Brandon Warne’s 10 Bold Predictions for 2017

It’s time again for all of us to do our 10 Bold Prediction articles. So here are mine:

1. Robbie Ray finishes as a top-10 starter in the NL

I’m on the hype train for Ray, who is currently going off the board as the No. 57 starter in NFBC drafts around 214th overall. The slider is legit, he was much harder to hit in the second half (.313 wOBA against) than the first (.347), he can induce grounders (45.7 percent) and I fully believe throwing to Jeff Mathis will help him quite a bit. The sky’s the limit here.

2. Joe Panik bounces back, finishes as a top-10 top-15 NFBC second baseman

A concussion and BABIP issues have torpedoed his value into this spring (No. 24 2B, No. 317 overall), but I like his potential to bounce back now that he’s reportedly healthy. Can he maybe be a 10-10 guy who bats near .300? I think that’s probably his ceiling — he only has eight career steals but he’s a good baserunner — and that can threaten the top-10, where guys like Jean Segura, Ian Kinsler and D.J. LeMahieu are currently rounding out. I think that’s a fairly bold take.

3. The criminally under-drafted Troy Tulowitzki finishes as a top-five shortstop

He has not been very good in Toronto (99 wRC+) and the durability issues are well documented (over 140 games most recently in 2011), but the man’s coming off the board as the No. 12 shortstop, behind guys like Eduardo Nunez (by nearly 40 picks!), Elvis Andrus and Tim Anderson. Even if he isn’t a stud anymore, there’s still significant bounce-back potential here. He’ll also be in a good spot to drive in runs and maybe a better spot to score them, especially if he hits third in place of the departed Edwin Encarnacion. It won’t hurt to have Josh Donaldson perpetually on base in front of him.

4. Blake Treinen ends up being the reliever to own in the Nationals bullpen

Everyone’s losing their minds over Koda Glover — and don’t get me wrong, he could be awesome — but he’s still a rookie reliever we don’t know a ton about, between 19.2 so-so innings last year and spring training stats, which we never really know how to vet properly. Shawn Kelley is also in the mix with his incredible rates, but he gives up too many home runs and the Nationals are reportedly not keen on him closing due to possible arm issues. Enter Treinen, who gets a ton of grounders, throws really hard (95.6 mph career average) and has a phenomenal slider (20.8 percent whiff rate). If he can locate his bowling-ball sinker — certainly a legitimate question — he’s a really, really good option here.

5. The same for Ryan Buchter in the Padres bullpen

Buchter might be as low as fourth on the totem pole in the Padres bullpen, behind Brandon Maurer, the resurgent Brad Hand and whatever that thing Carter Capps is doing. But one simple thing works in Buchter’s favor — he’s really, really (redacted) hard to hit. Opposing batters hit just .159/.271/.288 against him last season. Here’s a list of relievers who allowed lower batting averages last season: Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman.

That’s it. Buchter was tied with Andrew Miller and ahead of studs like Zach Britton, Cody Allen and others. He doesn’t get grounders (20.6 percent), he doesn’t throw insanely hard (92.3 mph) and he still walks too many batters (4.4 BB/9 last year). Still, I’m going to keep an eye on him as a stealth add during the season for the Pads.

6. Ryan Pressly and J.T. Chargois emerge as a formidable late-inning duo for the Twins

There really isn’t a pitcher to own in the Twins bullpen to start the season. Brandon Kintzler is expected to start the season as the closer, but he’s more of a middle inning guy with his no strikeouts, no walks and tons of grounders approach. Enter Pressly and Chargois, who both throw gas and have good secondary pitches. Chargois has a splendid slider (18 percent whiff rate) which got better as last season’s cup of coffee went on, and Pressly boasts 18-plus percent whiff rates on both his slider and curve with the plus gas. I think these guys are Nos. 1 and 1a in the Twins pen this year on a team that might surprise, but failing that should get better as the season goes on.

7. Sean Manaea finishes as a top-10 starter in the AL

Manaea’s coming off the board 44th among starters and 172nd overall. His season numbers look pretty good from last year, but he was quietly incredible down the stretch. He had a 2.67 ERA after the break with 8.0 K/9 and a 1.02 WHIP and allowed opposing batters to hit just .220/.268/.369 against him. With Sonny Gray faltering and on the shelf besides, it’s time to get excited about a different pitcher by the Bay.

8. Nick Castellanos finishes as a top-10 third baseman this season

Third base is suuuuuuper deep — guys like Evan Longoria, Maikel Franco and somehow Justin Turner are on the outside looking in — but I still think Castellanos at No. 19 and pick No. 204 is an incredible value. Castellanos hit a stellar .285/.331/.496 with 18 home runs while getting into just 110 games last season. Prior to that, he was coming off averaging 150 games the previous two seasons, so it’s still premature to put any sort of injury-related concerns on his plate. It sounds like he trimmed down this winter with the potential of hitting second in a fairly strong Tigers lineup, which could add stolen bases to the mix for a guy who only has three in over 400 career games. With or without them, he still feels like a guy being criminally underrated, as he’s going behind guys like Hernan Perez and Ryon Healy. He — at least to me — feels like a much more stable asset.

9. Nate Jones leads the White Sox in saves this season

It’s pretty simple here. He’s better than David Robertson, and besides that, I don’t really see a good reason for the Pale Hose to keep a $25 million — over the next two years — closer when they don’t project to be terribly good over that time frame. If this happens, the question becomes whether or not you’re willing to roster a closer on a bad team? He could still be good for 30 saves if he closed all season; that’s respectable, right?

10. Eddie Rosario finishes with more fantasy value than one of his outfield mates (Byron Buxton/Max Kepler)

Sure, none of these guys are exactly household names, but Buxton (No. 33 OF, No. 143 overall) and Kepler (No. 56 OF, No. 240 overall) are going way, way ahead of Rosario, who is the 96th outfielder and isn’t going until pick 401. I have the same disdain for Rosario’s lack of discipline that everyone else does, but I did stumble upon something interesting that might make him a breakout candidate. In our splits page, Rosario had an OPS in excess of .900 to each field last year. That’s sort of insane, right? Of course he needs to learn to walk even just a bit more, but when he puts the ball in play, he’s a monster. I’ll take a shot on that with my last pick in a hella deep draft.

In addition to Rotographs, Warne writes about the Minnesota Twins for The Athletic and is a sportswriter for Sportradar U.S. in downtown Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Warne, or feel free to email him to do podcasts or for any old reason at brandon.r.warne@gmail-dot-com

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I get these are bold takes but if you say Panik has a ceiling of “maybe a 10-10 guy who bats near .300” then you’re saying his ceiling isn’t top-10, and yet that’s your prediction. I don’t understand the logic here.