The 2019 season is over, and now it’s time for us at Pitcher List to take a good hard look at ourselves in the mirror. The site grew tremendously over the past year, and will continue to grow as 5.0 launches in February.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun at our own expense.
You may remember during the preseason many of us wrote our own bold predictions for 2018. The intent was to be Bold, capital-B bold, with the expectation that few would be correct—but perhaps the thought process behind the predictions would lead to some success.
I am going to lay out my 10 bold predictions from just before the season, and tell you what worked and what didn’t, and how that may impact my thought process going into 2020. Enjoy!
1. Niko Goodrum has a 20/20 season (0/1)
Niko Goodrum went 16/12 in 2018 across 492 plate appearances as Detroit’s utility infielder, so I didn’t find it exceptionally crazy to expect him to up those numbers into the 20/20 range if he got more at-bats.
The problem is that Goodrum only saw action in 112 games in 2019, and while his batted ball profile actually improved slightly (higher exit velo, higher hard-hit rate, improved launch angle) he wasn’t able to play enough to reach the 20/20 plateau, finishing with just 12 home runs and 12 stolen bases.
Goodrum is one of the fastest players in the league (92% sprint speed) and has enough pop in his bat to eventually reach this ceiling—if he plays a full season. However, his high strikeout totals will forever limit his value, and he’s rarely going to be an asset in 10 or 12-team leagues.
2. Jesus Luzardo finishes as a top-25 starter (0/2)
Jesus Luzardo made exactly zero starts for the Oakland A’s this season, so this is a pretty big loss. Injuries are always going to impact bold prediction posts, but it feels like even if Luzardo were healthy this prediction was probably a year (or two) early.
Luzardo ended up making seven starts in Triple-A this season, posting a 3.19 ERA and a 9.87 K/9. He made six appearances for Oakland out of the bullpen, turning in a very nice 1.50 ERA and 12.00 K/9.
Luzardo has a chance to compete for a rotation spot out of camp in 2020, but there’s also a chance the team gives him more time to develop in Triple-A, now that he’s only thrown 28.0 innings at that level.
I still believe the left-hander has the tools to be a top-25 arm, and could end up making this prediction again ahead of the 2020 season—although it may not even be as bold then.
3. Christin Stewart hits 45 home runs (0/3)
When I first wrote this up I had only predicted 30 home runs for Christin Stewart, but I decided to go bolder since Stewart had hit 27 or more home runs in each of the previous three minor league seasons.
Even if I had gone down to 30, I would have been way off.
Stewart managed to hit 10 round trippers in his first full season in the major leagues, punctuated by a lengthy trip in Triple-A Toledo to work on his defense and strikeout issues, which were long known to be inhibitors to his MLB game.
Stewart did manage to walk at a nice 8.2% clip, but the rest of his offensive numbers were ugly: .233/.305/.388 slash line, 10 home runs, 40 RBI, 24.8% strikeout rate and a -1.2 fWAR thanks to poor offense and even worse defense.
The Tigers have virtually no talent on the big league club, so expect Stewart to get a long run again next season, but he’s hardly going to hold fantasy relevance unless he can make more contact and tap back into the power he showed throughout the minor leagues.
4. Corbin Burnes finishes as a top-50 starter (0/4)
At the time, I thought this was my least bold prediction. Now, after Burnes posted an 8.82 ERA in 32 appearances and only four starts with the Brewers, it looks like my worst.
Burnes took major steps backward after a compelling 2018 season that saw him post a 2.61 ERA and a 7-0 record out of the bullpen. All signs pointed to him stepping into a big role in Milwaukee’s rotation, but he gave up an absolutely ridiculous amount of hard contact, including an 11.7% barrel rate and a whopping 17 home runs in just 49 innings of work.
His numbers in Triple-A were just as bad, with a 8.46 ERA in 22.1 innings pitched, albeit with a 4.20 FIP.
Still, Burnes has a lot of work to do to be the potential top-50 arm, although the potential is still there. Take a look at his Baseball Savant chart:
The hard contact is an issue, but with velocity and spin rates that high, he definitely has a chance to be a sleeper in deep leagues if he has a strong spring training. Keep an eye on him.
5. D.J. LeMahieu is not a top-150 hitter (0/5)
So as it turns out slashing .327/.375/.518 with 109 runs scored, 26 home runs, 102 RBI, and five stolen bases does in fact land you in the top-150 fantasy hitters. Who knew?
In all seriousness, I was dead wrong about this one. I thought his 195 ADP was absolutely crazy, but if you got him there you were outstandingly happy with the results. Couldn’t have been more wrong. I was worried a lack of consistent playing time and a move away from Coors Field would doom the former light hitting second baseman, but none of that came true as LeMahieu managed to wallop 26 round trippers with some of the best exit velocity and hard hit rates in the entire league.
I’m not confident he’ll post numbers quite this good again next year, but I’m definitely not willing to predict a bust after getting burned this badly.
6. Carlos Gonzalez is Cleveland’s most productive fantasy outfielder (0/6)
Carlos Gonzalez had 117 plate appearances with the Indians this season. He hit .210/.282/.276 with a pair of home runs, seven RBI, and 13 runs scored. Believe it or not, that does not place Gonzalez among Cleveland’s highest performing outfielders last season.
CarGo was a late signee by the Indians, who signed him to a minor league contract. At the time the outfield consisted of Leonys Martin, Jake Bauers and Tyler Naquin, with Bradley Zimmer recovering from a knee injury.
The Indians didn’t get much production from any of those players however, and instead went out and acquired Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes at the trade deadline to make a late-season playoff push that ultimately fell just short.
I was partly right that Cleveland’s outfield corps was bad, but Gonzo didn’t do anything to help them out.
7. Spencer Turnbull is Detroit’s third-best SP (1/7)
Predicting Spencer Turnbull to be better than Tyson Ross, Matt Moore, and Jordan Zimmermann may not seem all that bold now, but at the time Turnbull only had four big league games under his belt, all at the end of the 2018 season.
He not only settled into Detroit’s rotation right away, he pitched like the team’s second best starter for most of the season.
His overall season line is kind of gross: 3-17 record, 4.61 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, but that’s good enough to be one of Detroit’s better pitchers, and he did hold a lot of fantasy relevance in the first part of the season, before things started to unravel as the year went on.
Turnbull also posted a 3.99 FIP, indicating he pitched better than his overall ERA might suggest.
His strikeout stuff is merely average and walks are still an issue, making Turnbull more of a deep league asset or streaming option, but I still feel pretty good about getting this one right as he went from a complete nobody to a well-regarded fantasy arm in the first few months of the season.
8. Shed Long combines for 20+ HR/SB (1/8)
I didn’t get this one right, but I actually feel okay about this one. Long suffered an injury that cost him over a month of action, and he spent the majority of the season in Triple-A Tacoma, but he did hit five home runs and swipe three bases in 42 big league games—which roughly translates to 25 or so combined home runs and stolen bases.
Long was a nice pickup for the Mariners, coming over from the Reds. He’s a second baseman by trade, although he played quite a bit of left field as well.
Long will eventually replace Dee Gordon for Seattle, and when he does he has the potential to post multiple 15/15 caliber seasons in his career. I’m not confident he’ll be a big fantasy asset in 2020, it depends on what Seattle does this offseason, but he’s another young player to keep an eye on.
9. Teoscar Hernandez hits 40 HR with a sub-.300 OBP (1/9)
0-for-2 on this one, although it wasn’t too far off. Hernandez had a terrible start to the season, leading to a demotion to Triple-A, but he did end up finishing the season with 26 home runs and a .306 OBP.
Hernandez continued to be a Statcast darling, posting an outstanding 91.1 exit velocity and a 42.3% hard hit rate, but his strikeout issues (33.0%) will continue to haunt him if he cannot get it under control.
Hernandez absolutely has the tools to be a fantasy stud—but it’s hard to suggest him as a fantasy asset just yet. Keep an eye on him though.
10. Tarik Skubal becomes the first player from the 2018 Draft Class to make an MLB Debut (1/10)
Well I can’t say I got this right, since Skubal did not make his big league debut and Nico Hoerner did.
However, at the time of this prediction, Skubal was a complete non-prospect. He wasn’t on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 list for the Tigers. Heck, he wasn’t even on Prospect1500’s top-50 prospect list prior to the season.
Skubal catapulted himself into the national spotlight, finishing as a top-100 overall prospect and a top-5 prospect in a very stacked Tigers system.
He finished the year with staggering numbers: 24 starts, 122.2 innings pitched, 2.42 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and a 179/37 K/BB ratio.
His 13.1 K/9 was among the best marks in all of the minor leagues, and he seamlessly made the jump from High-A to Double-A, posting a 2.13 ERA in AA.
So, while I can’t claim a point here, I do feel very confident in my assessment of him—and I believe he has the potential to be a big league contributor as soon as 2020 if he continues to pitch this well.
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)