Paul Sporer’s Bold Predictions for 2018

It’s Bold Prediction time!! After a 2-for-10 performance last year (and even that took some favorable grading), I’m ready to go off this year and bat at least .500! The funny thing is I’d love to repeat some of mine last year despite missing on them in 2017. Delino DeShields made mine last year and now he’s a draft darling surging up the board. I like Blake Treinen to be a strong closer and could still see that Carlos Martinez sub-2.50 ERA season! But don’t worry, I have 10 fresh Bold Predictions ready for you – five hitters and five pitchers.

Let’s do this! You’ll never guess who’s leading off?

Ozzie Albies has a 15 HR/40 SB season

Could this article even be posted without an Albies prediction? Just three players had 35+ stolen bases last year so that’s almost certainly the more daring of the two pieces even with Albies’ power not being fully developed at this point. Albies himself agrees with the 40 SB outlook and has added 200 hits to the goal list, too:

Gregory Polanco has a 30 HR/25 SB season

I’m not so concerned with Polanco’s big spring numbers, but rather what they suggest: that his shoulder is healthy. His shoulder was an issue from the jump last year and seemed to linger over his entire season, resulting in just 11 HR and a poor 81 wRC+. I was hoping he’d build on the strong 2016 when he went 22 HR/17 SB. This pick calls for the full breakout. The 26-year old has teased and tantalized… it’s time for the dream season!

Kyle Schwarber hits 40 HR

I’ve been off the Schwarber Train from jump street because his price was always far too high for what I thought he was at the time. Part of it was definitely catcher-eligibility either locked in or assumed down the line, but even putting that to the side I always felt he was being drafted for a level his skills hadn’t even really hinted at to that point. This is a great example of how the price decides everything in fantasy baseball.

I’m sure I’ve been labeled an anti-Schwarber guy in some circles and I openly embraced that at his high cost, but now he’s down in the 150s and priced to buy. He’s also transformed his body this offseason into a svelte hitting machine, adding to his chances at his first 500+ PA season. I think this is the year his minor league hit tool starts to play out in the majors. While the 40 HRs are the prediction, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a .280 AVG, too.

Ian Kinsler puts up a .285 AVG/100 R/25 HR/25 SB

I covered my affinity for Kinsler in a couple of recent pieces here and here. I love his team situation and I can’t really find any reason to believe his .244 BABIP and .236 AVG are real based on his plate skills and batted ball profile. His age and perceived struggles will keep the price down, too.

Aaron Hicks has a 30 HR/20 SB/.380 OBP season

It was happening!!! It was all happening last year before an injury-marred second half! Hicks had a .913 OPS, 10 HR, and 7 SB through late-June (full season pace of 28 HR, 19 SB… plus over 100 R & RBI each) but was struck down by an oblique injury. The ailment spurred two DL stints and limited him to just 28 games over the rest of the season during which he had a .218/.319/.396 line. He still had 5 HR and 3 SB in that time (29, 18 pace). I’m still a big fan. Plus, his defense keeps him in the lineup.

Robbie Ray finishes outside the Top 50 SPs

We saw the best of Ray in 2017. It was a great season and a lot of fun to watch, but it required everything to go right for him. He continued to allow a ton of hard contact (40%) and homers (1.3) while walking more than ever (11%). The walks are the least of my concern, though. He doesn’t give in because he knows or at least certainly thinks he can strike out the next guy.

But I can’t explain away the consistent hard contact and homer issues. Without a gaudy .197 AVG and 85% LOB combo, there’s no way he drops a sub-3.00 ERA. FIP is far from perfect, but I think it does a good job showing that Ray’s true talent is more of a mid-3.00s ERA. I think we get more 2016 than 2017 and he falls outside the Top 50. I’m just not sure the humidor is going to greatly alter his consistent hard contact issues.

Garrett Richards finishes inside the Top 25 SPs

Richards has labored through the last two seasons with just a total of 62 innings, but the skills and arsenal remain so alluring that I’m willing to buy back in. He finished the season on the mound and hasn’t had any injury concerns in Spring Training. I think he throws 175 IP of 3.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, & 26% K rate.

Aaron Sanchez finishes inside the Top 30 SPs

Or at least I think he does. I see Sanchez bouncing back with 180 IP of 3.20 ERA & 1.20 WHIP, which should be good enough to finish in the Top 30. He seems to be past the blister issues and I still see strikeout upside within his arsenal.

Tanner Roark finishes inside the Top 35 SPs

Roark was the 66th SP on ESPN’s Player Rater in what was his worst season yet. A disastrous June (8.31 ERA in 30.3 IP) really did a lot of the damage as he got going a bit in the second half, but not enough to erase the damage. He posted a 3.99 ERA and 25% K rate in 85.7 innings from July 1st on, but still finished with just a 4.67 mark. He has simplified his mechanics and seems poised for a return to the prominence of 2014 and 2016 (both sub-3.00 ERA seasons). I’m not exactly projecting him for a high-2.00s ERA like those two seasons, but I can definitely see 180+ innings of mid-3.00s work and a decent strikeout rate (21% the last two years).

A.J. Minter fans 100 batters

The former 2nd-round pick took a little time to ramp up because of health issues, but he had a big 2017 that culminated with a shot of espresso in September with the Braves. That’s the same joke I used in the Baseball HQ Forecaster on Minter’s profile, but I like the analogy given how electric he was in his 15-inning cup of coffee. He had a 43% K rate and 40% K-BB rate using a devastating fastball (96 mph) and slider (90 mph) combo to destroy the opposition.

Fanning 100 in around 70 innings will require about a 36% K rate, something that 10 qualified RPs did last year. I went for Ks over SVs with Minter because I like Arodys Vizcaino if he can stay healthy. That’s always been a challenge for him, though. Minter’s left-handedness could get him skipped over for the role should Viz falter, but having Sam Freeman gives Atlanta a middle innings lefty should Minter be elevated into the ninth inning role.

Alright, there they are! If you’ve been here before, you know the drill – put yours in the chat! If you’re new here, hopefully you get the gist after seeing mine. It’s basically putting numbers to your extreme breakouts and busts. If a guy’s career-high in homers is 30, then a 35 projection isn’t bold. If a guy’s being drafted as the 8th player at his position, saying he finishes outside the top 15 isn’t bold. Conversely, saying Miguel Cabrera steals 20 bases is bold, but stupid. Find that middle ground and let’s hear your picks!

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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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Vil Blekaitis
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Member
Vil Blekaitis

I sure hope Paul makes his bold predictions earlier next year. We already drafted (Sat. night) in the one points keeper league to which I belong.
As much as I like his boldness, I can’t agree with his predictions for Schwarber, Richards or Kinsler. But they are indeed bold, and that’s what this exercise is all about.
Thanks Paul!

Kevin
Member
Kevin

Are you really drafting based off bold predictions?

Vil Blekaitis
Member
Member
Vil Blekaitis

Of course not. But if the rationale is sound—as it often is—I’ll listen to it. This is a 16 team 12 keeper league, so you have to take chances. Ostensibly, the best 192 players are taken.
Another consideration: I take a high dose of medication (now Lyrica, but formerly gabapentin) to control porphyria-induced neuropathy pain. I’d like more time to do the research myself, but there are only a few hours per day where my head is relatively clear.
I know Paul watches a lot more baseball than I do and is always crunching the numbers.
That’s why I’m not offering my own bold predictions, just responding to others, fwiw.