This is one of my favorite articles to write each season because I get to laugh at the ridiculous ideas I had earlier in the year. Let’s do this.
I was wrong about Walker Buehler, but not really, as he finished as the No. 12 starter on the ESPN player rater. Without a doubt, he rewarded you for your high draft pick, and you’ll pick him again next year. Trevor Bauer, though?? I was WAYYYYY off. He finished as the No. 39 SP on the player rater, and it’s not a surprise when you look at his 4.48 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 3.46 BB/9, 4.14 SIERA…stop me when you’re getting bored. Bauer claims he hurt his ankle during his second start and that resulted in his god-awful season. There are reasons for optimism next year: He posted a .320 BABIP with a 65.1 LOB% in the second half, while his homers spiked like crazy up to 1.89 per nine. If all those numbers fall in line and he maintains his K-BB numbers, he has a good chance of returning as an ace. Additionally, he has to improve against lefties. Against righties, he posted a 22.6% K-BB with a 3.42 FIP on the season…compare that with 14.3% K-BB and 5.51 FIP vs lefties. Yikes.
2. Manny Machado finishes outside the Top 10 shortstops
No prediction I made got me nearly as much criticism as this one. First of all, people said it was dumb because he was a third baseman now (still SS eligible, though), and second, they said there’s no way Manny Machado isn’t a Top 10 shortstop. Well, here’s a list of the huys more valuable than Machado at the position in 2019, according to the ESPN player rater: Jonathan Villar, Trevor Story, Trea Turner, Ketel Marte, Alex Bregman, Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Lindor, Marcus Semien, Tim Anderson, Elvis Andrus, Adalberto Mondesi, Eduardo Escobar, Gleyber Torres, Javier Baez, Amed Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Kevin Newman. Yup, the ESPN player rater put Machado as the No. 19 shortstop in 2019. Even I couldn’t have predicted THAT. But it’ll be interesting to see if Machado improves in 2020 or if this is his new baseline. Also, Villar was the No. 1 shortstop. How bout that?
3. Yu Darvish finishes outside the Top 75 starters
Yu Darvish was finally healthy! And he was elite in the second half down the stretch. This helped him finish at No. 31 on the ESPN player rater for starting pitchers, and I guess I won’t totally hate him entering 2020. What helped his production stick was increased effectiveness from his secondary pitches, allowing him to expand to his full repertoire later in the season. I’m worried he’ll be too expensive in drafts next year based on his second-half line: 16.86 K/BB, 2.83 FIP, 2.37 xFIP, 35.6% K-BB, 0.81 WHIP…again, stop me if you’re getting bored. I want in if the price is right.
4. Hunter Strickland finishes as a Top 5 closer
After two games in Japan, Hunter Strickland was on pace for 162 saves. Turns out, those would be the only two saves he would record that season as he went down with a lat strain shortly after. He returned only to be traded to Washington in a middle innings role. Oh well.
5. The New York Mets win the 2019 World Series
The talent was all there: Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Edwin Diaz, Wilson Ramos, Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, Michael Conforto, Marcus Stroman…was it BvW’s fault? Mickey Callaway‘s fault? Well, it cost Callaway his job, so maybe it was. But I really don’t think this was his fault. The bullpen just completely imploded on him. They could very well be a lot better next year and I might make the same prediction for 2020.
6. The Los Angeles Angels win the American League West and the San Diego Padres finish 2nd in the National League West
I don’t know what I was thinking with this. There was a 0 percent chance Houston lost the AL West, but that’s why we call it bold predictions, right? The Angels dealt with so many injuries between Justin Upton, Mike Trout, Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning, Shohei Ohtani and more. How are they supposed to put a team together if nobody is healthy? Looks like another year of Trout’s prime will go down as wasted.
The Padres still have a bright future, and I still believe the gist of what made me make this bold prediction, but it still might take a while.
7. Franmil Reyes hits 40 home runs
HE HIT 37! I blame the Indians for some reason, as he hit 27 in 99 games with San Diego, then 10 in his remaining 51 games for Cleveland. You could also blame the juiced ball, as 58 hitters hit 30 home runs this year. I’ll remain somewhat cautious about him entering 2020.
Yikes. This was easily my worst prediction. I expected better for Adam Eaton and I expected SIGNIFICANT regression for Christian Yelich. Eaton was indeed better, finishing at 30th among outfielders on the ESPN player rater. Overall, he had a 15-15 season with a .279 average and over 100 runs, but just 49 RBI. On top of that, in the year of the home run, his HRs did not help nearly the same amount. Meanwhile, Yelich finished No. 1 overall on the player rater despite missing a month. Yeah, I’ll be buying into Yelich in 2020, just a tad bit late.
9. Edwin Encarnacion is not a Top 20 1B
The logic behind this is Edwin Encarnacion‘s continually declining plate discipline—he’s progressively started chasing more pitches out of the zone, whiffing more often, and making less contact each year for the last five seasons. The year of the home run was built for guys like Encarnacion to mash, and mash he did, hitting 34 home runs. But his season was limited to 109 games, and he struggled in his other categories—resulting in a No. 22 finish according to the player rater. I actually think he did far better than that, but the numbers are the numbers.
10. Willians Astudillo strikes out 5 or fewer times in 400 or more PAs
Willians Astudillo only got 204 plate appearances, so I was wrong from the get-go. On top of that, he struck out eight times. EIGHT! What a scrub with his 5% K-rate. Here’s to hoping he gets a full helping of plate appearances in 2020 and can somehow cut the K-rate even more. Baseball needs more fun names like Willians Astudillo.
(Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire)