Mike Podhorzer’s 10 Bold Predictions

You have read the rest of the staff’s bold predictions, now it’s finally time for the man who inspired them all to unveil his. Luckily, my crystal ball is the clearest it has ever been!

1. Hanley Ramirez hits 15 home runs or fewer, despite staying healthy all season.

There are many factors at play here that could make this prediction a reality. First, he is coming off shoulder surgery which is known to sap power, at least early on in the season. Second, his ISO has declined for three straight seasons, so although I am not a fan of projecting a trend to continue, it means that it’s more likely he hits closer to 20 home runs than 30. Next, his FB% has dropped to just around 33% the last two seasons. That’s too low for a supposed power hitter. And last, though the old Marlins stadium slightly suppressed right-handed home run power, our own Steve Slowinski speculated that the new stadium might be even more of a pitcher’s park, especially for right-handed hitters.

2. Jose Altuve earns top 5 value among second basemen.

I wrote about him last Thursday and published my full projection after our second base rankings revealed how much more bullish I was than the other three RotoGraphers. Hitting in the second slot in the order gives him a bit of at-bat upside from my projection, so he could easily surpass the 600 plateau, increasing his expected counting stats. He could also steal over 30 bases, as he stole 31 combined last season and 42 in 2010.

3. Emilio Bonifacio is worthless in 12-team mixed leagues.

This may very well appear bold to most fantasy owners (his ADP sits at 172), but I am actually valuing him as worthless right now. Last year’s .296 batting average was accomplished with an unrepeatable .372 BABIP, so when that regresses, his stolen base opportunities will fall and he’ll score and knock in fewer runs. This is going to have a domino effect on his playing time. If he isn’t contributing in batting average, suddenly his lack of power will matter a whole lot more and he may struggle to maintain every day at-bats. You’re now left with a one-category contributor who may be no better than Alcides Escobar.

4. Paul Goldschmidt outperforms Paul Konerko in every 5×5 category.

This pains me to type as I own an authentic Konerko jersey and my home fantasy league is even named after him. That said, Goldschmidt has shown massive power in the minors, and his 2011 Double-A MLEs (Major League Equivalents) translated to a 33 home run pace over 550 at-bats last year. He could easily out-homer Konerko this year, and the projection systems all agree. Surprisingly, despite a huge frame, Goldschmidt even steals bases, so beating Paulie there shouldn’t be a problem. The biggest challenge will likely be the batting average competition. However, Goldschmidt showed much better contact skills at Double-A, while he has posted fantastic BABIPs. Let’s not forget that Konerko’s career BABIP is just .286, despite a strong past two seasons when he posted marks above .300.

5. Ichiro Suzuki outearns Mike Stanton.

Whaaaaaat?! Like the Bonifacio prediction above, I am actually projecting this as I have Ichiro valued right above Stanton. And I am not even projecting anything outrageous for either player. This is a function of several things. First, Ichiro’s move to hitting third will provide a significant boost to his RBI totals. Of course, he’ll lose at-bats, which will hurt in other areas like steals and runs scored. We have all heard about his batting practice power, so it will be interesting to see if he now tries to hit with more power in actual games. I didn’t project much of a power bump though, but I do expect his batting average to rebound at least somewhat, though I am only projecting a .288 mark. I am a bit cautious on Stanton as the new park is a wild card and his batting average is going to hurt.

6. Mike Minor is the most valuable Braves starting pitcher.

Yes, better than Brandon Beachy and Tommy Hanson. I think Beachy (who ironically beat out Minor for a spot last season) poses the biggest challenge, since Hanson’s shoulder concerns me, especially since he has tweaked his mechanics to compensate. I found that Minor is currently the most undervalued pitcher after comparing my values/rankings to Mock Draft Central ADPs. With Tim Hudson hurt and a collection of rookies vying for a rotation spot, Minor should last as a member of the starting staff all season. He has posted excellent strikeout rates and displayed good control, but his defensive support has just been horrid. Assuming his BABIP returns to a league average rate (or better, as he’s a fly ball pitcher), he has a real shot at a mid-3.00 ERA.

7. Chris Sale is not only the most valuable White Sox starting pitcher, but also outearns every member of the Diamondbacks rotation.

…which includes starters like John Danks, Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. You probably know by now that I love Sale this year. Ground balls and strikeouts galore with acceptable control? Sign me up. An innings limit could make this prediction difficult to come true, but for what it’s worth, Sale himself says that he wants to pitch 200 innings. I think Kennedy is significantly overvalued, which is unsurprising given his excellent, albeit lucky, season last year. Hudson was fortunate as well, as even though his strikeout rate should increase, more fly balls are going to leave the yard after finishing 2011 with just a 6.4% HR/FB ratio.

8. Homer Bailey outperforms Ricky Romero in all four categories.

I have already named Romero as one of the most overvalued pitchers in baseball twice already, which is unfortunate because his underlying skill set is the type I love to fill my staff with. That said, his .242 BABIP is obviously going to jump, bringing his LOB% down and causing his ERA to rise toward the 3.78 SIERA he posted last year. Bailey isn’t the ground ball machine that Romero is, but he has better strikeout potential and his walk rate has declined every season he has pitched with the Reds. His SwStk% has also risen three consecutive seasons, and he struck out 30 batters in 28.2 innings last September. Was that an early sign of an impending breakout? I think it may have been.

9. Matt Thornton not only holds the White Sox closer role all season, he also leads the AL in saves.

Last year at this time, Thornton was once again the favorite to close games for the Sox, but many believed he was battling another hot shot youngster with limited experience for the role. That time it was Chris Sale, now this year it’s fire-balling Addison Reed, who has even less Major League experience than Sale had. We all know what happened next, Thornton lost the job after like five innings (crazy Ozzie!) and he only tallied three saves all season. Although his skills did take a slight hit, he was still top notch overall and unless you believe he pees his pants in the ninth inning, there is no reason to think he can’t save games all season, and do it quite well. Reed has all of 7.1 big league innings. Do you really think he opens the year as closer? If he doesn’t, Thornton is simply too good to lose the job again absent terrible luck.

10. Bryan LaHair hits fewer than 10 home runs and loses the Cubs first base job by June.

After two of our RotoGraph writers predicted big things for LaHair, I will be taking the other side. Howard Bender boldly predicted at least 30 homers, while  Dan Wade was less ballsy with his prediction of at least 25. My prediction is not just to play devil’s advocate either. He certainly has shown fantastic power over the years in the minors. But, 2011 represented his sixth time at the Triple-A level!! Oh, and he’s already 29 years old. Of course, late bloomers do come around every so often (Jack Cust says hi!). LaHair’s MLEs last year were for a .242/.294/.453 slash. That suggests that he is still capable of producing excellent power, but he doesn’t make enough contact or walk enough to secure a starting job all season. Everyone knows that Anthony Rizzo is the first baseman of the future, so the question is how long it takes before he takes over the job. He already demolished Triple-A in 2011, then flopped in 128 at-bats with the Padres. It is doubtful the Cubs have much patience with LaHair, so assuming Rizzo continues to hit in the minors again to open the year, it shouldn’t be long before he is called up and LaHair is gone.




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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.


36 Responses to “Mike Podhorzer’s 10 Bold Predictions”

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  1. Chike says:

    I’m a big Sox fan, so I’m glad to see so many good guys on this list!

    I have to disagree with you on Chris Sale though. That is a very bold prediction! Sale has been outstanding against lefties so far, but he is the owner of a 4.03 FIP and 3.98 BB/9 against righties in 2011 (38.2IP). I’d imagine his “success” against righties can be attributed to the lefty throwing 97mph with an unorthodox delivery. With the decrease in velocity, I don’t think Sale will be able to navigate through a big league lineup more than once or twice without issue (except against the Cleveland Indians – that should be fun to watch).

    I agree on Thornton and I’ll overlook your blasphemous statement about Paul Konerko.

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    • geo says:

      Totally with you on Sale. I see a reliever. And I love Thornton, who may well keep the closer’s job all year, but there’s no way he leads the league in saves.

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  2. Frank Rizzo says:

    Shhhhh about Minor, Dammit!

    God work Pod.

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    • Sean says:

      Ehh… Minor has been plugged as a sleeper EVERYWHERE… which means he is a sleeper nowhere, unless you play with rubes.

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  3. Frank Rizzo says:

    “unless you believe he pees his pants in the ninth inning, there is no reason to think he can’t save games all season”

    Peeing your pants is the coolest!

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  4. Ben G. says:

    As a another fellow sox fan, You know Ozzie Guillen is going to keep playing Bonifacio no matter how bad he does. So although he may only hit .260, he’ll keep getting the AB’s to steal 40+ bases and score 80-ish runs. And since I own him for a $1 in a points league, that’s fine by me.

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    • FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I was actually watching the Marlins ST game over the weekend, and the broadcasters mentioned that apparently Bonifacio isn’t even guaranteed to be the every day CFer. They named some other guys in competition, so unless that’s just typical noise, then his job isn’t as locked up as we may have assumed.

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      • Ben G. says:

        Bonifacio is THE protypical Ozzie guy. He may not play center, but Ozzie will find him at bats somewhere. After their game against the U, Ozzie basically said he’s penciled Bonifacio to hit behind Reyes.

        that being said, this was a really good article.

