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2017’s Most Improved Hitters and Pitchers

Let’s look back at the 2017 season and see who improved their value most from 2016 to 2017

Divisional Round - New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians - Game Five
To no one’s surprise, Aaron Judge is 2017’s most improved player in fantasy
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

With the MLB playoffs in the LCS now, fantasy baseball’s 2017 season is fading away. However, here at Fake Teams, we use this time to look back on the season that happened and see what we can learn as we prepare for 2018.

Today, I want to look at the hitters and pitchers that most improved their value (using ESPN’s Player Rater, as always) from 2016 to 2017. You’ll see all the popular breakouts like Luis Severino and Tommy Pham, along with rookies that stormed the league like Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger. The point of this very large table is two-fold. First, it serves as a visual reminder that so many of the best players each year were not expected to be great, at least based on their 2016 performance. The late rounds of your draft are important, as is the waiver wire. It is vital to pay close attention, especially in April, to players that have improved and snag them while you can.

Second, it gives us a list of players to take a closer look at this offseason to see if their breakout was legit or simply a product of BABIP (looking at you, Chris Taylor). I won’t spend time in today’s post diving into who might have gotten by on smoke-and-mirrors (*cough* Gio Gonzalez *cough*) and who legitimately improved. I’ll save that for another post.

Here’s how I put this together. I pulled the top 300 players from ESPN’s player rater from both 2016 and 2017. Then, I subtracted their 2017 rank from their 2016 rank to figure out how much they climbed this year. If they were outside the top 300 in 2016, I simply used 300 for their 2016 rank. Yes, that does undersell the improvements of guys like Severino, Merrifield, and Pham, but they still finished near the top, so I’m not too worried. I used the same method for everyone, so it is fair.

Also, if they didn’t crack the top 300, they were either in the minors or barely usable in fantasy. Either way, there isn’t much differentiation outside the top 300. For reference, here are some names that finished around #300 in 2016: Travis Shaw, Koji Uehara, Mike Fiers, and Andrelton Simmons. Keep in mind that this is for their 2016 performance, not 2017. None of them were very useful in 2016 as far as I remember.

Without further delay, here’s the list. I cut it off after I got to guys that improved 100 spots. Below that, it’s really just normal season-to-season variation and not drastic improvement. I hope you enjoy the list! Tschus!

Name 2017 Rank 2016 Rank Increase
Aaron Judge 12 outside top 300 288
Luis Severino 16 outside top 300 284
Whit Merrifield 23 outside top 300 277
Tommy Pham 24 outside top 300 276
Corey Knebel 25 outside top 300 275
Robbie Ray 30 outside top 300 270
Giancarlo Stanton 11 280 269
Alex Wood 31 outside top 300 269
Ryan Zimmerman 42 outside top 300 258
Felipe Rivero 45 outside top 300 255
Dee Gordon 6 252 246
Domingo Santana 54 outside top 300 246
Cody Bellinger 56 outside top 300 244
Greg Holland 62 outside top 300 238
Andrew Benintendi 65 outside top 300 235
Avisail Garcia 67 outside top 300 233
Travis Shaw 63 295 232
Chris Taylor 69 outside top 300 231
Chase Anderson 71 outside top 300 229
James Paxton 74 outside top 300 226
Gio Gonzalez 36 261 225
Alex Bregman 76 outside top 300 224
Eddie Rosario 81 outside top 300 219
Ken Giles 59 274 215
Brad Peacock 86 outside top 300 214
Dallas Keuchel 73 283 210
Jimmy Nelson 92 outside top 300 208
Aaron Nola 94 outside top 300 206
Zack Greinke 19 224 205
Charlie Morton 97 outside top 300 203
Andrelton Simmons 99 300 201
Justin Smoak 101 outside top 300 199
Gary Sanchez 102 outside top 300 198
Brandon Kintzler 104 outside top 300 196
Yasiel Puig 105 outside top 300 195
Marwin Gonzalez 85 277 192
Shin-Soo Choo 109 outside top 300 191
Sean Doolittle 110 outside top 300 190
Josh Reddick 98 287 189
Zack Godley 111 outside top 300 189
Lance Lynn 112 outside top 300 188
Mike Moustakas 113 outside top 300 187
Nicholas Castellanos 115 outside top 300 185
Byron Buxton 121 outside top 300 179
Chad Green 125 outside top 300 175
Steven Souza Jr. 126 outside top 300 174
Marcell Ozuna 21 193 172
Scooter Gennett 87 259 172
Brad Hand 57 228 171
Sonny Gray 132 outside top 300 168
Corey Dickerson 127 294 167
Mike Clevinger 133 outside top 300 167
Gerrit Cole 134 outside top 300 166
Zack Cozart 135 outside top 300 165
Raisel Iglesias 68 232 164
Alex Cobb 136 outside top 300 164
Yusmeiro Petit 137 outside top 300 163
Jose Berrios 138 outside top 300 162
Edwin Diaz 66 225 159
Dylan Bundy 141 outside top 300 159
Jhoulys Chacin 142 outside top 300 158
Brett Gardner 75 231 156
Mark Reynolds 120 276 156
Yuli Gurriel 144 outside top 300 156
Trey Mancini 145 outside top 300 155
David Peralta 147 outside top 300 153
Blake Parker 149 outside top 300 151
Mike Minor 150 outside top 300 150
Jason Vargas 151 outside top 300 149
Marcus Stroman 96 244 148
Matt Albers 157 outside top 300 143
Lorenzo Cain 48 190 142
Jose Reyes 158 outside top 300 142
Fernando Rodney 78 219 141
Alex Claudio 159 outside top 300 141
Ender Inciarte 47 181 134
A.J. Pollock 166 outside top 300 134
Logan Morrison 167 outside top 300 133
Jose Urena 168 outside top 300 132
Ervin Santana 37 166 129
Delino DeShields 171 outside top 300 129
Michael Taylor 172 outside top 300 128
Anthony Swarzak 173 outside top 300 127
Michael Conforto 176 outside top 300 124
Arodys Vizcaino 177 outside top 300 123
Tim Beckham 178 outside top 300 122
Pat Neshek 179 outside top 300 121
Joey Gallo 181 outside top 300 119
Justin Bour 182 outside top 300 118
Jacob deGrom 40 157 117
Jordan Montgomery 183 outside top 300 117
Craig Kimbrel 10 125 115
Hector Neris 108 223 115
Patrick Corbin 186 outside top 300 114
Josh Bell 188 outside top 300 112
Orlando Arcia 189 outside top 300 111
Joe Mauer 192 outside top 300 108
J.D. Martinez 27 134 107
Miguel Sano 193 outside top 300 107
Yonder Alonso 196 outside top 300 104
Eric Thames 197 outside top 300 103
Yu Darvish 90 192 102
Juan Nicasio 198 outside top 300 102
Ryon Healy 199 outside top 300 101
Carlos Carrasco 18 118 100
Andrew McCutchen 60 160 100
AJ Ramos 200 outside top 300 100