Finding the Outliers

I’m going to do a standard Bold Predictions later (maybe even on Friday since I don’t think two games on Thursday will invalidate anything), but first I wanted to pick some super outliers. Projections keep us level with our expectations, but our recently added 60-game leaderboard shows us that some wild stuff can go down in a two-month run.

I focused on the skill-based fantasy categories so I’m not doing anything with wins, saves, runs, or runs batted in. There will be some crazy results with those four categories, but role and team context are so important for those that options would be too limited. For the pitching ratios, I’ll be picking starting pitchers.

25+ HR GUY | Franmil Reyes, CLE

He ripped off a 21-homer run in a 60-game stretch last year that saw him hit .273/.316/.598 in 225 PA. That’s undoubtedly a great run, but I don’t think it’s the best he can do. I feel like Reyes’ best would include an OPS north of 1.000 for sure. He almost certainly won’t play all 60 games so he’ll need to push a 1.000+ OPS to smash 25+ homers in 50-55 games.

20+ SB GUY | Jon Berti, MIA

I didn’t want to go too obvious and pick Trea Turner or Adalberto Mondesi, so I went with Berti. He’s already slated to play 5-6 games a week heading to the season but that means if the starter falters at one of many positions, he could be in the lineup every day. He swiped 16 in the final 49 games (45 starts) of last year so he could definitely chase down 20 if they play damn near every day and turn him loose.

.380+ AVG | Justin Turner, LAD

I feel like this season sets up perfectly for Turner as he seems to have an elite 60-or-so game run every year. Health has been about the only thing holding him back since he became a late-20s breakout in 2014, topping 135 games just once. In that time, his 141 wRC+ ranks 9th among hitters with at least 2800 PA. He has just one season below .290 AVG during this run (.275 in ’16) and hit a cool .340 in ’14. There are a handful of guys who could legitimately chase a .400 AVG and Turner is one of them. I’ll give him a .392 mark in 54 games.

120+ K | Mike Clevinger, CLE

There are a ton of candidates here and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if multiple guys eclipsed 120 strikeouts, but I’ll take ClevDog as my top guy. He put up a 34% strikeout rate last year including a 12-start run when he fanned 100 batters from July 27th to September 24th. It’ll probably take a 40%+ strikeout rate to reach 120 strikeouts which Clevinger can absolutely pull off that in weak central mega-division.

SUB-1.50 ERA | Clayton Kershaw, LAD

I really wanted to pick one of my breakout arms like Frankie Montas or Aaron Civale or one of the other several guys I’m betting on taking a big step forward this season, but I decided to go with the best pitcher of this generation. It’s not super daring, but it’s also not the super obvious Scherzer or deGrom type pick. Kershaw has seen his ERA rise each of the last three years, though the highest of those was still a quality 3.03. Perhaps a bit of wishful thinking, but I think the 60-game season will give us one last uber-Kershaw season and see him drop a filthy 1.44 ERA on the league.

Bonus Pick of SUB-1.00 ERA Reliever: Nick Burdi, PIT – Monster skills and finally healthy.

SUB-1.00 WHIP | José Berríos, MIN

He has improved his walk rate over the last three seasons with a career-best 6% last year and so hit suppression will be the key here. He had a .220 AVG against in 2018 which was his career best and helped him to a 1.14 WHIP. He’ll need to contend for the top spot in the league in AVG against to achieve this mark. We’ve seen some really solid seasons out of Berrios over the last three years, but I don’t think we’ve seen his absolute best. The division will definitely help and the defense will have to be airtight behind him if he’s going to push down toward .200 or lower for his AVG against.

OK, you’ve seen mine, now let’s see your outlier picks. You can pick all, a few, or just one of the categories. Just put your picks in the comments. If you want to go obvious, that’s fine because let’s be honest, anybody achieving these numbers would be incredible even if it’s the superstar we expect to do amazing things.

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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not sure I agree that the AL Central is still weak, at least for hitting. Three teams have strong lineups; the Tigers added some power with Schoop/Cron and the Royals got Salvy back, who hasn’t lost a beat with his power.