TDG Roundtable: Bold Predictions
Every week on Fridays, our writers here at The Dynasty Guru will be bringing you some quick hit musings about a particular topic so you, the reader, can get a blast of info from a bunch of different writers with some passionate opinions. This week, our staff take a look into their crystal ball for some bold predictions.
Victor González will lead the Dodgers in saves in 2021
When it comes to Bold Predictions, I like to go big or go home. With these predictions, you can really plant your flag on a player you love and in the end, you will probably be wrong. But when you are right…oh boy it feels so good. One of my Bold Predictions for 2021 is…Victor González will lead the Dodgers in saves in 2021. González made his debut last year and absolutely killed it in his 20 innings. He had a 1.33 ERA, 0.74 WHIP (!!!), and gave up zero barrels. Super duper sexy numbers right there. He is a sinker/slider guy but also tosses in a four-seam every now and again. His slider is absolute filth. It had a .063 BA with a 56 whiff%. I mean…just look at this pitch.
Yes, I know Kenley is still the “closer”, Treinen is still in the org, and González is their best lefty but (typically) the cream rises to the top. Kenley has scuffled the last couple of years and will be a free agent after the season so maybe they will not feel the need to keep him in the role. I like Treinen but give me González’s sinker/slider combination any day of the week. You might be thinking “But what about Brustal Graderol?” Well…he has yet to make his debut in spring training (as of this article), dealt with injury issues when he was in Minnesota, and “medicals” made the Mookie trade a bit more “interesting” during the 2019/2020 offseason. Sadly, I don’t think he will be healthy enough to factor into the equation.
Yoan Moncada finishes as the top 3B in Fantasy and wins the AL MVP.
The AL MVP stays in Chicago, as Moncada produces a bounce-back season after he hit only six home runs, no steals, and a slash line of .225/.320/.385 in 231 plate appearances in 2020. Some in fantasyland are saying it was a disappointment. However, Moncada still played a solid third base, but he had a wicked time dealing with Covid-19, which surely affected those stats. Still only 25 years old, Moncada has been hyped so long and now has (possibly) gotten lost in the shuffle of the White Sox over-abundance of really good players.
He also came out with a catchy Spanish-language song with artists El Chacal and Lenier called Desastre Personal (Personal Disaster in English) and an accompanying music video (probably not work appropriate, but I don’t work where you work), this past offseason. White Sox fans should prepare to hear it often as he has his own created walk-up music (too cool!). Have the stars ever aligned so well for an MVP season? I would be remiss not to mention his pink frosted tips, exhibiting a challenger to Lourdes Gurriel for the Best Hair in Baseball.
Moncada has been hitting clean-up a majority of Spring, and that puts him right in line to easily surpass 100 runs and 100 RBI. Going off of ADP data for NFBC leagues this year, Moncada is being drafted as the 10th overall third baseman at overall pick 85, as well as being the 13th(!?!) third baseman off the board in Yahoo! I have Moncada with an ending season line of 100 Runs, 30 home runs, 15 steals, and 130 RBI with a slash line of .295/.360/.560, leading the White Sox to the central division crown while adding the MVP to his mantle.
Fewer than 20 Hitters Top 30 Home Runs
Ok, now that I have your attention, I’ll admit this is a spicy take, but hear me out. In 2019 MLB played with a ‘juiced’ ball, and 53 hitters reached 30 home runs, but only 22 hit over 35. That was with a juiced ball, and now with MLB deadening the baseball, it should be that much more difficult to hit a home run. The general idea is if the seams of the ball were too low in recent seasons, reducing drag or air resistance on fly balls. So, the new balls have noticeably higher seams, which should increase drag on fly balls, while reducing fly ball distance, but also help with breaking ball movement, and aid any high spin pitch.
The second factor is the league-wide innings limits teams will enforce on starting pitchers. Starters are going to need a season to build back up to 150 IP+, resulting in hitters seeing far more relievers this year. I have no data for this but as MLB was already trending towards limiting a starting pitcher’s trips through the order, and freely used relievers in what were non-traditional high leverage situations. I’m willing to bet MLB teams do have data that relievers are more effective than most starters after the 18th plate appearance, and I think this is generally most people’s opinion in the industry. Well with innings expected to be limited even further league-wide, expect half a hitter’s at-bats this year to be against a fresh arm, many throwing 95+ MPH, and rarely straight.
