Let’s make something clear in case the heading doesn’t, these are not bold predictions. The below predictions are things that I expect to happen. I perceive other people – readers and writers alike – to disagree.
1. Chris Owings‘ strikeout rate won’t exceed 17 percent
The Arizona Diamondbacks are supposedly leaning towards starting Owings at shortstop. Whether that is true or not is pure speculation. Assuming Owings does start, our projection systems and the Fans expect a strikeout rate around 20 percent. While a similar strikeout rate is part of his minor league track record, his combined total between Triple-A and the majors last season was just 17.1 percent. While most people are aware that he’s a free swinger, his scouting profile has more in common with Michael Young or a low-power Pablo Sandoval than a Drew Stubbs type. Aggression can work in a hitter’s favor when it comes to strikeout rate, and I fully expect a ton of early count balls in play from Owings.
2. The Diamondbacks will call on Archie Bradley by mid-May
Let’s double down on the D-Backs. The injury to Patrick Corbin leaves Arizona without an obvious ace. Having a bonafide ace is overrated, but the rotation also lacks quality depth. Should any of the current candidates find themselves banged up, Bradley will be on the short list to fill in. The Corbin injury set the club back on our depth charts page, they’re now projected to 34 WAR, which puts them in a virtual tie for third place in the division.
Most analysts expect Arizona to hold out until Bradley won’t qualify as a Super Two. I think that will be too late to resurrect the D-Backs season. If the club is aggressively pursuing a playoff berth in 2014, then they should wait just long enough for Bradley to miss a year of service time.
3. Kenley Jansen will be the best fantasy reliever, if healthy
No disrespect to Kimbrel, but I love the repeatability of Jansen’s formula. We’ve seen an elite reliever succeed for a long time with the same plan of attack – you may remember him wearing pinstripes until recently. Jansen attacks hitters with cutter after cutter, generating whiffs on over 30 percent of swings. His command and control have also improved enough for him to reach his superstar ceiling. This prediction is mostly a matter of expecting mild regression from Kimbrel and none from Jansen.
4. Trevor Rosenthal will be the third best fantasy reliever, if healthy
Again, apologies to Greg Holland and Koji Uehara, they’ll probably be quite excellent. Rosenthal features an elite fastball/change-up duo. His stuff might be the best of all the elite relievers (I’d probably pick Uehara if pressed) and for me, the only frustrating thing is that he won’t be starting. He’s getting more respect in drafts than Holland did last year, but I’m picking him to jump from the top of the second tier to the middle of the first tier.
5. Kevin Gausman will finish the season as the Orioles best starter or closer
I really don’t know what the O’s plan to do with Gausman. There doesn’t seem to be any point in demoting him to Triple-A, and the club has five experienced starters in place. It looks like the final rotation spot will fall to Gausman or Bud Norris, with the loser headed to the pen. While Tommy Hunter was solid in relief last season, he had a 3.68 FIP and 3.63 xFIP. I see him more as a serviceable setup man than a true closer. Meanwhile, Gausman has elite velocity and a dirty splitter. He’s at least one order of magnitude better than Hunter in the pen.
But to hedge my bets, he also has better stuff than the entire O’s rotation. If he finishes the season as a starter, he’ll be the best on the club.
6. Aaron Hill will outperform his draft position, if healthy
He’s actually going fairly early, with an ADP of 116. The “if healthy” caveat is what rigs the deck because it’s the only reason he’s outside the top 100. Hill is seen as a very inconsistent player, but it’s always been a story of BABIP. Of course, his infield fly rate tends to range from high to very high, so poor BABIP’s are a possible outcome. If he keeps that indicator under control, 20 home runs, a .290 average, and somewhere between five and 20 steals are possible.
7. Johnny Cueto already has scapula irritation
I’ve been quietly following Cueto’s spring. Prior to the injury fest that was 2013, I had mild hopes that Cueto could develop into the next Roy Halladay. Most people don’t remember it this way, but Halladay didn’t strike out many batters until his age 31 season, and even then he wasn’t a world beater. Well injuries happened and I’ve since relegated Cueto to my list of mildly interesting players. I was starting to get excited by his spring results – he looked quite sharp. Unfortunately, he was recently scratched from a start with “scapula irritation.” The official word is that it’s not an issue and he would have pitched in the regular. All I heard was “two months on the disabled list sometime in the nearish future.” I guess we’ll see.
8. Jimmy Rollins will play just about every inning he’s healthy
The Philadelphia media has a lousy habit of making news out of nothing. Manager Ryne Sandberg and Rollins may have had a battle of wills earlier this spring, but we could have called that back in November. Rollins was an easy target for Sandberg because it sends a strong message to the rest of the team. And since it’s spring training, it’s no big deal if Rollins sits a couple days.
Now it’s been blown way out of proportion and fantasy owners are shying away. You can probably pick up Rollins for $1 these days. I can’t guarantee that he’ll give you great innings, but I’m confident that he’ll be on the field.
9. John Jaso will be almost elite, part of the time
Jaso is an extremely good hitter against right-handed pitchers, but he’s been hidden from lefties his entire career. He’s set to get a lot of time at designated hitter this season and features an almost Choo-quality on base percentage. If your league has some room on the bench, Jaso is an excellent catcher platoon bat. If the league is deep, he’ll probably still outperform back end options like Devin Mesoraco. Unfortunately, power and speed aren’t part of the skill set. The OBP might result in a high spot in the batting order, which would help his other counting stats.
10. Jesse Biddle is the major league ready pitching prospect that everyone is overlooking
The Phillies rotation is a shambles after A.J. Burnett, which probably means that someone will open an opportunity by pitching poorly or finding the trainer’s room. Even the Phillies’ depth has been decimated, leaving Biddle very close to a regular job. He was charging through the minors before a bout of whooping cough coincided with a sudden loss of control. He didn’t exactly impress in three official innings this spring, so sending him to Triple-A was easy. He’s still knocking on the door with enough stuff to strike out a batter per inning while controlling walks. Keep an eye out.
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