(Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire)
It’s almost impressive how spectacularly my bold predictions crashed and burned. Aside from one good call, my daring forecasts failed in increasingly laughable fashion. I also wrote about Kyle Freeland out-producing Clayton Kershaw and Gorkys Hernandez hitting more runs than Kris Bryant, but those didn’t publish for some reason. Must have been a glitch.
This was wrong on both fronts. Rather than unlocking an extra power gear at Citizens Bank Park, Santana‘s slugging % dipped to a career-low .395. Making matters worse, his averaged cratered .229 following consecutive .259 campaigns. (They can’t all be Khris Davis.) A stellar batting eye over 679 plate appearances wasn’t enough to make him a top-100 hitter (116) in five-by-five leagues on ESPN’s Player Rater. My Hoskins concerns weren’t entirely unfounded. He batted .246 and his HR/FB % regressed from 31.6 to 16.0. He still clubbed 34 dingers to rank 92nd on the Player Rater. While an overpay as anticipated, the Philadelphia outfielder was far from a bust in his first full major league campaign. I wouldn’t be fleeing from him in 2019 drafts, but his 42.3 ADP in Justin Mason’s 2 Early Mocks suggests the hype still hasn’t dissipated. If his 196.6 ADP sticks, I might be willing to give Santana another chance in deeper (and of course OBP) leagues.
WRONG – 0 for 1
2. Blake Treinen Is a Top-5 Closer
It’s all downhill from here, so allow me to bask in this glory. By posting a 0.78 ERA, 100 strikeouts, and 38 saves in 80.1 innings, Treinen ranked second among all closers behind Edwin Diaz. Heck, he even finished 10th on ESPN’s overall Player Rater ahead of Francisco Lindor and Mike Trout. Not too shabby for someone drafted comfortably beyond the top-10 closers. I’d be lying if I expected him to post the lowest ERA of any reliever ever to work 75 innings. The nine wins, of course, required some luck. The ground-ball rate that captured my fancy actually dropped to a career-low 51.9 %, but his swinging-strike rate spiked from 13.1 to 18.0, a mark topped only by Diaz and Josh Hader among qualified relievers. After enjoying the breakout at a bargain, look for the next Treinen (Jose Leclerc? Jace Fry? Ken Giles again because I hate myself?) rather than paying full price. Also, can I give myself bonus points for identifying Oakland as “a sneaky wild-card contender”?
CORRECT – 1 for 2
3. Jean Segura Is a Top-25 Overall Player
This is a case where a miss still served its Bolds Prediction purpose. I would have nailed this with no room to spare if I instead pegged Jean Segura as a top-25 overall position player. That would have drawn “not bold enough!” outcries, but the shortstop’s 43rd overall finish still towered above his 75th consensus ADP before Opening Day. Although he didn’t rediscover 2016’s 20-homer, 33-steal peak, matching 2017’s unheralded success sufficed at his draft price. Yet his 2 Early Mock ADP (72) hasn’t budged, so I’ll happily snatch him there again. This time, however, I’m simply targeting a .300, 10/20 hitter without getting greedy for more. Here are the other players who reached those three marks in 2018: Trout, Mookie Betts, Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Whit Merrifield.
WRONG – 1 for 3
4. Wilmer Flores Hits 25 Home Runs
I’ve powered through a few more seasons of Friends since touting Flores with a nod to his favorite TV show. I still don’t get the immense mainstream popularity. Look, it’s fine. It’s a solid show for when you have time to kill or just want some comfort viewing in the background. It’s just not a top-shelf, MVP-caliber show to me. Like the theme song says, it’s just there for you when the rain starts to pour and you need a light-hearted comedy that doesn’t require any deep thinking or spark an existential crisis. (If you can’t tell, I’m more of a Bojack Horseman guy.). Maybe Flores, like Friends, is just fine. He hit a respectable .267/.319/.417 while posting an above-average wRC+ (103) for the third straight year. That’s nice. It’s just not peak David Wright or Parks and Recreation levels of awesome. He was one of four hitters to post a strikeout rate below 10.0 % (9.8) in at least 400 plate appearances, but his power backtracked. One of the most intriguing developments of 2017 vanished when his pop-up rate soared from 10.6 to 16.5 %. I can’t blame a lack of chances for him hitting just 11 homers; he would have needed 975 plate appearances to reach my goal. Because he’s a Met, the 27-year-old professional athlete was diagnosed with early-onset arthritis in both his knees late in the season. I’ve long had a soft spot for Flores, but there’s not enough upside to roll the dice on him with health concerns added to the likelihood of limited playing time.
WRONG – 1 for 4
5. Randal Grichuk Hits 40 Home Runs
I would have nailed this if Grichuk got 740 plate appearances. He instead clubbed 25 long balls in 462 trips to the batter’s box. At least he teased the upside that led to this pick by slashing .280/.326/.569 with 14 homers in 60 second-half games. The plate discipline didn’t improve during that stretch, but his BABIP rose from .226 to .333. While there’s a temptation to go double or nothing, his limitations are going to block a full breakout. A streaky, unpolished slugger with a .298 career OBP, he has never logged more than 500 plate appearances or 25 homers in a season. Maybe he can pop 30 dingers with more reps, but 40 was too overzealous. Toronto’s outfield could also stay crowded if Billy McKinney and/or Anthony Alford earn playing time next season.
WRONG – 1 for 5
6. Chris Archer Wins 17 Games
I was only off by 11 wins. Close enough? As I noted at the time, I was going to make this call about Jeff Samardzija before he got hurt. He fell a mere 16 shy. As an ardent Archer truther, I think I’m finally out after seeing him post an ERA above 4.00 (4.31) for the third straight year despite accruing a 3.75 FIP. For the second straight year, he got rocked to a 39.4 % hard-hit rate. Opponents knocked around his four-seam fastball to a .305/.390/.512 slash line, and a slight velocity drop led to his lowest K % (a still strong 25.4) since 2014. I was among the masses to offer him a reset when traded to Pittsburgh, but nothing changed with the NL move. He recorded a 4.30 ERA with eight homers allowed in 10 starts. So yeah, don’t let me reach for Archer next year. Even if he’s still an elite strikeout source who notched a 2.70 ERA in five September starts. Darn, I’m going to fall for it again, aren’t I?
WRONG – 1 for 6
7. No Astro Finishes as a Top-25 SP
Queue Homer Simpson fading into the bushes. I would have been closer if I said every Astros starter finishes in the top 25. Three of the five settled into the top 20:
As feared, McCullers couldn’t hold up for a full season and Keuchel couldn’t sustain a pristine ERA (3.74) with a middling strikeout rate (17.4 %). Morton, however, improved upon 2017’s breakout by matriculating a 3.13 ERA and 201 strikeouts in 167 innings. It’s his highest frame count since 2011, so I wouldn’t bet on him returning to the top 25 in 2019. A hefty workload didn’t faze Verlander, who posted a 2.52 ERA and MLB-high 34.8 K% in his age-35 season. On the precipice of top-25 starters in spring, Cole eclipsed even optimistic expectations by cementing a 2.88 ERA and the third-best K rate (34.5 %) behind Scherzer. Those two should remain top-10 aces next year, but Verlander’s age and mileage are still concerning from someone who may now demand a second- or third-round price tag.
WRONG – 1 for 7
8. Blue Jays Have 4 Top-45 Starters
And now show me Grandpa Simpson walking in and out fo the Springfield Burlesque House. I could have claimed victory on the last two calls by switching the Astros and Blue Jays, Outside of J.A. Happ—the SP20 who finished the season with the Yankees—no Toronto starter even sniffed the top 100. For my sake, at least he was by far the one I drafted most, so I should have isolated him for a bold call. If only I made him my 17-win pick. Marcus Stroman submitted a 5.54 ERA in an injury-plagued season. Aaron Sanchez never got fully healthy either, and he disappointed (4.89 ERA, 5.9 K-BB %) when on the mound. Either one is no more than a deep-league dart throw for next season. Marco Estrada (5.64 ERA, 29 HRs) is indeed washed. At least those were all relatively low-cost whiffs on late-round arms.
WRONG – 1 for 8
9. Lonnie Chisenhall is Cleveland’s Best Outfielder
The genius I am, I predicted an oft-injured Cleveland outfielder to finally stay healthy and display his skills over a full season. Too bad I made the case for Chisenhall instead of Michael Brantley, the 11th outfielder (ahead of Davis and Bryce Harper) on ESPN’s Player Rater. Chisenhall wouldn’t have topped that in 162 games, but he would have made one heck of a free deep-league grab. The outfielder batted .321/.394/.452 with a 41.1 % hard-hit rate and 46.5 % fly-ball rate. Yet he barely made it through a week of action before landing on the shelf for two months, and a calf injury prematurely ended his 2018 in early July. Hitting .291/.347/.468 since the start of 2016, he’s a name to remember if he can ever follow Brantley’s lead and conquer his health woes.
WRONG – 1 for 9
This is a weird one. Gausman actually had a decent year, posting a 3.98 ERA and career-high 46.0 % ground-ball rate. Despite making 31 starts and also netting a personal-best 11.3 % swinging-strike rate, he fell significantly short (148) of the 200-K threshold. His K % dipped for the second straight year, and a 19.1 % clip represents his lowest mark since 2014. Bundy, on the other hand, made this a close call. His 24.5 K % ranked 20th among all qualified starters. He was also terrible, posting a 5.45 ERA in a maddeningly erratic season. The 25-year-old righty was relegated to 171.2 innings despite making 31 starts, causing him to fall short with 184 punchouts. A full season of Gausman in the NL is intriguing, but I’d need a big discount on Bundy to get back on his roller coaster.
WRONG – 1 for 10
Even pitchers bat above .100, so getting just one right is a disappointing outcome. But why did someone hack into my account and erase the “Alex Bregman will hit more home runs than Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa combined” section?