Aside from my annual bold predictions, I risk complete embarrassment by also trying to predict the surprise league leaders on both the hitting and pitching side. Obviously, these are even more difficult than the bold predictions and getting even one right is quite the accomplishment. Let’s see how this season’s crop of longshots did.
Batting Average – Pablo Sandoval
Remember how I shared my amusement in my bold predictions review at how these predictions could turn out so very badly? Here’s yet another example and we’re only up to the first bold league leader! I figured the move to Fenway Park would boost Sandoval’s BABIP and resulting batting average. Instead, his BABIP dipped to the lowest mark of his career, as did his average. I was partially right though — his home BABIP was .309 versus an away mark of .234. So Fenway did provide quite the benefit, but not as much as I expected, and certainly nowhere near enough to offset his ineptitude on the road. He’s still only 29, but his suddenly terrible defense suggests maybe his body type is going to lead to a swift decline that has just begun.
0 for 1
Home Runs – Brandon Moss
Moss was both a bold prediction and a bold league leader. And yet, I was lucky to not even draft him in any of my leagues! His 19 homers was less than his 2012 total in nearly double the at-bats. I’m not certain he’s a full-time player next year.
0 for 2
RBI – Hanley Ramirez
This looked pretty good after April! And then it was all downhill from there. After recording 46 runs batting in over the first half, Hanley knocked in just seven (SEVEN!) runners the entire second half. Part of that was due to injuries keeping him off the field, while the other part was his zero homers and .183 batting average. Obviously, this season he posted the second lowest RBI total of his career.
0 for 3
Runs – Mookie Betts
I figured it would be Mike Trout to beat, but it was actually Josh Donaldson who led the American League in runs scored (by 14!). Betts wasn’t a terrible choice and certainly has been the best pick so far. He ranked 15th, but probably would have scored a bunch more if he hadn’t temporarily been dropped in the order or missed a bit of time with a concussion. Overall, he was just as valuable as I had hoped in overall fantasy value.
0 for 4
Stolen Bases – Everth Cabrera
I admitted to this one being a toughie, trying to choose a non-obvious candidate. And this is what happens when things don’t work out. Cabrera stole…wait for it…TWO bases this year! Of course, he came to the plate just 105 times. I guess I should have considered the possibility that teams would stop giving him playing time since he can’t hit.
0 for 5
Batting Average – Nolan Arenado
Well hey! If this prediction led you to going the extra buck for Arenado, then who cares that I had him slotted in the wrong category! He hit an identical .287 to his mark in 2014, as all those extra homers weren’t enough to offset a slight decline in BABIP and jump in strikeout rate. He hits too many fly balls to post a real strong BABIP, but I still feel like he should be capable of more, especially playing half his games in BABIP-boosting Coors Field.
0 for 6
Bryant would have been the better choice, albeit still wrong. But I had him crossed out because it was arguable labeling Bryant a bold choice. So I went with his teammate in Soler, who managed to double his 2014 homer output…in about quadruple the at-bats. His poor strikeout rate is a concern and he swapped fly balls for liners, which is good for BABIP, but bad for power. He was overshadowed by the wealth of young breakout stars this year, so he’s likely to be an excellent value next draft season.
0 for 7
RBI – Mark Trumbo
Three more runs batted in than 2014 in 180 more at-bats. Cool. I’m really good at picking the busts, huh?
0 for 8
Runs – Christian Yelich
Injuries, half his plate appearances coming from the three-hole and a Marlins offense hurt by the Giancarlo Stanton injury all hurt Yelich’s runs scored total. Given his interesting batted ball profile, he remains a safe bet to contribute in batting average, while he should continue to provide solid steals totals. But if you’re hoping for the imminent power burst, that cannot possibly happen unless he at least doubles his fly ball rate. That’s quite the tall order.
0 for 9
Stolen Bases – Eric Young
Like in the AL, picking a bold stolen base leader is a silly task. We know the handful of names with the speed and promise of playing time and none of those choices would be bold. So I settled on Young, who finished with a whopping six steals in just 94 plate appearances. It’s rather hilarious that my two bold stolen base league leaders combined for just eight steals all year and fell a plate appearance shy of 200.
0 for 10
While this year’s pathetic bold hitter league leader showing should possibly make me think twice about ever posting these again, it shall not! They are fun for me, allows me to sort my Pod Projections searching for hidden treasures and you get to comment on how ridiculous I am. Here’s to hoping I perform better on the pitcher side.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.