Today I am looking into my crystal ball and seeing who I predict to be the best in each of the five traditional Roto fantasy baseball league pitching categories.
The Pick: Chris Sale
The Reasoning: With that Boston Red Sox lineup behind him supplying bunches of runs Mr. Sale is in prime position to rack up a serious win total in 2017. Remember that in 2016 the Red Sox led all of MLB in runs scored with 878, over 30 more runs than the next closest team (Colorado Rockies, 845 runs) and 70 more than the team with the third most runs scored (Chicago Cubs, 808 runs). Teammate Rick Porcello showed that it was achievable in 2016 by being the MLB Wins King (22 wins). With Craig Kimbrel closing and rock solid Tyler Thornburg as the prime setup guy you have to love the chances of the bullpen preserving the wins for the starting staff.
The Bold Prediction: Lance McCullers
The Reasoning: I’m going to take this opportunity to spotlight a player that I truly love. Mr. McCullers has proven to me over his 206.2 MLB career innings pitched that he has the stuff needed to win a high number of games in a given season. His 3.22 ERA says that and his 3.16 FIP says the same. He proved in 81 innings last season that he could get out of jams at a high rate (81.4% LOB%) and also had an excellent 30.1% K%, which shows his strikeout ability. His SwStr% (Swinging Strike percentage) was 13% at the MLB level in 2016. That I give a grade of excellent. The one question mark with him is when it will be that he completes a season with 190-plus innings pitched? If 2017 is the season then his fantasy baseball owners should be very happy with the ace-level production he will give them.
The Pick: Kenley Jansen
The Reasoning: Anyone who plays fantasy baseball knows his name and knows the level of his game, which is awesome of course. Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen was tied for second place in MLB in saves in 2016. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him exit the 2017 season as the Saves King.
The Bold Prediction: Cam Bedrosian
The Reasoning: Huston Street was in line for the closers job in Los Angeles with the Angels. You know, the guy who is entering the season not ready to pitch the 9th inning. The guy that had a 6.45 ERA and 1.93 WHIP in only 22.1 innings of work in 2016. Does this guy give you any confidence with those statistics? Obviously the answer is no. So, would it be a surprise to see him lose his job with a rock solid strong start of the season by Mr. Bedrosian in the 9th inning of early April games? Obviously, that answer should be no.
When I look at spring training results, I don’t take them with a grain of salt. I take them with 1,000 grains of salt! In short, I’m not a big fan of spring training results. They don’t move the needle on any of my projections (outside a player winning a position battle in spring training, which obviously affects projected plate appearances or innings pitched). That said, as of the time this article was written, this spring Mr. Bedrosian has shown his manager that in eight innings pitched he hasn’t given up an earned run and has a 0.75 WHIP with 10 strikeouts.
Even if Mr. Bedrosian doesn’t start the season as the closer, well, with the recent track record of Mr. Street, one would think he would have the job before long. His 2016 ERA (1.12), WHIP (1.09) and strikeouts (51) in 40.1 innings pitched SCREAM closer-in-waiting. If he has the closer job for the entire season, or at least almost all of the season, he is a guy that could be the 2017 Saves King.
The Pick: Clayton Kershaw
The Reasoning: Who had the most strikeouts in 2015? Answer: Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw. As long as he doesn’t get hurt and miss time like he did last season he’s one of a few favorites to be the Strikeout King. We all know he’s the best pitcher in the game currently so let’s move onto the bold prediction.
The Bold Prediction: Michael Pineda
The Reasoning: New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda can strike out a lot of hitters. He has proven that. In 2016 he had the 11th most strikeouts in MLB. Some might say, well, then this can’t be a bold prediction. I would say that there is a big difference between the 207 strikeouts that he had and 284 strikeouts, which is how many Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer had in 2016 as the 2016 Strikeouts King or the 301 Clayton Kershaw had as the 2015 Strikeouts King. In 2014 it was David Price with 271 strikeouts. If Mr. Pineda stays healthy and keeps doing what he has been doing in spring training this year (again, 1,000 grains of salt so don’t buy into the spring results much at all) then this bold prediction just might come true.
The Pick: Clayton Kershaw
The Reasoning: To qualify for this I believe that on Fangraphs.com (where all these great statistics come from) the pitcher needs to be listed when the minimum innings pitched of “Qualified” is selected. I also only am considering starting pitchers. Had he pitched enough innings in 2016 he would have been the 2016 ERA King. In 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Mr. Kershaw was the ERA King. Yeah, I’d say he’s the favorite to be the 2017 ERA King.
The Bold Prediction: James Paxton
The Reasoning: I’d like to introduce you to the new ace of the Seattle Mariners pitching staff. Oh sure, Felix Hernandez (also known as King Felix) will get the ball on opening day. However, King Felix is the ace of the staff in name only now as 2017 will be a great season for James Paxton…as long as he can stay healthy. It will be a better season than what King Felix puts up. Heck, he’ll even have a better ERA than King Felix!
Ok, some of you are probably wondering why I have picked a guy that has had a 3.90 ERA (2015) and 3.79 ERA (2016) the past couple seasons as my bold prediction to have the top ERA among “Qualified” starting pitchers in 2017. In 121 innings pitched in 2016 his FIP (which shows how well he actually pitched) was 2.80. That’s almost a full run better than the ERA. He had his best career showings in strikeouts, swinging strike percentage, first pitch strikes and walks in 2016. How did that happen you ask? Well, his pitch velocity jumped to almost 97 miles per hour! That certainly can’t hurt! It’s been well reported upon that a mechanical change led to the increased velocity and control.
Speaking of the word “hurt”, well, he needs to avoid that in 2017. That is my only real concern with him, and not enough of one to keep from having him on my fantasy teams. He pitched 171.2 combined minor league and MLB innings in 2016 so don’t be too concerned about his health or ability to top 195 innings pitched in 2017. All hail King James! Well, at least the King James of summer. The King James of winter is LeBron. WARNING! IN ARTICLE DYNASTY SPORTS EMPIRE SHAMELESS PLUG: For some great fantasy basketball articles check out the writing of Doug Adams by CLICKING HERE!
The Pick: Clayton Kershaw
The Reasoning: To qualify for this I believe that on Fangraphs.com the pitcher needs to be listed when the minimum innings pitched of “Qualified” is selected. I also am only considering starting pitchers. If he would have stayed healthy and pitched a full season in 2016 Mr. Kershaw would have been the 2016 WHIP King. In 2012 (tied with Jered Weaver), 2013 and 2014 Mr. Kershaw was the WHIP King. He’s the clear favorite for 2017.
The Bold Prediction: Tanner Roark
The Reasoning: Washington Nationals starting pitcher Tanner Roark had the 23rd best “Qualified” WHIP from a starter in MLB in 2016 at 1.18. In 2014 he produced a 1.09 WHIP in 198.2 innings pitched so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that happen again in 2017. If he pitches at that level and has even more luck on where the ball is hit off of him (i.e. at defenders more often) then sure, why not, a Roark could be crowned 2017 WHIP King.
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