This is a fun exercise I’ve wanted to do for a while now. Right now, Opening Day 2017 is four and a half years away, but there’s absolutely no reason I can’t start speculating about who will lead the standard 5×5 rotisserie categories that season. Who knows if the 5×5 format we use now will still be the most commonplace scoring system that far into the future anyway? Maybe a standard ESPN league will be using OBP and QS instead of AVG and W. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to assume that the categories are remaining the same.
Now, this isn’t an all-prospect list – although there are some prospects on here. And if you think I’m understating the impact of prospects in this exercise, here’s a fun fact for you. If we did this exercise after the 2007 season, looking at the 2012 category leaders, guess how many of the categories would be led by players who had not played a game in the majors at the time? The answer is 5 out of 10. And if you expand out to the top-3 in each category (including ties), you get 13 out of 33, which is 39%. Of those 13 top-3 category finishes, 7 were from players that debuted in 2008, 2 were from players that debuted in 2009, 2 were from players that debuted in 2010 and 2 were from Mike Trout, who was a junior in high school when the 2007 season ended. In fact, Trout and Buster Posey were the only two players who finished in the top-3 of any 5×5 fantasy category in 2012 to be drafted AFTER the 2007 season.
Anyway, that’s enough of an introduction – let’s go to the Future Dynasty Guru for the breakdown of what happened in 2017:
Batting Average: Miguel Cabrera (.341)
It feels like Miguel Cabrera’s been around forever, but he only turned 33 on Opening Day 2017. While his power has started to wind down (this was his first season with under 30 HR in over a decade), Cabrera continues to maintain a high batting average. The two main reasons for this are: 1) he’s still a fantastic hitter to all fields and 2) by the laws of physics, it’s been impossible for him to get any slower than he was back in 2012. Runners up: Oscar Taveras (.334), Starlin Castro (.328)
Home Runs: Giancarlo Stanton (53)
Bryce Harper may have taken the HR title in 2016, but this is Stanton’s age-27 season, and in case you hadn’t noticed, the dude can still pound the heck out of a baseball. While Miami’s ballpark slightly quieted his HR power for six seasons, he finally brought his prodigious power to a hitters ballpark on the north side of Chicago this year. Turns out the friendly confines were quite friendly to Mr. Stanton, who hit 28 of his 53 HR at Wrigley Field en route to an NL Central title. Runners up: Bryce Harper (44), Jay Bruce (42)
Runs Batted In: Xander Bogaerts (128)
The first 2012 prospect-eligible player on this list, Bogaerts has put up special numbers ever since arriving in Boston during the 2013 season. With his propensity for driving the ball and his aggressive approach, Bogaerts has been a stalwart in the middle of the Red Sox lineup for years and has the RBI totals that come along with that. It’s just a shame he’s doing it from RF, as the Red Sox have still been unable to develop a shortstop since Nomar. Runners up: Miguel Cabrera (124), Oscar Taveras (121)
Runs Scored: Mike Trout (124)
Like you thought this would be anyone different? Though, at this point in his career, he’s scoring all of these runs from the #3 spot in the lineup (with Pujols hitting clean up). And, yes, he’s been the #1 pick in redraft leagues every year since 2014. Runners up: Jackie Bradley Jr (123), Eric Hosmer (119)
Stolen Bases: Billy Hamilton (91)
Back in 2012, no one had stolen 80 bases in a season in 25 years, but this is Hamilton’s second time reaching the mark in three years. A three-time All Star and fan favorite, Hamilton also just starred in an American Express commercial, which ends in a shot-for-shot remake of the Willie “Mays" Hayes portion of the commercial the Indians shot in Major League. “Don’t steal home without it,” says Hamilton playfully. Runners up: Delino DeShields Jr (61), Anthony Gose (52)
Wins: Adam Wainwright (21)
Yes, Wainwright played most of the 2017 at age-35, but he’s become a true Halladay-like innings horse. Not only did he win 20 games, but he also led the league in innings pitched with 249 1/3. The dynasty league owners who bought low on him during the time around his Tommy John surgery look like they’ve gotten quite a bargain by this point. Runners up: Yu Darvish (20), Stephen Strasburg (19)
Earned Run Average: Taijuan Walker (2.53)
While they did bring the fences in at Safeco for the 2013 season, it turns out the park was still pretty favorable for pitchers – which worked to Seattle’s advantage with their dominating rotation. Walker finally broke out in his age-24 season, after showing flashes of brilliance mixed in with his inconsistencies for a couple of years. Unfortunately, he had one of his worst performances of the year in Game 5 of the ALCS, allowing 2 HR to Eric Hosmer. Runners up: David Price (2.56), Brett Anderson (2.61)
Walks/Hits per Inning Pitched: Clayton Kershaw (1.01)
Yea, he’s still good. Runners up: Stephen Strasburg (1.03), Jameson Taillon (1.04)
Strikeouts: Stephen Strasburg (248)
Yea, he’s still good as well. In fact, over the last five seasons (from 2013 to 2017), only once has the Cy Young award winner from the National League not been either Kershaw or Strasburg. But let’s be honest, no one saw that type of season coming from Josh Johnson in 2014. Runners up: Yu Darvish (242), Matt Harvey (233)
Saves: Carlos Martinez (50)
There was much debate about Martinez as a starter or a reliever when he was coming up – and there was even more after he had trouble staying healthy during his two years in the Cardinals rotation. But ever since they moved him to the bullpen full-time, Martinez has been lights out. He even led the league in Kimbrels during the 2017 season with 6. Yes, that’s a widespread term now for a perfect inning with 3 strikeouts. [Runners up: Neftali Feliz (47), David Robertson (45)]
So with my predictions out there, let’s open this up to everyone else. Who do you think are some surprising names that could lead the league in one of these categories in 2017 that I haven’t included, and why?