With less than a week to go to the season, we've talked about our rankings, both in the majors and for prospects. We've mentioned which players we think we'd target, and which we would avoid in your upcoming drafts. It's time for the annual throwing of things against the wall to see which ones may stick with Bold Predictions! Do I necessarily give any of these predictions more than a 5-10% chance of coming true? Nope. But I can see them happening potentially though, or I wouldn't bother predicting them at all. With that in mind, let's look at my 10 predictions related to prospects for the 2016 season.
1. The Phillies bring up the bulk of their top prospects at the highest levels at the All-Star break, and at least three of them will affect the final result of your fantasy league.
The Phillies aren't expected to do much this season, but with the wealth of talent they have in the high minors right now, they're not as far away from competing as you might expect. J.P. Crawford, Mark Appel, Jake Thompson, Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro are all expected to see time at AAA this season, and I can see them all being allowed to get their feet wet at the major league level in expectation of a push in 2017.
2. The Twins' outfield prospect who helps your fantasy team the most this season is Max Kepler, and not Byron Buxton.
This one isn't even necessarily a reflection of Buxton, but more of what Kepler can be. The potential is for him to provide a high batting average, some power, some speed, and overall value across all five categories. Kepler can also play all three outfield spots as well as first base, allowing for more options for him to see regular playing time. If I had to guess on the scenario that causes this, it's that we see regression from Eddie Rosario to the point where he ends up back in the minors to straighten things out.
3. Amir Garrett makes more starts in the major leagues in 2016 than Robert Stephenson for the Reds.
I'm a big believer in Garrett now that he's concentrating fully on baseball, and I can see a scenario where the Reds opt to bring up Garrett rather than Stephenson to help balance out the rotation slightly from a L/R perspective. Roster Resource currently has Tim Melville slotted in as a member of the Reds' rotation, and I think that only continues as long as Melville is effective. With the potential for Stephenson to struggle with his command (as he's done in each of the last two seasons), I can see him remaining at AAA for the full season.
4. Tyler Glasnow wins the National League Rookie of the Year over Corey Seager and Steven Matz.
It can be a bit easier for a pitcher to win the Rookie of the Year award over a position player, and with the back end of the Pirates' rotation currently filled with Juan Nicasio and Jeff Locke, Glasnow should force his way up at some point during the year. We could be looking at a similar level of performance to what Noah Syndergaard did last year when he's up.
5. The Cubs grab an elite young starting pitcher at the trade deadline, acquiring Sonny Gray and Sean Doolittle from the Athletics in exchange for Willson Contreras, Dan Vogelbach, and two other prospects.
The Cubs are well built to compete this year, and still have a wealth of prospects available to trade or fill in as needed. It's entirely possible this is wishful thinking on this A's fan's part, but I don't particularly see the A's competing this season, and I think they take the opportunity to substantially restock the farm system by the middle of the season. By acquiring a young ace who is under control for three more seasons as a hedge against Jake Arrieta's potential free agency after 2017, the Cubs can use that depth to their advantage.
6. Blake Snell and Jacob Faria combine to make 23 starts in the majors, striking out 135 in 125 innings with a combined 3.65 ERA.
Both pitchers are close to contributing in the majors, and injuries end up forcing the Rays to use both Snell and Faria for extended periods of time during the year. Both pitchers are well suited to fantasy value long-term, especially Snell, who would be starting for a lot of teams right out of Spring Training.
The Rangers can still use an upgrade behind the plate, and if Lucroy can show that he's healthy, he's a steal given his contract situation. While still an elite talent, the Rangers can afford to part with Joey Gallo IF they believe Adrian Beltre can still play at a reasonable level over the next couple seasons.
8. Brendan Rodgers tears through the minor leagues in 2016, reaching AA by the All-Star break and forcing his way to AAA Albuquerque by the end of the season.
Rodgers won't turn 20 until August, but with an excellent profile at shortstop and at the plate, I can see him causing the team to move him fast in order to keep him challenged at the plate.
9. Dylan Bundy is not with the Orioles organization at the end of the season.
The decision to sign him to a major league contract looms large, as he has used up all his options at this point and will need to stay with the team all year or be exposed on waivers. At some point, the Orioles could need that roster spot, and will have to make a decision on keeping Bundy or not, and one of the rebuilding teams would absolutely take a shot on his upside.
10. The Yankees call up last year's top draft pick, James Kaprelian, before the end of the season to help provide some extra days off to the rest of the rotation.
Not exactly brimming with depth at the start of the season, the Yankees have Kaprelian make three starts in September for the big club to help provide an extra day per turn for Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nate Eovaldi, and Luis Severino down the stretch.
The Usual Predictions
AL Division Champs: Toronto, Kansas City, Houston
NL Division Champs: New York, Chicago, Arizona
AL Wild Cards: Texas over New York
NL Wild Cards: Pittsburgh over Washington
Toronto over Texas, Houston over Kansas City
Chicago over Pittsburgh, New York over Arizona
Toronto over Houston
Chicago over New York
AL MVP: Josh Donaldson
NL MVP: Anthony Rizzo
AL Cy Young: Cole Hamels
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara
NL Rookie of the Year: Tyler Glasnow