Nick Pollack’s 10 Bold Predictions For 2019

It’s bold prediction season and it’s about time I jumped into the mix with ten predictions of my own.

These are not supposed to be right – in fact, if you don’t expect to go 0-for-10, I believe you’re doing Bold Predictions wrong. These are intended to express the highly unlikely, but still somewhat believable extremes that could await us in 2019.

With a little fun, too.

Let’s get to it. Remember, I don’t expect these to come true either.

 

1. We’ll See Double The Amount of 200+ IP Pitchers in 2019

 

Just 13 pitchers threw 200 frames in 2018 as the narratives of “180 is the new 200” and “pitchers don’t go deep into games anymore” present an illusion of volume scarcity.

Yes, an illusion.

What about 190 frame pitchers? Now the number is already at twenty-three. 180? Thirty-two. 

For us to hint at doubling the amount of SP who hit the 200 frames threshold, we’re talking about one or two more starts for guys like Zack Wheeler, Blake Snell, Carlos Carrasco, Kyle Gibson, Jameson Taillonand Cole Hamels.

We also have a fair amount of volume-heavy arms seemingly on the brink of a rebound or breakout. Reynaldo Lopez has a long leash and a small step forward would put him over the 200 mark after last year’s 188 IP effort. Wheeler won’t be capped IP-wise, Snell was an injury away, Jeff Samardzija is healthy and capable of adding another 6+ IPS season under his belt. There are plenty other names to throw in here – Bauer, Price, Fiers, Boyd, Kelly, etc. – and while some of these names certainly require luck to go their way, I believe it’ll usher in a new perspective of starters entering the 2020 season.

 

2. Pete Alonso and Luke Voit each swat five more homers than Matt Carpenter

 

This isn’t me throwing shade on Matt Carpenter, it’s a love letter to both Pete Alonso and Luke Voit. Alonso crushed 36 home runs across 132 games across Double-A and Triple-A last season and made a massive impression in spring camp to earn a spot on the opening day roster.

Meanwhile, Voit has quietly secured the 1B role on the other side of town, a season after crushing 14 HRs in 39 games for the pinstripes. There’s plenty of expected regression here – 40.5% HR/FB rate?! – while his strikeouts should hold him back a bit (27% K rate bolstered by a 15.2% swinging-strike rate), though 30+ HRs seem attainable as Greg Bird falls to the wayside.

Then there’s Carpenter, fresh off a 36 HR season, needing the highest HR/FB rate of his career – 19.1% blowing past his 15.8% previous high in 2015 – to earn his first 30+ HR season. Throw in back trouble as Carpenter heads into his 33-year-old season and I could see Matty hovering at 25 longballs for the year, opening the door for Voit and Alonso to slide ahead.

Nick, this isn’t that bold.

Then why are Alonso and Voit going nearly 100 picks later in drafts?

 

3. Three Padres Starting Pitchers outperform any SP on the Reds

 

This was initially targeted at the Braves, but suddenly Wright and Wilson were placed in the rotation and things change.

Anyway, this is two statements in one: I believe in Matt Strahm and Chris Paddack, and I’ll make it legit bold by supposing another Padres arm (Joey Lucchesiprobably) can step into the spotlight + I think the Reds rotation is not as good as we want it to be.

Strahm and Paddack are both headed to the rotation out of the gate with the only concerns coming from their estimated workload. Strahm should hit 150+ frames as he endured a fireman role last year in the pen, while Paddack will be fortunate to hit the same mark, coming off just 80 frames in the minors as he recovered from TJS.

But even with those few innings, I still believe both (and possibly Lucchesi if he can properly develop his third pitch) have a shot at outperforming all of the crew in Cincy.

Tanner Roark is not set up to impress. Alex Wood is already dealing with back trouble. Tyler Mahle desperately needs his new curveball to save his repertoire, Anthony DeSclafani’s slider needs to become a 45%+ thrown pitch before he can start demanding your attention, and who knows how Sonny Gray rebounds out of New York.

And then there’s Luis Castillowho I’ve fallen out of love for recently, a product of his low release point that often breeds inconsistent fastball command. His changeup is phenomenal, his slider is a solid No. 3 option, and his velocity is far from lacking, but without strong fastball locations, he’ll continue to hint his horrific 18% HR/FB rate from 2018.

