Looking back at bold predictions from the previous year is always a fun exercise. Here are the Fantasy Baseball Today team's picks for "the boldest prediction you 100% believe" heading into the 2020 season:
- Scott White: Rich Hill will be a top-10 starting pitcher.
- Chris Towers: Keston Hiura finishes top three in NL MVP voting.
- Frank Stampfl: Corey Seager wins NL MVP.
Nope! Nope! And … well, Frank's actually wasn't bad. Seager only finished ninth in voting for NL MVP, but he was one of the biggest breakout stars in the league, hitting .307/.358/.585 -- and that was before he hit eight homers in 18 playoff games. Not a bad player to plant your flag on -- though I will point out, we were all in on Seager!
And that's what bold predictions are really all about. If you're doing them right -- if you're being bold enough -- you're going to miss more often than you hit on them. But it's about planting your flag on a player, and saying, "I believe in this guy." Here are the players we're planting our flags on in 2021:
Chris Towers' Bold Predictions
1. Shohei Ohtani is a top-50 hitter and pitcher.
Ohtani could break Fantasy baseball. If he's right, he could be a must-start guy in both facets of the game, something we've never seen. And he sure looked right in spring training, hitting .552/.576/1.069 and regularly hitting triple digits with his fastball. Hopefully the blister that forced him out of Monday's start won't be an issue, because he could be one of the most valuable players in Fantasy -- especially in daily lineup leagues.
2. Byron Buxton is a top-25 hitter in Roto.
It's all about health, in my eyes. Over the last two seasons, Buxton has 23 homers and 16 steals in just 430 plate appearances. Sure, Buxton has played more than 92 games in the majors just once in six years, but his injuries have mostly been the result of collisions or other similar bad luck. If he gets a bit of good luck and plays 140 games, he could be a 30-20 guy.
3. Kris Bryant hits 30-plus HR and has 200-plus R+RBI.
Skeptics will point to Bryant's middling Statcast numbers as a sign of his decline. I'll point out that he had a well below average exit velocity in 2017 and 2019, when he hit 29 and 31 homers, respectively. He's never stood out in that regard, but his track record speaks for itself. I expect the Cubs lineup to bounce back in a big way, and Bryant will be a big part of that.
4. Ketel Marte is the No. 1 2B in Fantasy.
Marte has been going off the board 45-plus picks after DJ LeMahieu on average, and while I do have LeMahieu ranked higher, it's a lot closer in my ranks. Marte is one of the best bets for batting average in the game, could steal double-digit bases, and I think he's one of the best bets for 30 homers at the position -- his power outage last season was more of a fluke in my eyes than his 32 homers in 2019, given how hard he hits the ball.
5. Triston McKenzie finishes as a top-35 SP.
Innings are going to be an issue for McKenzie, but he'll be in the rotation from Opening Day and looked great as a rookie -- and his numbers look even better when you remember he had gone nearly two years without making a start before his MLB debut. He could be Cleveland's next ace.
Scott White's Bold Predictions
1. Nick Castellanos returns second-round value.
Particularly for his swing, his current park is a night-and-day difference from where he played all those years in Detroit. It showed up in the power numbers even if some bad BABIP luck bit him during the shortened season.
It's no knock on Luis Castillo or Sonny Gray. The development of a legit breaking ball has brought out Mahle's strikeout ability and made him a pitcher capable of lasting into the 6th and 7th innings.
3. Ke'Bryan Hayes places in the top five for NL MVP.
He led NL rookies in WAR last year despite playing in only 24 games, and his defensive aptitude will continue to pad that number, which matters to MVP voters. He has rocketed the ball all over the field this spring, just like last September.
4. Wil Myers contributes a combined 50 home runs and stolen bases.
You'd think the hype would be greater coming off a career-best hitting performance -- especially since all the underlying numbers backed it up -- but it's like people forgot he also averaged 21 steals per 155 games from 2016 through 2019.
5. Josh Bell is even better than in 2019.
His career-best 2019, when he hit 37 homers with a .936 OPS, seemed legit. His career-worst 2020 did not. The Nationals said they had a plan to fix his swing when they acquired him this offseason, and the results have been there this spring.
Frank Stampfl's Bold Predictions
1. C.J. Cron hits 35 home runs and ﬁnishes as a top-10 ﬁrst baseman in Fantasy Baseball.
Cron was hurt last year but when he's been healthy the past few seasons, he's mashed the ball. Back in 2019 he had a 15% barrel rate, which ranked 28th among all hitters with at least 25 plate appearances.
2. Lance Lynn stays healthy and still ﬁnishes outside the top-40 starting pitchers.
Lynn is currently being drafted as the SP17 with an ADP of 51.2. Lynn is being targeted because he's a workhorse and provides innings in bunches but it doesn't help if those innings are bad ones. While he had a 3.32 ERA last season, his xFIP stood at 4.34.
3. Raisel Iglesias leads baseball with 45+ saves and ﬁnishes as a top-three relief pitcher in both H2H Points and Category leagues.
Hader's fastball — his bread and butter — took a step back last season in terms of spin rate and whiﬀ rate. If that happens again, his eﬀectiveness will take a hit. Williams has arguably the best pitch in baseball with his changeup, which helps him overtake Hader as the team's closer.
5. Tim Anderson hits 25 home runs with 25 steals and goes on to win the American League MVP.
That's right, back-to-back MVPs from the south side of Chicago. It also helps that I predict the White Sox to ﬁnish with the best record in the American League.