Back in March, several of the writers here at Pitcher List threw their hats in the ring in the form of bold predictions heading into the 2019 season. Looking back at my predictions and how close I was to a couple of these, I feel like I was not nearly as bold enough as I should have been. Next year I will be bigger, better, and BOLDER. Now let’s take a look and see just how far off I was.
This was one that, by the All-Star break, was looking like it may come to fruition. In the first half of 2019, Luke Voit was mashing the baseball and getting on base at a near-40% clip, while Paul Goldschmidt was looking like a complete shell of what he used to be.
Multiple trips to the IL in the second half for Voit derailed his breakout season as the big man finished the year at .263/.378/.464 with 72 runs, 21 home runs, and 62 RBI in 118 games. Not exactly “Goldschmidt-like.” Although, if you extrapolate his numbers across a full season, they are much more along the lines of the 2019 version of Goldy.
Still taking the ‘L’ on this one, though.
2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Will Start the All-Star Game
I felt relatively confident in this prediction based on the popularity vote that is the All-Star Game voting ballot. With all the fanfare and hype behind Vladimir Guererro Jr., I figured there would be a legit chance that even if he underperformed, Guerrero could sneak his way into the starting lineup for the American League at the hot corner.
This was not the case.
Vlad finished sixth in voting at the position, and rightfully so based on his performance. He was slashing .249/.328/.413 with eight home runs by the break, and despite the remarkable show he put on in the Home Run Derby, he wasn’t and did not perform like an All-Star in any sense of the word in 2019. We’ll just chalk it up to growing pains.
3. Andrew McCutchen Finishes Top 5 in NL MVP
The Phillies were shaping up to be the early favorite for the NL pennant heading into 2019. Acquisitions of Bryce Harper, Jean Segura, J.T. Realmuto, David Robertson, and Andrew McCutchen were looking like the building blocks needed for a deep playoff run for the Phils.
Cutch was off to a very solid start. Batting leadoff for Philly, he was getting on base at nearly a 38% clip and scoring a ton of runs in the process. As a matter of fact, Cutch was on a 124-run full-season pace. But it all came crashing down after a torn ACL in the beginning of June, thus ending McCutchen’s season.
Not only did it end the former MVP’s year, but it spelled disaster for the team moving forward. When McCutchen was healthy, the Phillies were 33-26. Following his ACL injury, the team spiraled out of control to a 48-55 mark to finish the year at an underwhelming 81-81 record, missing the playoffs altogether.
4. Josh Donaldson Finishes Top 5 in Fantasy
I never really stood a chance on this one. It was more so a vote of confidence in Josh Donaldson’s ability to bounce back and be a difference maker again. He was exactly that in 2019 for the Braves, so in that aspect, I was on the right track.
Donaldson finished as a top-80 player in standard 5×5 categories leagues and was roughly a top-30 player in points leagues where walks are accounted for, which makes him an immensely more valuable player because of his exceptional ability to get on base. While he may never return to that top-five, first-round hitter he was in his days in Toronto, Donaldson should continue to be a very good source of runs, home runs, and OBP, health permitting.
5. Eloy Jimenez Hits 35 HRs and Wins AL Rookie of the Year
I was dead in the water with this one by the end of August. But then Eloy Jimenez spoke to me and said, “Don’t give up on me yet, Colin,” to which I replied. “I won’t, Eloy. I won’t.” September hit, and the 22-year-old phenom turned his entire season around.
Nine home runs across his final 24 games of the regular season, finishing with 31 total, and Jimenez found himself in the thick of the AL Rookie of the Year race. Yes, I know Yordan Alvarez is going to take home the hardware, but Jimenez certainly showed his potential over the final month and established himself as a prime breakout candidate heading into 2020.
6. Buster Posey Regains Form, Finishes as a Top-3 Fantasy Catcher
Yikes. This prediction definitely does not age well … just like Buster Posey’s bat! Too soon?
Posey was merely the 25th-ranked(!) catcher in standard 5×5 leagues and was, in all honesty, completely useless by the end of May for fantasy purposes. It was a sad revelation knowing that one of the most talented and successful players of the past decade is not even remotely close to the player he once was and may not ever sniff the heights he reached in his prime again.
7. Noah Syndergaard Follows his Teammate, Wins NL Cy Young
Noah Syndergaard will be nowhere near the top of the ballot for Cy Young voting, but I do not think this year was a complete and utter failure for the right-hander.
His HR/FB rate nearly doubled, and he became far too reliant on his fastball and not enough on his slider, but there were some promising signs. His strikeout rate went up a tick, and he was able to maintain his great control. Thor’s changeup became a real weapon in 2019 as well, and if he can regain his confidence in his slider, he could be back on the verge of “ace-dom.” I feel a change of scenery might be just what the doctor ordered for Syndergaard.
8. Daniel Murphy Wins NL Batting Title, Hits .360
The stars were aligned. A hitter the caliber of Daniel Murphy had a new home in Colorado, and the fantasy upside was through the roof. Feels like such a long time ago …
Murphy was highly mediocre in his first year playing his home games on Blake Street. He hit more ground balls and fewer fly balls, struck out the most since his rookie year, and all while generating more than 4% more soft contact than in 2018. Not the recipe for a great year, even in Coors Field. Fingers crossed for better results in 2020 from the veteran.
9. Joey Gallo Hits .230
This one is tough for me to grade. Joey Gallo was looking like he finally made the adjustments to not be a complete drain on your batting average before a wrist injury ended his season after only 70 games played.
Gallo finished 2019 hitting .253 as a result of an improved approach at the dish. He was swinging at far fewer pitches outside of the zone, which as a result jumped his walk rate up 5%. Heading into 2020, it will be fascinating to see how Gallo rebounds from not only his wrist injury but also whether he can maintain an average in the .250s to go along with his elite power.
I’m going to give myself this one.
10. The Indians Have 3 of the Top 15 SPs in Fantasy, None of Whom are Corey Kluber
It was looking like it was the Indians’ division to lose in the AL Central heading into 2019, led by their stellar starting rotation. The combination of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, and Shane Bieber were projected to be among the very best rotations in baseball.
That all came to a halt when both Kluber and Clevinger went down with injuries, and Carrasco took time away from the game while recovering from cancer. Kluber suffered a fracture in his throwing arm, subsequently ending his season with an unsightly 5.80 ERA through seven starts. Clevinger left his second start of the year with a back ailment and would not return until the middle of June, but he would return with a vengeance. Clevinger would go 12-4 with a 3.00 ERA over his final 19 starts while striking out 147 batters across 114 innings. Carrasco, much to the joy of every baseball fan, built his strength back up and was able to return down the stretch as a reliever for the Indians as one of the best stories in all of 2019.
The brightest spot for the Indians on the field was Bieber. He was sensational from start to finish and will more than likely finish as a top-three Cy Young finalist in the American League. Bieber and Clevinger finished eighth and 16th, respectively, among SPs in standard categories leagues. So while I was not correct in this prediction, I was in the right ballpark! And I will gladly take that.
(Photo by Bennett Cohen/Icon Sportswire)