The MLB playoffs are now upon us. We’ve had back-to-back one-game division title games! We’ve got a statcast broadcast! Hey … even hugs are a-plenty this postseason!
Just a reminder … I am recapping my bold predictions for 2018. You won’t see anything like “Giancarlo Stanton will hit at least 25 homeruns” – that would have been too easy a prediction. Sure, I could have filled up my list in March with much more likely calls to boast that “Ariel Cohen got 50% of his predictions right!” But that isn’t the point here. I don’t expect to get most of these correct.
The aim of the exercise is to choose a few unlikely outcomes, yet achievable upsides (or downsides) – so that the analyst can highlight certain players. My general rule for bold predictions is to target somewhere between a player’s 70th & 90th range of percentile possible outcomes, or in other words, predictions which are about 10-30% likely.
These are predictions which are not likely, are not crazy … just bold. Now let’s recap!
Khris Davis will hit exactly .247 in 2018.
Just kidding! Man, I wish I’d have made that prediction. It’s seemingly impossible that a player can hit for exactly the same batting average for four straight years. Let’s move on to the ones that I really made…
#1: Adam Engel will go 15/20 in 2018.
After a hot spring training, Adam Engel earned the starting CF job in the South side of Chicago. The idea behind this bold prediction was that a hot start right out of the gate would earn Engel plenty of playing time in 2018. 15 HRs might have been a tad ambitious, but I knew that he had the speed.
Unfortunately, Engel fell flat – hitting a mere .218 with 2 HRs in the 1st half of the season (albeit with 10 swipes). That atrocious start to the season cost him playing time for the duration of the year. Adam did rebound in the 2nd half to hit .260 with 4 HRs in just 189 PA – which comes to about 13 HR per 600 PA.
He is a tremendous defensive talent – appearing on many highlight reels throughout the season. His 16 SBs for the season did make him fantasy relevant at times in 2018 for deep leagues and for mono leagues. But alas, as for the bold prediction – he didn’t quite make it.
0 for 1
#2: Ender Inciarte will steal at least 30 bases, the most of any Brave.
On May 15th – in just the 41st game of the season, Ender Inciarte stole his 18th base. That put Inciarte on pace for over 70 steals … and all Ender needed to do to make this prediction come true was to steal at the pace of just FOUR bases per 40 games ROS. I had thought I had this one in the bag!
Inciarte made up his mind to run to start 2018, and typically while batting in the leadoff spot – he did just that, despite having an OBP of only .319.
For the next 121 games though, Inciarte stole just 10 bases, giving him a total of 28 on the year – just shy of the 30, which I had predicted. His OBP stayed just about the same (in fact it was slightly higher, at .327 after May 18th) – but with the emergence of Albies and Camargo, the call-up of Acuna, and the change of his spot in the batting order [typically 6th or 7th] – it is possible that Inciarte had less of a green light.
The 2nd part of my prediction was in fact correct – as Inciarte led all Braves in steals with 28 … 12 more than Acuna (16), the runner-up. With half of the prediction correct, and missing by a mere 2 steals … I won’t feel bad taking half credit for this one.
0.5 for 2
#3: Eddie Rosario finishes as a top 15 OF in Roto.
Rosario in fantasy, reminds me of what Alex Gordon used to represent every year – the player who achieves nice baselines in every single category.
For those not familiar with Standard Scores – in a nutshell, the Standard Score value (taken from the ESPN Player Rater) represents the number of standard deviations above the average player value for that statistic. [Note that batting average is slightly more complicated since it is a ratio.]
Rosario is at least 0.55 standard deviations above the average in every single category, and aside from SBs – he’s at least 1.34 standard deviations above every other category. This type of player, the fantasy “non-superstar five-tool” player, is of tremendous value in roto – and extremely dependable to at least hold their value, and typically to profit. They produce a meaningful value in every category, and at the same time, they don’t cost you an arm and a leg at the auction/draft.
However, Rosario’s story for 2018 goes a little further – as the vast bulk of his production came in the 1st half of the season.
