Since the MLBers are taking this week off from their usual work for some sort of exhibition game that counts for something important, I thought I would take a week off from 2 to Watch and review my bold predictions from before the season. I haven't looked at these since April, so you will be just as dismayed/surprised/sad/happy as I am at how they look so far.
I will offer insights or more predictions on what I expect for each player/prediction for the rest of the season as I go along. Hopefully everyone can get something out of this besides an opportunity to see how bad my predictions are (this ain't easy folks, it's harder than it looks). Without further adieu, let's get started with the fun?!
1. Pablo Sandoval will be a top 5 fantasy third baseman this year
Ouch. Not off to a good start here. I thought the move to Fenway would boost his doubles (the green monster can be really helpful) and his homers would increase outside of the pitcher's haven that is AT&T Park in San Fran. Unfortunately, his slugging is down from 0.415 last year to 0.384 and he is on pace for almost exactly the same number of doubles and homers as in 2014. He sits at #32 among hot corner guys on ESPN's player rater. Yikes.
To make matters worse, his walk rate is down, his average is down, and the Sox offense is nowhere near as good as I (hey! and others) predicted (more on this later). For what it's worth, all of the projection systems have his average and OBP bouncing back to 2014 levels and his rest-of-season slugging being in the 0.430-0.450 range. Still, I think you can only expect his 2014 value going forward, not the top-5 third baseman value I boldly predicted, so I don't see this happening at all.
2. Adam Wainwright will not be a top 40 fantasy starting pitcher
Alright! I got one! I was worried about his health before the season and my concerns were justified, even if I was worried about his elbow and it was his achilles that is costing him most of the season. He will be back fully healthy next year, but my elbow worries are just pushed back a year, so I'm still selling him for next year and beyond. He is 104 on the ESPN player rater right now, in case you were wondering.
3. Evan Marshall will lead the Diamondbacks in saves
I wish I could get partial credit for this one, but I really can't. I was right that Addison Reed is a terrible closer and would lose his job, which he did early in the season. He has now been demoted to AAA as things have spiraled out of control for him. Unfortunately, despite the gaping closer hole left by Reed, Marshall has had his own problems. He, too, finds himself trapped in AAA Reno along with Reed. He lasted just 13.1 innings with 'Zona before being sent down. His 6.08 ERA and 1.88 WHIP were obviously bad.
The strikeout potential and control he showed last year never showed up with only seven Ks and five walks. He hasn't really pulled it together in AAA yet, so this prediction is looking very bad. If you replace "Evan Marshall" with "Brad Ziegler" in my prediction, it would be 100% right. Marshall will probably be back up late in the year, but he is a long way from closing games in the Arizona desert.
4. Kennys Vargas will not get more than 400 ABs for Minnesota this season
This one is not yet determined, but it is looking good. His 0.340 BABIP last year covered up poor plate discipline making it look like he was ready for the transition from AA to the majors, but this season, he showed that he isn't ready yet. Despite a still-good 0.321 BABIP this year, his strikeouts and lack of walks have killed his average and OBP. Because pitchers are now fooling him, he isn't squaring up the ball as well and his power is down significantly with a 0.365 slugging (for a DH!).
All of those struggles forced the Twins to send him down to AAA. It is unclear how long he will need to stay down there to earn a promotion, but his 30% strikeout rate isn't going to help. He's at 159 ABs so far, so he would need to play basically every day in the second "half" to get to 400 for the year. I don't expect much more than a September callup at this point, so don't get your hopes up.
5. Travis Snider with finish 3rd on the Orioles in home runs
Oops. I really meant to say "Adam Jones" here. Well, it seems I can't get more than one right in a row. Snider's promising power from the second half of 2014 has disappeared this year. He has three home runs. Let's bold that. Three. Home. Runs. He is currently tied for 11th on the team in round-trippers. Adam Jones sits third with 14 homers, which isn't that many, but still too many for Snider to catch. Snider's projected for seven more homers, and even that would be a stretch. His HR+FB distance is 159th best at just 275 feet with the likes of Albero Callaspo and Chris Ianetta around him. Woof.
6. Miguel Cabrera will not be a top-4 first baseman
This is an interesting one. Just like with Wainwright I had injury concerns coming into the year. Also, just like with Wainwright, I was thinking of a different injury than the one that actually happened. I was worried about Cabrera's offseason foot and ankle surgery that limited him in spring training. I thought it would prevent him from playing until mid-May or so. It turns out that his ankle and foot were fine and he was playing like his usual self until an early-June calf injury sidelined him until at least late July and maybe into mid-August. He was on pace to handily best last season's numbers with 15 homers in only 77 games.
Since he is injured now, though, my prediction is looking good. He currently sits at exactly #4 on the ESPN player rater, but will fall more the longer he stays off the field. I need him to miss at least four or five more weeks to fall even further before I will feel safe about this. He can still hit better than just about anyone so he can climb back up to four pretty quickly once healthy. I do fully expect him to be elite once he returns but we don't really know when that will be. I am selling him in keeper leagues because I just think soft-tissue injuries and lower body injuries are going to keep happening to him in the future as he ages.
7. Steven Souza will be the best fantasy hitter on the Rays
I originally said he would be second best, but I decided that wasn't bold enough so I moved it to best. Souza has delivered on the power/speed promise he has always showed, but the strikeouts have been extreme. His walk rates have kept him usable in OBP leagues, but unfortunately he currently sits on the dreaded 15-day DL with a hand injury. He might be back in a week or two, according to some reports, but that might be too late to keep up with his teammates, Evan Longoria and Logan Forsythe (the surprise Ray of the year).
On the ESPN player rater, Souza sits in third on the team, but is only 0.54 points behind Forsythe for first on the team. Souza's slash line of 0.210/0.307/0.417 doesn't look impressive, but it comes with 15 homers and 10 steals, which is almost a Justin Upton counting stat line. I still like him despite the strikeouts for those great counting stats. I've got an outside chance at getting this one right. I'd put my chances at 40%.
8. Jose Ramirez (CLE) will have more than 500 ABs
Everyone was jumping on the Francisco Lindor bandwagon this spring and I wasn't buying it. I thought he would stay in AAA until August or September. Ramirez showed great plate discipline in the minors and good speed, so I thought he would at least hold his own in the majors this year and get to 500 ABs. Instead, he's put up a wRC+ of 36 (league average is 100) and been demoted to AAA. He's been called back up but who knows for how long and he's just Lindor's backup at this point. He sits at 153 ABs and there is no way he is getting to 500 this year. Sorry about this for anyone who bought into Jose. He is not who I thought he was.
9. Mookie Betts will finish as a top-3 second baseman (in leagues where he qualifies)
I love me some Mookie. It's a fact. I do not hide that. My thinking with this prediction was that he would bat leadoff on the best offense in baseball. Remember during Pablo's section above when I said there would be more on the Sox offense? Here it is: it sucks. Well, it doesn't completely suck, since it's still 12th in baseball, but I expected around 900 runs and they are on pace for just over 700. That, and some early season very bad BABIP luck that caused him to fall to the bottom of the order for a while, have made this one look worse than I expected.
Despite all that, he would fall 5th on the 2B list on ESPN's player rater (he doesn't qualify at 2nd in ESPN, but I put him there). He's still got a shot at third place but he would have to jump both Brian Dozier and Jason Kipnis, which isn't happening, so he is probably stuck in fifth for the rest of the year. I still love him as a fantasy asset, even in the outfield, since he offers a high floor, good speed, and a little pop and will still bat leadoff almost everyday.
10. James Paxton will be the 2nd best pitcher on the Mariners
Well, injuries suck. I think he would have an
good outside shot at this one with Iwakuma struggling and Walker having ups and downs, but he had to go and get injured. Again. After 58 innings of mediocre pitching this year, he hurt his finger and has been out since May. He has been injured a lot in his short career and there is still breakout potential there, but I just can't endorse him in any leagues yet. Injuries + average performance do not equal mixed league ownership. He is sixth on the ESPN player rater for Seattle starters and the eye-popping (/s) Mike Montgomery is sitting in second. James has too much ground to make up, but man is this rotation bad. It's Felix and then nothing right now.
Let's tally up my score so far this year. Best case scenario, I get four out of ten right. The most likely scenario is that I get two or three. I'll take it, these are not easy. I guess maybe I was bold enough after all. Check back next week for a new edition of 2 to Watch. Tschus!