10 Fantasy Relevant Predictions (Not Very Bold)

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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Brad is a former collegiate player who writes for FanGraphs, MLB Trade Rumors, The Hardball Times, RotoWorld, and The Fake Baseball. He's also the lead MLB editor for RotoBaller. Follow him on Twitter @BaseballATeam or email him here.

22 Responses to “10 Fantasy Relevant Predictions (Not Very Bold)”

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  1. Googolplex says:

    What happened to Cliff Lee?

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  2. Jack says:

    You don’t know what the Orioles are planning to do with Gausman demoting him to AAA?

    (1) Managing innings. He’s slated for about 160 this season. If he starts in the majors, he wouldn’t necessarily finish the whole season before hitting that. In the minors, they can ease him into the season. I expect a number of 4 IP, 5 IP starts in April and even May before he’s actually let lose. He’ll probably be ready to be called up by June if there’s a need (and there will be).

    (2) Pitcher attrition. The Orioles, like every team, are going to need a 6th SP. That 6th SP is going to need to throw a lot of innings. Having a good 6th SP who has options is valuable.

    (3) Developing the slider. Gausman struggled in his brief time as a starter because his slider was not very effective. As a reliever, he dominated with just the fastball and change/split. It’s true that Gausman could dominate as a reliever right away. But as a starter, he could still use more seasoning. Last year was his first real professional season, after all.

    (4) Service time. I’m not sure on the specifics, but Gausman was called up after the Super 2 deadline last year and was sent down again for a stretch before getting called up again. If everything breaks right, the Orioles can get another year of control back by leaving him down for an extended time (although he’d be a super 2 again).

    The Orioles have their reasons for sending him down. He’s probably better than Norris, Gonzalez, and even Chen, but probably not by THAT much this year, and those guys are all solid enough SP.

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    • Jack says:

      I’ll also add that the only way he’s in the pen is if toward the end of the season there’s a concern over innings and the Orioles REALLY need him there. He’s an elite prospect as a starter. It’d be silly to put him in the pen because the Orioles could use him there at the start of the season. His long term development is far more important, and his future is as a starter. He might end up as the closer or a key reliever in September if the Orioles are playoff bound and don’t have a need in the rotation, which is unlikely.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      I have no doubt that the Orioles may agree with this line of thinking. It’s an attractive, if perhaps overly cautious approach. And caution isn’t a great way to win the AL East. The Rays are cautious, but their roster allows it and their market demands it. The Orioles have less redundancy and a vastly better market.

      To be frank, Gausman could be a 10 win starter in 2016 and it probably wouldn’t do the club any good (besides having a fantastic trade asset). We might be overhyping the Royals as a win-now roster, but we’re not with the Orioles. Davis, Jones, and Hardy (to a much lesser extent) are holding this team’s head above water. They’re going to decline and/or relocate pretty soon. I also hate watching teams manage pitcher service time. They tend to break before year six let alone year seven.

      Personally, and I know this irrelevant, I would pop Gausman in the pen today, see where the club stands in late May and make a judgment call if I still need him in the pen or should stretch him out in Triple-A for his long term role. They’re going to regret losing games to their interdivision rivals because their closer is a good middle reliever.


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      • Jack says:

        I think the service time is the least of their concerns and they won’t hesitate to call him up and keep him on the roster if a starter gets hurt. They are “going for it” this year. That’s more of a potential added benefit and why I mentioned it last. I think the main thought process though, and the correct one, is what’s best for Gausman’s long term development as a starting pitcher. That pretty clearly is, well, having him be a starting pitcher. He definitely needs to work on the slider as a starter, every scout has said that, and it makes sense to do that against AAA pitching.

        While the Orioles are “going for it” this year, they are also fully planning on “going for it” next year as well, as the last year in their purported window. I am certain the Orioles have penciled Gausman into the 2015 rotation for his first season of no innings restrictions. One of Chen, Norris, or Gonzalez will be moved if he develops as anticipated. That’s what their goal is. Any time spent using Gausman as a reliever in 2014 that potentially compromises that goal just isn’t going to be worth the marginal value of having him in the major league pen this year.

        In fact, the 2015 team is shaping up to be in much better than the 2014 team. Davis and Wieters will still be under contract and Markakis’ contract will come off the books (along with Hardy and Cruz, who could be brought back), so they’ll have alot of money to work with. They can also expect a full season of Gausman and likely contributions from Bundy, Schoop, and perhaps EdRod.

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    • Sgt. Hulka says:

      To gain another year of service time, I think the O’s would have to promote him no earlier than mid to late June. That’s my rough estimation based on his 71 days last year plus the 20 or so needed to avoid a full year of service.

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      • Jack says:

        Thanks, that sounds right to me. That dovetails pretty well with what I said about bringing him along slowly in innings. I suspect it won’t be until mid-May that he’ll really be let to go 6+ innings or 100+ pitches.

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  3. Donald Trump says:

    Great stuff. Please keep pumping out the sleeper SP data all year… I will be in constant need of breakout SPs and you are the best source, Brad.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      As somebody who habitually “forgets” to draft starting pitchers, I’ll have to do this. I’m pencilled in for 10 articles a week here plus content on other sites. Those pitcher picks will be a part of all that.

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  4. Blue says:

    Holland > Jansen.

    Book it.

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  5. Emcee Peepants says:

    On the topic of prospects making the rotation, is there any chance Aaron Sanchez breaks camp as the 4th/5th in Toronto?

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  6. Cmon You Irons says:

    If the 82 walks in 138 innings aren’t enough to scare the Phillies away from promoting Jesse Biddle, the fact that he is only 22 years old must have them appositively horrified.

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    • Emcee Peepants says:

      They should probably trade him for Kuroda.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      Nobody should worry about those walks. He didn’t have a walk problem until he caught pertussis. He’s better now and the walks will be back under control. I also don’t see why 22 is a problem. Pitchers are being brought up younger and younger as teams figure out that they usually break by their mid-20’s.

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      • LOL Phillies says:

        I am guessing that was a reference to the Phils’ affinity for really old players.

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      • Steven says:

        Biddle has walked a lot of guys his entire minor league career unless you are only counting his 2013 season before your set cutoff point. It’s not like he went from Cliff Lee to Carlos Marmol after pertussis. It’s more like he went from Ubaldo Jimenez to Carlos Marmol, and we might expect regression towards his Ubaldo walk rate.

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  7. cs3 says:

    22 is a problem because 22 year olds are not allowed into the geriatric ward.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      Ah yes, I didn’t read the dripping snark. They need someone to balance the average age on the roster for when they call Jamie Moyer out of the broadcasting booth.

      Also, scuttlebutt is that Bobby Abreu is going to be rostered. I’ll let that sink in.

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