It takes guts to be bold. Or, a ton of luck with a hint of stupidity. Either way, everyone loves a good bold prediction leading up to the regular season. Stats are all at zero, everyone is in “the best shape of their lives” and are ready to prove what they can do in 2018. Sure, there will be a lot of the obvious this year. Mike Trout will be the best player in baseball, Clayton Kershaw the best pitcher, and the New York Yankees will hit a ton of home runs. None of those are bold predictions, though. What makes a prediction bold is one that sounds insane but has just enough merit to be a real possibility.
I’m certainly no fortune teller. However, I can make, somewhat, educated guesses as well as the next guy. Take these as you will, laugh at me when I’m wrong, but make sure to praise me when I’m right. Kidding. Anyway, less rambling and more bold predicting. These are my bold predictions for the 2018 Major League Baseball season.
The Mets’ Starting Rotation Will Lead the National League in ERA
It’s no secret that the Mets’ starting rotation could be very good. But with new injury news out of the Mets’ camp seemingly every week, they’ve had trouble keeping everyone healthy at once. This year, that changes. Jacob DeGrom will put together another Cy-Young-caliber season, while Noah Syndergaard will do the same. The two are capable of being the best one-two-punch in the bigs, but both have battled injuries the past few seasons. Also, people forget that Matt Harvey is just two seasons removed from being considered one of the best pitchers in the game. Sure, he’s given us every reason possible to make us forget that, but talent like that doesn’t just go away. The Mets also have plenty of depth in the form of Steven Matz, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Zack Wheeler. The way I see it, you can only get so unlucky with injuries. The Mets pitchers should be able to stay healthy this year and collectively put together a very solid season.
Charlie Blackmon Creeps Back Toward the 40 SB Mark
For the past four seasons, Charlie Blackmon has been one of the game’s best power/speed combo guys. For his career, he has 111 homers and 115 stolen bases. Over the past two seasons, though, Blackmon has focused less on swiping bases and more on putting the ball over the fence. He’s been trending upward in power, with 29 and 37 homers the past two seasons, and downward in stolen bases, with 17 and 14. Blackmon posted a career-high 37 bombs in 2017, as well as a career-low 14 stolen bases over a full season. With home run numbers expected to decline league-wide after a record-breaking 2017, I think Blackmon starts utilizing his legs more. He’s getting on base at a very impressive clip (.399 OBP last season) and should have plenty of opportunities to do the same batting leadoff. According to Fangraphs, Blackmon posted a speed score of 6.4, the second-best mark of his career. He hasn’t lost a step; he’s just attempting to steal less often. I expect that to change in 2018, and Blackmon breaks the 40 stolen base mark.
Aaron Sanchez Returns to Ace-Form
I’ve talked about it many times already, but I am all aboard the Aaron Sanchez hype train. After missing most of 2017 with blister issues, Sanchez is fully healthy and ready to turn in a big season. In 2016, his first season as a starter, he posted a league-leading 3.00 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP and a 161:63 K:BB. He was absolutely dominant, and 23 of his 30 starts were quality starts. He was limited to just eight starts last season 36, and when he was on the field, he was atrocious. Blisters are tricky, and pitching with them is nearly impossible. Especially for someone who utilizes their curveball a lot like Sanchez does. Well, the blisters are gone, and the young, talented righty has shown no reason to believe he can’t repeat his 2016 campaign.
Justin Upton Will Lead the American League in RBI
It’s hard to pin anyone not named Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton as the RBI leader in the American League. Well, I’m going to do it anyway and say that Justin Upton will lead the league with 130-plus. Upton put up career highs with 35 homers and 109 RBI in his time split between the Tigers and Angels last season. He signed an extension with the Angels over the offseason and will spend the whole season hitting at the heart of their order. With a full season of Mike Trout and Ian Kinsler hitting in front of him, Upton should have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. So much so that I see him at the top of the leaderboard by the end of the season.
Aaron Hicks is Named to the All-Star Team
Remember when Aaron Hicks was on pace for almost 30 homers and 20 stolen bases through the end of June last year? Probably not after an oblique injury limited him to 28 games in which he batted .218 with five homers and three stolen bases. He still managed to finished the season with 15 dingers and 10 stolen bases in just 88 games. With Jacoby Ellsbury on the shelf again, Hicks’ starting job is more secure than ever. If he can stay on the field, expect great things both at the plate and on the basepaths. Hitting in the stacked Yankees lineup doesn’t hurt, either. All eyes are on Judge and Stanton, but watch for Hicks to put together a great well-rounded season. He may not start the All-Star game, but I’m predicting a roster spot is waiting for him come July.
Sean Doolittle Will Lead the Majors in Saves
Sean Doolittle has been one of my favorite closer candidates over the past five seasons or so. However, due to injuries, among other things, he hadn’t had a firm grip on a closing job for a full season. Now, he’s set to start the 2018 season as the Nationals closer. He was immediately given the closer job after being traded to the Nats last season and was 24-for-26 in save opportunities. Doolittle’s career 10.5 K/9 shows that he has the tools to be spoken in the same breath as guys like Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, and Kenley Jansen. With the Nats being one of the best teams in the National League and there being no real challenge to Doolittle’s job, it’s a real possibility that he could end the season with 50-plus saves.
Father Time Catches Up to Adrian Beltre
The 38-year-old Adrian Beltre has been an ageless wonder over the past half-decade. In his age 34-38 seasons, Beltre has averaged 22 homers and 85 RBI per season. He’s slashed .307/.366/.499 over that time and has averaged 140 games per season. Last year, we may have seen the start of the wheels falling off for Beltre. He was limited to 94 games in last year’s injury-plagued season and was late in joining his teammates for spring training. He even went as far to say, “because I’m old,” when asked about it. That being said, Beltre still managed to bat .312 with 17 homers and 71 RBI in 2017. We may not see a rapid decline in performance from Adrian Beltre, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s eventually forced out of the game due to injuries. 2017 may have been the start of that, and 2018 could bring more of the same.
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