Eno Sarris’ Bold Predictions for 2014 Fantasy Baseball

I keep making these bold predictions, and keep hitting about .300 on them. No idea if that says I’m not bold enough or if there’s some predictability in the crazy things that happen each year.

Really, that last reason is why we make these predictions every year. Crazy stuff happens every year, and it takes a little elasticity of the mind to consider the possibilities of the coming season. Maybe by doing this we’ll be in a better spot to reap the rewards when crazy things do happen. Sure, 70% of the following will not happen. But 30% probably will! And as long as you don’t invest too much in the possibility, and keep an eye on the floor, you might be able to use our bold predictions to your advantage.

This year, there’s a bit of a wrinkle: Jay Long of Razzball and I are having a gentleman’s wager regarding our Bold Predictions. With some right of veto on each other’s predictions, we’re putting our ten up against each other. His will publish on Razzball later today. Loser buys the winner a six pack of craft beer.

1) Jason Kipnis will go 30-30.
I was going to use “Jason Kipnis will be the top-rated second baseman at the end of the year” because I’ve thought that since the season ended and we looked backwards (and Robinson Cano signed with Seattle). But it looks like people agree with me too readily on that one. So I’ll push the envelope and put Kipnis in rarefied air. I make this prediction not because he’s gotten bigger — that’s nice to hear but too Best-Shape-Of-His-Life for me — but because he’s been bad in the last two second halves. I don’t think half splits like that are predictive, and he’s in the right peak age range to put together two good halves to make his best season. The steals make me nervous even more than the power, actually, and this is a silly prediction to make because it’s so specific, but might as well push my love as far as it can go.

2) The Astros will produce a mixed-league-relevant starting pitcher by the end of the year.
We didn’t rank a single Astros pitcher in the Consensus Top 115 that we put out last week. And we shouldn’t have, considering the talent level. Scott Feldman got a mention, I talked about Dallas Keuchel, and there’s some love for Brad Peacock, but these guys shouldn’t be drafted in mixed leagues. But there’s quantity there, and where there’s quantity, there is always quality… eventually. Maybe it’s Mark Appel coming up — he’s super polished and that extra year of college gave him the chance to refine that change-up — or maybe it’s that slider Keuchel is throwing, or maybe Brad Peacock finally makes it work with a slider and curve, bad change-up be damned. (Maybe he scraps the change!) Whatever it is, one of these guys will sneak into the top 100 by the season’s end.

3) Brad Miller will out-earn Ian Desmond.
If you were looking at my projections sheet, you wouldn’t call this very bold. I have Miller hitting .278 with 17 homers and 14 steals, and Ian Desmond at .273 18/17. Only a couple dollars of auction value separate those numbers. Now, your projections might be different, and that’s fair, but I’ve gone over the few suspicions I have about Ian Desmond, I’ve gone on record as liking Brad Miller a fair amount, and so this is just pushing those two thoughts into an extreme space. And I don’t hate Ian Desmond and nor do I think Brad Miller is the next top shortstop. This is me being extreme I guess. *Puts on a sweater and brews some tea.*

4) One of these pitchers will be a top-75 mixed league pitcher: Carlos Carrasco, Tyler Skaggs or Garrett Richards.
Is it cheating to include three? Here’s why I did: All three of these pitchers have multiple off-speed pitches that are above-average by whiff rate. Richards is the diciest because his change has been bad most of his career. But in the second half last year, it firmed up and was much more effective for him. Carrasco hasn’t put it together yet, but his change-up, slider and curve all have been above-average by whiff rates so far in his career. And the smallest sample is 327 pitches, so he’s shown his stuff to major leaguers and it’s worked. Tyler Skaggs is reportedly showing more velocity — if that’s true, he’s the best sleeper on this list. His curve and change are both above-average, and his curve is actually elite. If the fastball is better than 89, he’ll be mixed-league draftable.

5) Nobody will steal 50+ bases this year.
Obviously I’m talking about one player, to some extent. Billy Hamilton, if he plays all year, will steal more than 50 bases. But there’s enough risk there that I’m comfortable at least shining a spot light on this category and his flaws. For one, he’s new to switch-hitting and more comfortable from the right side. Look at how long it’s taken Dexter Fowler to become a viable switch-hitter — he also learned it late. Hamilton isn’t known for his defense like Fowler, and his patience was much more erratic than Fowler’s. That takes away two ways for him to add value and leaves him looking a bit too much like Eric Young, Jr to be super comfortable betting on him. So I’ll bet against him. Stolen bases were down last year — the lowest number since 2005 — and only Jacoby Ellsbury stole 50+ last season. So I’m betting against two players, and one was oft-injured and the other has at least something in common with Dee Gordon.

