Ben Pernick’s 2019 Bold Predictions In Review
In March, I made my 2019 Bold Predictions. I tried to be bolder this year and I succeeded in some sense, yet now some of those predictions didn’t seem bold enough at all. I think this year I reduced my odds with compound predictions that required multiple events to occur simultaneously to be correct, something I will try to fix for my upcoming 2020 Bold Predictions. Next year’s predictions will be even bolder, and even though I was wrong on a lot of these, I still managed to win the 2019 Pitcher List Prodigy League Championship title (my second title in three years), which goes to show that it’s okay to be wrong a fair amount.
1. Nolan Arenado does not finish the season as a top-5 third baseman
In hindsight, calling for Arenado to fall apart seems as foolish as predicting Superman be defeated. I was taking April victory laps after he couldn’t get his bat going early on, but he decided to make me look bad by having a huge second half en route to a .315 AVG and 41 HR. However, I don’t take this as a flaw in my reasoning, as I warned of a three-year trend of his decreasing launch angle and increasing strikeout rate, and this year he finally reversed both of those troubling trends… so maybe he read my article. His 18° average launch angle was his highest since 2016, and his K rate improved from 18% in 2018 to just 14% this year. However, while his .397 wOBA is best of his career, his .339 xwOBA is worst since 2015, although he may just break Statcast completely.
According to the ESPN player rater, he finished third in overall value among third baseman, behind Rafael Devers and Anthony Rendon, and edging out Alex Bregman and DJ LeMahieu (Razzball player rater had him fourth behind Bregman). While I was too bold in this prediction, I did argue in my Arenado article that he will enter 2020 not a first round pick, and in the first 2020 #2EarlyMock Draft, he wasn’t taken until the mid-second round. So I can at least feel that I wasn’t too far off base.
WRONG – 0 for 1
2. Anthony Rendon, however, finishes as a top-3 third baseman
It’s always good to score a win early. Even though he wasn’t healthy all season, he still mashed when healthy, hitting .325 with 34 HR, 114 R, 125 RBI, and 4 SB in 533 ABs. I had predicted his breakout would come from his power taking an additional step and that’s exactly what happened. According to the Razzball player rater, Rendon finished as the second-best third baseman and seventh overall, just one spot behind Devers. Although he no longer has the stolen base upside to be a true fantasy five-tool threat, his insane run-production ability with his combination of power and average makes him a stalwart in the late-first or early-second round.
CORRECT – 1 for 2
3. Miguel Cabrera outproduces Nick Castellanos
I guess we should’ve stuck a fork in him after all, and maybe a steak knife too just to see if there’s any juice left (figuratively, not literally please). While he got going a bit by the season’s end, he simply had no pop and the 94 mph exit velocity I was so excited about from 2018 withered away this year to just 90 overall and 92 on FB/LD. His walk rate also dropped to just 9% and his K rate shot up to 20%, so even though his launch angle rebounded to his usual 12° (7° last year) the contact was just too weak for that to matter. Unless his chronically ailing body is miraculously cured, I expect this to be the last year as a regular, even if it means the Tigers have to swallow a huge sunk cost and cut him.
The sad thing is Castellanos started so poorly, it looked as though I might still win on a technicality, as Casty only hit .273 with 11 HR and 37 RBI in 403 ABs for the Tigers. After his trade, he hit .321 with 16 HR and 36 RBI in just 212 ABs for the Cubs. Maybe in Detroit it’s just something in the water… oh right.
WRONG – 1 for 3
4. Luke Voit is a top-10 fantasy first baseman
He rendered this prediction null and Voit. While some may blame injury for the failure to reach this goal, I think he wouldn’t have reached this level even with a full season of health. He ranked 30th among 1B on the ESPN Player rater (28th on the Razzball Player rater) after he hit .263 with 21 HR, 72 R, 62 RBI, and 142 K in 429 AB in an injury-shortened season. His exit velocity took a big step back, from a fantastic 93 mph with a 20% Barrel rate in 2018 to a merely solid 90 mph and 13% Barrel in 2019, which is still good, but not great for a first baseman. This shouldn’t be so surprising as his power output in 2019 was more consistent with his minor league rates, though not every mid-career 2018 standout regressed like Voit, as Max Muncy was still a beast. The one silver lining is he was still quite useful in OBP leagues, thanks to his 20% walk rate, resulting in a strong .378 OBP. It remains to be seen if Voit will enter 2020 as the starting 1B, or if Mike Ford or a free agent signing clouds up the picture.
WRONG – 1 for 4
5. Franmil Reyes is a top-20 outfielder in both AVG and OBP formats
He turned my midseason smile into a frownmil. He finished 51st on the ESPN Player Rater (40th on Razzball) despite walloping 37 taters in 494 ABs, thanks to his meager .249 AVG, .310 OBP, 69 R, and 81 RBI with 0 SB. While he met and exceeded my power expectations for him in 2019, his mediocre batting average and seeming inability to drive in runs burned many teams who put their faith in him. It’s worth noting that for the second straight year, he significantly improved his walk rate in the second half, but that’s really all he improved in the second half, and even a trade out of Petco couldn’t fix his funk. I believe that he’s a great sleeper for 2020, as I believe bad luck was partially to blame: His 93 mph exit velocity and 15% Barrel/BBE is excellent and underperformed his xAVG of .261 and xSLG of .520. He’s still just 24 and I’ll double down on predicting greater success for La Mole.
