I just got done reading an article stating that breakfast may not really be the most important meal of the day. I don’t care. It is the best meal of the day. I’ve always been big on breakfast. One of my favorite Christmas presents this past year was a framed photo of a breakfast plate, the same photo that hung in Ron Swanson’s office in the early seasons of Parks and Recreation. Breakfast is unique because of its variety. For the savory folks, it offers some of the best in salty meats and fried potatoes. Those with sweet teeth can scarf down French toast or waffles.
I know you’re not here to read about morning delicacies, but it’s late morning on the first day of March, and all I want is breakfast and baseball. And since I’m stuck in an office that smells nothing like maple syrup or fresh cut grass, I’m here to deliver to you a big ol’ stack of hot takes for the 2019 season. Grab your knife and fork, and let’s dive in.
1. Trea Turner wins the NL MVP
Trea Turner‘s 2018 season was viewed by many as somewhat of a disappointment, due to the fact that he didn’t steal an astronomical amount of bases. He did, however, still finish with a league-leading 43 swipes, and was a model of steady consistency all year long. I expect Turner to take another leap forward in 2019. He rose his walk rate above 9% last season, and I think we’ll see even more patience out of him this year. Manager Davey Martinez has stated he’d like to see north of 70 steal attempts out of Turner this year, and I think he coasts to at least 50 stolen bags. With just a bit of improvement, he can be a 20-25 home run guy and flirt with an average just south of .300. Those numbers would certainly warrant National League (and fantasy) MVP consideration.
2. Stanton and Judge combine for 90 dingers
I wanted to write 100 dingers, I really did, but I think 90 is a big enough statement. I think 2019 will be the year that Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge stay healthy and put on a show at the petite stadium in the Bronx. Both gargantuan men have eclipsed the 50-homer mark in their careers, and I think they both coast past 40 this season. Incredibly specific prediction: The two enter game 162 with 89 combined home runs, and each smack one to eclipse the number. I like both of these guys to provide a solid ROI for owners on draft day.
3. Severino wins the AL Cy Young, Cole runner-up
Luis Severino‘s abysmal second half has been the topic of much discussion in the baseball world. The stuff is clearly there, but he became remarkably hittable and finished with good, not great, numbers at season’s end. I think he returns to elite status this season, and believe we’ll see improvement in his changeup which will result in an even more effective heater. Cole is entering a contract year at age 28, and stands to build on a dominant 2018. Having seen the recent paydays of Manny and Bryce, Cole should have dollar signs for eyeballs each time he takes the mound this season. Pencil both in for 250 strikeouts.
4. Adalberto Mondesi will be virtually unowned by season’s end
In this year’s TGFBI, Adalberto Mondesi went between picks 28 and 50 in every league. The hype around this guy has grown after his power/speed combo propelled many owners to fantasy glory last season. Bullish managers will point to his half-season numbers, extrapolate it to 600 at-bats, and swear this guy is going to have a 30 homer, 60 stolen base season. I don’t buy it. A sub-4% walk rate and a 26% K-rate show the major lack of patience in Mondesi’s game. I think we’ll see pitchers forcing him to chase a lot more this season, and Mondesi is not refined enough to let bad pitches go by. I wouldn’t personally spend a top-100 pick on him. My bold prediction is that he struggles so mightily to get on base that he’s either relegated to the 9-hole a la the Reds’ version of Billy Hamilton, or he’s sent down to AAA to work on his approach.
5. Corey Knebel leads the league in saves
Yeah, I know that Corey Knebel isn’t even the best relief pitcher on his own team, and yes I know he was so bad last year that he was sent down to AAA, but I expect a big bounce back from Evel Knebel this year. The bulk of his innings expectedly came in the ninth inning, and in those outings, he did poorly, but outside of the ninth inning, he was damn near elite. It’s likely that he lost his nerve at some point, but his demotion seemed to help him greatly. In September and October, he struck out 33 batters and allowed no runs in 16.1 innings. That’s a small sample size, but clearly he’s got nasty stuff, and his 2017 season shows he can be a reliable closer. With Josh Hader taking high leverage situations, Jeremy Jeffress lending a hand as a top-end setup man, and the Brewers offense producing at a quality clip, I see a 40+ save season coming for Knebel.
