If predictions were counted like batting average, you can just call me Ted Williams—or Willie Bloomquist. Everyone says that Teddy Ballgame was the last player to hit .400. Wrong. It was “Sea Willie.”
That is the kind of crack analysis you get from me, and it was on full display in my 10 Semi-Bold Dynasty Predictions at the beginning of the 2019 season. How did I think I did? Well it was about what I expected—pretty much just like when I try guess people’s weight or age. Every once in a while I’m spot on and they are impressed. The majority of the time, however, I just embarrass myself. And by “embarrass myself,” I mean embarrass everyone but myself.
Like Crash Davis says: “The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.”
Let’s get to it.
1. Andrew Vaughn will go back-to-back in Golden Spikes Awards;
Vaughn Also Hits in Double-A in 2019 (0/1)
Andrew Vaughn couldn’t quite become the first to win the award for the best amateur baseball player twice, but it wasn’t because of a lack of trying. The California Bear did his part, slashing .381/.531/.819 with 15 homers and an insane 24.48 walk rate which made him an award finalist. It wasn’t quite as good as his 2018 season, however, or fellow his Pac-12 league-mate and award winner, Adley Rutschman (.411/.575/.751). I also didn’t get the second part right. Vaughn probably had a chance to get to Double-A in 2019, had he hit just a little better in High-A. Still, his debut in the minors was pretty encouraging:
|Minor Leagues 2019||55||.278||.449||.819||6||23||30||38|
2. Vidal Brujan will be called up in September (0/2)
I think everybody wanted this one to happen. Nobody expected Vidal Brujan’s already limited power to fall off. My hope was that he’d be lighting up basepaths in the playoffs for the Rays, but I figured he’d at least be a shoo-in for Triple-A. That hope stalled when the small second baseman struggled against Double-A pitching, hitting just .266 and slugging just .391 in 55 games. That’s a decent enough size to re-think his timetable, not his ceiling. Brujan still stole 48 bases in just 99 games. As long as he can hit for average, and maintain a solid walk rate (10.55 career mark), he’ll be a solid player. I just guessed it would be sooner.
3. Julio Urias Starts 18 Games for the Dodgers (0/3)
It’s possible this one could have happened if Julio Urias wouldn’t have had off-field problems. The former top overall prospect was placed on leave in May after a domestic violence arrest, which resulted in the loss of an additional 20 games from suspension in August. In all, he missed two weeks in May and three weeks in August. Urias ended up with eight games started, so projecting another 10 out of five or so weeks is unrealistic. Still, he could have added another 4-5 starts in that time, even if they were “opener” starts.
I guess it depends on what I meant about the next Josh Hader. The Houston fireballer certainly looked like he was headed that way before the all-star break. Posting elite caliber numbers in both May and June (3.03 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 44 Ks in just 26.2 innings) Josh James looked ready to anchor an already impressive Houston bullpen, but the wheels came off in July and August (4.90 ERA, 1.40 WHIP). His K rate remained elite. I still view him as a possible near-Hader level reliever. That could happen in 2020, and I’ll make that bet again.
5. Jo Adell Struggles for the First Time (1/5)
I am going to call this a win. Jo Adell may have figured out Double-A (.308/.382/.553), but he looked completely lost in a month and a half of Triple-A:
It was only for roughly 45 days of games, but it’s also clear that Adell is finally being challenged. It is possible that his big bat comes alive at the start of 2020, but the evidence suggests he might need some time to figure things out before finally getting the call.
6. Wander Franco is in Triple-A in 2019 (1/6)
This one was just wrong. Now, should Wander Franco be in Triple-A? Yes. But the Rays are understandably being cautious with their potential all-world shortstop. The 18-year-old crushed High-A this season (.339/.417/.464) and will likely take his career 11% walk rate to Double-A to start 2020. I’d like to see him in the majors at the end of the year, but after Tampa Bay’s insistence on taking it slow, I wouldn’t bet on it no matter how good he is playing.
