The time has once again arrived to get wild and crazy with my procrastination! Wait, is that the right word? No. No it’s not. That’s actually my life strategy. Prescientinism is probably the word I’m looking for. It’s a totally made up word, but whatever. So here I am, back to bring you 11 BOLD (bolded for effect) predictions that may or may not come true. (Probably not.) If you missed it, last year, Eno Sarris of FanGraphs and I had a gentlemen’s battle to the death (because that’s what gentlemen do) over our predictions. Much to my sadness, I lost by only getting three right to Sarris’ five. To be fair, I got really close on a lot of the spewed boldness, so if you like pleading and excuse-making, well then technically it was a tie. But a new season brings new hope and something-something wax poetic, so let’s get bold AND beautiful (just like your mom)…
If you need a refresher, here’s how I do the bold and the beautiful… I guess I might have some splainin’ to do at the end of the year, but I’m proud to throw out the wildest, aka BOLDEST predictions out there. Trust me, these will all be two-drink minimum statements I’ll be laying down. But we ain’t calling this bold because I have a grudge against italics. And I’m not just spouting crazy for crazy’s sake… which I know, brace yourselves, is much different than you’re used to. I’m also going to be sharing evidence (possibly not sound evidence, mind you) to support my claims. And everyone does 10-lists, so I’m going to be one better, cause that’s how I roll. Right down that hill over there. Hey, you want to punch that guy 10 times? Here I am, pushing you out of the way to punch him 11 times. Then I’m quickly running, cause those be sirens I hear. So, you’re going to eat 10 of those hot dogs? Well then, challenge accepted, I’ll eat 11 hot dogs, and then eat 11 Tums to wash it all down.
Justin Smoak will hit at least 30 home runs.
Well, yes, I think it’s safe to say that the Smoak monster didn’t really live up to the hype, much like the last season of Lost. (Tie-in Achievement Unlocked.) What exactly happened? No one can really say. But in a day and age where power is essentially required to stay viable at a corner position, Smoak just hasn’t been up to the task. To be Frank (eh, I still prefer Jay), he’s been rather a failure of sorts, especially considering all the hype that surrounded his star potential. The hype didn’t even receive a dent after moving from Arlington to the pitching confines of Safeco. Now, fast-forward to present day, you have to wonder; Was it a function of coaching, environment, or opportunity that made him the player he is today? Or was he quite simply just a bust? Well, in baseball, it’s rarely that simple, but that shouldn’t stop us from wondering…which of the three was it? Coaching and development is a bit tough to gauge, and while you can call out guys like Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero as examples of what’s gone wrong, Kyle Seager would probably like to have a word with you. I will say, opportunity wasn’t so much an issue in the beginning, as he’s had ample time to do something…anything, but that well dried as the seasons passed by. All-in-all though, I seriously doubt playing time was an issue. That leaves the environment. We all know Safeco is a pitchers park (like most west coast parks), but until you look at his career home/road splits, you don’t really get a full grasp of how much a hinderance Smoak’s home ballpark was…
Granted, there aren’t a huge jump in his raw stats, but take a look at some of his percentage stats…
That shows two different ball players, even more so when you see take a look at the huge BABIP difference, and then his batted ball data…
|Home||0.83||16.9 %||37.7 %||45.4 %||11.9 %||9.4 %|
|Away||1.05||20.0 %||41.0 %||39.0 %||11.2 %||14.6 %|
What jumps off the table (don’t do it bro! You’ve got a lot to live for!) is the FB% and HR/FB. Even though he hit more than six percent less flyballs, Smoak managed to hit five percent more home runs outside of Seattle. That’s certainly a notable difference.
Yes, Smoak has shown limited power in his career, hitting a combined 39 home runs in 2012 and 2013, and with an average lower than .217 and .238, respectively, yeah, well, that’s not a recipe for fantasy relevance. But based on what he’s done away from Safeco, and the fact that Rogers Centre is ranked sixth in run-scoring, seventh-best for power, and second-best for doubles, there’s some glimmer of hope here. With my prediction, maybe Smoak can get his average closer to .250 (he’s hit .240 away from Seattle) and utilize the friendly Toronto environment to hit 30 home runs (big “if”, I know!)…but let’s say he does that. I did with my prediction afterall! When you look at those numbers… well, that’s essentially Josh Donaldson, and calling Justin Smoak a top-10ish corner…pretty crazy, right?
I’m just getting started with the boldness…
Phil Hughes will finish the year with more strikeouts, more wins, and a lower ERA than Chris Sale.
As you can see, they’re not that far apart from each other…okay, well, yeah, I mean, they sort of are… (but the FIP, it’s soooo close!) So you see this is bold for a reason. While I think it’s an interesting point to make, that Hughes is close enough to Sale that his fantasy value is much higher than what it’s perceived to be (Sale is being drafted 21st overall, Phil Hughes, 133rd overall on average), there is certainly a factor to consider with Chris Sale’s foot being 100 percent when the season starts and, of course his continued health throughout the year. Now, I’ve long since been on the bandwagon that Sale is an injury risk due to, you know, everything, but that bandwagon emptied and grinded to a halt some years ago. Still, with a fractured foot, I worry just a little bit that something like this might cause physical and mechanical changes in his approach. Could be nothing, but their stats are close enough to where I can try and get bold with it. And baby, do I get bold with it.
Adam LaRoche will have a better season than Anthony Rizzo across the board.
Can you tell me which player is which?
The two players are essentially close enough that you don’t even need to know which one is which. Though, the 2014 totals probably give it away, there isn’t this out-of-world difference. Well, there is in terms that one of these players is being drafted 12th overall, and the other is being drafted 153rd overall. So it’s not hard to imagine the gap closing, or, in this case, LaRoche outproducing Rizzo now that he’s in a park (U.S. Cellular) that ranked in the top-half in all offensive categories in 2014. (And, just in case… Player A is Adam LaRoche and Player B is, of course, Anthony Rizzo.)
Steven Vogt will end the year as a top-5 catcher.
Last year’s top-5 catchers (arguably) were Devin Mesoraco, Buster Posey, Russell Martin, Jonathan Lucroy, and Evan Gattis. Yes, you could probably interchange Yan Gomes and Salvador Perez in there as well , so let’s just call these players the group Vogt will have to measure up with this year. Now, besides Mesoraco and Posey, there are some potential weak spots here. Russell Martin is aging and only hit 11 homeruns in 2014. Lucroy is consistent, but only managed 13 home runs. Gattis is a catcher in name only, but has a small sample of success and some possible BABIP issues. Yan Gomes has done well the past two seasons, and hitting .280 with 15 home runs seems reasonable. And then you have Perez, who can basically do the same thing. Nothing spectacular, but in the world of catchers, helpful. So thus enters Vogt (coincidentally, “Thus Enters Vogt” is also a great name for a glam rock band), and while he’s a bit older, he’s always hit in the minor leagues, and finally received a plethora of starts and the most plate appearances at the major league level last season. With those 287 PA’s, (269 AB’s), he hit 9 home runs with a .279 average. When you prorate that to say, the average number of PA’s that Perez (606) and Gomes (518) had… 562, Vogt would have hit roughly 14 home runs. That gets him in the conversation, and with him getting starting reps from day one this year (along with a strong body of work making contact throughout his career), I am boldy proclaiming that there’s enough here to put him in the top tier for catchers.
I was a tad bit iffy on the boldness of this one, but just looking at the consensus rankings (Ellsbury at 29, Yelich at 67), Grey’s rankings (Ellsbury at 30, Yelich at 92) and their ADP so far (Ellsbury as the 29th overall pick, Yelich as the 80th overall pick), well, that was enough to convince me to convince you that this was boldness at it’s peak. Peak boldness, if you will. I’m not a huge believer in Yelich’s power potential (the 61.6 career GB% will do that), but the overall skillset seems eerily similar to Jacoby Ellsbury “it’s not 2011” version. There’s no reason why Yelich can’t make the jump, unless Marlins park causes blindness. Which is entirely possible.
Jason Heyward will have a 30/30 season.
I’m not quite sure what happened to Heyward in Atlanta, but whatever it was, it wasn’t good. Okay, I’m lying. I’m pretty sure it was Fredi González that happened. Regardless, if someone needed a change of scenery (unlike
B.J. Melvin Upton, who needs a change of career), it was Heyward. And maybe it’s just that simple? Question mark, because really, who knows? I’m hoping it is that simple, because no one doubts that the talent is still there. Yes, it has been about 253 games since he went 27/21 (back in 2012), but, c’mon man. Fredi González.
