I am a huge San Francisco Giants fan. However, if you have followed my work prior to joining Rotographs, you know I hate Gregor Blanco. I will explain further.
In 2014, I joined a 20-team startup dynasty league through a fantasy baseball discussion Facebook group. It was a fun group of knowledgeable players, but just like in a ton of startup dynasty leagues, a lot of the picks in the initial draft focused on youth instead of players that could help them compete right away. So I followed my typical strategy of going against the norm and drafting like I would in a redraft league.
The plan worked to perfection. With a few weeks to go, I was down by 2.5 points to the first place team and scoured the standings to see what I could do to make up the difference. I noticed that there were two teams that were close to not making their innings minimum for the season. If they didn’t, they would not qualify for points in ERA and WHIP and I would gain four points in the standings, cementing my win. With the league not having a trade deadline, I traded for enough of the one team’s starting pitchers to ensure that neither would make the innings pitched minimum. The first place team didn’t even see it coming. I sat back and smiled, knowing that I was destined for a championship. There was only one team that was even close to catching me in one other category (runs), but I felt pretty confident I could hold him off.
That one team that could catch me in runs went on a tear on the last day, leaving me up only two runs scored in the category. My competition also picked up a point in WHIP, leaving me with a tie going into the final game. Since I had the tiebreaker, because I was winning the most categories, I was still in good position. There was only one problem, and his name was Gregor Blanco.
Gregor Blanco went 1 for 3 with a walk and 2 RUNS in a MEANINGLESS game for MY Giants in the last game of the season. I would of course tie in the category and lose the league by half a point in the standings. I would spend the next few days, weeks and months ranting about him on Twitter. I even wrote in my bold predictions article last year that I would tweet an obscene hash tag with his name in it 162 times in 2015.
My hatred still runs deep for Mr. Blanco. The pain of that day still haunts me, mostly because the guy who owned him in that league spends his last pick in every draft with me on Blanco just to troll me. However, in the spirit of a new season, I am ready to believe that I can begin to forgive Gregor Blanco this year. Maybe it is personal growth, or the fact that I won that league in 2015, but I feel like this is the year I can bury the hatchet. I mean, it is an #EvenYear.
Which brings me to my Bold Predictions for this year. Last season, I made seven correct predictions out of 50, which I maintain is a decent percentage considering many of them were absolutely ridiculous. As mentioned above, Mr. Blanco made an appearance last year and will make another in the bonus section. Enjoy!
1) Everyone will regret drafting Bryce Harper in the top 3.
I wrote about this a few weeks ago, but in case you missed it, Harper had huge jumps in BABIP, HR/FB rate, BB%, BB/K, FB%, Pull %, and hard contact. While some of this can be chalked up to him beginning to reach his potential, I look at it as unsustainable. He is going to regress, but the question is: how much? I obviously think he will regress more than others. Throw in the injury risk, which others are willing to ignore, and I will not own any shares of him this season.
I have been a huge Richards fan since he was drafted in 2009. It took him a little bit to figure it out, but he has finally started to put it together the last two years. Richards has been top two in fastball velocity for the last two seasons (1st in 2014, 2nd in 2015). Another year removed from the devastating leg injury at the end of 2014 and I see him returning to 2014 form where he posted 13 wins with a 2.61 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 164 strikeouts in 168.2 innings.
3) Bradley Zimmer will be a top 100 draft pick in 2017.
The Indians pitching staff is built to compete in 2016; their lineup not so much. I foresee an earlier call up than most for Zimmer, which will lead to a really nice season and a push for Rookie of the Year. He hit 16 homeruns with 44 stolen bases between two levels last season. If he hits well out of the gate, Tyler Naquin and Rajai Davis aren’t keeping him down. By this time next year, Zimmer will be getting Corey Seager type hype coming into 2017.
4) Joc Pederson will go 30/25.
Joc hit 26 home runs in spite of falling apart in the second half last season. He has also shown the ability to steal 30+ bases in the minor leagues. If Dave Roberts manages anything like he played, then we could be in for a monster season from Pederson.
5) Joe Panik will not be a top 30 second baseman.
Back injuries are scary. I know the public reports are that he will be fine, but there are whispers that he may not be able to hold up over the course of the season. I am not going to risk it personally considering his limited ceiling to begin with.
6) Jonathan Schoop will hit 30 home runs.
Schoop hit 15 home runs in 305 at bats last season. Now at 24-years-old, he should be able to hold down second base full time as long as he can stay healthy. Sure he swings too much, doesn’t walk enough and he is not the best defender, but kid has got power and the Orioles don’t have anyone legitimate to replace him.
7) Alen Hanson will be a top 25 short stop.
The David Freese signing makes this one a bit more difficult, but whatever, it is a BOLD prediction. Jordy Mercer is clearly not the answer at shortstop and Kang is not going to be ready to start the season. Hanson has stolen at least 20 bases in every season in the Minor Leagues since being drafted. Even if he is not up until the summer, he could still do enough damage on the base paths to vault up the paltry ranks of short stops we have in fantasy.
8) Dalton Pompey will be a top 50 outfielder.
The attempted acquisition of Jay Bruce by the Blue Jays begs the question, does Toronto have any faith in Pompey anymore. However, this doesn’t mean we should forget this former top prospect. Coming into last season, Pompey was one of the hottest “sleeper” candidates and people were drafting him inside the top 250. He could still emerge as a short-side platoon player with Michael Saunders or even his replacement given Saunders health woes. Not to mention that before last season Kevin Pillar struggled against right-handed pitching. There is a path to playing time and now you don’t have to pay for the lottery ticket.
Just because Houston traded for Giles doesn’t automatically make him the closer. If Giles were to get the role and struggle, the competing Astros would not hesitate to give Gregerson back the role he succeeded in last season. Not to mention that it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the money conscience Astros limit Giles’ save opportunities to try and keep his arbitration numbers down.
10) Joey Rickard will steal 20+ bases.
No one has more at bats so far this Spring Training for the Orioles than Rickard. Baltimore’s Rule 5 selection is being given every opportunity to stick with the team and so far is hitting .294/.333/.353 with one stolen base. If he does make the team, he could have a Jarrod Dyson like effect as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. He also could theoretically get some short-side platoon work with Pedro Alvarez or if Hyun-soo Kim struggles against left-handed pitching. Put a dollar or two on him at the end of your AL only auctions.
Bonus: I will tweet the aforementioned obscene hash tag about Gregor Blanco twice as much as last season.
I am a petty, petty man.
Justin is the co-host on The Sleeper and The Bust Podcast and writes for Rotographs covering the Roto Riteup as well as random topics that float into his juvenile brain. In addition to his work at Rotographs, Justin is the lead fantasy writer/analyst and co-owner for FriendswithFantasyBenefits.com, owner of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, and a fantasy football and baseball writer for Fantasy Alarm. He is also a certified addiction treatment counselor. Follow Justin on Twitter @JustinMasonFWFB.