Trey Baughn’s 10 Bold Predictions (2016) by Trey Baughn March 26, 2016 Disclaimer: these projections are bold (at least they’re supposed to be), and most are made in the context of Ottoneu fantasy baseball. 1) Yangervis Solarte will outscore Rougned Odor in 2016. Rougned Odor is an extreme talent. His breakout last year has been well documented, and his .273/.313/.520 slash all but guarantees no one is sleeping on him in drafts this year (his hot spring hasn’t done anything but boost his stock). But for all the fanfare surrounding Odor, we should remember that his breakout was mostly ignited by an insane June that included a .390 BABIP and a BB/K rate that looks like a big outlier (1.25). Odor’s July was equally sizzling so this isn’t an attempt to pump the brakes on a great young player except to say that he’s not coming with much of a discount in new Ottoneu auctions this season (~$20). Looking for another under-the-radar 2B that could really turn a profit in 2016? Enter Yangervis Solarte, one of the few players to rival Odor’s 2nd half breakout and his 80 grade name. Solarte started 2015 white-hot with a .321/.387/.500 slash and .385 wOBA, but fell off the map in May/June. Something clicked for Solarte in July, however, as he rolled off three straight months of excellent production (wOBA’s of .353, .348, and .362 in July, August, and September), finishing the 2nd half with a .292/.336/.470 line. That line isn’t all that unlike what Odor dazzled us with last year, and there may be room for improvement for Solarte because of his excellent contact skills and slightly better walk rates (he also hit much better at home than on the road). Solarte is my favorite sleeper of 2016, and in Ottoneu he’ll likely offer above average MI production for pennies on the dollar compared to Odor. Predicting the 28 year old switch hitting Padre to outscore Odor is bold because Odor has the youth and pedigree to explode this year, but don’t overlook Solarte as you close out your drafts this spring. 2) Jose Abreu will win the AL MVP award. How about some trivia: Who was the last AL 1st baseman to win the MVP? Answer Who is the next AL 1st baseman to win the MVP? Jose Abreu Abreu took the AL by storm in 2014 with 36 HR, a .964 OPS, and .411 wOBA, but he failed to meet those lofty expectations last year, finishing with a good but not great 129 wRC+. It would be truly bold to expect Abreu to match his 2014 26.9% HR/FB (which fell to 19.7 last season), but a deeper look at his plate discipline numbers suggests Abreu made some positive gains last year in his contact skills, despite a reduced overall BB rate. A rebound in both BB and HR/FB rates could propel the 29 year old slugger to another excellent season, but it’s possible Abreu has yet another gear that would push him into the MVP conversation with the likely front runners of Trout, Donaldson, and Machado. 3) Troy Tulowitzki will play 145 games and finish as the #2 overall SS. It doesn’t really get any more bold than predicting Tulo playing time, does it? Here’s a fun fact: Tulowitzki finished the 2014 season as the 4th ranked SS in Ottoneu (704 points) despite playing just 91 games (or 60 games less than the average of the three SS above him). Last season, Tulo played 128 games (his most since 2011) and finished 12th among SS with 684 points. Tulo hasn’t played in 145 games since 2009, the season he finished 5th in the NL MVP voting. Everything here is pretty much working against Tulo: age, injury history, subpar 2015 season, the non-Coors effect, etc. But for the first time in many many seasons, Tulo actually has a potential playoff berth motivating him to play, and I think we see enough of a rebound in health, skill, and “grit” to propel him to a #2 SS finish in 2016 (just behind Machado). Go bold or go home. 4) Sean Manaea will win the AL ROY award. The 6’5” lefty Samoan has looked pretty good this spring, and while Spring Training results are essentially meaningless, Manaea was also excellent in the Arizona Fall League. It’s still unlikely he makes the team out of the gate, but I expect Manaea to join Oakland early in the season and thrive as a giant lefty who makes a big impact in 2016. He’ll have to beat out other promising AL rookies (Buxton, Snell, Reed, Mazara, Brinson, and especially Berrios) but Manaea has the stuff to be a #4 SP with periodic flashes of a #2 as early as this season. He’s still slightly under the radar compared to other impact rookies but I’ve seen enough so far to boldly project a profitable performance and ROY season. 5) Jake Arrieta will repeat as the #2 overall SP and NL Cy Young award winner. Over the past 2 seasons Clayton Kershaw has produced 6.84 points per innings pitched in Ottoneu points leagues. In other words, he’s on a planet all by himself, regularly costing nearly $70 in new drafts this year. No other SP over the past two seasons has approached the 6.0 P/IP threshold except for one: Jake Arrieta (6.46 over his last 385 IP). Jake Arrieta is elite, and he’s my easy choice as the 2nd overall SP in Ottoneu entering 2016. He’s better than Sale (5.8 P/IP), Kluber (5.68), Greinke (5.65), Scherzer (5.64), Price (5.48), and Felix (5.42) over the past two seasons, and despite his insane 2nd half last year, he still seems to be criminally underrated in spring drafts as owners appear to be anticipating a much more drastic drop off than what is likely to occur. Maybe Jose Fernandez or Carlos Carrasco or Noah Syndergaard can give Arrieta a run this year for “best non-Kershaw”, but few starting pitchers offer a more perfect combo of production, innings, and durability than Arrieta. I boldly predict repeat dominance. 