Who doesn’t love some bold predictions? We all have them. You’ll be hanging out with some friends, discussing the best sport on the planet, and someone will make some outrageous claim. “I bet so and so will do this,” or “No way he does that this season!”
Sometimes they don’t even have to be performance-based, like the time I bet a buddy of mine 100 pushups that Ryan Braun would win his appeal back in 2012. Was it bold? Absolutely, but that satisfaction you get from getting a bold prediction like that right is pure gold.
Below are nine bold predictions for the 2018 season. Some are just a little bold, while others are a little more out there. Will any of them come true? Who knows. But I got a gut feeling that a few of them might hit.
The Big Predictions
Ozzie Albies Finishes as a Top-2 2B, Top 25 Overall
Just call me Ozzie Albies’ personal hype man. I ranked Albies as the #8 second baseman for the 2018 season, and frankly, I wanted to go higher. Needless to say, a lot of restraint went into that ranking. Albies is a player I’ve been talking up all winter and spring and will continue to ramble on about until I’m as blue in the face as Papa Smurf. If he were still eligible as a prospect, I would’ve ranked him second right between phenoms Ronald Acuna and Eloy Jimenez. I’m waiting for someone to ask me, “Is that a flashlight in your pocket or have you been talking about Ozzie Albies again?”
Now, onto his offensive statistics. Albies was on a 600 at-bat pace of 17 home runs, 22 steals, 94 runs, and 77 RBI to go along with a .286/.354/.456/.810 slash line. All that while not even legally able to drink alcohol yet. Albies is just scratching at his full potential with those numbers, especially in the speed department. Over his minor league career, Albies averaged 40 steals per every 600 at-bats with a 78.5 success rate. There’s 40+ steal potential in those legs.
There as a lot of good second baseman this season, headlined by Jose Altuve, so predicting a top-three finish for a 21-year-old certainly qualifies as bold, but Albies has the tools to do so. In addition to that speed upside, Albies possesses a plus hit tool, blossoming power, and will likely bat second between Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman this season with Acuna factoring in at some point as well.
A final stat line of .300, 15-20 home runs, 30-40 steals, and 90+ runs are very attainable for the young Curacao native. Outside of Altuve, there’s no other second baseman I can say with 100% certainty will finish ahead of Albies this season.
Delino DeShields Outperforms Billy Hamilton
Ah, Billy Hamilton. The speed-only top-100 draft pick. On average Hamilton is being drafted as the OF20 around pick 75. Meanwhile, 125 picks later sits another speedster that can provide similar or better overall value and a much lower cost. Let’s compare Hamilton’s stats in 582 AB to the pace DeShields was on if he had received the same number of at-bats.
- Hamilton – 582 AB, 4 HR, 38 RBI, 85 R, 59 SB, .247/.299/.335/.634
- DeShields – 582 AB, 9 HR, 34 RBI, 116 R, 45 SB, .269/.347/.367/.714
Which line would you rather have? Is the additional 15-20 steals that Hamilton offers enough to offset the lower batting average and runs scored? Granted, Hamilton has done this for four straight years now, and this will be the first season that DeShields is universally drafted in standard mixed leagues.
I usually stay away from speed-only threats, especially when they’re being drafted as highly as Hamilton. However, if I can get them much later in the draft as a complimentary piece after I’ve established my core hitters, I’ll gladly take 40+ steals on my roster. Hamilton is a great bet to lead the league in steals, but he is a liability in three of the five standard scoring categories.
DeShields isn’t a five-category asset or anything, but he’s much less of a liability in the non-speed categories and will be batting leadoff in a good Rangers lineup. Call me crazy, but I’d much rather grab a better fantasy asset 125 picks later. Get ready to see DeShields’ name higher than Hamilton’s on end-of-season rankings.
Paul Goldschmidt Not a Top-5 First Baseman This Season
Outside of Mike Trout and Nolan Arenado, there hasn’t been a more consistent first-round fantasy player over the last several seasons than Paul Goldschmidt. Over the last three seasons, Goldy has averaged 31 homers, 108.3 RBI, 108.6 runs, and 23.6 steals with a .305/.417/.540/.957 slash line. In other words, Goldschmidt has been golden. But you know what’s not so golden? The new humidor at Chase Field.
It’s really tough to judge how much of a factor the humidor will have this season, but it’s certainly going to play some sort of negative effect on offense at Chase Field. There’s been one other humidor added to an MLB ballpark, and that was at Coors Field in 2002. In the three seasons before the humidor was brought in, Coors Field averaged 1,149 runs per season. That number fell to 978 during the first two seasons with the humidor, a 14.9% drop.
Now, those numbers are just overall runs. Well, what about home runs?! Great question. A recent study by The Hardball Times on Fangraphs predicted that home runs at Chase Field will drop anywhere from 25-50% in 2018. A full 50% seems a little harsh, especially for an elite hitter like Goldschmidt, so let’s go with the 25% end of the spectrum for a potential power drop. If you couple that with a 15% drop in RBIs and runs scored, Goldy’s line would still look good, but not elite like it has in recent seasons.
