Following an embarrassing debut last year, my second run at Bold Predictions went far better. Of course, I can’t take all of the credit without thanking my good friend, luck. Injuries helped mask my mostly unwarranted pessimism regarding two 2018 breakouts. Also, how many “Player X Will Hit XX Home Runs” calls didn’t work out this season?
There were a few duds in the mix, but I was at least on the right track with some calls that didn’t hit. Those predictions could have still helped drafters attain a little value or avoid an overpay.
1. Anthony Rendon is a First Rounder Next Year
In hindsight, I should have clarified some parameters here. We don’t know where Rendon will go (or where he’ll play) next year, so this verdict is technically TBD. Early results show the first round might not happen; he had a No. 20 overall ADP in Justin Mason’s 2 Early Mocks and went in the second in our first offseason mock as well. Whatever. I’m giving myself a win. Rendon performed like the MVP-caliber superstar I hoped for, batting .319/.412/.598 with a career-high 34 home runs. He finished seventh on ESPN’s Player Rater among all hitters, so it’s not at all farfetched to envision the star third baseman closing out the first round of 2020 drafts. It’s at least where he belongs in 15-team leagues.
2. Yoan Moncada Outperforms Javier Baez
Baez laughed at his doubters for most of 2019. Then his season ended early due to a thumb injury. With only 11 steals, he slipped just enough for the second-round price to feel a tad hefty. Moncada, on the other hand, arrived in full force. Realizing close to realizing his best-case-scenario for 2019, the 23-year-old batted .315/.367/.548 with 25 home runs and 10 steals. So what if he missed time with a hamstring injury and played for the Chicago squad whose postseason absence was a given rather than a letdown? Moncada delivered an excellent return on a truncated ADP that, in hindsight, seems strangely low given his age, skills, and prospect pedigree. He placed 35th among hitters on ESPN compared to Baez’s 44th, so put this one in the win column.
3. Jacob deGrom Wins 24 Games
Eleven is a bit lower than 24. He only has 21 victories in the last two seasons combined, but deGrom is still the favorite to secure his second straight NL Cy Young Award after posting a 2.43 ERA with 255 punchouts. This season’s lack of run support was almost more befuddling, as the 86-win Mets ranked 13th in scoring behind Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil. To be fair, this was a silly prediction I never saw happening. I just figured the baseball gods would have been kinder after 2018. He’s totally going to go 25-1 with a 3.70 ERA next season, isn’t he?
How would this have played out if Glasnow and Snell both stayed healthy? Glasnow was by far the better of the two in small doses. In fact, he may have even taken his teammate’s AL Cy Young Award if he made 30 starts. Brilliant when on the mound, he notched a 1.78 ERA in a dozen starts. Meanwhile, as expected, Snell could not sustain 2018’s other-worldly 1.89 ERA. The lefty ace, however, actually made some noticeable gains. It sure doesn’t show in his 4.29 ERA bloated by blow-up outings, but he improved his first-pitch strike rate substantially while upping an already elite swinging-strike rate. I’m more likely to draft him in 2020 if injuries sag the cost.
5. Max Kepler Hits 35 Home Runs
In hindsight, it wasn’t overly bold to anticipate any capable slugger popping 35 dingers in 2019. But hey, I didn’t know the baseballs were going to be
juiced totally normal back in March. Kepler’s surface numbers indicated he had already plateaued as a mediocre hitter. Yet 2018 gains in contact, fly balls, and hard hits opened the window for more than his usual 20 long balls. Typically available around the pick 200 range, he delivered 36 homers, 98 runs, and 90 RBIs in 134 games atop a stacked Twins lineup. Can we start calling him Max Power now?
6. Yankees Have Four Top-30 SPs (Excluding Luis Severino)
Umm … nope. I could have claimed victory by focusing solely on Domingo German, a late lottery pick who paid off handsomely with 18 wins and a 25.8% strikeout rate. He was the only one to make the cut at SP26. The James Paxton saga unfolded as usual; he pitched just 150.2 innings. J.A. Happ unraveled into an unrosterable mess, and one catastrophic outing ensured Masahiro Tanaka didn’t sniff the top 50. A 12-run shellacking by Boston resulted in his career-worst 4.45 ERA. I’d need a discount on their 2019 sticker prices to pursue Paxton or Tanaka. German, meanwhile, is in danger of getting overpriced as a young Yankee if not reprimanded for a domestic violence allegation.
7. Madison Bumgarner Isn’t the Giants’ Best SP
I was actually surprised to see how close this came to fruition. Bumgarner thwarted the Regression Monster, upping his K-BB% from 12.0 to 19.0. He also, however, posted the highest ERA (3.90) of his decorated career and settled for just nine wins. Jeff Samardzija, on the other hand, accrued a 3.52 ERA in spite of a pedestrian 12.3 K-BB% and 4.59 FIP. Bumgarner finished just two spots ahead of Samardzija as the No. 27 SP on ESPN’s Player Rater. While drafters can hardly complain about that return from Bumgarner, Shark was nearly as valuable for little to no cost. But what about Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz? Well, you see, runs away to the next section…
8. Ken Giles Is a Top-Five RP
Based on a 1.87 ERA, 2.27 FIP, and 39.9% K rate – all of which ranked among the top five of qualified relievers – you’d think Giles would have at least come close to reaching this goal. He was only the 18th-rated reliever. What gives? Although he didn’t spend an inordinate time on the IL, injuries nagged all year, limiting him to 53 innings. He also recorded just 23 saves in 24 opportunities for the lowly Blue Jays. This lofty ceiling nevertheless remains for Giles, who now has a 2.67 career ERA despite slipping in 2016 and 2018.
9. Delino DeShields Jr. Leads MLB in Steals
Perhaps readers can at least understand my thought process when seeing that DeShields still tied for 12th with 24 steals despite largely being a dud. Shuttled in and out of Texas’ lineup, he hit .249 in just 408 plate appearances. The best version of DeShields could have at least made this interesting and helped all fantasy investors. Instead, only OBP gamers and deep-league managers desperate for cheap speed have reason to keep speculating on that possibility.
This looked like the biggest whiff of the bunch for much of 2019. After a dreadful start, Flores missed two months with a fractured foot. He returned to find Christian Walker and Nick Ahmed locked into Arizona’s infield as full-time starters. By the end of the year, however, Flores wound up hitting .317/.361/.487 with a career-high 120 wRC+ in 285 plate appearances. That’s not nearly large enough of a sample size to consider this a victory. After all, the crux of this prediction was Flores finally getting a chance to play regularly away from the Mets and mattering in all mixed leagues. That wasn’t the case. The contact skills remain intriguing, but his role will likely remain a question mark entering 2020.
(Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)