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Rick Graham’s 10 Bold Predictions for 2017

It’s time for some more bold predictions as I move away from talking exclusively about relievers for the sole time this season. In a sport where failing 7 times out...

It’s time for some more bold predictions as I move away from talking exclusively about relievers for the sole time this season. In a sport where failing 7 times out of 10 can get you in the Hall of Fame, I’d be pretty ecstatic with that success rate on these predictions. I’ll admit some of these are much more bold than others, and some may just be foolish so don’t take them too literally.

1. Andrew Benintendi will be the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year AND be the most valuable Red Sox outfielder in fantasy baseball

Coming out of the gate swinging with this hot take. I love Mookie Betts, but Andrew Benintendi just showed so much in his limited time in Boston last year. His plate approach is so advanced at this stage of his career and he can do a little bit of everything. I’m predicting Benintendi finishes in the 20/20 club, a .300 average and a .375 OBP. Betts will finish just under 20/20 with a an average slightly under .300 and an OBP around .350.

2. Jose Peraza will have more SB’s than Billy Hamilton…and everyone else in the league

This may require Billy Hamilton to miss some time with injury, as whenever he is on 1st, there’s more than a 50% chance he tries to swipe 2B. Both will hit at the top of the lineup it seems, but Jose Peraza projects as the better OBP threat. If both guys have the green light whenever they are on, and Peraza will be on base more than Hamilton, logic seems to indicate Peraza should steal more bases. Right? No matter what, I expect at least a top 5 finish in SB’s for him this year.

3. Jeff Hoffman will have the most fantasy value out of any Rockies pitcher

Alright, this one comes from out of left field I’ll admit. The best pitcher on the staff is still very much up for grabs, as it should be Jon Gray, but he’s not quite the guy just yet. Jeff Hoffman should be in line for a rotation spot to start the season, and his potential swing and miss stuff give him a chance to be productive while pitching in Coors. His first taste in the bigs didn’t go so great, but his first 3 starts were against arguably the 3 most feared lineups in the NL last season (Cubs, Dodgers, Nationals). As long as he can start getting ahead of hitters and limit walks, he has as much upside as Gray in that rotation with 15 wins and a top 3 finish in the NL ROY race (see #6 for why he wont win) both within reach.

4. Tommy Joseph will lead the National League in HRs

Last year, both Brian Dozier and Khris Davis came out of nowhere, never hitting 30 HRs before in a season and ended up hitting 40+ HRs. Did anyone think Mark Trumbo would hit 47 HR going into last season? This year the from out of nowhere power guy will be Tommy Joseph, who will see regular AB’s at 1B and has a favorable home ballpark for HRs. He hit 27 HR in 410 AB’s between AAA and MLB last year, which would equal 38 HRs in 580 AB’s. Add in the fact that he had the hard hit, fly ball and pull numbers to keep up that HR pace, a Mark Trumbo-ish 2016 type year is a real possibility.

5. Dylan Bundy finally makes his way into the top 30 SP in baseball

The always tantalizing talent may finally be healthy and is a lock for a rotation spot this year. As Nick pointed out in his 10 Starters to Draft Late article, Dylan Bundy had a dominant stretch last August that showed his ace-like potential. So whats not to say he can follow that up for an even longer stretch this year? He’s finally back to throwing his cutter again, which has potentially to be a devastatingly effective out pitch. He’ll get plenty of run support in Baltimore, so as long as he stays healthy and can keep his command in check, he should return great value for owners drafting him late.

6. The 2017 NL Rookie of the Year will be…Koda Glover

This is a complete shot in the dark, as I was trying to think of some reasonable NL ROY candidates outside of Dansby Swanson (and Jeff Hoffman). It’s looking more and more likely that Koda Glover will get an opportunity to be the Nats closer sooner rather than later, with opening day even being a legitimate possibility. The organization loves him, and want him to be in this role, and so far he hasn’t disappointed them this spring. He can run his fastball up to 100 which he pairs with a pretty nice slider. As long as he can keep his control in check, he can be a dominate force in the 9th inning. If he has the job by the end of April, he could even end up as a top 10 closer this season. Which means, he’d be the first reliever since Craig Kimbrel in 2011 to win the Rookie of the Year award as a closer.

7. Edwin Diaz is the #1 fantasy RP this season

I know that my colleague Ian Post also had this prediction, but so what? Anyone who’s followed my RP rankings so far this winter know how high I am on Edwin Diaz. He already posses a plus Fastball and nasty Slider, and word is he is developing a Changeup. I think it’s more likely than not Diaz tops 40 saves and combines that with dominant K, ERA and WHIP numbers. He should be ready for a full season of work in 2017 and no, his poor September does not concern me at all. The hype is beginning to build here, and in order to own him this season, you may need to pick him right after Chapman or Jansen get drafted.

8. Byron Buxton and Yasiel Puig will both be top 30 outfielders with top 100 overall value this season

Both players have flashed 5 tool potential, and most importantly for fantasy purposes, can hit for power and steal some bases. Both are just too talented to be forgotten about and I expect at least one if not both to have a huge season. Byron Buxton I see settling into a .250/.330/.500 type line while stealing 20 bases. His plate discipline seems to be improving the more MLB AB’s he gets, which should help keep the average and OBP at a respectable level. Yasiel Puig has slightly opened up his stance this spring at it seems to be helping. He has had trouble with fastballs in the past few seasons, and the opened stance may help to alleviate that problem. The tools are here for both guys, they just need to be refined.

9. Aaron Sanchez is your AL Cy Young winner

Finally time to take the training wheels of Aaron Sanchez in Toronto. With no more limitations this season, he should be free to put up the numbers he has teased over the past 2 seasons. I think a season similar to Rick Porcello’s 2016 (a low 3.00’s ERA, 20+ wins and close to 200 K’s) is a real possibility for him this season. He has a great defense behind him and tends to keep the ball on the ground which is a huge plus for where he makes half of his starts. Add that in with an offense that should give him tons of run support, there’s no reason to believe he can’t win the award this season.

10. The triumphant return of Moneyball…the A’s will be in the playoff hunt come September 25th

One last crazy ridiculous theory for the road. Where to begin with this one. I really like the potential the A’s bullpen has if their veteran’s can hold up and pitch well. The rotation can be very good too, with Sonny Gray looking to bounce back when he returns from injury and youngsters Jharel Cotton and Sean Manaea having high potential ceilings. Even Andrew Triggs flashed some legit upside in a few starts last year. Obviously the lineup is a bit underwhelming but there’s enough pieces there in place to produce runs at a level where they could win, say maybe, 20 more games this season?

Rick Graham

Rick resides in the Boston area and has experience as a player and coach at the collegiate level. He has been covering relievers for Pitcher List since 2017.

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