It's that time of year where each of the writers runs around looking for bold things to say about a number of players, each hoping that we find that one thing we say that makes us look like a genius by the end of the year. They don't tend to work out the way we hope, but every once in a while they turn out better than we hoped. Since prospects tend to be my wheelhouse for writing here at Fake Teams, here are my 10 (or so) bold prospect predictions for the 2014 season.
1. Mark Appel is the first of the second wave of Astros' prospects to get to the majors, debuting on September 1st. That doesn't mean you want to grab him in your fantasy league.
I'm assuming that despite the service time concerns (and general bad press associated with it), George Springer will be in the majors before June 1st. The next group after Springer and Singleton includes Appel, Carlos Correa, and some of the other low-level prospects moving through the system. Despite pitching at low-A only last year, Appel blazes through the minors, making five starts at High-A, twelve at AA, and three at AAA before finishing with three more in the majors.
2. Arismendy Alcantara, not Javier Baez, is the Cubs' prospect with the largest impact this year for fantasy owners.
With only Darwin Barney blocking one of them from getting to the majors, Alcantara forces the issue by midseason, leaving Baez to spend most of the year in the minors while he learns a number of positions to provide the flexibility the Cubs need with Starlin Castro locked in at shortstop. In half a season, Alcantara hits .280 with 8 home runs and 12 stolen bases.
3 .Stephen Piscotty gets more at bats in the majors than Oscar Taveras.
The injuries remain concerning, and with Piscotty nearly ready also, I think his ability to stay healthy (at least in comparison to Taveras), ends up allowing him to get 200-250 at bats before season's end.
4. Alexander Guerrero spends the full season in the minors this year.
Despite the presence of his four-year contract, the Dodgers don't believe Alexander Guerrero is ready for the majors, and his struggles at AAA keep him behind Dee Gordon on the depth chart all year. Gordon doesn't exactly do a ton to force the Dodgers to keep him, but does manage to hit .250 with a .300 OBP and 45 stolen bases.
5. Wilmer Flores is installed as the starting shortstop for the Mets on May 1st, after watching Ruben Tejada post a sub-600 OPS in the first month.
He's been getting reps there during spring training, and after watching Tejada struggle to hit his weight yet again, the Mets finally decide that the defensive value he provides isn't enough to overcome the anemic bat. Flores hits .280 with 12 home runs over the final five months of the season.
6. The top 20 pitching prospect who makes the most starts in the majors this year is Andrew Heaney.
While Yordano Ventura made the opening day rotation, I think the Marlins have Heaney in their starting rotation before too long, and don't bother to put any caps on his innings pitched or total pitch count. He ends up throwing 35 innings in the minors and another 175 in the majors from May 1st onward, and is a top 40 starting pitcher for fantasy owners.
7. Kyle Crick is converted to relief, and is named as the heir apparent to Sergio Romo as the closer for the Giants.
There have already been reports that Crick may be better suited for the bullpen, and a late-season playoff run forces the Giants to move Crick there to help down the stretch. He has the profile to be a potentially-elite closer if given the opportunity, and could move much more quickly if they go this way.
8. Joey Gallo shows that his 2013 season was no fluke, hitting 45 home runs with a .235 batting average and 175 strikeouts between High-A and AA.
The questions remain about whether Gallo can make enough contact to let his prodigious power play, and he quiets those concerns as he continues to hit bomb after bomb despite striking out more than once per every three plate appearances.
9. The Dodgers send either Joc Pederson or Corey Seager to the Angels for Howie Kendrick at the trade deadline.
With second base being one of the few positions where the Dodgers could have an easy upgrade option, the team decides to continue to use the farm system to acquire pieces, and the Angels could match up with both Grant Green on the team as well as Taylor Lindsay on his way toward the majors as well.
10. Injuries to the major league pitching staff force the Red Sox to get 15 starts each from Matt Barnes and Henry Owens.
While there is a considerable amount of depth in the minors for the Red Sox, injuries to John Lackey and Jake Peavy cause the team to call up pitching prospects Barnes and Owens by the All-Star break, and help carry the team to a wild-card berth. Both pitch reasonably well for fantasy owners, and help carry one of my fantasy teams to an unexpected third place finish.
The Usual Predictions
Playoff Teams (NL): Atlanta, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Washington, San Francisco
Playoff Teams (AL): Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Oakland, Boston, Texas
World Series: Washington over Boston