Bold Predictions

At this point of the year there is little to do in fantasy but stare at your team, pinpoint potential weaknesses, dig through the waiver wire, and blueprint your opponents team for players to steal via trade. For fantasy writers it is especially tough; we’ve said basically all there is to say at this point. Outside of an injury or minor league demotion, the draft advice portion of the season is done.

So, since we’ve got a few days before the season starts, why not have some fun with a few bold predictions. In case you missed it, Andy Germani has done this the past two weeks for prospects in the American League and National League, and Josh Coleman will bring you some of his own this Sunday from the National League.

Ron Vackar Bold Predictions

Kenta Maeda is a top-15 starting pitcher. I see Maeda’s stat line potential as being on par with Carlos Martinez, but at a nice discount. David Price is likely already out of top-15 contention, and there will be more casualties to the consensus top-15 before the 2017 season is said and done – I’m looking at you Stephen Strasburg, Carlos Carrasco, and Jake Arrieta,

Mitch Haniger will outproduce Yasiel Puig and Max Kepler. The skill set for this trio is similar, but Puig and Kepler may fly off draft boards 100 picks sooner than Haniger. Puig cannot stay on the field, and when he does he is so volatile that there’s always the chance of him falling out of favor in L.A. Kepler is a nice upside play, but I don’t see a ton of difference between him and Haniger other than the fact that Seattle’s lineup can run laps around that thing they call a major league lineup in Minnesota. 

Giancarlo Stanton will pop 50 homers in 2017. The injury prone label is practically tattooed on Stanton. Is that fair to him? Possibly. The injuries he has racked up are not of the variety that should give you pause about his immense power potential, though. There have been no oblique, back, wrist, or shoulder injuries. Getting hit in the face, straining his groin (ouch!), and breaking a hand on a swing are all kind of fluky. If Giancarlo and the Marlins were feeling good enough about his health to allow him to participate in the WBC, that’s all I need to know to get back on board with Stanton to see if he can finally have that season we all know he is capable of.

Yu Darvish will be the AL Cy-Young award winner. Darvish pitches for a team with World Series aspirations and had little difficulty re-assimilating himself last season coming off Tommy John surgery. His K-rate was as solid as ever, and perhaps most promising was that his walk rate was just as strong. With Darvish pitching for his next contract there is a good chance he will not be on an innings limit. His quiet Spring Training should only add more appeal to Darvish as the ace to own in 2017.

Carlos Correa will make the leap that Mookie Betts did a season ago. By that I mean Correa will go from a back-end of the first round choice this season to sliding in right after Mike Trout in 2018 drafts. This will all be due to a major breakout season in 2017. 100/30/100/20/.290 is within reach for this young SS.

Addison Russell‘s 5×5 line will resemble that of Trevor Story. This is not a knock on Story as much as it is a pitch for Russell as someone you should have highly targeted not long after 100 names are off your league’s draft board. Both Story and Russell should be in line for an 80/30/95/7/.260 season, and Russell will close the gap between him and the upper tier of shortstops.

Jake Lamb will outproduce Todd Frazier. With this one, I am banking on Frazier continuing to slide down a bit while Lamb recaptures his first half prowess from the 2016 season. Lamb’s home ballpark, projected fourth spot in the Arizona lineup, and age will lead to a huge 2017 season.

Ivan Nova will be more valuable than Rick Porcello. Nova turned a corner after last year’s trade when he was greeted with Ray Searage as his Pirates housewarming gift. The ERA, WHIP, and K upside are all similar for Nova and Porcello, but I believe the guy tossing home games in a pitcher’s park in the NL will prevail.

Mike Sheehan Bold Predictions

James Paxton will be a fantasy ace.

Francisco Liriano will be a top 45 SP

Matt Harvey will be terrible until July and then become 85% of vintage Matt Harvey.

Gregory Polanco will go 25-20

The Astros win the pennant on the back of a ridiculous offense and a trade for a front-end starter.

Bryce Harper regains his 90% of his MVP form and adds a 2nd trophy to the case

The Nationals play the Dodgers for the pennant and the winner takes down the Astros in the Fall Classic.

Terry Collins gets fired mid-season and Michael Conforto finally gets to play.  Mets win 2nd wild as a result of his play and their pitching.

Marc Goldstein Bold Predictions

Trea Turner returns high draft value and is a consensus top-7 pick in 2018. He puts up .305/104/16/65/55 line, and as the catalyst of a dangerous Nationals lineup, is instrumental in launching Bryce Harper back into the top-5 as well.

Julio Urias finishes as a top-25 starting pitcher. The Dodgers choose winning over caution and unleash Urias for over 150 innings with an ERA under 2.75 , a WHIP close to 1.00, and 160 K.

Jose Peraza steals more bases than Billy Hamilton. Due to a few prolonged ineffective stretches and an inability to stay healthy, Peraza amasses 200 more plate appearances than Hamilton and edges him in SB’s 48-47.

Both Maikel Franco and Nick Castellanos are top-8 third basemen. Franco hits 33 HR and Castellanos blasts 32 as these rising stars close the gap on the impenetrable top-4 third basemen and land just beyond the Kyle Seager-sphere.

Popular sleeper darling Robbie Ray underperforms his peripherals again and K’s less than 190 batters. His lack of command and high hard hit rates continue as Ray once again gets burned by a high BABIP and elevated walk rate, leading many to realize that his poor performance is more than just bad luck.  Short outings lead to less than 170 IP, and a strikeout rate that regresses closer to 10K/9, leaving Ray short of the 200 K milestone.

Kyle Schwarber gains 10-game catcher eligibility by mid-June and finishes as the #1 fantasy catcher. An appearance at a position is not a nine inning commitment, and the master of creative managerial moves, Joe Maddon, will provide enough one inning stints as he tinkers with his in-game roster to make Kyle Schwarber owners very happy.

Dansby Swanson and Andrew Benintendi produce virtually identical fantasy value. Both will make their owners happy in 2017, but even more so for Swanson owners, who were able to save 50+ picks in draft cost to capture the same production as Benintendi.

Eric Thames is on the most dropped list on May 1 and the most added list by Memorial Day. After a slow start that has Thames owners scrambling and bailing, the adjustment from the KBO to the MLB begins to click.  He hits two homers on Mother’s Day and never looks back as he finishes the season hitting .a respectable enough .265 with 27 HR and swipes 12 bags to boot.

Jim Finch Bold Predictions

Joc Pederson matches or outperforms George Springer. Is it really that much of a stretch? Pederson had a higher ISO, fly ball rate, hard hit rate and contact rate. And despite a higher strikeout percentage, Pederson had the lower swinging strikeout percentage and better F-Strike%. Pederson is also three years younger which means more room to grow.

Trevor Story hits under 25 home runs and below .250. The 24.5% strikeout rate in 2015 pales in comparison to what he produced in the years prior or in 2016 (31.3%). This spring he has 18 strikeouts in 55 at-bats – that’s just a hair under 33%. Miguel Sano has just as much power as Story and look how his 2016 turned out.

Matt Holliday plays in at least 140 games and finishes the season with an 80/22/80 line. No longer will Holliday have to tiptoe on eggshells in the outfield, taking away most of the injury risk which destroyed his value the last two years. There is still life left in the 37-year-old

Travis d’Arnaud starts more than 100 games and finished with an average north of .270. Last year among catchers he had the third best contact rate and third lowest swinging strikeout rate. He has also lowered his swing rate, specifically outside the zone while increase contact outside the zone. d’Arnaud can hit; maybe this year he can stay healthy long enough to prove it.

Rick Porcello turns back into Rick Porcello. I expect an ERA closer to 4.00 and a WHIP above 1.25. His team may put him in line for wins, but the ERA and WHIP won’t nearly cover his draft cost.

Michael Wacha and Sonny Gray return to top-30 starting pitcher status. Wacha (.334 BABIP, 64.7% strand rate) and Gray (.319 BABIP, 63.9% strand rate) had some really bad luck in 2016. This spring Wacha has a 2.42 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 26 innings with 22 strikeouts and six walks. Gray is close to returning from a lat strain so it may take him until mid-May to round into form. Both a bargain at their current draft cost and round.

Hyun-Jin Ryu goes from draft day afterthought to over 80% ownership within the first month of the season. He has been out of action for two years so everyone has either forgotten or a timid to invest in a guy that put up a 3.17 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over his first two seasons. He’s on waivers right now – except in leagues I am in.

David Price does not throw more than 50 innings in 2017 – if at all. The fact that he said he would have had surgery if he were younger hints at more problems than have been publicly discussed. He is currently throwing to build up arm strength and be ready in May. I can see setbacks, complications, and an unhappy Price eventually giving in to the inevitable.


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The Fantasy Assembly Team

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A combined effort of the greatest fantasy sports minds money can buy. Maybe that is an exaggeration..... but it sounds good.