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2016 MLB Predictions: Choose Your Own Adventure, Vol. 2

I have a setup I like! I'm running back my bold predictions setup from last year. Featuring some good Phillies, some bad White Sox, and for some reason the cast of "Friends."

Greg Fiume/Getty Images

When Friends ended, the stars basically all tried again. Matthew Perry had Studio 60, Mr. Sunshine and Go On before finding apparent success with The Odd Couple. Matt LeBlanc struck out with Joey before good times with Episodes. Courteney Cox had Dirt on the bad side, then Cougar Town ran for six seasons. Lisa Kudrow eventually found The Comeback; David Schwimmer is now a Kardashian.

You try, and you try, and eventually you find something that suits your skillset just right.

So three years ago, I wrote my serious of bold predictions as a series of corny jokes. I liked it, but it was fairly overwhelming to read. The next year, I ran through the baseball calendar for a season's worth of fun, goofy predictions, which was (yeah, yeah, IMHO) a fun read, but I only made a couple genuine predictions and didn't feel totally worthwhile.

But then last year, I came across a setup I liked. Choose your own adventure. Bold-Bolder-Boldest. Want some predictions that are genuine, but perhaps not that shocking? Go for Bold. Want some predictions that will knock your socks off? Well then, friend, you want Bolder. Want some predictions that I might not necessarily believe, but will be best- or worst-case scenarios for things that I generally believe the direction of? We're looking Boldest.

It served me well in 2015, so I'm runnin' it back for this year. Read on for some predictions modulated for your reading pleasure. And at the bottom, check out my predictions for some end-of-season numbers and results.

American League East

Bold: The Baltimore DH/RF/C quagmire doesn't produce anyone of fantasy significance. Even to start with, there was a reason Pedro Alvarez was available for so long. Mark Trumbo, too, keeps moving from team to team because, damnit, he isn't good. And now word is out that Matt Wieters can't really throw that much. The window for the Orioles might have closed, and if the team struggles as much as I generally expect this year, there's no reason to give non-long-term solutions like Alvarez and Trumbo and Wieters major time all season long. Ship ‘em out, shut 'em down, just stop using them.

Bolder: Hanley Ramirez is a top-tier fantasy 1B/OF. It's easy to look at the first month of 2015 for Ramirez, see .283/.340/.609 and say his May 4 shoulder injury killed the rest of his season. It's very easy, in fact. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong. Hanley Ramirez has too much of a track record to be done at 2015, at 31. I'd like Ramirez more if he maintained any eligibility at third base or shortstop, but even at the deep positions, I think he's one of the leaders of the Boston 2016 playoff push.

Boldest: Starlin Castro is the only real fantasy-relevant Yankee position player, especially once you consider draft stock. Maybe Brian McCann, just because catchers are catchers are catchers, but I'm not touching any of those oft-injured outfielders where I'd have to to get them. Alex Rodriguez is fun, and I'm rooting hard for him, but he's also a 40-year-old who just posted his best HR/FB since 2009 and tailed off badly in the second half of 2015. Mark Teixeira is aging as well. Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius aren't any great shakes. Meanwhile, Castro has dual eligibility at second and short, is still only 26, and god help me, I believe that a move to second base full time will help him. Considering the price to pay, Castro is the only hitter in New York I'm even looking at.

American League Central

Bold: Kevin Jepsen leads the Twins in saves. Glen Perkins has been the Twins' primary closer for three full seasons now. Each year, his save total has decreased and his FIP has increased. He's striking out fewer than ever before and his velocity the last two years has been at his lowest point. He just turned 33, and closers, as we know, burn hot and fast. Jepsen, meanwhile, filled in for an injured Perkins last year to the tune of 10 saves in 11 chances. He's no great closer-in-waiting himself, turning 32 in July, but he'll be the one Minnesota turns to if/when Perkins proves his best days are behind him.

Bolder: Todd Frazier turns out to be a bust in Chicago. Frazier's power in Cincinnati was always fairly unexpected, as his minor-leagues power numbers paled in comparison to his Cincinnati marks. Meanwhile, despite everything he's done to the positive in his career, Frazier is a 30-year-old with a .321 OBP, with a mark at .314 or below in two of the last three years. The White Sox keep adding players over the last two years with, from my perspective, no real idea for an approach, and this is symptomatic of that.

