RotoGraphs has graciously (and, as we’ll soon learn, erroneously) allowed me to make bold predictions for the 2015 season. Last year, in the privacy of my own blog, I predicted Dan Haren would strike out fewer than seven batters-per-nine after notching an 8.0 K/9 in 2013. He finished the 2014 season with a 7.02 K/9. Needless to say, I’m looking for vengeance. So let’s do this! Right now!!!!
1. Giancarlo Stanton finishes outside the top 10… outfielders.
FanGraphs’ auction calculator, in its default settings, depicts Stanton as the third most expensive player behind Mike Trout and
Joe Blanton Clayton Kershaw. He ranks second in average auction value in ESPN drafts. He’ll find his way to the disabled list again, and the BABIP gods will punish him en route, leaving him outside not only the top 10 overall but also the top 10 outfielders outright.
2. Steven Souza produces more value than every member of the Nationals’ outfield individually.
This prediction is quirky and fun because Souza used to be a National. Ya know? Ultimately, this is another DL gamble. There are a lot of moving parts here. Obviously, Souza has to be good, which is something he has yet to prove at the Major League level. Meanwhile, FanGraphs projects the Rays to score fewer runs than 23 other teams. (The Marlins and Diamondbacks project to be better.) Still, Denard Span is out until at least May and Jayson Werth’s Opening Day prospects are looking grim. All that stands in Souza’s way now is Bryce Harper and his propensity to run into walls, slide head first, walk on hot coals, juggles chainsaws and all the other dangerous activities in which he partakes. Maybe all Souza has to do is stay on the field to win this one.
3. Michael Taylor records a five-homer, five-steal April.
Speaking of the Nationals, Taylor is expected to patrol center field while Span recovers from core muscle surgery. Taylor flashed some pretty nifty tools in Double-A last year, hitting 22 home runs and stealing 34 bases in a mere 441 plate appearances. Still, that was Double-A, and he somehow managed to strike out almost 30 percent of the time in spite of himself. Span played well enough last season for Washington to pick up his option year, so he’s got dibs on center. Thus, Taylor’s time is likely limited no matter how well he plays. That’s why this prediction is limited to April, and it’s limited to greatness.
4. Khris Davis hits 30 home runs and ends up a top-15 outfielder.
Another outfielder prediction? Yikes.
A truth: Davis is powerful. Another truth: he actually doesn’t strike out that much, and he walks more than Eric Karabell lets on. The aforementioned BABIP gods haven’t treated Davis nicely, but if he catches some batting-average luck and sends a few extra balls into orbit, the Brewers could become reluctant to replace him with Gerardo Parra’s defensive wizardry. The extra playing time could be what pushes him over the edge.
Or he could just, you know, not do any of that.
5. Justin Verlander finishes the season outside the top 60 starting pitchers and top 200 overall.
Verlander is being drafted in the 13th round on average in 10-team leagues. It’s almost comical how many other pitchers I would prefer to draft before him. I think this is the year the injury bug bites him — and if it does, it’ll be a great alibi for what will otherwise be a miserable season by Verlander’s standards.
6. Jose Ramirez is a top-10 shortstop.
I refuse to let colleagues Dan Schwartz or Brad Johnson exclude me from their thunder, as they both have already made Ramirez-themed predictions. But this is less about how I feel about Ramirez and more about how the projections feel. Chris Mitchell‘s KATOH really likes Ramirez, and so does a similar ordered probit regression I created and used in this post. Ramirez is certainly good enough to hold off Francisco Lindor’s impending takeover for perhaps the entire season; he exhibited above-average plate discipline and a Mookie Betts-flavored combination of power and speed. Just the Betts comparison alone is enough to warrant some optimism, and unless Zach Walters hits 30 home runs and bats better than .200, Ramirez should have shortstop on lockdown.
7. Dellin Betances is a top-3 closer.
I originally intended to declare that Betances would out-earn Greg Holland, who is generally considered the best closer behind Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel. But what happens if Holland gets injured or something? That’s no fun. If Betances closes — and he ought to (he will, right?) — he probably won’t pitch the same number of innings that enabled him to do all kinds of crazy things with strikeout totals. Still, given just 60 innings of work, he should be up there with the best of them. I don’t even think this is that bold, but Betances is going about 50 picks (and six closers) later in ESPN snake drafts and is even more undervalued per FanGraphs’ projections, so I guess it counts. Oh, and Kenley Jansen is expected to miss the first month of the season, so Betances needs to wring the value out of Jansen’s absence.
Twenty-nine innings of horrid fly-ball luck later, and the Angels finally have an intriguing young arm in Heaney (and another in Nicholas Tropeano, too). The Angels don’t expect Tyler Skaggs back this season, which means all Heaney has to do here is seize the No. 5 starter role from Hector Santiago and keep it. Wilson will take care of the rest on his own. Did you know Wilson was the only qualified pitcher last year to throw fewer than 60 percent of his pitches for strikes? Truly astounding.
9. Wrigley Field installs “Soler Panels” in a thinly-veiled attempt to cater to environmentalists.
This is a legitimate prediction.
10. Somehow, some way, Alex Guerrero hits 15 home runs.
He’s a man without a position, but the Dodgers can’t send him back down to the minors because of a provision in his contract — and if they don’t want him on the 25-man roster, they’ll either have to trade him or let him rot on the bench. I’m hoping for anything but the latter. Yoenis Cespedes is a legitimate comp for Guerrero, per their Cuban National Series statistics, although he carries a little less thump in his bat and is a non-threat on the basepaths. I realize now that that last sentence is irrelevant. All that matters is he hits 15 bombs. He better.
OK, that wraps it up. Forgive me if they’re not bold enough for you. I can already promise you next year will be better. (That’s my 11th bold prediction.)