WRONG – 1 for 5
6. The Angels are top 5 in ERA, despite no Angels starter surpassing 150 innings
Well I almost got half of the prediction right. As I forecasted, a full healthy season was hard to come by for the Angels, with Andrew Heaney, Trevor Cahill, and Felix Pena missing significant time due to injury. In fact, the pitcher who logged the most total innings was Cahill with only 102 innings. Trevor Cahill! Everyone else was under 100, so I should’ve been bolder on that. However, the quality severely disappointed, as Cahill and Harvey were downright terrible, and so were Nick Tropeano, J.C. Ramirez, Jose Suarez, and Jaime Barria. And sadly, Tyler Skaggs, their only pitcher who had been on track to reach the innings threshold, left this world too soon. The two bright spots were that Cody Allen‘s implosion led to the emergence of Hansel Robles, their only reliever with an ERA under three runs, and Griffin Canning, who despite a mid-four ERA and a season-ending injury, at least shows promise for 2020. Even with Shohei Ohtani potentially pitching in 2020, their pitching outlook looks rather dodgy unless they sign Bubble Boy.
WRONG – 1 for 6
7. Jose Alvarado becomes a top-5 relief pitcher
Another big miss, and I wish I stuck to my initial prediction that said Alvarado would outproduce Jose LeClerc, since that would’ve at least been closer (but still wrong). Alvarado was not elite or even decent, with a 1-6 record, 7 SV, 4.80 ERA, 1.867 WHIP, and a 39/27 K/BB—failing to capitalize on chances to become the main closer. Alvarado actually started the year off with a tantalizing small sample, but his season was progressively derailed by control issues, injury issues, and unspecified family issues, and was a non-factor in the second half of the season. He’s still just 24 and has knockout stuff, so I’d definitely consider him as a deep-league, late-round gamble, but I wouldn’t expect more than a handful of saves next year (he’s on the Rays, after all) and anything else would be just gravy.
WRONG – 1 for 7
8. Cedric Mullins hits .270+ with 40 combined HR and SB and 80 runs
L. O. L. Mullins was one of the biggest fake sleepers of the 2019 season, with an ADP that ranged from 250-300. He ended up being literally the worst hitter in baseball during his short stay. He hit just .094/.181/.156 with 0 HR and 1 SB in just 64 ABs. That’s good for a WAR of -0.7 and an OPS+ of -8. I honestly didn’t see this coming, as I thought he had a higher floor than many other late-round gambles thanks to his low swinging strike rate and well-rounded profile, but everything promising we saw last year went up in smoke. Even on the Orioles, a team that really had no reason not to play him, he still managed to play himself out of consideration despite the small sample size, and he deserved at least some of those struggles with an xAVG of .160 and xSLG of .232. While he’s still young enough to redeem himself to get back to the majors, he’s looking more like a fourth-outfielder, depth-type unless he proves otherwise.
WRONG – 1 for 8
9. The Minnesota Twins finish among the 5 best teams in HR, but also among the 5 worst in HR Allowed
This one was too mild on one end, but too bold on the other. The Twins, as I’m sure you know, not only were in the top 5 in hitting home runs, but were actually top 1, and they broke the single season team home run record with 307 HRs. I predicted Nelson Cruz, Miguel Sano, and Max Kepler would do a lot of the damage, but definitely didn’t expect them to get over 40 HR from their catchers (mostly Mitch Garver). While they did have many homer-prone pitchers, many of the ones who I expected to be the leading culprits like Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi, and Martin Perez actually managed their home run rates this year, and they finished 24th (which is good) for home runs allowed at just 198. I think their team should be a force to be reckoned with again next year, but I doubt they match that tater total.
WRONG – 1 for 9
10. Domingo German will emerge as a top-60 starter
So this prediction was still too mild when I made it, but then again, when I posted this, German was just a long reliever slated for the minors with no clear shot at even winning a rotation spot over Luis Severino, CC Sabathia, Jonathan Loaisiga… so much for that. Although going into March, he was expected to start the year in the minors, injuries gave him an opportunity and he excelled, posting an 18-4 record with a 4.03 ERA and 1.147 WHIP with 153 Ks in 143 IP, which led him to be ranked 26th on the ESPN Player Rater (21st on the Razzball Player Rater). At the time I felt this prediction was sufficiently bold because he had just posted a 5.57 ERA, and I had assumed he would have to earn top-60 starter value in a partial season. But he ultimately made it look too mild even though his season was shortened due to injury and his domestic violence charge. He validated my strategy of targeting struggling pitchers with a high K-BB, and a similarly high K-BB Shane Bieber, was also an even bigger success in this regard. So going into 2020, I’m doubling down on that strategy.
CORRECT – 2 for 10
(Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire)