You shouldn't ever go half way-go halfway onto the highway and you're roadkill. Watch only half of a movie and you miss all the drama and intrigue. Drink only half a beer and you fail to call yourself a man. You get the picture; if you're going to get wet, you might as well go swimming. With that in mind here are my 10 bold predictions for 2014:
1. Chris Carter will be a top 5 1b this year.
Are you ready? Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, Edwin Encarnacion, Joey Votto, and...wait for it. Chris Carter. That's right, not Prince Fielder, not Freddie Freeman, but Chris-of the Houston Astros-Carter. J.P. Breen makes the case for Carter, and I couldn't agree more. The batting eye is there, if he limits the IFFB rate (12.1%), and can keep the K-rate at or just a shade below 30% he could conceivably hit between .250-.260. He's one of a handful of players in the league that has 40+ HR potential. The Astros' offense won't be as woeful as people think, as a bounce-back campaign from Jose Altuve, the additions of George Springer, Dexter Fowler, and Jonathan Singleton, as well as underrated catcher Jason Castro should provide enough counting stats to place him in the upper echelon of first basemen. .260/42/90/100 will look mighty fine for where you drafted him this year.
2. Brian McCann is not a top 10 catcher this year.
Are you ready for this? What happens when an old team finally succumbs to the injury bug? Pitchers start pitching around whatever is left. Jacoby Ellsbury, for sometimes reasons beyond his control, can be injury prone. Carlos Beltran will be 37 this year, and although he's compiled nearly 600 PAs the past three seasons he is ripe for an extended DL stay. McCann himself just turned 30 and the rigors of catching won't help him at this stage of his career. Add into that the putrid stench that is the Yankees infield (Teixeira, Brian Roberts, Derek Jeter, and Kelly Johnson), and you have a very fragile lineup. Go ahead and pay top dollar, but you won't be satisfied with what you receive in return.
3. Jurickson Profar will sit comfortably in the top 10 second basemen this year, and he wins the AL Rookie of the Year.
You heard it here first, and it's not just because I'm a Rangers fan. Ok, well maybe it is. I'm already on record and so I'm sticking to it. How often have you heard the term "superstar" bandied about by prospect guru Keith Law? Not much, eh? Well, Law thinks that Profar is just that. He will take the keystone by storm, and his excellent baseball acumen will help his above-average tools play up across the board. When he supplants Elvis Andrus in the 2-hole by mid-season you'll be wishing you jumped on board beforehand. He'll hit more homers than Xander, play impeccable defense, and slash a .280/.350/.440 line on his way to the ROY award, and the Rangers will easily forget the name of that guy who they traded to get Prince Fielder. Who was that again anyway?
4. Jed Lowrie will be the best SS in the American League this year.
I'm on fire now. Who else will it be? Elvis Andrus? Nope, his bad on-base skills from last year will relegate him to demotion later this season (see Profar, Jurickson). J.J. Hardy will hit some home runs but otherwise be a lot of meh. Ben Zobrist qualifies at the position but he is past his peak years. Xander will come to fruition but not this season. Yep, check out what I wrote about him this offseason:
"In his first taste of non-injury-ness last year (662 PAs), do you know what he did? Just this (w/ qualified PAs): top 5 SS in (BB%, ISO, Runs, RBI, BA, OBP, SLG, wOBA, and LD%). He was tops at the position in hitting the fewest amount of ground balls, and hit more fly balls than anyone too (while posting a 5% IFFB rate...again, best at the position! Shall I go on? Ok. Top 6 in Contact% at 86%, top 10 in swinging-strike rate (6.8%), and top 5 in O-Swing% (the rate at which he offers at pitches outside the zone, 28.5%). The kicker? Nothing that I've told you about so far is way out of line with his career norms. Did I also mention that he plays for a severely underrated offense (#4 overall in runs scored in 2013)?"
He will stay healthy and he will produce. I can feel it.
