Over the next few weeks, the experts at Rotoworld will take a look at players whose value is on the rise headed into the 2016 season. We'll break them down by division. This week, let's take a look at the National League West...
Matt Duffy 3B, Giants
Prior to the 2015 season, Duffy appeared to be nothing more than organizational depth. A 24-year-old former 18th round pick out of California State University Long Beach, Duffy rose through the minors with good-if-unspectacular numbers. A starter almost by default after Pablo Sandoval's departure, Duffy didn't make a blip on the fantasy radar.
Fast forward, and Duffy finished the season as a five-category fantasy contributor and a middle-of-the-order hitter for the Giants. The third baseman batted .295/.334/.428 with 12 homers, 77 RBI, 77 runs scored and 12 steals. The ceiling isn't much higher, but then again, we said that around this time last year. And even if it isn't, Duffy should be a safe, useful contributor once again next season.
Joe Panik 2B, Giants
Like Duffy, Panik was viewed as a passable regular with limited offensive upside coming into the season. Unlike Duffy, Panik had a pedigree that suggested he was capable of more. A first-round pick of the Giants in 2011, Panik debuted in 2014 but didn't show much besides an empty batting average, hitting just one homer without stealing a base in 73 games.
An unchallenged starter coming into 2015, Panik batted .308/.372/.448 with seven homers and three steals in the first half en route to his first All-Star appearance. A lower back injury limited him to just 15 games in the second half, but extrapolated over a 162-game schedule Panik was on pace for 12 home runs, 95 runs scored, 59 RBI and four steals. He'll likely never be a fantasy star, but like Duffy, Panik should be a solid contributor who's headed in the right direction.
Chris Heston SP, Giants
Heston famously no-hit the Mets in early June, striking out 11 in a dominating performance. That put him on the map for many, but the right-hander's first half was sprinkled with brilliant moments for those paying attention. He entered the break with a 3.39 ERA and opponents slashing .249/.314/.362 against him.
The second half was less kind, but we're all about the upside here. Heston keeps the ball on the ground and had a strikeout rate only slightly lower than league average in his first full season. An ERA in the 3's on a Giants team that always seems to be on the right side of .500 is a good formula for fantasy relevancy.
Brandon Crawford SS, Giants
The most amazing thing about this list isn't that it includes three Giants infielders; it's that a fourth, Brandon Belt, could be viewed as a snub. Crawford makes the list after demolishing his previous career best in home runs, swatting 21 homers in 2015 after hitting 26 combined in his first 511 games. That led to career highs in almost every offensive category.
History and projection systems don't smile on 29-year-old players who find their power stroke so late, but Crawford doesn't need to be the next Jose Bautista to be a fantasy contributor. Crawford had the second-most home runs among shortstops last season, and even a step backward will put him in the middle of the pack. It's time to think of him as more than just a glove-first infielder.
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