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    • Madoff Withurmoni says:

      Bonifiacio does have a career .339 BABIP. And you’d think that hitting 2nd he’d see a lot of good pitches sandwiched between Reyes, Hanley, Giancarlo. More RBI chances too. Although if you’re down on all of them, I could see why you’d be anti-Bon here.

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  5. kid says:

    Good list – well supported! Given me some great food for thought…

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  6. jsp2014 says:

    this is everything a bold predictions article should be. they’re all bold but you didn’t just pick events to happen randomly. the others seemed mostly for entertainment but I got a lot out of this one.

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    • FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Thanks, and that’s exactly what my goal was here. Need to have some basis in reality and fact to go out on a limb, rather than just pulling predictions out of my ass.

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    • bgrosnick says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I second this statement – at least the part about how this article was quite enjoyable. You managed to be bold, but reasoned at the same time, and I definitely got a kick out of the article.

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    • kid says:

      Agree here, too. Some of the other “10 Bold” predictions don’t actually back up their predictions with numbers/logic/trends. I wish they all read like this one.

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    • Adam says:

      Agree. This was far and away the best 10 bold predictions out of anyone.

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  7. batpig says:

    do you mind sharing your Ichiro! and Giancarlo Pod Projected(tm) stat lines? I’m curious to see that one, it was an eye opener…

    I actually agree with the Goldy projection except for the BA part. Konerko has a .282 career AVG and he’s kept his K% in line with career norms, it’s hard to see him hitting for a worse AVG than Goldy unless he has a horrendous BABIP year like 2003 or 2008.

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    • FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Ichiro: 600-.288-8-80-80-32
      Stanton: 575-.259-35-100-90-6

      You could argue that Ichiro has some significant batting average upside based on his history, while Stanton prob has a bit of HR/RBI upside.

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      • batpig says:

        OK, that’s sort of what I expected. I’m surprised that your valuations have that Ichiro! line as more valuable.

        They are essentially equal in HR/SB (just swapped), although one could argue that in this day and age a 35+ HR hitter is more valuable… but let’s call that a wash and focus on the other 3 categories.

        I know you think BA is underrated by many analysts, but I still think Stanton’s projected edge of 30 R+RBI is more important than Ichiro’s edge in BA.

        Look at this way: take a hypothetical team with 6000 AB and a .275 team AVG. Now add Ichiro (600 AB of .288) and Stanton (575 AB of .259).

        Team Ichiro BA = .2762
        Team Stanton BA = .2736

        So the difference is not even worth 3 points of BA to the team aggregate. Now, that jump of 2.6 points of BA could lead to an extra point in the standings in many leagues, where rate stats are tightly bunched, but I feel like the 30 R+RBI is a bigger potential impact on the standings.

        Plus, let’s not forget where each guy is in their careers…

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      • FanGraphs Supporting Member

        8 HRs + 32 SBs is worth more than 35 HRs + 6 SBs. Woah, nevermind! According to my values, the Stanton combo is actually more valuable, and it’s precisely because power is down. The difference is solely from the batting average, which is a surprise, but nearly 30 points over that many at-bats is huge. Remember also, I basically have them valued about equal, so it’s not like I think Ichiro is worth so much more.

        The standings change is very close. The batting average could equal 2 to 3 points, but when you’re getting up to 1,000 RBI and Runs, 20 RBI might only be a point, and same for runs.

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      • kozilla says:

        My main issue with the Ichiro prediction is that it is predicated on Ichiro holding down the #3 spot all year to really see an increase in RBI’s. That is something I am not completely sold on when you consider that means you are banking on Figgins not being a disaster.

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      • FanGraphs Supporting Member

        Doesn’t really matter actually, since he’ll just move back to leadoff, which will increase his at-bat total, boosting his runs scored and steals. Overall it’ll likely be a wash to his value.

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  8. Eminor3rd says:

    This is the best one of these from RotoGraphs. The others were either ridiculous or not bold at all.

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    • batpig says:

      well Pods is the man who invented it! :) I hope he does the best job.

      you are right that the others were a mixed bag, some of them really didn’t understand the meaning of the word “bold” AFAICT

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  9. KMen says:

    I think we could probably all agree that there is a decent chance that Bonifacio ends up being worthless this year, but the real question is, what would you suggest we choose instead, if we miss out on Tulo, Hanley and Reyes? Should we waste a 4th or 5th round pick on Castro or Andrus? A middle round pick on Jeter or Rollins? Take someone else in his tier with little if any upside (Escobar, Aybar, etc)? Personally, in a league where only 12 SSs are drafted at most, I’d rather take my chances on Bonifacio and hope he puts of numbers like Andrus, only taken 10 rounds later. If he fails, well then I can always drop him and pick up whoever is left out of the rest of his tier.
    Or, put another way, if we need to get steals from somewhere, and it’s going to be from a drain on power, I’d rather have Jay Bruce and Bonifacio than Bourne and JJ Hardy. Am I wrong?

