Ben Palmer’s 2019 Bold Predictions in Review
It’s that time of year again—time to look back at my bold predictions from March and see how I did (spoiler alert: It’s not great).
Honestly, I’ve always believed that if I did well in my bold predictions in review, my predictions weren’t bold enough. Or maybe that’s just an excuse for me to feel better about abjectly failing at my bold predictions.
Anyways, here’s Wonderwall.
1. Chris Davis turns things around and becomes a Top 10 first baseman
Hoo-boy, we’re starting off strong there, aren’t we? In case you don’t want to read my old bold predictions article from March, here was my justification for thinking Chris Davis would actually be good this year: Things were different in Baltimore, it was a new regime, one that was analytics-focused, and the Orioles had signed a new hitting coach, Don Long, who specifically said he wanted to work with Davis. That, combined with the fact that Davis’ 2018 was the worst on record, and that he was the resident veteran in the clubhouse with Adam Jones gone and Mark Trumbo hurt, led me to believe Davis could be inspired to turn things around.
So how’d he do? Well uhh, not great, Bob, not great. Better than last year, sure (not that that was a particularly high bar), but still not good. He missed a decent handful of games with injury, playing in just 105 contests, and slashing .179/.276/.326 with 12 home runs, 26 runs, and 36 RBI—good for the 45th-ranked first baseman, below such powerhouse names as Matt Thaiss, John Hicks, and Ryan McBroom. So yea, missed on that one.
2. Trevor Richards is a Top 20 pitcher
I still have a deep, personal love for Trevor Richards‘ changeup, it’s a magical pitch, and I had hoped that that pitch, plus a hopefully improved fastball, could propel Richards to fantasy relevance. Well, that didn’t quite happen. He did have a better year than last season, posting a 4.06 ERA with a slightly lower 21.9% strikeout rate and a not great 4.51 FIP, but that wasn’t the season I had hoped for. He also spent a decent amount of time in the bullpen once he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. Still, his changeup was excellent, posting a 51.1% chase rate, 40.9% zone rate, and a 17% swinging-strike rate (qualifying it as a money pitch).
I will say this, though: Keep an eye on Richards. He’s with the Rays now, who have one of the best pitching coach staffs in baseball. He’s got the raw talent to be a good pitcher, and he started playing around with a couple of new pitches this year, so he’s clearly trying to tweak things. He’s still just 26 and has got a wipeout changeup. If he keeps working on things, something might stick.
But that didn’t happen this year.
3. Yasiel Puig finishes the year as a Top 10 player and is in the running for MVP
In the preseason, I was in love with the idea of Yasiel Puig with the Cincinnati Reds. Great American Ball Park is a good hitter’s park, and he was finally out of Los Angeles, where it seemed like the organization and he butted heads on a regular basis.
Instead of turning in a Top 10 season, Puig turned in almost exactly the same season as he did in 2018, slashing .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 76 runs, 84 RBI, and 19 steals (for reference, he slashed .267/.327/.494 in 2018 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which is bizarrely close to this year). He also ended up getting traded to the Cleveland Indians in the process.
Puig definitely turned in a solid year, and one that was useful in fantasy, but it was a far cry from a potential MVP season.
4. Cedric Mullins goes 20/20 and bats at least .280
Cedric Mullins looked really good in 2018, slashing .289/.346/.472 with 12 home runs and 21 stolen bases through 487 plate appearances in Double- and Triple-A. I still believe in his talent, but man did he struggle in the majors.
He got just 22 games with the Orioles and slashed a miserable .094/.181/.156. Then, once he was demoted, he had a solid minor league season, with 10 home runs and 33 steals between Double- and Triple-A, though his .205/.272/.306 slash line in Triple-A wasn’t great.
He’s a talented guy, and I think he’s still a 20/20 candidate in the majors if he gets his stuff together, but that was definitely not this year.
5. Teoscar Hernandez leads the league in home runs
In 2018, Teoscar Hernandez had the 10th-highest barrel rate in the majors at 15.5%, better than Giancarlo Stanton, Mookie Betts, and Justin Upton. He also had the 28th-best hard-hit rate in baseball. So, needless to say, the guy hit the ball hard, which is why I thought he could do the same this year.
As I’m sure you can guess by this point, that didn’t happen. He did have a career high in home runs at 26, and posted a solid 11.7% barrel rate (worse than 2018’s, though), but 26 home runs in a year that had more home runs than ever before was barely a drop in the bucket.
