Let’s get this disclaimer out of the way: Most, if not all of these predictions are going to be wrong.
Maybe this is because I am a dullard who should have just majored in business and found a steady job instead of playing with baseball numbers. Or perhaps the whole point of bold predictions is to pick events with a low probability of occurring.
Last year, Blake Treinen saved me from whiffing entirely by saving 38 games with a 0.70 ERA. Of course, I did not think he was going to amass more wins (nine) than earned runs allowed (seven) last season. I just saw a breakout within the reasonable realm of possibility.
I don’t know how many of these calls will come true, but an overzealous assessment serves its purpose if the highlighted player exceeds expectations and helps your squad. That’s probably just my fancy way of preemptively saving face in case I go 1-for-10 again.
Anthony Rendon is a First Rounder Next Year
I was initially planning on pegging Rendon as the NL MVP, but his elite defense makes that more of a mildly offbeat prediction than a bold call. Most of us don’t play in leagues where WAR counts, so let’s keep this fantasy focused by declaring his ascent into a first-round choice next season. When detailing my love of the Nationals third baseman on FantasyPros, I noted a rise in High Drives and Value Hits that led to a .566 xSLG and 29.5 xHR, per xStats. If he stays healthy, we could be looking at a .300/.400/.500 hitter with 30 long balls and roughly 100 RBI and runs apiece in the heart of Washington’s lineup. To truly bring this prediction home, he’ll need a return to double-digit steals. That would put him right in line with Alex Bregman, who has a No. 12 ADP in NFBC drafts since the start of February.
Yoan Moncada Outperforms Javier Baez
I’m going double or nothing on a horribly incorrect call I made last July. While Baez broke out by batting .290 with 34 homers and 21 steals, Moncada settled for a .235 average, 17 long balls, and a dozen steals in a disappointing sophomore campaign. Baez’s 25.9% strikeout rate is nowhere near as problematic as Moncada’s 33.4% (third-worst behind Chris Davis and Joey Gallo), but the White Sox second baseman actually made more contact (70.3%) than his Chicago peer (68.5%). He also offered higher hard-hit, fly-ball, and walk rates with a Statcast sprint speed in the 89th percentile. Moncada’s sky-high ceiling remains intact despite a subpar showing in his first full season. Baez, on the other hand, could easily regress closer to 2017 levels.
Jacob deGrom Wins 24 Games
I can hear readers scoffing now. So you’re saying the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner isn’t going to go 10-9 with a 1.70 ERA again? Before calling the Bold Predictions Police for a mild take, consider that no pitcher since Justin Verlander in 2011 has reached 24 wins. This number is also meaningful since deGrom closed 2018 with 24 consecutive quality starts. He deserves some karmic justice from the baseball deities.
Tyler Glasnow is Better Than Blake Snell
Woah, are your eyes burning from reading this straight fire? In Glasnow’s shoes last spring, Snell took a seismic leap from a promising, yet erratic hurler to the AL Cy Young Award winner. This isn’t an endorsement to avoid the southpaw entirely, as he’d still be fine if last year’s 1.89 ERA expands an entire run. His floor, however, still remains lower than the typical ace due to a 9.1% walk rate and 57.1% first-pitch strike rate. For reference, Noah Syndergaard and Jack Flaherty are the only two other top-30 starters—per FantasyPros’ Consensus ADP—with an F-Strike rate below 61.0%. Those looking for this year’s Snell, meanwhile, could conveniently find a candidate in the same Tampa Bay rotation. Following a midseason trade to the Rays, Glasnow exhibited vastly improved command with 64 strikeouts and 19 walks in 55.2 innings. He concluded 2018 with a 3.58 SIERA and has reached 99 mph on the radar gun in spring. Like Snell, he is a passable walk rate away from tapping into an ace ceiling.
Max Kepler Hits 35 Home Runs
A mediocre player for three seasons, Max Kepler has been a man whose name you’d love to touch, but you mustn’t touch. For that Simpsons reference to work, Max eventually needs to discover more power than last year’s career-high 20 home runs. Although he made minimal surface gains at best, the outfielder upped his fly-ball rate substantially to 46.2%, five full points above his career norm. He also continued a yearly trend of extending his launch angle and bashing more barrels, so the 26-year-old possesses immense upside hidden under his mundane results. Don’t fear saying his name on draft day, because his name can be said by anyone around pick 200 or later.
Yankees Have Four Top-30 SPs (Excluding Luis Severino)
I originally planned to make this section about Sonny Gray outperforming every Yankees starter in light of the Bronx Bombers shutting down Luis Severino with rotator cuff inflammation. Then I realized I still like the rest of their rotation too much.
Even if he only pitches 150-160 innings again, James Paxton should still reach this benchmark by pitching closer to his elite peripherals (3.24 FIP, 2.96 SIERA, 2.67 DRA) than last season’s 3.76 ERA. Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ, both taken as borderline top-30 starters, were among two of 28 starters to register at least a strikeout per inning in at least 150 frames.
