The pre-season prediction reviews continue this week and today I recap my bold hitter league leaders. Since these players were meant to be bold choices, I purposely did not pick any of the obvious guys or anyone I thought might not be considered very bold. Though I expected to hit a couple of my bold predictions, it would have been quite a surprise if I actually hit on any of these league leaguers. Let’s see how I did.
Eric Hosmer, .232 AVG
Eeeeek. Not a good start. Hosmer was one of the bigger disappointments this season, despite doing his best to salvage his fantasy value by stealing 16 bases. His contact rate was only slightly worse, but his BABIP went into freefall, dropping from .314 last season to just .255 this year. Interestingly, he hit about the same percentage of line drives and a lower percentage of IFFB. I’m sure a defensive shift on the infield hurt a bit, but I am tempted to just completely ignore his performance. I think he’ll bounce back next season and provide quite a profit.
Nelson Cruz, 24 HRs
So Cruz finally stays healthy all season, easily posting a career high in at-bats, and then both his fly ball rate and HR/FB rates decline. His FB% dropped for a third straight season and HR/FB ratio was at its lowest since 2007. He also stole just 8 bases, also his third straight year of decline. He will be 33 mid-season next year and without double digit steals and his annual health concerns, he’s quickly losing his appeal as one of the better fantasy outfielders.
Delmon Young, 74 RBI
Man, Delmon really screwed me in these prediction articles. Funny thing that I didn’t even draft him on any of my teams. It’s pretty crazy that he hit behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder for the majority of the season and yet failed to drive in even 75 runs. He’s still just 27 next year so there is time for a true breakout, if it ever does come.
Desmond Jennings, 85 runs
Surprisingly, the first hitter here who lost time due to injury. Jennings was limited to 505 at-bats and still scored 85 runs, putting him on a 101 run pace in 600 at-bats. Of course, that was still a far cry from Mike Trout‘s ridiculous 129 runs. Jennings will need to see his walk rate rebound, since he strikes out too much for a hitter with his level of power, which will keep his batting average in mediocre territory. The lust has probably worn off a bit here and he may be undervalued next season.
Peter Bourjos, 3 steals
Oy. Worst. Prediction. Ever. Bourjos got off to a slow start with the bat and the Angels got tired of it, deciding to go in another direction by calling up some rookie center fielder some of you may have heard of. He strikes out too much and his BABIP marks have jumped all over the place, so it’s hard to get a read and what he could produce over a full season. If he’s traded and gets an opportunity for full-time at-bats, he’ll be a nice sleeper in AL-Only leagues and may generate some mixed league value as well given his power/speed combination.
Michael Cuddyer, .260 AVG
Yikes. I thought moving to Colorado would be a boon for Cuddyer’s average, but it seemed to only boost his power. His home BABIP was just .293 and overall a disappointing .287, which is actually below his career average. The odd thing is that his line drive rate was at its highest since 2008 and IFFB% its lowest since 2004.
Justin Upton, 17 HRs
He was arguably the least bold pick of any player in this article, and yet look at the jinx I placed on him. Was he battling injuries this year? I’m willing to give him a complete mulligan and looking forward to seeing him come as cheaply as ever next season. Remember, in 2010 he was similarly disappointing and he rebounded to hit a career high 31 homers last season.
Hunter Pence, 104 (5th in the NL)
My best pick yet! The move to a better lineup and hitting cleanup while Ryan Howard was out was the idea behind this prediction. It led to a career high RBI total, even though he eventually moved on to San Francisco and was dropped in the order. His steals are in decline and BABIP a career low, so he might be a bit cheaper next year.
Dexter Fowler, 72 runs
Fowler was a trendy sleeper once again this pre-season and I went back and forth with my thoughts. While his 2010 second half power display did carry over, yielding a career high 13 homers, he continued to steal at a much lower rate than hoped for and his .300 average was boosted by an unsustainable .390 BABIP. I’m convinced that one of these years Fowler is going to suddenly run wild and steal 30+ bases, but for now he remains a near replacement level guy in mixed leagues with some upside.
Starlin Castro, 25 steals
In my original write-up, I thought that this was probably my boldest of the predictions listed here. After a 10 steal April and 5 steal May, Castro was actually making me look good. But then he fell off that league leading pace, stealing just 1 base through June and July, before finishing with an additional 9 over the final two months. Castro still remains a poor base stealer, succeeding just 66% of the time this season, so at least we know there is room for improvement.
So yeah, as I suspected, I did pretty terribly here. This was a much tougher exercise than the bold predictions since those were generally individual accomplishments a player is solely in control of. Nearly all of the above missed big, as I came relatively close on only one (Pence).