This is the Fantasy Roundtable, where the writers of Rotoworld Baseball let the readers of Rotoworld in on a quick staff discussion. Whether it’s a top prospect arriving, a closer role changing, or we just need to vent -- our staff talks it over and you get a peek behind the curtain. It's water cooler chatter ... that we've decided to publish.
Drew Silva: We offered up a round of bold fantasy-related predictions when we first published our 2017 Rotoworld Baseball Draft Guide back in early February. Let's do that again as the regular season actually gets underway. Give me a surprise performer, a surprise team, a surprise stat -- something along those lines -- and explain why you're feeling like we might actually see your bold prediction play out ...
I’ll kick it off with another glowing writeup on Mitch Haniger, who batted second for the Mariners on Opening Day against the Astros -- in front of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager -- after registering a promising .385/.429/.628 slash line with two home runs, 11 doubles, and three stolen bases in 24 games this spring in Cactus League play. I say he becomes a top-40 fantasy outfielder in 2017, after being treated as more of a top-80 guy on draft day. Haniger slashed .321/.419/.581 with 25 home runs, 94 RBI, and 12 stolen bases in 129 games last season between the Double-A and Triple-A affiliates of the Diamondbacks before tallying five home runs and 17 RBI over his first 34 games at the major league level. Seattle acquired the former supplemental first-round pick in November as part of the Jean Segura and Taijuan Walker trade.
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Matthew Pouliot: I have the boldest prediction: Madison Bumgarner goes the rest of the Diamondbacks series without homering.
I’m not saying it will happen, because I think he’s more likely to make 28 starts than 32, but I expect James Paxton to pitch like a Cy Young candidate this year. He went from throwing 93-96 mph and walking 3.5 batters per nine innings previously to throwing 95-98 mph and walking 1.8 batters per nine innings last year. Those are huge gains, and they led to one of the best FIPs in baseball. I’d say Chris Sale is my AL Cy Young pick at the moment, but if either Paxton or Lance McCullers can throw 200 innings, they’d be serious threats for the award.
D.J. Short: I drafted Travis Shaw in a couple of deep leagues this spring due to his power potential, but after seeing him get a couple of doubles and an RBI out of the cleanup spot against the Rockies on Opening Day, I’m inspired to say that he’s going to reach 25 homers and 100 RBI this season. This exercise sort of forces you to say things you aren’t really comfortable with, but don’t rule it out. Miller Park is the best ballpark in the majors for left-handed power. If Shaw gets off to a hot start, he could cement himself in the cleanup spot behind the likes of Jonathan Villar and Ryan Braun, at least against right-handers. I’m not banking on much batting average help, but he’s in a great situation with Milwaukee.
Ryan Boyer: This was one of the "bold predictions" I made last week during a Facebook Live session, but I'll go ahead and double down with it here. Randal Grichuk will have a Khris Davis-esque power breakout in 2017 and slug 40 bombs. He's off to a good start, having mashed an opposite-field shot in Sunday's Opening Night victory over the Cubs. The raw power with Grichuk is easy to see, and he's always been a Statcast darling with his high exit velocity. He's also a flyball hitter, and while Busch Stadium isn't the greatest hitting environment, it helps that Grichuk rarely hits fence-scrapers. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny took a while to fully commit to Grichuk last season, but when he finally did the outfielder batted .275 with 12 home runs over his final 185 plate appearances. Grichuk is also moving to a less demanding position this season in left field, so he'll be able to focus less on defense and more on belting moonshots.
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Dave Shovein: Despite finishing the fantasy draft season as the 50th starting pitcher off the board on average, Matt Shoemaker will finish inside the top-10 at his position by season's end. With an increased reliance on his split-finger fastball in 2016, Shoemaker registered a scintillating 2.83 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 121/17 K/BB ratio across 130 1/3 innings in his final 20 starts before a line drive to the head ended his season. He's now fully-recovered from his injury and compiled a 21/5 K/BB ratio in 17 innings of Cactus League competition. Shoemaker is ready to take that leap forward into the tier of elite starting pitchers and will wind up as one of the breakout fantasy stars of 2017.
Nate Grimm: I've gone from basically not being able to name candidates for the Tigers' fifth starter spot to convincing myself Matt Boyd is going to be in our top 60 starting pitcher rankings next spring. His spring can't be ignored, or if it can, it's by people with more willpower than me -- the southpaw earned the rotation job by posting a 2.10 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 23/1 K/BB ratio over 25 2/3 Grapefruit League innings -- but it's not as though he came completely out of nowhere. I'm cherry-picking here, but post-All-Star break last year, if we exclude his last start in which he gave up four runs without recording an out, Boyd went 6-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 68 innings. He's a lefty who can run his fastball up to 95 mph, gets good swings-and-misses with his changeup and showed an improved slider as 2016 went on. Was this spring a result of a pitcher who's taken the next step, or a 26-year-old beating up on career minor leaguers? I don't know. But I'm drinking the Kool-Aid.
Jesse Pantuosco: How’s this for bold? Jose Quintana will win the American League Cy Young Award (wait for it) as a member of the Houston Astros. Quintana might be the most unappreciated ace in baseball with four straight seasons of 200-plus innings and a sub-four ERA. The White Sox are going to trade Quintana at some point and Houston has the prospects (Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker to name a couple) to pull off a blockbuster deal. The Astros’ championship window is open now, which should motivate them to upgrade what was a good but not great rotation last year. If the Astros win the Quintana sweepstakes, I think they’ll be right there with Cleveland and Boston in the American League pennant race.
You can follow and/or contact all of these @Rotoworld_BB writers on Twitter: @drewsilv, @djshort, @RyanPBoyer, @matthewpouliot, @JessePantuosco, @Nate_Grimm, @DaveShovein.