We often talk about the Padres setting themselves up offensively without a rotation to back them up. There might not be a whole lot of difference between them and the new Big Red Machine.

 

4. Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright outperform any other SP on the Braves…and Blue Jays

 

I don’t like the old Braves starters. Sean Newcomb walks too many with poor secondary pitches. Mike Foltynewicz is already dealing with elbow soreness and is coming off a season with a 10% walk rate. Julio Teheran has been the definition of fantasy mediocrity. Kevin Gausman can’t seem to figure out how to strikeout batters above a 22% rate and maintain solid ratios.

I was bummed entering the year that Luiz Gohara and Mike Soroka were too hurt to compete for a job, but suddenly Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson were given tickets to the rotation entering the year and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Wright boasts a mid-to-upper 90s heater and a variety of solid secondary pitches. You don’t need to hear more than that to get encouraged at least at the beginning of the year. Wilson doesn’t have as electric of stuff, but two excellent secondary pitches paired with strong fastball command should make him a formidable arm out of the gate.

In other words, both these pitchers have ceilings that step over the middling nature of Teheran, Gausman, and Newcomb. With Foltynewicz, it comes down to playing time and how far the Atlanta ace will regress from his breakout 2018 season.

But I need to make this a little bolder so I’m throwing the Blue Jays under the bus. It’s really just Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sancheztwo pitchers who lean heavily on groundballs in the worst environment for groundballs. Few whiffs overall paired with BABIPs over .300 are not going to treat them well across the season, leaving the door open for the likes of Wilson and Wright to speed ahead.

 

5. Lewis Brinson scores 90 runs, goes 20/20 with a .300 average

 

I made a similar prediction last year and Brinson was as bad as they come. This is me having fun because I don’t expect this at all, but hey! Post-hype sleeper stuff is always fun. Player development isn’t linear n all that.

The biggest deterrent here is not that Brinson is on the Marlins (though that certainly is a negative for counting stats), but moreso that he’s slated to hit 9th in the lineup to begin the year.

Still, a hot start that cruises through the summer will demand a lineup change and if his breakout arrives, a 20/20 season hovering a .300 average (probably closer to 80 Runs, but bold n everything) seems close to his ceiling.

 

6. Josh Donaldson and Matt Chapman both outperform Vlad Jr. (Starting May 1st)

 

Like many of these, I actually like Vlad Guerrero Jr., but I think I like Josh Donaldson and Matt Chapman more for their cost in drafts. It may be a little closer now that Guerrero is dealing with a strained oblique, but to even the playing field, even a healthy Vlad with a week or two under his belt in the majors could heavily disappoint compared to Chapman and Donaldson.

Donaldson is just one year (and a healthy calf) removed from three straight 33 HR seasons, paired with incredible Runs + RBI numbers. Injuries have slowed him down, but with health on his side, another Top 30 hitting season is well within his grasp.

Chapman’s horrid May and injured June masked what was a strong season for the Donaldson-replacement in Oakland, mapping out a possible 25-30 HR season with heavy counting stats in the middle of the A’s lineup.

Again, this isn’t to suggest that Vlad will be poor, but these two third basemen are primed for strong seasons in their own right, and could surprise all as the spotlight focuses on the youth.

 

7. Jeff Samardzija and Merrill Kelly are both Top 30 starters

 

I’ve been preaching a long while about the depth at SP this season, suggesting fantasy owners to neglect pitching early in order to take their shots later in the draft.

Both Jeff Samardzija and Merrill Kelly are great dart throws late and could each pan out to impress mightily in 2019.

The largest catalyst for a possible Top 30 ascension is their volume. Samardzija tallied five straight 200+ IP seasons until last year’s tangle with an inflamed shoulder. This time last season, we were considering if Loose Lips could maintain his 24% strikeout rate and 1.14 WHIP while lowering the home runs, and transform himself into an excellent workhorse for fantasy teams. Throwing away the lost 2018, it’s possible he could take those strides in the months ahead.

Kelly’s volume may be in question early, but my foundation for going deep into games stems from two variables: team and repertoire. The Diamondbacks may have Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano to put out fires, though I imagine the Dbacks will love for Kelly to eat up as many innings as possible, especially when they hold him on a short two-year deal and in fewer competitive games than the majority of teams. His repertoire speaks to depth as well, with three secondary pitches he trusts in the zone for strikes. 200 frames + a 23% strikeout rate and decent ratios could speak to a Top 30 starter if many fail to accumulate the innings.