5. Matt Carpenter struggles to get into the top 20 at third base, and even the top 10 at second base.
I know you think I'm crazy at this point but hear me out. 600 PA, 9 HR, 75 runs, 59 RBI, 5 SB. That's about the average projections for him between ZiPS, Steamer, and OLIVER. The average may still be ok, I'll say around .275-.280, but the IFFB% of 0.6 is sure to rise, the BABIP will fall, and I just don't see the K-rate remaining that low (I'm in line with ZiPS here at 16.4%). I think the Cards are a tad overrated and I'll take the under on 90 runs this year. You saw his peak last year and you should have sold, dynasty owners. If you still have him now when he loses 2b-eligibility after this year, it's your own fault. My Fake Teams colleagues blew it on their rankings with him this year, and I'll be the first one to tell ‘em so! If you can still get value for him, send him on his way.
6. Starling Marte and Jacoby Ellsbury need to change ADPs for 2014 to approximate their final value.
Jacoby is sitting at the 12th overall player taken, versus Marte's 56th overall mark. I think Marte figures out lefties (or at least takes a step forward) and completely outperforms the overrated Pinstriper. I laid out the case and I'm sticking to it. Don't give me that "short-porch-in-right argument," because it's irrelevant in Ellsbury's case. Enjoy multiple DL stints, the under on 15 HR, and slowly diminishing speed from Jacoby while Marte laps him.
7. Jason Heyward goes 30/30. Yep, that Jason Heyward.
I'm sorry but a freak facial fracture and appendectomy don't scare me off here. He's 24 years old, atop a good lineup, and is going to prove doubters wrong. It will be 2012 Heyward 2.0 (the new and improved version) where Freddie Gonzalez finally lets him run, where the ISO goes north of .200, and the Ks come tumbling down. This is a gut call in general, but specifically the line drive rate will come up along with the HR/FB rate. He's swinging less outside the zone, making better contact across the board (despite the absurd 16.7% IFFB), and lowered his swinging-strike rate nearly 3% last year. Ok, I'm done.
8. Sonny Gray, Michael Wacha, Alex Cobb, Tony Cingrani, Danny Salazar, and Corey Kluber (and any other over-hyped sophomore SP) will be out-produced as a group this year by fellow teammates, Scott Kazmir, Lance Lynn, Matt Moore, Mike Leake, Zach McAllister, and Carlos Carrasco.
Every year some guys get way overhyped. We want to believe that these guys that pitched 50-100 innings are the next big thing. Maybe they are, but chances are the less hyped, cheaper valued guys end up being the better bets. We'll take it to the scorecards at the end of the year and see if my theory holds true by looking at Zack Sander's end of year values on Fangraphs. Add the overall ranks of group 1 and divide by 6, I'll do the same for group 2, and you'll lose.
9. Trevor Rosenthal gets moved to the rotation, throws 150 innings, and just continues doing his thing on his way to a top 40 SP finish.
When Jason Motte returns in late April or May the Cardinals brass will realize that they're better off letting Motte blow people away with his cheese and let Rosenthal replace one of Wacha, Lynn, or Joe Kelly (while Carlos Martinez take another spot). Rosenthal will still be unhittable and generally make hitters look silly, and the closer that you took early on will leave a huge gaping hole in your fantasy roster making you once again question your draft-a-sweet-closer-early strategy. However, you being you, decide to go ahead and take Motte with your last pick so you're feeling savvy.
10. Baseball Predictions. Leaving the friendly confines of fantasy for a brief minute, here are my (bold) picks for this year:
Washington (NL East) Everything finally clicks this year, loads of pitching.
Pittsburgh (NL Central) They will unleash Taillon and Polanco; STL overrated.
San Francisco (NL West) Somehow they find a way; LAD lack of depth kills them.
Wild Cards Atlanta, Los Angeles
NLCS Washington vs. Los Angeles
Tampa Bay (AL East) Young pitching, emergence of Wil Myers, and Joe Maddon.
Cleveland (AL Central) It'll be close as the Tigers won't go quietly.
Texas (AL West) They hit their way into the playoffs and lean on Yu (not me).
Wild Cards Detroit, Boston
ALCS Boston vs. Texas
World Series Texas vs. Washington Best hitting vs, Best pitching
Champion Texas Rangers
Jon Daniels and Co. prove that they are the smartest guys in the business, that they don't need no stinkin' Nolan Ryan, and that Ian Kinsler was wrong in his 0-161 prediction.
Am I wrong? Follow me on Twitter (@Roto_Joe) to argue your case and opine below if you think you have something to say (I won't hold it against you).