Its time to have fun with some predictions. Some of my predictions are bold and some are BOLD but none of them are crazy. All of these things have a decent chance of actually happening, at least in my mind anyway. I can’t wait to brag about my psychic prognostication skills come October.
I am stepping out on a thin limb here with my first bold prediction because this rare feat has been done only one time in the history of baseball…
1. Billy Hamilton will steal 100 bases while scoring less than 100 Runs.
Take a look at Vince Coleman’s strange 1986 batting line:
PA — 670
R — 94
H — 139
2B — 13
3B — 8
HR — 0
RBI — 29
SB — 107
CS — 14
BA — 0.232
OBP — 0.301
SLG — 0.280
OPS — 0.581
OPS+ — 62
That is all sorts of ugly. Coleman got a lot of fanfare that season because of his antics on the basepaths, but he was just plain terrible batting in front of Tom Herr, Jack Clark, Andy Van Slyke, Terry Pendleton, Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith. The two are often compared, but Billy Hamilton is likely to be a much better all-around player than Vince Coleman both offensively and defensively. Hamilton won’t hit many home runs but he will get a lot more doubles and will hit for a much better slash line than Coleman, who finished his career with a very poor .668 OPS. My bold prediction is Hamilton will match Coleman’s dubious feat his rookie year but will get much better as time goes by.
2. Joey Votto will be the National League MVP.
Much has been made of Votto’s shrunken HR and RBI totals last year. His 24 homers and 73 RBIs were not what his fantasy owners had hoped for, but the rest of his numbers were right in line with his career norms. His 154 OPS+, 0.400 wOBA, 0.329 TAv and 156 wRC+ scores show just how good Votto really was last year and disprove the notion that his skills are diminishing. Votto will be a beast in 2014.
3. Kevin Gausman will be the American League Rookie of the Year.
Masahiro Tanaka, Xander Bogaerts and Yordano Ventura are the frontrunners to take home the ROY hardware, but Kevin Gausman will be the man in the end. Gausman’s 2013 stats look miserable at first glance. His 3-5 record and 5.66 ERA were caused mostly by the 7 home runs he gave up in his first 24 innings. After that he settled down and only gave up one homer in his remaining 23 innings. Other than the home runs his stats and ratios were all very good. His 3.04 xFIP and his 3.07 SIERA were both fantastic. He posted stellar 9.25 K/9 and 3.77 K/BB ratios. His minor league stats were excellent as well. Gausman is an elite pitching prospect. He will start the season in the minors, but the Orioles starting rotation is full of mediocre hurlers who will not block him from getting the call when he is ready. The Orioles will bring him up to the show in May and Gausman will take the league by storm.
4. Neither Mike Trout nor Miguel Cabrera will win the AL MVP Award.
The last two years Mikey and Miggy have blown away the rest of the field in the MVP race, but this year it will be Cabrera’s former Tiger teammate Prince Fielder who takes home the honor. Cecil’s son had a down year in 2013 by his standards, OPSing only .819 and hitting a meager 25 home runs. Now moving to a very nice ballpark for hitters with a strong lineup top to bottom, Prince will return to his normal practice of crushing baseballs. Prince will take home the MVP hardware for an epic 100 Run, 40 Home Run, 130 RBI, .300 AVG season.
5. Dan Haren will lead the Dodgers in Wins.
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are the Cy Young Award winners with mega-contracts, but Haren will build on his nice 2nd half of 2013 to make his own case for accolades in 2014. Haren posted a 5.61 ERA and 1.42 WHIP prior to the All Star game last year, then flipped to a 3.52 ERA and 1.02 WHIP after the break. He will be pitching in a nice pitchers’ park in front of a stellar Dodgers’ offense that will score plenty of runs for him to rack up the Wins this year. It may seem like it happened in a prior life, but Haren has a long history of ace-like success on the mound and the conditions are perfect for him to return to that level in 2014.
