Throughout the past seven months we have tried to identify different strategies and players that can help fantasy owners compete for a championship. One important lesson I have learned during the years is to reflect on a season immediately after it's finished instead of waiting until the following year when it's draft season.
Everything is fresh in your mind of what went right or wrong, and it can be used as a starting point for the next season. It's never fun to admit you were wrong, but it helps you improve as a fantasy player.
We have reached our final two columns of the year, and since I hate ending on a bad note, we will first take a look at where I was wrong and finish the year looking at where I was right.
Where I Was Wrong:
Drafting Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton as a sleeper -- He finished 2016 strong, batting .294 with eight home runs and, more importantly, 16 stolen bases during the second half of the season. This led me to believe Broxton, 27, could easily steal 30 bases this season and continue in the power department and not hurt fantasy owners in the batting average category. Unfortunately, it was the complete opposite, as Broxton finished the season batting .220 with 20 home runs, 49 RBIs, 66 runs scored and 21 stolen bases. Broxton is not getting any younger, and this was supposed to be the season he took the next step.
Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Kevin Gausman will finally break out -- Frequent readers know my love for the right-hander, but he has continued to let me and fantasy owners down. Like Broxton, Gausman's second half in 2016 was great, as he finished August with a 2.45 ERA and September with a 3.18 mark. Gausman's strikeout rate was a season-best in August, as he struck out 10.1 hitters per nine innings. All signs pointed to the right-hander finally figuring it out. However, Gausman was a disaster in the first half of this season, posting a 5.85 ERA. Like 2016, Gausman was once again solid in the second half, where he had a 3.41 ERA. Unfortunately, that was too late, as he was dropped by many who had drafted him. The question becomes: Why can't Gausman start the season strong? He needs to do a lot of thinking this offseason to figure that out, but he has hurt so many fantasy owners during the past two seasons that his draft day position will reflect an average pitcher.
Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward bounces back in 2017 -- It's not often we see players decline when they are supposed to be in their prime, but that is exactly the case with Heyward. After signing a contract worth $184 million heading into the 2016 season, Heyward was expected to be one of the premier outfielders in baseball. The 28-year-old struggled in his first season with the Cubs last year by batting .230 with seven home runs. That caused him to be drafted as the No. 72 outfielder heading into this season, and I thought he could easily crush that draft day value. That was not the case, as Heyward once again struggled, hitting .259 with 11 home runs. Heyward was able to steal 11 bases in 2016, but this season he dropped to four. At this point, it will be extremely difficult to even consider Heyward fantasy relevant in 2018.
Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers -- I'm adding "undecided" this year because frequent readers know there wasn't a player I was higher on heading into this season than McCullers. The 24-year-old checked most boxes heading into the season, as he was about to hit his prime and had the ability to be an elite starting pitcher. Also, McCullers wasn't being drafted high, which made him even more appealing. However, the only box he didn't check was a major one: health. McCullers has had arm injuries throughout his career, which has held him back.
Through the first half, McCullers pitched to an elite level, as he had a 3.05 ERA and struck out 10.4 hitters per nine innings. This is exactly what we were hoping for in March when we drafted the right-hander as the No. 47 starting pitcher. Then the injury bug hit, and McCullers was only able to make six starts in the second half, where he posted an 8.23 ERA.
I still think the risk was worth it because of McCullers' draft day position, and he was one of the best pitchers in baseball through the first half. Unfortunately, he did get injured and struggled when he returned, so he hurt fantasy owners. I'll let you decide if I was right or wrong on this one.
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