Tanner Bell’s 10 Bold Predictions for 2016

I present to you my ten bold predictions for this upcoming season. I’ve placed these items in order of increasing boldness to give you some sense of how likely I think these things are to occur, in hopes that they’re more actionable. The items toward the top of the list are more likely to happen but perhaps not as bold… But I get pretty far out there by the end.

10. Gerardo Parra finishes the year as a top 25 OF. I feel as though this is cheating. Not bold enough. After all, he finished as the 3oth best OF last year (by my calculations). And yet, he’s being drafted as the 53rd OF this season. The issue here may be the projected platoon role he’s in. But is Ryan Raburn really going to take a lot of playing time from him? And with the possibility of Carlos Gonzalez being traded, there are other paths to a full-time role.

In the days of declining batting averages and diminishing stolen bases, a simple 12 HR, 12 SB, and .290 season (his Steamer projection) really adds up in value. Not to mention the move to Colorado offers hope for even more offense. It seems like Parra is being drafted as the former utility outfielder he was with Arizona. He wasn’t sexy. Nobody wanted him. Hopefully putting him in the top 25 crosses the bold threshold.

9. Jose Altuve finishes the year as a top five hitter. Is that bold? I’m not sure. He finished last year as the 13th highest earning hitter and is being drafted as the tenth hitter heading into 2016. Projecting him to outproduce all of Anthony Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton, Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, and Carlos Correa to reach the top five does feel bold-ish. One of my favorite facts about Altuve is that he’s still just 25 years old. I suspect that many believe him to be older than he is because he’s been around for nearly four and a half MLB seasons. Why can’t he have a little more growth in him?

I’m counting on the power improvements from 2015 sticking, perhaps a few more steals, and a lot more runs scored. Altuve’s runs scored (80 in 2012, 64 in 2013, 85 in 2014, 86 in 2015) seem very low for someone that gets on base at a decent clip and steals regularly. This is a guy who’s had names like Luis Valbuena, Robbie Grossman, Jed Lowrie, and Preston Tucker hitting behind him in the heart of the order. Hopefully full seasons of Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Carlos Gomez can push him to another level. He’s got a 100+ run season in that diminutive frame.

8. Wei-Yin Chen ends the season as a top 30 SP (being drafted as 57th). Chen earns the obvious benefits of moving from one of the toughest offensive divisions to the one of the weakest. He moves from one of the most hitter friendly parks to one of the most pitcher friendly stadiums. He trades the DH for a hitting pitcher. And he continues to alter his pitch mix to include more breaking balls. Most notably he has increased usage of his slider, his best strike out pitch. Let me see if I’m understanding this correctly… Inferior hitters (and pitchers) in a park he can challenge them in and he continues to increase his usage of his strike out weapon? Seems like a snowball effect that leads to a career year.

7. Marcell Ozuna finishes the season as a top 30 OF (being drafted as 58th). Again, I’m not the only one with a bold Ozuna prediction. We’ve seen him flash the talent to do this. It can only help that he’s slated to bat second, the Marlins are the moving fences in, and he has a new manager and former home run champion that have gone to bat for him as someone they want to work with this season. I’m not ready to go 30-30, like Mattingly apparently said, but 25-10 would get the job done here. Do I want to invest in the dirt cheap guy with great raw power that is about to be coached by the greatest home run hitter in baseball history? Yes please!

6. Stephen Strasburg finishes the year with 275 strikeouts and is a top five pitcher in end of season value. Get ready for the anecdotes and weak fantasy analysis. Strasburg is a free agent at the end of the season. Say what you will about guys “playing for a contract”, but I think it’s reasonable that a guy playing for one of the largest contracts in the history of sports could alter his workout regimen and level of preparation for the season. I would prepare differently knowing $200+ million is on the line. Call me a bad person.

His injuries in recent seasons seem fixable. An oblique, stiff neck, back injury, lat strain. We do know that players tend to play in more games in contract years but aren’t necessarily more skilled. They just compile better stats through more playing time. And that’s all I’m looking for out of Strasburg.  A full season of his normal self.

5. Victor Martinez will bat .300 and drives in 90 runs. I’m not the only one with a bold V-Mart prediction. I could have swapped this out, especially after news of the hamstring strain. But I thought it would be more actionable to know there are multiple believers in this guy. The injuries are definitely a concern and that’s what makes this bold, I suppose. He’ll have to approach 150 games to have a shot at 90 RBI. But how else do I expect Justin Upton to score so many runs (see #3 below)???

4. Lorenzo Cain finishes the season outside of the top 40 OF in value (being drafted as 17th, finished 10th in 2015). In 2015, Cain posted career bests in games played, plate appearances (by 100!), AVG, HR, RBI, R, SB, K%, LD%, FB%, Hard Hit%, and fewest DL appearances (DL in 2012, 2013, and 2014). Wowsers. He also turns 30. What happens when even some of those stats start to regress to even career norms? Or if he hits the DL like he did the three seasons prior to 2015? Do not pay for the career year!

3. Justin Upton puts up a combined 200 R and RBI. He’s never achieved this feat and didn’t crack 170 last year. Upton has spent nearly his entire career being “the guy”. He has been surrounded by the likes of Mark Reynolds, Chris Young, Kelly Johnson, Aaron Hill, Dan Uggla, and Chris Johnson (he only played with a rookie Paul Goldschmidt). He’ll now be slotted above, in the middle, or below names like Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, and Victor Martinez. It would really help my projection if he could bat second or fourth, but the possibility of hitting fifth or sixth is a real possibility (eek!).

2. Cesar Hernandez steals 30 bases. My reasoning? The Phillies are tanking this season. On offense at least. I suppose the pitching staff has some intriguing names. But what do they have to lose by letting Hernandez loose on the base paths? I don’t see anyone on the roster that’s likely to challenge Hernandez for playing time. It also appears as though he’ll bat leadoff or second in the lineup, where he seemed to have a green light last season.

Cesar Hernandez Stolen Base Attempts
Batting 1st or 2nd 71 17 1
Batting Elsewhere 52 2 4

1. Jose Berrios outearns Steven Matz. I’m off the deep end here. But it’s not as sexy or bold to say he’ll outearn Jordan Zimmermann. Matz is being taken at around pick 110 in NFBC drafts, Berrios around pick 260. That’s a full ten rounds later. This nutty prediction is driven by the following factors… Berrios threw 166 (not much more than Matz, but notable). Berrios also threw 75 innings at AAA. All this to say Berrios is not your typical rookie that might have only thrown 120 innings in the low minors the previous season. He won’t be facing a conservative innings limit and he’s already proven all he can in the minor leagues. He’s ready to come up soon.

On top of this, Matz only threw a total of 155 IP in 2015 (including the post season). He also missed several games due to injuries and even was shelved for nearly a month and a half with a DL stint (although I wonder if that was just a ploy to control his innings and wasn’t a real injury). And the Mets are considering a six-man rotation to lighten the workload on their starters.

If Berrios can get the call in April, I think there’s a decent chance he pitches more innings than Matz. Berrios won’t be facing the friendly NL East, but I think he’s generally thought to be the more talented of the two prospects and may have a higher ceiling than Matz.

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Tanner writes for Fangraphs as well as his own site, Smart Fantasy Baseball . He's written two e-books, Using SGP to Rank and Value Fantasy Baseball Players and How to Rank and Value Players for Points Leagues, and worked with Mike Podhorzer developing a spreadsheet to accompany Projecting X 2.0. Much of his writings focus on instructional "how to" topics, Excel, and strategy. Follow him on Twitter @smartfantasybb.

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Seeing as I have Chen, Altuve and Berrios…I hope you’re right.