I almost changed this one upon hearing of his back tightness and possible DL stint, but I feel that just adds more bold spice. Which is totally thing, probably created by Axe Body Spray or what ever that repellent is called. Add on the fact that Jonathan Papelbon will likely be traded after accumulating half a season’s worth of saves (and just as likely retaining a closing role with his new team) adds even more fuel to the bold fire. The lesson here being, don’t use Axe Body Spray and light sh*t on fire. Also, saves are everywhere around us. They are in us. Above and below. Saves are life. Or I guess they’re ghosts that watch us when we shower. If so, rawr.
Now, before you get your weapons out to physically harm me, I want this prediction to be more about Bogaerts then that of Betts. I’m very willing to accept that Mookie Betts will be a fantastic player, both in real life and fantasy, and will do some very interesting things during this season and in his career. But for some reason, Bogaerts has been forgotten. Well, granted, that reason was probably hitting .240 with 12 home runs in 594 plate appearances last year, but let’s ignore that for a bit. Especially since it doesn’t support what I’m saying. Rather, let’s remember that Bogaerts has a strong history of adjusting to every level he’s played at, but there has been an adjustment period. And let’s be fair, last year was his rookie season. It’s clear his biggest problem was the major league level breaking ball, and with strong walk rates in the minors, I’m willing to bet he just needs some time. Add in the fact that he plays shortstop, a fantasy wasteland, let’s just say I’m a believer that he’s ready to take the next step, and will end the year with more value than Betts. Some food for thought as well; Bogaerts hit .296/.389/.427 before June 1st. From June 2nd on, when Stephen Drew joined the lineup, he hit .169/.201/.279.
Well, this one’s just silly.
This one has a lot of moving parts (that’s what she said) to it. The gist basically is; Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson, and Wade Miley, combined, will outproduce Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Brandon McCarthy, and Brett Anderson. (I’m not quite sure what to do with Hyun-Jin Ryu, so let’s just leave him out. The 5th starters will also be left out since there can be so much variation with that spot.) It’s a bit silly, and I could already be drinking, but I’m in the small minority that thinks this Boston rotation isn’t as bad as everyone thinks. Profoundly mediocre and unexciting? Sure. But so is my lovemaking. And in the end, there’s magic, and so there shall be here as well.
For Buchholz, 2013 seems more and more like an abberation, but his FIP and inflated BABIP in 2014 show regression is very possible. Masterson, despite the career platoon-split issues, has regression on his side as well, and Porcello will be Porcello. Wade Miley would seem to be the wild card here, and I expect some Andrew Cashner-like things, as, SPOILER ALERT, I think they are very similar pitchers. I love the K/9 last year (8.18), and all of his advanced metrics look like sauce. And I love sauce. A big key is his slider, as he used it roughly seven percent more in 2014, and batters made just 61.1% contact on his pitchers outside of the zone. It was 68.2% in 2013 and 67.0% of his career. Now, despite all of that, they are still going to be taking on Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and a resurgent (and somewhat hyped again pitcher) Brandon McCarthy. Yes, Brett Anderson may be pitching with crutches and an AARP card, but the boldness is here. It is. You can touch it. Come over here and touch it.
11. Bryce Harper will hit more than 50 home runs and steal more than 30 bases.
I always consider the 11th prediction to be the craziest one, but then I realize all of this is crazy. And I’m cheating a bit here, seeing as how this is exactly the same prediction I ended on last year as well, but I’m still a believer in Harper. I mean, bursitis, what is that even? Look, you want a solid reason why I beleive in him? I’ll just quote myself from last year… If you need a scientific and completely analytical reason why Harper can accomplish these lofty totals, I will merely state that he’s Bryce Harper. I love science. And so it is, and so it shall be done. Probably. Well, maybe. Sorta. Totally.
Have any bold predictions of your own? Share them with me! (But remember, only I can have bold AND beautiful predictions. I mean, you shouldn’t be surprised. Just look at this face…)
Want more of the Jay? Don’t we all folks? Don’t. We. All. Well, you, in fact, can have more. AMAZING. I know. You can find Jay enjoying his dig’s over at the Football side of Razz.