Reviewing my Bold Predictions each season involves a little bit of back-patting, and a whole lot of laughing at what an idiot I was just a few months ago. The sweet spot for these predictions is getting three or four of them right per season. How did I do this year?
In short, not great, but not terrible. Only two of the following predictions happened, but the majority got close, or at least still look reasonable in hindsight. On the other hand, prediction No. 5 might be my worst-ever in three years of Bold Predictions…
10. James Shields is not a top-65 starting pitcher.
Shields was the consensus No. 40 SP by our experts heading into the season, and I was not about to agree. Shields’ 2015 saw him post his best-ever strikeout rate, but also his career-worst walk rate. After a hot start in April and May, the bump in strikeouts vanished, and his walk rate soared.
With this prediction, I was betting on the continuation of Shields’ June through September 2015 production, and I bet correctly. According to Jeff Zimmerman’s end-of-season rankings, Shields was this season’s second-worst pitcher. The only pitcher who damaged his fantasy owners more than Shields was Alfredo Simon.
We’re off to a good start here.
9. Neil Walker is a top-ten second baseman.
If Walker didn’t miss ~50 games due to injury this season, this prediction would have likely paid off for me. In just 113 games, Walker matched his career high in home runs, with 23. He averaged one R/RBI per game, put up a .282/.347/.476 slash line, and provided 3.8 Wins Above Replacement — the best WAR of his career thus far.
Unfortunately, Walker missed nearly a third of the 2016 season, preventing this prediction from going in the win column.
8. Kevin Pillar is a top-20 outfielder.
This prediction was based on rumors at the time that Pillar would be the Jays’ leadoff hitter. My reasoning for Pillar in the top 20 came down to this: “The 27-year-old was actually 2015’s No. 25 OF, despite regularly batting somewhere between seventh and ninth in Toronto’s batting order . . . Short version: All Pillar has to do is carry over his production from last year. He doesn’t even need to improve at all to prove me right on this one.”
As we all know, Pillar was not Toronto’s regular leadoff hitter. Also, instead of just ‘not improving,’ Pillar got considerably worse this year. He followed up last year’s 12 homer, 25 steal season with just seven dingers and 14 swipes. This one goes firmly in the loss column.
7. Kevin Gausman is a top-30 starting pitcher.
Not far off, but still incorrect. Gausman had a strong season, finishing as the No. 49 SP. He posted a 3.61 ERA across 30 starts, with an 8.72 K/9 and a slightly better than average 1.28 WHIP. However, he snagged just nine wins. Comparing his overall profile with some of the pitchers who finished ahead of him — including Matt Moore, Jeff Samardzija and Bartolo Colon — Gausman’s low win total appears to be the deciding factor in his non-top-30ness.
Whatever the reason, I was wrong again.
6. Ender Inciarte is a top-30 outfielder.
Another one goes to the loss column, but again, I wasn’t far off here. Ender’s game was pretty good in 2016, as he came in at No. 48 among outfielders. He hit .291, scored 85 runs and swiped 16 bases. While he’s never been much of a power hitter, the poor production at the bottom of Atlanta’s lineup prevented Inciarte from driving anyone in, as he recorded a measly 29 RBI in 578 PA.
This is getting frustrating. I feel like I’m spraying some fairly hard-hit liners, but they’re all finding gloves.
5. Eduardo Escobar‘s ownership rate exceeds 87% by season’s end.
Oh my goodness. This might be the most aggressively stupid prediction I’ve made in my three-plus years writing for this site. Looking back at my reasoning behind this, it seems slightly less insane. Escobar was coming off two straight seasons of above-average production with the bat, and made huge strides against right-handed pitching and vertical breaking balls in 2015. Additionally, once he took over Minnesota’s everyday shortstop role that season, he hit .294/.349/.514 the rest of the way.
However, much like the rest of the Minnesota Twins, all of those improvements went right out the window this year, and Escobar reverted back to his pre-2014 form. Yuck.
4. Blake Swihart is a top-eight catcher.
It’s hard to get more wrong than this. Swihart played just 19 games in his injury-plagued 2016.
3. Kyle Schwarber is not a top-eight catcher.
I got one right! Wonderful! Granted, I only got it right because Schwarber missed 160 games this year, but seeing as injuries derailed some of my other predictions, I’ll take any win I can get.
2. Nolan Arenado is the No. 1 overall hitter in fantasy baseball, regardless of position.
If there’s a theme to this piece, it’s that I’m pretty darn skilled at getting close to success, while still ultimately failing. Come to think of it, that’s a good summation of my life to this point. At any rate, Arenado had another fantastic season in 2016. He launched 41 bombs — one shy of last year’s 42 — while hitting .294/.362/.570. He scored 116 times, drove in another 133, nearly doubled his walk rate while also cutting his strikeouts, etc.
Arenado finished the year as the No. 5 overall hitter, behind only Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Jose Altuve and Jonathan Villar. This was a pretty darn bold prediction to start with, but that does not change the fact that I was once again incorrect.
1. Despite being left off the Rotographs top-150 starting pitchers list, Julio Urias is a top-65 SP in 2016.
I was probably one year early on this one. Urias pitched well, with a 3.39 ERA and a robust 9.82 K/9. However, he did those things in just 77 innings, not nearly enough to crack the top 65 SP.
Better luck next year.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.