Feast your eyes on the beautiful, the bold, and the basically belligerent predictions of 2018. Some of these are outrageous but all possible outcomes in my eyes for the upcoming baseball season.
Previous Bold Predictions
Ronald Acuna has a combined 50 HR+SB – Only nine players had over 50 HR+SB in 2017. Mike Trout was the only one to do so in under 139 games. The current expectation is that Acuna will make his major league debut sometime soon after April 13. This would give the Braves an additional year of control of their young star. As a result, Acuna could see playing time in as many as 150 games. Could he then accumulate some combination of steals and home runs to equal 50? I think he could.
Justin Verlander’s arm falls off – This is a little crazy, and I obviously don’t expect Verlander’s arm to full dislodge from his body Monty Python-style. However, if you consider the number of innings his arm has had to endure the last several seasons, it may be only a matter of time. I would never root for a player to be injured, so in this case I hope I’m wrong, but Verlander has a ton of wear on that arm as he enters his age-35 season. Since 2006, Verlander has pitched the most regular season innings with 2533.2 innings. The next 10 in order of innings pitched goes as follows: Felix Hernandez, James Shields, Cole Hamels, CC Sabathia, Ervin Santana, Jon Lester, Zack Greinke, John Lackey, Dan Haren, and Jered Weaver. Draw your own conclusions. Aside from having 23% more regular season innings than the number 10 starter on this list, Verlander has also pitched in an additional 135 postseason innings.
Jon Gray flirts with a sub 3.00 ERA – Gray is reportedly working on a new variation of his slider that he hopes will help him induce more groundballs. After his stellar nine-strikeout performance on Monday, Grey told reporters, “It was working tonight, and when I get it going, it’s my groundball pitch. I can make it look just like a four-seam and it’s going to not stay straight.” Gray plays half of his games at Coors Field, where he somehow posted a 3.13 ERA last year, but he also gets the benefit of four potentially pitcher-friendly parks to play his divisional games in. Gray was spectacular down the stretch for Colorado, touting an impressive 4.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio and allowing only 2.4 runs per game in his last 15 starts (3.65 ERA).
Lewis Brinson and Cameron Maybin combine for 40/40 – Both are late-round bargains in drafts right now, and both find themselves in favorable situations on a bad Miami Marlins team. The counting stats will be awfully hard to come by, but 40/40 as a pair is definitely obtainable. Brinson, much like Byron Buxton, is a five-tool physical specimen with untapped potential. Maybin may not be a sexy pick, but the numbers don’t lie.
Jesse Winker is a top-25 outfielder – I absolutely love Jesse Winker coming into the 2018 season. His well-documented, elite plate approach and the fact that he will likely be hitting ahead of Joey Votto on a regular basis are a lethal combination. Top 25 would require Winker to have a Josh Reddick-type season this year. Reddick hit .314 with 13 home runs to go along with his 77 runs and 82 RBI in 2017. This all seems possible to me with Winker’s bat skills and his position in Cincinnati’s lineup.
Robbie Ray wins the NL CY Young – To be honest, this feels like the least bold of my predictions. Ray struck out 218 batters in just 28 starts last year. If you give him a full season of games pitched, his strikeout number could look closer to 260 for the season. Add in the fact that home runs in Chase Field could be reduced by 25-30% this year, and some of Ray’s hard-hit issues start to disappear. If you take away four home runs from Ray’s 13 surrendered at home last year (roughly 30%), his ERA would have been 2.67. Yep, that should be just fine to compete in the National League.
Joakim Soria leads the AL Central in saves – Soria’s skills are still very much intact. A strong fastball/changeup combination helped him strike out more than 10 batters per nine innings in 2017. His 3.70 ERA last year appears less than stellar, but when you consider his FIP was almost a full point and a half lower (2.23), it starts to look a lot better. Also, Soria’s low 2.00s FIP ranked 10th-best year among the 155 qualified relievers, ahead of names like Cody Allen (3.19), Kelvin Herrera (4.30), and every reliever currently on the Minnesota Twins.
Joey Gallo shuts up the critics by hitting .250/50/120.
Nelson Cruz hits more home runs than any single player on the Yankees.
Andrelton Simmons has the second highest OBP on the Angels.
Jose Martinez finishes the year as a top-100 player.
Paul Goldschmidt is the best player in Fantasy.
Hanley Ramirez bounces way back, hitting .300/30/100.
Jonathan Villar is better than Whit Merrifield in all formats.
Madison Bumgarner isn’t the best starting pitcher on his own team.
Kyle Tucker is owned in more leagues than Byron Buxton at the All-Star break.
Josh Bell hits 35 home runs.
Jed Lowrie is a top-12 second baseman.
Rhys Hoskins/Carlos Santana/Maikel Franco combine for 100 home runs.
Bradley Zimmer leads the American League in stolen bases.