7. Manny Machado’s New Norm is a Top 8-10 3B (2/7)
I’m going to call this one right. Now, it is possible that I overshot Manny Machado’s new norm. He could be more in the 11-15 range when we look back in a couple of years. It’s not his fault. It’s San Diego’s. As predicted, Machado was terrible at Petco Park, slashing .219/.297/.406. I didn’t expect him to be this bad at home, but if this is his new normal, he won’t be in the top 10. Nobody can be that bad for half of his games and be in the top 10 by the end of the year… except maybe Jose Ramirez. Speaking of Ramirez, he was just about as bad pre-all star, but still ended finishing above Machado in most leagues. Of the players who played the majority of their games in the hot corner in 2019, here is where Machado ranked:
One could make the case for Gio Urshela, Justin Turner and J.D. Davis outranking Machado as well. And then there is also Vladito, who very likely will be ahead of Mr. Machado in 2020. I am a believer in the effects of ballparks, but I don’t believe Machado will be this bad next year, though I also didn’t quite believe he would be this bad in 2019 either.
8. Daulton Varsho Does His Best Jason Kendall (3/8)
This one is the most satisfying. The Arizona Diamondbacks are being aggressive with their talented backstop, promoting him to Double-A at just 22. Daulton Varsho responded by being one of the best offensive catching prospects in the minors. What made Jason Kendall so special? His ability to steal bases at a high level as a catcher was something rarely at any point in major league history. Imagine owning a catcher who gave you this in a six-year period:
|Jason Kendall||OBP||Stolen Bases|
That is 115 stolen bases in six seasons, all while getting on base at a .380-ish clip. Varsho has that kind of potential, which he showed during a full season for the Jackson Generals:
The other exceptional thing about Kendall was his ability to avoid striking out, which, during that same six-year period, hovered around 9%. Varsho may never get there, but his Double-A mark was still an advanced 14.38, which is 58 Ks in 108 games. Sure, there are sexier names out there at catcher: Rutschman, Joey Bart, Keibert Ruiz, to name a few, but my male gaze is planted squarely on Varsho.
9. Shohei Ohtani Struggles in May, Then Makes Us Forget He Can Pitch Too (4/9)
I hit this one right on.
After returning from Tommy John surgery on May 7, Shohei Ohtani appeared to have difficulties picking up where he left off in 2018, hitting .250/.330/.363 in 20 games. As soon as the calendar turned to June, Ohtani took off. He blasted nine home runs in June —and stole four bases—all while slashing .340/.379/.713. He was so good at the dish in his age 25 season that some writers felt they needed to preemptively publish articles arguing for the Angels to let him pitch too. The sense is that some believe he is too good a hitter to let him try again to do something nobody has really done well since Babe Ruth.
He might have cooled down a little by the end of 2019, but his .286/.343/.505 slash with 18 homers and 12 SBs in 106 games proves that he’s one of the best DH options in dynasty leagues—maybe even the best. Now let’s get him back on the mound.
10. RIP Yoan Moncada & Byron Buxton (4/10)
This one I got wrong, but not all the way wrong. Byron Buxton didn’t fail me. He might have failed you, if you owned him, but after a lukewarm start to 2019, Buxton finished as the player we all thought he would be: 262/.314/.513 with 10 home runs and 14 stolen bases. If I’m being honest, I actually expected less. A plus .500 SLUG is not something I expected to see. Thirty doubles in 87 games is pretty good, but a lack of overall OBP production really hurts him. Buxton won’t lose his job because he’s too good on defense and because he does just enough at the plate to keep GMs salivating. Yoan Moncada, on the other hand, broke out in a big way. Sure, he was aided by a .406 BABIP, but it’s hard to deny a .315/.367/.548 slash with 25 jacks. I’d like to see the K rate drop a little more to below 25 percent, but regardless, Moncada looks like he’s found something that works.
Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire.