Like the work of my cohorts here at RotoGraphs, these ten bold predictions are meant to push the conventional wisdom and highlight some players (and events) that will over- or under-perform compared to their fantasy expectations. While they’re maybe not likely to happen, I think that each of these events has a fair possibility of coming to pass. Let’s get wild, shall we?
1) Fernando Martinez hits 20+ HR, making him a useful fantasy OF.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but I think this is Fernando’s year. The former Mets prospect was once revered for his age at every stop in the minor leagues, but injuries and a lack of effectiveness have slowed his roll, so to speak. At one point, you could imagine F-Mart as a five-tool outfielder with speed and pop, but the speed’s gone and the pop, well, doesn’t pop so much any more. Nevertheless, given the messy situation in Houston, I could see Fernando getting plenty of PA against right-handed pitchers, and his offense was above league-average in limited major-league action last season. Given Fernando’s 19 homers between two levels last year, 20 in 2013 isn’t out of the question.
2) The Toronto Blue Jays will sport five players with 40 or more HR+SB this season.
If the title wasn’t clear, my presumption is that the newly-revised Jays will have five players on the roster who tally enough combined homers and stolen bases to eclipse the number 40. My presumption is that these five will be a healthy Jose Bautista, former Marlins Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio, Brett Lawrie, and Edwin Encarnacion. Bautista and Encarnacion will provide power (though E5 is a sneaky steals play), Reyes and Bonifacio will provide stolen bases by the truckload (as long as they stay healthy), and Lawrie should emerge as a 20-20 player if he makes it through a full season.
These two relievers were traded for one another this offseason, with Hanrahan going to the Red Sox in exchange for Melancon plus others. But while Melancon was the early face of Boston’s bullpen terribleness, he actually had an FIP close to Hanrahan’s over the course of the 2012 season. Hanrahan initially has the keys to the ninth inning in Boston, but his control problems — combined with the presence of pretty-great relievers Koji Uehara and Andrew Bailey — make it far from a sure thing that he’ll finish the season in that role. And Jason Grilli as closer in Pittsburgh may be fun (seriously, that K% is wild), it’s far from a sure thing that he’ll keep that role too.
Gyorko’s combo of power and plate discipline plays at any level and in any park, even cavernous PetCo. Expect lots of doubles, a fair amount of dingers, and a very solid average. He’ll basically be an improved version of Daniel Murphy, with better power and a few more RBI than the dinger-challenged Mets second-sacker. And while Dan Uggla is still able to knock a few balls out of the park and drive in runs, the runs scored and batting average will hurt more than the other offensive contributions will help.
5) Carl Crawford steals 25+ bases, posts a decent average, and is worth drafting as a mid-round guy in all leagues.
The Dodgers spent a lot of money to roll the dice on the former Rays great, but Crawford is looking much healthier than usual in spring this year, and this could certainly translate into fantasy value. While Crawford’s recent difficulties with taking a walk and staying healthy certainly hurting his stock, his wheels haven’t fallen off yet, and his speed will play. Think about how many leagues in which you’ve drafted a Juan Pierre / Rajai Davis type for the speed. Well, Carl Crawford can still run, plus he’s got more overall offensive value than those types of players, even after all of his troubles.
6) The best fantasy starter for the Diamondbacks this year will be Trevor Cahill. By far.
I am a huge fan of extreme groundball pitchers, and when it comes to starters, right now Cahill is as extreme as it gets. The still-young hurler induced grounders on a career-high 61.2% of balls in play last season, while also striking out more hitters than at any point in his career. He’s entering a phase in his career where the increased use of his slider could make for an injury risk, but it’s also a valuable weapon against a few rather-unimpressive NL West offenses. I see a low ERA, wins in the bunches, and enough strikeouts to make owners very, very happy they drafted him.
7) Wil Myers is a “bust” for fantasy owners in 2013.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love the Myers-for-Shields trade for the Rays, but banking on Wil Myers — or any young hitter, for that matter — to come in and make huge waves in their first major league season is a little hopeful. I look at Myers’ gaudy 2012 numbers, squint, and see more than a little Giancarlo Stanton in him, but with less raw power. And Stanton’s debut in 2010, while impressive, wasn’t exactly a Harper / Trout season. Myers will get called up, get acclimated to the bigs and his home park, fight off niggling injuries, and probably mash 10-15 homers and hit for a decent average, without racking up too many other counting stats. It’ll be 2014, or later, when Myers really starts to shine.
8) Sergio Romo earns less than a dozen saves this year.
I know what you’re thinking: good team, filthy stuff, solid beard, what could go wrong? The answer: everything. Last year, by May(!) half the teams in the majors had already blown through their first ninth-inning option and moved on to the next man up. In my opinion, we should always assume a team knows more than we do, and the Giants have been judicious with their use of Romo in the past, to help protect his slider-heavy right arm. It seems like an injury is in the cards somewhere, and pitching through a minor one might be just as bad as one that takes him out of action entirely. No closer is safe.
9) Troy Tulowitzki plays 140+ games, making him a top-10 overall fantasy player.
The question with Tulo is never his skill, but his health. 2012 was a major bummer for any owner that drafted Tulowitzki, as he couldn’t stay on the field, and didn’t perform at his usual level when he was on the diamond. While I know Rockies fans are hesitant to get too excited, Tulo has looked pretty good running on his surgically-repaired groin, and if he stays healthy, he’ll be an elite option in any league, any format, thanks to his combo of power and position.
Is this not bold? Trout had a phenomenal 2012, one of the best single seasons in recent history, and was huge in any category you could claim to name. And while I think he’ll score more runs … and steal more bases than Bryce Harper in 2013, I think Harper will pass Trout in homers, RBI, and (yes) batting average. This is less an indictment of Trout than it is a celebration of Harper’s burgeoning skillset, and the truth of the astonishing expectations sure to be heaped upon the Angels left fielder. Plus, I think Bryce will flourish in the three-hole, while Trout will be limited in RBI opportunities at the top of the Angels’ order. Also, Harper is going to get lots of ABs against the Marlins, Mets, and Phillies, while Trout has a tougher row to hoe in the AL West (Astros excepted) … and the AL in general.
It’s not that Trout is incapable of posting his unreal numbers again in 2013, it’s just that too much can conspire to keep him performing like a mere mortal. Harper, meanwhile, is even younger than Trout, and still possesses more impressive raw power than the player he’ll be linked with for the rest of his major-league career. I expect both players to have very impressive sophomore tours, but when in doubt, I like to side with power in fantasy. I’ll bet on (eye)black.