One of the best – and most overdone – preseason traditions is to make bold predictions. I'm not exactly sure where it started (my guess is Eno), but everybody does it. That's not a bad thing, but it's also really hard to come up with bold predictions that stand out from the rest.
And you always get that one guy in the comments section who screams, "NOT BOLD ENOUGH!"
So, without further ado, here are my 2015 bold predictions in review.
1. Evan Gattis finishes as the No. 2 catcher, behind only Buster Posey.
This one looked foolish, as Gattis was stuck on two home runs after one month. But ... funny thing ... baseball doesn't roll over and die in April and he turned it around with nine homers in May. This prediction was always risky because of Gattis' batting average, but it was based largely on his power numbers compared to the rest of the bunch. Russell Martin ranked ahead of Gattis most of the year, but the latter eventually passed the former on the heels of 27 home runs and 88 RBI.
"I also think we see Gattis hit 27-30 home runs as a first-time member of the Astros."
Nice ... I nailed this one. Gattis was the No. 2 catcher and he was runner-up behind Posey. I should get extra credit.
2. Alex Wood finishes as the Braves best starting pitcher.
It's funny. I expected Wood's numbers to be awful, but that's not the case. He ended with 2.6 fWAR in 2015, matching his 2014 number but doing it in a totally different – and fantasy unfriendly – way. Wood didn't miss many bats and his strikeout rate dropped from 24.5 percent to 17.4. The ERA was a run higher and he finished as the 74th best SP, according to the ESPN Player Rater. Still, his 2.0 fWAR on the Braves (he was later traded to the Dodgers) was second behind only Shelby Miller (3.4). Julio Teheran (1.1) was the real disaster here, but I didn't make a prediction on that.
3. Brandon Belt finishes as a top-10 first basemen.
I thought it would all come together for Belt, but injuries limited him to 51 plate appearances in each of April and September/October and he hit a combined one home in the bookend months. He came around, eventually, hitting seven homers in May. It really was a successful year for Belt, who hit .280 with a .356 on-base percentage and a career-high 18 home runs. It just wasn't top-10 good ... he finished 15th. I'm still optimistic the baby giraffe has a breakout season coming.
4. Max Scherzer finishes as the No. 1 starting pitcher.
Not even two no-hitters and a career-best 276 strikeouts could propel Scherzer to the No. 1 spot. He finished fourth behind Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in the Year of the National League Pitcher. Hat tips all around.
5. Mike Napoli and Michael Morse combine for 55 home runs.
Now we get to the embarrassing stuff. Napoili hit 18 home runs and Morse had five, so I'm only 32 off if my math is correct. I really bought into the offseasons of Boston and Miami, which is just as bad. What's worse: I came out of one fantasy draft with Belt, Napoli, Morse and Brandon Moss and thought I was the smartest person in the room.
6. Steve Cishek leads the National League in saves and finishes as a top-5 closer.
Going all in on a closer is never a good idea. Cishek, who had more blown saves (5) than saves (4), lost closer duties early and A.J. Ramos ran away with the job. He was traded to St. Louis and was awful there too, walking more than five per nine innings. He went from one of the best relievers in the game to one of the worst. He did get hit hard in 2014 (21.8 percent line drive rate), so maybe I'll look closer at that when drafting closers next year.
7. Starlin Castro goes 20/15.
Joe Maddon stuck with his shortstop as long as he could, eventually going to the superior option in Addison Russell. Castro was so bad that the Cubs couldn't trade him at the deadline, but he finished with a flourish, hitting .353 since Aug. 11 (third best in baseball) with a .961 OPS and 19 extra-base hits. I won't make any dumb predictions on Castro for next year, but he's still a good player with value ... See? Not very bold.
8. Masahiro Tanaka finishes as a top-10 starting pitcher.
Tanaka was No. 22, and it was ... surprise! ... injuries that held him back in 2015. He was limited to 154 innings, but he was really good in those 24 starts with a 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 139 strikeouts. I liked Tanaka this year because he was going in the 10th round or later, and he definitely returned value.
9. Jose Abreu finishes as the No. 1 hitter.
He was No. 28, so not close at all, but still worthy of a top-25 pick. So he probably didn't return value in 2015, but it's hard to knock a 30/100 season. Two years in and Abreu has 66 home runs in 299 games. I would go ahead and take him in the first two rounds again in 2016, as I think he's closer to a .317 hitter (his BA in 2014) than a .290 hitter (his BA in 2015).
10. Jose Altuve finishes outside of the top-30 hitters.
I'm not a fan of paying for a breakout season, but Altuve proved me really wrong here as one of the best hitters in baseball. He nearly cracked the top-five again, finishing behind only Dee Gordon, A.J. Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper and Josh Donaldson.
How many Altuves does it take to make this fantasy baseball writer look stupid? One ... and that's exactly how many of these I got right.