One of my favorite recurring gags in the TV show New Girl revolves around Winston's love of pranks and his complete inability to ever actually pull off a good prank. He either goes too small – putting a blueberry in Schmidt's cereal – or way too big – "I'm gonna hit you with a ski! Get some!" He just can't find that right balance, and that's how I feel about the whole concept of bold predictions.

How do you know when you're being bold enough? Would "Corbin Burnes will win the NL Cy Young" have been bold enough last season? He was one of the best pitchers in the league the previous season, after all, even if he wasn't necessarily the most likely player to win it. 

Of course, then there's going too bold. "Nick Madrigal will lead the majors in homers" is too bold. You've got to find the right balance between unlikely and possible. 

So, how I tend to view the bold prediction is fairly straightforward: I'm planting a flag. I don't think my bold predictions are the likeliest outcome possible, but I want the world to know that this is something I do believe in pretty strongly. My Fantasy Baseball teams are invested in these predictions, and if they come true, it's going to be a very good year for me. 

We talked about our bold predictions for the 2022 MLB season on Monday's episode of the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast, and you can find four bold predictions from Scott White, Frank Stampfl and I below – three standard bold predictions plus one we really believe in. Here's where we're planting our flags:

Chris Towers' bold predictions

  1. The one I really believe: The Marlins lead the majors in starting pitcher ERA. They ranked 11th in that category last season and were sixth before the All-Star break, and this rotation is even better than it was a year ago. The personnel is pretty much the same, but they've collectively got another year of development under their belts, and while I don't know how much better Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, and Trevor Rogers can get, Jesus Luzardo is one of my favorite breakouts/sleepers for Fantasy and the Marlins have the deepest core of young pitching in the game. Max Meyer and Edward Cabrera are two of the best pitching prospects in baseball by all accounts and both are major-league ready, and 18-year-old Eury Perez is a top-60 consensus prospect who is set to begin the season at Double-A. There might not be another franchise in MLB I trust more to develop young pitchers at this point, and there might not be one more well equipped to handle the grind and attrition of a full season. 
  2. Byron Buxton wins the American League MVP. Anyone who listens to FBT knows about my love of Buxton. He was the best player in baseball on a per-game basis last season, and while I don't necessarily expect a repeat of his .306/.358/.647 line from last season over a full season, his .300 expected batting average and .611 expected slugging percentage based on StatCast data suggests it wasn't just a fluke. He's emerged as a legitimately great hitter, in addition to being arguably the best baserunner and defender in the game. If he plays 140 games, an 8.0-WAR season isn't unreasonable. 
  3. Patrick Sandoval is a top-15 SP in Fantasy Baseball. I've written a ton about Sandoval as one of my favorite breakout candidates this season, most recently when I named him one of the players with first-round upside last week. He needs to stay healthy after a stress reaction in his spine cost him time last season, and his command remains a work in progress at times. But Sandoval has excellent stuff, as exhibited by his 15.2% swinging strike rate last season, which ranked 12th among 163 pitchers who threw at least 80 innings. His changeup is legitimate one of the best pitches in the game, and he complements it with a heavy fastball and a plus slider, and he does a good job of suppressing hard contact with all of his pitches. Sandoval could be a legitimate ace for a resurgent Angels team, and if he is, my Fantasy teams are going to have a great season. 
  4. George Springer has 250 combined runs and RBI. Another, "if he stays healthy …" pick, because that's my shtick. In this case, though, I genuinely think Springer's greatness is a bit underappreciated at this point; he's hit .278/.369/.570 over the past three seasons with a 48-homer, 124-run, 115-RBI pace over 162 games. He'll need to play something close to 162 to hit this prediction, which is something only Giancarlo Stanton in 2017 has done. But Springer is going to hit leadoff for maybe the best lineup in baseball, he's going to hit for power and he's going to get on base a ton, so this one isn't as far-fetched as you might think. 

Scott White's bold predictions

  1. One I really believe in: Jo Adell has more combined home runs and stolen bases than Jarred Kelenic. (And so does Julio Rodriguez.) Sometimes there's one particular upside play who, for no objective reason, gets elevated above the others. Kelenic could be great, but Adell and Rodriguez are showing clearer signs of it and were similarly rated as prospects. It reminds me of how much later Kyle Tucker was being drafted than Luis Robert a couple of years ago.
  2. Jake McGee doesn't get more than five saves. Man makes (bullpen) plans and Gabe Kapler laughs. I think he literally does. Labels like "closer" are a joke to him, so when he applies it to McGee while in the next breath saying the Giants have three good candidates for the role, I can't take him seriously. McGee is the one lefty of the three, and I know Kapler won't hesitate to play matchups with him. I still think Camilo Doval eventually settles into the role.
  3. C.J. Abrams leads the NL in stolen bases. I won't put the 21-year-old up against a healthy Adalberto Mondesi, but he could hang with Starling Marte, who's back in the NL. Speed is considered Abrams' best tool, earning a true 80 grade, but his hit tool is up there with it, giving me confidence he'll be able to make good on his speed, first as a fill-in for Fernando Tatis before eventually taking over in center field.
  4. Daulton Varsho and Alejandro Kirk are both top-five catchers. Some supporting bold predictions: Varsho leads the position in stolen bases (rather handily), and Kirk leads it in batting average. As much as anything, though, this prediction comes down to at-bats. Varsho figures to get more than most every catcher-eligible player as the Diamondbacks' primary center fielder, and Kirk also could if he (eventually) settles in as the Blue Jays' primary DH.

Frank Stampfl's bold predictions

  1. Lourdes Gurriel finishes as the most valuable hitter on the Blue Jays. Not only does he have to outperform two first-round caliber players, but Gurriel also has to ascend to a level we haven't seen before. He basically has to put together the Teoscar Hernandez season from one year ago and hope that Vladimir Guerrero and Bo Bichette regress a bit. Gurriel's 162-game home run pace is 29. If he tweaks the launch angle a bit, hits 35 home runs with a .300 batting average and 8-10 steals, this is attainable. 
  2. Once again, we get just one 30-30 bat in 2022. His name is Akil Baddoo. The raw talent is already there. Last season Baddoo hit 13 home runs with 18 steals over 461 plate appearances. According to Statcast, he ranked in the 82nd percentile in max exit velocity and 91st percentile in sprint speed. Baddoo needs to improve on the strikeouts and against left-handed pitching, already showing signs in the former. From June on, his strikeout rate was just 22.6%, a big upgrade over his 37% mark the first two months. 
  3. Jeremy Peña finishes as a top-three Fantasy hitter in the Astros lineup. Robinson Cano believes and so do I. This is especially tough because not only does the rookie have to hit the ground running but he'll likely need a few of his teammates to take a step back. Peña has a very limited track record in the minors but one that does include hitting for a higher batting average, power and speed. In 182 career minor league games, Peña hit .291 with 18 home runs and 29 steals. This is attainable if he manages to go 20-20 while hitting .275 or better. It's a big ask but not impossible.
  4. I saved the best for last. This is the bold prediction I believe most. In terms of Fantasy output, Shane Bieber finishes no better than third-best in the Guardians rotation. I'm betting on multiple things here. First, Bieber probably is not healthy for the entirety of the season. He dealt with a shoulder strain last season and we've already seen multiple pitchers drop with a similar injury. Next up, he's not as great even when he does pitches. The strikeouts will be there but the hard contact and home runs become a big issue. Lastly, other members of the Guardians step up. I'm looking at you, Triston McKenzie, whom I've begged as a breakout candidate. The other candidate becomes a bit tougher. I could see Aaron Civale putting it together. Maybe Cal Quantrill can rekindle last year's magic. They also have a few pitching prospects coming in Logan Allen, Cody Morris, and Peyton Battenfield. Maybe one of those names emerges. Either way, Bieber is a let down this season.