We have reached the final recap of the 2021 fantasy baseball season, and we’re going to end on a high note. I hope everyone enjoyed this year’s coverage. I’ll always stress that fantasy owners should write down lessons they learned now while the season is still fresh. It’s a long time before we get to March, and this season will feel like the distant past by then. However, if we make notes now on mistakes we don’t want to repeat and players we want to target in 2022, it will only help with the draft prep next season.

Where I Was Right

Los Angeles Dodgers Starting Pitcher Julio Urias — I pegged Urias as a breakout candidate prior to the season. He had always shown flashes but was used as a reliever and starter early in his career. The 26-year-old finally had the opportunity to enter the rotation for the powerhouse Dodgers and seized it. The lefty finished the season making 32 starts, resulting in 20 wins, a 2.96 ERA and 195 strikeouts. Urias was being drafted in the double-digit rounds, so he not only crushed his draft-day value, he gave fantasy owners a huge boost in every pitching category.

Kansas City Royals Shortstop Adalberto Mondesi — “There is only one reason Mondesi is being drafted where he is and that is his ability to rack up stolen bases. The shortstop currently has an average draft position of 27 overall as fantasy owners are chasing one category.”

That was my intro for Mondesi in March. Fantasy owners who took the plunge that early were highly disappointed. Mondesi was injured for much of the season, which played a huge part in this so it’s not a full victory lap for me. However, when the Royals general manager Dayton Moore says the team can’t trust Mondesi to play every day, that’s not a good look. The shortstop will clearly fall in drafts in 2021, but this should be a lesson that we can’t just reach for players early in drafts because of one category.

2021 Bounce-Back Candidates — Historically, I have been right more times than not with these and it happened once again this season. I have mentioned over and over again that we can’t just look at what happened the year before and think that it will automatically happen again. For instance, Baltimore Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins had a magical season in which he finished with 30 home runs and 30 steals. There is no doubt that he will be an early draft pick next season. I believe in Mullins a lot, but we can’t expect him to duplicate those numbers. However, he will be drafted that way.

The same can be said about players who had a bad season. I spotlighted third baseman Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs (traded to the San Francisco Giants), shortstop Javier Baez of the Cubs (traded to the New York Mets) and Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Charlie Morton.

Bryant hit .206 in only 34 games in 2020, but that was enough for fantasy owners to decide that he was going to be drafted as the 16th third baseman. The soon-to-be free agent finished 2021 with a .265 batting average, 25 home runs, 73 RBIs, 86 runs and 10 stolen bases. That’s a well-rounded season for the veteran.

Baez went from .203 and eight home runs to a .265 batting average and 31 home runs. He also stole 18 bases. Baez was being drafted as the 18th shortstop. Fantasy owners judged Morton’s nine starts in 2020 and drafted him as the 35th starting pitcher. The 37-year-old made 33 starts in 2021 and finished with a 3.34 ERA and 14 wins, an amazing feat for the veteran.

Where I Could Still Be Right

I never count my money until it’s official and I’ll be extremely disappointed if it doesn’t happen, but my preseason bet of Los Angeles Angels DH/starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani winning American League MVP is looking good. I was able to wager on Ohtani at +3300, but when I wrote about him, the odds were +2000. At season’s end, the odds were -2500. That is a wild swing, but it was a historic season for Ohtani. Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will make a huge push after his monster season, but Ohtani should still come home with the hardware.

I don’t think it happens, but I also recommended to bet on Baltimore Orioles first baseman Ryan Mountcastle for AL Rookie of the Year. The odds were +1200 and all Mountcastle did this season was lead rookies in home runs with 33 and rank second in slugging percentage and RBIs. Mountcastle should get more recognition, but in the end, he will most likely fall short of winning the award.

Photo Credit: Colin Murphy/PressBox

Phil Backert

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