I anguished over this year's gimmick, y'all. Two years ago, I crammed as many goofball jokes as I could into 30 predictions. Last year I made forecasts for just about every day of the season for a laugh. I didn't want to just come out and say, like, "Stuff's gonna happen," and not have a gimmick.
I texted people for ideas. I tweeted Kantecki. He was no help (he never is, and he's also a big ol' jerkhead who will never get anything right). I gave serious thought to coming up with 64 bold predictions and making my own predictions bracket, but that seemed (a) like a lot of work, and (b) like something no one in the world would ever, ever, ever want to read.
So I'm going simpler this year. There are six divisions. For each, I'm making three predictions: Bold, Bolder, Boldest. The Bold calls are things I think will happen, but I'm not going out on any crazy limb. The Bolder ones might not happen, but if they do I'll look awfully smart. As for the Boldest, I basically doubt that they'll happen to the extreme I list, but I put them here to give you an idea of the guys I'm really high (or low) on. It's not as zany as my normal, but hey, even Adam Sandler had to make Punch-Drunk Love, right?
I'll also toss some division/playoff predictions in here, because even if this is fantasy, I wanna write it, and you can't stop me. Ha ha ha. I laugh at you.
Here we go:
American League East
Bold: Whatever, Alex Rodriguez will be totally fantasy-relevant this year. He's going to hit 25 homers and hit .260 or so. Mark Teixeira will need days off. Garrett Jones will get the occasional start in right field or left field. There will be at bats for A-Rod, and he'll perform well with them. (Also, I hope he does even better than this. Hit 50, A-Rod. And then tell ‘em to stick it.)
Bolder: The last man standing in the Tampa rotation (it feels like), Jake Odorizzi makes a big rise. His strikeout numbers were great last year, but his control wasn't perfect and he ran into some bad luck. As a 25-year-old, I expect a big jump, filling in some of the holes that departures and injuries have left in the Tampa Bay rotation. A low-3's ERA, 200 innings and 230 strikeouts, a WHIP south of 1.10 are all well within his wheelhouse.
Boldest: Forget 2014. Chris Davis bounces back in a huge way. After losing 70 points off his OPS+ from 2013 to 2014, the Baltimore slugger gets most of it back this year. Maybe he doesn't hit .286, but maybe he does. Fifty homers again? Totally ion the table. I see maybe the American League's best first baseman. Serious MVP consideration is in the offing.
American League Central
Bold: It took me some time to buy in, but I see Yan Gomes making The Leap this year. First off, Carlos Santana isn't likely to catch more than a handful of games (if that), and Roberto Perez is just a guy who knows how to crouch. Assuming he's healthy, then, Gomes will start as many games behind the plate as his knees let him. He's working on a two-year OPS+ of 126, and that over a full season behind the plate is a superstar catcher. He'll be the No. 3 catcher, bare minimum, and could rise higher if Buster Posey and/or Jonathan Lucroy falter.
Bolder: I don't even care, Miguel Cabrera is going to have a bad year. Yes, I mean that by his own standards — I'm not projecting .230 with eight homers or anything — but I don't expect him to look like himself off the bat. He'll get healthy, sure, but he won't get any younger. And he's running out of superstar lineup-mates, especially if J.D. Martinez struggles to recreate his strong 2014. Cabrera is just another first baseman in 2015. It won't hurt the Tigers too much, because the AL Central is a bunch of average-to barely-above and David Price and Justin Verlander form a great 1-2 punch, but Cabrera won't be a superstar.
Boldest: After turning 30 in January, Jeff Samardzija sees his numbers take a dip in 2015. They already deteriorated with his move to the American League last year (ERA 2.83 with the Cubs, 3.14 with the A's; FIP went from 3.09 to 3.30) despite getting to pitch in Oakland. Now he's with the White Sox, who have a park that is at least as unfriendly as Wrigley Field, if not moreso. For all the moves the White Sox made in the offseason, they have a 35-year-old Adam LaRoche hitting cleanup. Samardzija scares. Not a top-40 starter.
American League West
Bold: My pick for maybe the most underrated player in baseball, Seth Smith is coming off a three-year stretch with a .764 OPS in 1,372 plate appearances, with his home games played in Oakland and San Diego. If there's one guy who shouldn't scare you moving to Seattle, it's him. And with him slated to likely hit second, behind Austin Jackson and ahead of Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, Smith should get plenty of opportunities. I think he'll be a fine option for a fantasy outfielder.
Bolder: You don't want to invest in Evan Gattis this year. He's already dealing with a wrist injury, which is a scary sign for a power hitter. He's not going to play first base over Jon Singleton, isn't going to catch over Jason Castro, and is pretty impressively bad in the outfield. If I'm the Astros, I'm treating the on-base-challenged Gattis as depth, as a luxury. Singleton at first base, Chris Carter at DH, and Colby Rasmus, Jake Marisnick and George Springer in the outfield. He won't be on any of my rosters.
Boldest: Wunderkind Mike Trout will have his worst season. He'll still be great, and the simple rule of "what's most likely to happen" says you still have to take him first overall, but this is basically an expectation of the other shoe dropping. If nothing else, dude's bound to get hurt eventually. But while I still expect an All-Star appearance and a strong fantasy contributor, I'll say now that he won't be the 2015 MVP, or even close. He doesn't even end up a top-five fantasy outfielder.
National League East
Bold: Everybody's favorite punch line, Ryan Howard will be wholly acceptable as a deep fantasy option this year. He won't do your batting average any favors, but Howard had 23 homers and 95 RBI even last year, and reports out of spring are that he looks strong and in shape for 2015. I don't want him as my starting first baseman, but as a corner infielder or a lottery-ticket type, I will be all over Howard.
Bolder: Off his career year, Dee Gordon doesn't make it a full season as the Marlins' starting second baseman. Even for a dude of his speed, his 2014 BABIP was unsustainably high, and it was accompanied by no power and not enough of an eye to make low on-base skills palatable. He'll get you some steals early, because he'll run every dang time he does reach base, but deal him as soon as anyone offers you anything. Either Martin Prado or Derek Dietrich will be starting at second by the All-Star break.
Boldest: It's time. Stephen Strasburg will be the Nationals' best starter this year, and he'll be a top-five starter across the game. He's been floating on the cusp of great every year so far, but at this point, he's 26, four years removed from Tommy John, and the reigning NL strikeout champion. Jordan Zimmermann will be good. Max Scherzer will be very good. But Strasburg? Cy Young Award winner.
National League Central
Bold: After an awful 2014, Jean Segura bounces back to being a fantasy contributor. I noted this in my player preview, but as overrated as Segura was entering 2014, he's that underrated entering 2015. A player with his skill set does not have a BABIP of .275. The power won't return, but the batting average, runs scored and steals will.
Bolder: This isn't difficult. Josh Harrison's year-by-year BABIP has been .304, .259, .253 and .353. I'm sure it's just a coincidence, then, that his successful season came with an unsustainably high BABIP. He'll regress this year, and in a big way. I'm not sure if that means Pedro Alvarez moves back to third and Corey Hart plays first, or if Jung Ho Kang can work at third, or how Pittsburgh approaches it. I do feel comfortable saying Harrison will be a fantasy disaster this year, and won't be a full-year starter.
Boldest: The Cardinals have a super-deep rotation. But as far as return on investment goes, the best pitcher there will be Jaime Garcia, who was an afterthought a couple months ago. Even in a rotation that already doesn't have room for Marco Gonzales after dealing Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller in the last year, Garcia has looked strong in spring training, and his experience and contract mean that, if he is healthy, he has to be on the roster — and his history of shoulder issues makes him an awful fit for a use-all-the-time reliever. Garcia has always produced when he's been healthy. You can get him for virtually nothing in drafts right now. And you should.
National League West
Bold: If you have Madison Bumgarner as a possible keeper, by all means, keep him. But if you're going to have to pay full price for him on draft day, I'd stay away. His innings from a year ago scare me, sure. But it's also the fact that, postseason aside, Bumgarner has been very good. But not great. People talk about him like he's in the just-behind-Clayton-Kershaw tier, hanging out with guys like Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer, but Bumgarner is at least a notch below those guys. He's been the first pitcher I've thrown out in every auction this year, trying to get someone else to burn their budget on him.
Bolder: This woulda been a "Boldest" a few weeks ago, but as we've seen more from the third-base glove of Yasmany Tomas in spring, we've learned some. And based on that, I'm saying Jake Lamb wins NL Rookie of the Year. That puts him ahead of Joc Pederson, Jung Ho Kang, a whole host of Cubs newbies, and even Noah Syndergaard, if he makes the team early. But Lamb has developed into a big prospect in his own right, with power and great on-base ability. (Did I get him for $1 at the end of a 12-team NL-only auction? I did.) He'll be the best Diamondback (non-Paul Goldschmidt division).
Boldest: New Rockie Nick Hundley becomes a top-six fantasy catcher. Wilin Rosario, frankly, isn't very good. His power doesn't nearly offset his defensive or on-base deficiencies. And if Michael McKenry were ever going to be anything, he would be by now. Meanwhile, Hundley is strong on defense and has enough power to earn a full-time job and make a go of it.
This is a weird year. With one obvious exception (Washington) and one probable one (the Dodgers), there just aren't any great teams. I tried really hard to project an American League team for 90 wins. Because a few of them have to, right? But damned if I couldn't realistically pick one. Baseball in 2015 is full of a bunch of good teams, each hoping for two or three breaks to make them very good. But they aren't there now.
|AL East||W||L||GB||NL East||W||L||GB|
|New York||80||82||8||New York||75||87||32|
|AL Central||W||L||GB||NL Central||W||L||GB|
|AL West||W||L||GB||NL West||W||L||GB|
|Los Angeles||87||75||1||San Diego||85||77||10|
|American League||National League|
|Most Valuable Player||Chris Davis||Troy Tulowitzki|
|Cy Young||David Price||Stephen Strasburg|
|Rookie of the Year||Andrew Heaney||Jake Lamb|
Wild card round:
Pirates over Padres
Angels over Royals
Nationals over Pirates in 3
Dodgers over Cardinals in 4
Red Sox over Angels in 3
Tigers over Mariners in 5
League championship series:
Nationals over Dodgers in 6
Tigers over Red Sox in 6
Nationals over Tigers in 5