Michael Ajeto’s 10 Bold Predictions for 2019 in Review
At the end of March, I threw ten bold predictions out for everyone to see. Some were good, some were bad, and some were awful. Mostly, though, they were awful. For the most part, you’re about to see a list of guys that I really like. I’m particularly pretty big on Ketel Marte, Matthew Boyd, and Marco Gonzales. Let me start by saying the point of these is to be fun, not accurate. Sure, we luck into some of these, but if you’re getting over half of your bold predictions correct, you’re not exactly being bold, are you? Anyhow, with that, we’ll review mine!
1. The Ketel goes off for 25/25
This was my favorite bold prediction. For years, I have been waiting for Ketel Marte to grow into his own and for his power to develop. About a year ago, I speculated that Marte was breaking out. For this reason, it made sense for me to predict that Marte’s power numbers would take off. While there was no precedent for stealing bases, I decided to be bold and say that he would swipe 25 bags too.
Marte hit 25 home runs, and then some. He hit 32! While he saw a small uptick in stolen bases, his total of 10 on the season was nowhere close to reaching 25. And so, while the sentiment of my prediction was in the right place (i.e., Marte is breaking out big-time), it ultimately falls short because he failed to steal more.
WRONG — 0-for-1
2. Corbin Burnes is a top-40 starter
Before the season, Burnes and Brandon Woodruff were compared and contrasted quite often given that they’re both young, they’re both Milwaukee Brewers, and they’ve both got the potential to have a filthy fastball-slider combo.
While Woodruff had himself a 3.3 fWAR year, Burnes was awful. While his slider continued its dominance—it was a Money Pitch yet again—his fastball saw its pVAL go from 7.2 in 2018 (2.1 pVAL/C) to -17.3 in 2019 (-3.6 pVAL/C). Contact-percentage went up, and swinging-strike percentage went down.
I continue to be optimistic about Burnes. His fastball sits 94-95 mph as a starter, and it’s in the 100th percentile by spin rate. Paired with his slider, that’s going to play. He continues to pound the bottom of the zone with his fastball, and he needs to elevate it. I will say that his fastball is, obviously, not without warts: It has very, very little arm-side movement.
Perhaps he ends up in the bullpen, but in general, he’s going to be an effective pitcher. In any case, I wasn’t even close here.
WRONG — 0-for-2
3. Jonathan Loaisiga wins AL Rookie of the Year
Whoops! Loaisiga only made four starts on the year, and they weren’t great. Too many walks and home runs, and injuries continued to be an issue for him, as he missed most of the year with a rotator cuff injury.
I still think he’s one of the more underrated pitching prospects, but also, TINSTAAPP.
WRONG — 0-for-3
4. Rick Ankiel plays in an MLB game
Remember that one time Ankiel was one of the best pitching prospects in the game? Well, he would be an outfielder for a few solid years—including his 2008 in which he hit 25 dingers and slashed .264/.337/.506.
After spending six years in retirement, including writing about his career and the yips in his book The Phenomenon, Ankiel decided to revive his career at the age of 40—this time as a reliever. His push to make it back to the majors fell fall short, as he didn’t even appear in a minor league game and ultimately shut it down in July.
WRONG — 0-for-4
5. Marco Gonzales posts a sub-3.00 ERA
I am perhaps higher on the crafty lefty than I should be. While his peripherals between 2018 and 2019 are quite different, he ended up in the same ballpark. That is, his 3.99 ERA in 2019 virtually matched his 4.00 ERA in 2018, and the 3.4 and 3.7 fWAR is close enough.
If you ask me, here’s the culprit:
So, sure, I still like Gonzales quite a bit, but at 91-92 mph, his fastball velocity was already precious. After seeing his velocity steadily decline in 2018 and then sit around 89 mph in 2019, I’m not holding my breath.
Gonzales is always going to get the most out of his skillset, but with third percentile fastball velocity, a 5.11 xFIP, 5.08 SIERA, and league average .312 xwOBA, it’s hard to be optimistic. And that’s coming from a Marco Gonzales truther.