 

8. Jorge Polanco, Ketel Marte, and Jonathan Schoop all return Top 15 MI value

 

This prediction may already be broken as Jorge Polanco is dealing with shoulder fatigue, but I press on! These three names – Polanco, Ketel Marte, and Jonathan Schoop – all pop up as possible MI options late in drafts and I wonder if all three end the season as “the right choice.”

Polanco impressed in 2017 with a 13/13 season in just 133 games, even moreso in his second half, crushing ten homers and swiping seven bags in just 63 games. A steroid suspension set him back for 2018, but now with a second half of pro ball back under his feet, Polanco could hint a 15/15 season with a strong average for the Twins.

His teammate could dazzle as well. Schoop had an uncomfortable season with the Orioles in 2018, which turned sour as he was shipped to the Brewers and separated from his best friend in Manny Machado. A full year gathering himself could return numbers close to his 2017 breakout of 32 HRs and a .293 average – remember, he still swatted 21 gopher balls in just 131 games last year.

Finally, there’s Marte who seems to be on the cusp of a breakout year. There is speed still in his legs despite just six steals last year, while his increase in pop to 14 HRs may just be the beginning. His 11% HR/FB rate could climb to 14%+, while an increase in flyballs away from his sub 30% rate could push him into the 20-25 HR range quickly. There are a lot of IFs, but Marte is talented enough at the plate to make these adjustments and take the leap.

 

9. Gary Sanchez is a Top 20 player

 

The once-clear No. 1 fantasy catcher struggled immensely in 2018, returning just 18 longballs and hurting owners with a .186 batting average.

However, a groin strain limited him to just 89 games and possibly affected the backstop for longer than his DL stint would suggest.

There are few strong options at catcher this season with JT Realmuto acting as the only other valuable asset behind the dish, presenting opportunity for Sanchez to climb the ranks were he to rebound – remember, Sanchez slugged 33 longballs with 90 RBI at a .278 average in 2017.

With less pressure on his shoulders, a strong lineup ahead of him, and good health to his name, another 30 HR season with a .270+ average could push Sanchez into the Top 20 as his worth at the catcher position dwarfs those across the diamond.

 

10. Things go horribly wrong for Austin Bristow II and he’s demoted back to the Prodigy league

 

We have six relegation leagues here at Pitcher List, with Austin Bristow II winning our second league – The Prodigy League – last season, elevating him to our highest league – The Legacy League – in 2019.

The man boasted and planted his flag in March last year for his 2019 arrival and the world works in poetic ways. It just wasn’t meant to be.

(Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire)

Nick Pollack

Founder of PitcherList.com. Rotographs and Washington Post contributor and has worked with CBS Sports, Grantland, and SB Nation. Former pitching coach and Brandeis alum.

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Comments


Perfect Game

Nice Nick! You made me feel better about Schoop since I owned in 2017 and own him again this year. 🙂

I wanted to get your thoughts on where you see Freeland’s ratios this year? Most sources show his ERA north of 4.00 and a high WHIP. You moved him up a lot in your latest ranking due to increase in velo and slider usage this spring. Help me to believe! 🙂

Perfect Game

Haha…I saw your reply to the same question on another one of your posts. Same follow up – drop Stripling or Strahm for Freeland? I’m leaning Stripling, because starting job isn’t as solid as Strahm and Strahm looks like he would be fun to won. I’m in a 10-teamer that uses QS/K/ERA/WHIP instead of W with Clevinger, Buehler, Marquez, Flaherty, Strahm and Stripling.

Frank

I feel like you should aim to get some of these right. Otherwise, why not call them “outlandish takes” or something. A bold prediction is still a prediction, just an unpopular one.

Joe

Hey Nick, fun takes. I’ve read a couples articles all boasting about Pinder, Kike, and Ketel Marte. How would you rate these 3?? Also, I’ve read sites very high on Jon Gray and you are very low. Can you explain your take on this as he looks healthy and stellar this Spring. Thanks as always!

Sean

I saw one of the PL guys tweet that Kelly was sitting at 90 yesterday instead of 92-93. How worried are you?

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