By Dylan Higgins and Matthew Dewoskin
Special to MLB.com |
No fantasy league is won without a bold move or two (or a few). So it only makes sense for us to make a few bold predictions before the start of the 2016 season.
The following 10 prognostications may or may not come true. But let's be honest: You won't remember this article in October, anyway. Hope you enjoy!
1. Matt: Bud Norris will out earn every other Braves starter.
What this pick boils down to is Norris will have a better year than Julio Teheran, which isn't nearly as far-fetched as their ages and draft status make it seem.
Norris has spent the majority of his career pitching for the Astros in full rebuild mode, and the Baltimore Orioles. The same Orioles that have to face the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays and Rays about 752 times every season. Norris has maintained his 93 mph-plus velocity into his early 30s and now gets to face a pitchers' spot and contend with the Marlins, Phillies, Mets and Nats. Norris has maintained a K/9 in the 7.5 range with a BB/9 in the 2.80-3.4 range for the past several years, while his ground-ball rate has increased every season since 2012. This adds up to a pitcher capable of posting quality numbers, but his situation had more to do with his mediocre results.
Teheran is coming off the worst season of his young career with 4.04 ERA with a 3.27 BB/9, but, more disturbingly, he's coming off a season in which he threw his slider 23.2 percent of the time. On its own, heavy slider usage isn't necessarily a red flag, but combining his pitch mix with the drop in velocity and poor performance, it should raise a few eyebrows.
Teheran should be a stay away unless he comes at a steep discount, but Norris is worth a late-round flyer for fantasy GMs looking to round out a pitching staff.
2. Dylan: Ben Revere will steal more bases than the Mets.
Yep, all of them. Let's look at last year's numbers. Revere swiped just 31 bags in 152 games between the Phillies and the Blue Jays, while New York stole 51 as a team. The outfielder has his work cut out for him a bit, but I think he can do it.
Revere stole 145 bases in 480 games from 2011-14, or almost 49 per 162 games. Yes, he seemed to run less last year, but a big part of that was playing for Toronto. At the top of the best lineup in baseball, Revere simply did not try to run much, making just nine attempts in his 56 games with the Jays. I firmly believe he kicks it back into high gear at the top of the Nationals' lineup.
As for the Mets, I see no reason why they would avoid being last in the National League in steals again. They were led last year by Curtis Granderson and his 11 stolen bags, and he is only getting older. Juan Lagares was second with seven and is not exactly about to get a huge role. New additions Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker will man the middle infield, but they combined for 10 in full seasons last year. David Wright will be another year older, and he hasn't exactly torn up the basepaths in years.
Revere isn't Dee Gordon or Billy Hamilton, but he's capable of being close, and I think he can outrun his new division rivals in New York.
3. Matt: Corey Knebel earns the closer's role in Milwaukee and racks up over 20 saves.
Jeremy Jeffress is working his way back from a hamstring injury, and while Will Smith may have a share of the job, his handedness and recent control issues may limit him. Enter Knebel. Blessed with similar velocity to Jeffress and Smith, with arguably the best breaking ball of the trio, Knebel follows the same blueprint as several high-leverage relievers. He's got future closer written all over him, and there's no reason for the Brewers to wait.
If Brewers manager Craig Counsell needs a ground ball with men on, he can turn to Jeffress. If he needs to get a righty hitter out, he'll bring in Smith. If Counsell needs to have a pitcher start with the bases empty and just throw the ball past people, he's going to turn to Knebel, and he'll turn to him at least 20 times this season.
Or, you know, at least come close. Yes, Correa is a future superstar (if he isn't one already), and Saurez's 13 homers in 398 plate appearances last year seemed to come out of nowhere. That said, I am struggling with Correa as a top-10 player already like he is being drafted in some places, and I think Suarez is still capable of underrated pop as a shortstop-eligible player.
Correa is incredible, undoubtedly, but he simply never showed that homer power before last year and is still so young. Meanwhile Suarez is still only 24 himself, plays in a good park to go deep, and is aiding his developing power by swinging for the fences (to the admitted detriment of his plate discipline numbers). Suarez's 12.1 HR/FB ratio is indeed a concern to some, but Correa's is being ignored even though it comes in at exactly twice as much as Suarez's: 24.2 percent.
Correa is a stud, and his incredible talent (and stolen-base potential) will keep his fantasy floor very high, but I am not sure he is automatically a 25-homer shortstop in 2016 … and Suarez could be.
5. Matt: One Rockies starting pitcher will be mixed-league ownable.
For this to come true, one of Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, Jorge De La Rosa, Jordan Lyles and Tyler Chatwood needs to be a top-100 starter this season. I might as well have written, "Jon Gray will be a top 100 starter this season." Gray simply needs to figure out how to pitch in Coors and not struggle a great deal when there, because he did last year in limited duty. He allowed one fewer earned run (19) than innings pitched (20 2/3) at home last year. Away from Coors, Gray was excellent in a small sample size with 25:8 K:BB and a 2.70 ERA in 20 innings. He was essentially Jeckyll and Hyde last year, and he'll need to be Jeckyll and ... better in order to be mixed-league relevant.
