Is the sun setting on the West Division in the SFRRC Fantasy Baseball League? Traditionally, this has been the strongest division in the league. Teams from the West Division have won the past two league championships and three of the first seven. The division has qualified three teams for the playoffs the last two seasons.
In the first seven seasons, no division in the league has been as strong as the West, but that may be changing.
According to the statistical projections by Ron Sandler at BaseballHQ, the only West Division team that will make the playoffs in 2017 is the Lower Haighters. Warning Track Power is projected to finish last in the standings while the Mirrors and Menehunes are expected to have the league’s lowest OPS and highest number of strikeouts.
The center of power in the league is projected to shift toward the East Division with Land Shark, Buster Hugs and Stadium Mustard all expected to play in the postseason.
Wade Davis, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances anchor a Stadium Mustard bullpen that is projected to lead the league in WHIP and K/9 while finishing second in ERA and third in Net Saves/Holds. It’s a major reason Stadium Mustard is the team to beat in 2017.
Land Shark finished third last year and will be led by sluggers Paul Goldschmidt, Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez. This team can hit. BaseballHQ expects Land Shark to lead the league in RBI and Runs while finishing fifth in OPS and Plate Appearances.
Kenley Jansen, A.J. Ramos and Tyler Clippard lead a strong group of relief pitchers that will need to meet expectations for Buster Hugs to reach the playoffs. The team has speed on the bases but could be challenged to score runs.
Let’s Play 2 could go from the Wooden Spoon last year to championship contender this year. Outfielder Mookie Betts is arguably the best player in baseball and is capable of carrying a team in the weekly head-to-head format. Veterans Victor Martinez, Ben Zobrist, Dexter Fowler and Brett Gardner surround young players like Betts, Corey Seager, and Kris Bryant to give Let’s Play 2 an offense that will be a league leader in Plate Appearances, Net Stolen Bases and Runs. The pitching is good, but not deep.
Hapamon General Manager Robert Kirkbride has a well-rounded team that should challenge for the North Division pennant. The starting rotation is led by Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Jameson Taillon while Charlie Blackmon, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon provide the offense with both power and speed.
Home Run 101 and Las Estellas Rojas round out the projected playoff contenders. Both teams have above-average bullpens with offenses that don’t strikeout often and can generate extra base hits. Rojas is also good on the base paths and will be one of the league’s best at stealing bases thanks to outfielders Billy Hamilton and Gregory Polanco.
Bacon at Mile 11, a consistent championship contender, is projected to finish last in RBI and RBI, next to last in Plate Appearances, and in the bottom five in Runs and ERA. Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rizzo will need some help from Jedd Gyorko, Nomar Mazara, and Max Kepler if the offense is going to produce. Chris Archer and Danny Salazar are the only starting pitchers on the staff ranked in the Top 200 overall.
Warning Track Power exited last night’s draft with a team profile that sends up warning flags. Mark Peterson’s team is projected to finish near the top of the league in Quality Starts and Innings Pitched. The team is also expected to finish near the bottom in ERA, WHIP, and K/9. That usually the team has drafted a bunch of soft-tossing starters. Ricky Nolasco, Tyler Chatwood, and Wei-Yin Chen will be asked to contribute, especially since young Julio Urias won’t start the season on the active roster. The questions surrounding the starting pitching is one reason this perennial contender is picked to finish last.
Last year’s champion, the Marin Menehunes, have the same pitching profile as Warning Track Power entering 2017. Elizabeth Gravely’s team is projected to win the Quality Start and Innings Pitched categories but finish last in K/9, last in Net Saves/Holds, and in the bottom five in ERA and WHIP. Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello can anchor the staff but Sonny Gray is hurt and is unlikely to join the staff until late April while Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer, and Ivan Nova have been inconsistent, at best, over the last two seasons.
The lack of quality pitching is a big reason two major West Division contenders, the Menehunes and Warning Track Power, have an uphill battle entering 2017. And it’s a big reason the division as a whole is expected to be weakened this season.