What’s a happenin’ Razz-stuff? FOH, the player slayer, is at the helm for my first and probably last bold predictions post. I only call it my last because after this one, I’m confident that I won’t be allowed to be bold again. Kidding… sorta. I get bold from time to time, but usually play it more conservative and pick my spots. I’m getting an assist on this one, as I have everyone’s favorite commenter doing a pop-up like a rogue restaurant or a children’s book. You have to follow me after the jump to find out who it is, but I’ll give you a hint: He sets his clock to Pacific time. No fancy intro needed here… Let’s get to some predictions for the 2016 season!
J-FOH’s Bold Predictions
1. Pedro Alvarez will hit 40 Homeruns! Yes that is correct, the man once known as Pedro from Pittsburgh and El Burro, will max out his career in dongs and put 40 over the wall. B-More is a place where pitchers go to die, but sluggers get resurrected to god status. We had Crush Davis and now we’ll have the Punisher Alvarez. He’s finally in a hitters park, but not just any hitters park, the best power park for lefties in baseball. Couple that with a division full of lefty-friendly parks and him getting to play his most natural position, DH, and we have a recipe for success.
2. Sean Manaea will be the top rookie pitcher this year. Everyone is all over Berrios and Giolito, but this is the man to own when he arrives. He’s a fire-baller who can hit the high 90’s, and if it wasn’t for an injury in college would have been a top pick. I love the park and the Oakland rotation is a sh*t-uation that leaves Manaea an opportunity to put the A.L. West to shame. A hip issue might delay his time, but when he arrives you will be loving this guy like I love cooked swine.
3. Cesar Hernandez will steal 40-plus bases and be the darling of the middle infield. Everyone is all over Ketel Marte for middle infield speed, and don’t get me wrong, I love me some Ketel One, but Cesar is getting slept on like a Sealy Posturepedic. He stole bases at a 79% success rate last year and has been tearing it up this spring on the base-path. Seriously, what do the Phils have to lose if he gets the green light? He’ll be batting ahead of Franco and needs to get on second, so why not steal it? I predicted 30-plus in my Late Round Deep Thoughts Middle Infield post, but this is my bold post so I’ll be bold. Mark him down for 40!
4. Justin Turner will be a top-5 third baseman. He’s going to hit 25 plus homers, bat .290, knock in 100, score 90 and steal 10. In 387 AB’s last year he put up a 55/16/60/5/.294 line and nothing screams fluky. I went over a checklist, BB/K – check, ISO – check, contact% – check, swstr% – check, GB% – check, LD% – check, FB% – check, hard hit% – check. That’s a lot of checks. I’m infatuated with red beard the way Sky is infatuated with hot dogs to the face GIF’s. Call me crazy if you must but this is the man to own and is getting grossly undervalued. I went over him in my corner infield post and now I’m giving him my bold and spicy treatment.
5. Jeff Samardzija will be a top-10 starting pitcher. The shark is circling and waiting to feed. Talk about a bust last year, seriously, his bust was so big it made Morganna look like the Bonneville Salt Flats. In 2014, among qualified starters, he went from having a top-25 fastball that he paired with a top-10 slider and a top-3 split finger (to be fair, only eight qualified starters used the split) to negatives across the board in 2015. His move to the top pitchers park and getting paired up with Bochy and Righetti can only help the super talented Shark. I don’t know what it is, but Giant dome gets the most out of his players and this will not be an exception. I’m predicting a return to a 9 K-rate while maintaining his 2 BB-rate, and with a strong defense coupled with a solid bullpen behind him, I see wins in his future. Lots of them.
Enough of me, lets get to my special guest bold predictor. He is one of my NFBC teammates, a great read, and the one commenter I look forward to one day catching a game with… Oaktown Steve!
