We’re continuing our week of bold predictions after featuring Ben Palmer’s yesterday morning. What fun would fantasy sports be without the chance to officially document 10 bold predictions that you think have a shot at becoming a reality? Then to be able to look at them one month into the season and remember how dumb you are? By the way, I’m the only representative of the Pacific Northwest currently on staff here at Pitcher List, so forgive me if it seems like I talk about the Mariners too much. Someone has to talk about us…things like preseason bold predictions are what make the hobby of fantasy baseball so great – so what the hell, let’s do this. Here are my ten bold predictions for the 2017 fantasy baseball season.
1. Felix Hernandez returns to form and finishes as a top 10 SP
Everyone seems to have written off the once perennially beloved ace of the Mariners staff for 2017 – and admittedly for good reasons. The biggest issue being the dip in velocity he’s endured over the past 3 seasons with his 2-Seamer. 2016 was the first season since 2008 that Felix held a K/9 under 8 (7.16 – career low) as well as a BB/9 above 2.68 (3.82 – career high). I’m not saying Felix pulls a Verlander and magically finds another 3mph on his Fastball, but I am saying that he has the pitch mix to adapt his approach to remain successful. With a rebound in both strikeouts and walks allowed, an amazing defense behind him, a healthy season of 230+ innings, an above average offense to rack up some Wins, and the determination of a former Cy Young “King”, I’m all in on a surprising 2017 rebound for Felix Hernandez. To quote the man himself, “The last few years have not been Felix years. I am prepared for (the work). I am going to go there and show everybody in the world, if they don’t believe in me, that I am going to be King Felix again.”
2. Alex Bregman finishes outside the top 20 for 3B
This kind of goes with my Benintendi “hate”. Why are we paying so much for these young upside types that haven’t proved it over a full season yet? Bregman’s K% spiked to 24% in his 49 game cup-of-coffee last year after barely exceeding double digits in the category in the minors. Some guys need a strong sample size to fully adjust to the highest level – it’s tough to do! I’m not knocking the guy, I just don’t want to pay 84th overall type prices as others are in ESPN mocks to find out if he’s good enough to hold down one of my corner infield spots for 2017. Guys like Jose Ramirez, Rendon, Justin Turner, and the boring steady veteran Longoria (who hit 36 HRs last year, mind you) are all going behind Bregman and I’d feel much safer taking all of them over the Astro. Hell, give me the upside of another young guy who’s had some time to acclimate to the majors and is currently going for half the price (181 ADP), Maikel Franco, instead! Let me use that 9th round pick on something much more sturdy and secure with so many more solidified options out there at third base.
3. Edwin Diaz is the #1 closer of 2017
I’m sure all of our readers are tired of hearing the hype surrounding Eddie D. at this point – but hey, I’m the Mariners guy on staff, don’t I get a chance? Ever since he made his debut against Cleveland and made Tyler Naquin look silly with his triple digit heat, I’ve been in love with this guy. His Fastball remained at an average of 98mph for 3 months straight, and his Slider actually increased in velocity as the season went on – ending up at an average of 87.4mph. That Slider also carries an incredible whiff rate of 33.8%. That’s outstanding. The 15.33 K/9 Diaz rocked last year was stellar as well so we know the strikeouts will be plentiful when he takes the mound. It’s impossible to predict save opportunities from year to year, but take it from a lifelong Mariners fan that if the offense is improved this year, the rotation/bullpen will keep the games close regardless. I see Seattle being near the top in Save opportunities with Diaz ready to capitalize. Watch this GIF of Diaz celebrating his strikeout against teammate Jean Segura to give Puerto Rico the win in the WBC and try to tell me that doesn’t look like the kind of guy that could near 50 saves in 2017. I dare you.
4. Andrew Benintendi finishes outside the top 50 OF
Wait, Ian’s allowed to do a non-Mariners prediction? I can see myself looking back at this prediction 6 months from now and laughing hysterically at how dumb I am – and I’m OK with that. What I’m not OK with is drafting someone who has 118 career plate appearances in the majors as the 29th best OF as people are doing in ESPN mocks. The numbers Andrew put up in the minors, granted they’re from high A and AA, along with what he showed in his brief stint last season, are good but they aren’t flashy enough to entice me. What exactly is the upside here? He doesn’t show ridiculous power or speed, but rather a good average and a reliance on counting numbers in Boston’s lineup. So what am I spending this pick on, the chance that he’s Michael Brantley-lite? No thanks. I want someone that can really help me in either HRs or SBs as my 3rd OF, and the ‘upside’ of Benintendi’s 2017 season isn’t doing it for me in that regard. I’ll pass.
5. Keon Broxton finishes as a top 20 OF
I’m being so original, aren’t I? There’s been a lot of sleeper talk with Broxton from a number of outlets. I’ve been looking forward to the 2017 draft since September of last year knowing that someone with this much potential would be available for such a bargain price. This feels a lot like the A.J. Pollock situation from 2015. In fact, both Broxton and Pollock played the same amount of games in their partial seasons (75). Pollock in 2014 through his 75 games had 7 HRs and 14 SBs before going into 2015 and totaling 20 and 39 respectively in 157 games. Broxton outdid Pollock in his 75 games of 2016 by racking up 9 HRs and 23 steals. The obvious difference between the two is the AVG and the strikeout rate. Keon’s never had a K% below 25% at any level, so I’m not expecting him to hit above .260. That doesn’t deter me from the amount of upside he has though. We’re talking about a guy that could make 20-40 look easy. The opportunity is there in Milwaukee, although Lewis Brinson is waiting in the wings, and at the cost of a measly 223 ADP in ESPN mocks. Sign. Me. Up.
6. Jarrod Dyson is the Mariners most valuable fantasy OF
This is supposed to be bold, right? Yes, I’m saying Jarrod Dyson and his steal potential bring his fantasy stock above the likes of Nelson Cruz in 2017. Dyson has now stolen 30+ bags in 4 of his past 5 seasons while never exceeding 337 PA’s in any of them. With talks that he could be the regular left fielder in Seattle, so long as he can capably handle left handed pitching, it’s somewhat realistic to see Dyson surpass upwards of 500 PA’s. That could result in 50+ stolen bases, and depending on where he hits in the Mariners lineup, it could come with a healthy number of Runs as well. Stolen bases are getting tougher to come by and Mariners manager Scott Servais has been quoted as giving his players the green light on the base paths. If Jarrod can get on base and prove that he can handle LHP enough to remain close to a full-time player, 50 or more steals doesn’t sound too crazy. Add in the chance that Nelson sees some regression and my most boldest of all my predictions just might become a reality.
7. Rich Hill makes 25 starts and finishes inside the top 15 SP
There isn’t much to explain here. We all know he’s been incredible when he’s healthy enough to pitch, and I’m saying he keeps his blister issues to a minimum in 2017 and rewards all those who were bold enough to draft him onto their staff. There’s something so fascinating about a pitcher who can make it work with just two pitches. Granted, Hill turns his Curveball into multiple offerings with arm angle and speed, but just a Fastball/Curve combo to make big league hitters look stupid. I love it. Give me some of that tricky Dick Hill action this year at the current ADP of 138 – please and thank you.
8. Kyle Seager is the most valuable Seager in fantasy for 2017
Look, I love the camaraderie of two professional baseball players that happen to be siblings who both kick ass at the sport. It’s fun to watch both Kyle and Corey succeed at the highest level at different positions and in different leagues. I also understand the infatuation fantasy owners have with ‘upside’ and the projections of ‘what could be’ with guys as young as Corey (almost 23). What I don’t understand is how Kyle is so criminally underrated when compared to his younger brother in fantasy drafts. Kyle is currently ranked 42nd on ESPN’s standard rankings, while Corey is sitting pretty at 18. Kyle has played in no fewer than 155 games the past 5 seasons. He’s increased his HR total each of the past 5 seasons while also improving in K%, BB%, ISO, AVG, OBP, and SLG. Kyle is continually improving while being a model of consistency in the health department. The older Seager also is entering a 2017 season where he’ll be right in the middle of what’s likely the best lineup he’s ever been a part of – further driving those counting stats. I see a career year for Kyle, and with just the slightest sophomore slump and continuation of lack of steals from Corey, I predict the one that plays third base for the Mariners will finish 2017 as the more valuable fantasy asset.
9. ‘Beef’ Welington Castillo is a more valuable fantasy catcher than Gary Sanchez
I don’t want to be right here, but that’s not the point of bold predictions. In my heart I’m all aboard the Gary hype train. Watching Sanchez rake every day last year was a blast. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of playing fantasy baseball, it’s that the catcher position outside of Buster Posey is a crap-shoot every year. I’m usually the guy that waits until the final rounds of the draft to fill the position and land the likes of Stephen Vogt or Russell Martin and be satisfied or move on as the year progresses. There’s so much to like with Gary and I’ll be aiming to add him to my rosters no doubt, but I can see Beef in Baltimore blasting his fair share of bombs too. If Sanchez doesn’t live up to the high expectations we’ve all set for him, Welington could definitely finish as the better catcher by the end of 2017.
10. Jerad Eickhoff is a top 25 SP
Knowing that he finished last season as the #31 starter in ESPN standard kind of belittles this prediction’s boldness, but I feel like nobody is talking about this guy. Eickhoff made 33 starts last year with 20 of them qualifying as Quality Starts. He’s turning 27 this year and has no limits of opportunity for growth while pitching in the NL Least. He doesn’t blow hitters away (92mph Fastball) but he has both a Slider and a Curveball that he mixes in regularly (17% and 23% usage respectively) that both generate a decent amount of whiffs (19% and 16% respectively). He only held a 7.62 K/9 last year but it came along with a nice 1.92 BB/9. An improvement in strikeout rate, even if it’s a small one, and another full season from the Phillies righty in the easiest division in baseball, has me believing in a top 25 finish. Did I mention he’s currently ranked 274 in ESPN standard leagues? Yeah… Count me in.