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Predictions are a basic function of my job. I couldn't even begin to guess how many I make over the course of a day, but I'm fairly confident that the vast majority of them are what most people would describe as safe.
Responsible I think is the better word. Going out on limbs for players generally isn't a winning strategy because it inhibits value. It's one thing to like a player and another to measure success or failure by whether or not you draft him.
But for some players, I can't help but get a little starry-eyed. Their ceilings are such that I'll occasionally base my early picks on the possibility of drafting them later, even if I have to reach a little to do so.
So let's go bold with these predictions. I'm not saying any of them is a most likely scenario, but each is likely enough for me to go that extra round or two, depending on my needs.
Tell me, based on what you've seen and heard, what Castillo does well. Well, he makes consistent contact, has power, can steal bases and plays a good enough outfield to man center if need be. Now, tell me what he does poorly. Drawing a blank, right? Granted, it's all theoretical -- we're basing it mostly on scouting reports and brief glimpses both late last season and this spring -- but the Red Sox gave him the biggest contract for any Cuban defector, Jose Abreu included, and so far, he's wowed them at every turn. John Farrell is no dummy. If Shane Victorino is the only thing standing in the way of greatness, especially greatness already owned tens of millions of dollars, he'll have to step aside. I'm predicting it happens early enough for Castillo to go 20-20 with a near-.300 batting average, much like Brantley last season.
I may have to dilute this bold prediction with a caveat: I'm thinking specifically for Rotisserie leagues because Dozier's superior walk rate gives him a leg up in Head-to-Head points leagues. But even there, it'll be close. Wong showed last year he's capable of doing many of the same things Dozier does. He just didn't do them over a full season. Between the regular season, he homered 14 times in his final 273 at-bats, so I halfway expect him to eclipse 20 this year. And he already stole 20 bases in 113 games last year. Where he could really separate himself from Dozier is batting average. He makes contact at a higher rate, and really, that was his best attribute in the minors, where he hit .305 in four seasons. I mean, Dozier hit only .242 last year, so the bar is set pretty low in that regard.
No, I didn't forget about Adam Jones, and I don't mean this prediction as a slight to him. I just think Pearce is about to blow the heck up. On the most basic level, he had a higher OPS (.930) last year than Jose Bautista (.928), and last I checked, Bautista is going in the first round of every league. Flash in the pan, you say? OK, but you could have said the same for Bautista when he hit 10 home runs in his final 98 at-bats in 2008, the year before his big breakout. Pearce hit .320 with 10 home runs and a 1.144 OPS over his final 100 at-bats last season -- and that was after we all pooh-poohed an equally productive stretch in May and June -- and he has five home runs in 51 at-bats this spring. It may be far fetched, but it's not crazy to think he could be in the MVP discussion this season.
Zach McAllister will be must-own by season's end.
This one came out of left field. We all had a pretty good idea who McAllister was coming into spring training -- a back-end type who you'd be generous to describe as league-average. But this spring, he's been throwing 97 mph, a full 4 mph faster than usual, which is unheard of, and it's translated to 24 strikeouts in 19 innings. It's something he first started doing during a brief stint as a reliever late last season, when he allowed no runs on four hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings, and he's just kept it going as a starter. Given the Indians' knack for pulling power pitchers out of thin air (see Corey Kluber two years ago and Carlos Carrasco last year), I'm only seeing upside for McAllister.