(1) Zack Greinke has pitched much better than his 4.54 ERA would otherwise suggest.
The so-called Demise of Zack Greinke™ can partially be ascribed to the fact that he signed a massive contract with the derelict Diamondbacks, but fantasy owners will also scoff at his 4.54 ERA and the fact that he’ll soon be 33 years old. Despite all of that, I already know that I’ll be buying ample stock in the right-hander for the 2017 fantasy campaign.
The velocity is hovering around his career norm, while his walk rate sits at 4.9 percent and his swinging-strike rate remains in double digits. Even in his catastrophic second half, his strikeout rate is 20.4 percent. And to top it off, the right-hander owns a 3.13 DRA and 91 cFIP. Of major-league pitchers who threw at least 100 innings in 2016, Greinke has the 16th-best DRA (16th out of 125 pitchers).
Yeah, the ballpark sucks. Yeah, the Diamondbacks have a laughable front office. That offense looks like it’ll score plenty of runs in 2017, though, and the underlying numbers indicate that Zack Greinke is still one of the better pitchers in the majors. You’d best believe that I’ll be here for that.
(2) I underestimated Kyle Hendricks.
I once wrote that Hendricks was doing his best Mark Buehrle impression at the big-league level, which is utterly useful for real-life organization but rather uninspiring for those of us partaking in the fantasy corner of the baseball world. At that time, the right-hander struck out under 20 percent of the batters he faced and appeared wholly dependent upon batted-ball variance.
Fast forward a couple of years, and Hendricks owns a 2.07 ERA with a 22.4 percent strikeout rate and is a bona fide top-20 fantasy hurler. What happened? First of all, his swinging-strike rate jumped into double digits, thanks to a tremendous changeup and an improved ability to sequence on the mound. For the second-consecutive season, he’s getting a 25-percent-plus whiff rate on his changeup; however, he’s now pairing that with an 8.75 percent whiff rate on his fastball — up almost three percent from a year ago. The ability to pair those two pitches more effectively has alleviated the strikeout issues that threatened to limit his fantasy value a couple of years ago.
Of course, he’s also benefiting from a .245 BABIP and the best LOB% of his professional career (including the minors). His DRA sits at 3.61, which seems much more plausible than what he’s done in 2016. Then again, the Cubs’ pitching staff has a combined .251 BABIP, which is the lowest BABIP any team has posted since the strike. I haven’t really looked into that too much, but that seems like A Thing that should be addressed before next season.
(3) Joey Votto is one of the five best hitters in baseball, yet can’t be considered a top-20 fantasy position player.
Votto has been the best hitter in baseball since the All-Star break, hitting .424/.525/.671 in 200 plate appearances. He’s walking 19 percent of the times he steps to the plate, while only striking out 11 percent of the time. That kind of performance is straight-up otherworldly. Yet Votto isn’t a top-20 fantasy hitter in 2016. In other words, he has been quite Troutian… but can’t break into the fantasy elite.
Cincinnati ruins everything.
Here’s a guy who is hitting a combined .313/.448/.534 over his last 1,258 plate appearances and is third- or fourth-round guy in most fantasy leagues. Here’s a first baseman who has swiped 19 bags over the past two years, yet mostly inspires apathy. So much of this comes down to a lack of a quality Reds offense. If he were in Anthony Rizzo’s position in Chicago, I’d place a lot of money on Votto putting up better numbers. He’s an elite talent being hidden on a subpar club.
At least the Reds have finally committed to a full-scale rebuild. Fantasy owners should just hope Votto gets surrounded by big-league talent prior to turning 35 years old.
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