We made it! After 3 months of preparing and drafting we’re finally standing on the precipice of the 2019 baseball season. There will be so many surprise performances we never saw coming, injury disappointments, and new stars to emerge as the glory of the baseball season unfolds. My personal favorite thing about a new baseball season is the fresh start. In April, optimism abounds, as it should. There’s promise in the air and predictions as well, because there’s more in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your projection systems. So, let’s dream, shall we?
The regular season is almost upon us! Don’t worry, there’s still time to add that “one more league!” Leagues are still forming at Fantrax.com, so head on over and jump in one today.
The Black Book 2019 Fantasy Award Predictions!
AL MVP: Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU
Look, it’s boring to say Mike Trout or Mookie Betts, so in the interest of considering ADP, I went a different direction and took into account “value” in the truest fantasy sense. Here’s a top-5 overall fantasy talent who’s average season from 2016-2017 was 100+ R, 200+ H, 24 HR, 80+ RBI, 30+ SB and a .330+ BA and his name is Jose Altuve! The fact he fell out of the first round in some drafts is criminal! Shame on us! Well, not “US”, but those scoundrels who have short term memory loss when it comes to the little giant of the game. Second base is especially soft this year, so a classic Altuve season would make him a fantasy game-changer in 2019.
NL MVP: Ronald Acuna, OF, ATL
He’ll have help from Josh Donaldson and Freddie Freeman, but ultimately, the NL fantasy MVP will be Ronald Acuna. He was brilliant over 111 2018 games and with a full season, 30 HR/20 SB is well within his grasp. Even if the BA slips to the .280 range, his 100 R/100 RBI potential more than makes up for that. It’s hard to find flaws in his game, so I got tired of looking and named him MVP instead. In NL-Only leagues, he’ll be considered the No. 1 fantasy keeper heading into 2020.
AL CY YOUNG: Gerrit Cole, SP, HOU
Some may say Verlander will win this award, but I say he’ll have a tough time matching his incredible 2018 first half. Instead, I’m rolling with his rotation mate, Gerrit Cole. Did you know Cole led the league in K/9 last year? Well, did you? Because he did! The Astros will offer run support and defense. So much so, that I think 20 wins is well within his grasp. Three of his last four seasons he’s logged 200 IP. Cole is dependable, consistent and will have plenty of favorable NL West matchups to help his cause.
NL CY YOUNG: Aaron Nola, SP, PHI
I ultimately think the rotation and bullpen of the Phillies will dash the Philly playoff aspirations in 2019, despite the Bryce Harper buzz. However, Aaron Nola will be good enough to keep them in the wild card hunt in September and earn himself a Cy Young in the process. His 25 QS last year equated to 17 wins. That was behind only Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer in most NL pitching categories. The NL East is going to be a dog fight, and Nola will emerge as the biggest dog in this metaphor for the Fightin’ Phils!
AL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Miguel Cabrera, DH, DET
The key letters here are “D” and “H”. Miguel Cabrera now has the luxury of getting the multitude of his at-bats in 2019 without playing the field. That will keep his 36-year-old body fresh as the season wears on through the year. Cabrera came into camp in great shape, he’s dealt with his “personal drama” and is looking to remind everyone that this HOFer has something left in the tank. At his ADP, even a 25-HR season with a .300 BA would be a huge win for fantasy owners. Last year’s slash was on par for vintage Miggy, so don’t overrate the lack of HR in the small sample. Those can come in bunches. From age 37-40 , David Ortiz averaged 35/105 as a primary DH. Cabrera is every bit as good as Ortiz and in 2019 he’ll remind you.
NL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR Josh Donaldson, 3B, OF
I can’t stress enough how much I love that Josh Donaldson ended up with the Braves. It’s such a dynamic, athletic offense. From the No. 2 hole in the order, he should have no trouble scoring 90+ runs and probably driving in 80 runs as well. Donaldson has always been an OBP monster. Hitting in front of Freddie Freeman, he should see a healthy diet of fastballs to give him 25 HR upside. His fantasy stock has fallen dramatically the last two years, and with good reason. On a one year “show me” deal, Donaldson is going to play himself into a multi-year deal somewhere next off-season. If the Braves make it to the World Series, he might even stay put.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Eloy Jimenez, OF, CWS
Eloy Jimenez’s mega extension will allow him to break camp with the White Sox, an advantage Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Jesus Luzardo will not have based on injuries. Last year over Double-A and Triple-A, Jimenez slashed .337/.384/.577 with a .967 OPS. He doesn’t strike out at the high rate many young hitters do, although that part of his game could always stand to improve. A big positive will be a healthy Jose Abreu back in the Sox lineup. Also, the rest of the pitching in that division, save the Indians, is lackluster for the most part. That will give Jimenez a distinct advantage and the feel as though he’s still competing at roughly a Triple-A level most nights. When an organization gives out an extension like this before a guy has played one major league game, that’s because they recognize he’s special. Finally, the White Sox got something right!
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR Nick Senzel, OF, CIN
There’s a chance Pete Alonso could challenge hard in this race, but Senzel offers a better potential fantasy profile. His career minor league OBP is .390 and he has 15/15 upside even if he logs just 400 at-bats splitting time. The playing time issue may hurt him in the first half, but if Senzel is who scouts believe he is, he’ll overcome that obstacle and should fix the box score. I still say with the Scooter Gennett injury, the Reds will have their hand forced by the end of April to bring Senzel back up to play 2B by late May, even though that isn’t the long term plan for the organization. The Reds’ lineup might be the most underrated in baseball, and the home ballpark factor is a bonus to boot. When he was drafted in 2016, I dubbed him the most MLB ready prospect in the draft. Unfortunately, injuries have been the only thing to stall him, not his performance. Senzel kicking off the season in a walking boot for a sprained ankle wasn’t ideal, but I believe patience will be rewarded and his time will finally come in 2019.
Give me YOUR 2019 Predictions in the comments!
Joe Pisapia is the author of the #1 best-selling Fantasy Black Book Series and creator of the revolutionary player evaluation tool Relative Position Value (RPV). He’s the host of The Fantasy Black Book Podcast and the LineStar DFS Podcasts. Joe was previously host of the FSTA award-winning On Target Fantasy (2016 Radio Show of the Year), The Fantasy Black Book Show, RotoExperts in the Morning and NFL Game Day for the FNTSY Fantasy Sports Radio Network, as well as RotoWire MLB/NFL DFS Podcasts, and numerous shows for SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. You can also see him frequently on CBS TV in New York on The Sports Desk. He’s written for The Sporting News, FanDuel Insider and FantasyAlarm.
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