up in the lineup.