2017 has been a memorable year in the sports world. The Astros won two game 7’s en route to their first-ever World Series win. The Falcons blew a 28-3 lead, (Sorry Jason) and The Tar Heels rebounded from their National Championship in 2016 loss at the hands of Kris Jenkins to win it in 2017. Every year fantasy sports become more and more mainstream and I couldn’t be happier about it.
I started playing fantasy sports around ten years ago, it first started with football. While I still love fantasy football, it’s a whole different animal to fantasy baseball. Fantasy baseball requires your attention year round. If you want to discover the best sleepers or post-hype players you are going to be in FanGraphs a lot.
We devote months leading up to our drafts in late April, pouring over Baseball-reference looking at players stats trying to get that slight edge over the competition. Fantasy football seems to lack analytical deep dives that baseball can provide.
I’m grateful for fantasy baseball, and the tight-knit community it provides. When you’re in a league with people from April until September you form sort of bond. I’m even still in touch with some friends from high school because we still keep our league going after all these years, I’ve made friends with complete strangers because of our love for fantasy baseball. Hey, I love it so much I even started writing about it.
I’m thankful for fantasy baseball, and I’m grateful Thanksgiving has arrived meaning Christmas is right around the corner.Then, before we realize it pitchers and catchers will start reporting to spring training meaning fantasy baseball will be almost here.
But instead of concentrating on us, let’s focus on some of the 2017 performances that won us our leagues. Players, we should be thankful for, the players we took a shot in the dark on after months of research and won us the coveted league trophy last season.
Oh Robbie Ray, with a curveball sweeter than that apple pie you will dine on Thanksgiving. Ray, who had regularly been a darling in fantasy circles put it together in 2017 when threw his curveball more and his fastball less. Ray’s ERA in 2017 was a career low 2.89 with a 12.11 K/9 (2nd highest among starters) in 162 innings. He had an ADP going into the season of 209 ( According to NFBC) behind players like Stephen Vogt and Adam Ottavino. Ray possed an elite strikeout rate with a low ERA and for that, I am thankful for you Robbie Ray.
As a Mets fan, I hear about Aaron Judge every day and deservedly so. The Right-hander put up a historic rookie season in 2017, but it wasn’t always rainbows and unicorns for Judge. His brief stint in the Majors in 2016 was tough. He slashed .179/.263/.345 with a 62 wRC+ while striking out an absurd 44.2% in 95 PA.
Heading into last draft season, there were reports of Judge retooling his swing. The Yankees still hadn’t determined if he would make the opening day roster. He was a late-round flier in most leagues or a free agent pickup. If you made that move, then the rest is history. Judge slashed a ridiculous .284/.422/.627 with 52 HR. The strikeouts are still in his game (30.7%) but toned down compared to his 2016 stint. Judge was a top fantasy player in 2017 and won many people their leagues. For that, we should be thankful for Aaron Judge.
As you expected Cody Bellinger, the 2017 NL ROY made it onto this list. After his call-up at the end of April, Bellinger exceeded even the wildest expectations. The Dodgers top prospect slashed .267/.352/.581 while hitting 39 HR and stealing 10 bases. He joined Wil Myers, Paul Goldschmidt, and Anthony Rizzo as the sole first basemen who hit over 30 HR while stealing 10+bases. Bellinger did it in only 548 PA while the others had 645 PA.
Bellinger should have been a pickup off free agency in some leagues, depending on your prospect setting (Dynasty excluded) and he became a top 10 1B and providing you value in every category. For those reasons, I am thankful for Cody Bellinger.
Severino is what most of us classify as a “post-hype sleeper.” The former top prospect struggled in his initial taste of the major leagues but in 2017 he put it together. According to NFBC ADP data heading into the 2017 season, the flame-throwing right-hander was the 100th starting pitcher off the board with an ADP of 350. Those numbers are telling you that outside of the deepest leagues Severino was undrafted and available.
If you took the shot on the former top-50 prospect, you were compensated generously. Severino finished 2017 with 14 wins (21 QS, tied for 6th most) a 2.98 ERA, 10.71 K/9 and the 6th lowest WHIP at 1.04. The best part of Severino’s incredible 2017 season, is that the numbers back up his performance. His FIP (3.07) and xFIP (3.04) are both within .10 of his ERA. His LOB% was 75.5 and his BABIP% was .272 both are sustainable with the stuff and strikeout potential Severino posses. I have a strong belief that Severino will not be a flash in the pan but a top fantasy pitcher for a long time. For that, I am thankful for Luis Severino.
Unlike the other names on this list so far, Gio Gonzalez has been in the majors for more than a handful of years. He has had years in which he was fantasy relevant but his 2016 season put many people off of him, making Gonzalez the perfect bounce-back candidate.
He rewarded owners who took a shot at him late in drafts (285 ADP) with an outstanding season. Gonzalez threw over 200 innings for the first time since 2011 and had a sub 3.00 ERA (2.94) for the first time since 2012. He gave you the volume stats you desire out of a starting pitcher. With 15 wins, 22 quality starts (Tied for 2nd most among starting pitchers) and 184 K’s.
Gonzalez may not be the league winner the last 4 players were, but for every Batman, there needs to be a Robin. Gonzalez was a reliable cheap starter who put together a top 15 season in 2017. For that reason, I am thankful for Gio Gonzalez.