Michael Simione’s Bold Predictions

1) Miguel Sano is a top-ten first baseman.

I know it’s a story as old as time but did you know Miguel Sano dropped 25 pounds in the offseason? While this might not matter to most, I don’t blame you, I’ll tell you why it does matter.

Anyone who has watched Sano play can tell something has always been off with him. By that I mean he always seemed to just…not care. Sounds weird, I know, but when I have talked to others including some Twins fans they all seem to agree.

Coming into camp in the best shape of his life looks like an attitude shift.

Getting into the numbers it is no surprise Miguel Sano hits the ball hard. Very hard. He is top five in virtually every exit velocity metric there is for the first base position. 30 home runs will be there and there is no dispute about it.

In order for him to take a step forward the average needs to come up. A .233 average with a .215 xBA just won’t cut it. The good thing is Sano has hit over .245 three times in his career though and his BABIP was below his career average last season leaving some room for improvement.

Compared to 2020 he improved in K% (lowest of career), SwStr% (lowest since 2018), and Z-Contact% (highest since 2018). Now, none of his numbers are great but I am also not saying he will hit .280.

If a healthy Sano who actually cares can find some luck and hit .250 he takes a big jump in value. If this happened, what would be the difference between him and Josh Bell who is going as a top ten first baseman?

2) Byron Buxton stays healthy and is a top-ten fantasy player.

Byron Buxton contributes to every category of fantasy baseball. I don’t think there is anyone out there who can refute Buxton’s skill set. But just in case you are one of those people let’s walk through this a little.

In 254 plate appearances last season he hit for average by hitting .306. This came with a .300 xBA, solid plate discipline, and solid OBP. Proving the high average should stick.

Buxton stole nine bags. He was 99th percentile in sprint speed and everyone knows he can steal bases.

Buxton hit 19 home runs which came with a 169 wRC+, 17.9 Barrel%, and 115.6 maxEV. Yea that’ll work.

The power, average, and stolen bases all check out. What makes me think he finally stays healthy? Nothing. It’s a gut feeling. I have never been in on Buxton but for some reason this season my gut is telling me to get him. These are bold predictions after all.

3) Isiah Kiner-Falefa will have a better fantasy season than Gleyber Torres.

Let’s talk about the New York Yankees as a whole. There are some arguments as to who will be a starter on the team and who won’t be. Currently, Roster Resource has DJ LeMahieu riding the bench. It’s a bit odd and most think Isiah Kiner-Falefa ends up on the bench. For the sake of this bold prediction let’s pretend that is the case.

If Gleyber Torres is starting at shortstop how can I expect Isiah Kiner-Falefa to have a better fantasy season? I think regardless of whether he is a starter or not he will see a ton of plate appearances. The Yankees got him for a reason, they needed depth.

Last season Kiner-Falefa mainly played shortstop but in the past, he has also played third base and catcher. Right now the Yankees have Kyle Higashioka and Ben Rortvedt at catcher. Not the best options. They also have Josh Donaldson playing third base, a player who runs into injuries. Gleyber will of course need days off. In all there will be plenty of opportunities for Kiner-Falefa to gather plate appearances.

Now let’s look at their The BATX projections.

Isaiah Kiner-Falefa: .267 – 6 HR – 107 R+RBI – 11 SBs
Gleyber Torres: .257 – 20 HR – 136 R+RBI – 9 SBs

Gleyber holds an edge over IKF because of the power, but are projections still relying on Gleyber’s 2019 season with the “happy” ball? He had a 5.4 Barrels/PA last season which ranked 89th in the league behind Hunter Dozier and Alex Verdugo. His EV/FBLD sat at 92 MPH, ranked 108th in the league behind Kyle Farmer.

If Gleyber Torres continues to struggle with power and he doesn’t produce home runs what separates the two? If Gleyber hits only 10 home runs IKF will have more steals and a better average making him more valuable than Gleyber Torres.

4) Josh Donaldson is a top-five third baseman.

I know I just mentioned Josh Donaldson and his injury woes. Does this conflict with my last bold prediction? Maybe a little, but let me have my fun!

Josh Donaldson said in the offseason he worked on increasing his athleticism. He has also said he is the lightest he has been in the last few years. So there’s that at least and maybe he can stay healthy.

Flat out, when Donaldson is healthy he is top five at the position. Last season he was top-five in Barrel%, wRC+, ISO, max EV, and EV/FB at the position.

In 2019 he had 659 plate appearances where he put up 37 home runs, 96 runs, 94 RBI, and a .259 average. If he can stay healthy and somewhat replicate that stat line this has a shot at coming true.