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    • batpig says:

      I’d rather bet on Dee Gordon late if you just want cheap steals. I do think spending a high pick on Andrus is wasteful when you can get Gordon, Aybar or Bonifacio much later.

      Honestly, of the choices you provided a mid round pick on Rollins seems like the best value, he will get overlooked because of the age and injuries but not many SS can provide his power/speed combo and good counting stats leading off for the Phils. Last year he put up 16 HR, 30 SB, 87 R and 63 RBI (which is a lot for a SS).

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      • batpig says:

        … and in only 142 games also… if you can have a competent multi-position backup like Bonifacio or Mike Aviles to fill in when Rollins gets dinged up, not a bad deal.

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      • FanGraphs Supporting Member

        Agree on Rollins. But I’m going to give the answer I always do- just value the players and draft them when they appear at the top of your list. You never ever have to reach for anyone. Even if you end up with the last SS, you’re going to get him in the last round, which is exactly what his value is. So you paid fair value, what’s the harm in that? By getting the worst SS, you got a better player somewhere else.

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  10. Adam says:

    I am definitely with you on Thronton. He has been a stud reliever for several years now and even last year after April performed similar to his career norms. I don’t buy the psychological aspect of the 9th inning, so I think he just had a crappy month coupled with some terrible luck that happened to coincide with when he was the “closer.”

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  11. aaronjw says:

    Great stuff here. I was really high on Bonifacio, but this article is a bit sobering. I really see Dee Gordon as essentially equal to Elvis Andrus and he can be had about 7 rounds later.

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    • Ender says:

      Only there is like a 30% chance Gordon ends up back in the minors this year since he is horrible defensively and is likely to be terrible from an OBP standpoint. He most likely ends up in the minors or at least at the bottom of the order for part of the season. He has tons of upside for fantasy but from a real baseball standpoint there is almost no chance he is a top 20 SS.

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  12. slash12 says:

    if the cubs look to be out of contention by june (likely), what do the cubs gain by bringing rizzo up? as opposed to giving them another year before arbitration and bringing him up next year? I think the new cubs front office will realize this, and rizzo’s going to stay down. Furthermore, they have incentive to try and showcase lahair as having some value at the major league level to give him some trade value.

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  13. Congo Hammer says:

    I love these. The Ichiro one is surprising, yet I wouldn’t be too shocked to see it happen.

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  14. John says:

    So far…your predictions are terrible. Nice job!

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    • batpig says:

      first off, you totally missed the point as these are supposed to be BOLD predictions, i.e. highly unlikely to occur. I think Pods once stated that he “bold” would be something that has a 20% chance of happening, so he’d be happy if he could get 1-out-of-5 right. So instead of saying something easy like “Chris Sale will make a successful transition to the rotation” or “Mike Minor will finally settle in as a good major league pitcher”, you say something BOLD like Sale/Minor will be the best pitcher on their team.

      second, under that criteria, he’s actually doing pretty well:

      1. Jose Altuve is hitting .333 with 7 R, 6 RBI, 3 SB and has locked down a full-time gig in the Astros lineup. He’s well on his way to a .290+ AVG, 25+ SB type of season. May not crack the top 5 2B but he looks like a shoe-in for the top 10 and won’t be far away if he stays healthy and keeps his spot in the lineup.

      ZiPS(U) projects a final line of .299 / 78 / 8 / 65 / 32 … not too shabby.

      2. Mike Minor has arguably been the Braves’ best pitcher, Beachy has that absurd ERA right now but Minor’s periphs are better, he has the lowest WHIP, FIP, xFIP and SIERA among their starting pitchers.

      3. Chris Sale has been pretty dynamite, although Peavy (and Humber!) so far has ruined that projection. But if (when) Peavy gets injured…. Dan Hudson’s already down…. Kennedy’s regressing a bit….

      So right now 3-out-of-10 are looking good in the “spirit” of the prediction. Obviously looks like there will be some big whiffs on Hanley, Bonafacio, Thornton… but that’s not an indictment of the whole idea of these articles.

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  15. Dave Cameron says:

    Bryan LaHair would have to totally fall apart for that prediction to be right.

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  16. SethBeno says:

    Altuve is currently the 3rd ranked 2B in Yahoo and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him maintain something close to this pace.

    The rest are looking highly unlikely to happen. A bit of a tough break with Sale being moved to the closer role as he was looking very good before the move. Yet surprisingly, Peavy has been the best pitcher on that staff so far.

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