It’s not bold until predicting one more hurler to join them, so feel free to read this one as “Domingo German or Jonathan Loaisiga finishes as a top-30 SP.” (Knowing my luck, one of these upside arms will hit while one of the established arms busts.) With CC Sabathia also opening the season on the IL, German and Loaisiga could both crack New York’s rotation. The former, despite posting a 5.57 ERA in 85.2 major league innings, still flashed a high ceiling with 102 strikeouts and a 14.9% swinging-strike rate. Loaisiga also posted promising peripherals (3.53 FIP, 3.44 SIERA) underneath a 5.11 ERA in just 24.2 frames for the Evil Empire while flashing an impressive three-pitch arsenal. It would hardly be shocking to see one of them lock down a long-term rotation spot in an April audition.
Madison Bumgarner Isn’t the Giants’ Best SP
Predicting a drop-off from Bumgarner isn’t particularly bold. Although the star southpaw salvaged a 3.21 ERA in 21 starts, he showed some age with a career-worst 3.99 FIP and his lowest strikeout rate (19.8%) since 2010. Opponents hit .299/.370/.571 against his four-seam fastball. But let’s look at where he and his fellow rotation mates are going in FantasyPros’ consensus ADP:
- Madison Bumgarner: SP23
- Dereck Rodriguez: SP73
- Derek Holland: SP112
- Jeff Samardzija: SP122
- Drew Pomeranz: SP154
I’m not holding out hope for Rodriguez, another obvious regression candidate after posting a 2.81 ERA with a 3.74 FIP and 18.3% strikeout rate. Still not much worse than Bumgarner. He hasn’t received much universal fanfare despite the Pitcher List love, but Holland recorded a 2.73 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 82.1 innings since June 1. While Pomeranz stunk (6.08 ERA) in 2018, he flaunted a 3.32 ERA with over a strikeout per frame in each of the two previous years. A bounce back is at least conceivable.
I’m really holding out hope for Samardzija here. Before a shoulder injury limited him to 10 dreadful starts last year, the durable veteran had worked more than 200 frames in five straight seasons. He cleared 200 strikeouts three times with a cumulative 3.73 FIP. I’ll pass on Bumgarner unless he falls beyond the top 100 overall and take Samardzija and/or Holland as an end-of-draft flier. Pomeranz is better served for 15-teamers and NL-only leagues, but everyone should keep a close eye on him in April.
Ken Giles Is a Top-Five RP
I hear you groaning, and I also don’t want me to be doing what I’m doing. I have finally broken free of Chris Archer‘s spell, but as much as I try, I still cannot give up on Giles. He has now registered an ERA above 4.00 in two of the last three years despite excellent peripherals, so it’s tough to merely dismiss his shortcomings as bad luck. He’s prone to too many blow-up outings, and his fastball has relinquished a .349 wOBA over his career. Why am I subjecting myself to this pain? Oh yeah, because I have no self-esteem! Anywho, Giles still wields a 2.81 ERA, 2.39 FIP, and 21.7 K-BB% over his career. Plus, he’s one of few relievers who will at least open 2019 with a stable ninth-inning gig. Maybe he breaks my heart again, but we’ve seen him put it all together and dominate before. Sign me up for one last spin.
Delino DeShields Jr. Leads MLB in Steals
DeShields broke out in 2015 (.344 OBP, 24 steals), so I targeted him heavily in 2016. He lost his job by posting a .261 wOBA in 74 games. After he rebounded in 2017 (.347 OBP, 29 steals), I joined everyone else on a crowded bandwagon. He stunk again. I’m hoping to trick him by buying some cheap shares this time. This isn’t too crazy considering THE BAT projects him to finish 12th with a modest 24 steals. While DeShields is highly unlikely to beat out Billy Hamilton and Trea Turner, the point here is to highlight a cheap bounce-back candidate who could leverage his 10.1% walk rate into 30-plus steals if he holds down a starting gig.
Wilmer Flores Goes Full Justin Turner Away from Mets
In last year’s bold predictions, I pegged Flores (then without a starting job) to hit 25 homers with some help from his favorite TV show. I’ve since conducted more research, and I’m not particularly impressed. I mean … Friends was OK, but nothing spectacular. It had its moments, but they were far more moments of hating the insufferable Gellers or cringing at jokes that aged terribly.
Oh yeah, back to baseball. Flores may actually be the antithesis of the highly popular sitcom. He’s a cult-classic that always seems in danger of getting canceled every season. Well, another network has finally picked him up. After getting non-tendered by the Mets, he found a new home in Arizona. Even with the Adam Jones signing potentially pushing Ketel Marte back to the infield, the 27-year-old Flores should receive regular reps at second base. That’s good news for someone who batted .268/.315/.456 over the last three seasons while averaging 20 home runs per 500 plate appearances. While the power evaporated in 2018, he also struck out in just 9.8% of his 429 plate appearances.
Justin Turner was a decent bench bat before the Mets non-tendered him prior to the 2014 season. He batted .340/.404/.493 in his first season with the Dodgers. Flores won’t contend for a batting title, but he’s capable of making the Mets look like fools again by coalescing his burgeoning power and strong bat-to-ball abilities. Repeating last year’s prediction no longer seemed bold enough because of the playing time, but what if Flores pairs those 25 homers with a .290 average? Fortunately, drafters would profit plenty if he meets THE BAT’s projections of .277 and 21 long balls.
(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)