5) Manny Pina is fantasy relevant.

Yes, 34-year-old Manny Pina. I actually discussed Pina in my Catcher Facts For The 2022 Season article and will be reiterating the same analysis here.

Pina signed with the Atlanta Braves on a two-year contract to be their backup catcher. He will be behind the extremely injury-prone Travis d’Arnaud, so if you see Steamer’s PA projection of 235 you should expect more.

While opportunity will be important for Pina I think we need to take a look at the second half of 2021.

Albeit a small sample of 100 plate appearances in the second half Pina hit .247 with eight home runs. His OPS skyrocketed to .892 and his wRC+ to 134. Why? He started to lift the ball more increasing his line drive rate, fly-ball rate, and his barrel rate. Pair all of this with his impressive zone contact rate and you could have a solid contributor at the catcher position.

6) Sonny Gray finishes as a top-ten starting pitcher.

From my experience, it seems like the fantasy baseball community either hates or loves Sonny Gray. Guess which group I am in. If you are in the former let’s try and convince you!

Sonny Gray has always had a deep arsenal, it is carried by a stellar slider, a curveball that induces weak contact, and two fastballs. Against left-handed hitters, he likes to utilize his four-seam and curveball. Whereas when facing right-handed hitters he utilizes his sinker and slider. The splits are good with solid results no matter the handedness of the hitter.

Overall in the last three seasons, his strikeout rate has sat at about 28.5%. Way up from the 20.9% in his first six seasons. His ERA also sits at 3.49 with a FIP 3.57 in those three seasons. What I am trying to say here is that over the last three seasons Sonny Gray has been a good pitcher and the numbers are there to back it up.

You can point to 2021 where he had a 4.19 ERA but his abnormal HR/9 against causes you to glance at his xFIP and it shows he should have had a 3.66 ERA with a normal home run rate.

Now that we established he is a good pitcher, how does he become elite? Well, he kind of did it once before. In 2019 he pitched 175.1 innings with a 2.87 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 205 strikeouts. It’s possible he can do it again, especially going to a new team with a much better defense.

7) The best Blue Jays starter is Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Sometimes you have to go super bold with these takes or have at least one crazy take. I have two (this one and the next one).

Let’s talk about return value. In 2019 Hyun-Jin Ryu produced a $23.1 value for fantasy baseball based on Razzballs player rater. The highest dollar value Jose Berrios has ever posted was $18.5. Kevin Gausman’s highest is an impressive $27.0 last season. Alek Manoah produced $9.2 last season and Yusei Kikuchi has never posted a positive value for fantasy.

With that said let’s push Kikuchi out of the way since he has a lot of issues with velocity and it is certainly plausible he doesn’t pitch better than Ryu.

Alek Manoah has a ton of talent and in 20 starts last season he was able to produce a 3.22 ERA. To be fair it did come with a 3.80 FIP and 3.88 SIERA. Sophomore slumps do happen and the league could adjust to Manoah causing him to have some issues. ATC Projections peg him for a 3.81 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP, and 175 strikeouts.

Ryu has a 3.20 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP over the last three seasons combined. While the strikeouts likely hover around 150 if Ryu goes back to better ratios and Manoah takes a step back in his second year Ryu can certainly provide more value.

Jose Berrios as stated earlier has never provided a dollar value like Ryu or Gausman in one season. He is likely more consistent in terms of overall value but Ryu has had better peak seasons. In fact, Berrios has never had a sub 3.50 ERA while Ryu has four times.

Kevin Gausman is a tough one. For one he is moving to a very tough division with tough ballparks. I might sound like a broken record but he throws his split-finger a ton and really needs the pitch. If he ever loses the feel for it for a long period of time we could see a downfall.

As for Ryu I truly think a better season is ahead for him. He has made it publicly known that he struggled mentally last season since he could not see his family. Something that is going to change this season. He also played in the second most hitter-friendly park in Buffalo. Ryu hasn’t had a HR/9 over 1.00 in over three seasons and the park in Buffalo is likely the reason it spiked to 1.28.

Do I expect 2019 Hyun-Jin Ryu? No. We cannot expect him to push a 2.32 ERA in 182.2 innings. That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

8) Tylor Megill finishes as the second-best fantasy pitcher on the Mets.

I know, this one is pretty crazy as well. It more so is a testament to the fragile Mets starting rotation and I will say, as a Mets fan this better not happen.