6) Jimmy Rollins will finish 2016 as a Top 12 SS. It’s looking more likely that Rollins will begin the season as the White Sox’s starting SS. It’s probably a gamble worth taking for CHW, so I’ll take a gamble here on it paying off handsomely, at least for Ottoneu owners. Rollins was awful for LAD in 2015, finishing the season with a career-worst .283 wOBA, but the smaller confines of Chicago should at least help Rollins match his mediocre 2013 production in which he scored just 623 points but finished as the 10th best overall scoring SS. Maybe this prediction speaks more to the weakness of the SS position in general than it does to Rollins specifically, but if you’re looking for sneaky cheap value at SS entering the season, take this bold prediction to heart and add Rollins to your watchlist. 7) Willy Adames will finish 2016 as a Top 10 overall prospect. Adames, acquired by TB in the David Price trade, finished 2015 as a 19 year old SS in A+ ball with a .342 wOBA. Entering 2016, that’s a top 50ish prospect. While there are some red flags (just 4 HR; 27% K rate, average SS defense), I predict a big breakout for Adames in 2016. For one, his BB rates have been excellent considering his youth, so there’s a foundation here to build from. More importantly, Adames scouts like an offensive-minded SS prospect, with above average hit and power tools (55). With luck and some bold development gains, Adames could be on his way to a becoming a 15 HR 15 SB .350 wOBA-type shortstop, propelling him up the prospect ranks just inside the top 10. 8) Adam Conley will be one of the most added players of 2016, finishing with at least 80% ownership. Wait, who? Adam Conley is the 6’3” lefty who should be the Marlins’ fifth starter out of the gate. As of now he’s owned in just 20% of Ottoneu leagues for $3. He’s been turning heads with 95 mph fastballs this spring and could be in line for a breakout in 2016 if he can capitalize on the gains he made last season and the big expanse of Marlins Park. Conley was moved to the rotation after just a few innings in the bullpen last year and pitched to a respectable 3.66 FIP, averaging 8.44 K/9 in just under 60 IP. The projection systems don’t seem to buy the results just yet, but I’m predicting an above replacement level season that would make him a nice waiver wire addition in almost all leagues. A lot has to go right for Conley to make good on this projection, but you might want to jump just a little early here before the rest of your league does. 9) Carlos Gomez will rebound for a Top 12 finish among OF’s. It wasn’t that long ago that Carlos Gomez was an excellent fantasy OF. Remember? Granted, it’s hard to recall excellence when recency bias (.315 wOBA in 2015) easily clouds our judgement. Gomez started the 2015 season hobbled by a hamstring injury and was sidelined by various other ailments (intercostal, knee, etc.) throughout the season. While most of his plate discipline and contact rates remained in place, it’s reasonable to assume that injuries played a key role in Gomez’ disappearing power, finishing the season with a .154 ISO (compared to to an average of .205 from 2012 – 2014). Not that long ago (2013) Gomez finished as a Top 10 OF with 874 points (.363 wOBA). He finished 8th among OF in 2014 with 905 points (.368 wOBA). According to our pre-season OF rankings he’d probably need to finish 2016 ahead of Braun, Pollock, or Upton to make good on this prediction, and with a full *healthy* season in Houston the 30 year old Gomez has the ability to rebound back into the Top 12. 10) The Minnesota Twins will make their first World Series appearance since 1991. The Twins could be fun to watch in 2016, but a ton of things really have to break right for them to make the World Series. Byron Buxton needs to make good on his pedigree; Miguel Sano needs to cut the K’s while challenging for the MVP; Byung-ho Park needs to adjust quickly and exceed expectations; Joe Mauer needs to be revived; the entire team defense needs to defy the odds. But more than anything, the starting rotation needs at least a couple of career seasons for the Twins to become serious contenders in a tight AL Central race. We’ve probably already seen the career seasons from Hughes (2014), Santana (2008?), and Nolasco (2009?), so a big part of this prediction rests on the shoulders of Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios, who will need to have mini-breakouts of their own to make this prediction look anything but silly by October. Stranger things have happened, however, so keep an eye on the Twins this year. They could potentially have a very good bullpen, and might also have some more youth coming (Kepler, Burdi, Polanco) to make things interesting enough to lose to the Cubs in the World Series…which is essentially the boldest prediction of all.