6) Anthony Rizzo will be a top-five first baseman this year.
This was vetted by my competitor and deemed bold enough, so I’ll take it. If you look at the end-of-season rankings for Rizzo last year, it does seem bold. He hit .231 and placed 25th among first basemen. But Rizzo made above-average contact and pushed his power forward for the second consecutive year. If you look at process over results, his platoon split was negligible — he struck out and walked at an average rate against lefties. Put it all together, and it’s a guy that could easily hit 30 homers and hit for a .280 average. My projections don’t have him doing those things, but at .273 with 28 homers, he’s already a top-seven first baseman. So if he can overshoot the mark by just a bit, we’ll be able to count this as a hit.

7) A new mixed-league relevant catcher will be born and it won’t be a top-50 prospect.
Austin Hedges and Travis d’Arnaud are the top-50 catching prospects, and betting on the field isn’t fair, so I’ll narrow it down: Hank Conger and Devin Mesoraco are better bets for producing this year than the prospects. Catching is a demanding field, and catchers have the latest debut age of any position for a reason: learning the ropes defensively is tough. Catchers spend most of spring training just getting to know their pitchers, so their bats take the back seat. Conger and Mesoraco have spent their entire careers to date working their defense to the point where their managers respect their gloves enough to give them more playing time. And playing time is where fantasy gold is found.

8) Brian Dozier will figure out his pop-up problems and have a huge year.
For reference, Andrelton Simmons, Matt Dominguez, or Brian Dozier are all good young players with bad pop-up rates. If they improve that facet of their game, they’ll improve their batting average and move from fringe to the top half of their positions in mixed leagues. Pop-up rate, which is different than IFFB%, has a year-to-year correlation around .63. That’s almost twice the correlation as BABIP, which is good because BABIP is random. Even with a decent correlation, though, pop ups are less year-to-year sticky than ground balls and fly balls. And our trio is young enough to be pre-peak and perhaps iron this out. In any case, with a correlation like that, it would be nice to get three shots at this thing. If one is ahead of the others, it’s Brian Dozier, who was very close to league average in the minor leagues when it came to automatic infield outs in the air.

9) The Twins will produce a third mixed-league relevant position player.
This is like the Astros’ bold prediction, in that it seems doubtful that any Twinkie hitter other than Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer will be rostered in mixed leagues this year. But there’s some promise around the diamond — mostly in the outfield. Oswaldo Arcia has big time power, all that’s keeping him back is bad plate discipline and a tough home park. He could cut the strikeouts and keep the good batted ball distribution and hit .275 with 25 homers. Josh Willingham is two years removed from hitting .260 with 35 homers. Aaron Hicks has power and speed when the team gives up on Alex Presley as a starter. And the Twins are rumored interested in Alejandro De Aza, and they have the top prospect in baseball, and young Josmil Pinto behind their old washup catcher has intriguing power upside. One of these guys will have a good year, and it serves as a reminder that bad teams often hide good sleepers.

10) B.J. Upton will be a fine fifth outfielder in mixed leagues.

So I’m saying that the lesser Upton will be a top-60 outfielder by the end of the year. Really, though, it’s not about B.J. Upton in particular. It’s about not holding grudges. Yes, Upton was particularly terrible last year, and yes that should shave some numbers off of your projection for the coming season. But dude’s not even turning 30 until late in the season, and he’s shown power, speed and patience in the past. If he recovers only two of those three skills, he’s a much better option than Jordan Schafer, and combined with his contract, he’s got a few reasons for his team to give him a decent leash. It might only be a .230 average with 20/20 type skills, but it’ll work, most likely. It’s rare to see a guy drop off so completely like this, at this age. Let’s not talk about Andruw Jones as if he’s not an exception as well.

So there you have it. Ten ideas that are on the edge of ridiculous, and if my average holds true, three of them will happen. Which ones would you bet on?

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

50 Responses to “Eno Sarris’ Bold Predictions for 2014 Fantasy Baseball”

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  1. quinceleather says:

    Eno, When are you going to start the Jason Kipnis Society? I agree with you, but want to point out that you are turning into the equivalent of Brundelfly–Saristulli………

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  2. benagain123 says:

    i think youre forgetting about Everth for the 50 steals one. Im not gonna relay his numbers to you im sure you know, but the only way he doesnt get 50 is it he loses playing time/gets hurt/suspended. do you forsee any of these?

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    • Eric F says:

      So are you predicting more playing time or a better than .355 OBP than last year? I’m not sure how much more games he’ll play, or if he can do better than a .355 OBP with a 9.4 BB%, and that only resulted in 37 steals, so i’m not sure where you think the extra 13 will come from.

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      • benagain123 says:

        see 2012. 324 obp, 44 steals in 115 games. i think he could have got 6 more steals in 45 games dont you?

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      • ms says:

        Wasn’t he suspended for 50 games last year? Not getting suspended might result in extra playing time.

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      • Hunter Pence's Thorax says:

        2011- 115 games, 44 steals
        2012- 95 games, 37 steals

        That’s a near identical 62 steal pace for both seasons. By this crude math, 130 games should get it done.

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      • Hunter Pence's Thorax says:

        2011- 115 games, 44 steals
        2012- 95 games, 37 steals

        That’s a near identical 62 steal pace for both seasons. By this crude math, 130 games should get it done.

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  3. jaywrong says:

    I think we should just buy each other six packs for no reason as well. Because beer.

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  4. Eno Sarris says:

    Bonus because Jay has one: Anthony Rendon will hit .280 with 20+ homers. I just love the kid, and he stayed healthy last year with a good contact rate. He’s shown more power in the minor leagues, too.

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  5. MustBunique says:

    “Please don’t Eno-jinx Miller like you did Duda.” Repeat out loud 10 times.

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  6. Nevin says:

    4, 9 and 10

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  7. ML says:

    Not bad…with you on Richards and keeping my fingers crossed on Upton, though he’s already striking out a ton.

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  8. centerfield_ballhawk says:

    I’m going to disagree on the steals and say that Rajai Davis will steal exactly 51 bags this year. If I hit this number on the nose will you send ME a six pack of craft beer?

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    • MLB Rainmaker says:

      This is a savvy take. I’m betting Dirks misses a lot more time than originally projected and Davis get a half season worth of PT up through the ASB. With that kind of PT he could ge on base quiet a bit.

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  9. David says:

    You want to make the bet sting: winner also gets to buy the loser a six pack of absolutely positively non-craft beer. Old German anyone?

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    • Jason B says:

      That’s no incentive, unless the loser is also forced to drink whatever swill is purcahsed for them, in front of the winner. In one sitting.

      (Otherwise folks are welcome to buy me all manner of junk and I will happily nod, smile, and pour it down the sink)

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  10. Phil McCracken says:

    Just saw Jay’s picks. Very bold, going with Eno on this. I am liking 2,3,7 and 9

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  11. Gumpa says:

    Rajai Davis will still 50 easily if he gets regular playing time. Not sure what the plan is for him in Detroit though.

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  12. Homophones! says:

    He may indeed still 50. Steal, it’s no sure thing.

    He may get the green light and steal only get to 40 or 45 stills.

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  13. jake says:

    10 bold predictions and only 3 NL players get a positive mention? Compared to no less than 17 AL players (could be off a little, I literally lost count)? Man its a tough year to be an NL-only player!

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  14. James says:

    A few of these are poorly worded predictions (7, 8, 9) whichleave too much room for fudging at year’s end. “Mixed league relevant”? “Huge year?” Quantify these like you did in the text of #2 and #10.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Mixed-league relevant is pretty easy to define, though. Above RL for catchers, for instance, is top 14. For Dozier I said top half of his position, but I will call it a win if he has a better-than-league-average pop up rate and a great batting average. Because he has power and speed and BA is all that’s missing. Nine is above RL for their position, so in the OF that’s about top 75.

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  15. SKob says:

    You make a prediction while thinking about Billy Hamilton, but you should have been thinking about Billy Burns!

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  16. Dave says:

    “If you were looking at my projections sheet,” …… can someone point me to the link to Eno’s 2014 projections? Many thanks

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  17. jpg says:

    “Hamilton isn’t known for his defense like Fowler…”

    While he may be known for his defense, per se, every thing I’ve read about him suggest that he has a good arm and that his range isn’t just good, it’s otherworldly. And while he’s new to CF, all the reports I’ve seen suggest he’s adapted quite well to the position. Again, the statement is true at face value because he’s known for his prolific base stealing. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but do you believe he won’t be a defensive asset?

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Actually I agree with that, I just don’t know that he will stick on defensive reputation. I think the worst-case scenario is either sent down to work on something, or stuck in the lesser side of a platoon / pinch-runner situation. Neither leads to 50 though.

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      • Ruki Motomiya says:

        Isn’t it possible he steals 50 even if he is forced there, say, after half or 1/3rd the season? He stole 13 in 13 games, which while a small sample size is combined with a large minor league track record of SB numbers.

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      • chuck says:

        I think you underestimate how automatic he is going to be on the bases. I think to get 50, he will need to reach just 75 times.

        Considering he’ll have the perpetual green-light, let’s say he runs on 50 of those occasions. Yes, he’ll get caught like 10-13 times, but he’ll also steal 3rd 10-13x….

        If you had said 75-80 bases is his limit because he might shuffle up and down on an option, I could see that. But I think he’s the fastest thing I’ve seen on the basepaths since Deion.

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    • Iron says:

      Speaking of range, I still like the A ball anecdote of him catching a fly ball on the warning track in left field. That may not sound like much for a CF, but he was playing SS at the time.

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      • jpg says:

        That definitely a reasonable take Eno. Being a plus or even a plus-plus defender could give him the leeway necessary to stay in the lineup everyday if he proves overmatched at the plate, one would think. At the same time, this is the same team that put Choo in CF, defense be damned. If he can stay in the lineup and stick in the leadoff spot, he could be a two category monster. Zack Sozart, with a .288 OBP and nowhere near Hamilton’s wheels had 75 runs hitting in the two hole in the same lineup. At the same time he could be in Triple A by May 1. I’m torn on this guy but strongly leaning towards taking plunge and grabbing him early.

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  18. thesportsbrah says:

    So, you’re saying Pinto won’t be a Pinto?

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  19. Agls91 says:

    Tyler Skaggs has been touching 96 MPH with his fastball this spring. The mechanical adjustments he’s made has really paid off.

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  20. Detroit Michael says:

    Can you (or someone else) explain this item, buried in the Brian Dozier discussion?

    “Pop-up rate, which is different than IFFB% …”

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  21. Ruki Motomiya says:

    Pretty bold predictions! I like ‘em, even if I disagree on some: Mostly the steals one (Someone like Ellsbury offers other chances to swipe 50 and I think Everth can hit it with a full season) and Rizzo, mostly because I don’t think he is a very good choice: His K rate DID go up against lefties last year, he walked less but not too absurdly so, and he did not hit them hard. He pushed his power forward… .008 ISO, it was basically his previous year but in full, and I think his minor league numbers suggest something like 25 HRs, which is about where he is at. I much prefer someone like A-Gon or Jose Abreu. Or Trumbo.

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  22. mockcarr says:

    Desmond is going to run more with Williams as the manager. He’ll probably have twice as many steals as your estimate if he stays healthy, and it seems like he’s made an attempt every time he’s been on first so far this spring. In fact my bold prediction would be 35 steals.

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  23. Nevin says:

    Mr. Sarris,

    Let’s assume that the Braves were willing to eat all or nearly all of Uggla’s contract to move him to another team’s roster and play Tommy LaStella.
    Who might the contenders be and what might be a reasonable return?
    Seems a better fit for an AL team, but could they really get anything for him at this point?

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  24. Dave says:

    where can I find whiff rate by pitch type per pitcher?

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  25. Thankyoutomcruise says:

    I think Billy Hamilton is far more likely to get 100+ stolen bases than to not reach 50. Hamilton is blocked by no one in Cincinnati, so barring injury, NL Central pitchers and catchers will have a ton of sleepless nights this summer planning for him. I am drafting him very early, somewhere between 45-55 ADP…here is to me hoping he channels his inner Rickey Henderson.

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  26. Fred says:

    Consider the source.

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  27. Brett Talley says:

    Five of these look downright brilliant at this point. Well done, boss.

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