To start off, I will say I really like Tylor Megill and what he brings to the table. Last season his 4.52 ERA came with a 26.1 K% and 3.85 SIERA. His four-seam flashed potential while his changeup induced chases outside of the zone as well as whiffs inside the zone. The 26-year-old throws 95 MPH and clearly had potential.

As for the Mets rotation.

Max Scherzer is 37-years-old with back issues. In 2019 he couldn’t get up out of bed for the playoffs. Now it hasn’t popped up since but back pain usually doesn’t go away.

Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher on the planet when he is on the mound. Last season he missed half of the season due to an arm injury. More specifically, he had tightness in his forearm which typically isn’t a good thing. Now he has a shoulder issue and things are not looking good as he expects to miss two months.

Carlos Carrasco had offseason surgery to remove a bone spur. He also hasn’t pitched over 80 innings since 2018.

Taijuan Walker is running behind due to an injury and will not start the season on time. Walker also only pitched 67.1 innings between 2018 and 2020. He did pitch in 29 starts last season but was gassed out in the second half and produced a 7.13 ERA in 64.1 innings.

Chris Bassitt has been fantastic in the last three years. Underlying metrics constantly call for regression though and while I don’t think it happens it can. It happened to Kyle Hendricks.

Not only do I think Megill has the skill-set to become a good major league pitcher but the risk with all of these pitchers makes one think that this bold prediction is indeed possible.

9) Dinelson Lamet is a top-five closer.

There are a ton of closer options for the San Diego Padres. So much so that Roster Resource currently has five different pitchers listed as the closer. To me, I think they start off with a committee but eventually someone usually emerges and I think it will be Dinelson Lamet.

It makes me laugh when I write this because at this point last year I wrote a piece on here telling you all not to draft Lamet. The reasons for that are also the reasons why he can be a stellar closer.

Lamet has a two-pitch approach and that’s fine for a relief pitcher (not a starter). He mainly features a fastball and a wicked slider. In the past three seasons, his slider has had over a 20% SwStr%, a very high number. Both pitches feed off each other really well.

He also needs velocity, he was so successful in 2020 because he was able to push his velocity. A shortened season meant he could throw harder and he took advantage of that for about a month and a half until it started fading. As a closer, he can now push his velocity and with that will come even more success.

It really just comes down to opportunity, Lamet has the pieces he just needs to be given the chance.

10) Avisail Garcia is a top 15 outfielder.

My last bold prediction! Avisail Garcia is criminally underrated right now and I think we could possibly see another level to him if he stays healthy and sees 600 plate appearances.

Last season with the Milwaukee Brewers Garcia posted a .262 average with 29 home runs, 68 runs, 86 RBI, and 8 stolen bases. Essentially Garcia does a little bit of everything, he always has. The power is legit with a 116.7 MPH maxEV and a 12.2 Barrel%. The bags seem legit since he stole 10 bases in 2019. Lastly, the average could rise since it came with a .291 BABIP (career .326 BABIP) and .278 xBA.

So how does he get to be a top 15 outfielder? It’s rather simple. Do what he has been doing and hope he is a little bit lucky. The BATX projects him to hit .267 with 22 home runs and 10 stolen bases. I agree with the speed aspect, Garcia should be a lock for 8-10 bags. Let’s assume 10.

As for average, if Garcia’s BABIP rises to his career norm of .326 and runs into a little bit of luck his average could bump up to .285. After all, he did hit .282 in 2019 and .330 in 2017. It’s in him.

The decrease in power for projections comes with the assumption he overperformed in the category and perhaps it’s because of the move to Miami. I think the power is legitimate for the reasons stated above (116.7 MPH maxEV and a 12.2 Barrel%) and according to Baseball Savants park factors Miami is actually an easier park to hit home runs compared to Milwaukee.

If everything clicks Garcia can ideally hit 35 home runs with 10 stolen bases along with a .285 average. This line is nearly identical to Teosar Hernandez’s line last season where he hit .296 with 32 home runs and 12 stolen bases. The elephant in the room is the runs and RBI. He will have to get lucky and hope Miami somehow has a good offense this season, but that’s what makes this bold.

Bold predictions should be bold. I did the same last season and hit three out of ten which isn’t too shabby. I hope you enjoyed the read and I cannot wait for baseball to start!


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2 years ago

The surgery for Carrasco actually sounds like a positive. From what I read, he has had this for at least a few years and the surgery loosened up his elbow and he has better range of motion than he has had in years. I wanted to grab him but missed out so I’m waiting to see if he gets off to a slow start and I can make a trade for him.

But I agree on the rest of the Mets’ starters, including Megill. He’s sitting my league’s waiver and I’m debating grabbing him,.