WRONG — 0-for-5
6. Matthew Boyd eclipses 4.5 fWAR
So, in the end, I was off the mark. Boyd netted a 3.3 fWAR over 185.1 innings. But, like the Marte prediction, the sentiment wasn’t off the mark. He saw his fastball velocity return, his strikeout-percentage skyrocketed by 7.8%, and he lowered his walk-percentage by about a point. Sure, his ERA got worse, home runs were a huge problem, and by pitch mix, he sort of regressed to a fastball-slider pitcher when he didn’t need to.
There is so much here. Even if the ball remains as bouncy as it was in 2019, there’s a very solid chance that we see Boyd’s numbers regress positively. He can throw his curveball and changeup more, and with Driveline guys like Boyd, you never know what they’ll do during the offseason.
As I said in my article, Boyd is always going to be a little homer-prone because of the nature of his flyball profile. But with strikeout numbers like Boyd’s, all it takes is one change or a little luck to have a strong year—HR/9 is very noisy from year-to-year.
I’m proud of this one.
WRONG — 0-for-6
7. Jose Martinez gets traded, hits 35 home runs
Way off the mark. Not only did Martinez not get traded, but he had his worst year yet. He was essentially league average and hit just 10 home runs in 128 games. For the Cardinals, he’s worth very little since he’s such a liability in the field. Maybe we’ll revisit this bold prediction for next season, because he definitely fits better in the American League.
WRONG — 0-for-7
8. Cedric Mullins goes 20/30
This was as much of a shot in the dark as it gets, but Mullins was quite awful in 2019. So much so that—after hitting .094/.181/.156 with one steal in 22 games—Mullins was sent to Triple-A. He was really bad there, too, so he ended the year in Double-A. Ouch.
WRONG — 0-for-8
The idea here was that Daniel Norris would be really good, and Freeland would be less-good. Well, Norris was okay, but Freeland was horrid. He completely lost the pinpoint command of his sinker that led him to a 2.85 ERA, and he missed a lot of time on the year.
In 2017, Norris ranked in the 56th percentile in fastball velocity and 88th in fastball spin. This year, he’s dropped down to 22nd percentile in fastball velocity and 73rd in fastball spin. Even with the lowered velocity, he still has the ability to get whiffs when he elevates.
Case in point:
Notably, Norris’ fastball velocity started to return to its 2017 form (which is good), but that’s slightly confounded by the fact that the Tigers deployed him for exactly 3.0 innings in his last nine starts. (He was sitting 91-92 in the five starts before that, though.)
I’ll take the win here, but I didn’t win how I thought I would. There’s still upside here. His slider and changeup have a legitimate chance to play if his fastball is ever serviceable.
RIGHT! — 1-for-9
10. Dan Vogelbach hits 30 home runs
Coming into this season, Dan Vogelbach had four home runs in 51 games. However, this was his first legitimate shot at playing time, and boy did he capitalize—Vogelbach hit exactly 30 home runs.
Now, even though he looked awesome for quite a while, there are several red flags. First, 21 of his home runs came in the first half. Second, Vogelbach cannot hit breaking pitches. At all. Third, he can’t hit lefties (.148/.270/.282 career versus lefties). Lastly, he’s quite subpar in the field.
Even with his blistering start, he finished the year with a mere 111 wRC+. He doesn’t have much trade value, so it’s probably Domingo Santana that gets jettisoned in favor of him, but it’s hard to feel optimistic here. In any case, that’s another W in the win column for me!
RIGHT! — 2-for-10
11. Adam Jones will play 170 games during the regular season
Before the season, I tasked Jones with doing something that no player has ever done: play 170 games. How, you may be wondering, could Jones do this? Put simply, he cannot! One of FanGraphs’ projection systems had Jones projected to play 170 games, so I threw this one in in jest.
TOTAL SCORE — 2-for-10
(Photo by Mary Holt/Icon Sportswire)