Ariel Cohen’s 2020 Bold Predictions by Ariel Cohen July 23, 2020 Opening day is finally here! In 2020, we had two distinct draft seasons – both in February/March as well as in June/July. Some fantasy teams of mine were drafted four or five months ago, while others were assembled just this past weekend. We typically spend all winter longing for the time when our fantasy teams finally start accumulating statistics. This year, due to the tragic global pandemic of COVID-19, we had to wait even longer. We are now finally here. Tonight the standings go live! I am well aware that there is still much suffering in the U.S. and in the rest of the world from the disease. I do not mean to make light of the world’s situation by any means in my enthusiasm for baseball’s return. At the same time, watching our nation’s pastime played day in and day out, may aid the morale of the country. Although there will be many challenges, I am hopeful that the MLB will be able to start and finish the abbreviated 2020 season without major hiccups. With a shift towards normalcy, it is time to share my 2020 bold predictions with you. It comes this year four months later than normal, but it is a tradition. A good tradition. As always, the ATC Projections have helped shape much of what is to come in this article. Some predictions come from my own personal analysis on the player, or of a team situation. Other nuggets arise from blind optimism or the crossing of my fingers. These are all possibilities that could happen, that I feel will happen if things break just right. To clarify, these are bold predictions, not crazy predictions. I am not going to predict the impossible. Mallex Smith will not lead the majors in homers, and I won’t predict that. Chris Davis will not contend for a batting title, and I won’t consider that. Those are not bold predictions – those are impossible ones. So, what qualifies as bold? I will put a quantity to it. My definition of a bold prediction is one that lies roughly in the 70th to 90th range of percentile possible outcomes. If done right, one should expect to hit on some 10-30% of all bold predictions in the long-term. Any more outlandish than 10% would be miraculous, while any more probable than 30% would be too easy a guess. I hope that my predictions today correctly lie in this range, and possibly more so. Above all else, I pray that we will be able to look back on these predictions after a completed 2020 – which means good news for the country. If I get none correct this year, I will still be quite content. Since there are 60 games scheduled in 2020, I’ll stick with the number six. Below are my six bold predictions for 2020. #1: Eddie Rosario will return 2nd round fantasy value in standard 5×5 roto leagues. Those who have annually read my bold predictions, know that I have tried my luck with Eddie Rosario on many occasion. This year will be no different. 2018 Prediction: Eddie Rosario finishes as a top 15 OF in Roto 2019 Prediction: Eddie Rosario will out earn Christian Yelich Though I did not get either of these correct, those who acted upon those predictions and subsequently rostered Rosario on their fantasy teams – were hardly disappointed. In reality, that is the true spirit of this article. This year, I am taking my Rosario prediction to the next level – predicting at least 2nd round roto value for the Twins slugger. Do note that I intentionally referred to the standard 5×5 roto format, as Rosario is far worse in OBP leagues. Rosario has a sub-pedestrian career walk rate of 4%, which plays poorly in leagues that reward walks. Eddie Rosario – Statistics & Values Season HR RBI Roto Value $ 2016 10 32 $2 2017 27 78 $18 2018 24 77 $21 2019 32 109 $22 Roto Value $ based off of NFBC standard 5×5 league settings Over the past few seasons, the 28-year-old Twin has been trending upwards. It is puzzling to me that his ADP has dropped this year from where it was in 2019 drafts, after having his best year yet. In fact, Rosario accumulated his stat line while incurring 2nd half injuries once again. In the first half of 2019, Rosario hit 20 HRs, knocked in 60 runs, scored 51 and hit for a .282 batting average. If you believe that Rosario’s second half decline (for the past few seasons) are the product of injuries, this year’s bold prediction is not all that far-fetched. With a ~15% strikeout rate, and a mere 15% soft contact rate – Rosario will have a high floor for his fantasy production. I’m betting that Eddie takes the next step, and jumps into fantasy stardom in 2020. #2: Victor Robles will lead the National League in stolen bases First, let’s take a quick look at the ATC projected stolen base leaders for 2020. ATC Projections – 2020 Projected Stolen Base Leaders Player Team PA SB Adalberto Mondesi Royals 210 18 Trea Turner Nationals 239 15 Mallex Smith Mariners 201 15 Jonathan Villar Marlins 226 13 Ronald Acuna Jr. Braves 248 12 Victor Robles Nationals 226 12 Jose Ramirez Indians 237 10 Starling Marte Diamondbacks 221 10 Jarrod Dyson Pirates 147 10 Christian Yelich Brewers 241 9 Fernando Tatis Jr. Padres 228 9 Garrett Hampson Rockies 171 9 Elvis Andrus Rangers 235 9 Already just by ATC’s weighted average, Victor Robles is projected to be 4th best in the National League. Only teammate Trea Turner, Braves star Ronald Acuna and Marlins speedster Jonathan Villar are projected for more steals than Robles. In 2019, Victor Robles stole 28 bases, 16 of which were in the second half of the season. He was only caught 3 times – an 84% success rate! He will be given a steady green light in 2020. I even heard from a source that Robles’s pre-season goal and intention was to steal 40 bases (in the full season). Get the handcuffs out – be on the lookout for Robles to commit a large number of thefts! #3: Tyler Rogers will lead the San Francisco Giants in saves Those may recall, that in my bold predictions for 2019 – I correctly called this one: Taylor Rogers finishes this season as the closer for the Twins For those who are unfamiliar with the Rogers family, Tyler Rogers is indeed related to Taylor Rogers. In fact, Tyler and Taylor are twin brothers. Taylor is a twin on the Twins, Tyler is the other twin on the Giants. Have I confused you yet? Tyler Rogers is not just a sidearmer, he’s actually a submariner. via Gfycat Other than his nowadays abnormal arm slot, a few key stats come to mind with regards to Tyler. First, his surface stats were fantastic last year in the 17 innings that he threw. He compiled a 1.02 ERA with a 0.85 WHIP. Granted, a .240 BABIP is on the lucky side – but his FIP of 2.08 is still enormous. Even his xFIP and SIERA levels of 2.87 & 2.71 (respectively) show that Rogers succeeded last year. Diving into some of his component metrics – look no further than his groundball rate, which was almost 70% in 2019! That extreme figure wasn’t a fluke; he typically sits in the mid-60s. Anything over 50% for a groundball rate is excellent, and 70% is elite. His strikeout rate is nothing special. In fact, it is below average for a relief pitcher – coming in at about 8 K/9 this past season. It had been more along the lines of 7-8 in the recent minors. His walk rate is decent, typically residing in the low 3s (3 BB/9 inn). That groundball rate though … is tantilizing. Manager Gabe Kapler indicated that he would likely go with a committee approach that also included Tony Watson, Trevor Gott and Jarlin Garcia. However, I believe that Rogers will win the plurality of the save opportunities this season. If you need a cheap source of saves off of the waiver wire, pick up Rogers (the lesser known Rogers) now. #4: The White Sox will win the American League Central 2020 Projected Standings – AL Central Team Proj W Proj L ROS W% Win Division Twins 34.1 25.9 56.8% 48.8% Indians 32.5 27.5 54.1% 30.0% White Sox 30.8 29.2 51.3% 17.1% Royals 26.4 33.6 44.0% 2.7% Tigers 25.1 34.9 41.9% 1.4% FanGraphs Projected Odds as of 7/21/20 Above are the FanGraphs projected win totals and odds of winning the AL Central in 2020 (as of 7/21/20). As you can see, this prediction fits squarely in my bold range of 10-30% odds – as the Sox currently have a 17% chance to be division victors. There is so much to like about this White Sox squad. In the offseason, they added veterans Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez to their young core of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease. Their lineup contains exciting young players such as Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, batting champion Tim