Mike Podhorzer’s 2021 Bold Predictions – A Review

Another wild, wacky, and crazy season has concluded, so it’s time for pre-season prediction reviews! I’ll start with everybody’s favorite, the bold predictions. Let’s see how I did.

All Six of the Following Pitchers Will Beat their Steamer Projected K% Marks:

K% Beaters
Player Steamer Projected K% Actual K% Diff
Andrew Heaney 24.4% 26.9% 2.5%
Dylan Bundy 22.3% 21.2% -1.1%
Mike Minor 20.4% 22.3% 1.9%
Justin Dunn 20.1% 22.5% 2.4%
Sean Manaea 20.1% 25.7% 5.6%
Casey Mize 19.0% 19.3% 0.3%

The logic behind this group of six was that each enjoyed either a Statcast-confirmed or reported (based on articles/tweets) jump in fastball velocity during spring training. While Steamer incorporates fastball velocity into their strikeout rate projections, I believe it only includes regular season data and doesn’t update the projections based on Spring results. Sure enough, every single pitcher did end up finishing with a higher average fastball velocity versus 2020, but only two of the dix (Dunn and Manaea) were significant increases.

Sadly, Bundy bites me again (he also destroyed my AL Tout and Mixed LABR ratios) as the only one who finished below his Steamer projected K%. This prediction was oh so close! Bundy even had the benefit of pitching out of the bullpen, but still failed to beat his projection. Manaea posted the best SIERA of his career and the highest SwStk% mark as well, so this breakout was actually predicted by his added Spring velocity. I’m pretty shocked that while Mize technically beat his projection, it was barely and he remains stuck below a 20% strikeout rate despite averaging 94 MPH with his fastball. He’s not going to live up to his former top prospect status if he fails to even strike out a league average rate of batters.

0 for 1

Hunter Renfroe Bats .260 and Knocks 35 Homers

Oh so close again! Renfroe posted the highest batting average of his career at .259, which was juuuuuuust below my .260 prediction. He was further away from the homer prediction though, finishing at 31, as his HR/FB rate fell to a career low, combined with the second lowest FB% of his career. The logic here was that Fenway Park was going to boost his biggest flaw, BABIP, and make him a more desirable fantasy commodity. That’s exactly what happened, as he posted a .311 BABIP at home, versus just a .253 mark away.

Unfortunately, he was hurt by Fenway from a home run perspective, as his home HR/FB rate was a couple of ticks below his away mark. Given his FB Pull% and doubles split, it appears he may have lost a bunch of homers to the Green Monster that ended up as doubles.

Anyway, he easily had his best fantasy year, so if you followed this prediction, you were ecstatic even though he fell just short of hitting my targets.

0 for 2

Trevor Bauer Posts an ERA over 4.00

Bauer only ended up pitching about a half a season before being placed on administrative leave and finished with a 2.59 ERA. Not exactly the implosion I thought was possible given his inconsistent history. Somehow, Bauer has become a BABIP-suppression master, as he had allowed just a .220 mark before his season ended, and he stranded a remarkable 88.9% of baserunners. That’s why his SIERA was almost a full run higher than his ERA. I don’t think those levels can continue so I still won’t be paying the market rate.

0 for 3

Franchy Cordero Hits 25 Homers and Steals 10 Bases

If I predict this every year, will it eventually come true? As usual, Cordero only managed to record 136 plate appearances. But this time, it wasn’t because of injury! Instead, he just stunk it up at the plate, which wasn’t one of the possibilities I envisioned. Of course, when you give a player such a short leash and inconsistent starts, anything could happen really.

Cordero’s plate discipline was awful, striking out 51 times versus just eight walks. He somehow homered just once, despite a maxEV of 118.6 which is absolutely elite. I don’t know how many more chances at regular playing time he’ll get at this point.

0 for 4

Steven Matz Outearns Hyun-Jin Ryu

Based on our auction calculator’s default settings, Matz was the 58th most valuable starting pitcher, earning $3.30, while Ryu ranked 66, earning slightly less, $2.20. That means my first win!

I purposely picked two starters on the same team so we can’t blame different defensive or bullpen support levels. For the last three seasons, Ryu has massively outperformed his SIERA and I simply didn’t think it was sustainable. On the other hand, Matz was bombed last year, but posted some of the best skills of his career and the highest fastball velocity since his 2015 debut. My expectation was that the two starters’ luck would turn…in opposite directions.

Amazingly, I was right. Matz actually posted an ERA lower than his SIERA, despite an inflated BABIP, while Ryu’s ERA finished above his SIERA (which itself jumped to its highest since 2017) for the first time since 2014. Ryu also lost his baserunning stranding magic, as his LOB%, which sat above 80% for four straight seasons, fell to just 70.7% this year.

1 for 5

Sam Hilliard Hits 25 Homers and Steals 15 Bases

Over the last month, I’ve named Hilliard in a bunch of my articles. Sadly, he fell far short of these goals because he only accrued 238 plate appearances. However, if you calculate his 600 PA pace, you get 35 homers and nearly 13 steals. That is essentially my targets, but the Rockies are an impossible organization to make playing time bets for.

Hilliard still strikes out way too much so all that power only resulted in a .318 wOBA, but man, I really want to see what he could do over a full season without being jerked around.

1 for 6

Julio Teheran Earns Positive AL-Only Value

A running joke is how many times I feature players in my bold predictions or bold league leaders series that get injured and miss a significant chunk of the season. Teheran lasted a whopping five innings over one start before being knocked out for the year due to a shoulder injury. Seriously, your odds are better of drafting a healthy team if you avoid players I name!

Teheran was included here because of his spring training velocity boost. I was too afraid to make any more of an optimistic prediction so stuck with just earning AL-Only value rather than anything shallower. Over his first start, his sinker did indeed show an increased velocity at 90.3 MPH, versus 88.8 MPH last year and mid-89 in 2018 and 2019. It wasn’t a dramatic velocity bump, but put him closer to where he was when he was actually good.

1 for 7

C.J. Cron Outearns Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!! I was just annoyed that Guerrero’s price was still massive, as if he was already a star hitter. Obviously, he worked out, as those paying the massive price for a former top prospect who hadn’t come close to massive value yet obviously had clearer crystal balls than I.

On the other hand, Cron didn’t enjoy the power boost I expected from his move to Colorado, but his BABIP did jump to a career best. Overall, Cron owners likely profited, but, umm, so did Guerrero owners.

1 for 8

Mitch Keller Posts a Lower ERA than Lance Lynn

Gosh, these just get worse and worse. Keller was another spring velocity surger, but that didn’t end up lasting as he finished just below his velocity from last year. Last year, Keller was super lucky to post a 2.91 ERA, thanks to a .104 BABIP. This year, his luck abandoned him and his BABIP shot up to .388, resulting in a bloated 6.17 ERA. I have no idea what happened to Keller to go from top prospect to one of the worst pitchers in baseball.

Lynn continued where he left off last year, posting a .263 BABIP and better than league average HR/FB rate and LOB% marks, en route to a 2.69 ERA, about a full run lower than his SIERA. One of these years, Lynn will be a massive disappointment so he may very well continue ending up as a negative bold prediction.

1 for 9

Andrew Vaughn is Demoted to the Minors by End of June

Wrong, but another one that was right in spirit. I couldn’t understand all the hype for Vaughn this draft season given that he had never played above High-A and posted single digit HR/FB rates at that level in Single-A. I figured his future would be bright given his excellent plate discipline, but it’s not often a hitter makes that kind of jump to the Majors and is an immediate fantasy asset.

Vaughn remained in the Majors all year, but he received inconsistent playing time, which was just bizarre. I’m not sure why the team made the decision to keep him up, but bench him often, rather than let him play every day at Triple-A, where he’s had nary a plate appearance. He ended up posting just a .306 wOBA, with an ISO right in line with his 2019 marks, but a HR/FB rate a bit higher than expected. With no speed and mediocre power at the moment, plus no signs he’ll post a strong BABIP, he’s simply not the type of top prospect fantasy owners should be salivating over.

I do want to stress, however, that I like his overall skill set and think the power will come, and it will be enough, combined with his strong strikeout rate, to overcome a mediocre or worse BABIP.

1 for 10

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.

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