Batting towards the end of the week with 10 Bold Predictions is a tough spot – I don’t want to duplicate what’s been said already, but I also don’t want to go down the depth chart to my 17th and 18th boldest predictions. It’s also my rookie season making bold predictions here, so I’m hoping I can have an impact similar to that of the first guy on my list, a repeated prediction I can’t avoid.
1) Jedd Gyorko is the real deal.
Seriously, if you have drafts remaining, go buy this guy. I’ve got shares of him everywhere. Projection systems see him as a .270-15-5 type but he’s flashed much more power at times, as well as 10-steal wheels in 2011. I’ve got Gyorko pencilled in for .275 with 20-plus home runs, and Chase Headley’s injury should give him ample time to prove he’s worth keeping at the major league level. Add in some likely position flexibility, and you’ve got a stud being selected outside of the top-200.
2) Jonny Gomes hits 20 home runs and adds 25 doubles.
Fenway doesn’t boost home runs for righties but it’s a huge boost to doubles production thanks to the Green Monster. Gomes has always crushed lefties but was actually decent against righties last year, too, and his pull-heavy profile plays to his new park well (he pulled half of his balls in play). When you figure in that he also hits fly balls exactly half of the time, it’s not hard to picture a lot of those long fly outs turning into doubles now.
3) Danny Espinosa outperforms Ian Desmond for fantasy purposes.
Espinosa has some serious strikeout issues that can be a drain on the batting average, while Desmond figured the whole getting on base thing out in 2012. Both have 20-20 potential but I see a bit more power and a bit more speed when I look at Espinosa’s profile. Desmond is being selected 67 picks ahead of his double-play tandem partner, but I think Espinosa finishes closer to 25-25 while Desmond is closer to 15-15, giving the second baseman the edge.
4) Sergio Santos leads the Jays in saves.
This might not be bold to those who follow the Jays closely, but what I’ve found in drafts is that Janssen has more value at present. Santos was picked up last year for a prospect and has a longer-term deal, so the Jays have incentive to give him a chance to win the job. Considering Janssen himself still isn’t sure about his status for opening night, it doesn’t take a bold imagination to see the strikeout-heavy Santos running with the gig after just one or two conversions.
5) Cory Luebke is a top-100 starting pitcher, outperforming his SP156 ADP.
Luebke got just five starts last season a year after bursting on the scene as a late-season gem, but in that short time he continued building his reputation as an up-and-coming starter. While he’s still recovering from Tommy John Surgery and unlikely to pitch until at least June, you don’t need a full season of work to be a top-100 arm. Last year’s No. 96 starter, Josh Collmenter, contributed just 90 innings of good-not-great production, so if Luebke can throw 70 innings with a 3.30 ERA and 55 strikeouts, that might be enough (and it might be conservative).
6) David Hernandez leads the Diamondbacks in saves.
J.J. Putz and Heath Bell are around, of course, but they’re also not durable and not good, respectively, potentially opening the door for Hernandez to swoop in. With elite K% and an improving BB%, Hernandez has posted FIPs of 2.94 and 2.08 the past two years. While his HR/FB% is low, he still grades out as solid with xFIP (2.85) as well. I’m not sure Hernandez would keep the job if Putz were injured and then came back, but I’m betting that a Putz injury is long enough for Hernandez to lead the pack in saves.
7) Wilin Rosario hits 30 home runs, making him a top-five fantasy catcher.
Doesn’t sound bold since he had 28 last year, right? Well, no projection system is pegging him for it and they seem to agree that his 25.5% HR/FB rate is due to come down some. I do, too, but he is also likely to see more plate appearances. Even if the average were to fall to the .250-range, 30 home runs and the 75 RBI that would come with it would place him safely in the top-five. Even if it’s not a huge jump, it’s bold to ask a sophomore to post that kind of line again.
8) Max Scherzer outperforms Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson, even when controlled for playing time.
I’m a Jays fan, so when I paid more for Scherzer than Morrow and Johnson had went for in my keeper league with Toronto-area friends this past weekend, eyebrows were raised. They’re all going between 24th and 29th in average drafts with Scherzer getting a slight bump, likely due to his relative durability compared to the others. But there’s the rub for this prediction – I’m saying Scherzer returns more value per inning than either of the Jays starters, indicating a higher K/9 and roughly equal ERA and WHIP rates.
9) Matt Moore figures it out and becomes a legitimate fantasy ace.
His 23.1% K-rate was perhaps less than we expected and his 10.7% walk rate higher, but he was a rookie and road bumps are to be expected. The K-rate is going to climb to an elite 26% mark, and that alone should be enough to make him a fantasy stud. But where the big gains will be made are in the control department, as his walk rate drops below 9% and he adjusts his approach to bump his first-pitch strike rate above the league average 60.5% mark. Peg him for a 3.40 ERA and 215 strikeouts, and then laugh that you got him as the 25th starter off the board.
10) Billy Butler falls back to a sub-20 home run total, dropping him out of the top-10 for first basemen.
The position is too deep to stick at the top, even with a strong average, without the power to back it up. Butler hit 29 dingers last season, 10 more than he had in any previous year, thanks to a double-down on his HR/FB rate. While I don’t doubt he’s got power in that frame, the fact that he hit only 28.8% of his balls in the air makes me very hesitant about his chance to maintain the homer total, even if his HR/FB stays above 15%. He’s still a nice play at .300-20-90 but he’s no longer top-five or top-10 at the position.
Blake Murphy is a freelance sportswriter based out of Toronto. Formerly of the Score, he's the managing editor at Raptors Republic and frequently pops up at Sportsnet, Vice, and around here. Follow him on Twitter @BlakeMurphyODC.