Boldest: Francisco Lindor is barely a top-20 shortstop. As I said above, the "Boldest" predictions are directional more than they are specific, so when I say he's near the end of the top 20, keep in mind that I'm more illustrating my point than I am naming a real rank. That said, offensively at least, Lindor played way over his head in 2015. His minor-league ISOs hovered around .110, but it was almost .170 with Cleveland. His BABIP in the major leagues was .358; it hadn't been above .341 since a five-game stretch in low-A in 2011 and generally sat around .310 or .320. He set professional bests in almost every rate stat last year, for no real reason. Lindor's defense will keep him valuable for baseball, but in fantasy? Maybe the most overrated player in the league this year.

American League West

Bold: Evan Gattis is benched/traded/released by midseason. I really thought the Astros would just nontender Gattis this offseason, as I can't for the life of me see what good he does a team. A career OBP under .300, an old-body DH who turns 30 this season, an injury to start the season. If we knew he'd get a full season of playing time, maybe his empty power can help you in fantasy, but if I'm the Astros, I would rather let Matt Duffy, A.J. Reed, Tyler White, anyone take the reins, and I'd do anything in my power to force Gattis to move on.

Bolder: Ketel Marte is back in the minors by the All-Star break. If nothing else, we have enough track record by now to know better than to trust Mariners prospects, Kyle Seager excluded. But what exactly does Marte have to offer? No power. Minimal batting eye. A fairly bad 72-percent success rate on the base paths in the minors, 67 percent in the majors. I fail to see why Marte is anything other than a new Brad Miller or Nick Franklin or Chris Taylor, and I certainly wouldn't be touching him in fantasy.

Boldest: Khris Davis sets a career high in home runs. His previous career best was just last year, with 27 home runs in only 440 plate appearances. The move to Oakland has people staying away from Davis at an alarming rate, but deeper numbers indicate his power should translate fine there. His OBP jumped 24 points from 2014 to 2015. Some are avoiding Davis because he's in Oakland, but I see at least 30 home runs.

National League East

Bold: Freddie Freeman isn't a top-15 fantasy first baseman. The position is super deep these days, and Freeman (a) has no one to drive in, (b) has no one to drive him in, (c) has never even reached 25 homers in a season, and (d) is apparently still dealing with a nagging wrist issue. I just don't know how he could do enough to make a dent at first base.

Bolder: The Phillies actually prove to have a core of their next contending team. I'm all about some Maikel Franco for 2016, and have drafted Jerad Eickhoff on several teams. Add in the imminent arrival of J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola being a full-season stud. And then Vincent Velasquez, Mark Appel, Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez? The Phillies aren't going to contend in 2016. They aren't going to be close. But they're closer than they appear.

Boldest: The Nationals' starting rotation is better than the Mets'. We all love this Mets' group, but try to be objective here. Matt Harvey is already injured, and we have no idea the severity. The next time Steven Matz has a full healthy season will be the first time. Bartolo Colon is holding on by grit and GIFs. Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are great, sure, but there are question marks here. Meanwhile, Max Scherzer was better than any Mets starter last year. Stephen Strasburg will have a season we've all expected from him eventually, damnit. Tanner Roark has talent, and Joe Ross and Lucas Giolito are going to be so, so good eventually. Gio Gonzalez is also around, for whatever that's worth. Give me Washington over New York in general, and even the starting rotations specifically.

National League Central

Bold: Chris Carter hits 35 home runs. That would be the second-best mark of Carter's career, behind his 37 in 2014. But dude still has insane power, sitting at a career .235 mark. And while in Houston he had to deal with the presence of Evan Gattis and Luis Valbuena and Jonathan Singleton and whoever else, in Milwaukee, if Carter struggles, who the heck will take his time? Ramon Flores? No, Carter might only hit .195 for the Brewers, but he'll do it in 600 plate appearances, and he'll wind up with 35 or 40 home runs.

Bolder: Playing both the outfield and the infield, Jose Peraza puts up 45 steals. We all know that Billy Hamilton comes into 2016 with more question marks than The Riddler. That masks the issues with Zack Cozart, who was a career offensive disaster before a couple good months in 2015. And we know the Reds want to ditch Brandon Phillips. Basically, Peraza will find himself with playing time, one way or another, or even another after that. He'll provide a decent batting average, albeit an empty one, but a bunch of singles on a team going nowhere can only lead to steals. He's not Hamilton-fast, but Peraza should be a strong contributor in steals this season.

Boldest: Here's the entire list of Cardinals who return draft-day value: Matt Carpenter. Maybe Jhonny Peralta, considering his drop in ADP since his injury, but that's it. Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina are clearly on the wrong side of the aging curve. Matt Adams hasn't shown he can actually do it yet. Kolten Wong will lose time to Jedd Gyorko. Stephen Piscotty is more of a baseball player than a fantasy player; Randal Grichuk strikes out way too much. On the pitching side, Adam Wainwright is also on the wrong side of the aging curve, while I'm starting to wonder if Michael Wacha will ever really do it. Carlos Martinez has health questions, and Jaime Garcia is a walking health question. And if I'm right about the team-at-large struggling, then Trevor Rosenthal won't get nearly as many save chances as we've grown accustomed to. Draft Carpenter. Avoid the rest.

National League West

Bold: Jeff Samardzija doesn't see a bounceback. I was right about him struggling in the American League last year, but even I didn't expect Samardzija to only strike out 6.86 guys per nine innings. He gave up the most hits and the most runs in the league, meaning Samardzija contributed in basically zero parts of fantasy in 2015. A move to San Francisco can't hurt, but this simply isn't the same pitcher he was a few years ago. You can't touch Samardzija for the price he's commanding until and unless he shows he can contribute again.

Bolder: Relative to cost to acquire, Patrick Corbin will be the best Diamondbacks pitcher. Zack Greinke will still be excellent, sure, but he's due for a regression after putting up an xFIP almost double his ERA in 2015. And of course, home games in Arizona are worse than home games in Los Angeles. Shelby Miller, too, is getting overdrafted. Meanwhile, Corbin looked good last year in his return from Tommy John, and track records indicate guys are even better in their second years back. Target Corbin.

Boldest: Yasiel Puig is the best fantasy Dodger offensive player, and not by a little. Injuries are already sapping Andre Ethier's and Yasmani Grandal's chances, while Corey Seager has yet to prove himself. I like Joc Pederson to rebound, and Adrian Gonzalez ain't going anywhere, but Puig is where the money is. In what was basically a worst-case-scenario 2015, Puig still managed a 111 wRC+; give him even a little more love this year and he's going to look better. It feels like he's supposed to be advanced in age, but he's still only 25. I expect an all-star season with some downballot MVP love.

Final standings

As I said on Twitter recently, there's been a lot of talk about a super-elite class of the National League, with six teams not even trying, one or two in the middle, and seven or eight teams in contention. But I just don't see that. I see four very good National League teams, four or five really bad ones, and the middle of the road much more up for grabs. Meanwhile, in the American League, it's more of the same of last year, with 15 teams and maybe 13 of them having a viable argument for the playoffs. It leads to a lot of middle-of-the-road records, which isn't sexy, but is more realistic.

AL East W L GB
NL East W L GB
Boston Red Sox 91 71 --

Washington Nationals 94 68 --
Tampa Bay Rays 88 74 3
New York Mets 88 74 6
Toronto Blue Jays 87 75 4
Miami Marlins 80 82 14
New York Yankees 81 81 10
Philadlephia Phillies 71 91 23
Baltimore Orioles 74 88 17
Atlanta Braves 64 98 30

AL Central W L GB
NL Central W L GB
Detroit Tigers 89 73 --

Chicago Cubs 96 66 --
Kansas City Royals 86 76 3
Pittsburgh Pirates 95 67 1
Cleveland Indians 83 79 6
St. Louis Cardinals 78 84 18
Chicago White Sox 74 88 15
Milwaukee Brewers 65 97 31
Minnesota Twins 70 92 19
Cincinnati Reds 60 102 36

AL West W L GB
NL West W L GB
Texas Rangers 92 70 --

Arizona Diamondbacks 87 75 --
Houston Astros 90 72 2
San Francisco Giants 85 77 2
Seattle Mariners 82 80 10
Los Angeles Dodgers 83 79 4
Oakland Athletics 76 86 16
Colorado Rockies 77 85 10
Los Angeles Angels 70 92 22
San Diego Padres 74 88 13

Award winners

American League National League
Most Valuable Player Mookie Betts Bryce Harper
Cy Young Chris Archer Max Scherzer
Rookie of the Year Byung Ho Park Corey Seager


Wild card round:
Mets over Pirates
Rays over Astros

Division series:
Cubs over Diamondbacks in 4
Nationals over Mets in 5
Rangers over Rays in 5
Red Sox over Tigers in 3

League championship series:
Nationals over Cubs in 6
Red Sox over Rangers in 6

World Series:
Nationals over Red Sox in 7