Humidor factored 2018 projection: .297 AVG, 27 HR, 102 RBI, 99 R, 18 SB.
Again, that’s a damn good stat line. However, is it good enough to make Goldschmidt a top-five option at first base this season? Obviously, other factors will play a role in this. With the emergence of 1B-eligible guys like Cody Bellinger and Rhys Hoskins, plus veteran stars like Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman, and Joey Votto, there’s a decent chance that Goldschmidt finishes sixth or worse at the position in 2018.
Robbie Ray Finishes as a Top-5 SP
This might be tough for Ray to pull off, but that’s why it’s a bold prediction. He finished 2017 as a top-15 fantasy SP, so it’s not like he’s that far off, though. Ray has become one of the most prolific strikeout artists in the game with 11.3 and 12.1 K/9 over the last two seasons. He was able to join the fantasy ace discussion this season by lowering his ERA over two full runs to 2.89 in 2017. However, he’s never pitched more than 174.1 innings in a season and has a control issue at times that gets him into trouble.
Robbie Ray simultaneously had the best SP whiff rate of 2017 *and* the worst SP hard-hit rate.
Sounds like a guy who might like a humidor.
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) February 16, 2018
So what does he need to do to turn this bold prediction into a reality? Two things: Go deeper into games and limit the free passes. Those two go hand in hand, too. The fewer walks you give up, the lower you’re pitch count will be. Magic! Doesn’t take a Master’s degree to figure that one out.
Let’s compare Ray’s 2017 to the overall SP5 for last season, Stephen Strasburg.
You can see the one major difference between the two is the walk rate. What’s encouraging, though, is that Ray cut his walk BB/9 from 4.4 in the first half to 3.1 in the second half of the season. Subsequently, his ERA and WHIP dropped some too, down to 2.73 and 1.04, respectively. That was all done in hitter-friendly Chase Field. With the humidor set to debut this season, Chase Field figures to turn into a more neutral or even pitcher-friendly ballpark.
If Ray can continue to limit baserunners like he did in the second half and the humidor has as much of an effect as people think, a top-5 SP finish isn’t out of the question for Ray this season.
Rapid Fire Boldness
David Dahl Stays Healthy, Goes 20/20
It’s bound to happen soon enough, so why not this year? Dahl appears to be 100% healthy and has already cranked a pair of home runs this spring. He was on a 19/14 pace during his rookie season in 2016 and averaged 19 homers and 29 steals per every 600 at-bats in the minors. All he needs is a starting spot and some good health.
Eloy Jimenez Up Before June, Cranks 25 HR
Jimenez’s elite raw power, estimated timeline, and hitter-friendly home ballpark fueled this prediction. He doesn’t have the gaudy home run totals yet, but Jimenez has true 70-grade power and will be able to unleash that at hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field that was top-10 for home runs last season.
Nick Senzel Finishes as a Top-10 … Shortstop
Hey, it’s a bold prediction for a reason. But when you really think about it, it’s very plausible. Senzel is a top-10 prospect with an elite hit tool and 20/20 potential. After being drafted 2nd overall in 2016, Senzel has dominated at every level and should find himself at Triple-A to start the season. However, don’t expect him there for long. The Reds are doing everything they can to clear a path for their superstar prospect. That even includes trying him at shortstop this spring since they already have Eugenio Suarez at the hot corner. Senzel should be up in time to get 450 at-bats and .300/15/15 would put him inside the top-10 at short if that’s where he ends up.
Ronald Acuna Goes 25/30 in Fewer Than 450-500 AB
Yup, you heard me. It could happen. We didn’t have a 25/25 player last year, but the undisputed prospect champ is here to change that. Acuna destroyed minor league pitching to the tune of 21 homers and 44 steals last season. Get ready, because that’s just the beginning. There’s even more power potential in Acuna’s bat, too. He was nice enough to give us a little taste of that, smashing seven homers in 83 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League. When it comes to a 25/25 season, it’s not a matter of if for Acuna, it’s when. So why not this year?
Hanley Ramirez Bounces Back and Goes 35/120
As soon as J.D. Martinez signed with Boston, everybody and their grandmother was constructing potential Red Sox lineups. But, unfortunately, we have 0.0% say in how the lineup card is written. The only person that can do that is new BoSox skipper Alex Cora, who recently said he likes the idea of hitting Hanley in the three hole between Andrew Benintendi and Martinez. When Hanley wants to be good, he is. Keyword there is when. There are rumblings that the Red Sox might limit his ABs so his $22 million vesting option for 2019 doesn’t kick in. However, if Boston is in a playoff hunt, that’s all going to be thrown out the window. The talent is there for this bold prediction to come true. It’s all in Hanley’s hands now.
Thank you for reading and I hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members. Got a question about a player not covered here? Follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask me the