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10 Bold Predictions for the 2015 Fantasy Baseball Season


 
For the last few years, the staff over at RotoGraphs has been publishing their "10 Bold Predictions" series. These are typically among my favorite reads in the realm of fantasy baseball - and considering how much content I devour, that's saying something.
 
Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all, I'm throwing my hat into the ring and issuing my own bold predictions for the 2015 season. If nothing else, this ought to be fun to look back on in six months.

 

Ten Bold Predictions for 2015

1. Joey Votto is a top-five first baseman
 
I've made no attempt to hide my bullish outlook on Votto this year. The original Joey Bats hasn't hit 30 homers since 2010 or eclipsed the century mark in RBI since 2011. He'll almost certainly need to post those numbers for this prediction to come true if your league doesn't use OBP as a category. He's also missed significant chunks of two of the last three seasons. But Votto is arguably the best hitter in the game when healthy, and this is a bet that his counting stats will reflect that for a change.

 

2. Jose Altuve finishes outside the top 10 at second base

Going into this season, I don't trust Altuve any farther than I can throw him. Which might actually be pretty far. He's a tiny dude. Anyway, here's why his borderline first-round ADP blows my mind:

Player A: .286/.328/.380, 12 HR, 68 SB, 5.5 BB%, 12.2 K%

Player B: .287/.325/.375, 13 HR, 1 SB, 5.1 BB%, 8.3 K%

Player A is Altuve in 2012-13. Player B? Jeff friggin' Keppinger over the same span. Obviously the steals drive Altuve's value and are probably enough to make this prediction wrong even with the assumption that he regresses at the plate this year. But all it would take is one leg injury to completely torpedo the guy's value.

 

3. Jung-ho Kang hits 25 home runs

I covered Kang in my look at the top middle infield rookies and prospects for this year, so let's break down how he'll find the playing time he'd need to hit this mark. Neil Walker's a decent bet to miss a month or so with various aches and pains. Josh Harrison strikes me an obvious regression candidate. Jordy Mercer? More like Jordy Meh-cer, am I right? Kang hit 40 homers last year in the KBO, but his previous career high was...25. It's understandable if you're not Jung-ho about this prediction.

...I'll show myself out.

 

4. Arismendy Alcantara produces more value than Javier Baez

If my recollection is accurate, Baez struck out 6,083 times as a rookie last season. Take spring performances for what they're worth, but he's clearly still got a lot of holes in his swing. The Cubs have options if Baez isn't able to get his whiffs under control. Alcantara wasn't exactly a batting title contender in his rookie season either, and he doesn't offer the same power potential as Baez.

What he does have is 20/20 upside and positional flexibility. New manager Joe Maddon could easily use Alcantara in much the same way he used Ben Zobrist back in Tampa. Playing time wouldn't be an issue if that happens, even without the anticipated crash and burn from Baez.

 

5. Travis d'Arnaud is a top five catcher

As I mentioned back in December, d'Arnaud used his demotion to the minors last season to develop a more aggressive approach at the plate. It paid off as he essentially traded walks for line drives. After returning from Triple-A, d'Arnaud put up a .269/.315/.481 line with 10 homers in 260 plate appearances. If he can replicate that over 450 PA or so, that's essentially what Yan Gomes produced last season. This might be my least bold prediction.

 

6. George Springer has a 30/30 season

Just in case you haven't been paying attention, I am drunk on the Springer Kool-Aid. He strikes out a lot, just like Baez. But he's demonstrated a much better understanding of the strike zone and he's got similarly awesome power. The home run side of this prediction isn't particularly bold after he smashed 20 in a mere 345 PA. Now that he isn't battling a quad injury, the man who stole 82 bases over his two full minor league seasons should be running a lot more often. Especially since he'll be hitting second in the order.

 

7. Bryce Harper is the best player in the National League

You know Harper's story. You know he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16. You know he posted a .272/.353/.481 line in his age 19 and 20 seasons. You know this insane production at such a young age was overshadowed by injuries and by Mike Trout's unprecedented success. And yet you're asking yourself how I can possibly offer him up as the best player on what is likely to be the best team in baseball. That's a clown question, bro.

 

8. Julio Teheran finishes outside the top 60 starting pitchers

Teheran's loss of velocity is alarming, given that it's been steady and that he's only 23 years old. The team behind has gotten markedly worse. His peripherals suggest he's been fortunate. Steamer projects a 3.76 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and a 7.8 K/9. That's John Lackey and R.A. Dickey territory. Whether it's due to injury or the dreaded regression monster, Teheran won't be worth rostering in many leagues.

 

9. Taijuan Walker is a top 30 SP

Good team, good park, good pedigree, good spring. Walker's coming out party was sidelined by shoulder bursitis last year, but he pitched well in September. Over the winter, he added a slider to his repertoire to complement his mid-90s heat and he's yet to allow a run this spring. The strikeouts have always been there in bunches; Walker simply needs to exhibit better command to fulfill his ace potential. He'll take the first step in 2015.

 

10. Brad Boxberger nets more saves than Trevor Rosenthal, Huston Street, and Zach Britton...combined

Obviously, this assumes that the latter three lose their grips on the closer gig fairly quickly, as they combined for 123 saves last season. It also supposes that Boxberger will both be named the Rays' closer and be so good in the early going that Jake McGee won't usurp the ninth from him when he returns. This might look ridiculous by the time it's published. Seems like an appropriate note on which to go out.

 




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