Trey Baughn’s 10 Bold Predictions (2018) by Trey Baughn March 16, 2018 This means we’re actually getting close to official baseball, right? It’s bold prediction season and you know the drill (with an Ottoneu context), so let’s get started. 1. Freddie Freeman achieves 8.0 WAR Brad Johnson was early to the predictions party on Freeman, but I feel like I helped organize that party he made my earlier list of ten players I’m excited to watch this year. I’ll let that bold prediction kick things off here, but I see a massive season coming for Freeman (age 28), and I’ll lock that in by saying he’ll be the first NL first baseman since Albert Pujols to achieve at least 8.0 WAR in a season. For perspective, Pujols (8.4 WAR) hit .327/.443/.658 in 2009 (47 HR with .447 wOBA and 180 wRC+). Since that time Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt have come the closest (7.5 and 7.3, respectively, both in 2015). By the end of 2018, I think we will all agree Freeman is part of that elite 1B class as well. 2. Mike Clevinger is a Top 30 starting pitcher The following starting pitchers landed in the back end of our recent Top 30 2018 rankings: Jon Gray (#25) Lance McCullers (#26) Jameson Taillon (#27) Marcus Stroman (#28) Gerrit Cole (#29) Rich Hill (#30) These are all strong starting pitchers, but if any young arm on this list outside the top 50+ is going to rise into this tier, my vote is on Clevinger, who landed at #64. With three above average off-speed pitches helping him establish an elite strikeout rate last year (10.0+), the 27 year old Clevinger is setup very well to be one of those pitchers that turns a few tiny adjustments (reeling in the walk rate a bit and adjusting his pitch usage would go a long way) into massive gains. The Indians maintain one of the best starting rotations in baseball but Clevinger stands the greatest chance of delivering the most out of nowhere great season that propels the Tribe to continued success. To be precise, I’ll measure this one by saying that Clevinger finishes the season as a top 30 SP by P/IP in Ottoneu leagues (minimum 130 IP). Buy while you can. 3. Joey Gallo finishes with a batting average of .250 or higher There are a lot of ways to look at this one but at the end of the day I’m a big fan of Joey Gallo. Despite the three outcome approach that comes with tape measure blasts, I’ve always liked Gallo’s ability to make adjustments throughout his career, which is the key element that sets him apart from other top-of-the-scale power prospects. Adjustments are the name of the game and because Gallo is a better athlete than most fans give him credit for, I’m banking on improvements this season that are reflected in both his average (and most likely his BABIP) and OBP. Hitting .250 would be at least 10% better than the Fans current batting average projection (.228), so this one seems pretty bold. Here's a sign of Rangers continued belief in the emergency of Joey Gallo superstar: They are going to look at him in the No. 2 spot because it might impact entire lineup: https://t.co/3MvjYqP0IY — Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) March 17, 2018 4. Sean Doolittle leads MLB in saves It’s the year of the “super team” where the Yankees are going to have a potentially historic offense, the Indians a terrific rotation, and the Astros the opportunity for both. But the one super team that hasn’t gotten quite as much fanfare this winter just might be in a position to setup their underrated closer as one of the best in the land by season’s end. In 2014 Sean Doolittle finished the season with a K/BB rate of 11.13. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been fully healthy since, including last season when he missed time early in the season with shoulder issues. When he did take the mound, Doolittle was dominant, and particularly effective at limiting hard hit damage. If Doolittle can stay healthy for a full season in 2018 (bold), he should have the chance to close leads multiple times per week as the Nationals hit, run, and field their way to the top of a relatively weak NL East class of teams. 