The forthcoming list of predictions is my best attempt to produce somewhat controversial, somewhat bold predictions for fantasy baseball in 2015. Hopefully, they are bold enough to not make me look like I just took the easy route. Let's dive in.
1. Pablo Sandoval will be a top 5 fantasy third baseman this year
I ranked him at #4 in our consensus rankings, so I'm just being consistent here. You can check out why I am so bullish on him in Boston in this (panda in beantown) article. I love the ballpark, the lineup, and just a bounceback season. Buy in now. There's still room on the bandwagon!
2. Adam Wainwright will not be a top 40 fantasy starting pitcher
Wainwright has been a fantasy ace for five straight years, with a good ERA and elite WHIP, decent strikeouts, and 200+ innings almost every year. I wrote here (sp to avoid) about why Wainwright is in big trouble healthwise and why you should avoid drafting him at all costs.
3. Evan Marshall will lead the Diamondbacks in saves
If you have been reading my work about relief pitchers, you know I love Marshall and don't care for Addison Reed, so this is obvious. I think Marshall has the best skills in that bullpen and will eventually emerge as the closer.
4. Kennys Vargas will not get more than 400 ABs for Minnesota this season
Vargas did very well last year in his MLB debut, but it was based on a .340 BABIP and he just doesn't walk much and strikes out too much for my liking. He went straight from AA to MLB last year and I think he will spend some time in AAA this season to work on hitting breaking pitches. Minnesota has Josmil Pinto, Joe Mauer, Trevor Plouffe, and maybe Miguel Sano to cycle through the DH slot. Old man Torii Hunter might get some time there also, so Vargas isn't guaranteed 162 starts at DH. This is just a hunch based on him getting sent down for a while at some point.
5. Travis Snider will finish 3rd on the Orioles in home runs
Basically, I am predicting he will finish behind only Chris Davis and Adam Jones. That means he would beat out Steve Pearce, J.J. Hardy, Matt Wieters, and others. It doesn't have to be those specific guys for me to get this right, he just has to finish 3rd on the team. I think he gets lots of at bats in the outfield and I like what I saw out of him at the end of last year, when he got full-time ABs in Pittsburgh. He was once a top prospect, but disappointed for years. Maybe he is just a late bloomer and this will be his breakout year.
6. Miguel Cabrera will not be a top-4 first baseman
This would be unthinkable to say anytime in the past four to five years, but now I am saying it. This is mainly because I think years of built-up injuries will take their toll on his playing time and prevent him from surpassing Goldy, Abreu, and Encarnacion, to name three. I just don't think he will be healthy enough to crack that top four group.
7. Steven Souza will be the
second best fantasy hitter on the Rays
I'm a big believer in Souza and he was my outfielder to target in our staff targets post. His combination of speed and a little pop will allow him to beat out every hitter not named Longoria on that team in total fantasy value. That means he will beat out Desmond Jennings, Nick Franklin, Asdrubal Cabrera, Kevin Kiermaier and others. Ah, this isn't bold enough. Let's take it up a notch. That's right, he will be the best fantasy hitter on the entire team! Your move, Longoria!
8. Jose Ramirez (CLE) will have more than 500 ABs
Ramirez is a defensively solid, fast, decent-hitting shortstop that is keeping the spot warm for Francisco Lindor in Cleveland. Everyone assumes that Ramirez will be pushed aside and become just a bench player. I'm not so sure. I think Lindor will be up much later than everyone assumes and that Ramirez will still get good ABs even with Lindor in the lineup. He's a sneaky late steal in drafts for a shortstop that can get you some decent steals. He won't give you much power at all, but he's got that speed and should have a good average.
9. Mookie Betts will finish as a top-3 second baseman (in leagues where he qualifies)
I love me some Mookie. I think he will hit leadoff for the Sox all year and rack up steals and runs all over the place. Throw in 10-15 homers and you've got a top-3 option at second. I wish he qualified at second in all leagues, but he didn't get enough time there last year to qualify in most leagues. Sigh. If you are in a Yahoo league, count yourself lucky and draft him to be your second baseman and enjoy the rewards.
10. James Paxton will be the second best pitcher on the Mariners
Read this to find out why I'm in on Paxton this year. I think there is real breakout potential and he is being overlooked with Felix, Iwakuma, and top prospect Taijuan Walker in the same rotation. Picking him to best two of those three in fantasy value is hopefully a bold assertion. I am betting on some injury/regression/age from Iwakuma to bring him down a little and Walker is a little further behind Paxton in his development curve, so Walker could be the better pitcher long-term, just not in 2015.
There you have it. 10 statements that you may or may not think are bold. I like to normally play the percentages and play it safe, so I stretched for this to come up with predictions that rely on luck and skill improvement (or bad luck, injury, and age-related decline) more than predicted by the largest projection systems, based on my opinions of these players. Tschus!