Commenter Oaktown Steve’s Bold Predictions
1. Danny Valencia will hit 30 home runs for the A’s and be a top-5 A.L. third baseman. A long time ago, a relatively unheralded 3B/OF arrived north of the border and transformed himself from fringe MLB’er to one of the top sluggers in baseball using a leg kick and a smile. Fast forward to 2015 where a fringy 3B/OF arrived in Toronto, learned that leg kick from the old dog and proceeded to rake his way to Oakland and hasn’t stopped this spring. Valencia’s PA/HR rate last year was one homer for every 18.63 PAs, not far behind Joey Bats who had one for every 16.65. Best of all, Bautista and Donaldson (another third baseman who made good in Oakland) worked with Valencia on his approach versus RHP. His career OPS vs. RHP is .664. Last year it was .881. He will not be a platoon player, and he’ll hit fourth in what should be a surprisingly productive A’s lineup.
2. Eugenio Suarez will be the top producing N.L. shortstop. One of my favorite phrases is “damning through faint praise” and that’s a part of this prediction. The SS landscape is pretty awful in the N.L., as you know. Last year’s highest finisher was Brandon Crawford who produced 65/21/84/5/.256 in 561 PAs. Just taking Suarez 2015 production and prorating it to 561 PAs would give a 2016 line of 60/19/67/6/.280. However, it looks like there’s room for improvement in Suarez game. He’s currently penciled in to the coveted two hole, in front of Votto, in the Reds line up. His minor league track record suggests better contact and walk rates are a distinct possibility and at 24 there’s also the possibility to see another step forward in his power profile. I wrote this before the Story story broke and he’ll possibly be a contender for the title, but I’ll gamble on some bumpy rookie days and back the second year guy.
3. Adonis Garcia will drive in 80 runs. .329, .359, .366. Those are the career OBPs of the three guys (Inciarte, Markakis, Freeman) who will be hitting ahead of current cleanup hitter Garcia. Inciarte posted higher numbers in the minors and should see some growth in his OBP as well. Freeman could see higher rates still as the league relentlessly pitches around him. While Garcia has never been a top prospect, he slugged a respectable .497 last year and he has an Adam Jones like aversion to walking. With a high contact rate approach and a lot of traffic on the bases, if Garcia can get off to a respectable start and hold his position in the lineup he could become a decent late round flier and hugely valuable in NL only.
4. Chris Davis will hit 60 home runs. If you haven’t ever really, really watched Chris Davis swing the bat, go take a look. I don’t know if I have ever seen a hitter with a stronger front side. Check out his spray chart on Brooks baseball. If you know anything about Davis, you already know what this chart shows you; he’s got all field power. To me, he is the premier home run hitter in baseball playing in a fantastic park in a division filled with great parks and questionable rotations. The Orioles could have five guys hit at least 30 this year (Machado, Jones, Trumbo, Schoop and Davis) and the home run will be the story of the year in Baltimore. Also, and this isn’t really a reasonable piece of analysis, but I have always believed that MLB doctors the baseball to twist the knobs on offensive output. I believe that juiced balls were as much a part of the PED era as the PEDs. Last year a few people around the game talked about the ball jumping off the bat. It was easy to dismiss, in part because goofy Eric Byrnes was one of the louder voices, but when you really think about it, what’s to stop baseball from messing with the ball? Everybody still plays with the same ball. So it messes with the year over year statistical integrity of the game, but you think that’s going to stop a bunch of billionaires from trying to make a buck where they can. And one more piece of anecdotal evidence: have you seen the spring ERA’s? Heard about the Harper home run that went somewhere Al Kaline has never seen one hit in 50 years of watching Tiger spring baseball? Or Dickerson’s 500 footer? Or Sano’s homer just yesterday that was purported to have gone two miles?
Before I go, this is Jack again, I have to link you to Oaktown’s bold predictions from the staff picks post on Thursday. Another round of great contributions Oaktown! That’s what is great about this site, we have such a tremendous community of contributers right in the comments section. Before I go, I just want to say that being a commenter turned contributer and getting to co-write a bold prediction post with one of my old school compadres has been the highlight of the pre-season. That and finding out that Magoo looks like the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase.