Opening Day seems just hours away, with the wonder and hope of the spring living fiercely in hearts of fans. Every team is alive, every team can win, and every team has a chance.
To celebrate the wonder in baseball fans, it’s time for some bold predictions that most likely will not happen. But they could. Enjoy as I make my future self roll his eyes as I discuss my 10 bold predictions for 2016.
1. Both Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco provide the most fantasy value on their respective staffs
It’s no secret that I adore both of these pitchers for 2016 and beyond, and while consensus has both in the same tier as their counterparts, few are ranking them as the true aces of their staffs. Carrasco is the easier bet as he only has one major name in front of him in Corey Kluber, and he’ll need to push his 183.2 IP total from last year past 200 while expressing the 2.66 xFIP he held through 2015. Syndergaard has the tougher challenge, needing to outperform both Jacob DeGrom and Matt Harvey, though the beastly flamethrower has the stuff to make it happen, especially with a full season of his newly developed Warthen Slider. Meanwhile, it’s possible deGrom regresses a little from his stellar 2015, while Harvey may not take the next step in his second year back from TJS.
2. Kevin Pillar finishes the year as a Top 15 OF
There’s no denying that the 2015 iteration of Pillar isn’t all that enticing – just 12 HRs and 76 Runs, with his value coming from a solid .276 average and 25 swiped bags. However, this year can be a major step forward for Pillar due to one major change: He’ll now be batting leadoff…for the best offense in the majors. That means Pillar could be hinting at a 100 run season with more opportunities to steal bases, and he’s been trending up to hit more flyballs, while his 6.6% HR/FB could rise, allowing to possibility for a 15-20 HR 2016 season.
3. Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto are disappointments in San Francisco ala Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval in Boston. Cueto outside the Top 30 SP, Samardzija outside the Top 50 SP
I’ve been preaching my distaste for the two fresh Giant acquisitions all off-season, so why not back it up with a bold prediction? Many are predicting Cueto to return to his 2014 form, despite his 2014 numbers looking more like the outlier than norm. While he should be serviceable, there is little room for Cueto to break the Top 20, and there are budding pitching stars left and right, making it easy for Cueto’s decent but not spectacular numbers push him outside the Top 30. Meanwhile, Samardzija has lowered his strikeout rate four years straight, holding an abysmal 6.86 K/9 last season. Some believe he’ll bounce back to 8-8.5+ K/9, while I think we’re seeing a 7.50 K/9 at most as he struggles to regain his 50% groundball rate from years past. Yes, San Fran will help, but a mediocre K rate with a low groundball rate makes it tough to bank on an ERA under 3.75.
4. Both Ketel Marte and Trevor Story have Top 6 Shortstop seasons
Okay, this one may be a little too bold, but it’s not out of the question for either of the young players to make a huge impact this year. Both are slated to hit in the two-hole with solid hitters around them, and in their favor is a questionable pool of shortstops this season, leaving space for Marte and Story to climb the ladder. Marte could steal 30 bags while hitting for a solid average and presents 90-100 Run upside while Story went 20/20 in the minors last season, and calls Coors his home. Obviously a lot of luck will be necessary, but both players have a shot of making a big splash this season.
5. Corey Seager ends the year as the #1 Shortstop
Speaking of shortstops and few candidates that truly excel at the position, Corey Seager could step into the limelight as he gets a full season in Dodger blue and usurp Carlos Correa as the number one shortstop in the land (I’m not counting Machado, for those wondering). He features excellent contact skills with power than can grow to blast 20+ HRs, and I can see him utilizing his speed a bit more as he hits for a great average. It’s all best case scenario, but it wouldn’t be bold without it. However, this prediction is less about Seager’s possible rise to greatness and more about the questions surrounding Correa’s ability to repeat his rookie season mixed with Tulo’s injury history and the “totally going to breakout” expectancies of Xander Bogaerts and Francisco Lindor. There’s a large shroud among the top tiers at shortstop, allowing Seager to shine and claim the top spot.
6. Aaron Nola has more Quality Starts than Tyson Ross…and a better ERA/WHIP
So the first part seemed a little too easy given that Ross struggles to get past the sixth inning and Nola is built to earn quality starts day and night in Philly, and even the WHIP seems like a gimme given that Nola is a control freak while Tyson will also have walk issues. I see a lot of people underestimating what Ross’ walk rate will do to him while forgetting that Nola is a mature pitcher who should improve in his first full season in uniform for the Phillies. Sure, most people are flocking to Tyson because of his strikeout ability instead of his ERA/WHIP, but the gap between these two pitchers is much slimmer than the 150+ picks that owners currently believe.
7. John Lamb is a Top 50 pitcher from May – September
Lamb is still the pitcher that no one seems to know about despite earning a 10.51 K/9 in ten starts last season. Sure, I don’t expect him to keep it up for all of 2016, but it’s hard to imagine that he can’t maintain a solid 8.50 K/9 with upside for more once he returns from his rest following offseason back surgery. He has the Changeup and Cutter to keep those Ks alive, and his history dictates that his 2015 3.44 BB/9 should come down this year, along with his massive ERA that matched up with just a 3.56 SIERA. The upside is there and Lamb could be shocking a lot of people this season.
8. Anthony Rendon is a Top 30 Overall player
Remember when Rendon was a second rounder at the start of last year’s preseason? The ability is still there for the 25-year-old, and while 2015’s huge disappointment has owners not taking the chance, Rendon is healthy once again and can be the top tier talent we saw in 2014. He’ll be sandwiched in between Ben Revere and Bryce Harper allowing plenty of chances to accumulate Runs, RBI, and swipe bags. We could be looking back at 2015 as the outlier – not the trend – in Rendon’s career.
9. Both Lucas Giolito and Blake Snell are Top 30 SP picks entering 2017
There are other pitchers I could mention here, but Giolito and Snell look to be the two pitchers with the upside where they could be big impact pitchers from the moment they hit the bigs. With a general lack of true elite talent passed the Top 20 SP, Snell and Gio have the ability to jump the ranks quickly, with superb strikeout numbers and low walk rates. By the end of the season, they will have enough innings to push 180 or so in 2017, making them enticing picks for 2017.
10. Jonathon Schoop hits more HRs than Jose Abreu
Just one prediction left, why not go a little wild? Schoop has held HR/FB rates of 13.1% and 17.4% in his first two years in the bigs, and could flirt with 30 bombs this season if he keeps his flyballs up. Conversely, Abreu may be turning more into a line drives hitter, needing a surge in September to reach the 30 HR mark in 2015. He could fall to 25 or so in 2016, opening the door for Schoop to pull ahead. It’s a stretch and would make Schoop one of the best 2B options around, but don’t rule it out.