6. Dillon Gee will outrank Matt Moore among starting pitchers.
Matt Moore is a former elite prospect who blasted his way to a 17-4 record and 3.29 ERA in 2013, but his peripherals were not so attractive. Gee flies way under the radar these days but this guy can pitch. He was stellar after the All Star break last year and I think he is just simply a better pitcher than Moore. Gee got off to a rough start last year due to lingering complications from a blood clot in his pitching shoulder. He put up an ugly 4.32 ERA and heinous 1.44 WHIP in the first half, but romped to a 2.74 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in the second half. If Gee pitched for a good team he would be a top 25 pitcher right now, but the Mets offense won’t do him any favors.
7. Melky Cabrera will finish the season as a Top 100 player.
The Melk Man was a fantasy stud in 2011 and 2012, at least until he got busted for PEDs. Last year his numbers were terrible. Many people assume he sucked because the “juice” wore off and exposed his prior success as a mirage. But the truth is Cabrera played hurt all last year. He dealt with multiple injuries and illnesses that combined to drag down his stats. Now he is healthy and will return to his days of being a stealthy fantasy contributor in all 5 roto categories.
8. Jonathan Lucroy will be the #1 Catcher in fantasy leagues this year.
Last year Lucroy finished as the 3rd most productive catcher, which might catch some folks by surprise considering he is only ranked as the 7th best catcher on Fantasy Pro’s consensus rankings this Spring. His per-game stats were even better in 2012 but he only played 96 games due to a freak off-field injury. Lucroy plays more games than most catchers because he also plays 1st base once a week, which boosts his counting stats considerably. This year Lucroy will put everything together and produce a stellar batting line of 65 Runs, 20 Home Runs, 85 RBIs, 10 Steals and .300+ AVG.
9. Xander Bogaerts will get sent to the minors.
I love Xander Bogaerts for the long haul, but he is still a young kid with the heavy burden of high expectations. He will struggle extensively to start the season and the Red Sox will sign Stephen Drew to take over at shortstop while they send Bogaerts down to AAA to focus on the basics, make some adjustments and regain his confidence. Unlike Mike Trout, the vast majority of superstar players over the last century of baseball history were not studs right from the beginning of their major league careers. Most star players struggled for awhile before hitting their stride and becoming dominant players. Xander will follow that path by having some ups and downs this year before launching to stardom next season. If you want him just wait for his price to drop a little before making your move.
10. Aroldis Chapman will return from his injury in late June as a starting pitcher.
The Cuban Missile is going to miss the first 6-8 weeks of the season after getting drilled in the face with a line drive, during that time JJ Hoover will grab the closer role in Cincinnati and will be leading the league in Saves. Meanwhile, the Reds’ usually jam-packed starting rotation will be showing some cracks. Mat Latos, Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto are already nursing minor injuries. Tony Cingrani’s inexperience and one pitch repertoire are springing leaks, while Mike Leake is a tap-dancing, smoke-and-mirrors mirage on the mound. The Reds have toyed for years with the notion of putting Chapman into the rotation but concerns over an innings limit, his dominance in the 9th inning and lack of an opening in the rotation have always resulted in Chapman remaining in the bullpen. The Reds faltering rotation this April will present the perfect opportunity to stretch Aroldis out as a starter and let his missile-launching left wing work it’s magic over more than 60 innings per year.
11. This time next year the top 5 prospects in baseball will be Carlos Correa, Addison Russell, Lucas Giolito, Clint Frazier and Rougned Odor.
Correa and Russell are already top 10 prospects, so it is not bold to predict that they would move up to the top 5 after most of the rest of the top 10 graduates to the majors this year. Giolito ranks anywhere from #13 to #44 on the major prospect lists right now, but he is now fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and will crush the minor leagues this year. Clint Frazier is a bolder pick because he currently ranks in the #35-50 range on prospect lists. His elite bat speed will fully bloom into elite production at the plate as he develops the ability to hit for plus power and contact this year, rocketing him to the top 5 in quick fashion. Rougned Odor has been a bit overlooked as an elite prospect due to the depth of the Ranger’s system and the fact he is blocked at the major league level. Odor has a good glove at the shallow keystone position and the makings of an All Star caliber bat as well. This year he will force evaluators to include him in the same class of fantasy prospect as Correa, Russell and Bogaerts. Now that is a bold statement.
We will see at the end of the season whether I was pleasantly prescient or obnoxiously obtuse. I will report back next winter to crow about my successes and eat crow for my failures. Chime in with your predictions in the comments section below!