My bold predictions probably weren't as bold as other lists. I wanted to make it somewhat realistic to be right about these, so I didn't go wild. I was more aggressive on some than others, though. Here is a review of how I did:
Matt Harvey will finish as a top 5 starting pitcher
Harvey is currently the 16th SP being taken in Yahoo leagues. Fantasy owners have downgraded him, I think, mostly because of an innings limit. It was originally thought that Harvey would be capped somewhere around 160-170 IP, similar to fellow Boras client Stephen Strasburg’s innings limit in his first season post TJ surgery. However, the Mets have said that they would be willing to extend Harvey’s innings limit to around 200 IP based on how he looks, and have also added that they will not be shutting him down before the season ends.
Harvey’s 2013 2.00 Fielding Independent Pitching was 8th best in baseball history dating back to 1950, and his command has been excellent this spring, both in games and in bullpen sessions. He’s routinely sat in the mid 90s and topped out at 99 mph, and is showcasing a hellacious curve ball and plus change up to combine with his wipeout slider. The guy is a monster, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Harvey finish in the top 3 when the season ends. I'll settle for top 5.
This was a crazy season for Harvey. He started out dominating the sport through his first 8 starts and I felt very good about this prediction, but Harvey hit a wall towards the end of May and got whacked around like I've never seen before. He recovered well enough to finish as the 10th starting pitcher in Yahoo's 5x5 scoring. I wasn't far off, but ended up incorrect. Result: wrong
Mookie Betts will finish as a top 25 player
Mookie Betts is one of my favorite players in the game. He’s the leadoff hitter for a potent Red Sox lineup in a high run scoring environment in the AL East. He’s speedy and has the capacity to steal 30 bases. He has plenty of pop and can conceivably hit 15 HR with lots of doubles. His pitch identification is ridiculous, which will lead to selective at bats, plenty of walks and a high on base percentage. His hit tool is also well above average, and a .290 batting average is realistic. I expect him to score 100 runs, with 25-30 stolen bases, 12-15 HR, and lots of extra base hits into the gap.
Betts finished 35th overall in Yahoo. He hit .291 with 21 SB, 18 HR and 92 R. I was very close again on this one, but missed the mark. Result: a tough luck wrong
Xander Bogaerts will finish as a top 5 SS
Bogaerts already has the top prospect pedigree, and he bulked up this past winter, which will increase the odds of him controlling the bat better and generating more exit velocity on his batted balls. He hits in a high run scoring environment in the AL East and the Red Sox have a lot of good hitters in their lineup, which increases RBI and run scoring chances for him. I love Bogaerts this season and I think he’s going to breakout.
Bogaerts finished as the 2nd SS in Yahoo, 46th overall. I thought he would hit for more power than his 7 HR (I was thinking closer to 15 HR), but the overall production was excellent. Result: correct
Wilmer Flores will finish as a top 10 SS
Flores is only being drafted in 6% of Yahoo leagues and isn't even in the top 30 ADP for the position, so him finishing in the top 10 is quite the bold statement based on how fantasy owners view him this preseason. I wrote an extremely detailed article on Flores back in February, here. My conclusion was that I don’t think he’s a bad defensive SS at all, and his offensive upside is excellent for the position. 20 home runs with an above average batting average is attainable with his skill set, and I don’t think his defense will warrant a replacement or move to another position. RBIs and runs scored are tough to predict because of sequencing, but Flores is a guy who shortens up his swing with runners in scoring position and puts the barrel of the bat onto the ball to get those runners home.
As a gigantic Mets fan, I adore Wilmer Flores, but he was a big disappointment this year. Flores finished 26th among SS eligible players in Yahoo. He hit 16 HR, which is good, but everything else was not so good; the most glaring was a sub .300 OBP (which wouldn't hurt a fantasy owner in standard leagues, but still). His defense was also bad, and not so much because of his limited range, but because of how many times he botched routine plays. This eventually got Ruben Tejada much more playing time than I expected in the spring. Result: very wrong
Brandon McCarthy will finish as a top 100 player
I have written about McCarthy twice this offseason, most recently in this article. The short version is that McCarthy changed his process on the mound last year and had fantastic results with it, and he's moving to Los Angeles, where he will get plenty of run support and pitcher friendly parks in most outings. Love McCarthy in 2015.
McCarthy got whacked around and then got hurt. I missed badly here. Result: wrong
Anthony Rizzo will not be worth a top 15 pick
Rizzo is going very high in drafts based on his production last year, but I don’t like his quality of contact rates from last year
Rizzo had a fantastic season, and I was very wrong about this "bold" prediction. He finished 22nd in Yahoo, which is close enough to the top 15 for this to be way off.
