The band Spinal Tap had amplifiers that went up to 11. Normal amps only go up to 10, but these went to 11. When you get to 10 where do you go….nowhere, you can’t go any higher. These amplifiers went to 11 just to give you that extra push-off the cliff. Now if we were to say at the time that Spinal Tap was going to be one of the biggest bands in the world; that would qualify as a bold prediction. That’s what today’s theme is all about, go bold or go home. So in honor of Nigel “Tuffy” Tufnel (the greatest guitar player that never lived), we bring you our
10 bold predictions 11 bold predictions for 2014.
Most of you will continue reading; the others are off to Google Spinal Tap.
1. Alex Rios is a top 10 player in 2014. He’s been the number 11 player according to ESPN’s player rater the past 2 seasons. Now he has a top 5 lineup surrounding him, while playing in a hitter’s haven 81 games a year. This shouldn’t actually be bold, but when compared to the rest of the industry it is.
2. Zack Greinke leads the majors in wins. As I mentioned on our 4th day of Xmas, Greinke will probably avoid taking on Carlos Quentin shoulder-first this year. A full season of Greinke in a pitcher’s park with a good bullpen behind him could spell 20+ wins.
3. Jose Reyes finishes top 5 in runs scored. If “health” breaks right for Reyes and at least some of the guys behind him, this should come to fruition.
4. Allen Craig is not a top 15 first baseman. I’ve said before that I do not believe in the RISP batting average magic. Last season he played the most games of his career; I’m not betting on him beating that number in 2014.
5. Dustin Pedroia hits 20 home runs. My boldest prediction. His thumb should be healthy for opening day. I think there are going to be a fair number of pitchers who would rather let Pedroia put the ball in play rather than walk the guy hitting in front of David Ortiz. Pedroia will hit some of that logic over the Green Monster.
6. Bret Lawrie is a top 7 3B. With a potentially great lineup around him, there are numerous ways he can reach top 7 status. By HR, SB, runs, RBI, or some combination of those categories Lawrie will be a top 7 3B.
7. Doug Fister posts a career high K/9. Hello NL. Hello Mets. Hello Phils. Hello Marlins. Hello K-prone Braves. Good bye DH. The stuff is there. I think he tops his 2012 7.63 K/9.
8. Nathan saves a career high 50+ games. He has been in the 40’s 4 times. The Tigers are a good baseball team. Joe Nathan is old and very, very good. That’s my analysis.
9. Manny Machado is not a top 10 3B. This is what I wrote about Machado on Day 5 of our 12 days of Xmas: “I love watching him play 3B, but that doesn’t help us in fantasy. I also love the bat long-term, but my opinion is that you are going to have to pay for stats he’ll be putting up 2-4 years down the road. The fact that he is coming off of major knee surgery should not be overlooked.”
10. An Oakland pitcher wins 20 games. My favorite story of this offseason has been the monster that Billy Beane is creating; that being Oakland’s 2014 bullpen. One of the A’s starters is going to get through opponents’ lineups effectively and consistently enough to let the bullpen lead them to 20 wins.
11. Jayson Werth improves in every category besides BA. Another guy who returned to pre-injury form, I think Werth will continue to improve with an improved lineup around him. Will it be to his peak Philly levels? Nope, but I think it will be somewhere between last season and those seasons.
1. The Astros won’t be the worst team in Baseball. I’ll go one step further and say they win 70 games. For the past 3 years the Astros haven’t won more than 56 games, but with a little more experience behind a few of their younger players coupled with the call up of a few of their cohorts from the minors and the Astros won’t be half bad.
2. Delmon Young will be fantasy relevant. Young is like a leap year, he only comes around once every 4 years. Well it’s been almost 4 years since his 2010 breakout. He’s currently working out at first base, not to mention working out in general as he’s lost over 20 pounds since April. I can see a .282 average and at least 20 home runs from Young along with around 80 or so RBIs. Those numbers can tic up a bit depending on where he signs.
3. Troy Tulowitzki plays a full season (well, at least 150 games). It’s been a while since we’ve seen Troy play over 150 games. Each year people draft him early anticipating big home run numbers, and each year those owners are cursing his name when he hits the DL. This year will be different as he will only miss games for the occasional day off to rest a nagging pain or pull. I shook my magic 8-Ball this morning and it said “It is decidedly so” so it’s got to be true.
