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 hitting categories.
Home Run King:
The Pick: Giancarlo Stanton
The Reasoning: In 2014, at the young age of 24-years-old, Mr. Stanton hit 37 home runs. He also did this in 2012. We all know the power he has in his bat. According to Statcast over at baseballsavant.mlb.com in 2016 he led the league in Max Exit Velocity at 123.9 miles per hour. He was third in Average Exit Velocity at 95.1 miles per hour. In short, when he connects with the baseball…it is hit very hard. He has the ability to hit the ball 504 feet, which happens to be the maximum distance he hit the ball in 2016.
You have to love a slugger who is entering his age 27 season; one that has had an ISO of .341 recently (admittedly in only 318 MLB plate appearances that season). That’s the main concern with Mr. Stanton. With only 318 plate appearances in 2015 and 470 in 2016 the big question is will he play enough to challenge for the home run crown in 2017? I think he will.
The Bold Prediction: Gary Sanchez
The Reasoning: He hit 20 home runs in 229 plate appearances. If the season had gone on past the end of the regular season and he had kept up that rate he would have hit 45 home runs in 515 plate appearances. Mark Trumbo led MLB in home runs in 2016 with 47 on the season.
Mr. Sanchez tied with one other hitter in 2016 for the eighth highest Average Exit Velocity at 94.1 miles per hour. So, he does put a charge into the baseball when he makes contact. That’s one of the concerns with Mr. Sanchez though…contact…as he struck out 24.9% of the time in 2016 at the major league level. Another obstacle he will need to overcome is getting enough plate appearances to make a legitimate run at it. Mark Trumbo had 667 plate appearances when he hit his MLB leading 47 home runs in 2016. In fact, no player with less than 608 MLB plate appearances in 2016 hit 34 or more home runs. It’s likely that Mr. Sanchez will only get in the 500 to 550 range in plate appearances in 2017. So, yes, this prediction is quite bold.
The Pick: Nolan Arenado
The Reasoning: The reasoning is simple. This is definitely an offense in Colorado that is in the top third of the league, so guys get on base, which is crucial to the RBI statistic obviously. That ballpark they play in is great for power, but also, getting hits. I like to call it a hitters paradise. Mr. Arenado is a 40+ home run threat, as he has surpassed that mark each of the past two seasons. In general, the more balls you hit over the fence, the more likely you are going to rack up RBI’s. Oh, and I seem to have buried the lead, which is each of the past two seasons he has led MLB in RBI’s (133 and 130). Health, like with all counting stat statistics, will be critical in him achieving the RBI three-peat.
The Bold Prediction: Miguel Sano
The Reasoning: Naturally, when looking for top RBI producers one must hone in on the number three and four spots in the batting order. So, after sifting through roughly 60 players for a bold prediction I have settled on Minnesota Twins slugger Miguel Sano. He’ll likely be the number 4 hitter and likely hitting in front of him is Joe Mauer, who only hit .261 last season but did walk at a 13.7% clip. This combined with his lack of power (11 home runs last season) makes him a duck on the pond player. Likely batting ahead of Mr. Mauer is Jorge Polanco. Mr. Polanco had a .282 batting average last season over 270 plate appearances and he also doesn’t have a lot of power (4 home runs in that time span). Can you say duck on the pond?
Ideally, I’d like my bold prediction to have some lineup protection behind him. That’s where Max Kepler comes in, the likely number five hitter in the order. Ok, so he doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of pitchers. I give you that. But he likely will be a .260 hitter this season who will put the ball in play and has enough power in his bat to realistically hit 18 or more home runs. He is not someone to be feared, but he should be respected. Heck, pitchers might, at least early on, rather try to challenge Mr. Sano more with a runner on base rather than pitching cautiously to him and potentially walking him and having to face the better contact hitter in Kepler, as Mr. Sano had a whopping 36% K% in 2016 in those 495 MLB plate appearances.
That’s enough talk about the players likely to be around him in the lineup. Let’s focus back in on the positives with Mr. Sano. The positives are he is the likely cleanup hitter in a good lineup, and one that has immense power in his bat. If he can stay healthy and log 600+ plate appearances while hitting timely home runs with multiple ducks on the pond, well, bold may become true!
The Pick: Mike Trout
The Reasoning: He’s one of the greatest talents in the game and was the Runs King in 2016. He’s talented enough to do it again and you got to love the .315 batting average combined with the 17% BB% he had in 2016. Have we seen his best years already? We can’t say no because we don’t know the future with complete certainty and what he has already done has been so amazing. However, he will be in his age 25 season in 2017 and I believe these next few seasons likely will be equally as amazing with the distinct chance of one or two of them being even more amazing than what we have seen.
The Bold Prediction: Andrew Benintendi
The Reasoning: At least to start the season, Andrew Benintendi will likely be hitting out of the number two or three spot in the Boston Red Sox lineup. He likely will have either Xander Bogaerts or Mookie Betts hitting behind him and behind those guys is Hanley Ramirez. Mr. Bogaerts hit .294 last season with 21 home runs and 34 doubles. Those 34 doubles had him tied for 34th in doubles in 2016 in MLB. Mr. Betts hit .318 last year with 31 home runs and 42 doubles. He was tied for 6th in doubles in 2016 in MLB. Mr. Ramirez hit .286 in 2016 with 30 home runs and 28 doubles. What I’m trying to say here is there are multiple guys likely to be behind him in the Red Sox lineup that are very capable of driving him across the plate.
All he has to do is get on base. In 118 MLB plate appearances in 2016 Mr. Benintendi had a .295 batting average with a 8.5% BB%. In a smallish sized sample size he has proven that he can get on base at a good clip at the major league level. He just needs to keep that up and be fortunate enough for his lineup protection to drive him in at a high rate. To go full circle on the doubles conversation it needs to be said that in those 118 MLB plate appearances he had 11 doubles. If you extrapolate that out over, say, 550 plate appearances (note extrapolation is not always reliable, obviously) then that is 51 doubles! That is prime scoring position.
Stolen Base King:
The Pick: Billy Hamilton
The Reasoning: This one’s simple. The reason is speed, pure 80-grade speed. Ok…so it’s not that simple. He knows how to use that speed as well. He knows when to run. He has only been caught stealing 16 times in 131 attempts over the past two MLB seasons.
The Bold Prediction: Manuel Margot
The Reasoning: The Padres are going to need to be aggressive on the base paths and manufacture runs. They have a recent history of running as well, with the 5th most stolen bases in 2016 (125). Mr. Margot has proven in the minor leagues that he can steal bases. This is an extremely bold prediction though because there is some uncertainty as to how many plate appearances he will get in 2017. Plus, he would need to up his minor league stolen base attempt and success rates and do this (obviously) at the MLB level. This would be no small feat.
Batting Average King:
The Pick: Daniel Murphy
The Reasoning: First off, to be the Batting Average King in my eyes, a hitter needs at least 502 plate appearances. Why you ask? Well, that’s the number needed to qualify for the batting title. The past five seasons Mr. Murphy has surpassed that number. He also was the Batting Average King runner up in 2016 with a .347 batting average, just .001 behind MLB leader DJ LeMahieu. It took a .388 BABIP for Mr. LeMahieu to accomplish this feat. Mr. Murphy did it with a .348 BABIP.
The Bold Prediction: Ender Inciarte
The Reasoning: First off, this is a player that has displayed excellent plate discipline over his minor league career and also 1,586 MLB career plate appearances. Secondly, in 2015 and 2016 he had .329 BABIP’s. If he gets lucky (and there is a sizeable luck factor in batting average) he could make this bold prediction look prophetic.
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