Third, and far less talked about factor, five teams will be adding humidors. While I can’t find a report stating exactly which teams, I’d be willing to bet these are the five most hitter-friendly environments outside of Colorado, Arizona, Seattle, Boston, and the Mets, who already have humidors. Humidors of course normalize the humidity of the baseball so it’s less impacted by local weather, and historically reduces offense in the stadiums that add them.
Last point, teams are more and more open to platoons, even if not a traditional full-time share. It’s unlikely we’ll see any hitter play 160 games this year, and that’s just for the best players. As we filter down a team’s depth charts, and bangs and bruises add up, managers will likely rest hitters more and reduce at-bats for many players in favor of defensive replacements or better late-game matchups. For many hitters, a 30 home run total is partially aided by a high plate appearance total, and that may not be as common as in years past.
Twenty hitters topping 30 home runs is admittedly the lowest total I could reasonably project, but it’s a reflection of how restrained I think power and playing time will be this year. Players who should be most affected are not superstar level like Mike Trout or Juan Soto, it’s the players with midrange power and less than great hit tools. In drafts, I’ve been willing to take on more risk in guys with huge power, but maybe some injury concerns or batting average pull (Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Miguel Sano, Pete Alonso). The thinking is they can clear the fences in any park even with a deadened ball, and I’m willing to roll the dice that I can manage their downside. I feel less comfortable hoping other players max out their own power potential in what will probably be a more difficult league-wide hitting environment.
By the end of 2021, the starting CF for the Astros is…Pedro Leon.
Pedro Leon was the #1 J15 international signing by size of signing bonus, with the Astros bringing him in from Cuba for $4 MM. Houston believes Leon, 23 in May, will move quickly, potentially starting the year in Triple-A. The typically uber-competitive club let George Springer walk without bringing in a replacement, de facto awarding the center field job to someone they’ve historically preferred to use as a fourth outfielder, Myles Straw. Straw is super fast and strong defensively, but he has never been much of a threat with the bat, with five home runs in his professional career, spanning 2,000+ PA across the minors and majors, and an 84 wRC+ in 224 MLB PA. With no power, he’d need elite contact skills to really thrive, and he doesn’t have them (21% K in his MLB career). While Leon is relatively mysterious and high risk–the ghost of Victor Victor Mesa still haunts us all–he possesses an exciting skillset, with FanGraphs highlighting “incredible bat speed,” and big power and speed, and MLB.com also heaping praise on his contact ability. It’s the sort of skill set that could explain the Astros lackadaisical attitude toward replacing Springer, and push Straw back into a more suitable fourth outfielder role before the season is up.
Bobby Witt Jr. breaks camp with Royals and wins AL ROY
With only 37 games of Rookie ball under his belt, 37 games in which he hit just one home run, had an OPS of .671 and a wRC+ of 85, Witt doesn’t exactly scream “ready for primetime” when looking at his Fangraphs page. However, we’re not in ordinary times right now and Witt is on the right team to make this prediction a reality. A year ago, when Brady Singer and Kris Bubic spent the entire season in the starting rotation rather than play in a bunch of glorified scrimmages at the alternate site, the Royals made it clear that they were going to rebuild in a way that would maximize their potential in the long run by getting valuable Major League reps early on. Sure, service clocks are started, but would you be more inclined to sign long-term with a team that set you up for success when you were ready from day one? Or held you down for an extra year while bragging about it to the local Rotary Club? The Royals went 26-34 last year, missing the playoffs by only three games. They’ve brought in veterans like Mike Minor and Carlos Santana and want to compete for a wild-card spot now. They’re probably a year away from being taken seriously, but would you rather this approach or be an Orioles fan lately?
If they do compete for a wild card spot, Bobby Witt Jr. will be a major reason why. The defense is already there, and it has been from day one. However, it was the hit tool and swing-and-miss concerns that needed to be addressed following 2019. By all accounts, Witt spent every minute of what was for many a lost year improving. He worked out in Texas with major league players during the shutdown, impressed at the alternate site, as well as fall instructs. Scouting reports touted that the swing and miss concerns had dissipated and that the number two pick in the 2019 draft would be on a fast track to the majors. Witt has taken further steps forward in spring training, impressing veteran players and coaches alike, to the tune of a .303/.343/.576 stat line through 33 at-bats with 3 HR, 7 RBI, alongside 10 K’s. He’s been given the most at-bats of anyone in camp and is hitting at the top of the lineup, presumably to evaluate Witt as much as possible. General manager, Dayton Moore, described the team as “open-minded” about Witt opening the season with the team, while pointing out that there are two weeks left to evaluate all of the players. They have worked Witt in at second base to play alongside Adalberto Mondesi for the time being, something I would not expect the team to do if they were certain to send him to the minors to start.