This gives me no pleasure to write as an avid Giants fan, and someone with a great deal of respect for Clayton Kershaw, but the warning signs for these two just keep showing up. Kershaw was shut down before he even really got started in spring, he now struggles to hit the 90s with his heat, and has to rely heavily on his slider to make up for it. I think 120 innings might be generous, and we’ll see a shell of vintage Kersh. Madison Bumgarner‘s peripherals hint at a similar demise. While he’s never had the strikeout numbers of a Kershaw, his once plus-fastball was hit to a tune of a .397 wOBA last season, and he’s seen his own velocity dip. Toss in his own inability to stay healthy (albeit from seemingly freak injuries), and Father Time might be catching up to one of the most seasoned 29-year-old the league has seen. I hope I’m wrong, but both of these once-elite pitchers are firmly on my do-not-draft list.
7. Eloy Jimenez beats out Vladito for AL Rookie of the Year
This might as well be blasphemy, right? Little Vlad has already been crowned the greatest hitter of the next generation and is being drafted as such. Eloy Jimenez, however, who has been almost as dominant across all levels is being drafted 60-70 spots later. Each will face his own weird service-time issues, but the consensus is that both will be up by May, if not earlier. I added this to my stack of hot takes to raise awareness that Jimenez should also prove to be a generational talent. While Vladdy gets all the hype, Eloy has similar elite potential and potent raw power. He just happens to be available at a far more reasonable price.
8. Kevin Gausman finishes as a top-40 starter
What a sexy take this is. I know there are very few players who get the blood pumping quite like Kevin G, but after escaping Baltimore, he posted a 2.87 ERA in just shy of 60 innings for Atlanta. Gausman has been a perennial sleeper candidate because he was a highly-touted prospect and a high draft pick. While he’ll never be an elite strikeout guy, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to turn into a reliable quality start machine. In an era where 180 innings has become somewhat of a rarity, I see Gausman coasting to that number just as he has the past three seasons. It would do wonders for him if he could get a grip on his slider or curveball to go with his decent splitter, but I’m holding out hope that his primary stuff is enough for a solid season.
9. The Phillies will outscore the Marlins by 400 runs
The last team to score 1000 runs in a single season was the Cleveland Indians in 1999. With a massively-revamped lineup, in a hitter-friendly ballpark, the Phillies could push towards that total in 2019. Gabe Kapler’s biggest offensive problem right now is every manager’s dream: how does he order the massive hitting talents in the new-look Phillies lineup? My take is below:
That’s nasty, any way you slice it. Their first five hitters either have elite batting averages or get on base at an above average rate. Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco have each shown flashes in their career, and Cesar Hernandez is a perennially-underrated hitter who should keep the line moving. Conversely, Derek Jeter has run the Marlins into oblivion, and the team will field a roster that sounds like a group of substitute teachers rather than baseball players. I’d take the under on 600 total runs, and it might not be all that close. Phillies position players should be bumped up on your draft day simply for the potency of that lineup; bless your heart if you choose to draft any Marlins.
10. Michael Brantley stays healthy and finishes as a top-75 player
One guy that I view as a great value in drafts this year is the oft-injured Michael Brantley. The dude can straight up hit, and when healthy, he’s been one of the most consistent hitters throughout his career. Now add that to the fact that he’s projected to hit fifth in the Astros lineup behind Springer, Altuve, Bregman, and Correa, and he should see plenty of RBI opportunities in a hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park. A 20-20 season with a whole mess of doubles into that deep center field in Houston would put him far above his current ADP in the 120s. You can just about pencil him in for a .285 batting average, and he has the potential to go 30 points higher than that. The Astros have several up-and-coming outfielders that will likely see some time, but that may be a positive if the shared playing time results in a healthier Brantley. Jump all over Brantley if he’s still there in the tenth, and enjoy a solid floor with the potential for a stellar ROI.
(Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)