When the idea was floated to run a bold predictions series as spring training wraps up, I went back and forth on participating. I prefer to stick with an 80/20 rule when acquiring fantasy baseball talent. I’m constantly asking myself, “what is the 80 percent probability of a player reaching a certain level of performance”. If I am acquiring a player who only has a 20 percent chance at reaching a level of performance, it’s typically a prospect for a dynasty league, where the rate of failure isn’t as important to the current season at hand.
That said, I then realized I still draft for upside at certain points in my draft or auction. Typically these upside players have a solid 80 percent floor, but perhaps something in their seasonal splits, Statcast data, or other performance metrics, show that another level, while not 80 percent likely, is at least residing below the surface.
Therefore, I give to you my 5 Bold Predictions for the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Season:
- Justin Upton will hit 40+ home runs: For anyone who stopped paying attention to fantasy baseball in July, you might think Upton had a horrible 2016 season. After all, Upton was hitting .231/.287/.373 (wow) through June. From July through the end of the season however, Upton hit .262/.336/.569 and appeared to be more comfortable at the plate. The flyball percentage (FB%) is North of 40 percent and the power metrics are all 30-40 percent above the league average rates. If Upton can get off to a hot start and continue it throughout the season (something he’s always had an issue with), the talent and skill is there for a 40+ home run season.
- Matt Carpenter will win the NL MVP: That’s right. The former light-hitting utility player, Matt Carpenter’s power is not only for real, but it’ll lead to him winning the MVP award in 2017. Health is the only issue that could stand in Carpenter’s way at this point. Over the last two seasons, Carpenter has shown an elite batting eye, 40%+ fly ball rates, along with hard contact data that puts him in the elite tier. Don’t let your eyes fool you, Carpenter is one of the best hitters in baseball.
- Chris Archer will win the AL CY Young Award: Many had high hopes for Archer entering the 2016 season. His first half pretty well tanked those hopes, as Archer posted a 4.50 ERA & 1.43 WHIP through June. From July on however, Archer regained his command, which led to a 1.04 WHIP and an expected ERA of 3.25 over said time period. With elite swing and miss stuff, along with a ground ball inducing ability, Archer stands a strong chance to finish atop the AL CY Young ballot in 2017.
- Byron Buxton will finish the season with 20 home runs and 40 stolen bases: The “this is the year for Buxton” crowd seems to change each day. For me, it’s not even about the insane September Buxton gave us in 2016 (.287/.357/.653) - although that helps, but rather the fact that Buxton is in line to just play regularly in 2017. Buxton will need to get off to a hot start to hold down a lineup spot towards the top of the order. If Buxton can do that, he stands a great chance to rack up enough at-bats to post a 20/40 season in 2017. Invest.
- PROSPECT PREDICTION: Tyler O’Neill (SEA) hits 20 home runs: Mariners’ top prospect Tyler O’Neill is slated to begin the season at AAA, but is an injury or under-performance by one of Jarrod Dyson, Leonys Martin, Mitch Haniger or Ben Gamel away from being called up to the big leagues. If the Mariners decide that the light-hitting, defense oriented outfield they’ve built is not going to work, O’Neill could be up to the major leagues as early as May. In 130 games at AA in 2016, O’Neill hit 24 home runs, with 12 stolen bases and a triple slash line of .293/.374/.508 at age 21. He’s also an insane athlete and Canadian - for whatever that is worth.
That does it for my 2017 bold fantasy baseball predictions. Bring on the discussion and “that’s not bold enough” banter in the comments below. We’ll revisit these come October and hopefully a few will at least be in the same ballpark as the numbers/awards thrown around above.