Rizzo ended up significantly increasing his quality of contact rates this year from last year (his hard hit rate was 13th best in MLB this year). I used those rates, which were below average last year, as the reason for being concerned about his production dropping off this year. There are a few problems with this method, though. Firstly, I thought that the quality of contact rates from the company I gathered them from used exit velocity to compute the stat to make it an objective measure. They do not, which makes the stat much more subjective than I would like. Secondly, I probably underestimated Rizzo's hit placement tool. Rizzo is a stud, one of the best hitters in the game, and I won't make the mistake of underestimating his skill again. Result: WRONG
Close your eyes for this one:
Dustin Ackley will finish as a top 150 player
I drafted Ackley at pick #284 in one of my industry leagues, so this is one of my bolder predictions. Ackley changed his process at the plate in the middle of last season and had a huge increase in hard contact. The percentage of his at bats that ended in a hard hit ball soared to 22% from July-September, a number that would have placed him among the game's best hitters. Some have argued that his poor September statistic line negates this, but even if we throw out July and just count August and September, Ackley's hard hit% stayed at about 22%, so his results from August-September didn't reflect how well he kept hitting the ball. Ackley is probably going to platoon with Rickie Weeks in 2015 which will limit his upside to some degree, but I expect him to perform well this year.
With Ackley, I used the same stat that I did with Rizzo to attempt to predict a breakout/regression, but as I noted above, the stat was calculated in a much more subjective manner than I thought. I probably won't lean on it too heavily in the future. Result: barf
Here's another gem:
Wade Miley will finish as a top 150 player
Miley's ADP in Yahoo is 240, and I'm predicting him to outperform it by about 100 slots. His career road ERA (3.31) is a full run lower than his ERA at Chase Field (4.33). Last year, it was even more pronounced, with a road ERA of 3.17 in 105 IP and a Chase Field ERA of 5.61 in 96 IP. His home run to fly ball ratio is also significantly lower on the road. Miley pitches much better out of those terrible conditions in Arizona, and while Fenway Park isn't the ideal landing spot for a LHP, Miley generates a lot of grounders and had a large increase in bat missing last year. The Red Sox lineup is potent and he should win at least 15 games.
Maybe I overestimated the park effects of Chase Field, or underestimated the AL East, but Miley was below average this year and finished with a hideous ranking in Yahoo. Result: wrong
This was my best prediction:
Dallas Keuchel will continue to #shove in 2015
This shouldn't be a bold prediction considering Keuchel's production last year, but most fantasy owners aren't buying that he is legit based on his ADP of 250+. I'll define "#shove" as Keuchel finishing in the top 20 in both ERA- and FIP-.
I took my Keuchel love a step further in a different piece I wrote last winter:
I can't believe how low Keuchel's ADP is. He is being massively underrated by fantasy owners, and I don't know why this is. His ADP is sandwiched between Wei Yin Chen and Jake Peavy, for goodness sake. I guess most owners don't think his 2014 season was legit, but they're making a mistake if they think that. Keuchel is super legit. He's one of my favorite pitchers in baseball, and there's tons of reasons to love him. First off, his basic run prevention last year was outstanding with an ERA of 2.93, 20th best in baseball, and ERA- of 77, 15th best in baseball. His FIP of 3.21 and xFIP of 3.20 were both 19th best, and FIP underrates him because of how much weak contact he generates. He's closer in skill to the 2.93 ERA than the 3.21 FIP.
Keuchel was also one of the most difficult pitchers to square up in baseball last year: only 11.1% of his opponents' at bats ended in a hard hit ball, 4th best in baseball. This is in large part due to his amazing two seamer, which has hellacious movement and causes an incredible ground ball percentage of 77%. Keuchel's overall ground ball% in 2014 was 63.5%, which was by far the best in baseball and is Brandon Webb esque.
The main knock on Keuchel for fantasy purposes is his below average strikeout percentage of 18%, but he has the stuff to make batters swing and miss. His filthy slider/slurve misses bats at an above average level, and his change up misses bats at about an average level. I think Keuchel is one of the steals of 2015 fantasy drafts with his current ADP, and would strongly encourage all Fake Teams readers to draft him at this value.
I drafted Keuchel in every single one of my leagues this year and it helped me to a title in my decade long keeper league. Keuchel may win the AL Cy Young award this year and finished 9th overall in Yahoo. Result: correct
Jose Abreu will not be worth a top 10 pick
Jose Abreu is largely being drafted in the top 10 this year, but the projection systems predict a 40 point BABIP drop from last season...He also saw a huge drop in power in the second half, which some have argued was due to fatigue, but it could just as well be from the league adjusting to him. Abreu might adjust back to the pitching as he sees more of it and continue to rake, but I'm less comfortable predicting that. I'm going with a disappointing season (based on his fantasy ADP) for Abreu.
Abreu finished 34th in Yahoo's 5x5 and had a good year. I guess I was right that he wasn't really worth a top 10 pick, but 34th overall isn't a disastrous result at all even if a fantasy owner invested a top 10 pick in him. It's probably far off enough from the top 10 to give me this one, though. Result: correct, I guess
Final tally: 3 out of 10 (30%)