(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)
The wait is almost over and I have high expectations for this 2018 season. Why not check out another bold predictions post for the upcoming season while you wait?
1. Jean Segura is a Top 2 SS
I expected Segura to do this last year, but that was not the case for a number of reasons. Injuries were part of the problem as he went on the DL twice which resulted in only 125 GP. Also, Mariners as a team ranked 15th in Runs scored which is not bad but well below expectations for a team has the likes of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Kyle Seager. Segura is projected to bat second this year behind the speedy Dee Gordon which will result in more RBI’s without sacrificing runs because he will still be batting in front of Cano, Cruz, and Corey Seager‘s brother. Segura finished as the 6th SS on the ESPN Player Rater in 2017 and a top 2 is very likely with a healthy full season.
2. Marcus Semien is a Top 5 SS
Continuing our theme of shortstops, Semien is on the cusp of breaking out. He is projected to hit roughly 20 HR with 10-15 steals. I believe he will exceed both. Semien swiped 12 bags in 85 games and I expect him to get at least 20 this year. He also increased his FB% all the way up to 48% in the months of Sept/Oct. His FB% combined with the juiced ball should help him get 25+ HRs. With some BABIP luck, Semien has a chance to sneak inside top 5.
3. Corey Knebel Records Fewer Than 10 Saves
Evil Knebel was an absolute beast last year with an outstanding 14.92 K/9 in 2017. Hiding underneath the 1.78 ERA, 126 K’s and 39 Saves is his atrocious 4.74 BB/9. He was extremely lucky with his 91.9% LOB. A closer with erratic control is always at risk to lose his job. Last year was also his highest number of innings pitched at 76.0 which was good for 2nd highest out of all closers in 2017. I know Spring Training Stats analyzed too closely but Knebel is sporting an 8.44 ERA thanks 6 BB in 5.1 IP. He might be able to keep his job and end up with more than 10 saves but they will come with unpleasant ratios.
Check out the rookie year stats for these two:
Benintendi is known for his plate discipline and contact skills but he is trying to adopt a more aggressive approach. It might sound like a paradox but being patient and being aggressive can be achieved in a single plate appearance. Benintendi was too patient at times last year and played defensively when behind in a count which is not necessarily a bad idea but he did sacrifice power for contact.This year “Benny Biceps” decided to bulk up in the offseason to go along with his “aggressive approach” at the plate. We all know what happened in the 2nd year for Mookie. I expect a similar progression for Benintendi.
5. Seattle Mariners Win the World Series
Will this happen? Probably not. But there is a chance.
Mariners have a have the offensive players, they just need to remain healthy and perform. As mentioned in the Jean Segura blurb, Mariner’s offense is stacked with the likes of Gordon, Segura, Cano, Cruz, Seager, and Haniger. They also boast a very respectable bullpen with Diaz and Nicasio being the main guys. The biggest question mark will be the rotation led by injury-prone Paxton and a deteriorating Felix. For the Mariners to win, Paxton will need to be healthy for the playoffs, Felix will need to learn to pitch with diminished velocity, and Miranda will have to grow into a reliable #3. Or they might trade for one. The pieces are in place, they just need to fall the right way.
6. Brad Peacock Leads the Astros in Wins
Peacock is too good to stay in the bullpen and the Astros’ pitchers are too injury prone to stay healthy all year long. Verlander is 35 years old. Keuchel, McCullers, and Morton didn’t pitch more than 150 innings in 2017. Astros will need Peacock to start even if they prefer to use him out of the bullpen. This happened last year when Peacock was used to fill in for injured starters which happened to be 21 games. Peacock has proven he is capable of being a starter by going 13-2 with a 3.00 ERA.
7. Amir Garrett is top 30 SP
If the spring training velocities are to believed, Amir Garrett‘s is throwing 97mph according to some reports. This is exciting because its a 3 mph jump from his last years average. According to Garrett, the gain in velocity is because of the arm slot adjustment he made in the offseason. Morton experienced a similar change last spring and he went on to have his best season. Garret was brutal last year with an ERA north of 7 with 70 IP. The main culprit was his fastball as it accumulated a pitch value of -19.7. An improved fastball can also help Garret set up his secondary pitches. In Spring Training, Garret has a pristine 1.38 ERA in 13IP. Spring Training stats don’t matter but velocities are certainly to keep an eye on.
8. Noah Syndergaard Leads MLB in ERA and K’s
Syndergaard posted a 2.97 ERA in 30 IP. That is good but it’s not anything crazy until you realize that this included his last start before getting injured when he refused to get checked out by the team doctors. In that start, he allowed 5 runs in 1.1 IP. Thor was pitching at another level before getting injured, 1.73 ERA in 26IP to go along with 30 Ks and 0 BBs. He is currently being labeled as injury prone which has affected his value negatively as he is being drafted as the 7th SP off the board, which is unfair but understandable. If healthy, Thor will put on a show and it will be worth remembering. The only scenario in which I don’t see him leading in the strikeout category is if the Mets limit his innings and I don’t believe Syndergaard will let them.
9. Luiz Gohara is a top 10 SP in the Second Half
Gohara showed plenty of potential in the 29 innings he pitched. He displayed good control of his fastball but lost it at times. In his five starts, Gohara faced Nationals(x2), Phillies, Rangers, and Marlins. His 4.91 ERA doesn’t tell the whole story as his SIERA was a point lower, 3.89, and FIP, 2.75. His fastball-slider combo can be lethal. I think if he can learn to throw a changeup like Severino, he can truly join the elite club. For 2018, Gohara is recovering from a sprained ankle and is expected to miss the first month of the season. He should be completely healed and ready to bring out the big guns in the second half.
10. Rhys Hoskins wins the Homerun Derby
Hoskins has such a sweet swing. It’s effortless. While Stanton and Judge can hit mammoth, out of the stadium drives, Hoskins relies on consistency. It’s almost like Hoskins has figured out the exact math behind hitting the ball just out of the park. He should be able to use this to his advantage in the Homerun Derby where endurance plays a huge role.