My 2013 predictions failed me, as did my 2014, yet I’m still feeling good about this year! I don’t think we need to retread old ground too much, but for the uninitiated, I currently sit at 0-20 lifetime. Without further delay,
lets get this over with here are my 10 bold predictions!
1. Josh Donaldson will score 120 runs (or post 130 RBI)
I’m shoving all in on Donaldson in Toronto. Presumably he’ll form a triumvirate of power and on-base skills with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion and will most likely hit in front of those two. Scoring 120 runs is a feat that has happened just four times since 2010 and represents a 27 run increase for Donaldson from this year. I thought about predicting Donaldson as a top-5 player, however he is already top-20 or 25. Not enough of a jump for me to call bold, so 120 runs it is! Quick edit, as Donaldson may hit fifth rather than second. If that is the case, expect him to score fewer runs, but boost his RBI total to the 130 plateau, something only three players have done since 2010.
2. Jeff Samardzija finishes outside the top-3o of starting pitcher
The shark is averaging as the 16th SP off the board, but moving to a much more hitter friendly park in Chicago could spell trouble for him. The projection systems are already worried about his ERA at 3.99 (Steamer) and 3.90 (ZiPS) and I have concerns about his falling strikeout rate. He’s on a three-year dip, down 24.9% in 2012 to 23.4% and 23% in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Given the talent and depth available when looking for a starter, I’m just not sold on Samardzija this year.
3. Jung-ho Kang finishes with more 5×5 value than Xander Bogaerts
Despite Bogaerts having guaranteed playing time and Kang still looking to be plugged in wherever he can be, I’ll still take the South Korean (bias alert!) to post better numbers. Currently Kang is being drafted on average about 100 picks later than the Bogaerts even though both being MI/3B types with middling power.
4. Wilin Rosario hits 25+ home runs
Sure he’s been relegated to part-time first baseman with sporadic catching mixed in, however I’m still a believer in Rosario. Not constantly being slotted behind home plate to wear out his legs should go a long way in helping him tap into his power. I’m expecting a platoon at first with Justin Morneau as he struggles against southpaws whereas Rosario owns a lifetime .328/.361/.647 (!) line versus left-handed pitchers. Rosario’s career splits show 30 home runs have come against lefties despite seeing just 379 PA’s against them versus the 35 dingers he’s hit against right-handers in 980 PA’s. While 25 home runs would not be a single season high for Rosario, it would almost be doubling his 13 dingers from last season.
5. Ryan Zimmerman will have a higher 5×5 value than Freddie Freeman
I almost went with best first baseman in the NL East, but this is basically the same when the other competition is Michael Morse, Lucas Duda and what is left of Ryan Howard. Now I’m not saying that Zimmerman will be a better player than Freeman in real life, just in standard fantasy leagues, so no points, SABR, etc. The Braves will almost assuredly be bad — really bad — on offense and while Freeman is no doubt a great player, his supporting cast stinks. Freeman’s 33 ADP against Zimmerman’s 114 is pretty big gap, and though Freeman holds the health chip on his side, the shift to first for Zimmerman will hopefully allow him to play in more games.
6. Anthony Gose steals 40 bags
You need reach base to steal and Gose has apparently re-worked his swing a bit since coming to Detroit. With his history of running — Gose’s has never had a season with fewer than 26 steals — it seems likely he’ll get the green light when he gets to first base. The Tigers may not profile as a running team, however last year their team combined for 106 stolen bases, seventh most in baseball. Rajai Davis grabbed 36 steals last season and I expect to see Gose surpass that mark.
7. Ryan Braun continues to decline; finishes outside the top 60 overall
Lingering thumb issues that have hampered his extra swings this spring and Braun has seen his ISO drop for three consecutive seasons. The Biogenesis related suspension is behind him but now the questions loom about his on-field production. I’m not buying any of Braun’s stock when last season he posted a lower contact rate and an increased strikeout rate compared to his career averages.
8. Gerrit Cole is more valuable in 5×5 than Cole Hamels
With respects also to A.J. Cole and Cole Figueroa, Gerrit Cole will be the best Cole around, save maybe J. Cole. In a vacuum I’d probably lean towards Hamels, but the Pirates are a much better team than the Phillies, thus allowing greater potential for Gerrit Cole to grab wins. I am admittedly drinking the kool-aid on the Pirates being a great team this year, but Cole (Gerrit, that is) has already proven to be a very good pitcher on his own. He actually posted a higher K% and lower BB% than Hamels last season, though both were by tenths of a percentage point.
9. Rick Porcello posts another sub-3.50 ERA season
As a big time ground ball pitcher, Porcello is heavily reliant on competent infielders. Pablo Sandoval and Xander Bogaerts may only be average defensively, but that is a huge upgrade for Porcello coming from the Tigers and their -42.2 defensive rating, ranking 26th in baseball. Dustin Pedroia is excellent defensively and at first base is the slightly above average fielding Mike Napoli. Last year was fortunate given his surroundings, this year Porcello’s skills should shine with his new infield. Given his career 4.30 ERA, two consecutive seasons of sub-3.50 would be an impressive feat.
10. Andrew Cashner sets a career high in innings pitched
You all had to know my spirit animal would get some love here. His high water mark is 175 innings in 28 starts, and assuming he is healthy (don’t laugh), Cashner can eclipse that. Finger’s crossed!
You can catch David spouting off about baseball, soccer, esports and other things by following him on twitter, @davidwiers.