Chad Young’s Ten Bold Ottoneu Predictions

Bold prediction season is the best. Just a chance to lay it on the line and lean in on the guys I am most excited about (or most unexcited about). For my bold predictions, going to go with an Ottoneu focus. And let’s get right to it.

1. Nick Castellanos is a top 10 FanGraphs Points OF. His Depth Charts projection pegs him at a .337 wOBA, 32nd highest among OF. The market likes him a bit more – his $19.50 average salary in first-year FanGraphs Points leagues is 24th among OF. I think those are both too low. I was going to boldly predict a .360 wOBA, but THE BAT X has him at .361, so I feel the need to be bolder. Top 10 OF. Castellanos has been hitting the ball harder dating back to August 2019 and posted a career-high walk rate in 2020. He chased fewer pitches, too. I think he brings the strike outs back down, gets better batted ball luck, and breaks out in a big way.

2. Rafael Devers won’t be a top 10 FanGraphs Points 3B. Justin Vibber’s Surplus Calculator has him as the number three third basemen at $31. In first-year FanGraphs Points leagues, he is the 5th highest paid at $28. But at the end of the year, he’ll be behind a number of other well-regarded 3B (Jose Ramirez, Anthony Rendon, Nolan Arenado, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Matt Chapman, and Justin Turner) as well as enough other 3B to fall out of the top 10. And that’s not even counting SS-eligible 3B like Alex Bregman and Manny Machado. I’ll even leave out Eugenio Suarez, as I suspect he is a SS most of the year for fantasy purposes. Across the board, projections see a K% between 20% and 22%, which makes sense given his 21.7% career rate – but that career rate is pulled way down by a 17.0% outlier in 2019. His other three years? 23.8%, 24.7%, 27.0%. I think he ends up closer to 27% than to 21%. Even with all the gains in contact quality in 2020 (higher EV, higher barrel rate), his xwOBA went (.327) was lower than his .337 wOBA, in large part because he didn’t walk much and struck out a ton. What happens if those K’s don’t go that far down and he loses some of those barrel rate gains?

3. Sam Hilliard leads the Rockies in HR. Ok, this isn’t purely a FanGraphs Points prediction, but for a guy going dirt cheap in auctions right now ($1.30 over his last ten adds), this should be a pretty strong endorsement. Hilliard has legitimately excellent power and showed it in 2019. In 2020, he had a brutal year, in part because he appeared to be overswinging. But even in that down year, he hit 6 HR in 114 PA. Prorate his 13 career HR in 201 PA to a full-season and he is threatening to hit 40. He just has to be good enough to get 550-ish PA to lead the team in HR. Add in some risk of a Trevor Story trade, and he’s a good bet. He has commented in Spring Training that he is aware and is working on being more controlled at the plate – if he can put that into practice, he could be in for a big year.

4. Randy Dobnak strikes out a batter per inning. In 2020, Dobnak stuck out 5.21 per 9 IP and, in K-happy FanGraphs Points, that left him at 3.89 P/IP. But this Spring he has 18 K in 13.2 IP. Yeah, Spring Training can be deceptive but there are a couple of intriguing things about that run. First, his opponent quality score on Baseball Reference is 8.3, suggesting he has faced competition a bit better than Triple-A. So you have to regress that K/9 down, but maybe not a ton? Second, the newfound success is coming from a change he made to how he throws his slider, suggested by Twins analytics. That’s enough for me to take a bet. If you take his 2020 (3.89 P/IP) and boost his K to 9 K/9 (+20 K) and toss in a few extra walks (+5 walks) in case he struggles to control that new slider, you add 25 points to his season, which takes him up to 4.47, and that probably understates the upside, as all those extra K’s also mean fewer hits and likely more innings.

5. Craig Kimbrel is a top 5 FanGraphs Points RP. The case here is just that Kimbrel needs a full Spring Training to get ready. He started off rough this year, but is up to 98 mph and has looked much better lately. Last year, with the bizarre Spring Training, then stop playing, then Summer Camp, he appeared to be not quite ready to start the year, but turned it around quickly. Through two outings last year, Kimbrel had gone just 1.1 IP with 0 K, 4 BB, and 2 HR allowed, throwing 96.4 mph. Hi FIP was 33.94, and that might understate how bad he was. The rest of the way? 14.0 IP, 28 K, 8 BB (still too many but he walked 0 in September), and 0 HR allowed, for a 1.12 FIP (2.36 xFIP, if you think that 0 HR allowed is flukey). He was throwing 97. If those two bad starts happened in mid-March this year, look out.

6. Trevor Bauer isn’t a top 15 SP in FanGraphs Points. He is the 6th highest paid SP in first-year FanGraphs points league, which is probably what you would expect given his 2020. But he is leaving the very, very pitcher-friendly NL (and AL) Central behind. His schedule gets a lot worse, his .215 BABIP won’t continue, the K’s are going to come down, the walks are going to move up, and his steadily decreasing GB-rate will eventually become a problem. I think Bauer will be a totally fine Ottoneu SP; but not at the price he costs.

7. Josh Naylor becomes a staple in Ottoneu starting lineups. 60 OF start every day across a league, and only about 40 of those are guys an Ottoneu manager relies on to start basically any time they are in their MLB team’s lineup. Naylor will enter that group. Naylor has a good eye and controls the zone well. He has flashed solid power at times and has a tremendous ability to put the bat on the ball. Now he is going to get regular playing time for basically the first time in his career and a breakout is coming.

8. Jeff McNeil posts a wOBA over .375. His projections range from .337 (THE BAT X) to .354 (ATC). But he was at .360 last year and .384 the year before, and .368 the year before THAT. I started by writing this as “over .360” but that felt light compared to a .354 ATC projection, so I upped it to .370, but that felt light compared to a .375 career mark, so I upped it again – he will increase his career wOBA this year. He had a rough start last year (.294 wOBA in the first half) and then put it behind him (.399 in the second). Here’s his wOBA by month dating back to 2018: .389, .366, .365, .408, .329, .414, .345, .422, .376, .332 (27 PA in July 2020), .289 (August 2020), .421. August 2020 is a glaring outlier in a super impressive record and I don’t think we see anything like that again.

9. Randy Arozarena is not a top 40 OF in FanGraphs Points leagues. In first-year leagues, he is the 22nd most expensive OF, not counting guys who are MI eligible. His projected wOBA by THE BAT X, is .331, which is tied for 48th among OF. I get the excitement about Arozarena, but I think the celebration is premature. His career 40% HR/FB rate isn’t going to continue. His xwOBA in both 2019 and 2020 are well below his actual wOBA. I think THE BAT X is probably a bit low on him, but I think he’ll suffer some meaningful regression, pitchers will adjust and we will have to see how he counterpunches. I think he has the potential to be a star, but I think there will be some growing pains this year.

10. Willi Castro hits 25 HR. None of the projection systems on his player page peg him for more than 15, but the power is legit. Castro hit six in 140 PA last year which puts him awfully close to a 25-HR pace if he gets a full season of playing time. I suspect poor plate discipline will drag down his points league value, but a SS who hits 25 HR, even with a mediocre OBP, is going to be valuable.

A long-time fantasy baseball veteran and one of the creators of ottoneu, Chad Young's writes for RotoGraphs and PitcherList, and can be heard on the ottobot podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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SunnyClimatetedChad YoungrustydudeMario Mendoza Recent comment authors
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Don’t like Bauer as a player, but tired of Bauer won’t be top ___ predictions.