Everybody loves to make bold predictions. During Spring Training, you plant your flag on a few players you think are going to either have a massive season or be major disappointments. Heading into last season, many were forecasting a massive season from Shane McClanahan. There were bold predictions that he would be a Cy-Young candidate and those predictions proved not to be an overreaction. In this article, I look at several hot takes related to Spring Training and decide whether they are an overreaction.
2023 Fantasy Baseball Hitter Bold Predictions:
1. Jordan Walker’s 2023 will closely resemble Julio Rodriguez’s 2022 season. 25+ HR, .275+ BA, 20+ Steals
Jordan Walker is one of the game’s brightest and most enticing prospects. Drawing comparisons to Julio Rodriguez from a year ago seems to be a popular take. Flashing back to last season, Rodriguez was ranked highly on every prospect list, but it seemed like a long shot for him to make the Opening Day roster. An excellent spring forced the Mariners’ hand and Walker seems to be doing the same thing to the Cardinals this spring. So far, he is batting .378/.391/.667 and appears to be giving Dylan Carlson a real push for the final starting outfield spot. While Walker profiles to have an excellent career, expecting similar production to Rodriguez’s 2022 numbers is unrealistic.
Starting with the average, Walker’s hit tool is inferior to Rodriguez’s. His average is likely to be much lower than Rodriguez’s 2022 number thanks to high ground ball and strikeout rates. Walker also does not have the same speed or base-stealing ability as Julio Rodriguez. He stole 22 bases last year but expecting 20 steals out of him in the Major Leagues is a stretch. Walker has the raw power to pop 25 home runs, but he needs to fix his ground ball rate to turn this power into home runs. The odds of Walker having as much of a fantasy impact as Rodriguez did last year are low.
2. Alec Bohm will hit 25+ home runs this season
Status: Not an Overreaction
Alec Bohm was the third overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft. Bohm has always profiled to be a plus power hitter thanks to his large 6’3” frame. The projections have yet to translate into actual on-field success in the power department. Last year in his first season with consistent playing time, Bohm hit just 13 home runs and has a career slugging percentage of .391. The issue has never been with Bohm’s ability to make hard contact. He has posted an average exit velocity of over 90 mph in all three seasons with league-average barrel rates. The issue has been his launch angle. In his first two seasons, Bohm posted a launch angle below six degrees. Last year this increased to 10 degrees, but still came with a ground ball rate of over 46%.
Heading into this season, Bohm has been vocal about the work he has put in this off-season. Not only has he been adjusting his swing to get more loft but has also added 15 pounds of muscle. Bohm’s body already provided him with a big frame and now the addition of more muscle should help his power take off. He has already hit three home runs this spring while posting an average exit velocity of 90.1 mph and an increased average launch angle. There is plenty of raw power in Bohm’s profile and projecting a home run breakout is not an overreaction.
3. Jake McCarthy will be optioned to Triple-A by June
Status: Not an Overreaction
I have been fairly vocal this off-season about my distaste for McCarthy’s draft price. Thanks to his elite sprint speed, fantasy players have been pushing him high up draft boards. His power and poor quality of contact metrics have been completely overlooked by those drafting him. However, saying he is going too high in drafts is completely different from saying he is going to be demoted.
Arizona is deep in the outfield. Top prospect Corbin Carroll is guaranteed a lineup spot as is recent acquisition Lourdes Gurriel Jr. This leaves one open spot for McCarthy, Alek Thomas, Pavin Smith, Kyle Lewis, and the lesser-known Dominic Fletcher. Some DH at-bats are up for grabs, but this is a lot of competition for one lineup spot. If Arizona wants to prioritize defense, Alek Thomas will be in the lineup and they traded for former Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis. If McCarthy struggles at the plate like I am predicting, he provides very little defensive help in the outfield. There are too many options in Arizona’s organization for them to waste a roster spot on McCarthy and his winding up in Triple-A this year is completely realistic.
4. Nick Castellanos will perform even worse than he did in 2022
After signing a massive contract with Philadelphia, expectations were high for Nick Castellanos heading into 2022. The results were extremely disappointing as he posted his lowest wRC+ since 2015. Now 31 years old, there are questions about what level of production we should expect from him moving forward. If this spring is any indication, we should not have any expectations of a bounce back. Castellanos is just 5/31 with 11 strikeouts so far.
Taking these stats and assuming that Castellanos will be even worse in 2023 is a big overreaction. Castellanos has been working on driving the ball the other way and is clearly working through his goals this spring. He played most of last season injured while adjusting to a new city. This is a player that hit .286 with 142 home runs from 2016-2021 and there is still plenty of time for him to settle in before the season starts.
5. Ronny Mauricio will be a consensus top-20 prospect by June
Status: Not an Overreaction
Not many people took note of the improvements Ronny Mauricio showed during the 2022 season. At Double-A, he smashed 26 home runs while adding 20 stolen bases. His ground ball percentage continued to decline which helped fuel his power outbreak. Standing at 6’3”, Mauricio has a powerful and majestic swing from the left side of the plate. His biggest issue in the Minor Leagues has been a high chase rate, but Mauricio lowered his strikeout rate from 25.1% during the first half of last season to 20.2% during the second half. Mauricio finally seems to be putting it all together and has 30-home-run potential from the shortstop position.
This spring has been Mauricio’s coming out party. Through 33 spring at-bats, Mauricio has four home runs while striking out just six times. He looks comfortable facing Major League talent and has already demonstrated light-house power. With plus power, plus speed, and an improving hit tool, Mauricio should find himself flying up prospect ranking lists early in the 2023 season.
The season is not here yet, but why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!
2023 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Bold Predictions:
1. Trevor Rogers will get Cy Young votes this season – Nick Dmytrow
While preparing for this article, I asked the rest of the baseball staff at Fantrax to pitch in with any ideas or predictions. Nick Dmytrow chimed in with some high praise for Trevor Rogers claiming he will get Cy Young votes this season. After a dominant 2021, Rogers profiled to be the Marlins’ number two starter behind Alcantara for years to come. However, instead of continuing his success, Rogers struggled; posting a 5.47 ERA and even being optioned to Triple-A for a short period. Now entering his third full season many in the industry do not know how to interpret Rogers.
Nick cited Rogers’ changeup usage this spring as a key indicator as to why is going to bounce back in 2023. Both the pitch and Rogers have looked excellent providing optimism for his 2023 outlook. However, citing that Rogers is going to get Cy Young votes is an overreaction. I am buying into the idea of Rogers returning to form, but there is no way he throws enough innings to land him in Cy Young consideration. Rogers threw 133 innings in 2021 and only threw 115 innings in 2022. Every starting pitcher to receive any votes inside the top five for Cy Young threw at least 175 innings last year. The average of those ten starters was 192 innings pitches. There is no realistic way for Rogers to throw that many innings which debunks this prediction. Rogers however is a nice flier late in your fantasy drafts.
2. The Rays will have four starting pitchers throw 140+ innings with an ERA below 3.40
Status: Not an Overreaction
The Rays have a unique ability to just keep developing All-Star pitchers. As soon as they trade one away, three more appear. Adding to their ability to develop, the front office went out and made Zach Eflin the highest-paid free agent in franchise history. The starting rotation now consists of Shane McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow, Drew Rasmussen, Zach Eflin, and Jeffrey Springs. On paper, this might be the most complete and talented rotation in baseball. However, Tyler Glasnow is already dealing with an injury and none of the names listed have great histories with injuries. With Glasnow unlikely to hit 140 innings, this prediction boils down to the Rays’ ability to get the most out of Eflin, continued progression from Springs and Rasmussen, and health from all four of the other arms.
The Rays do not spend money without having a plan and Eflin has already shown promise. Since 2020, Eflin’s FIP is 3.57 which is very close to the 3.40 prediction. Health is going to be the biggest factor with him, but he pitched 163 innings in 2019 and is reportedly healthy heading into 2023. Springs has looked dominant this spring and threw 135 innings with a 2.46 ERA last season. Five more innings and plenty of room for regression for Springs to fit the criteria. Rasmussen and McClanahan already hit these numbers in 2022 and there is no reason to believe we should not expect them to continue dominating opponents in 2023. The Rays staff is going to be incredible making this prediction not an overreaction.
