Paul Sporer’s Bold Predictions – Hitters

It’s Bold Prediction Season here at Rotographs with Zach Sanders and Brad Johnson kicking it off this morning and many more on the way. Now it’s my turn at-bat. I’m obviously looking to strike a balance between realistic and bold. Calling for Stephen Strasburg to win the NL Cy Young isn’t really that bold even though he’s never come close and only has the one season north of 183 innings. He has been an elite-level arm pretty much since joining the league so it isn’t all that bold to essentially say “it all comes together this year”.

Meanwhile, putting Freddie Freeman down for 45 HRs fulfills the bold end of the ledger, but isn’t terribly realistic. First off, is he going to get 45 pitches to hit in that lineup? But more importantly, he hasn’t shown the skill or batted ball profile for that kind of power surge (essentially double his career-high of 23 set in 2012 and matched in 2013) so what’s really the point if it’s just bold for bold sake?

I’m sure y’all will use the comments to let me know how bold or un-bold my picks here, so let’s just get it going! I’m going to split into hitting and pitching since I’ve got several for pitchers and this piece would quickly become a 2,500-word opus. Here are five for hitters:

Yasmani Grandal is top five at catcher.

Grandal has gotten some decent sleeper/breakout buzz this offseason, even before jumping from the Padres to the Dodgers via trade. The former top prospect has shown flashes in his 777 major league PA, including a 15 HR campaign last year. The stadium shift definitely helps here as Dodger Stadium is quietly a nice home run park, playing favorably to both sides of the plate and well above his former home of Petco Park. The switch-hitting Grandal was abysmal against lefties last year, but that was a sharp decline from 2012-13, so I expect a return of some production there. I think he is better than the .225 AVG he showed last year and obviously he will need to be to fulfill this prediction. I’m seeing a .262-67-21-72-2 season.

Starlin Castro is the top shortstop.

It seems some are viewing Castro’s rebound (115 wRC+) as more of the outlier than his ugly 2013 (72 wRC+) which is strange to me. His 2010-12 seasons are in far more in line with the rebound, save the speed decline. He has just 13 stolen bases over the last two seasons after 57 in his previous three season, though an unimpressive 57-for-87 record in those seasons should’ve had us prepared for a dip if he didn’t improve his efficiency and he has actually gotten worse at 13-for-23. And yet, even with the speed decline, I still think he tops the position with a .322-82-19-87-8 season.

Carlos Santana is the top third baseman.

If Santana hadn’t pissed away two months of the season – something he has done before – this might not be such a bold prediction as he likely would’ve finished much closer to the top spot, but he finished May with a .159/.327/.301 triple slash line so here we are! He has been a consistently strong asset throughout his career, though obvious flaws have left him short of elite. He has just a career .248 AVG, though not for a lack of ability. He has hit as high as .268 and he has always been an on-base asset with his killer 15.6% walk rate. He almost certainly won’t ever contend for a batting title, but he can beat that previous career-high. I’m looking for a .277-93-34-102-4 effort en route to dethroning Anthony Rendon, last year’s top guy, or Adrian Beltre if you choose to slot Rendon in the 2B list.

Leonys Martin is a top 15 OF.

Martin has established a strong floor in the fantasy world despite back-to-back seasons south of .700 OPS. A heavy speed component with a modicum of pop has aided him to a pair of low-$20s seasons, but there is room for more. He has some untapped power potential that I’m looking for him to bring out in 2015 as he scales the outfielder ranks and becomes an impact player. To achieve this new level of success, he needs to turn it up against lefties a bit. His .575 OPS against them in 300 PA is wretched, but his .803 OPS in 201 PA as a minor leaguer says he can get better. Honestly, he doesn’t even need to reach that .803 level to be very successful. I’d settle for something in the neighborhood of a .675 OPS. His ascent will come via a power surge, but also a boost in speed: .286-79-14-62-44.

Curtis Granderson hits 32 HRs.

Granderson is just two years removed from back-to-back 40+ HR campaigns and he has three 30+ efforts in his career so this isn’t super bold, but his average draft position says that no one is really seeing a fourth 30-homer season on the horizon. In fact, most projections are with one or two homers of 20, give or take. Let’s throw another 50-60% on top of that and give him a 32-homer season. This is a bet on him not giving away April (1 HR, .468 OPS) and August (1 HR, .415 OPS) as he did a year ago as well as benefitting from the moved in fence in right-center field. It’s eight feet closer and eight feet lower (the wall ranged from 8-16 feet in height around the field and now it’s a flat eight everywhere). There isn’t a ton of 30 HR potential available around pick 240 when Granderson is being picked.

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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Phil Igloo
Phil Igloo

Tulo beats that line from Castro in 450 PAs