4. Brad Miller will be a top 10 shortstop. I believe he will hit for average and he’s got a good combination of power and speed. The lack of run production was one of the main reasons I held him back when I did my initial rankings. Now, not only will he be hitting in front of Seager but he’ll have Hart & Cano there as well. He could easily score 85 or more runs hitting leadoff. Look for him to reach double digits in home runs and stolen bases with a batting average close to .290. The RBI totals will be light, but 4 out of 5 categories isn’t bad for a shortstop you can probably get in the mid to later rounds.
5. Andrelton Simmons will NOT be a top 15 shortstop. If you think the power he displayed is real then put the cool aid down, you’ve had enough. According to baseball heat maps his average fly ball distance was 268.9 feet, that’s Didi Gregorius and Omar Infante territory. Almost half of his home runs qualify as just enough so don’t even expect double digits let along 17. He has speed but he doesn’t have the best success rate. He also struggled with his batting average and I see that continuing. Even with the 17 homers he only ranked 15 on ESPN’s player rater, so odds are he might not even finish in the top 20.
6. Wilson Ramos WILL be a top 8 catcher. Ramos has the talent, but he’s either been held back by injuries or forced to split time behind the plate. With a full year of at bats Ramos could easily hit 20+ home runs. He should also be able to rack up at least 70 RBIs even hitting towards the bottom half of the lineup, but that number should be higher as his bat will warrant a higher spot by mid-season. In early mock drafts he’s being taken after players like Matt Wieters, Salvador Perez, Jason Castro and Evan Gattis, but he should easily finish ahead of them and challenge some of the top guys, and all for a late mid round pick.
7. Robin Ventura is the first head coach to be fired. There are a number of coaches that won’t make it through the season, but Ventura will be the first to go. I’m predicting he goes around or right before the all-star break, and once that happens…watch your back John Gibbons.
8. B.J. Upton will be a top 20 outfielder. I selected Upton earlier when we named our 3 comeback players for 2014, and now I’m going to beat the proverbial dead horse. In 2012 he ranked 14th on ESPN’s player rater. According to heatmaps his average flyball distance last year was 288.6 feet in 2012 and 285.4 feet in 2011. He hit at least 18 home runs and stole 31 bases in each of the previous 3 years, and he will return to his prior self in 2014. Look for a .246 BA, 19 home runs, around 80 runs and RBIs and 29 stolen bases.
9. Billy Hamilton steals 100 bases. OK this may not seem bold given his speed, but many speed guys have come along in the past 25 years and none have accomplished this feat. Ricky Henderson and Vince Coleman were the last 2 men to accomplish this feat, and when they did so they did it in the early stages of their career. Plus he’s got history on his side since Billy Hamilton stole over 100 bases from 1889 to 1891 and a fourth time in 1894 (Billy Robert Hamilton).
10. The Yankees won’t make the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Since 1995 the Yankees have been in the playoffs in all but 2 years. They did sign 2 big players in Beltran and Ellsbury, but both come with an injury clause. They lost Cano and Kelly Johnson isn’t the answer. They have nobody for third if/when A-rod is suspended. Jeter will be 40 in June, Kuroda is 39 and Soriano is 38. Wells is on the decline as is Teixeira. Yankee fans can be optimistic, but I’m not.
11. Cory Luebke will be the number one pitcher for the Padres. Andrew Cashner will garner some attention after a fine first year as a starter, and Tyson Ross has generated a lot of buzz after what he accomplished in the second half. Both pitchers will have a productive season, but Luebke’s will be better. He had Tommy John surgery in May of 2012 and while he suffered a setback last year, he is 100% now and ready to start facing live batters. People may get disappointed when he starts slow, but they’ll be more disappointed that they didn’t hold on to him come September.
1. The Seattle Mariners will make the playoffs. Normally not the boldest thing to predict the offseason’s biggest winner to make the playoffs, but the Mariners were 71-91 last year. Cano may be the one to put them over the top, but it’ll be the young starting pitchers that make the difference.
2. Austin Jackson leads the majors in runs scored. He’s going to need to bat leadoff for this to happen, and that is anything but a guarantee after last year’s finish and the Ian Kinsler signing.
3. Fredi Gonzalez is the first manager to be fired. When things go bad in Atlanta to start 2014, Fredi will be the scapegoat. I predicted Atlanta to make the playoffs as a wildcard team, but I suspect it’ll be a bumpy road for them to get there. Too many strikeouts from the lineup and too many young starters.
4. Ryan Braun is a bum. Maybe a bum is an overstatement, but look for 80/25/90/15/.280 from this first round pick. Good numbers perhaps, but the days of being a fantasy stud are over.
5. Matt Kemp is completely irrelevant in 2014. While Kemp is now out of his walking boot there’s still a long road ahead for him to be a) healthy and b) productive again. In 350 AB I see 45/10/55/10/.275.
6. Billy Hamilton doesn’t steal 50 bases. While a full season of playing time would amount to 100+ stolen bases, Hamilton doesn’t hit enough to stay in the lineup or even the majors throughout 2014. He’ll make his impact while he’s in there and he’ll help put Cincinnati into the playoffs, but his year will be considered a big disappointment from a fantasy perspective.
7. Oscar Taveras and Taijuan Walker are your 2014 ROYs. Not the boldest call here, but a lot of moving parts makes this always a tough race to predict early.
8. Lucas Gioloto slides into the #2 overall prospect position heading into 2015. Watch for a break out in 2014 from this once-projected #1 draft choice.
9. Clayton Kershaw becomes the 2nd most valuable starter on the Dodgers. Kershaw continues to be an ace, but for 2014 at least, Greinke is the real star in LA.
10. Justin Morneau puts up better numbers than Allen Craig. It’s 2009 all over again in Colorado. Not quite but his 25/90/.285 is more than what you’ll get out Craig.
11. Yu Darvish pitches two no-hitters. It was more fun making bold predictions about Darvish last off season. What’s left for him to do is the only question. Ascencion into heaven after striking out the side in the 9th of a perfect game? While his was my best prediction for 2013, there really isn’t anywhere for him to go but down in 2014. Luckily that down is still better than 95% of the pitchers in baseball.
1. Carlos Gonzalez will play 155+ games and challenge Trout for the #1 OF spot. The issue with Cargo has always been his injuries. If he can ever stay healthy through the season, he has potential for 30+ HRs and SBs. This is the year he makes it.
2. Clayton Kershaw will not be the number 1 SP this year. Ok, maybe not so bold a prediction, but owners need to keep expectations in check here. If he gives you 220 IP with a 2.5 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, he is still worth a first round pick. Some regression is inevitable, although he might counter it with more wins.
3. Hanley Ramirez returns to super elite status and produces at a top 10 overall level. He seems happy and motivated in LA. I will never bet against a focused Hanley Ramirez. Although he missed a lot of time last year, only Miggy was more productive on a per game basis in 5×5 leagues. Expect gaudy stats from Hanley when in the line-up and hope for 140+ games.
4. Brian McCann will be a top 2 catcher this season. McCann landed in the ideal spot for a left handed power hitter. He has hit 20 or more HRs in 6 straight seasons. This year he hits 30.
5. Gerrit Cole will be a top 10 SP. Cole pitched well in 2013, especially down the stretch. 2014 will be the full breakout as he gets his K rate up near 1 per inning and he continues to give the up and coming Pirates a chance to win every time he takes the hill.
6. John Axford will not survive April as the Indians closer. The Indians signed him on a one year deal, presumably to serve as their closer, but be will implode early and often before eventually ceding the job to Cody Allen.
7. Drew Smyly will outperform at least one, possibly two of his higher profile SP teammates. Smyly has the ratios that roto owners love. His K rate will likely fall some, but he is going to be a great value in the mid-late rounds on draft day. This prediction does not require much regression from any of the Tigers big 3 arms.
8. Billy Hamilton will steal 100 bases. The OBP will be just good enough to allow him to keep starting and he will make owners very happy with his specialized contributions.
9. Jose Abreu will hit 30 home runs. The batting average may resemble Adam Dunn’s, but the power will be there.
10. Francisco Liriano will improve upon his 2013 numbers. Liriano needed a change of scenery. The move to a young contending team in the NL was just what the doctor ordered. There was nothing unrepeatable about his performance in 2013. If Liriano limits the walks, he is a top 20 SP (or better).
11. Josmil Pinto and Yan Gomes will make you wish you didn’t use that high draft pick on a catcher. Both players will be mixed league relevant by the end of April.
1. Billy Hamilton will do his best Vince Coleman impersonation. Assuming he wins a starting job in Cincinnati’s OF, Billy Hamilton will instantly become the most exciting player to watch in the majors. Vince Coleman burst onto the scene in 1985 and stole 110 bases (he went on to steal 107 and 109 the next 2 years). Hamilton reminds me of Coleman in that he is a burner who will not hit for average (Vince was a 0.264 career hitter with a low of 0.232 in 1986, high of 0.292 in 1990). Expect Hamilton to approach 100 steals!
2. Yasiel Puig will remind us of Bo Jackson. Bo Jackson had 3 great seasons in the late 1980’s, when he 25+ HR and stole 15+ bases. His best season was 1989, when hit blasted 32 homers, stole 26 bases and drove in 105 runs. Puig’s physicality and rocket-arm remind me of Jackson, and I see a 30HR/20SB campaign coming in 2014.
3. Carlos Martinez will enter the St Louis rotation in June and win 10 games. It is going to take an injury or a poor start to the season for one of St. Louis’ pitchers to open a slot, but when it happens, expect the young fire baller Martinez to seize the opportunity. I expect Martinez to win double-digit game while striking out more than a batter per inning. He will make a sneaky selection on draft day.
4. Albert Pujols bounces back, to hit 0.275. Pujols has not hit over 0.300 since 2010, and since 2009 has not had a BABIP over 0.300 (in 2013 it was 0.258, which matched his batting average). Expect an uptick in average, approaching 30 homers, maybe 100 RBI, but gone are the days of those Ruthian numbers.
5. Matt Kemp will not play 100 games. Injuries have hobbled Kemp for the past 2 seasons, with a combined 179 games played. Playing a demanding CF position, don’t expect nagging leg injuries to subside anytime soon.
6. Carlos Gonzalez will hit 35 homers, and steal 30 bases. The issue with Cargo has been staying healthy. His at-bats over the past 4 seasons indicate that he will stay mostly healthy this year and get more than 500 at-bats. If he does this, he will hit a career high in homers and steal 30 bases.
7. Josh Hamilton will be a top 20 OF. Arriving in sunny California a year after blasting 43 homers for the Rangers, Josh Hamilton was coming off the draft boards in round 2/3. He turned in a fantasy dud season for the ages, hitting a mere 21 homers and batting a paltry 0.250. He showed some life in the second half and rebounding to 30-35 homers with a batting average closer to 0.285 is not out of the realm of possibility. He could be a great value pick in your draft.
8. Will Middlebrooks and Mike Moustakas each hit 25 homers. No question that Will Middlebrooks struggled last season. He was even demoted to AAA by the Red Sox. However, the 25-year old also hit 17 HR in 348 at-bats. His BABIP fell to 0.263 and his average hit the Jackee line at 0.227. Moustakas is 2 days younger than Middlebrooks. He struggled as well in 2013, and definitely took a step back from where owners thought he would go, having hit 20 homers in 2012. His K rate dropped 4% in 2013 and he showed better plate discipline swinging at less balls outside the zone, signs of maturity and better things to come in 2014.
9. Alfonso Soriano will not hit 25 homers. Soriano has rejuvenated his career over the past couple seasons, once again topping 30 homers. However, he turns 38 in January and his age, paired with his high strikeout rate make it hard for me to pick him to produce at the level he did when he arrived in NY last year. Additionally, he has maintained a HR/FB of 18-19% the past 2 seasons, after 3 years around 12. Not sure 18% is sustainable, especially when facing a tough AL East for an entire season.
10. Stephen Strasburg will pitch more than 200 innings. Strasburg has not yet reached the 200-inning plateau in his MLB career. When you consider the statistics he compiles, it is scary to think of what his numbers would look like if he did. Well, the wait is finally over in 2014. Strasburg will pitch more than 200 innings, striking out 240+ hitters while winning 20 games for the Nationals.
