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5 bold third base predictions for 2020

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Vladimir Guerrero Jr. returns expected value this year

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Third Base Week is in full swing with rankings and some deep sleepers ready for your viewership. Today it’s time for some bold predictions:

1. We see a 10% decrease in RBIs from 3B in 2020.

Justification: Going along with my continued notion that whatever is going on with the ball comes back to Earth a bit this year, I think 3B saw the biggest spike of all positions. 2018 vs. 2017: down 0.5%, 2018 vs. 2019: up 15%. This was due to a 26% increase in HR from the position! I think we see this regress a bit in 2019 as 3B starts to lose some of its place as the pinnacle position.

2. More 3B land on the top 10 list for strikeouts than any other position

Justification: Last year it was RF and LF, each which had two players (Ronald Acuna Jr, Bryce Harper, Jorge Soler and Wil Myers) but this year you have this list of potential K artists: Eugenio Suarez (who led the league last year), Miguel Sano, Yoan Moncada, Josh Donaldson, Hunter Dozier, Matt Chapman and Kris Bryant (all top 50 in K’s last season).

3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has his breakout year as we see his Runs and RBIs each go above 85 (and he even steals a base!)

Justification: There are three pieces that will play into this. First, his HR will see an increase as he seems to be a player who steadily improves instead of what we have become accustomed to (players coming in raking from Day 1). In March and April he batted .214, May .253, June .255, July .284, August .341 and then a regression in September/October (but I’m inclined to really follow the five consecutive improving months). Second, this could equally be a cause for concern but last year he had oblique issues, knee issues and hand issues. Maybe, if he can be modestly healthy, we see different numbers. Third, the Blue Jays were, ahem, not good last year but now they have an all or none strong young squad with Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Rowdy Tellez and Danny Jansen.

4. Jon Berti leads the position in steals, a full 15% ahead of the next closest player

Justification: Jon Berti is FAST. His SPD of 7.1 would have put him among the five fastest in the league if he met the minimum AB. Ahead of him is Mallex Smith, Danny Santana, Trea Turner and Staling Marte (all of them had 20+ steals last year). Last year he had 17 with only Jose Ramirez ahead of him according to MLB.com (apparently they didn’t include Santana). This year Jose Ramirez should see a commensurate amount of steals but Jon had just 73 games to go with his 17 steals. It’s not unrealistic to see him eclipsing 30 stolen bases.

5. Teammates Mike Moustakas and Eugenio Suarez are both in top 5 in: Runs, RBIs and HR

Justification: Mike has a .250 BABIP last year, we should see that rise a bit this year. He is among the top five 3B in home runs over the last two years (ahead of him are Manny Machado, Alex Bregman, Nolan Arenado and Eugenio Suarez). Eugenio might dip from the 49 home runs he had last year (most among 3B) but he has seen three straight years of most of his metrics improving. Both now sit on a stacked team that includes, Nicholas Castellanos, Joe Votto, Nick Senzel and newly acquired Shogo Akiyama. I think the Reds will be a solid force to be reckoned with in 2020.

2019 (Last Year’s) Bold Third Base Predictions

1 . Three times as many 3B have 100+ walks as any other position

Result: Alex Bregman (#1 – 119); Josh Donaldson (#7 – 100) while there were more 3B than other positions, it was by a measure of 2x, not 3x. Close but not quite there.

2. No third baseman lands in the Top 10 in hits.

Result: See #4, I was doing fine on this until Rafael Devers came by and finished 2nd. Technically Nolan Arenado finished 9th but I hope the point came across that generally, 3B are not a source of hits, but instead power and home runs.

3. Josh Donaldson is a Top 8 Third Baseman

Result: Final results had him as 10th best with his 96 Runs, 94 RBIs, four stolen bases, .259 AVG and .521 SLG. If you remember he was not fondly sought after in 2019 after playing just 52 games between Toronto and Cleveland in 2018. This one was close but not quite there.

4. Rafael Devers finishes outside the Top 20 at Third Base.

Result: Chalk this up as my big miss of 2019. I really thought he would continue to struggle to find his way but he went NUTS having 129 runs and 115 RBIs with eight Stolen Bases and a .311 batting average.

5. Alex Bregman has 50% more steals than he did in 2018

Result: I should have amended this the opposite way to say 50% less. After stealing 17 bases in 2017 he regressed to 10 in 2018. I erroneously assumed he could climb back up but instead he stole just 5 in 2019 only committing 6 total attempts which was less than half of what he attempted in 2018 and just 1/3 of what he attempted in 2017.