Bold predictions are always a ton of fun! However, there is a difference between being bold and completely going out on a cliff just to get attention. I am never going to be in that second class. However, all these predictions are about players I feel very strongly about!
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Bold Predictions for 2019 Fantasy Baseball
Zack Wheeler Wins CY Young
Zack Wheeler is on like 75 percent of my rosters. I wish that number was higher. Out of all rankers on FantasyPros, I am tied as the highest ranker on Wheeler. He comes in for me as my SP13. Why am I so confident with Wheeler? There were two significant changes for Wheeler in 2018. First, in May he underwent a velocity jump. He started the season topping out at 97 MPH. Suddenly, he was sitting at 97 MPH and hitting 99 MPH consistently, even reaching 100 MPH at times.
He also began throwing a split-finger fastball. He began throwing it more consistently in August. From that point on he pitched to a 1.74 ERA with a 2.63 FIP,9.15 K/9, 26.7% K rate, and a 0.81 WHIP. Not only did he miss bats, but when hitters made contact, it was not very good. In that stretch Wheeler had a 20.1% Hard Hit Rate, 18.2% Soft Hit Rate, 45.6% Ground Ball Rate, and a 34.4% O-Swing Rate. Not only did he break out last year, he should continue to pitch like an ace in 2019 and he edges by Max Scherzer, Aaron Nola, and teammates Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard to win the NL CY Young and head into free agency as the big prize of next winter.
Missouri Home of Two Power Breakouts
It is a good time to be a sports fan in Missouri. There are a lot of young talented players to get excited about in the state right now. Just think about some of the talents in the state right now: Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Paul Goldschmidt, Jack Flaherty, Tyler O’Neill, and Ryan O’Hearn. Did the O’bros (I just dubbed that now, but it works) not come to mind? Well, after this year they will. Tyler O’Neill will break camp with the Cardinals, but without an everyday job. However, it shouldn’t take long for him to see more regular playing time, whether it be over Harrison Bader, or the more likely scenario, Dexter Fowler. O’Neill had a 12.0 Brls/PA% in 2018, which was the second highest among all hitters with 50 batted ball events. He also had a 45.3 percent hard-hit rate and a 48.0 percent fly ball rate. He is going to mash and be one half of the O’bros that mash 30+ homers this season.
Ryan O’Hearn is the second half of this 30+ home run tandem. O’Hearn already has an everyday job playing first base for the Royals. O’Hearn got a taste of the bigs last year and made the most of it. He had a 42.3 percent hard-hit rate and 46.2 percent fly ball rate, which led to 12 homers in just 170 plate appearances. I believe he will also hit 30+ homers and will be this year’s Jesus Aguilar.
Madison Bumgarner is Dropped in September
Madison Bumgarner has long been a fantasy fixture. It was just a year ago he was considered among the elite starting pitchers. While freak injuries have been blamed for the past two seasons, there is also a declining skill set. Batters have posted over a .200 ISO against his fastball for three straight seasons, reaching .272 in 2018. Not only that but in 2018 he had a 1.63 ERA at home, in the most pitcher-friendly park in the MLB. On the road, however, he had a 4.97 ERA. Additionally, he is in the final year of his contract and the Giants are going to be one of the worst teams in baseball this season. I expect the Giants to trade Bumgarner and that’s where his struggles will really arise. After being traded from the Giants and his cozy home park, Bumgarner will continue to fully implode and be dropped in September. You heard it here first!
The Marlins Rotation Surprises… But Trevor Richards is a Breakout
The Marlins rotation is filled with young pitchers that all possess a ton of upside. However, one of them steps up as their team’s ace this season and that is Trevor Richards. Richards has one of the best changeups in all of baseball. He began to throw it over 30 percent of the time in July and saw his strikeout rate jump from 20.5 percent to 25.8 percent. His hard-hit rate dropped from 42 percent, to right around league average at 35.6 percent. Having one of the best pitches in baseball, in a great pitchers park, Richards will step up and pitch like an SP3 this season.
Washed Pitchers Will be Top Waiver Pickups
You probably thought Drew Pomeranz was washed up, right? And never thought it would be worth owning Martin Perez, right? Well, both will make you wish you drafted them with one of your later round picks, instead of having to use your FAAB on them or worse, have them end up on an opponent’s team. These two will end up being great waiver wire pickups for teams that buy into their early season hot starts. First, Pomeranz was awful in 2018 and I will not deny that. His velocity was down 2.0 MPH, which is very worrisome. I was ready to completely dismiss Pomeranz. Until I read an article in the Mercury News, where Pomeranz talks about a new diet he implemented before the 2018 season. He lost 20 pounds, which led to a velocity loss and him getting injured. This offseason he gained back the weight and ended up having a strong spring. He returns to his 2017 form pitching in San Fran.
As for Perez, he saw a velocity jump this spring. He averaged 93 MPH with his fastball last season but was sitting between 95 and 97 MPH consistently this spring. He also incorporated a new cutter, which sat at 90-91 MPH and one scout called “filthy”. The added velocity and the new pitch help Perez hit the ground running this season and never look back. Both he and Pomeranz reintroduce themselves to fantasy relevancy this season.
What do you think of these bold predictions? Which is your favorite and which do you hate? Let me know on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.
Michael Florio is the winner of the 2018 FSWA Baseball Article of the Year and was a finalist for the 2017 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year. He has hosted video/radio shows, written for a number of print and web publications including the AP, NY Daily News and much more!
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