Reviewing Mike Podhorzer’s 2014 Bold Hitter League Leaders

Aside from inspiring the annual bold predictions, I also go out on a further limb by boldly predicting each league’s leaders in the standard five fantasy categories. These predictions are obviously a lot more difficult to get correct, so even just one right is quite an accomplishment. I also rule out a lot of players that I personally don’t consider all that bold, making it a real challenge. I whiffed on all my picks back in 2012, but did manage to bat .100 last year. Let’s see if I failed just a bit less so this time around. And of course, refresh your memory with full explanations back in the original post.

American League

Batting AverageNorichika Aoki

Aoki was the pick for a second straight year, due mostly to his excellent contact rate, but also because he hits a ton of ground balls, which go for hits significantly more often than fly balls do. Unfortunately, Aoki would rather get his picture in the dictionary under the word consistent than make me look good because his batting average has barely budged since his 2012 debut. That means it’s another loss for me, as he hit a solid, but losing .285 this year. 0 for 1

Home RunsOswaldo Arcia

I wasn’t satisfied merely predicting 30 homers for Arcia, as a league leading total sounded much better. Even if he was healthy all season, he would have had little chance of competing for the home run crown. That’s because his acceptable minor league strikeout rates haven’t translates and he has become a whiff machine in the Majors. A big breakout isn’t going to come unless he cuts down on those swings and misses…while also maintaining his power. 0 for 2

RBIEric Hosmer

It’s what happens when you try to identify an RBI title winner that is actually considered bold. I ended up choosing a guy who failed to break 60 ribbies! Sure, he was hurt for a bit, but this was a sad, sad season. He didn’t even have the decency of continuing to steal double digit bases to offset the loss of power. With an average batted ball distance down a whopping 20 feet, one wonders if he was hiding an injury all year. At this point, he’ll likely come cheap enough next season to be worth the gamble. Even if a big breakout doesn’t come, a 15 homer and 10 steal first baseman provides solid value, just in a different way than you’re used to from a corner man. 0 for 3

RunsKole Calhoun

Welp, I got the team correct! Calhoun missed some time due to injury and would have recorded more than the 537 plate appearances he did had he remained healthy. This prediction still didn’t turn out all that bad, even if it was wrong. Calhoun’s 90 runs scored ranked 18th in baseball and ninth in the American League, which was probably far better than any projections forecasted. I expected a couple of more steals, but he contributed exactly as expected and could come at a slight discount given that he failed to truly stand out in any one category. 0 for 4

Stolen BasesAdam Eaton

Injuries again! Eaton missed time as well, limiting him to 538 plate appearances, though that’s certainly not the excuse for losing this pick. Even when on the field, Eaton swiped just 15 bags, and did so at an inefficient clip, requiring 24 attempts to succeed that many times. With just 22 steals over 918 career plate appearances now, it’s clear that Eaton is simply not interested in running as often as he did in the minors. He still possesses good speed, as evidenced by his 10 triples this year, so I guess the upside remains for a surprise stolen base breakout. 0 for 5

National League

Batting AverageMartin Prado

The argument here was similar to Aoki’s above — excellent contact and ground balls. Instead, Prado’s strikeout rate surged to a career high even though his SwStk% remained at an elite level. 0 for 6

Home RunsAnthony Rizzo

So very close! I probably should have touted Rizzo as a serious breakout candidate more, as I was a big fan of his heading into the season. His HR/FB rate jumped back to the level he posted during his 2012 half-season breakout, which fueled a home run total that ranked second in the National League, just five behind Giancarlo Stanton. His batted ball distance appears to be a tad low to support his HR/FB rate, but it’s possible his batted ball angle and standard deviation (both part of my xHR/FB rate formula) offsets the distance. He should come close to a repeat next year. 0 for 7

RBIBrandon Belt

Unfortunately, Belt wasn’t good enough to win the RBI crown given just 235 plate appearances, so once again, injuries ruined a pick of mine. And although he was in the midst of a home run breakout when he was on the field, he was only on a 69 RBI pace extrapolating his performance over 600 plate appearances. A high strikeout rate is a big concern, but he’ll be a breakout candidate again next year. 0 for 8

RunsJason Heyward

Despite accumulating 649 plate appearances, posting a .351 OBP and leading off the majority of his games, Heyward managed to score a measly 74 runs. That’s of course the direct result of a massively disappointing Braves offense that amazingly scored the second fewest runs in all of baseball. Heyward’s surrounding cast wasn’t completely to blame, however, as his power outage also hurt his runs scored total. His batted ball distance was a shocking 267 feet, which ranked just 236th. That’s a 20 foot drop from last year and 23 from 2012. Heyward truly has all the skills to become a superstar, but it just hasn’t happened. 0 for 9

Stolen BasesDee Gordon

Success! While it doesn’t look so bold now, it was at the time. The assumption was that Alexander Guerrero would be the Dodgers opening day second baseman, but his defense was raising questions about his readiness. So the speculation was that Gordon could potentially win the job, but that Guerrero would be promoted soon. That, of course, never happened, as Gordon got off to a hot start with the bat and Guerrero endured an unfortunate ear incident. So knowing what Gordon was capable of with full-time at-bats, that meant Billy Hamilton was his only real competition. And because of Gordon’s OBP advantage, he won the battle by an eight steal margin. 1 for 10

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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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Calhoun was a smart pick because if he hit he would likely be hitting in front of Trout and Pujols.
I like the Homser RBI pick because he would be hitting 3rd and he had the looks of a 20 HR .300 BA guy.