You guys know I like to swing from the heels on these, so buckle up for my 10 bold predictions for this season. We can forget about my uber-platinum sombrero on last year’s predictions. It was a bad day that turned into a season long slump.
This isn’t a knock on Fister, I’m just a believer in Smyly’s strikeout rate. Fister may end the season with more innings pitched, however in standard 5×5 leagues, Smyly will edge him in terms of raw value. I don’t expect Smyly’s 10.7% swinging strike rate to continue as a starter, however he should still be able to edge out Fister’s pedestrian strikeout rate.
2. Anthony Rizzo puts up the best stats for a Chicago first baseman
I like Jose Abreu, but I think Rizzo will out perform him. Both play their home games in very hitter friendly environments, however Rizzo has seen major league pitching and has been subject to the rigors of a 162 game schedule, playing in 160 of them last season. This is the year that Rizzo combines his average, power and walks to become an elite first baseman.
3. A bounce-back 15-15, .290 season for Starlin Castro
This was put down on (digital) paper while we had news regarding Castro’s hamstring issues. Even though his rehab may take a bit longer than initially hoped, I remain optimistic about Castro. Given his overall health record and the fact that he has only missed one game in two years, Castro should have plenty of opportunity to hit his way out of his two-season long slump. With a new coach already working on his defensive footwork and a revamped off-season workout plan, we should see both pay off nicely. His very modest power has manifested itself in double digit home runs for three straight years and a high water mark of 14 dingers in 2012. We only need to see five of his doubles go over the fence this year to attain 15 home runs. He also has two 20-steal seasons under his belt already, though he nabbed just nine bags last year.
4. Neftali Feliz will lead the Texas Rangers in saves
The real baseball season is just weeks away, but there are still some questions remaining in the back of the Texas Rangers’ bullpen. Manager Ron Washington claims that the closer debate is still raging between Feliz coming back from injury and Joakim Soria. With Feliz coming back from Tommy John surgery his velocity isn’t quite where Washington would like to see it, but it isn’t like Soria has the cleanest bill of health either. Assuming Tanner Scheppers makes the rotation, whoever gets named the closer coming out of spring training, be it Soria or Feliz, will probably have a short leash. For my money, I’m betting on Feliz to finish the season with more saves than anyone else for the Rangers.
5. Danny Salazar will reach 200 strikeouts
If I were ever going replace Andrew Cashner as my primary baseball man-crush, it would be for Salazar. Salazar is younger, has more strikeouts, you know, exactly what a man wants in a pitcher. Last season Salazar posted a cool 11.25 K/9 in barely 50 innings, but his 14.6% SwStr% is enough to convince me his strikeout rate wasn’t a fluke. Even though I love Salazar to rack up the strikeouts, I’ve been seeing him get drafted before even I want to take him. He should still have a very good season, but just watch where you grab him.
6. Sonny Gray will have the best 5×5 season for any Oakland Athletics starter
Between Gray, Dan Straily, Scott Kazmir 2.0 and Jarrod Parker, the A’s have plenty of arms to choose from. Add in A.J. Griffin, Drew Pomeranz and Tommy Milone and the A’s have all sorts of depth in the rotation. I’m sticking Gray as top dog due to his strikeout and ground ball rates. This prediction will probably come down to Gray and Kazmir, and Gray has the edge in the batted ball department. Kazmir is a fly ball pitcher in a very friendly ballpark for that profile, however only half of his starts will come at home. I like Gray to keep the ball on the ground and still get plenty of punch outs.
7. Domonic Brown will lead the Philadelphia Phillies in home runs by 10+
Last season saw Brown’s power explode in the form of 27 home runs in addition to 21 doubles. Second on the team was Chase Utley at 19 dingers. The power surge saw Brown’s .222 ISO last year represent a 60 point jump from his partial 2012 season and his HR/FB rate doubled. I’m drinking the kool-aid on his power development. The club has Ryan Howard, Utley, and even Darin Ruf as power threats, but none should topple Brown as the power guy in the lineup.
8. George Springer goes 20-20
With tools to drool over, Springer has the raw ability to put up a useful fantasy season right now. His considerable strikeout rate will hurt his batting average, but he isn’t reluctant to take a walk if the opportunity presents itself. The bandwagon filled up on the way to the George Springer hype train, but fear not, myself and plenty of others have talked him up enough. The question is when will the Astros call him up. With no reason to start his arbitration clock before May or even June, let’s just hope Springer gets enough PA’s to give this prediction a chance.
9. Kole Calhoun finishes the season as a top 30 mixed league outfielder
Calhoun has some power, some speed, and a roster spot. He hit 20 home runs between Triple-A and the majors last year while also grabbing a dozen bags. If Calhoun gets 600 PA’s, I’m penciling him in for 20 home runs and 15 steals to go with a .270 batting average. If he takes the leadoff spot, I’d reverse the home run and steal counts.
10. Mark Trumbo’s counting numbers will surpass his weight
On FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference and ESPN his listed weight is 235 pounds. Sites such as SBN and CBS have him listed at 220 pounds. Whatever his weight may be, his combined home runs, runs, and RBIs will be higher. Let’s look at last season to see how he stacked up. Using Trumbo’s weight of 235 here at FanGraphs against his counting numbers from last season we can see that last year he posted 34 dingers, 85 runs and 100 RBIs. The easy math there says that his combined numbers of 219 fell short of his 235 wegiht. With a home run friendly park I fully expect his HR + R + RBI to pass the 235 mark. I guess the only thing I’m worried about is him gaining a ton of weight on the All-Star break.
You can catch David spouting off about baseball, soccer, esports and other things by following him on twitter, @davidwiers.