While playing things safe is often a sound strategy in a fantasy draft, owners can also benefit from going out on a limb at certain points in the selection process.That's part of the fun of fantasy baseball -- getting multiple great value buys or finding a gem that nobody saw
While playing things safe is often a sound strategy in a fantasy draft, owners can also benefit from going out on a limb at certain points in the selection process.
That's part of the fun of fantasy baseball -- getting multiple great value buys or finding a gem that nobody saw coming.
Looking ahead to the 2017 season, these 10 bold but realistic predictions could come to fruition and have a major impact on the outcomes of many fantasy leagues.
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1. The Astros will lead the Majors in runs scored.
Heading into the offseason, the Astros possessed a strikeout-prone, top-heavy lineup that lacked punch behind a stellar quartet of George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. But general manager Jeff Luhnow solved both problems by adding Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Norichika Aoki. In addition to the boost provided by the club's offseason additions, Houston fans will enjoy the first full seasons of Bregman and Yulieski Gurriel. Wise owners will project Houston's key players to have ample run-scoring and RBI opportunities, as the Astros should make a monumental offensive leap by adding more than 100 runs to their '16 total (724, 15th in baseball).
2. Trevor Story will hit 40 home runs.
Story needed little time to figure out a formula for success at Coors Field, even if his approach included a 31.3 percent strikeout rate. The powerful shortstop posted lofty fly-ball (47.1 percent) and hard-hit (44.9 percent) rates while also tying for first among Major Leaguers (min. 50 fly balls) in average fly-ball distance (347 feet), per Statcast™, leading to a whopping 27 homers in just 372 at-bats. Story will be a first-round pick in '18 drafts after compiling 40 homers, 100 RBIs and a double-digit steals total this year.
3. Trea Turner will lead the Majors in stolen bases.
Turner flashed 60-steal potential when he swiped 33 bags in the second half of '16. Although he is unlikely to hit .342 for a second straight year, the 23-year-old could offset a drop in base knocks by improving on his lifetime 4.9 percent walk rate. With a consistent green light from manager Dusty Baker, Turner will win the steals title over Reds speedster Billy Hamilton -- who has logged four disabled-list stints across the past two seasons.
4. The Red Sox will score 100 fewer runs than they did in '16.
Anchored by David Ortiz -- who led the Majors with a 1.021 OPS -- the Red Sox paced the Majors with 878 runs last season. Now retired, Ortiz will be sorely missed on a club whose lone major offensive addition was Mitch Moreland. While Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. should bounce back from lackluster second-half performances last year, they are unlikely to return to their '16 first-half forms. Meanwhile, Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon will all have a hard time matching their '16 production. As a result, the Red Sox's lineup will be more good than great in '17.
5. Yu Darvish will win the American League Cy Young Award.
Fantasy owners who miss out on one of the top 5 starters should be happy to nab Darvish, who owns the third-highest single-season strikeout total (277, '13) of any active pitcher. Now fully recovered from '15 Tommy John surgery, the Texas righty should produce an ERA around 3.00 with more than 250 whiffs across 200-plus innings in '17.
6. Paul Goldschmidt will not rank among the top-15 hitters.
Goldschmidt was a terrific fantasy asset in '16, as he used his fleet feet (32 steals) to mask underwhelming power production (24 home runs). But the first baseman -- who had never recorded more than 21 steals in a season prior to last year -- cannot be counted on to run as frequently in '17. Furthermore, a big-time power bounceback is not a given for a player who has produced fewer than 25 homers three times and never delivered more than 36 long balls in a season since becoming a big league regular in '12.
7. Seunghwan Oh will lead the Majors in saves.
After a stellar career overseas, Oh needed just one season to establish himself as a top-tier fantasy closer. Set for his first full year as the stopper on a team that boasts a strong lineup, a deep rotation and a solid setup crew, the 34-year-old has a great chance to lead all players in saves.
8. Rich Hill will win the National League ERA title.
While Hill is expected to be outstanding on a per-start basis, the consensus opinion seems to be that he is doomed to miss parts of the season with injuries. That may not be true, however, as neither of Hill's injuries from '16 -- a left groin strain and a blister on his pitching hand -- should be a major concern as the southpaw enters '17. With his left arm seemingly in fine shape, the 36-year-old could toss at least 175 innings and serve as a No. 2 starter in mixed leagues.
9. Brad Ziegler will lead the Marlins in saves.
Despite posting 72 saves and a 2.55 ERA across the past two seasons, A.J. Ramos has failed to gain the status of a top-tier closer. Perhaps unnerved by Ramos' inconsistent control (lifetime 4.7 BB/9 rate), Marlins management reportedly made offers to several high-end free-agent closers before adding Ziegler in the offseason. With 85 career saves, Ziegler will be ready to take over the closer's role if Ramos' wildness proves to be an impediment to Miami's success in '17.
10. Cam Bedrosian will compile 35 saves.
The guess here is that Huston Street -- who is expected to open '17 on the disabled list after logging a 6.45 ERA during an injury-shortened '16 season -- no longer has the stuff to anchor the Halos' bullpen. Wise owners will grab the 25-year-old Bedrosian (1.12 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in '16) with a late-round pick and expect him to win the favor of manager Mike Scioscia in the ninth inning.
Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB.