With the dust having settled on the 2021 season, there’s no better time to return to my ten bold predictions from March to see how they fared. In short, I did not do well. My predictions went 0.5/10, with the half point coming largely on a technicality. It’s certainly a fool’s errand to try and make preseason predictions, especially with an eye on making them bold. This is, however, exactly why we love baseball. Much of what made Atlanta’s World Series run so captivating was that it was unexpected. Their season felt all but over in an instant when Ronald Acuña was carted off the field in Miami just before the All-Star Break, yet they were the last team standing in November. You can read my original bold predictions here. Let’s see how I did:
1. Juan Soto wins the National League Triple Crown
I truly went out on a limb for my first prediction, signing Juan Soto up for a feat accomplished only once in the last 50+ years. While he didn’t lead the National League in any of the Triple Crown categories (he finished second in AVG, but was outside the top-5 in both RBI and HR), Soto’s season reaffirmed that he is a generational talent. A trip to IL for a shoulder strain and an early-season slump made taking an RBI and HR crown next to impossible. This prediction fell short, but I already feel tempted to double down on this prediction in 2022. The reason I might not, however, has nothing to do with the superstar right fielder. The Nats tore their team down to the studs at the trade deadline, leaving Soto with a disappointing supporting cast. Unless Washington supercharges their rebuild this offseason in free agency (which is incredibly unlikely), Soto’s won’t see have enough opportunities to lead the league in both homers and RBI.
Record: 0 for 1
2. A Los Angeles Angels superstar wins AL MVP… and it’s Anthony Rendon
My 2021 predictions were largely laughable. This prediction was comical, however, for an entirely different reason. I was this close to nailing the best story of the season. For context, my first draft predicted that an “LA Angel superstar wins AL MVP… and it’s not Mike Trout.”
If not for my unwavering confidence in Anthony Rendon, I would’ve been able to claim Shohei Ohtani’s season as the ultimate win for my bold predictions (Ohtani’s preseason MVP odds were over +3000). Rendon’s season was derailed by a myriad of injuries. He made four trips to the IL, all for different injuries. When he was on the field, he looked nothing like the Tony Two-Bags we’ve come to expect. His strikeouts were up and walks were down. In addition, his batted ball metrics were the worst of his career. Rendon finished the season with a measly .712 OPS. While Rendon’s MVP candidacy might be my most egregious bold prediction of the year, I’m going to give myself a little credit for nailing the first half of the prediction.
Verdict: Ehh, maybe?
Record: 0.5 out of 2
3. James Paxton outperforms his 2019 season stats
Not much to say here. The Big Maple’s return to Seattle was over before it started. James Paxton lasted just four outs into his first start of the season before a forearm strain and subsequent Tommy John surgery ended his season. It’s tempting to think about what a healthy Paxton might have been able to contribute to a Mariners squad that finished just shy of a Wild Card spot.
Record: 0.5 out of 3
4. Clint Frazier is a top-30 outfielder
Clint Frazier was one of my favorite sleeper candidates entering the season, his first as an everyday starter. I assumed that Frazier’s prodigious bat speed and improved plate discipline would allow him to thrive in what looked like a relentless Yankees lineup. Frazier looked lost at the plate this season, posting a .186/.317/.317 line with just five homers over 66 games. It seems unfair to speculate on what exactly went wrong for the left fielder due to the concerning injuries that shut down his season. While initially described as vertigo, Frazier’s vision issues ended his season after a minor league rehab assignment was shut down.
This bold prediction was a miss, but I believe in my logic for future bold predictions. Young players with a standout skill (in Frazier’s case, power), a maturing approach at the plate, and newfound playing time can be a steal on draft day.
Record: 0.5 out of 4
5. Gavin Lux is a top-eight second baseman
Gavin Lux made enough strides at the end of the season to hold out hope for next season, but this prediction was a huge swing-and-a-miss. According to the Razzball Player Rater, Lux was the 47th ranked player at the keystone in roto leagues. My belief was predicated on a weak cohort of second base-eligible players and a big jump in playing time for the young Dodger. Neither assumption came to fruition. With a few players gaining 2B-eligibility and a collection of veterans having resurgent seasons, the position was not as weak as I expected. Additionally, Lux did not get the huge playing time bump I expected. He took two trips to the IL and was even optioned in late August.
Looking ahead, I’m not yet sure what to think of Lux for next season. His opportunity for playing time will be largely dependent on the free agency outcome of Corey Seager. Despite a 94th percentile sprint speed, it doesn’t appear that stolen bases will be a part of Lux’s fantasy profile. Until he shows more than modest power and begins to make good on his prospect pedigree, Lux won’t look like a dependable option in fantasy.
Outcome: 0.5 out of 5
6. Brendan Rodgers enters next season as a top-120 pick
I’m now 0 for 2 on my “promising young second baseman ready to break out” predictions. Brendan Rodgers managed to hit 15 homers with a .284 AVG, but he won’t find himself in the top-120 next draft season. Rodgers doesn’t take walks or steal bases, but there is some promise here. With the imminent departure of Trevor Story, Rodgers should officially have an everyday spot of his own. He’ll also have all the benefits of Coors Field to prop up some disappointing batted ball metrics from 2021. Rodgers could prove to be a bargain in 2022. This prediction might have been made one year too early.
Record: 0.5 out of 6
7. Will Smith leads the majors in saves
Will Smith may not have led the regular season in saves, but he was the only reliever to record more than one save in the postseason. It’s a small moral victory, but another miss on my record. Smith finished the season with 37 saves, just two behind league leader Mark Melancon.
Record: 0.5 out of 7
8. At least four shortstops finish with higher roto value than Fernando Tatís Jr
In hindsight, this prediction looks incredibly poor after Fernando Tatís finished the season as an NL MVP candidate, but my reasoning was sound. Tatís finished as the third shortstop in roto according to the Razzball player rater, behind Bo Bichette and Trea Turner. Despite his must-watch season, my preseason concerns about Tatís were actualized. For a player who is still just 22-years-old, his injury history is troubling. In my March prediction article, I wrote the following:
A hamstring strain and stress reaction in his lower back both sent the shortstop to the IL his rookie year. In addition, Tatís also has experienced shoulder discomfort this spring. For a player whose exceptional athleticism is part of his game, you are hoping these injuries are not a sign of things to come.
While Tatís’ dominance over 130 games more than made up for the missed time, the continued shoulder injuries are troubling. Let’s hope an offseason of rehab does the trick and we see even more of Nando next season.
Prediction: 0.5 out of 8
9. The Kansas City Royals are buyers at the trade deadline
Given that they were on their way to a fourth-place finish, the Royals were certainly not buyers at the trade deadline. Instead, their claim to fame for the 2021 deadline would be trading eventual World Series MVP Jorge Soler to Atlanta. Their window to contend still appears to be a couple of years away, but Kansas City continues to make small, incremental steps forward.
Record: 0.5 out of 10
10. Germán Márquez starts Game 1 of a playoff series for the Angels
This prediction was always a pipe dream, but just about every aspect of it turned out to be remarkably wrong. Let’s start with Germán Márquez. The Rockies’ top starter had a rollercoaster of a season. After making the all-star game in his home park, Márquez pitched to an untenable 6.12 ERA in the second half. Even more confounding, he pitched significantly better at Coors Field (3.67 ERA) than on the road (5.38). Márquez did not finish the season as a reasonable option for Game 1 of a playoff series. In addition, this prediction was hopeless when the Rockies curiously decided not to be sellers at the deadline. While Márquez is still under team control, Colorado also decided against trading the expiring contracts of Trevor Story, Jon Gray, or C.J. Cron.
The Angels didn’t hold up their end of the bargain either. Outside of the daily spectacle of watching Ohtani, there were few redeeming moments from the Angels season. Once Trout and Rendon went down early in the season, the book on their 2021 season was written. While Márquez would have instantly slotted in behind Ohtani as the team’s second-best pitcher, their lack of pitching depth made a potential playoff berth next to impossible.
Record: 0.5 out of 10
Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire/ All-Pro Reels/flickr | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)