Minor League action doesn’t start until May. It’s debatable how beneficial another month of scrimmages will be for Witt, especially for the veterans who are ready to create a winning culture that starts now. If the Royals truly don’t care about this silly service time issue that needs to be addressed in next winter’s bargaining agreement, then Witt will be penciled into the Royals lineup on April 1st, preferably into one of the top two spots.
Trevor Bauer will not be a top-20 starter in 2021
Trevor Bauer had himself a doozy of a 2020 season, no doubt about that. He made massive metaphorical strides across multiple roto categories available to him, setting career-bests in ERA, WHIP, strikeout rate, and walk rate along the way. So, fantasy managers shouted in unison: Hurray! He’s so good!! What a spectacular 11 starts and 73 innings they were!!
…sarcastic, drawn-out exhale…
I’ll be the first to admit it – his 2020 stats were incredible. A 1.73 ERA!? Are you kidding me!? He really was a boon for leagues of all shapes and sizes. Make no mistake, I’m not rooting for the guy in any shape or form, but if you rostered him last season, your pitching categories probably did just fine unless the rest of your staff was truly mangled. That being said, I think there’s reason to doubt the sustainability of his performance in 2021.
First off, let’s check under the hood a bit more. Bauer ended the season with a 2.88 FIP, which is still great, despite being over a run higher than his ERA. But he also ended the year with an ace-relief-pitcher-like left-on-base percentage of 90.9% and a BABIP of .215. I don’t think I’d be as worried if one of those things was true, but both? Dare I say he got a bit lucky last season? Ohhh, I dare.
Second, five of his six opponents were either in the bottom-third of the league in terms of wRC+, strikeout percentage, or both! The exception being a game against the Chicago White Sox (113 team wRC+), in which he gave up a couple of homers and only struck out five across 7 innings. Is this indicative of much? It’s hard to say, and I guess the counterargument is that aces should be dominating teams that don’t hit as well. However, the point I’m ultimately making is that the 2021 schedule promises to be much more difficult, with series against the Padres, Giants, Braves, and Mets on the docket. For reference, all of those teams had a 2020 team wRC+ of 113 or better, and all have similar lineups or got better this offseason.
I’m not saying he’s going to suck this year. Far from it, actually. In fact, he probably has one of the highest, if not the highest, innings pitched ceilings in the game at the moment, which ultimately should lead to more strikeouts, wins, and quality starts. But, at the moment, I think there’s enough room to doubt that his 2020 numbers can hold up over a normal 30-start season.
Mike Trout reminds fantasy baseball who the best player in the world is.
As soon as you read my prediction, I knew exactly what you were thinking. You read that and sarcastically said to yourself, “Really bold prediction there, Brett”. I can understand your thought process because he is Mike Trout. At the same time, though, look back at your drafts.
Where did you take him in dynasty leagues? Where did he fall in the majority of your drafts? Did you choose Betts over Trout? This is just my opinion but considering age and talent the furthest he should potentially fall in a dynasty league is fourth under Soto, Acuna and Tatis Jr. In a redraft league, there is no reason for him to have been drafted outside of the top two, maybe there is an argument for third with one of these other guys going fourth.
What happened in some of your drafts, though? Many drafts on Twitter had him fall outside of the top 10. With even greater frequency, many drafted Mike Trout in the 5-7 range. To those who had a pick in that range and looked at a draft board that was missing Soto, Acuna, Tatis, and Betts and decided to fill your first spot with Trout, you made the right choice. The best choice. Potentially the choice of all choices.
For those who drafted before you, it is not that they will be let down by their first-round selection. They are all studs. They just aren’t Mike Trout. Trout was on pace to hit 51 home runs last year. He hit 17 bombs in 53 games, just as many as Tatis Jr. in 2020, three more than Acuna and four more than Soto. Trout had 46 RBI’s. The next closest was Tatis with 45, Acuna had 29 and Soto had 37.
You may be saying to yourself that RBI’s aren’t the best standard. I understand that argument but it is still production that he is consistent in. Trout increased in home run totals each year from 2016-2019 (29, 33, 39, 45). As I have already stated, he could have hit 51 in a full season.