Rosario’s best months were in May and June, where he posted an OPS of 1.004 & 1.084 respectively. If he continued the 2nd half at the same pace, he would have amassed a whopping 38-120-.311 line, which would give rise to MVP talk. At the all-star break, he was solidly a first round player. Rosario was injured for most of September, playing in a total of only 8 games. It is possible that injuries had hampered production in the vast majority of his summer.
Rosario still finished as the #18th best OF on Razzball’s player rater. He was an absolute value for those who drafted him in 2018. The bold prediction was a success, but technically a near miss.
0.5 for 3
#4: Xander Bogaerts goes .300, 20/15, finishes as a Top 4 SS in Roto.
Xander Bogaerts had a very productive 2018 – climbing to a new level in power amassing 23 HRs and a very productive 103 RBIs. Batting right after Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez surely helps! Bogaerts stopped stealing bases this season, ending up with only 8, despite an 80% SB success rate this year [84% for the prior 3 seasons].
His final line was officially .288, 23/8, and he finished as the 8th highest SS on Razzball’s player rater. Another successful player prediction for value, but again a near miss. Looking like I have some serious warning track predictive power!
0.5 for 4
#5: Manny Machado will finish outside the top 35 players in 2018
Typically for bold predictions, the easiest to get “correct” are the ones stated in the negative, i.e., “A will not hit B” or “C will not be a top D player,” etc. When I first wrote these predictions back in March, I thought to myself that this one would be the most likely to get correct. If fact, one article comment stated that it was “not close to being bold enough.”
Well … so much for not bold enough … got this one wrong.
Machado, in the final year of his current contract, did himself quite well. He posted a full season line of 37-107-.297, with 84 runs and 14 steals to boot. Machado hadn’t had double digit swipes since he stole 20 in 2015 – so the five-tool player is back! Machado in fact had a career season in many statistical and sabermetric categories (BA, HR, RBI, wOBA, wRC+, etc.), so if anything, he exceeded many 2018 expectations.
Machado’s NFBC ADP going into 2018 was 17.5. He finished as the 21st highest player according to ESPN’s Player Rater, and the 11th highest player on Razzball’s 15 team player rater. He was drafted as a high 2nd pick, and he indeed finished as a late 1st / early 2nd round player in 2018.
0.5 for 5
Goldschmidt started out 2018 very slowly. Through May 31, he was hovering right over the Mendoza line with a .209 BA, with just 7 HRs and only 19 RBI. It either looked like something was up with Goldschmidt, or that the humidor was showing some tremendous effect on him. Encarnacion was not too far off from what we expected from him, and this bold prediction was flying high!
But then, the rest of 2018 came, and Goldschmidt made up for his poor 1st two months:
The basis of the bold prediction came from the following argument (and the results):
- Power – The humidor will limit Goldschmidt to under 30 HRs, while Encarnacion could hit over 40. Neither occurred, and they ended up with almost the same HR totals.
- Run Production – The two would be a statistical wash in R+RBI. Encarnacion won this area by a slim margin (181 to 178).
- Speed – Goldschmidt won’t reach double digit steals, so this would no longer be a strong point of Goldy. This did happen, as Goldy only won this category 7-3.
- Batting average – Goldy will beat E5 in this category by some 20-30 points, but with some BABIP luck, the two could be closer. Both roughly had career BABIPs, and Goldschmidt’s BA was 44 points higher than E5’s.
Through the first 3 categories (power, run production, speed), the two are close to an overall statistical wash. Of course, the batting average gap puts Paul well over.
Goldschmidt finishes as the #2 1B, and Encarnacion finishes 7th according to Razzball.
0.5 for 6
It is typically hard to get a bold prediction right when the player is injured for most of the season …. unless the player he is being compared to is also injured for most of the season.
Johnny Cueto was primed for a bounce back season, which was the basis of this prediction. Until Cueto got injured the end of April, he was looking stellar. Cueto had complied a 3-0 record, a K/9 of 7.3, a WHIP of 0.69 and an ERA of 0.84. Vintage Johnny Cueto was back! In July, he came back for just 4 starts which ballooned his solid ratio stats for the season. Injury aside, it was clear that Cueto was back, and was profit city.
Yu Darvish only made 8 starts in 2018, with his only win coming in his last game. Darvish gave up 5 earned runs in a game thrice and pitched to a season long 4.95 ERA. His strikeout rate was stellar, but that was all. He never returned to the mound after his final start on May 20.
Cueto had the better 2018 season in total, and on a per-start basis. Success!
1.5 for 7
The player combo predictions are the hardest to get right, because both players must achieve success and upside at the same time.
After hitting 33 HRs in 2016 and 30 HRs in 2017, Rougned Odor took a step back this season. Through June 30, Odor had just 4 homeruns. He had his best months in July and August, posting an OPS of 1.035 and .897 in those months, respectively. Regression (up) is due in 2019 for the still only 24 years old Odor.
Castellanos had a nice 2018 season. He remained productive, although he traded some power for contact.
Nothing is here out of the ordinary in terms of HR/FB this season, but Castellanos’s fly ball rate is down, and his line drive rate is up – which bodes well for batting average but hampers power. A power surge might still be in the cards for Castellanos in the future, but it will have to wait until next year. For 2018, Nick was close to a .300 hitter (which will regress, as he had exhibited a .361 BABIP).
The prediction missed by a wide margin on the homerun totals, but it hit on the batting average.
2 for 8
#9: Garrett Richards is a top 18 SP in 2018.
Paul Sporer already covered Garrett Richards a bit in is his bold predictions recap. In 2018, in 76.1 IP – Richards was able to elevate his strikeout rate to a career best 10.3 K/9. However, his walk rate concurrently ticked up to 10.5%. Throw out his first 2 starts of the season, and he pitched to a respectable 3.43 ERA.
But Richards was far from elite, and the main issue that he continues to have is health. Since the 2015 season, he hasn’t been able to consistently stay on the field. Richards could be a gem in the future on a per-start basis, but it’s hard to count on him to be a top-flight starter worth investing heavily in until further notice.
I hit the ball hard on this one, but a defensive replacement 3B made a nice jumping play and snagged it.
2 for 9
#10: Tommy Pham becomes the first Cardinal to go 30/30 in a single season
I didn’t figure that Tommy Pham would be traded mid-season … did you?
Through the first 40 games of the season, Pham went 8/7, which put him close to the pace of a 30/30 season. Pham hit .312 with a .971 OPS. He then was injured for a portion of the summer. When he returned (with the Rays) – he went on a hot streak in September to hit for a 1.180 OPS with 5 HRs and 5 swipes.
Pham’s full season totals included a .275 BA with 21 HRs and 15 SBs. Pham ended the season as the 16th ranked OF in 5×5 standard roto, which had plenty of value – but he ended up far from the lofty 30/30 goal to which he personally set out to accomplish.
2 for 10
I had several strikeouts here, but a few of them were caught just at the warning track. For the first two months of the season, I was on track to getting 5 out of the 10 correct. But alas, baseball is 6 months long.
I ended up getting 20% of the bold predictions correct, which sits squarely in the middle of the intended 10-30% range.
Ariel was a finalist for two 2018 FSWA Awards - Baseball Article of the Year, and Baseball Writer of the Year. Ariel is the creator of the ATC (Average Total Cost) Projection System. Ariel also writes for CBS Sports and Sportsline, and is the host of the Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational - Beat the Shift Podcast. Ariel and his fantasy partner, Reuven Guy, have used the ATC system projections to finish in the money in several NFBC, RTSports, Doubt Wars and other national leagues, racking up several division titles. Ariel is a member of the inaugural Tout Wars Draft & Hold League. Ariel Cohen is a fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA). He is a Vice President of Risk Management for a large international insurance and reinsurance company. Follow Ariel on Twitter at @ATCNY.