11. David Price will not be traded by Tampa Bay. Speculation has been running high this offseason that David Price will be traded. Tampa Bay has a history of trading good MLB pitching, see Matt Garza and James Shields. But I think Price stays put. You can never have too much good pitching, and in the very competitive AL East, Price is a piece that can put Tampa Bay over the top. Sure, they have a rotation full of young arms, but Price is only a year removed from a Cy Young Award. Tampa can win now, but do so they will need to retain Price.
1. Patrick Corbin finishes 2014 as a top-15 SP. I’ve already admitted to my man-crush on this guy. He was already a top-25 SP by nearly any standard, and in some ratings systems he was #20. I think he gets even better and breaks into the ace value range, but at a far lower cost than the true aces like Kershaw and Darvish.
2. Freddie Freeman hits more HR than Prince Fielder. This one may be a long shot, with Fielder moving to a hitter’s park in Texas. However, Freeman’s a great all-around hitter, and he kills the ball with a high LD%. If a few more of those line drives gain more loft, he could reach 30 HR in 2014. I worry Fielder won’t be able to regain his elite power, given a three-year decline in homers – and last year was his most AB in the last five years.
3. Hunter Pence has another 20/20 season. I honestly don’t love Pence that much. But heck, his awkwardness in all he does seems to work for him. His power is legit, so this one is bold because he’d have to achieve at least the second-best SB total of his career. The fact is, he’s always had decent speed, but last year he got more opportunity to run than in 2011 and 2012.
4. Jean Segura remains a top-2 shortstop. Segura used a very hot first half to keep him afloat most SS rankings for 2013. A lot of people look at his second half decline and assume he can’t repeat. I’m buying into him for a full season of good production. Only Tulo or Hanley will beat him in value come 2014, and that’s only if one of them is actually healthy all year.
5. Dustin Pedroia is not a top-5 second baseman. Last year for 5×5 leagues, he ranked fifth according to ESPN and CBS. The names above him deserve to be there except maybe Murphy in 2014, but that’s not including Phillips or Kinsler or a healthy Utley. Despite his strong BA and the Red Sox lineup, without 15+ HR or 20+ SB he can’t be an elite option. The name value won’t carry him anymore.
6. Shin-soo Choo finishes as the #5 OF. By most standards, Choo was in the #12-15 range last year. I think he gets the big contract he’s seeking with a strong lineup, and he can put up another 20/20 year with a strong BA.
7. Kenley Jansen is better than Craig Kimbrel. A full season of Jansen closing means 40+ SV. He is one of the only RP who can match Kimbrel in K/9. I consider them 1 and 1A for closers already, but Jansen has the ability to dethrone the reigning RP king.
8. Todd Frazier is more valuable than Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Zimmerman, and Aramis Ramirez. First off, this is an issue of health, which the veterans I list don’t often have. But even if they’re healthy, there are lots of red flags. I like Frazier to settle into the Reds lineup, hit for better BA and reach maybe 25 HR – in other words, produce about like Zimmerman has in the last few years, though Zim’s BA will be better than Frazier’s.
9. Kris Medlen is more valuable than Adam Wainwright and Zack Greinke. Medlen doesn’t quite have the K/9 that Waino and Greinke have, which is likely to be my downfall on this prediction. However, he took steps forward in the second half of 2013: his BB/9 was as good as Wainwright’s, and he’s a groundball pitcher like Waino. If Wainwright nets another 220+ IP, then this prediction will fail, but otherwise I’m confident in Medlen reaching elite status.
10. The Angels finish first in the AL West. I felt their biggest weakness was the rotation, and they traded for two young arms that should be great at the back end. I don’t expect Pujols and Hamilton to earn their contracts, but they’ll be better than they were in 2013. Trumbo’s power has left, but Calhoun will be good in a full year, and Ibanez will help produce versus righties at DH. There’s still plenty of offseason left for them to make another trade or signing to improve the team.
11. Wil Myers has a better year than Bryce Harper. This one is again partly based on Harper’s injury risk. However, both players have some speed, great power, and respectable batting averages. Harper gets more media attention, but I think Myers is special, and with a bit of luck and better plate discipline, I could see Myers reaching 30 HR before Harper does. A 600 AB season from Harper likely kills my chances, but since I don’t expect that to happen, there’s a shot for Myers to turn a few of those grounders into fly balls and help me win the prediction.
Those are our bold predictions for the 2014 season. I am sure we’ll each revisit them at the end of the year to see how good (or bad) we did.