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As we steamroll toward Opening Day, our experienced writers will be offering their most bold predictions for the 2018 fantasy baseball season.

Although I will never be able to replicate last year's successes in calling Giancarlo Stanton's mammoth season, I will do my best. Feel free to ignore the majority of those other predictions from 2017.

I can't promise there won't be at least one Marlins prediction somewhere in here, and it just might be the boldest one... Let's get to it.

Editor's Note: Our friends at RTSports have best ball leagues with no in-season management. Just draft your team, and that's it! Use your phone for this casual draft by getting emails or texts when you're on the clock. Sign Up Now!

 

Bold Predictions for 2018

1. Starling Marte brings first-round value to savvy owners

You want speed, you target a guy like Marte in the fourth or fifth round and then compensate in the other categories later on. But what if you don't need to? Marte is being treated like another Billy Hamilton, but if you have a memory that stretches beyond last season, you'll know he can bring much more to the table. In the second half of last year, he hit .282, stole 19 bases and scored 41 runs. This is after a three-month hiatus from the game in the middle of the season. In his three prior seasons, his batting average stood at .311, .287, and .291. He should score 85+ runs easily, as the Pirates lineup is just as formidable as last season (they aren't tanking, contrary to popular belief). I won't say he'll surpass his previous high of 19 home runs, but it is interesting to note he's gone deep three times already this spring, along with a .405 average. If you like the idea of a .290 hitter who can go 20/40, maybe don't wait so long to grab Marte.

2. Yoan Moncada just doesn't get it going

These things take time, you know? Moncada has all the talent in the world, but may not be ready to harness it yet. He was rushed to the majors at age 21 last year and managed just a .231/.338/.412 slash line. A 32% strikeout rate and 27.9% O-Swing% show a lack of readiness at the dish. If the average isn't there, what about that power/speed combo? Moncada swiped just three bags on five attempts over 54 games with Chicago. He wasn't very successful at the Triple-A level either, getting caught eight times on 25 attempts. If all we're holding on for is 20-30 HR power, let me introduce you to 126 other guys who can do the same thing. I'll hold in dynasty, but pass in redraft.

3. Brad Brach finishes top-10 in saves and RP value

Technically, he is just holding Zach Britton's job until he comes back, but when will that be? The All-Star break is the current target, but Britton has now suffered serious injuries in consecutive years and Achilles injuries can be tricky. Even if Britton is 100% by early August, Brach will have racked up 25 saves by that point, along with a K-rate just below 30% and an ERA below 3.00. While 20 other teams are playing musical chairs at the closer spot, Brach is unlikely to be shuffled or traded and is one of the safer RP picks this season.

4. Jose Quintana finishes top-three in the NL Cy Young race

I almost went all the way on this and predicted an outright victory, but after my failed Jake Arrieta prediction a year ago, I'll hedge a bit. Quintana was solid down the stretch after being traded, but we haven't seen the best of him in a Cubs uniform. For four straight seasons, he maintained an ERA between 3.20-3.51 for that other Chicago team. He's already good at keeping the ball on the ground, but Wrigley Field should help lower last year's 13.2% HR/FB rate even further. Wins won't be an issue and he no longer has the pressure of being a top-of-the-rotation guy. The strikeout totals won't be enough to make him a fantasy MVP, but he may be more effective than people are giving him credit for.

5. Lucas Giolito is a top-20 SP

On the other side of the Windy City, big-time prospect Lucas Giolito is officially a post-hype breakout candidate. He failed to impress in his cup of coffee with the Nats in 2016 and then was shipped to Siberia the White Sox for Adam Eaton. As I mentioned earlier with teammate Moncada, these things don't happen right away. Giolito may already be there, however. He looked razor-sharp at the end of last season, posting a 2.38 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. Critics will point to a 4.42 xFIP and unsustainable 92% strand rate, but all of this goes with a big grain of salt since we're talking about seven starts altogether. Giolito has the skill set and the opportunity, he just needs to maintain his confidence.

6. Scott Kingery is your waiver wire MVP

Although he's owned in many a dynasty league by now, I haven't seen Kingery drafted in many redraft formats (other than the ones where I picked him). Don't expect him to mash 50 homers like Judge, but there is an undeniable skill set here that could make him a five-category contributor. He's doing all he can in spring training to claim a roster spot, but even if he doesn't start out with the big club, it won't be long before he's up. This Phillies team clearly thinks it can contend, as evidenced by the Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta signings. Throw out your Cesar Hernandez shares--Kingery is the late-rounder you want to stash so you aren't burning all your FAAB a month from now.

7. Eric Thames is not worth owning by May

The thrill is gone. Thamesmania swept the country (at least the baseball-watching part of it) last April as he was seemingly going deep on every pitch thrown his way. We all know what happened after that. The novelty of throwing to an ex-KBO member must have worn off on opposing pitchers, I suppose. While Thames finished with a 31-HR season, it only resulted in 63 RBI. His inability to hit lefties (.182) might have something to do with the fact that the Brewers are moving Ryan Braun to first base, rather than trying to actively trade him or Domingo Santana. In the end, Thames may only see occasional starts against righties and he may not be effective enough to own, even in a platoon situation.

8. Jake Lamb doesn't regress at all

A popular bust pick due to humidor-induced panic, Lamb's 30 bombs and 105 RBI from a year ago have earned him no higher than the 14th-ranked third baseman according to NFBC ADP. I'm not discounting the humidor's potential to impact the 'Zona offense, but how much will it affect him personally over those 82 games? Maybe he hits 27 HR instead? Lost in all the speculation is the fact that Lamb improved his plate discipline a great deal in his third full Major League season and at age 27 he's in his prime. Lamb cut down his swinging strike rate to 8.7% and upped his contact rate back to 77%. His walk rate has climbed each year and finished at an impressive 13.5% BB% in 2017. My guess is whatever effect the humidor has are negated by the strides Lamb could continue to make and he could be a bargain for those who wait on 3B.

9. Austin Hedges finishes as a top-five catcher and outproduces Salvador Perez

Let's face it, there are precious few catchers worth spending your time even thinking about, much less drafting. Once Sanchez, Posey, and Contreras are off the board, you can wait til the bitter end to fill the position (unless you're in a dreaded two-catcher league, which should be outlawed by the way). Yet, Sal Perez is being drafted within the top 100 overall, nearly 100 spots ahead of players that could produce comparable value.

Hedges is my favorite pick as a dollar-day bargain at the catcher spot and someone I am definitely trying to secure in my two-C leagues. Hedges is extremely streaky, but wound up swatting 18 HR in 120 games last year after putting up 21 HR in 82 games in Triple-A the previous year. His surrounding cast is better, so with more experience and good health, he could put up a line of .240/25/70. Perez is good for 20 or more bombs and a decent average around .260, but there's no way he's repeating his 80 RBI from a year ago. If you didn't notice, the Royals are no longer a contender, which Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Melky Cabrera replaced by the likes of Jon Jay, Lucas Duda, and Paulo Orlando. It'll be close, but at an ADP 150 spots later, I'm definitely willing to bet on Hedges.

10. Lewis Brinson will outperform Christian Yelich in roto leagues

Talk about saving the best for last, huh? I sorta hinted this wouldn't be crazy in a tweet several weeks ago and was unsurprisingly challenged by crack staffer and man-who-doesn't-miss-a-chance-to-call-you-out-on-social-media, Kyle Bishop. If you know me, I don't conform to group-think projections and don't feel compelled to shy away from controversial picks, so I have no choice but to double-down on the crazy here.

I've seen respected analysts predict as much as second-round value and top-10 OF finishes for Yelich this season. I'm not. Miller Park is certainly a better hitting environment than Marlins Park, but it's not exactly a band box either. It was 11th in Ballpark Factor for hits and 12th for homers last year. We're talking about a guy who has a career fly ball rate of 19.2% and a career-high of 21 homers. Don't hold your breath counting on 30 jacks this year. The steals are a nice bonus, but again he has a career-best 21 SB and that was four years ago. Sure, he could go 20/20 with an average around .300. Why couldn't Brinson?

We're talking about a top prospect who's hit .331 and .382 at the Triple-A level the past two years. 15 homers should be no problem and a Marlins team that has nothing to lose could let him loose on the basepaths regularly. The Fish tied for 11th in SB attempts per game last year, but that number should surge with Brinson and Cameron Maybin in town. Sure, his ceiling as a rookie might not approach Yelich in his prime, but there's always a chance...

 

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