This is the weekly Fantasy Roundtable, where the writers of Rotoworld Baseball let the readers of Rotoworld Baseball in on a quick staff discussion. It’s water cooler talk … that we’ve decided to publish. Look for it every Tuesday.
Drew Silva: We offered up bold fantasy-related predictions when we first published our 2016 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 surprising number — something along those lines — and explain a little why you’re feeling like it might actually happen …
I’ll go first. It’s not all that bold because he has long been considered a guy with ace-level upside, but my prediction is that Stephen Strasburg finally takes that big step forward into superstardom this season, finishing with an ERA in the mid-2.00s and close to 250 strikeouts as he beats out Clayton Kershaw for the National League Cy Young Award. I love the way Strasburg closed out the 2015 season — 1.76 ERA, 110/12 K/BB ratio over 82 innings in his final 13 starts — and he looked as sharp as ever this spring in Nationals camp. He’ll be lined up to become the next $200 million starting pitcher when he hits free agency next fall at age 28. Actually, that deal is probably going to set a new record for a starting pitcher contract.
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Jesse Pantuosco: I don’t know how bold this is — I guess you guys can be the judge — but I’m going with Kansas City to win its second straight World Series title. My apologies to long-suffering Cubs fans everywhere. Somehow Vegas is predicting only 84.5 wins for the defending champs while our friends at PECOTA have them down for just 76. I’m not sure why everyone’s so sour on the Royals. Maybe it’s their starting pitching. There’s no ace here, but the Royals have discovered plenty of other ways to win games. Last year they won with contact-based hitting, smart base running, solid defense, and one of baseball’s stingiest bullpens. The team kept its core together and I think Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez are still getting better. So yeah, my bold pick is that a 95-win juggernaut with eight All-Stars will win the World Series. Go big or go home, right?
Silva: For the sake of our readers, Jesse, give me one sneaky fantasy stud from that roster. Jarrod Dyson?
Pantuosco: I think Edinson Volquez fits that description. He looked sharp against the Mets on Opening Night and now owns a 3.25 ERA (117 ERA+) in 399 innings since the beginning of the 2014 season. His K/9 is kind of a work in progress (6.96 last season) but he usually works quickly (3.78 P/PA over his last two seasons), which lets him pitch deep into games. Playing for a contender will afford him plenty of win opportunities and he should benefit from pitching in front of one of the league’s best defenses. You might be able to poach him off the waiver wire depending on your league’s depth. As a late-round flier type, you could do a lot worse than Volquez.
Nathan Grimm: I have a lot of pet causes worth stumping for — Matt Duffy, Devon Travis, Domingo Santana — but I’ll go with a guy who I’m all-in on this spring who hasn’t been getting a ton of love: Marlins starter Adam Conley. The big lefty struck out all six Tigers hitters he faced in a rained-out Grapefruit League game just a couple of weeks ago and he was routinely hitting 95-96 mph with his fastball in exhibition play. Conley has the pedigree of being a second-round pick in 2011, he acquitted himself well in 11 starts with the Marlins last season, and the team should be representative this year, giving him a shot at double-digit wins with strong supporting numbers. Since we’re being bold, I’ll say the 25-year-old puts it all together to become a top-30 fantasy starter this year.
Ryan Boyer: I like Grimm’s pick there. Conley is owned in less than 10 percent of Yahoo leagues right now, which I think will look really silly by the end of the season.
I’m going to make a case for Delino DeShields finishing as a top-25 outfielder. A walk rate of nearly 11 percent is good for anyone. For a 22-year-old who skipped over Triple-A, it’s awfully impressive and tells me that this is a guy who has a really good idea of what he’s doing at the plate. DeShields stole 25 bases in his rookie season, and there could be a lot more in the tank there. He once stole 101 (not a typo) bases in a minor league season and averaged 59 per season on the farm. The center fielder scored 83 runs last year for the Rangers in fewer than 500 plate appearances. He’s going to bat leadoff for them from the jump this season and I don’t think it’s bonkers to say he could threaten 100-plus runs in 2016. DeShields could also be a non-zero in the power department. Yes, he had just two bombs in 2015, but he hit double-digit homers a couple times in the minors, plays in a favorable hitting environment and that 1.9 percent HR/FB rate has to go up. For a guy who could be had after pick 200 in many drafts this spring, DeShields could bring back a ton of value.
D.J. Short: I’m also looking to the Rangers with my pick. It’s dangerous to call someone “This Year’s Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, or A.J. Pollock,” but I think that Rougned Odor is one of the most likely hitters to make that leap to fantasy stud this season. He was a favorite breakout pick of mine a year ago, but he struggled early on before a demotion in mid-May. The switch flipped upon his return a month later, as he batted .292 with 15 home runs, 52 RBI, five steals and an .861 OPS over his final 91 games. He did this all as a 21-year-old, by the way. Odor hasn’t shown much patience yet, but he makes contact and I still think we could see some more steals in time. His placement in the order is an issue right now (he batted seventh on Opening Day), but there’s been some chatter about him potentially moving to the top of the lineup, which would obviously be huge in this lineup and ballpark.
Matthew Pouliot: Is it too late to go all in on Michael Taylor? He was already looking at pretty substantial time in the Nationals outfield after his huge spring (.453/.491/.849, 6 HR, 3 SB in 53 AB) and now Ben Revere just hurt a rib-cage muscle on Opening Day. I thought Taylor could be a top-30 fantasy outfielder before the Nationals sent him to the bench by acquiring Revere. He’s not going to hit for a remarkable average, but the power-speed combination will play very well if he gets the at-bats.