5. Manny Machado finishes 2nd in team home runs…on the Phillies Predicting home run leaders in this era is bold; predicting specific trades of home run leaders feels really bold. That said, we all know Machado will be traded this season, right? The Phillies still feel like a very nice fit for the soon-to-be 25 year old shortstop, but a lot depends on the start to their season. Signing Arrieta late was a nice adjustment that may push the Phillies just far enough to hang around in semi-contention mode until they determine if one or two big pieces will really put them over the edge. Machado will be a hot commodity all year, and because I don’t think his inevitable departure from Baltimore will need to wait until July 31st, I think there’s a non-zero chance he gets moved to Philly early enough to overtake anyone on the roster outside of Rhys Hoskins for the team home run lead. The Phillies have the prospects to make this happen, too. 6. Lonnie Chisenhall delivers a return on investment of at least 8x A look at 2017 reveals: A career high walk rate (9.3%) A career high hard hit rate (33.7%) A career high ISO (.233) A career high fly ball rate (45.7%) An ability to hit LHP (.419 wOBA) At a first year average price of just $1.25 in Ottoneu auction leagues (FGPTS), Lonnie Chisenhall seems like a massive bargain (he’s only owned in 35% of all leagues, and has only been drafted in 18% of first year leagues). I think many of those 2017 career gains stick, I am buying in all leagues, and I am boldly predicting he’ll be worth at least $10 in final season value when all is said and done. If he can only stay healthy… 7. Akil Baddoo is a Top 50 prospect by season’s end (FanGraphs) Let the record show that this bold prospect prediction has been penned before Eric and Kiley finish their 2018 Twins team top prospect list. The age 19 outfielder did not land on the recent FanGraphs Top 100 prospect list, but he did make an appearance as an honorable mention of sorts here. Baddoo is intriguing because of his speed (above average), his high probability of sticking in center field, and most importantly, for his ability to flat out hit. At the age of 18 (2017), Baddoo managed a .963 OPS while walking more than he struck out. That combination of youthful power, speed, and discipline just doesn’t materialize very often, and if his profile continues to develop over a larger sample, Baddoo may rocket up the prospect lists with an almost Ronald Acuna-type trajectory. Projecting prospects is hard, and predicting prospect breakouts is bold, but Baddoo has a foundation that looks promising. 8. Corbin Burnes finishes the season as the 3rd best rookie starting pitcher in MLB Sticking with prospects, I’m again going a bit off the radar to boldly predict a breakout of sorts for the 35th ranked prospect in the game, Corbin Burnes. If everything comes together, Burnes may have the perfect blend of stuff and opportunity to land him in the Brewers’ rotation earlier than expected this season (just 85 innings at AA last year). The Milwaukee rotation is not impressive (potentially signing Alex Cobb would help), so it’s not too far of a stretch to expect a team with big hopes (coming off big winter moves) to be aggressive in finding quality innings in what could be a playoff season. Burnes is also talented, and his unique ability to prevent the home run (just four HRA in his MiLB career) may be just what the team needs come June (or earlier). I like Burnes enough to predict that he will have the highest P/IP (Ottoneu, FGPTS) of any rookie pitching prospect this season not named Ohtani or Reyes (minimum 50 innings), and that’s with Buehler, Kopech, Puk, Gohara, Whitley and others waiting in the wings, too. 9. Eugenio Suarez finishes the season as a top 10 3B Paul released the March composite 3B rankings yesterday and I was surprised to see Eugenio Suarez sitting quietly at #21. Realizing I must be higher than most because of the gains Suarez made at the plate last year, I’m all in on the 26 year old Suarez being one of the better fantasy values of 2018, and see him having an outside chance to crack to the top 10 most valuable (we’ll just go by Paul’s final season rankings) players at a position that is very, very deep. He might also make a solid fantasy shortstop… 10. Jorge Soler finishes 2018 with a wOBA greater than the recent three year average of Eric Hosmer ICYMI: Jorge Soler hit his fifth home run of the spring in the #Royals' victory over the #Rangers. #RoyalsST pic.twitter.com/hSoIHwUOuo — FOX Sports Kansas City (@FSKansasCity) March 17, 2018 While Eric Hosmer is sort of the poster child for this wacky winter of free agent MLB spending across the league, there’s no denying the Royals are going to miss his bat (and leadership!) on the team. But the Royals also have a new bat to plug into the lineup this season, one that managed to hit 24 home runs in just 74 AAA games last year. Already in the midst of the “best shape of his life” spring storyline, the newly chiseled 26 year old Jorge Soler is poised for a make or break season in Kansas City. I’m buying the post-post-hype talent and am looking forward to the offensive damage Soler can bring to the AL Central this summer. While Steamer is projecting a useful .328 wOBA, I’m go way over by saying Soler breaks out completely by eclipsing Eric Hosmer’s recent three year wOBA average of .352, which would make for yet another fantastic story.