I love making outlandish predictions so much that I didn’t just stop at the standard 10 bold ones. I even stuck my neck out and risked looking foolish by forecasting the league leaders in the five standard rotisserie categories. I made sure not to choose anyone too obvious and maintained the same level of boldness. Unfortunately, this is much tougher than the regular bold predictions and my results in past years have unsurprisingly been poor. Let’s see if my crystal ball worked any better this season.
Batting Average – Salvador Perez
Perez batted .291, a significant drop from his .331 debut mark in 2011 and a small decline from 2012’s .301. I argued that Perez’s fantastic contact rate, combined with a line-drive swing that avoided pop-ups was the perfect recipe for a high BABIP. Well, he struck out at a higher rate than last year, his line drive rate dropped, and his IFFB% actually jumped above the league average. Interestingly, despite the worse batted ball distribution, his BABIP actually increased, but it wasn’t enough to get his average to even the .300 level. 0 for 1
Home Runs – Chris Carter
I got the first name right! But the last name of the actual leader started with a letter one after C. Carter’s 29 home runs ranked ninth in the American League. He could have hit a bunch more out of the park if he had a more typical full season of at-bats (rather than just the 506 he accumulated), didn’t strike out more frequently than last year and also didn’t experience a decline in his HR/FB rate. Oddly, even though Minute Maid Park is excellent for right-handed home run power, Carter posted a better HR/FB rate in away parks. 0 for 2
RBI – Mark Trumbo
Anyone not named Miguel Cabrera was assumed to be a longshot to lead the AL in RBI. Cabrera ended up losing the RBI crown by just one to Chris Davis and Trumbo ranked eighth with a total at exactly the century mark. Despite nearly 100 additional plate appearances, he only boosted his RBI total by 5 compared to 2012. Injuries and poor performances by the hitters ahead of him certainly had a lot to do with this. 0 for 3
Runs – Desmond Jennings
Jennings ended up scoring just 82 runs, ranking him tied for 25th in the American League. Injuries continue to hamper his counting stats and limit his at-bat total, while poor play got him dropped in the lineup over the last month. The Rays offense didn’t really help either, as they ranked just 9th in runs scored. 0 for 4
Stolen Bases – Darin Mastroianni
I called this perhaps the boldest prediction on the list. Guess it figures that Mastroianni ended up missing the majority of the season with an ankle injury that led to surgery. He stole just two bases in three attempts! 0 for 5
Batting Average – Norichika Aoki
Aoki batted .286, a smidge worse than his .288 mark during his rookie 2012 campaign. That won’t lead any leagues! I posited that given his excellent contact skills, good speed, ground ball tendency and low pop-up rate, he was a real darkhorse to hit well above .300. That excellent contact rate from last year actually improved and he posted the lowest strikeout rate among all qualified hitters in baseball. But the BABIP remained below the league average and gave him no chance to even hit .300. 0 for 6
Home Runs – Paul Goldschmidt
I got one right! Technically, Goldschmidt tied Pedro Alvarez for the league lead with 36 long balls. Although this may not seem so bold now, remember that Goldschmidt hit just 20 homers over his first full season in 2012. His minor league track record and batted ball distance (301 feet in 2012) both suggested he was capable of this power surge. No fluke here. 1 for 7
RBI – Freddie Freeman
Goldschmidt was simply too good and was helped by his league-leading home run total, but Freeman ended up tied for second in the league in RBI with 109. He accomplished this in spite of missing two and a half weeks in April with an oblique injury. Of course, he also got a nice boost from his other-worldly performance with runners on. He posted a .438 wOBA with men on base and a ridiculous .507 mark with men in scoring position. 1 for 8
Runs – Shin-Soo Choo
Another oh so close prediction. Matt Carpenter’s surprise breakout year led to a never-saw-it-coming 126 runs, but Choo finished second with 107. He was an on base machine for the Reds, finishing just behind teammate Joey Votto in OBP with a .423 mark. This was a new career best for him driven by a career high walk percentage. 1 for 9
Stolen Bases – Starling Marte
Another prediction that was dangerously close to being right. Marte finished the season with 41 steals, ranking third behind leader Eric Young and breakout shortstop Jean Segura. He may have led the league if it hadn’t been for a hand injury that limited him to just 30 plate appearances and a handful of pinch running assignments after August 18. 1 for 10
One right is par for the course in these bold league leader predictions, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many others were very close to being right. Just goes to show that as crazy as some predictions might appear during spring training, anything can happen. BASEBALL!
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.