Howard Bender’s 10 Bold Predictions

While they say “go big or go home,” these bold predictions tend to be a double-edged sword for us. We want to go bold, but we don’t want to be so outlandish that our predictions are unrealistic. We want to be right, but hedging our boldness only leads to the obligatory “these predictions aren’t so bold” comment which makes us feel shame for wimping out. I’m hoping to walk that fine line between wishful thinking and practical conjecture, but I tend to lean towards the outrageous, so I’m just going to have some fun here.

Dee Gordon will lead the NL in stolen bases

How’s that for boldness right out of the gate? Two things need to happen this season for this to come true: Gordon needs to earn and hold the starting second base job for the Dodgers and Billy Hamilton needs to spend most of his season in Triple-A. Gordon already seems to be on his way to earning the job this spring, so with him, it should come down to him exhibiting more of that improved plate discipline we saw last year. If he can keep his strikeout rate below 20-percent, maybe push that walk rate above 10-percent and see even a little boost in the BABIP department, then he should stave off Alex Guerrero and dazzle us with that crazy speed we all know he has.

As for Hamilton, he needs to start the season ice-cold and put up numbers the Reds simply can’t tolerate from their leadoff hitter and starting center fielder. Perhaps the OBP decline he’s suffered with each increase in level over the last two seasons becomes a little more glaring and the Reds are forced to make a move. You certainly can’t tell me with 100-percent certainly that it won’t happen, so I’ll go bold and say that it will because Hamilton going in the tank is the only way this prediction has a chance to be right.

Jose Abreu outperforms fellow countrymen Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes and, fantasy-wise, becomes the most valuable of all recent Cuban defectors, including Jose Fernandez.

Abreu won’t steal bases like Cespedes or Puig will, but he’s certainly going to out-slug them both. He’ll have more home runs, more RBI and should post a better batting average than either of them. His runs scored will be close, but I only need three of the five standard roto categories to be right. I could sit here and talk about Cespedes’ injury history or the fact that Puig posted a .255/.326/.432 over the second half of his season and was figured out by opposing pitchers, but I’d much rather focus on Abreu’s mythical resume which makes him sound like a cross between Zeus and the mighty Casey at the Bat. From league MVPs to home run records to slugging percentages hovering somewhere in the stratosphere, the 27 year old first baseman is a modern-day legend in Cuba. His 2010-11 season was his masterpiece when he slashed .453/.597/.986 with 79 runs, 93 RBI and 33 home runs in only 66 games. Playing half his games at the Cell is only going to help our hero, so sit back and enjoy the ride. Cespedes and Puig will both be green with envy and Fernandez’ pitching line won’t provide the overall impact to fantasy teams that Abreu’s batting line will.

Avisail Garcia goes 20-20 this season

I like his swing, I like his raw talent and I like his opportunity. While the White Sox outfield continues to look a little on the crowded side, all signs point to Garcia holding down the right field gig by himself this season. He’s shown some developing power potential through the minors and posted solid ISO numbers last season in Triple-A despite being injured for a substantial chunk of time. If he can maintain a similar mark hovering around .160, then he stands an excellent chance at cracking the 20-homer barrier, given the number of plate appearances he’ll receive. As for the speed, it’s going to be about him maintaining those strong OBP numbers we’ve seen him put up in the past and getting the green light from manager Robin Ventura. It is quite possible that I’m a year early on this, but the raw skills are there, for sure.

Vic Black will finish the season as a top-10 closer in the National League

I just don’t have faith in Bobby Parnell to stay healthy this year. Sure, neck surgery repaired the herniated disc that sidelined him last year, but I’m still wary. I think Black has better stuff, more consistent velocity, a higher strikeout rate which tends to push towards a higher strand rate, and once he gets the opportunity, he’s not going to let go. While I have little faith in the Mets posting more wins than losses, Black should close out plenty of games to push his saves total into a top-10 range while maintaining ratios and strikeouts that do the same.

Joakim Soria finishes as a top-five closer in the AL and wins Comeback Player of the Year

Soria is battling with Neftali Feliz this spring for the closer job and while both are working their way back from Tommy John surgery, Soria looks like he’s having an easier time with it than his counterpart does. Maybe this being Soria’s second run at the procedure gives him an advantage as he knows the process and just what he needs to do to get himself back on track. This is all still uncharted territory for Feliz. Already this spring we’re seeing Feliz struggle with his command and he’s looked very hittable. Obviously it’s a small sample size and we can’t put too much stock in spring numbers, but when Soria is clearly ahead of him, Ron Washington is going to have to go with the guy who can hold the lead best. Feliz as a fly-ball pitcher is risky enough, but a fly-ball pitcher who falls into hitter’s counts regularly is more likely to give up some late-game leads. Soria should earn the nod by the end of March and quietly return to the days of yore when he was affectionately known as the Mexecutioner. Yes, I know he doesn’t like the nickname, but it’s just so damn good. I see strong strikeout totals, very helpful ground ball rates and enough to slide in just behind the AL’s top-three in Greg Holland, Joe Nathan and Koji Uehara.

Regardless of record, the Astros finish in the top-five for runs scored in the second half.

Once the Astros are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, which should be sometime around mid to late June, and there are no arbitration clocks with which to be concerned, the team is likely to summon, if they haven’t already, both George Springer and Jonathan Singleton. Combine them with Matt Dominguez, Chris Carter and Jason Castro in the heart of the order and Dexter Fowler and Jose Altuve setting the table and the Astors could be looking at quite the second half surge in runs scored. There’s plenty of power here, good speed a very hitter-friendly home ballpark and come the second half, these guys aren’t going to have much in the way of pressure on them. Sure, their pitching staff may guide them to a number of 7-5 losses over the second half, but the potential of this offense seems too good to ignore.

Mike Moustakas out-earns Josh Donaldson

This is a combination of me believing that Moustakas has done the necessary work to correct his problems at the plate and that Donaldson peaked last year and has nowhere to go but down. Moustakas has continuously put in a ton of work to his approach at the plate and will hopefully continue to bring that IFFB% down as he has each year for the last three years. He actually improved his contact rate last year, swung at fewer pitches outside the zone and reduced his overall strikeout rate as well as his swinging-strike-percentage. I believe he can return to that 20-home run level and post numbers closer to his rookie season. With Donaldson, I see a 28-year old late-bloomer who posted a career year that he will struggle to sustain. His strikeout and contact rates in the minors were never anything to be excited about and he’s rarely posted a string batting average. Even if you assume only a slight regression, his and Moustakas’ numbers should be extremely similar by year-end. If that’s the case, it comes down to where you drafted Donaldson versus where you drafted Moustakas and in looking at their respective ADP numbers, we’re talking about a fifth rounder versus a 20th-rounder.

Andrelton Simmons finishes the year as a top-five NL shortstop

Plain and simple, I believe he licks the pop-up issue from which he suffers, posts close to, if not exactly, 20 home runs, and sports a BABIP well above the .247 mark he struggled with last year. I see him maintaining his solid plate discipline and also finding his way to double-digit stolen bases. If all that goes the way I think/hope it will, a 20-10 season with a .270-ish batting average could be all he needs to crack the top five in the NL. Of course, I’ll need a little help here as well as Troy Tulowitzki will need a major injury (very possible) while at least two of Ian Desmond, Jean Segura, Starlin Castro and Everth Cabrera need to struggle throughout most of the year. They don’t have to be huge struggles; just enough to let Simmons squeeze past them.

Gerald Laird and Christian Bethancourt each finish the year with as many, if not more plate appearances than Evan Gattis

Defensively, Gattis isn’t very good. He ranked just 38th overall amongst all backstops who accumulated 250 or more plate appearances. Offensively, he put up two solid months to open the year last season, batting .281 with 12 home runs, but from June 1 to the end of the season, he posted a .219 average with just nine home runs. If he hits like that again and the defensive work hasn’t improved, the club could very well turn to Gerald Laird for at least a platoon while they await Bethancourt who seems to be primed for a solid second -half call-up. Despite the rash of injuries to the Braves rotation, the team is still likely to be in a win-now mentality and subpar performances behind and at the plate are only going to be tolerated for so long. I see the team tiring of Gattis’s struggles both offensively and defensively and reducing him to what he should be — a right-handed bat off the bench.

The New York Yankees celebrate Derek Jeter‘s final season with their 28th World Series championship.

And finally it’s time for me to put my fan hat on, don the Jorge Posada jersey that doubles as a reminder to all Red Sox fans that Bucky Dent once crushed their spirits in a way almost indescribable to most and just asssume that most problems can simply go away if you throw enough money at them. With the addition of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka and a healthy Michael Pineda, the team not only stays healthy, but thrives all year. Kelly Johnson becomes the next Scott Brosius, Brian Roberts and Brendan Ryan keep the keystone covered, Mark Teixeira comes back to jack at least 20 homers and all the other parts, with the help of some of that Yankees mystique and aura, fall right into place.The Captain posts a solid final season for himself, gives the finger to those who continuously hate on his defense and earns his sixth championship ring. Sure, I may be living a pipe dream here, but if it all wasn’t possible, then the Vegas oddsmakers wouldn’t have put the Yankees at 14 to 1, sixth lowest amongst all MLB teams.




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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com

43 Responses to “Howard Bender’s 10 Bold Predictions”

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  1. chri521 says:

    Very Bold! Yankees with that mish-mash pitching staff and bullpen winning it all?

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  2. Hideo Nomo says:

    CC, Tanaka, and Kuroda is a strong 1-2-3. Add in Pineda and Nova and you have a good rotation. Bullpen could use some help, but they can address that mid-season.

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    • Hoot 45 says:

      CC’s hitting 85 on the gun in ST. You sure he deserves to be slotted in as the #1? Tanaka’s unproven, and Kuroda is courting career ending injury. While you’re at it throw in Pineda’s 2 year hiatus and his own injury history and you come up with at best the 3d best rotation in the AL East.

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    • dirck says:

      But what about that infield ??? Teixiera hitting .230 at 1B,Brian Roberts in a hospital bed at 2B,a statue of Jeter at SS ,and maybe Kelly Johnson ,whose has played about 3 games at 3B in the last 5 years .McCann is the only even above average
      player in the bunch

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  3. Hunterfan says:

    Re: the Soria as closer thing-I hope you’re right, but I’ve learned never to underestimate Wash’s ability to go to “his guy” despite the latter’s poor performance.

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  4. Kris says:

    Gattis’ framing metrics are actually pretty good, and a lot of his horrible defensive metrics last year came when he was in left field. I doubt they give up on the likely opening day cleanup hitter so easily

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    • d_i says:

      I get 36th when sorting C defense w/250 PA min so Howards claim seems close when going by fangraphs catcher defensive metrics but those don’t include the much discussed framing figures which do look upon Gattis favorably in a relatively small sample. I agree with Kris that that prediction is very bold/unlikely.

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  5. JJ says:

    Yankees? Brutal infield and at best the #3 pitching staff in their own division. Visiting teams will also be taking aim at that short right field porch.

    Yanks struggle to finish 3rd again and hold off a healthy Toronto.

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    • James says:

      OK, maybe the Rays have a better 1-5 SP than the Yankees do but the Red Sox do not.

      Lester Not an ace. by
      John Lackey you trust him?
      Felix Doubront Has potential but has pitched max 160 inn with bad era
      Jake Peavy complete injury risk
      Clay Buchholz see above and no longer cheating.

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      • Jonathan says:

        Two can play at this game:

        Sabathia didn’t look like an ace last year and his fastball is down to the mid-eighties.
        Kuroda is 39 years old and coming off a bad second half.
        Tanaka is a complete unknown quantity.
        Pineda is so much more of an injury risk than Peavy and hasn’t pitched in the majors in over two years.
        And then there’s no certainty on who the fifth starter will be. Nova? Phelps? Other?

        And then there’s the question of depth. Exceedingly few teams make a playoff run with a rotation that’s five quality starters deep. The Yankees don’t even have that. The Rays are flush with pitching depth and the Red Sox don’t have nearly the depth of them, but still substantially more than the Yankees (Lester, Lackey, Doubront, Peavy, Buchholz, Workman, Capuano, Ranaudo, Webster).

        There is a whole lot of room for regression in the Red Sox rotation, but the massive question marks in the Yankees rotation are too numerous to give them the benefit of the doubt over the Red Sox without making some extremely biased assumptions. Either you assume health and typical career norms all around or you assume regression and poor health all around or you assume a mix based on the pitcher’s history; in any of those three scenarios, the Red Sox come out ahead in pitching all things being equal.

        So, yeah, third at best is a pretty realistic analysis. Hell, the Orioles may actually have a better rotation when all is said and done depending which Jimenez shows up.

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      • BenFranklin17 says:

        if anything Nova is solidified as the #4 starter and Pineda is the question mark to make the rotation as the 5th guy

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  6. yosoyfiesta says:

    Are these bold predictions or is this a wish list made-up of ridiculous personal fantasies?

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    • Lenard says:

      Aren’t they often one and the same, especially for this series? People often complain about predictions not being bold enough but now are we going to complain that they’re too bold?

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  7. Spudchukar says:

    Bold isn’t synonymous with ridiculous. Only in the Yankee “Universe” could they be chosen to win the WS. No third baseman, no second baseman, no replacement for Texeira, too many DHs, either forcing Soriano into the field, or watching one of Beltran, McCann, or Jeter, riding the pine, no set-up guy, and an ace who hasn’t pitched like even a #2 guy for a while now. The Yanks have many more hopes than answers. Best case scenario for New York in 2014- 4th place.

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  8. tz says:

    As a Red Sox fan, I got a little scared with the K Johnson/Brosius comparison, because it does have a bit of deja-vu.

    What scares me most, however, is the thought of Pineda in the bullpen. If healthy, he could be lights-out in a high-leverage bullpen role. And that would probably be the tipping point for a Yankees run (and the tipping point for Mariners fans too.)

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  9. Lenard says:

    Man, how awesome was Scott Brosius in ’98 though?

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  10. dscottncc says:

    I completely agree with the Moustakas outperforming Donaldson. Only thing that scares me in the situation is that Moustakas is planned to bat 7th in that Royals lineup to start the season… Adding to that bold prediction, is that Moustakas will bat 5th in the lineup by May 20th.

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  11. Spudchukar says:

    As to the other 10 predictions:
    1) No Dee Gordon isn’t going to lead the league in steals. You cannot steal first. Look for Gordon to be riding the pine, after a legitimate second baseman is acquired.

    2)Abreau may outperform Cepedes and Puig, but not Fernandez.

    3)Garcia is a work in progress. 20 homers, probably, 20 steals doubtful. He is still only about a .270 hitter.

    4)Black has good stuff, but lacks command. Could he replace Parnell, sure, could he be a league leader in saves, not as long as he plays for the Mets.

    5)Soria will garner the closing job in Texas, but top five, no. His ERA will still rise above 3.20 and closing for the Rangers will give him lots of saves, but he is CPOY, only if nobody else does much.

    6)Astros second-half run scoring juggernaut? No chance. They will be better but no where that much better.

    7)Agree that Donaldson will take a step backwards, but Moustakas who will take a step forward, needs a lot more than those two steps to pass Donaldson. It is Seager who will outdistance these two.

    8)Simmons, maybe. His BA/OBP won’t improve much, but he should go past 20 homers, but Peralta will be right there with him.

    9)Gattis. Correct on his defense, and Betancourt may indeed supplant him by season end, but still won’t amass more ABs than Gattis, even with Laird stealing some.

    10) Yankees WS champs. Get a grip.

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    • So this is your list of 10 Anti-Bold, Mundane, Boring predictions?

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    • Vrev says:

      I’m not normally very good at reading between the lines, but I’m getting a faint sense that you don’t like these bold predictions.

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    • Spudchukar says:

      I enjoy the bold predictions, I just disagree. I thought that was the main purpose anyway. I call B.S. wherever I read it. Want bold predictions here you go.

      1) Seattle makes the play-offs.

      2) New York and Boston battle it out for 4th and 5th place in the AL East.

      3) Milwaukee finishes second in the NL Central.

      4) Minnesota finishes with the worst record in Baseball, behind the likes of Chicago, Chicago, New York, New York, and Houston.

      5) LA Angels barely finish ahead of the Astros.

      6) Toronto and Baltimore fight to the finish for the one WC to come out of the AL East.

      7) Kyle Seager leads all AL third basemen in OPS.

      8) Jose Fernandez wins NL Cy Young in close contest with Wainwright and Wacha, who cancel each other out.

      9) Year of the Matts in St. Louis. Carpenter repeats his 2013 campaign, including runs scored. Holliday has best season in years with 33 homers and 110 RBIs, and Adams homers 36 times, and drives in 98.

      10) St. Louis wins 103 games, plays the Gnats who have defeated the Dodgers and goes on to win the WS against the Rays in 6. Top five teams in Baseball in 2014: St. Louis, Washington, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Atlanta Braves.

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      • These are ridiculous, none of them will ever happen.

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      • Andrew says:

        You call these bold? There isn’t a single death-defying stunt among them.

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      • C-train says:

        So this person is obviously a cardinals fan. The only bold/crazy predictions include his favorite team. Wacha second in by young?!? Haha. I’d compare him to a young Bumgarner who took the league by storm in the Giants 2010 WS win. Had a fairly good season the next year.

        I like the Seagar prediction. But this doesn’t happen if you consider Encarnacion a 3b as he is elgible for fantasy and that’s what most of us reading these articles care about

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  12. adam says:

    The yankees are probably 14/1 because there are more casual fans betting them for fun than any other team. I wouldn’t even take 20/1 with this team.

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  13. Hendu for Kutch says:

    Mystique and Aura are available for lap dances after they finish their sets.

    Vegas oddsmakers put the odds so low on the Yankees because there’s a huge number of Yankee fans who’ll put money on them regardless of how good they’re not.

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  14. Emcee Peepants says:

    I’ll start by saying that I hate the Yankees, but the eventual WS Champion Red Sox last year had a lot of similar question marks (age, infield, rotation, questionable free agent spending) and they won 97 games. The yanks won 85 giving Vernon MF-ing Wells 400+ PAs and an assortment of scrap heap players 300+. Both the lineup and rotation could/should be substantially better and you’d expect them to be spenders at the trade deadline if they’re in contention since they missed the postseason last year. If they make the postseason, a 3 man rotation of Sabathia, Kuroda, and Tanaka would be pretty formidable, with Pineda and as a fireballing middle man (assuming all pitch up to potential). I’m not saying a WS in the Bronx is not a bold prediction, but it certainly seems possible. Which sucks. Because the Yankees.

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    • Jonathan says:

      Apples to oranges. The 2012 Red Sox were a legitimate dumpster fire with career worst performances from most of their team. Even with the late season firesale, the Sox underperformed their pythag by five games.

      The 2013 Yankees actually spent most of the season playing over their heads and for all the big splashes they made, a lot of it was treading water. McCann is a huge net gain, but Ellsbury and Beltran combined are apt to MAYBE mitigate the loss of Cano. 90 games is optimistic for them.

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  15. MDL says:

    Congratulations Bender, these are sufficiently bold! And to those whining about the Yankees WS prediction, just a reminder that the Red Sox were given 25/1 odds before last season (according to this link).

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  16. centerfield_ballhawk says:

    Ryan Ludwick and Grady Sizemore will be your 2014 AL and NL Comeback Players of the Year.

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  17. Munion Rico says:

    When people evaluate Josh Donaldson’s minor league numbers they never keep in mind that he played catcher in the minors until the beginning of 2012. He doesn’t deserve all this flack and disbelief. His power is real, his patience is real, he’s obviously athletic, and I don’t think his batted ball profile jumps out as unsustainable. As a 3rd baseman his hitting line has been filthy mangos. Moustakas is a candidate for the worst. In 1500 mlb PAs his babip is 274. His babip in the final two years of minor league play were 314 and 271. He is dump truck. Bold indeed.

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  18. Lanidrac says:

    You don’t see Peralta as a legitimate contender for Top 5 NL shortstop?

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  19. Umpire Weekend says:

    Mhaybe.

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  20. BrachRickey11937 says:

    This is my favorite RotoGraphs series and HB’s predictions are nice and bold. It helps to remind me of players or effects I might have overlooked. Nowadays everybody has access to the same player rankings; it’s those black swan events that often make or break your season.

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  21. Bill says:

    This is so bold I want to baste ribs with it.

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  22. Pessimistic White Sox Fan says:

    I would love to see Avisail Garcia take a big step forward, but I think you’re right that that’s at least a year away.

    I also don’t know what OBP skills you’re referring to. He virtually doesn’t know how to take a walk. His contact skills are great. He hits to all fields like someone way older than 22, and the power is clearly developing. Taking walks is the only thing he doesn’t know how to do. Probably cause he knows he can hit anything near the plate. I can’t imagine he even sniffs 20 SBs without a .350 OBP. Assuming the Fan projections, which put him at 19 HRs with a .289 BA, and assuming 600 PAs, he would need to walk 43 times for a 7.2% BB rate to get a .350 OBP. That would be a substantial improvement over last year’s 3.5% at the Major League level. Even adding in his minor league PAs, he only managed ~5% last year.

    That’s a bold prediction.

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  23. Baltic Fox Has Cold Paws says:

    Yankees winning the World Series? Yeah, that’s BOLD.

    Even if they earned a WC somehow–and with that horrible IF and a bunch of question marks at SP that seems doubtful–how could they beat a team like the Nats or the Cards? Sabathia isn’t the pitcher he used to be, Kuroda struggled late in the season and is one year older and nobody can do anything but guess how Tanaka’s arm will hold out after so many IPs in the JPL.
    Yanks may be forced to do somthing desperate like trade for Uggla–if the Braves eat some salary–because Brian Roberts should be on the DL by Mother’s Day. Unless Dean Anna is the second coming…
    But the prediction is BOLD.

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    • Baltic Fox Has Cold Paws says:

      Oh, and that 20 HR season for Simmons? That’s BOLD too. Not in that park, not in that division.
      If he got traded to the Brewers or Phillies he’d have a chance to reach that number, but his glove will keep him in Atlanta for a long time.

      But it is BOLD. Kind of like running up to Kate Upton and kissing her in front of Justin Verlander.

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