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Bold Predictions for 2018 Fantasy Baseball

Bold Predictions for 2018 Fantasy Baseball
Michael Waterloo Staff Writer March 21, 2018 12:23PM EDT

2018 Fantasy Baseball Bold Predictions

One of my favorite articles to write each year is this one right here. Why you ask? Well, I can either look back and say “I told you so!” Or I can say “Umm, it’s called bold predictions for a reason,” when I get one most of them wrong.

Last year, I had some good calls with my bold predictions, such as the emergence of Luke Weaver, Mike Moustakas’ home run surge, Gerrit Cole’s struggles and Keon Broxton showcasing a nice power-speed combo. But then there were the horrible calls, such as Tommy Joseph leading the National League in home runs and Aaron Judge getting fewer than 200 at-bats for the Yankees.

I’m looking to improve this year, and as a caveat, these are all things I think could happen if things break right. I truly believe in these players either being really, really good or being really, really bad.

Let’s get to it.

NL East

Atlanta Braves – A.J. Minter saves 25 games: A bold predictions article has to include Ozzie Albies or Ronald Acuna, right? They’re going to be studs already, so let’s look at another rookie who can make a huge impact for Fantasy owners. Arodys Vizcaino is going at a good spot in drafts, but it’s Minter who will be the most valuable reliever for the Braves this year. He’s going to be Craig Kimbrel good very soon.

Alternate: Albies is a Top 5 second baseman.

New York Mets – Brandon Nimmo is a Top 50 outfielder: Currently the 126th outfielder off the board, Nimmo will earn his way into regular playing time for the Mets, who once again find themselves with a log-jammed outfield once Michael Conforto is completely healthy.

Alternate: Noah Syndergaard finishes as the No. 1 pitcher in Fantasy.

Miami Marlins – One Marlins player will be a Top 250 player this year: That player is J.T. Realmuto. Is it bold? I’m not sure, really. But this team is horrible.

Alternate: Lewis Brinson is a Top 60 outfielder.

Philadelphia Phillies – J.P. Crawford is a Top 12 shortstop in OBP leagues: Crawford, who will enter the season with just third base eligibility, has an amazing eye at the plate. He’s underwhelmed statistically speaking throughout this minor-league career, but his final two months in Triple-A last year showed why scouts continued to be high on him.

Alternate: Aaron Nola is a Top 10 starting pitcher.

Washington Nationals – Sean Doolittle will lead baseball in saves: Doolittle? More like Doo-a lot. I’ll show myself out now. He’s on a great team in a terrible division. If he can stay healthy – big if – he has the dominant stuff to be a Top 5 Fantasy closer.

Alternate: Stephen Strasburg finishes the year ranked higher than Max Scherzer.

NL Central

Pittsburgh Pirates – Gregory Polanco finishes as a Top 20 outfielder: Polanco battled through an injury last year, and his offseason workouts had him looking ripped out of his mind entering Spring Training. Polanco will remind everyone why he was being so highly regarded entering 2017 drafts.

Alternate: Colin Moran hits 25 home runs.

Chicago Cubs – Ian Happ finishes as a Top 5 second baseman: The only reason not to like Happ is Joe Maddon. But even the mad genius Maddon can’t keep Happ from being a regular fixture at the top of the lineup.

Alternate: Brandon Morrow finishes the year as a Top 8 closer.

Cincinnati Reds – Eugenio Suarez is a Top 12 third baseman: Why take Nick Castellanos 112th overall when you can get a similar player in Suarez 200th overall?

Alternate: Luis Castillo finishes outside the Top 60 at starting pitcher.

Milwaukee Brewers – Christian Yelich is a Top 5 outfielder: The park change is huge for Yelich, which we know. We also know how much of a groundball hitter he is, which can cap his power. However, over the last three months of last season, Yelich seemed to have a change of approach during road games. His groundball rates declined each month from July to September (52.9, 50.0, 48.8 percent, respectively), while his fly-ball rate increased each month (25.5, 27.3, 31.7 percent, respectively). Both Yelich and Lorenzo Cain will be huge values for Fantasy owners in 2018.

Alternate: Corey Knebel loses his closer’s job by July.

St. Louis Cardinals – Jack Flaherty is a Top 50 starting pitcher: Hopefully, Mike Matheny realizes that Adam Wainwright is toast and doesn’t become loyal to him for some old-school reason that he’ll make up. Flaherty should be in the Cardinals’ rotation to start the season.

Alternate: Tommy Pham is a Top 10 outfielder.

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers – Clayton Kershaw pitches 200 innings: The best pitcher in baseball has reached the 200-inning mark just once since 2013. Though, since we are using an arbitrary endpoint, he threw 198.1 innings in 2014. The gap has closed between Kershaw and the rest of the big four pitchers, but if Kershaw throws 200 innings, he’ll be in a class of his own once again.

Alternate: Walker Buehler becomes a Top 50 pitcher.

Colorado Rockies – Ryan McMahon wins the National League Rookie of the Year – His bat is made for Coors Field. The Rockies just have to realize it and make room for him to get his bat into the lineup every day.

Alternate: Jon Gray is a Top 25 starting pitcher.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Zack Godley wins the National League Cy Young: I loved Godley entering the offseason with his elite SwStr% and groundball rate. I want to say Godley is one of the top pitchers in baseball after the news of the humidor. Like the Bullet Club, I’m all in.

Alternate: Ketel Marte is a Top 12 shortstop.

San Diego Padres – Brad Hand is a Top 5 closer: My only worry with Hand is that he might get dealt at the deadline to a contender that won’t use him as a closer. Besides that, he’s an elite closer that won’t cost an elite price.

Alternate: Dinelson Lamet leads the National League in strikeouts.

San Francisco Giants – Jeff Samardzija finishes as a Top 24 Fantasy pitcher: It won’t be pretty, and it won’t always be fun, but at the end of the year, Samardzija will return SP2 value. Innings matter, folks.

Alternate: Chris Stratton outperforms Johnny Cueto.

AL East

Boston Red Sox – David Price is a Top 10 pitcher: Price was actually good last year when he pitched, sporting a 3.38 ERA and a 24 percent strikeout rate. Expect the same production this year, but instead of 74 innings like he threw last year, lock in 185. The elbow is 100 percent, and Price will return a massive profit as the 27th starting pitcher off the board.

Alternate: Mookie Betts goes 30/30.

New York Yankees – Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez will out-homer two teams: The trio hit 144 home runs last year, which was more than the San Francisco Giants 128. As an encore to celebrate playing in New York together, they’ll out-homer an additional team this year. For bonus points, let’s go with the Marlins and Tigers as the two teams.

Alternate: Miguel Andujar outperforms Gleyber Torres.

Tampa Bay Rays – Jake Bauers is a Top 20 first baseman in points leagues: C.J. Cron is just keeping the seat warm for Bauers. With a good walk rate and his ability to attack the gaps, Bauers will be a valuable waiver wire piece as a solid contributor in points leagues.

Alternate: Blake Snell is a Top 20 pitcher.

Baltimore Orioles – Manny Machado goes 30/30: Machado cut out pizza and chicken nuggets from his diet this offseason. The man obviously wants to get paid in free agency next winter. He has a 35-homer, 20-steal season under his belt already. He’s going to earn every penny with his performance this year.

Alternate: Jonathan Schoop finishes outside of the Top 10 at the position.

Toronto Blue Jays – Randall Grichuk hits 35 home runs: I’ve spoken about Grichuk ad nauseam this offseason. To quote me from a recent Fantasy Pros roundtable discussion: “Last year, he ranked sixth in baseball with 10 Barrels per Plate Appearance for players with at least 50 batted ball events. Since the start of the 2015 season, Grichuk is tied for the 11th highest hard-hit rate (39.2 percent) in baseball. He’s getting everyday at-bats in a wonderful home environment. He could have a Khris Davis-lite season.”

Alternate: Josh Donaldson plays in fewer than 100 games.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox – Yoan Moncada leads the lead in strikeout percentage: Last year, Chris Davis led all of baseball with a 37.2 percent mark. You have your work cut out for you, Yoan.

Alternate: Jose Abreu leads the position in home runs.

Kansas City Royals – Jorge Soler hits 30 home runs: His career high is 12. Soler could very well be out of a job in June. He could also finally put it all together for the first time in his career.

Alternate: Lucas Duda outperforms Eric Hosmer.

Detroit Tigers – Miguel Cabrera has fewer than 150 at-bats: I hate this one, man, and I really hope I’m wrong. Back injuries on aging players just really give me pause.

Alternate: Nick Castellanos is a Top 7 third baseman.

Minnesota Twins – Byron Buxton is a Top 15 outfielder: This is the year that Buxton finally puts it all together after making changes at the plate last year. Buxton will still strikeout a lot, but he’ll steal 30-plus bases and hit close to 20 home runs while keeping his average around the .275 mark.

Alternate: Kyle Gibson is the best pitcher on the Twins.

Cleveland Indians – Mike Clevinger is a Top 30 pitcher: Next to Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, Clevinger will emerge as the third-most valuable arm for the Indians. If he can get his control down, he’s going to make the Indians’ rotation even more of a nightmare for the opposition.

Alternate: Francisco Mejia hits 20 home runs.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels – Shohei Ohtani leads all starters in strikeout percentage: I don’t care about Spring Training. Yes, Ohtani will have his bumps this season and won’t be able to live up to the unfair expectations. But one thing he will do is strike people out at an absurd rate.

Alternate: Ian Kinsler is a Top 10 second baseman.

Houston Astros – Carlos Correa is the most valuable Astros player in Fantasy: This isn’t a knock on Jose Altuve or George Springer at all. Besides Bryce Harper, Correa is the only person whose ceiling comes close to Mike Trout.

Alternate: Justin Verlander is the fourth-most valuable Astros starter.

Seattle Mariners – Nelson Cruz fails to hit 25 home runs: Father Time is finally going to get Cruz this year, who has hit at least 27 home runs in every season since 2013.

Alternate: James Paxton finishes as a Top 10 starting pitcher.

Oakland Athletics – Matt Olson and Khris Davis out-homer Judge and Sanchez: I mean, I could have put Stanton in here instead, but that’s just silly.

Alternate: Sean Manaea is a Top 30 starting pitcher.

Texas Rangers – Willie Calhoun wins the American League Rookie of the Year: I don’t care that the Rangers sent him down to the minors to start the season. The approach at the plate is too good to keep down for long. He’s a legitimate power hitter who doesn’t strikeout. I want all the shares.

Alternate: Robinson Chirinos finishes as a Top 5 catcher.

Gregory Polanco Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

 

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