By Jordan Branson and RotoRob
Welcome to our annual black tie gala, the RotoRob Awards. It’s time for us to award Golden Athletic Cups for the finest and quirkiest performances of the year. For 2015, we’ve got more of the same — Fantasy studs, duds, rookies and comebacks in all four major sports, not to mention all the sarcastic hardware we can dream up. We begin this year’s affair on the diamond.
Fantasy Stud of the Year
It’s about time a pitcher got some recognition in these awards. Jake Arrieta, the NL Cy Young Award winner, was the heart of a young Cubs team that shocked the baseball world on their way to an NLCS appearance. He led the league with 22 wins, racked up an impressive 236 Ks and posted a career best 1.77 ERA, all while only allowing a laughable 0.4 HR/9. Sure a few players, such as Paul Goldschmidt and Bryce Harper, finished the season ranked higher in Fantasy leagues, but Arrieta brought new meaning to the term Fantasy S.T.U.D. (Starters Totally Under Drafted), and it is hard to argue that any player in the league provided more value to Fantasy owners from his 2015 ADP. It may have taken Arrieta a bit longer than most to blossom (28 years old), but with these kind of numbers two years in a row now, no one is complaining. — JB
Honourable Mentions: A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks; Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles; Dallas Kuechel, Houston Astros; and Dee Gordon, Miami Marlins.
Fantasy Dud of the Year
In 2015, a ton of top players were huge flops because of injuries (Miguel Cabrera, Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Gomez, Jacoby Ellsbury, etc.), but we’ve always believed it’s unfair to label a player that’s hurt as a dud. The true dud is the high draft pick that you keep on your roster all year, waiting for him to deliver on your investment — but he never does.
After three straight 20-20 seasons, Ian Desmond was surrounded by high expectations heading into 2015. He was the second shortstop off the board in Fantasy drafts, with a third round ADP. Fast forward 162 games and Desmond finished as the 173rd player in standard Fantasy value. He owned the fourth highest strikeout percentage in the league, and accumulated his lowest totals in all five categories since 2011. He wasn’t just a liability at the plate, either. With 27 errors, he was second in the majors to only disaster-prone Marcus Semien. Much like his Fantasy owners, the Washington Nationals have had enough of Desmond, as they let him walk off into the sunset of free agency this offseason. — JB
Dishonourable Mentions: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles; Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves; Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians; and Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year
Oh man, as super talented kids start arriving in the Bigs younger and younger and make a bigger impact each season, picking this award gets harder all the time. So many choices!
This selection came down to two absolute studs. Not by coincidence, both won the ROY trophy in their respective leagues. Despite not being called up until June, Carlos Correa finished the season in the Top 100 of Fantasy leagues, and the youngster is already projected as the top shortstop heading into 2016. Among rooks, his 22 homers as trailed only Kris Bryant by four, but was on a pace that would have easily surpassed the third baseman over a full season (HR/19 PA vs. HR/25 PA). In 52 fewer games, Correa stole more bases, had a higher ISO, SLG, and BA, with a BABIP that was 82 points lower than Bryant. But what this selection really came down to was Fantasy production in the second half of the season — when it matters most. Correa actually hit one more HR with one more RBI, stole four more bases, walked at a higher rate, and had a K rate almost half as high as that of Bryant. Bottom line: Correa gave his owners much more bang for their buck (he was undrafted whereas Bryant was drafted in 10th round), and more production after the All-Star break. Oh, did we mention Correa is also three years younger than Bryant? — JB
Honourable Mentions: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (so close!); Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians; Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox; and Matt Duffy, San Francisco Giants.
Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year
It is hard to believe that a three-time MVP, who owns the highest career WAR among active players and is only 13 homers shy of 700 for his career would ever be considered a Comeback Player. But that is exactly the role Alex Rodriguez played in 2015. After being suspended for the entire 2014 season for PED use, there were very little expectations in the Fantasy baseball world for the third oldest offensive player in the MLB — especially coming off two hip surgeries. After being declared a cheater and a liar, and based on his 260+ 2015 ADP, very few expected A-Rod to succeed. Even fewer wanted him to. But Rodriguez seemed to care about our expectations as much as he did the integrity of the game. He clubbed 33 dingers, his most since 2008, to go along with 83 runs and 86 RBI and wound up the 29th most valuable player in the league offensively, according to his 20.6 Batting runs above average. Many experts had questioned whether A-Roid’s bat speed could keep up with major league heat at his age, but, yes, he can still smash the cheese. He posted a 22.3 wFB, which was fifth highest in the league by a player over the age of 30 — and was even higher than Miguel Cabrera’s. To cap off his impressive year, Rodriguez became only the 29th player in Major League history to reach 3,000 hits. No matter your personal feelings towards Alex Rodriguez, you have to give credit where credit is due. Congrats, scum-bag!
