Reviewing Blake Murphy’s 10 Bold Predictions

I’m a little late to the party reviewing my bold predictions. Out of sheer cowardice (or a schedule crunch/things continually coming up). They are, as always, a mixed bag. I find 3/10 is the number you’re kind of aiming for, because any lower and you’re an idiot and any higher and you weren’t bold enough. So, let’s see how this goes.

1. Trevor Bauer puts it together
The specific prediction here was that Bauer lands in the top-50 starters. That was…incorrect. Bauer did, at least, trim his walk rate, increase his groundball profile, and post a career-best 3.99 FIP while nearly reaching 200 innings despite spending time in the bullpen, but it’s hard to sell a 4.35 ERA as a starter as “putting it together.” Alas, there is a light that never goes out, so see you in next year’s bold predictions.

2. Stephen Piscotty is a top-30 OF
With 22 home runs, seven stolen bases, and a .271 average, the Cardinals’ 1B/OF ranked 21st in outfield value. The batting average came down to earth some, but as predicted, the HR/FB jumped from 11.7 percent to 13.5 percent, and he extended that gain further by hitting more fly balls. Playing 143 of his 153 games in the 2-to-4 part of the Cardinals order helped, too, as he piled up 86 runs and 85 RBI.

3. Tyler Goeddel runs with Phillies’ RF job, finishes inside top-60 OF
More like Tyler Baddel, right? A preseason injury to Aaron Altherr threw the Phillies’ OF alignment into question, and as a Rule 5 pick, I figured Goeddel would have some leash to find his footing. He, uhh, never found it, hitting .192 over 92 appearances and managing meager counting stats because he couldn’t get on base. A criminal .234 BABIP worked against him, but mostly he just didn’t play well enough to earn a large share of what wound up a 10-man outfield split. Altherr, by the way, hit .202 with a 64 wRC+ after his return.

4. Roberto Osuna gets single-digit saves but remains fantasy relevant
This was more of a want than anything else. With Osuna still young enough to potentially transition back to being a starter and my preference for ace relievers to be used in a non-traditional manner, I envisioned Osuna maybe playing a sort of Dellin Betances-like role, stretching out his innings as a super-reliever. Well, Drew Storen and most of the bullpen were terrible, Osuna was once again great in a traditional closer role, and some fatigue late in the year after throwing 74 innings (plus some nails postseason work) suggests this plan may not have been in his best interest, anyway. But hey, the number six fantasy closer, that’s cool.

5. Ryan Braun is not a top-25 outfielder
I guess the lesson here is to not bet on injury and not bet on aging? I originally saw too many red flags despite the bounce-back 2015, yet Braun managed to outperform even his lofty draft expectations, ranking seventh in OF value. I’m happy to be wrong here, and it’s encouraging that Braun trimmed his strikeout rate to its lowest point since 2011, even if the HR/FB rate career-high (with a career-low fly-ball rate) isn’t likely to repeat.

6. Marcell Ozuna benefits most from the adjustments at Marlins Ballpark, hitting 30 home runs
This was looking good for a while and still kind of ended up half right, with Ozuna outperforming his draft stock significantly. But he only finished with 23 home runs, so he didn’t quite make it. A jump to a 14.1-percent HR/FB rate, an increase in fly-ball rate, and a .217 ISO at home all suggest the process here was in the right place, and if you bought in, you still got the No. 35 outfielder at a discount. I just hope you managed to sell high, as his wRC+ was cut in half after the All-Star break.

7. The Orioles threaten the record for three true outcomes, but it’s worth it for Jonathan Schoop’s top-10 season at second base
The Orioles bucked my expectation and only ranked ninth in strikeouts despite a high O-Swing%, the worst O-Contact% in the league, and the No. 2 swinging-strike rate in baseball. The more actionable point was the performance of Schoop, and he just narrowly missed hitting by ranking 11th at the keystone, seven spots ahead of his ADP. The 25 home runs go a long way in making up for a complete absence of walks (from a fantasy perspective, anyway) and playing in every single game helped him pile up 82 runs and 82 RBI.

8. Tom Murphy somehow makes Paul Sporer look smarter than he already is
We once again run into a good process with a poor outcome. Murphy never got his shot until too late, as Nick Hundley and Tony Wolters formed a capable enough platoon, in the eyes of the Rockies. Still, neither of those guys really took advantage of the home park, and Murphy built on a 162 wRC+ in his second partial Triple-A season by hitting five home runs in 49 major-league plate appearances. The strikeout rate was insane once he got the call, but there’s enough power here to matter at Coors, there’s some evidence he can take a walk, and he’s firmly on the radar for 2017.

9. Silvino Bracho becomes the Diamondbacks’ closer
I always like to take one long-shot flier at the closer position in this space, and it wound up true that Brad Ziegler was sold high after saving 18 games early on. The closer job from there was almost non-existent, with Daniel Hudson, Jake Barrett, and four others splitting 13 saves. Bracho was not in that group, pitching just 24.2 innings with Arizona and inexplicably striking out next to nobody. His K-rate was cut in half from his 2015 debut and from his Triple-A track record, and he suddenly started having command issues and trouble with the long-ball. This one’s kind of disappointing, but sometimes you have to take a long-shot, I guess.

10. Trea Turner steals 25 bases
Turner was one of my “flag” guys for the season, as I’m a huge fan of his game, in real life and from a fantasy perspective. And not only did he far exceed power expectations, hitting 13 home runs in just 73 games, he also topped the stolen-base prediction, swiping 33, about one every 10 plate appearances. In half a season. That the Nationals waited so long to give him regular playing time was a bit frustrating for those who held on to him, but it was definitely worthwhile, as he was the No. 119-ranked fantasy asset from the All-Star break on and eligible at multiple positions. He finished with 19 home runs and 58 stolen bases between Triple-A and the majors, for those of you looking for a liberal “what if” line for 2017.

In conclusion, these always make me feel bad about myself, but I nailed two, had a couple of others that came close, a few Process > Results calls, and a few picks that were just awful. I’m comfortable with that mix, as it’s about what you’d expect. I also did the Roto Riteup most of the year, and the final line for my 121 streaming pitcher recommendations (generally below 30-percent ownership) was as follows: 42 W, 5.67 IP, 3.85 ERA, 1.2 WHIP, 5.4 K (8.5 K/9).

Blake Murphy is a freelance sportswriter based out of Toronto. Formerly of the Score, he's the managing editor at Raptors Republic and frequently pops up at Sportsnet, Vice, and around here. Follow him on Twitter @BlakeMurphyODC.

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