My first attempt at bold predictions did not fare too well, but I trust you’ll be a lenient grader given that my predictions were on the bolder side. Let’s examine the damage.
1. Jason Heyward will be the No. 1 overall player in 5×5 leagues with OBP instead of AVG; he will hit .295/.415/.540 with 30 home runs, 110 runs, 70 RBI, and 25 steals.
I wasn’t explicit in this, but I ordered my bold predictions from my most confident to my least confident. As such, despite what I believe would be considered a full return of his draft price, I was disappointed in Heyward’s season. The opportunities were they for Heyward, as he played 149 games and spent 94 of them in the leadoff spot. And he did reach 20 stolen bases, so he was aggressive on the basepaths. However, he fell well short in every other respect.
The lack of power stands out the most. Heyward set a career low with 11 home runs this season. He had hit 14 home runs in two of his last seasons, but both of those seasons were cut short of 500 plate appearances because of injuries. Heyward was apparently healthy for most of this season before a thumb injury took him out some of September, but his power had been missing for five months before that became a problem. Heyward is still just 25 years old, which it’s easy to lose sight of. More power could be coming, but it’s difficult not to think of him the way we do of Joe Mauer now that several years have passed since his one homer-filled season.
As for the other counting stats, Heyward was a victim of the Braves’ anemic offense. They scored the second fewest runs in baseball, ahead of only the Padres (more on them in a moment). The Braves don’t seem likely to add much to their offense for next year, either, so Heyward may have a limited ceiling until his free agency hits in 2016. 0/1
2. Scott Kazmir will finish in the top five in ERA among qualified AL starters.
Kazmir ended up with the 21st best ERA in the AL, but this looked promising for much of the season. Look no further than his first-half ERA of 2.38. Kazmir seems to have run out of gas, a subject which has been covered by Mike Podhorzer, Ben Duronio, and Michael Barr. In making the prediction, I was more focused on the situational improvement from Cleveland to Oakland for a flyball pitcher. That certainly paid off for Kazmir. In addition to the more-spacious park, Kazmir played in front of an outfield that saved 21 runs based on Defensive Runs Saved. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s outfielders cost their team 37 runs this season. 0/2
3. The Padres outfield will lead all outfields in home runs.
It was a risk to rely on a single-season park factor, which San Diego had because of their moved fences at the start of 2013. Year two of the new Petco was not so homer-friendly. It finished seventh-stingiest based on ESPN’s park factors.
Of course, this probably would not have mattered in the least because the Padres were a disaster on offense. That disaster was a bit more confined to the infield, as Padres outfielders finished the season with 43 home runs, which was tied for 21st in baseball rather than last, like their overall offense. That’s little consolation since the prediction was for them to finish first. Will Venable (8 home runs) and Carlos Quentin (4 home runs) were the biggest individual disappointments after combining for 35 home runs in 2013. 0/3
4. Oakland OF Billy Burns will steal 25 bases.
Burns actually did make it to the majors a couple of times this season and stole three bases compared to just six plate appearances. The Yoenis Cespedes trade could have opened the door for Burns, but Jonny Gomes ended up with a prominent role down the stretch in Cespedes’ place. Really, Sam Fuld, who the Athletics lost on waivers to the Twins in April but reacquired via trade in late July for Tommy Milone, took the role that I thought Burns might before the season. Fuld received 209 plate appearances and stole nine bases. 0/4
5. Ervin Santana will have an ERA over 5.00.
A day or two after I made this prediction, Santana signed with the Braves. Had I known Santana would end up on a defensive-minded NL team, I would never have made the prediction. The Braves ended up with 19 Runs Saved for the season. Of course, had Santana landed on the Orioles as rumored, he might have done just as well. Their 49 Runs Saved led the AL, and the traditional offensive powers in the AL East were much less so this season. In the end, Santana proved useful in deeper fantasy leagues with a 3.95 ERA and a major increase from 6.87 strikeouts per nine in the AL in 2013 to 8.22 strikeouts per nine in the NL this season. 0/5
6. A.J. Burnett will have an ERA over 5.00.
This one was much closer, as Burnett finished the season with a 4.59 ERA, by far his worst since his Yankees days. The Phillies weren’t nearly as terrible defensively in 2014 (-39 Runs Saved) as they were in 2013 (-102), but they still represented a major drop-off from the Pirates, especially in terms of a dedication to the defensive shift. Burnett was unusable in fantasy, but the prediction remains incorrect. 0/6
7. Daniel Webb will record 30 saves for the White Sox.
The opportunity was there for Webb, as six different White Sox relievers earned at least one save this season and about half of those players were at least temporarily the nominal closer. Webb was not one of those six receivers, and it was because of his poor performance. His 5.59 walks per nine did not ruin his 3.99 ERA, but the expectation was always there. As such, he quickly fell out of favor, and their closer role looks like it could be a question mark in 2015, as well. 0/7
8. Marcus Stroman will be the best fantasy starter on the Blue Jays.
This is true by some measures, and so I’m giving it to myself to avoid the shutout. Stroman was pretty clearly the best starter for the Blue Jays this season. His 3.65 ERA and 7.65 strikeouts per nine were both second best on the staff, the former behind Mark Buehrle and the latter behind Drew Hutchison, who was still unusable in fantasy because of a 4.48 ERA. Stroman ended the season 62 strikeouts behind R.A. Dickey thanks to an 85 innings deficit, but assuming you managed Stroman’s replacement early in the season when Stroman was still in the minors, your tandem would have easily covered their gap in ESPN’s Player Rater. 1/8
Forsythe was a definite bust. He saw just 336 plate appearances and managed just a .223 batting average with six home runs and two stolen bases. His line drive rate fell off sharply to 19.3 percent this season, making him little more than a defensive utility player for the Rays. 1/9
10. Jameson Taillon will strike out more than nine batters and walk fewer than two and a half batters per nine following a midseason call up to the Pirates, which will make him a top 25 starter in the second half.
Taillon fell victim to Tommy John surgery in April, so this prediction ended before it even had a chance to begin. 1/10
Scott Spratt is a fantasy sports writer for FanGraphs and Pro Football Focus. He is a Sloan Sports Conference Research Paper Competition and FSWA award winner. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @Scott_Spratt