This is the Fantasy Roundtable, where the writers of Rotoworld Baseball let the readers of Rotoworld in on a quick staff discussion. Whether it’s a top prospect arriving, a closer role changing, or we just need to vent -- our staff talks it over and you get a peek behind the curtain. It's water cooler chatter ... that we've decided to publish.
Drew Silva: Name a player you didn't target in drafts this spring but are suddenly high on two weeks into the regular season. Or is there a draft-day sleeper that you see emerging into a true difference-maker now that you've got a slightly different perspective?
Let’s avoid names we’ve covered frequently on this site, like Eric Thames and Mitch Haniger -- to toot my own horn, I predicted Haniger would wind up as a top-40 outfielder in our last Fantasy Roundtable, and he’s currently the eighth-most-valuable player overall on Yahoo.
How about Elvis Andrus? He was the 15th shortstop off the board in the average Yahoo draft this spring but has produced top-five value at the position out of the gate with his .308 batting average, .929 OPS, three home runs, and two stolen bases through 13 regular-season games. Because of the influx of wildly-talented young shortstops I think people forgot about Andrus or maybe didn’t notice the strides he made offensively in 2016. He’s starting to bat second frequently in the Rangers’ batting order and the counting stats will come in bunches in that spot. I think he can be a top-seven shortstop in 2017, and that’s really saying something given how many shortstops went within the first four rounds this spring.
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Ryan Boyer: I might have said Kendall Graveman if you had asked me a few days ago with his velocity bump, but he's on the disabled list now with a shoulder issue. It doesn't appear to be serious, but I'll still pivot in another direction to Ryan Zimmerman.
Zimmerman batted just .242/.300/.420 while averaging only 90 games played from 2014-16 due to injury. He's healthy now, though, and has followed up a huge spring with a .333/.378/.643 batting line and three home runs in his first 12 games. Zimmerman remains a health risk over the long haul, but he's just 32 so there's reason to believe the former All-Star should have something left in the tank. He's also cemented into the No. 5 spot in a very good Nationals lineup. Zimmerman went undrafted in many mixed leagues this spring, but I'm happily plugging him into my corner infield spot in a couple leagues right now.
D.J. Short: Travis d'Arnaud wasn’t even in my top-20 catchers when we put together our staff rankings for the Rotoworld Draft Guide in early February. What can I say, I was down on him after he was limited to just 75 games due to injury last year while batting just .247 with four home runs and a .629 OPS. Whether it’s improved health, cutting down on his bat-wrap, or some combination of the two, he has looked like a different hitter since the start of spring training. D’Arnaud has already amassed five extra-base hits (including two homers) in 36 plate appearances after collecting just 11 extra-base hits in 276 plate appearances all of last season. He’s also suddenly hitting lefties again. I still question his ability to stay on the field, but we’ve seen in the past that he’s capable of producing like a top-12 catcher when he does. I should say that I selected d’Arnaud as my second catcher in our two-catcher Rotoworld Friends and Family League this spring, so I wasn’t avoiding him completely, but it’s not crazy to consider him as a starting option in deeper single-catcher formats at this point.
Matthew Pouliot: I’m feeling better about snatching up Michael Pineda as my sixth SP in some mixed-league drafts. I’m not guaranteeing he’s finally found the consistency that’s eluded him, but with his velocity up some, he’s getting more swings and misses on his fastball than the last couple of years. Last season, the league hit .330 and slugged .593 off his four-seamer. This year, the league is at .172 and still doesn’t have a single extra-base hit in the 110 times he’s thrown it (last year, he gave up an XBH every 32 times he threw it). I had Pineda ranked 42nd among SPs going into the year. He’s shown me enough so far that I’d have him at least 10 spots higher right now.
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Jesse Pantuosco: The hottest pitcher in baseball right now is Ervin Santana and I don’t think any of us saw it coming. It’s easy to see why Santana went undrafted in so many leagues. He’s 34, plays on a below-average Twins team and doesn’t overwhelm in the strikeout department. But if you look closely, Santana has pitched like a legitimate ace since last year’s All-Star break. Over that span, he’s gone 7-4 with a 2.20 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP while limiting opponents to a miserable .198 average. That’s 17 starts worth of data, so I think this is more than just a fluke. The light bulb has gone on for Santana and I don’t see it going out anytime soon.
Dave Shovein: One guy that I wasn't really buying into during the 2017 draft season that I have since changed my tune on is Eduardo Nunez. I thought that his power would be completely sapped playing half of his games in San Francisco, and that since he'd be hitting near the bottom of the lineup he wouldn't hold much fantasy appeal. Had I known that he was going to run wild, I may have changed my mind. Nunez has already swiped a National League leading five bases in the first 13 games of the season and is hitting a cool .313/.346/.354 while doing so. He has yet to crank his first home run of the year, and has just two total extra base hits, but given where he was selected in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts it looks like he may deliver surplus value on the strength of his batting average and stolen bases alone.