6. Jonathan Schoop finishes the year as a Top Five second baseman
I was a big Jonathan Schoop believer this year, thinking that a change of scenery with the Minnesota Twins would really do him good. Last year was an emotional season for him—he even said as much—and a move to the Twins in a good lineup alongside Nelson Cruz, who he knew back from his Orioles days, could mean a bounceback was in order.
He did bounce back, slashing .256/.304/.473 with 23 home runs, posting a somewhat better season than last year, but it wasn’t enough to make him a Top Five second baseman. In fact, he ranked as the 22nd-best second baseman, which is usable enough in some leagues. He missed some time to injury this year, but overall, he just didn’t have a great season. A usable one, sure, but not a great one.
7. Ramon Laureano goes 20/20 and bats at least .290
Now this one looks a lot better. Ramon Laureano was a hot sleeper in the fantasy community coming into this year because he looked great in the majors last season and had posted some good campaigns in the minors. He had the full-time gig with the Oakland Athletics this year, and I had hoped that talent would translate.
It did exactly that, as Laureano slashed .288/.340/.521 with 24 home runs and 13 steals. Not what I had predicted—it wasn’t a 20/20 season, nor did he hit .290, but he was extremely close to both, and had he not missed some time in the latter half of the season, he might have at least gotten that .290 average.
I’m tempted to give myself half a point on this one, but I won’t because this is fantasy baseball and we all know this is very serious.
8. Daniel Palka hits at least 35 home runs
If you’re saying to yourself, “Wait, who?” I fully understand. Daniel Palka crushed the ball last year, posting a 14.4% barrel rate (13th-best in the league) and a 49.2% hard-hit rate (16th-best in the league), alongside 27 home runs. His batting average was hot garbage, but his power looked good, and he was getting summarily ignored in fantasy drafts. My hope was that he could tap a bit more into that power potential and turn in a home run-heavy season.
He barely even got time in the majors, playing just 30 games and slashing .107/.194/.179 with just two home runs. The Chicago White Sox promptly sent him down to Triple-A where he hit .263/.374/.527 with 27 home runs in a much better season. While he’s got a bit of a strikeout problem, he did post a career-best 15.3% walk rate in the minors this year, so there’s hope still.
WRONG : 0-for-8
9. Jackie Bradley Jr. finishes the year as a Top 20 outfielder
In the preseason, I wrong a whole big thing about the changes Jackie Bradley Jr. had made to his swing in the latter half of 2018, working with J.D. Martinez‘s hitting coach and tweaking his swing. I had hoped that this would finally let JBJ tap into his talent and put in a good fantasy season.
Instead, Bradley turned in a very Jackie Bradley Jr. season, slashing .225/.317/.421 with 21 home runs, 69 runs, 62 RBI, and eight steals. Still, he almost finished as a Top 20 outfielder, finishing as outfielder No. 22. Fool me once, JBJ, shame on you. Fool me twice, I’m probably just a bad fantasy analyst.
10. Anibal Sanchez finishes the year as a Top 20 pitcher
Anibal Sanchez had quite the season in 2018, and if you want an in-depth look at it, I also wrote a piece on him in the preseason. But the short version is this: Anibal changed his repertoire a lot, using a cutter instead of his four-seam fastball and utilizing an excellent changeup that was the 10th-most-chased pitch in baseball and the 10th-best changeup in the MLB by pVal. If those changes stuck, I thought Anibal could put in a really good season.
It wasn’t the year I had hoped for, but it was still a solid one, as he posted a 3.85 ERA, though a pretty poor 18.8% strikeout rate and 4.44 FIP. He still utilized his cutter a lot, and while it was solid, it wasn’t as good last year, nor was his changeup, which posted a fairly measly 1.8 pVal (especially when compared to its 15.1 pVal last year). Still, a 51.4% chase rate and 18.7% swinging-strike rate is nothing to sneeze at.
Anibal was solid, especially for a 35-year-old, but it wasn’t enough to put him in the Top 20.
WRONG: 0 for 10
FINAL SCORE: 0-for-10
This is the first year I haven’t gotten a single bold prediction right, but I guess that just means they were all very bold! Or I am very dumb, it’s one of the two (probably the latter). I was close with that Laureano one, but oh well. Is it spring training yet?
Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire