It is officially bold prediction review season. My podcast partner Van Burnett and I preach accountability and sticking by our takes and predictions so it would be remiss for me to skip out on reviewing my bold predictions from early this past off-season. The goal here was to avoid the disaster of my chalkboard picks from 2021 while still keeping these picks bold enough (at least one out of 10 right) to be a true bold predictions article. All pitching rankings will be based on The List. For hitter rankings, the Razzball Player Rater will be used.
1. Byron Buxton Wins AL MVP
Byron Buxton was the bold prediction du jour of the last off-season. While the prediction of Buxton winning an AL MVP was bold, it wasn’t in the sense that Buxton appeared in what seemed to be every other bold prediction article for 2022. The crux of this prediction was what made the dynamic Twins centerfielder such an intriguing pick for everyone and their grandmother’s bold prediction article: all that was missing was the volume. In theory, if Buxton stayed healthy he would be a top fantasy player based on what he has done on the field recently.
The problem was that not only did Buxton deal with his usual injury issues (a hip injury limited him to just 92 games and 382 plate appearances) but also an increased strikeout rate led to an uninspiring .224 batting average. Even if Buxton is able to finally put together close to a full season of games (which hasn’t happened since he played 140 games in 2017) our expectations may have to be adjusted down as it looks like the .306 batting average and 24.4% K% from the short 61-game sample in 2021 was an outlier.
My expectations for Buxton going forward will be adjusted down, even if he ever manages to put together a fully healthy season. Result: MISS 0 for 1
I wrote in the winter that I was not shy about my love affair with Dylan Cease. He had all the makings of becoming a fantasy number one, and he did just that this last year. Behind his amazing slider and increased usage of that pitch, he had a sub-2.00 ERA and was a mid-round fantasy ace that you dream of finding in drafts. Despite all of this, this bold prediction still technically isn’t right due to Nick Pollack’s clear bias against Dylan Cease. After being ranked 32nd on The List heading into 2022, the White Sox star is ranked just 20th (!!) on the first iteration of The List for 2023. The walk rate is high, and I would expect some regression, but I will gladly take Cease at that price next year.
I would’ve considered bending the rules (hey, these are my bold predictions, so I have that power) had Cease finished top-5 on the Razzball Player Rater (he finished 6th among starters), but alas even though this prediction came true, it is technically another miss. Result: MISS 0 for 2
We are on the board, and we don’t even have to bend any rules to get there. After a massively disappointing first season in Queens (he finished as the 22nd-best shortstop in 2021), Fransico Lindor looked a lot more like the guy the Mets were hoping they were getting after trading for him and extending him with a 10-year deal prior to the 2021 season.
Lindor finished behind only Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson amongst short stops on the Razzball Player Rater with the second-highest wRC+ (127 ) of his career and five-category contributions which included 26 homers, 16 steals, and 205 R+RBI. While the days of 30+ homers may be gone as the Mets franchise player enters his age-29 season, there is still a path for Lindor to be a top-five fantasy SS with years that will look very similar to this one over the next few seasons. Result: HIT 1 for 3
4. Florida is Home to the Best Pitchers in the AL and NL East: Shane McClanahan and Trevor Rogers
While Shane McClanahan did everything he could (up until a late-season injury) to make half of this prediction come true, his Florida counterpart from the National League did not hold up his end of the bargain. Everything that McClanahan was as a breakout, Trevor Rogers was as a disappointment. Rogers wasn’t right all season and battled back injuries and was eventually shut down in September with a lat strain. However, there still should be hope for him at what will surely be a discount in 2023
McClanahan burst onto the scene with increased usage in his changeup and curveball, adding to his already-elite slider all while increasing the velo on his fastball, which returned much better results. He now has a true four-pitch mix with every single one having a Whiff% of 24% or more and PutAway% of 20.7% or more. If there is any bit of a discount on Shane-O-Mac in 2023 due to the late-season injury and dip in performance, I will be glad to jump in on what I see will be a top-five pitcher for years to come. Result: MISS 1 for 4
5. Brendan Rodgers and Ryan McMahon Outearn Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story
Yeah, about this one. Trevor Story had an injury-riddled disappointing season which may have opened the door for this to come true, but Nolan Arenado was an NL MVP finalist and Brendan Rodgers and Ryan McMahon did absolutely nothing to hold their end of the bargain to even make this prediction interesting. Back to making fun of the Rockies for me. Result: MISS 1 for 5
6. Andrew Vaughn is the Most Valuable White Sox Hitter
This one was a bit more respectable. There were quite a few White Sox who had disappointing seasons: Luis Robert failed to live up to the first-round expectations, Eloy Jiménez missed a good amount of time due to injury, and Jose Abreu had a lackluster season from a power perspective.
Andrew Vaughn put together a solid-but-not-spectacular season in his sophomore campaign, finishing behind Abreu and check notes ELVIS ANDRUS on the player rater for White Sox hitters. A decrease in barrel rate (10.9% to 7.9%) kept the power numbers from jumping off the page (just 17 homers in 510 ABs) but an improved strikeout rate and increased contact % and a possible return to his natural position of first base with Abreu’s contract up could lead to improved results for Vaught in 2023. Result: MISS 1 for 6
7. Steven Kwan Finishes as a Top-30 OF
Here’s a nice clean-line drive hit up the middle, similar to what Steven Kwan did all year long. The Cleveland outfielder finished as the 19th-best OF on the Razzball Player rater and his .298/.373/.400 triple slash to go along with 19 steals and six homers was enough for him to finish as a finalist for AL Rookie of the Year.
While the power was slightly disappointing (.101 ISO), everything else Kwan did in 2022 was beyond even my highest expectations, specifically what he was able to do on the base paths. The 89 runs and .298 batting average were a boost to anyone who took a flier on Kwan in the late rounds and helped make this prediction one of my better ones from last winter. Result: HIT 2 for 7
8. Jordan Montgomery is the Highest Ranked Yankee SP
Jordan Montgomery was solid in 2022 but did not have the breakout I envisioned to make this prediction come true. He finished fourth among Yankee starters (currently ranked 51st on the list and fifth amongst Yankee starters), even behind Jameson Taillon in 2022, so despite his strong start to the season, there were just never enough strikeouts for J-Mont to take the proverbial leap to SP-1 territory. The trade to St. Louis and better run environment, along with more confidence in his four-seam has me hopeful and back in on The Bear for 2023. Result: MISS 2 for 8
9. Trea Turner Sets Career Highs in HR, SB, Runs & RBI, and has the Best Full Fantasy Season Since Charlie Blackmon in 2017
There actually was someone who had a better fantasy season than Charlie Blackmon in 2017, but that wasn’t Trea Turner. Aaron Judge put up an insane $62.9 per Razzball’s Player Rater, leaving the rest of the competition in the dust. Turner still had an awesome year – he finished fifth on the player rater with 36.9 dollars worth of value but did not have the eye-popping numbers to make this one come true. Result: MISS 2 for 9
10. Robbie Ray Finishes Outside the Top-75 SP
Another prediction that may have been right in spirit but was wrong in actual results. Robbie Ray had a disappointing, but not disastrous 2022 thanks to slight regression in K% and BB%. While the long ball didn’t hurt him too much, the decrease in swinging strike rate (15.5% to 13.5%) led to a solid but not great 3.71 ERA and 1.19 WHIP which were far cries from the 2.84 and 1.04 numbers he put up during his Cy Young campaign. Despite this being an incorrect prediction, some regression for Ray was easy to see and I would expect numbers much closer to 2022 going forward, which still makes him a very good pitcher (ranked 29th on The List), just not the otherworldly one we saw in 2021. Result: MISS 2 for 10
Photos by Joe Robbins & Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)