3. Mitch Keller finally puts it all together and finishes as a top-30 SP in fantasy
If there is one player that you can count on to generate hype during Spring Training, it is Mitch Keller. Keller. The 2014 second-round draft pick has never been able to live up to expectations. Through his first four Major League seasons he has a 5.00 ERA but the 2022 season was filled with plenty of positives. After generating off-season hype last year Keller scuffled out of the gates with a 4.55 ERA in the first half. The hype wore off, but Keller was great during the second half pitching 70 innings with a 3.09 ERA. This great second half has many excited to see what Keller can do in 2023 but expectations need to be tempered and projecting him as a top-30 SP is an overreaction.
Keller can be a solid pitcher, but top 30 is not a realistic expectation. To start, Keller pitches for Pittsburgh. He has never won more than five games in a season and it is difficult to envision Pittsburgh getting any better this season. Wins are not everything but without wins, you need to be a strikeout pitcher. Keller has a career strikeout rate of just 21.1% and that rate did not show any improvement during his successful second half. He has also struggled with walks throughout his career which will prevent his WHIP from ever being impactful in fantasy. Keller has a lot working against him and would need to show improvements in three separate categories to be a top-30 pitcher. Temper expectations and accept Keller for who he is.
4. Matt Brash leads the Mariners in saves
Status: Not an Overreaction
Matt Brash was a popular breakout pick during the end of Spring Training last year thanks to his incredible stuff. Thanks to a wipeout slider and excellent fastball velocity, Brash is extremely difficult for opposing batters to hit. Things did not get off to the best start for Brash as a starter. He posted a 7.65 ERA across five starts while walking almost as many batters as he struck out. That is when Seattle sent him back to Triple-A to work as a reliever. After coming back in July, Brash posted a 2.35 ERA with a 1.97 FIP and a strikeout rate over 33%. He was excellent for Seattle and is going to be an important part of Seattle’s bullpen for 2023.
So much attention is being paid to Paul Sewald and Andres Munoz for save opportunities in Seattle. Munoz is one of the best pitchers in baseball but is much more likely to be used in a fireman role than as the set closer for Seattle. Sewald saved 20 games for the Mariners last year with a 2.67 ERA and is the favorite to close in 2023. Looking into Sewald’s profile there is reason to believe he could experience some struggles moving forward. His FIP last year was 3.88 and he ran a .155 BABIP. Brash might not be the favorite for saves, but he was dominant down the stretch and could steal the closer role away from Sewald in 2023.
5. Matthew Liberatore is the most fantasy-relevant Cardinals starting pitcher
Status: Not an Overreaction
Matthew Liberatore was once a big-time prospect acquired by St. Louis in the deal that brought Randy Arozarena to Tampa. The Rays drafted Liberatore knowing he had very good secondary pitches and hoped his 6’4” frame could help his fastball add velocity. He was excellent in the lower levels of the Minor Leagues before the trade and ensuing pandemic season. Since then, Liberatore has struggled and posted a 5.97 ERA in his Major League debut last season. The fastball has failed to develop sitting around 93 mph while opponents hit .364 off the pitch last season with a .673 slugging percentage. This spring, Liberatore is showing signs of life. He has surrendered just one earned run in his first five innings while the velocity is averaging 95 mph. With two plus breaking balls and a sinker, four-seam fastball velocity was the only thing missing from Liberatore’s repertoire.
This prediction not being an overreaction has as much to do with the upside of Liberatore as it does with the staff surrounding him. The rotation is led by 34-year-old Miles Mikolas who can eat innings but lacks the strikeout upside to contribute much in fantasy. Jordan Montgomery is Liberatore’s biggest competition in this prediction, but he has a 7.71 ERA this spring. Adam Wainwright turns 42 in August and Jack Flaherty has not been healthy since 2020. The door is open for Liberatore to take command of this rotation and if the velocity sticks, I have no doubts he will accomplish this.
Are you buying in on Tyler’s favorite bounce-back players? For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!