Bold predictions week is one of my favorite weeks of the year. As any of my friends will tell you, I love to make outlandish claims with little to no evidence to back them up, and then refuse to change them when faced with logic. But, now that I am an adult with a kid and a job and that kind of adult-y stuff, I need to be more rational most of the time.
For one week a year, though, I get to throw moderation to the wind, go with my gut, and drop some bombs. Of course, I love logical thought too much to not have reason behind my predictions, but they’ll be bold…oh, they’ll be bold.
1. Matt Dominguez will be a viable starting 3B.
I have been selling this so hard this off-season, that Eno Sarris’s entire fantasy season is now dependent on the Astro’s 3B putting up solid numbers. But the thing is, Dominguez took all the right steps in the second half of last year. He started making more solid contact, he walked more, he got more lucky (although his BABIP was still below his xBABIP) and he significantly cut down on infield fly balls. His .260/.323/.430 second half with a 25 HR pace seems like a good starting point, and I see no reason to think he can’t exceed all of those numbers. Martin Prado, listed 12th in the consensus 3B rankings, projects to .287/.333/.425 with 14 HR and 6 SB according to ZiPS. Dominguez will outperform that.
2. Hanley Ramirez will emerge as the most valuable player in fantasy.
There are questions about his health and maybe even his effort, but Hanley was a beast last year, playing just over half a season (336 PA) with 20 HR, 10 SB, and a .345/.402/.638 line. He’ll stay healthy and when he does, the guy currently doing 12th according to Yahoo’s Average Draft Position will end up with killer numbers, including a 30-20 season out of the SS position. I get if you don’t want to take him before Mike Trout, but letting him fall to the end of the first round? That’s just crazy.
3. Danny Salazar will be at best the third most valuable Indians pitcher.
Salazar was voted off my team in one league and I was shocked. I know the guy throws hard, I know he was impressive last year, but he is currently the first Indians SP and 35th overall SP coming off the boards, and he has not earned that yet. He threw 145 innings across three levels last year, far outpacing anything he has done before. He has a spotty injury history. Salazar has all the potential in the world, no doubt, and he may well become a great pitcher, but Justin Masterson is easily the best Cleveland SP for 2014, and when Salazar doesn’t break 150 innings, it will make it hard for him to outpace even Corey Kluber, and perhaps Carlos Carrasco or Trevor Bauer, if they are able to find their way. I’m happy to own Salazar, but at the price being demanded? Forget it.
4. Chris Tillman will prove to be a draft day steal (but not in most ottoneu leagues)
You can call him the Matt Dominguez of pitchers, if you want. Check out the second half: 3.42 ERA, more than 8.5 K/9, and with the offense backing him in Baltimore, he should be good for a nice pile of wins, as well. So why stay away in ottoneu? HR kill you in ottoneu points and 4×4 leagues, and Tillman had a 1.24 HR/9 in that stellar second half. It was 1.61 in the first half. Those long balls will always impact his value, but not enough to scare me away, except in those two formats.
5. Platooning Adam Lind and Justin Morneau will give you a viable starting 1B.
How does this line strike you? .294/.367/.502 with 24 HR and 82 RBI. That is what those two put up in their combined PA vs. right-handed pitchers, pro-rated to 600 total PA, in 2013. And now Morneau is moving from the third worst park in all of baseball for left-handed HR to the best park in all of baseball for that very same thing – coincidentally the thing he is paid to do! Your list of 1B with 24+ HR, a .290+ AVG and a .860+ OPS in 2013? Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, and MornLind. I’ll take the platoon.
6. Brad Miller will be a top 12 SS.
Coming off the board 22nd among SS by Yahoo ADP, Miller is a guy I am targeting wherever I can. Eight HR and five SB in half a season along with a BABIP deflated .264 average and a walk rate far lower than his triple-A numbers are reason enough for me to project a 15/15 season with solid rates. If he gets to hit early in a newly invigorated Mariner lineup (he primarily batted first last year), so much the better. Buy hard on Miller.
7. James Paxton will out earn Taijuan Walker.
Let’s stick with the team in my adopted hometown. Taijuan Walker has, deservedly, gotten a lot of hype around baseball, and there is some excitement in Seattle for the potential three aces (Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Walker). But Walker is already experiencing shoulder issues and is working his way back slowly. Even before that, Paxton looked brilliant in an MLB stint last year, and Walker has the kind of control issues that can short-circuit a fantasy season. Walker will accrue more K’s when he pitches, but he’ll throw fewer innings (due to injury or control issues) and Paxton will match his rates, in large part by keeping down the walks.
8. Allen Craig will double up and hit 26 HR.
After hitting 22 HR in just 514 PA in 2012, Craig saw a big drop in his HR and Fly Ball distance, and a related drop in HR/FB%, leading to just 13 HR in 563 PA. And for a guy who isn’t adding double-digit steals, that won’t do. But I expect the distance to return and Craig to again cross 550 PA, giving him what he needs to get from the 22 of a couple years back to 26 in 2014.
9. Catcher will be so deep that you won’t care who your catcher is.
Well, that isn’t entirely true. Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, and Carlos Santana are special talents. I think Brian McCann and Wilin Rosario could be in that group, too. But past that? Here are 17 more catchers that, by the end of the year, you may be happy to start: Yadier Molina, Salvador Perez, Jonathan Lucroy, Matt Wieters, Evan Gattis, Wilson Ramos, Jason Castro, Miguel Montero, Alex Avila, Russell Martin, Ryan Doumit, Carlos Ruiz, Mike Zunino, Yan Gomes, Devin Mesoraco, Travis D’Arnaud, Wellington Castillo. If even half of those players pan out, that is 12 solid starting catchers. We’re trained to think of catcher as a scarce position, but it isn’t. At least not right now.
10. Tanner Scheppers will lead the Rangers in saves.
The injury history of Neftali Feliz is concerning and Joakim Soria hasn’t been the healthiest himself, which means that Scheppers will likely get a shot. Maybe because the guys in front of him go down, maybe because someone needs a day off, who knows. But Scheppers was terrific last year, despite a drop in K/9. With the K’s coming back, and the ability to pitch far more regularly than his competition, Scheppers will grab the job and run with it.
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