Al Melchior’s 2017 Bold Predictions by Al Melchior April 1, 2017 Others have beat me to the punch on predicting great success for Daniel Norris and throwing cold water on Robbie Ray, but I’m guessing no one has yet to argue that Tom Koehler will outperform a pitcher who is being drafted among the top 60 starters. Here is my case for Koehler and nine other bold predictions with slightly lower degrees of difficulty. 1. Tom Koehler will be roughly as valuable as Matt Moore. To look at Koehler’s track record from the his four years in the Marlins’ rotation, the picture seems to be clear. He’s been an average strikeout pitcher at best with subpar control. Yet there was a significant shift that occurred less than two months into last season that carried over for an 18-start period. Koehler began to throw his slider more frequently, beginning with his May 29 start at the Braves, which led to an increase in his whiff and strikeout rates. The increased slider usage coincided with a shift in his release point and improved control. Between June 3 and Sept. 4, Koehler had a 3.53 ERA with a 20.4 percent strikeout rate and a 7.2 percent walk rate. His control faltered badly over his last five starts, but I can’t let go of the dramatic improvement from the previous 18 outings. Even with some regression in his walk rate, Koehler could have Matt Moore’s numbers from last season, albeit with a little less efficiency. I’d expect both pitchers to throw around 190 innings, get decent run support and have their home parks limit their HR/9 ratios to right around 1.0. 2. Jean Segura will top last season’s total of 20 home runs. Seemingly everyone is expecting some sort of power regression from Segura, who had never hit more than 12 home runs before 2016. The power boost may have seemingly come out of nowhere, but he set a career low in ground ball rate, a career high in hard contact rate, and his average flyball distance zoomed up from 264 to 290 feet (per Bill Petti’s Spray Chart Comparison Tool). His well-publicized offseason work with Robinson Cano really seemed to pay off. Long fly data from the 2017 Bill James Handbook suggests that Segura should have had even more homers. He hit 12 flies of at least 400 feet that were either homers or outs, but only seven were homers. Typically, with that distance, 11 of those flies would have been home runs. This season, he should be closer to 25 home runs than to 20. 3. Blake Treinen will have more Roto value than Cam Bedrosian. At first glance, it would seem that Bedrosian is poised to outperform Treinen. He has fewer viable competitors for the closer’s job and whomped Treinen in strikeout rate last season by a 31.5 to 24.0 percent margin. I’m not convinced, however, that Bedrosian won’t fritter that huge margin away this season. He barely edged Treinen in whiff rate, 11.2 to 10.5 percent, and Treinen was far superior in O-Swing%, 31.6 to 26.6 percent. That low chase rate for Bedrosian makes me wonder if he can maintain the gains he made last year in strikeout and walk rate, especially since his O-Contact% was only one percentage point lower than Treinen’s. Treinen is a much better ground ball pitcher than Bedrosian, so while he may put on a few too many baserunners, he’ll be a good enough run-preventer to keep the job. Meanwhile, I think it’s reasonable to expect Bedrosian to regress towards his 2015 levels. If his walk rate rises substantially, he could even endanger his status as the Angels’ closer. 4. Jose Quintana will have his highest ERA since his 2012 rookie season. Last season, Quintana’s curveball got pounded for nine home runs and a .198 Iso (per Brooks Baseball), which contributed to his highest overall home run total (22) in three seasons. In related news, his 4.03 xFIP was his highest since 2012, but that got papered over with a 79.0 percent strand rate. As a result, Quintana is coming off a career-low 3.20 ERA and is now being drafted just outside the top 20 for starters. Maybe Quintana fixes what ailed his curve, but may he doesn’t. And maybe his strand rate will get tired of covering for him, leaving the lefty with an ERA of 3.70 or higher. (It’s fun to anthropomorphize advanced stats.) 5. A.J. Reed will hit .260 with 20 home runs. Reed has nothing left to prove in Triple-A, and it’s conceivable that Yulieski Gurriel just won’t have enough bat to stay in the Astros’ lineup. Sure, he will help the team to cut back on strikeouts, but do they really need two Nori Aokis in the lineup? Recall that Reed has not been a bad contact hitter in the minors, and he could cut back on his Ks in his second year in the majors — enough to be a .260 hitter. He swatted only three home runs in 141 plate appearances last year, but with more exposure to major league pitching and more frequent contact, he could reach the 20-homer threshold, as long as he is up by early May. That actually seems like a conservative estimate for someone who has crushed his way through the minors. 6. Chris Davis will be a top-eight first baseman. Davis is currently 15th in composite ADP on Fantasy Pros for first basemen, but I see him as just a half-step behind the Big Seven. Steamer and ZIPS agree that he will hit at least 35 home runs, but if he pulls just a little more often, there is no reason why he can’t eclipse 40. There is also no reason to think his line drive rate, which fell from it’s usual home in the mid-20s to 19.8 percent last year, won’t rebound. If that happens, a .250 batting average is within reach. He should also improve on a .194 batting average with runners in scoring position, which should get his RBI total back over the century mark. 7. Patrick Corbin will get 200 strikeouts. Like Koehler, Corbin started throwing his slider more often in the middle of last season, and by mid-July, it was paying dividends in terms of a higher strikeout rate. He started July with a pair of starts against the whiff-averse Giants, but followed that up with six starts that produced 30 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings. Then, when he was moved to the bullpen, he got 26 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings. Now that Corbin is the No. 2 starter for the Diamondbacks, he could accumulate 190-to-200 innings. Given his late-season strikeout surge and uptick in velocity this spring, Corbin has a legitimate chance to get 200 strikeouts for the first time. 8. Jose Peraza won’t get 20 steals. Peraza has a batted ball profile that is awfully similar to that of Alcides Escobar: not much hard contact and not an especially high ground ball rate. Unlike Escobar, he hasn’t gotten many infield hits and is an inefficient base stealer. Despite a 21-for-31 success rate in steals, Peraza kept getting the green light, but if he continues to get thrown out frequently, how long will that last? We shouldn’t count on Peraza to maintain last season’s attempts pace, and he may not get on base at even a .300 clip. That also sounds Escobar-like, and the Royals’ shortstop hasn’t reach the 20-steal mark since 2014. 9. Charlie Blackmon won’t get 20 homers. Before last season, Blackmon had never hit as many as 20 home runs, but then he exploded for 29. He did so without any discernible changes to his strikeout, flyball, pull or hard contact rates. I’ll take the under on 20 homers for 2017. 10. Nick Castellanos will hit 25 homers. Last season, Castellanos set a career-high with 18 home runs, even though he played in only 110 games. He seemed no worse for wear this spring after missing most of the final third of 2016 with a broken hand. Look for him to maintain the power that was not only revealed by his heightened home run pace, but also by the increase in his barrels-to-batted ball rate from 7.7 to 12.8 percent (per Baseball Savant). Over a full season, he should clear the 25-homer hurdle.