Last point I want to make. Yes, Trout looks to be losing production in the stolen base department but for that to be the reason why Trea Turner is drafted over Trout in some leagues just is not justifiable. You also know that you are going to get a high batting average, a stellar OBP and SLG. So when Trout wins the AL MVP again this year, maybe next year we won’t underestimate him so much.
Predicting each leagues home run leader
Predicting the home run leader going into a new season is no simple task, but thankfully we have access to an increasing amount of Statcast data to help make educated, but still bold, predictions. Two of the simple factors to look at while trying to make such predictions are launch angle and exit velocity. The ideal combination of these two parameters is a 20-degree average launch angle with an above-average exit velocity (89+ mph). Scanning over the data from the previous two seasons reveals many of the expected names of players who excel in both of these areas, but I’m here to make the case for two names who may be a little further outside of the normal cast of characters.
Essentially no one in the American League hits the ball harder than my pick to be the 2021 home run leader. Over the past two seasons, this player has been in the top one percent of average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, and barrel percentage. To go along with these elite batted ball stats, his average launch angle increased to 20 degrees in 2020 creating that perfect pairing. This combination led to an average home run distance of 412 feet, with almost 70 percent being “No Doubters” (defined as a home run that would be out of all 30 MLB stadiums). The player with this perfect combination of batted ball stats and my pick to lead the AL in home runs is Miguel Sano.
I will admit that this prediction is more on the bold side due to Sano’s tendency to swing in miss resulting in fewer batted ball events (BBEs) that can result in home runs, but he absolutely has the skill set and ability to be a home run champ. Even though it was a shortened season, 2020 was the first that Sano finally stayed healthy through its entirety. If he can repeat a fully healthy season in 2021 and drop his strikeout rate back down to his career normal of 30 percent, I believe enough opportunity exists for this prediction to become reality. In 2019 Sano hit 34 home runs in only 105 games, equaling a 140-game pace of 45 home runs. Any changes to the baseball in 2021 that can potentially reduce overall home run numbers will not affect an elite power hitter like Sano. I see this season as the one Sano finally puts it all together, stays healthy, and leads the league in home runs.
Shifting over to the National League my prediction is a player who returned to full health in 2020 resulting in a season of truly elite Statcast numbers. His average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, and barrel percentage were all in the top five percent of the league. These numbers were all career marks, and much more in line with his previously healthy seasons, excluding a down 2019 in which he was coming off multiple surgeries. This player does not share the ideal launch angle as my AL choice at an average of 12 degrees in 2020, but he makes up for it with plenty of BBEs as he had one of the highest BAs and xBAs in the majors. My pick to lead the NL in home runs is Corey Seager after a truly impressive breakout campaign in 2020.
Seager hit 15 home runs during the 2020 regular season, good for fourth-most in the NL, but he hit an additional eight home runs in the postseason. So in total, he hit 23 home runs in 70 games equaling a 150-game pace of 49 home runs. Now a 12-degree average launch angle is a little lower than ideal, but it was down from over 14 degrees in 2019 so there is potential for improvement. Whereas Sano has to rely on the perfect combination of a hard-hit ball at an ideal trajectory to make the most of each BBE, Seager can make up for a slight lack of launch angle simply by being a better hitter. He puts more balls in play, resulting in more opportunities to add to his predicted league-leading home run total.
Brendan Rodgers finishes as a top-5 fantasy 2B
Rodgers is way off the radar right now. His ADP is somewhere in the 400s – just like his career OPS in MLB. Google his name, and all the results are about the guy managing Leicester City in the English Premier League. To find the baseball player, you need to add words to your search like “Rockies,” “injured” or “bust.”
I’m not ready to declare this former No. 3 overall pick a bust, though. He’s only 24. He hit at every level of the minors, including a .350/.413/.622 line in Triple-A in 2019. That was not that long ago. TDG had him ranked as the No. 10 dynasty 2B pre-2020.
He has struggled in MLB, but it’s in a very small sample and shoulder injuries played a part. Yeah, he’s hurt again now, but it’s a minor hamstring strain. The shoulder seems fine. He’s got a 1.052 OPS this spring, and he hit a ball with an exit velocity of 115.6 MPH. Not that you should put much stock in spring numbers, but let them serve as a reminder that Rodgers can still hit the ball really hard.
Another reminder – Denver is still a mile above sea level and a great place for hitters. Fantasy managers have grown very frustrated with the Rockies’ unwillingness to play youngsters, but now Nolan Arenado is gone and the rebuild has officially begun. Rodgers has a clear path to the starting 2B job.
He even wants to steal bases, setting a goal for himself of 20. Non-bold prediction – he won’t do that. But the Rockies will let players run, and he isn’t that slow (66th percentile sprint speed per Statcast). Even 5-10 steals helps the roto value a lot.
I’ll project Rodgers for .275, 25 HR, 80 R, 90 RBI and 8 SB. That seems very doable and should be good for top-5 at a weak position. It’s at least worth a 400th pick flyer.
Jose Quintana will give you SP2 production.
It wouldn’t be the first time he has done it and it won’t be the last. Jose Quintana will be an SP2 in 15 team leagues. He’ll be a top 30 pitcher a year after pitching just 10 innings. The last time he was able to hit that mark was back in 2017 which was the season he was traded from the White Sox across town to the Cubs. After three and a half mediocre years as a Cub, none of which he eclipsed the 200 innings pitched mark, he has made his way across the country and reunited with Joe Maddon. If you look far enough back you will see a guy who tossed 4 straight seasons of 200+ innings and had an ERA that hovered around 3.30 with a K/9 of just under 8. 2017 saw a huge jump in the K% and he pushed 9.9 K’s per 9 innings. He never quite hit those lofty marks again but the cool coastal air in Anaheim is going to bring him back to life.
We’ve seen 9.2 spring training innings so far and he has posted 11 strikeouts in that time. We won’t mention the 6 walks he has handed out but we will tell you that has only given up 3 hits and the spring training WHIP is a sparkling 0.93 to go with the 0.00 ERA. Everyone knows that spring training stats are a great indicator of what’s to come for the 162 game season, right? He has a rotation spot locked up and he’ll stay healthy as long as he avoids those dangerous dishwashing chores at home. The Angels will start the season with a 6-man rotation but I wouldn’t be surprised if 3 of the 6 are on the IL before the end of May. A couple of nice arms are waiting for an opportunity in Triple-A but I think they will shift to a traditional 5-man rotation and have a young pitcher piggy-back off of Ohtani’s starts while he builds up his innings.
Projected to pitch about 140 innings with a 4.5 ERA and just 130 K’s, he settles in as about the 190th most valuable pitcher for 2021. His 2021 NFBC ADP has him sitting as the 164th pitcher off the board. Imagine that value when he posts that 80th percentile PECOTA projection. 140 innings, 142 K’s, and an ERA under 3.5. I won’t even tempt you with that 90th percentile outcome. Draft him in the 25th round and enjoy the spoils of your discount bin SP2.
Alec Bohm Will Win the Triple Crown
There hasn’t been an NL Triple Crown winner since 1937 when Joe Medwick had an MVP season for the St. Louis Cardinals. A player that has the bat skills to lead the league in average, the power to eclipse their cohorts in home runs, and the supporting cast to provide ample RBI opportunities doesn’t come along very often. Until now!
Bohm was the 3rd pick in the 2018 draft and entered the Phillies system with a stellar reputation as a pure hitter. He flew through the minors hitting nearly .300 and maintaining a strikeout rate below 14%. Those plate skills were on full display when he burst into the majors in 2020 with a .338 batting average that ranked 5th in all of baseball. The .410 BABIP that helped prop that up is unsustainable, but with an 84th percentile hard-hit rate and an 86th percentile xBA, his stat line was largely deserved. Whatever attrition may come due to regression could easily be overcome with skills growth going into his first full season at age 24.
Despite just 4 home runs last year, there’s no shortage of pop in Bohm’s bat. His power grades out as a 60 according to Fangraphs, and he smashed 14 bombs in just 63 games in Double-A to end 2019. Manager Joe Girardi has taken note of the young third baseman’s .560 slugging percentage through 10 spring games this year and has been hitting Bohm in the cleanup spot behind Bryce Harper. If J.T. Realmuto hits second behind leadoff man Andrew McCutchen, those are 3 of the best on-base guys in the league setting the table for endless RBI chances.
With this profile, it’s easy to dream about a historic season. If Bohm maintains his spot in the Phillies’ batting order and continues the trajectory he set out on last year, he could finish 2021 with a batting average above .320, 35 home runs, and 120 RBIs. With that line, he would be near the top of the league in each category, with a chance to wear the crown.