I'm no stranger to making bold predictions, although this is my first go-around in this particular series.
As a fantasy analyst, I always try to take an objective, statistic-based approach. As a fan, I am an unrepentant Marlins apologist and tend to hold grudges against players and teams for decades on end. I would have put Jose Peraza first thing on this list, but Kyle stole my thunder already, much like he did in our latest mock draft (grudge held, mock be damned).
And now, for my bold predictions for 2017. I hope you enjoy the picks.Editor's note: Get 50% off any MLB Premium Pass. Draft guide, cheat sheets, 200 days of DFS access, and over 20 premium tools. Dominate your leagues all year long! Sign Up Now!
Bold Predictions for 2017
1. Jake Arrieta takes home another Cy Young award.
Let me start by saying this is completely predicated on Clayton Kershaw's back. If Kershaw pitches a whole season, he's practically a lock. Back issues for a pitcher can be troubling, however, and the Dodgers may play it safe with their ace to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Arrieta, who is known for his elaborate workout routines and dedication to fitness, is entering a contract year in which he somehow must prove that he has earned an extension.
Arrieta already claimed a Cy Young award in 2015 after one of the most dominating second halves a Major League pitcher has ever thrown. He also managed to finish ninth in voting in both 2014 and 2016. Some people will expect a slight letdown after the Cubs broke through to win the title, but Arrieta may be stepping his game up in hopes of a big payday, whether from Chicago or another club. For that reason, I don't think a third-round ADP is too high at all.
2. The best fantasy player on Milwaukee will be Keon Broxton.
Ryan Braun and Jonathan Villar will be just fine - I'm not predicting them to collapse. The ceiling for Broxton is just that high (according to me). Along with every other Brewer, Broxton was given the green light last year and swiped 23 bags in just 207 AB. Where he outdid Villar was his effectiveness on the base paths. Broxton actually finished eighth in MLB with an 85% SB%. Over a full season, it's easy to see how Broxton could reach 50 or more SB. Detractors will point to a .242 average and 36.1% K% to say that there's no way he'll hit at the top of the order or reach base enough to have value beyond 40 steals, max. Fiddlesticks, I say. Broxton was outright bad his first time around the majors, but after a brief demotion he hit .294/.399/.538 in the second half of the season. That OBP is no joke and it will remain high because of his walk rate. Broxton walked nearly 15% of the time as a rookie and consistently walked at a 10% or higher clip across the minors. Broxton could do the same thing Villar did last year, but with even more pop. Oh, and he's available after the 15th round (unless you're in a league with me, in which I will have already taken him).
Duffy will be more important to the Royals' staff than ever, which gives him a good shot to reach 200 innings. He jumped up to 9.4 K/9 last season and his control numbers continue to improve each season. If Duffy truly experiences a breakout season, he could surpass Sale's total of 233 last year in Chicago. It may not make a huge difference, but Fenway Park had a -5% K% Park Factor compared to Guaranteed Rate Field, just enough to think that Sale could slip outside the top 10 K finishers.
4. Andrew McCutchen will be a top-10 fantasy outfielder.
Making this claim for a former MVP and perennial All-Star doesn't seem too bold, but many are jumping ship on Cutch this season. His stock has been dropping steadily over the last few months, nearly placing him outside the top 20 outfielders in early drafts. While the speed may indeed be gone, don't be surprised if Cutch hits .300 with steady power numbers and shows enough to consistency to outpace players like Nelson Cruz, George Springer, or teammate Gregory Polanco.
5. Welington Castillo will be a top-five fantasy catcher.
Castillo came the closest he's been to being a full-time catcher last season with 113 games in Arizona. A .264/14/68 line is pretty good, but what about now that he's on a team that swings for the fences each and every inning? Castillo hit 19 HR in just 342 AB in 2015 and certainly could break 20 in Camden Yards, where the ball flies out easier than many ballparks. I'm not drafting him before the 15th round because, well, he's a catcher, but I wouldn't consider any catcher not named Posey, Lucroy, or Sanchez before him.
6. Zack Greinke falls off the map completely and out of the top 40 SP.
Blame the Arizona heat all you want, but there are legitimate concerns about Greinke losing his stuff. He has been clocked at 88 MPH on his fastball this spring, as opposed to 93 last year. It's hard to imagine someone a year removed from almost winning a Cy Young falling off so quickly, but Greinke has always been up-and-down. After finished fourth in ROY voting in 2004, he lost 17 games and posted a 5.80 ERA the following season. After winning a Cy Young in 2009, his ERA jumped by two runs and he finished with a losing record the next year. It's taken him a couple of years to full recover each time, but that was when he was in his 20s. Greinke simply may never feel comfortable in Arizona and I think the concerns are real enough that I'm outright avoiding him.
Baez has a ton of power, but he has also has a ton of holes in his swing (3.9 AB/K). Let's not forget that he doesn't have a starting job as of this moment either. Baez makes a good hold in dynasty leagues, but he shouldn't be starting on any fantasy teams in 2017. Suarez is just one year older than Baez and will hold down third base on a regular basis in Cincinnati. Even if he posts just moderate increases across the board, we're looking at approximately 25 HR, 80 RBI, 85 R and an average around .265. Now imagine if he has a breakout season...
8. The Rockies will make the playoffs.
This is mostly about Colorado's underrated pitching staff. First, I will continue banging the drum for the effectiveness of Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, and Tyler Chatwood. All had solid years, despite two being rookies and all calling Coors their home park. It's unclear who the closer is in Colorado, but considering they now have Greg Holland, Mike Dunn, Jake Mcgee, and Adam Ottavino all available, they have plenty of quality options. There's no need to explain how good Colorado's offense will be, especially if Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez stay healthy all year.
9. The Red Sox won't make the playoffs.
Boston would seem to be in better shape after signing Chris Sale and adding Tyler Thornburg to their staff, but the recent news about David Price is definitely disconcerting. Plus, regression from Rick Porcello and Steven Wright is almost guaranteed. That aside, the staff isn't my biggest question with Boston. The loss of Big Papi will have a bigger effect than simply substituting 38 HR and 127 RBI in the lineup. If you think Hanley Ramirez will simply step in and post the same numbers, let me remind you he has missed 277 games since 2010. The Sox have one of the best middle infield combos around, but the corners are manned by Pablo Sandoval and Mitch Moreland, not exactly world-beaters. As far as the outfield, it may be more hype than substance in fantasy terms. Andrew Benintendi is a top prospect, but he's still a rookie. Jackie Bradley Jr.'s hitting streak was soooo last year - he's still a .237 career hitter in the majors. Mookie Betts, well he'll be fine. Generally speaking, I won't overpay for these big market media darlings.
10. Giancarlo Stanton stays healthy, hits 50 homers and leads the league in slugging.
Yes, this is an overly optimistic one from a Miami native and Marlins fan, but it's gotta happen eventually, right? Maybe 50 is a little high, but 45 is definitely achievable. Stanton has been labeled injury-prone, but the truth is he hasn't had a recurring issue with the same joints, rather a string of random injuries and bad luck. The biggest chunk of time he has missed came in 2015, when he took a fastball to the orbital socket. Stanton is currently representing the U S of A in the World Baseball Classic and looks perfectly ready to start the season.
His upside is what we all dream of when drafting Stanton, but his floor is actually a better justification. Stanton has never hit fewer than 22 HR in a Major League season, a low of which came in his rookie year where he played 100 games. In 2015, he his 27 HR in just 279 at-bats and hit the same number in 413 at-bats last season. He is 27 years old, still in his prime and playing for a team that could at least contend for a wild card, mostly on the strength of its offense.