As draft day comes and goes, it’s bold prediction season! We’re inching closer and closer to Opening Day and we have high hopes for our drafted players and pro teams. Here are some predictions as they relate to middle infielders this year.
1) Fernando Tatis Jr. hits at least .275 with 30+ home runs and 15+ stolen bases.
Overall, this spring, FTJ routinely has been drafted in the top 20. Tatis is scheduled to return on 4/20 from his PED suspension, has had multiple surgeries recently (shoulder and wrist), and faces the possibility of missing the occasional game here and there as the Padres look to ease him back into action. Players who have undergone shoulder surgery (Devin Mesoraco and Deric Barton) have not fared well, but it’s fair to say that Tatis is much younger, athletic, and a better talent than the aforementioned players. FTJ started his spring off ice-cold but has picked things up with the bat over the past couple of days. While Padre fans and fantasy owners might shudder every time Tatis races back to the warning track, I’m betting Tatis mostly returns to form. We’re sure to see some rust in the early going, but his 2021 season where he hit 42 HR’s with a bad shoulder has me optimistic.
2) Wander Franco gathers some AL MVP votes this year.
Admittedly, this may not be the boldest of predictions, but it seems thus far that Wander is being somewhat undervalued in drafts this year. Franco had an injury-plagued season last year, slashing 46/6/33/.277 in roughly 300 at-bats while breaking his hamate bone (known to zap power for hitters). Wander’s another player who has youth on his side (22 years old). He’s one of the few players ever given an 80-grade hit tool by the prospect guys and showed impressive plate discipline in his young career. He may not garner more AL MVP votes than Mike Trout or Shohei Ohtani, but if there’s any player looking to make a big jump to superstardom this year, it’s Franco.
3) Oneil Cruz is a top 30 fantasy player by the end of 2023.
ONeil swings a big stick and has top-of-the line speed. Cruz currently has an ADP around 80 in Yahoo thus far. You have to love the power/speed and other tools (despite the 35% K rate last year). I’m betting on the overall athleticism, as he’s smoking balls all over the park and is a menace on the basepaths. Once that K rate comes down and that 8.3 launch angle comes up, watch out MLB!
4) Luis Arraez does not win the NL batting title but hits double-digit home runs for the first time in his career.
Luis Arraez is a known commodity at this point in his young career (25 years old). A pesky hitter who will contend for the league batting title who will score a ton of runs barely hit any homers/drive in RBI, and post a solid OBP. Arraez’s career high in homers was 8 last year. Why the jump to double-digit homers you ask? I see a player who: is closer to his prime, a batter who has doubled his barrel rate in the past year, posted a career-best exit velocity, has elite plate discipline, increased his fly-ball rate, and managed a +16 run value on fastballs. I know World Baseball Classic games don’t count, but Arraez seems to enjoy hitting in his new Marlins ballpark. Call me crazy, but I’m thinking Arraez gets to at least 12 homers this year.
5) Nico Hoerner out-earns his middle infield partner Dansby Swanson.
While I think both players will have solid seasons this year, this prediction comes down to me thinking Nico Hoerner is a player on the uptrend, while free-agent acquisition Dansby Swanson likely had his career year and is due for a year of adjustment in the Windy City. Hoerner has some underlying power to tap into, while Swanson is due for some batting average correction and some other related regression.
6) The recently demoted Vaughn Grissom gets called up in late April/early May and still finishes as a Top-10 second baseman.
This prediction is a combination of me believing in Grissom’s talent and the terrible second base pool we have to draft from, especially as we lose Jose Altuve for a couple of months. Grissom flashed power/speed and a solid tool when he was called up in August of last year. The Braves are alleging they sent Grissom down to work on his defense but I can’t see a team like the Braves, who have championship aspirations, plug Orlando Arcia at short for the entire year. If Vaughn Grissom gets called up in late April/early May, le likely sees less than 500 plate appearances, but if he can hit .250 with 15 homers and 15 stolen bases, that will be plenty valuable. The Braves lineup is so good, Michael Harris II won Rookie of the Year while predominantly batting at the bottom of the order.
7) Willy Adames leads middle infielders in home runs this year with 40+.
Willy Adames loves hitting in Miller Park (as do a lot of other players), and we may be looking at him totally different as well as drafting him higher if he had never played for the Rays (his struggles hitting at Tropicana Field are well documented). Adames hit 31 homers last year and drove in 98, so it’s not necessarily a stretch to say he’ll do it again. However, Adames is the kind of player who needed a change of scenery but more importantly, the kind of player that makes adjustments and improves key facets of his game EVERY SINGLE YEAR. Take a look at that beautiful chart to see how Adames has increased his barrels, barrel%, optimized his launch angle, sweet spot% numbers, all while striking out 25% of the time. Imagine what kind of player Adames will be if he takes another step in all these aforementioned numbers while trimming that K% a few points. 40 homers isn’t out of the question. If Fernando Tatis Jr. was totally healthy and not dealing with a PED suspension, I may not have made this prediction. A healthy Brandon Lowe and a strong season from Corey Seager will give Adames a run for the middle infield homer title.
8) Brandon Drury becomes fantasy irrelevant and/or is hit with a PED suspension at some point in 2023.
Brandon Drury was barely drafted last year and revived his career to the tune of a 87/28/27/.263 slash line in 2022 after spending the past few seasons being fantasy irrelevant and almost out of the league. While everyone loves an underdog success story, I’m skeptical Drury has figured something out and I’m betting last year was a TOTAL fluke.
Let me know what you think. Let’s see your hot takes and bold predictions!