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Well, my quest for a second straight championship in the RotoBaller Expert's League fell short. Congrats to Max Petrie for pulling away mercilessly in the final few weeks. Luckily I was able to hold off the aggressive pushes from Brad Johnson and Kyle Bishop to finish in second place.

For those of you keeping track at home, that's a second place finish in 2015, a first place finish in 2016, and a second place finish in 2017. You know you're running hot when the butt of the jokes in the group chat at season's end are "Well, at least Tom didn't win!" Let's hope we can keep this pattern going next season.

As for my bold calls, I'm not all that impressed. For one, I thought I missed some hanging curveballs looking back. Mentioning my optimism for Robbie Ray, Luis Severino, and Charlie Blackmon in some shap or form surely would've made me seem smarter. Oh well. Let's figure out where my pre-season boldness led me at season's end.

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Reviewing Tom Bellucco's 10 Bold Predictions for 2017

1. Byron Buxton will be a top 20 OF in 5x5 roto leagues

This one started out really rough. Byron Buxton batted just .216 in the first half, mimmicking his struggles from previous seasons and even getting demoted to ninth in the Twins' order. The only bright spots were his stolen bases and his stellar defensive play. After waiting for what seemed like far too long, I dropped Lord Byron for what was probably another bum outfielder. He made me look dumb.

Buxton went nuts in the second half despite missing some games due to an injury. During the 56 games he played, he stole 13 more bases (29 total) and hit 11 home runs (16 total) while averaging .300 (.253 total). The improvement helped get him back up to the sixth or seventh spots in the order, but that move wasn't enough to bolster his RBI and run numbers. Depending on how you calculate roto value, he was probably somewhere just outside the top 30 outfielders (37 on ESPN's Player Rater). Maybe I'll just let someone else draft him next year and plan to trade for him or pick him up in July.


2. Yasmani Grandal will hit 30+ HR this season

This was certainly a bold call, and I'm starting to think that Yasmani Grandal just doesn't have the average needed to hit 30 bombs. He finished with 22 homers in 129, which is respectable, and his average did come back up a bit to .247, but his 17% HR/FB rate left me hanging (down from 25% last year). His peripheral numbers all look pretty identical, so I think this is a stat line we can come to expect from Grandal going forward. He was probably a top 10 catcher in your format, so we can't be all that upset.


3. Joey Votto and Freddie Freeman will join Paul Goldschmidt in the top 3 of points league first baseman

Oh what could have been if Freddie Freeman had just stayed healthy.

I basically want to give myself a win on this one based on Freeman's crazy production when healthy this season. As for Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt, they both lapped the field in terms of production. Jose Abreu quietly made an impressive push at the top 3, but I think he, along with Anthony Rizzo, Edwin Encarnacion, and Daniel Murphy, will be a tier behind these three stud first basemen in next year's draft (with Rizzo being on the cusp of Tier 1, for what it's worth).


4. James Paxton will become an ace

Looking back, this one may not have been bold enough, simply because almost everyone else saw the potential. James Paxton finished an injury-scarred season with a 2.98 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 10.3 K/9 in his 136 innings pitched. The combination of his vamped up fastball and devastating breaking ball fooled hitters whenever he was on the mound. If he can stay healthy, Paxton could crack the first tier of starting pitchers next year.


5. Sean Manaea will strike out 200 batters in 2017

Sean Manaea didn't quite reach the high expectations I set for him, but a mid-season physical change might've been responsible for his second half struggles. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Manaea lost 25 pounds and a significant amount of velocity after changing up his ADD medication. We could sit here and pointlessly pretend we know what happened to the big lefty until the cows come home, but if he can at least get back to his first half self next year, he'll have a real shot to eclipse the 200 strikeouts I boldly predicted for him in 2017.


6. Hector Neris saves 35 games in 2017

Half of this battle was predicting that Hector Neris would steal the closer gig from Jeanmar Gomez (OK, maybe that part was inevitable) which he did in late April, giving him a chance at that optimistic 35 saves. Unfortunately, the Phillies offense and starting pitchers weren't nearly as kind. He also had a few hiccups with mechanics along the way. However, Neris got closer than I thought he would thanks to his nine(!!!) saves in September, finishing with 26 on the year. Of course, these saves were going directly to Max's RB Experts League team while he pulled away from my worthless bullpen. Anyways, if nothing else, the second half of the season showed us how dominate Neris can be in this role if the Phillies slew of young, promising hitters can put up some runs next season.


7. Daniel Murphy will hit below .290 this season

I would not like to spend all that much time on this one. Let's just say this prediction had no evidence backing it to begin with (perhaps other than some personal bias), and it turned out to be wronger than Cam Newton's remarks at the press conference podium. The good news is that my fellow RB experts had the same skeptial outlook as me (or maybe they were drunk at this point in the auction) because I got Daniel Murphy on the cheap ($23 out of a $260 budget [about the same as Carlos Gonzalez, Kyle Schwarber, and Christian Yelich]) and rode him to a very successful season. Thanks guys, and sorry for doubting you, Murph.


 8. The worst case scenario happens with Billy Hamilton

I'm not sure how to view this one. I'm still glad that I didn't own Billy Hamilton anywhere, but he didn't exactly fall off the face of the earth either. I just keep thinking that with a .247 batting average and 59 stolen bases, imagine what he could actually do if his OBP wasn't a dreadful .299! That's bad for a leadoff hitter who's supposed to be scoring runs, folks. Hamilton remained in the leadoff role for the 2017 season, so that alongside with his skillset provides plenty of value (especially in roto leagues), but I still think it's a lot to sacrifice three categories in order to excel in one (stolen bases) and just get by in another (runs). I guess I'll just always be on this side of that Hamilton fence.


9. Matt Harvey will be on the waiver wire by the end of the 2017 season

Nice! This one might've been all but certain to a lot of us, but it feels good to have read Matt Harvey's boom/bust outlook the correct way. Those of you who drafted him late or bought him in auctions probably didn't lose a whole lot by just dropping him after a month or so, but at least I didn't spend my valuable $9 and a roster spot on him (sorry Harris). Don't even think about biting next year. Harvey is toast.


10. Andrew McCutchen has the best right fielder season in Pittsburgh since Roberto Clemente

Time to get emotional.

I was so torn at the end of March when Andrew McCutchen was demoted to the sixth spot in the order and trade rumors swirled around him and the Pirates. As a realistic Buccos fan, I could totally see why the organization would just get something, anything for him while they still had a chance, despite the fact that he brought the franchise back from the depths of hell. Then, it happened.

Cutch hit .308 with 20 home runs between June 1st and the end of the season. He also stole six bases in that span, putting his totals at 28 home runs and 11 stolen bases in the 2017 season with a respectable .279 average. That was good enough for a finish of outfielder number 22 on ESPN's Player Rater.

Even better was the fact that he played 156 games, marking his eighth season in a row with 146 or more games played. The only time in his career when he was below that mark was his rookie season in 2009 when he was promoted in June. Outside of that 146, his second-lowest mark is 153. Say what you want about the ups and downs of his career, but the guy has been out there and playing through it all.

Was the season as good as I hoped for my favorite baseball player of all time? No, not quite. However, he certainly proved his worth offensively, even if it was for a team that slowly imploded in the late months. Regardless, I hope that Cutch can continue to produce enough to get another contract or two, retire in Pittsburgh after a handful more of these type of offensive seasons, and just maybe win a World Series ring :).


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