Honourable Mentions: Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers; Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds; Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles; and Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies.
The Kiss of Death Award
It didn’t seem like that long ago that Justin Verlander was one of the top aces in the majors, but he slipped in 2013, really crashed in 2014, and last year his durability finally showed chinks in the armour as he was limited to 20 starts. Once upon a time, his starts resulted in a virtual automatic win for the Tigers, but when he took the mound last year, Detroit fell upon tough times. In fact, the team lost his first seven starts and nine of his first 10. A better second half managed to mitigate the damage somewhat, but the Cats wound up just 7-13 when Verlander started. And the 2011 Cy Young winner who had never failed to win at least 11 games managed a mere five Ws despite enjoying his best bottom line results since 2012. Time to sacrifice an alley cat, Justin. — RR
The Empty Feeling Award
We’re all familiar with the old adage ‘if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear is fall, does it really make a sound?’ Well, that’s pretty much exactly how things played out in Baltimore on April 29 as the Orioles played the Chicago White Sox in Camden Yards — a park completely devoid of fans on that that day in the wake of civil unrest in B-More. The fact that they went ahead with baseball after cancelling the first two games of the series was only partially strange; that MLB and the Orioles decided to play for no one was really out there. Then again, given some Orioles teams over the years, it shouldn’t have been a totally unknown feeling. — RR
Pardon the Interruption Award
Ah, yes. Nothing beats the World Series — MLB’s showcase for the entire planet to witness what an awesome sport baseball is. So imagine the embarrassment when millions of TV viewers were briefly shut out during the fourth inning of Game One of the Kansas City Royals-New York Mets series. Fox’s broadcast truck lost power thanks to both the primary and backup generators failing and the result was an entire at-bat that went AWOL before the situation was addressed. At first, the game was actually stopped for seven minutes as there was not going to be an opportunity for a video review, but when both managers agreed to waive that right, play continued — just without anyone watching on Fox to be able to see what was happening. Ten minutes without Joe Buck’s blathering? Well, thank you very much, Fox. That’s the nicest thing you’ve done for us since Married With Children. — RR
Bat Toss of the Year
The bat toss is nearly a lost art. Sammy Sosa was a master at it back in the day, but precious few players engage in this kind of showboating these days. However, in Game Five of the ALDS, Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista prove that creative form is still very much alive. His three-run bomb in the seventh inning in Toronto’s win was punctuated by a bat flip that would make an Olympic shotputter envious. Really, this was no flip; this was a full-on whip of the stick that immediately sent shock waves throughout the baseball universe. Oh sure, Bautista pissed some peeps off with the move, but he had endured a frustrating series up to that point and it was clear that he was simply exorcising his trials with the mammoth hurl. The look on his face is priceless, and whether you think he was douchy or not, you can’t help but admire the emotional reaction. — RR
Best Dugout Brawl
We live in a time when virtually nothing that happens in the stadium is not recorded by some device. So when Washington Nationals teammates Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper went at it in their own dugout near the end of the season, it was on full display for the world to see. And man, did things ever got ugly. Paps is known for his rough edges, and when Harper sold him out in the media, the closer lost his shit a few days later after Harper hit a fly ball but didn’t exactly bust his ass out of the batter’s box. There were some barking back and forth and the next thing you know Papelbon had his hands around Harper’s throat and was holding a strangulation seminar for the kid. Good times. — RR
Craziest ‘Do Award
New York Mets ace Jacob DeGrom can bring it with the best of them, and few can hold a candle to his ridiculously buoyant hairdo… certainly not without it catching fire and burning down most of the Big Apple. The man is not a Leo, but sure boasts the mane of one. When will the shampoo endorsements start rolling in? — RR
The Multitasking Award
Not that RotoRob knows personally, but from what we gather, being a parent is a non-stop chore of multi-tasking. Diapers, burping, feedings, yadee, yadee. But this season around MLB parks, parents were taking this concept to a whole new level. We saw at least four examples of dads (and one mom) caring for their babies at games, yet still having the presence of mind to use the other hand that wasn’t clutching the infant to snag foul balls. Really?! We’re not sure whether we should be amazingly impressed or mortified. Maybe a bit of both… — RR
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below what you think of our 2015 Fantasy Baseball awards. Who do you think deserved the hardware?
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