Anderson, and a prospect finally showing his potential in Yoan Moncada. New additions to that potent lineup are Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion, and the undervalued Nomar Mazara. Finally, surrounding all that talent – is veteran Jose Abreu, who still is producing single season hall of fame pace numbers. Finally, the bullpen is sneaky good. Alex Colome is no stranger to the closer role. Once upon a time, Colome was the league leader in saves while with the Rays (47 in ’17). Aaron Bummer was solid last year, and will solidify the setup man role. He had a 2.13 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP in ’19. Steve Cishek comes over from the North side of Chicago, with a career ERA of 2.69 and WHIP 1.15. In addition to the top three relievers, my Weighted Plate Discipline Index (wPDI) statistic has identified a few other White Sox arms as undervalued. Jimmy Cordero seems to have found his stride last year, after years of bouncing around the league. He pitched to a .387 wPDI, an increase of 82 points over 2018. He was the largest gainer in baseball from season to season, and his wPDI was 4th best among all relief pitchers in 2019. Evan Marshall was another large gainer in plate discipline last year, and Jace Fry had previously been a top wPDI ranker (in 2018). All in all, it is an undervalued bullpen. Putting all of the above together, along with the fact that the bottom two teams in this division are projected for mediocrity – I believe that the White Sox have what it takes to win the division this season. #5: CJ Cron will be a top 15 first baseman It seems that CJ Cron had a down year in 2019, after a 30 HR year in 2018. That down year still included 25 HRs and 78 RBI. Cron only amassed 459 at-bats, after injuring his thumb … twice. Look at his first half line – 17 HR, 52 RBI, .271 BA. That pace more than meets this bold prediction of a top 15 first baseman, and I believe this is the true CJ Cron. Here are some of Cron’s Statcast metrics: Cron has fantastic hard and medium hit metrics. His hard contact rate was 41% last year, and his medium contact was 43%. 5 out of 6 balls that he hits – were hit with authority. These are top of the league figures. One bit of concern is that he has a lefty/righty profile split. CJ Cron – Career Splits Split wOBA wRC+ vs L .345 121 vs R .323 105 These aren’t enourmous split rates, but they are noticeable. If Cron cannot close the gap, he could lose playing time and become the weak side of a platoon. Despite this weakness, Cron should still get ample at-bats as part of an otherwise poor Tigers lineup. ATC projects Cron to be a top-20 first baseman, and I’ll boldly bet on even more. Finally, yes – CJ Cron is indeed the brother of Diamondback Kevin Cron. A year of bold brother predictions! To add, there are a few other notable brothers around baseball. Rougned Odor is the brother of Rougned Odor. Wilmer Flores who just signed with the Tigers, is the brother of Giants infielder Wilmer Flores. The Flores brothers’ father’s name is also Wilmer Flores. #6: Mitch Keller will be a top 45 starting pitcher, or will win Rookie of the Year This has to be a bold prediction, after Mitch Keller threw 48 innings of atrocious ball last year, compiling a 7.13 ERA with a 1.83 WHIP. Wow – those are some awful numbers. To make things just a bit more fair to me, I’ve given myself two ways to win this prediction – by foreseeing that Keller will either be a top 45 starter, or, that he will win NL Rookie of the Year honors. Keller’s electric skills seemed to translate from the minors. He struck out 29% of all hitters, displayed a mid-90s fastball, and only walked seven percent of batters that he faced. He throws a good four-seamer, and an excellent slider and curveball. Do not take his 2019 surface stats as indicative of his true talent. He was crazy unlucky last year – encountering an almost unimaginable BABIP of .475! His strand rate was sub-60%. His skills from the minors were all still there, even though the raw stats said otherwise. In the second half of ’19, his swinging strike rate actually went up to 13%. The Pirates will not be a great team in 2020, but I believe that Mitch Keller will be a bright spot for them in the shortened season, and in the future.