With Bold Predictions week in full swing, here are my 10 bold predictions for the 2016 MLB season and fantasy baseball, in particular.
FYI, I got four out of 10 right last year, which I think was pretty good. Let's ignore how laughably wrong some of them were, however (Panda, what happened?).
1. Neither Drew Smyly or Adam Wainwright throw more than 100 innings this season
Smyly has a bad history of shoulder injuries, which are prone to recurrence, and he showed up on Bradley Woodrum's Tommy John risk model top 10. I really like him as a player and think he has the skills to be a solid #2 starter, but there are just too many injury risks here. He might be Jaime Garcia 2.0.
Speaking of Cardinals, Wainwright is now five years removed from his Tommy John surgery and research has shown that the four year mark is when a high risk for a second tear occurs. Anything beyond that four year mark pushes the risk even higher. Last year, it was his Achilles that cut his season short, but I'm still worried about that elbow and will continue to avoid him.
2. Carlos Correa will not finish as the #1 fantasy SS
Look, I love Correa and he is a budding superstar, no doubt about it. However, I think everyone is just assuming that after less than one season he will claim the top SS spot with no issue. He needs to overcome the dreaded "sophomore slump" and continue to hit like he did last year with a whole offseason of tape for pitchers to study. Just like Mike Trout has had to adjust as pitchers find his weaknesses, Correa will also need to prove that he can make adjustments as pitchers figure him out.
I'm not going to say he finishes outside the top 5 at the position (I'm not insane), but there are other great players that I believe will beat him out for the top spot. Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, Corey Seager, and Troy Tulowitzki all have the talent to take that spot from Correa.
3. Jake Lamb will finish as a top 10 3B
Keith Law loves this guy and I see what he is getting at. After foot injuries slowed him in 2015, I think Lamb will be able to tap into his talent more this season. The scouting reports seem to say he could be something like Eric Hosmer, with a good average and OBP, and about 15 home runs. If he can rack up enough counting stats in a solid Dbacks lineup, I think he can crack the top 10, like Mike Moustakas did last season.
4. Tony Zych gets more than 10 saves
If you've been reading my posts about relievers, my post about the Mariners bullpen, or Ray's post about closer sleepers, then you know that he and I are all over Zych in Seattle. He's the most talented pitcher in that bullpen and talent often wins out in the end. He needs to pass a shaky Steve Cishek and a solid, but aging Joaquin Benoit to get to some saves. I think both are achievable and he ends up with more than 10 saves by the end of the season.
5. Tyler White gets more than 400 ABs
I know we are all super excited for the arrival of A.J. Reed in Houston, but before that can happen, there is another Astros 1B/3B/DH prospect that deserves some attention. He dominated the Dominican Winter League, and he is crushing the ball this spring. He is old for a prospect at 27 and has been a late bloomer, but that doesn't change the fact that he has earned a starting spot this season. Evan Gattis might miss the beginning of the season, opening a spot for White.
Further, Jon Singleton has been awful this spring and might be sent back to AAA. Luis Valbuena isn't an all-star, either, so he's not a huge road block to playing time. All of this means that White should be around a lot this year. I love his high-OBP, high-average, average-power approach and the high floor it gives him. I'm buying him where I can to see if I can get in on the ground floor for perhaps the future DH of the Astros.
6. Ketel Marte is a top 10 SS
Another Keith Law breakout pick from the same article linked for Lamb, Marte has some good high-floor skills that give him a great chance at returning value. He walks a lot, has good speed, and should bat high in the order in Seattle ahead of Cano, Seager, and Cruz, all of whom can certainly knock him in. He is usually drafted outside the top 10 at the position (#15 on Fantasy Pros ADP). I think this is less risky than most people think. I'd take him over Elvis Andrus, Jean Segura, and Starlin Castro, to name three ahead of him in ADP that I like less.
7. Byron Buxton finishes outside the top 50 outfielders
It pains me to say this about a guy I've been stashing for over two years now in a dynasty league, but Buxton has simply missed too much development time with all of his injuries to tap into his raw talent this season. He didn't even use his most MLB-ready skill (80-grade speed) very efficiently last season. He was caught stealing far too many times for a guy with his speed (he was two for four on steal attempts). His average and OBP were also well below expectations.
Spring training stats aren't to be trusted too much, but a 0.610 OPS this year isn't great. I think he needs a full season in AAA to adjust to the higher level. He's still just 22 years old and the Twins might be ok waiting on him and using Danny Santana in center for now. He might still be a superstar someday, but I don't think he emerges this year.
8. Byung Ho Park finishes outside the top 200 hitters
I know there is a lot of hype around this Korean import and that he showed good power across the Pacific, but I'm not ready to buy in. The scouting reports I've seen haven't been nearly as encouraging as the ones I saw for countryman Jung-ho Kang going into last season. They say he has some plate discipline issues and that he will have to adjust to the quality of pitching in MLB. I think the power is legit and he's in a decent ballpark for left-handed power, but I'm worried about contact issues making him no better than Chris Carter or Mark Reynolds.
He's 29 years old and probably near or just past his peak. This spring, he has hit 3 home runs and put up a great 0.543 slugging, but with 12 Ks to 1 BB. I'm not saying it's a guarantee he struggles, but I just think the hype of a guy we haven't seen produce in MLB has gotten too big and I'm not going to buy in.
9. Carlos Carrasco is a top 5 starting pitcher
If you read my Cleveland Indians team preview, you know how much I love this guy. He was also my starting pitcher to target in our staff targets post. His swinging strike percentage, K%-BB%, xFIP, SIERA, and other stats are all in an elite class already. He just needs to get his ERA to match. If he can do that, he can easily crack the top 5. I think he is better than his teammate Kluber and can compete with Keuchel for the second-best AL starter.
I have Kershaw, Scherzer, Arrieta, and Sale as my top 4, but this other group, along with Cole, Archer, Price, Harvey, and deGrom are in the mix. All those great names competing for that fifth spot is what makes this a bold prediction, I guess. This is all just a round-about way of me saying I love Carlos Carrasco. That is all.
10. Taijuan Walker finishes outside the top 50 starting pitchers
I'm going to end with another starter. This one has received some big preseason hype given his raw talent, prospect pedigree, and the fact that he's had a full season in MLB to adjust. I just don't think it's a forgone conclusion that he reaches his potential this year. I can't help but think of someone like Kevin Gausman, who was lauded as a top pitching prospect with great raw stuff that just hasn't figured it out yet. Nathan Eovaldi, Trevor Bauer, these are other examples. Archie Bradley and Mark Appel are two more guys with lots of raw talent that have been delayed in reaching their potential.
My point is that Walker isn't guaranteed significant improvement this year. Maybe he will be like Garrett Richards, who took some time to find success with his great pitches. I would just rather bet on another young pitcher that has demonstrated more skill at this level already than pay the price necessary to get this guy in drafts. He's the 45th SP off the boards using Fantasy Pros ADP. Some guys behind him I like more: John Lackey, Luis Severino, Jake Odorizzi, Yordano Ventura, Gio Gonzalez, Patrick Corbin, Jason Hammel, Joe Ross, and Clay Buchholz. That's a big list. Don't buy into the hype and take one of those safer picks. Tschus!