Either Gray will figure out how to be successful in Coors, or Lyles and Chatwood will combine to bring your team to fantasy baseball glory. My pick is Gray. Not Lyles or Chatwood.
6. Dylan: Franklin Gutierrez will hit more home runs than the other Mariners outfielders combined.
That's right, I'm making a Gutierrez prediction. Specifically, he will hit more home runs in 2016 than the totals by Seth Smith, Leonys Martin and Norichika Aoki. Nelson Cruz does not count, and neither do other extra outfielders. Gutierrez is this team's projected fourth outfielder to start the season, and I think he will hit more homers than the starting three can manage.
Last year Smith (12), Aoki, (5) and Martin (5) hit 22 homers, but they played in just 324 games total, so that total could certainly increase. However, Gutierrez only made 189 trips to the plate himself and infamously ripped 15 dingers. He has always mashed left-handed pitching, but last year he punished both righties and lefties and hit to all fields while making a big impact.
Gutierrez is probably going to start the year as a right-handed bat on the bench, but I think he ends up taking playing time from Martin and Smith, if not a starting job. Gutierrez is far, far from a lock to rack up a lot of at-bats, but I think he has the potential to do big things in that lineup.
Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra are who Dickerson needs to outproduce. Cross Parra off the list for being Gerardo Parra. Even with playing half his games in Coors Field, he'll struggle to hit 20 homers. Parra has exactly zero in 48 career games in Denver.
CarGo is coming off a 40-homer season that saw him earn only a 2.4 WAR, and he had only two steals in two total attempts. He's entering the Sammy Sosa after 30/softball player part of his career that could last for a few seasons, but he's essentially a two- or three-category hitter now instead of the five-category monster he was in his youth.
Blackmon is three years older than Dickerson, has never cracked 20 homers, and relies on his ability to run, hit line drives, and get on base. Dickerson is better at two of those aspects than Blackmon is based on his career numbers to date.
Also, Dickerson is likely to see the majority of his at bats as DH. Meaning, all he won't have to worry about aggravating his plantar fascia in the field. Dickerson gets to hit between Evan Longoria and James Loney with Logan Forsythe and Kevin Kiermaier hitting ahead of them all. That's a lot of on-base percentage in front of him, despite not having the home-field advantage he was used to.
8. Dylan: Chase Anderson will lead all Brewers starters in wins, innings pitched, ERA, WHIP, and K:BB ratio.
OK, so I couldn't bring myself to predict he'd top them in strikeouts, but I think Matt will agree with me in looking for a big year from Anderson. Milwaukee has some intriguing upside in Taylor Jungmann, Jimmy Nelson and Wily Peralta, but Anderson should not be seen as the No. 5 starter. In fact, I think he might be the safest.
Anderson's best asset so far has been his control, as he walked 2.3 batters per nine in his Minor League career and has not struggled much more than that in the Majors. Although his 7.3 strikeouts per nine has been less than inspiring, the 28-year-old fanned a batter per inning on the farm, so there is potential to grow. Finally, Anderson has had trouble keeping the ball in the park, and although a move to Milwaukee is far from perfect, Chase Field was not doing him any favors.
Nelson is still working things out to live up to his stuff, Peralta struggled significantly to whiff batters last year, Jungmann is intriguing but not quite proven, and Matt Garza does not seem to have much left in the tank. The Brewers' rotation could go a lot of directions, but I can see Anderson being the anchor in 2016.
9. Matt: Delino DeShields will struggle to keep his job as an everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter.
DeShields was one of the waiver-wire stars from last year that helped a lot of fantasy GMs win a lot of leagues, so it makes sense that he's overhyped heading in 2016. He enjoyed a fantastic season in his first shot at a full-time Major League job, and that deserves to be celebrated, but it doesn't deserve to be overdrafted.
Defense matters in fantasy baseball for players such as DeShields, who is at some risk to lose playing time due to his woes with the glove. The problem for him is that with Prince Fielder and Ian Desmond getting full-time at-bats at DH and LF, respectively, center field is the only real option for him. If DeShields can't find a way to succeed there, he's relegated to pinch-running, and generally not helping your fantasy team.
DeShields has two seasons in the Minors with double-digit homers. The expected 'boost in power' might be Delino Jr. 'exploding' for five homers.
The speed is very real and needs to be respected. At least that's what guys who spent three years over-drafting Billy Hamilton told me.
10. Dylan: The Chicago White Sox win 90-plus games and the AL Central.
OK, so it may sound like I am just messing with Matt, but I think this is a team with a very wide and intriguing variance. FanGraphs has them winning 80 games, but I would not fall out of my chair if they won 90 or more in 2016. They won 76 last year, and they patched a lot of their glaring holes in the offseason. Let's look at their changes and some recent important seasons from their moving parts.
The White Sox are like the fantasy team where you draft all the players that were first-round picks two seasons ago and hope they all bounce back at the same time. This is Team Buy Low. Yes, a lot of them did not look good last year, but this roster is full of potential. And risk. But certainly potential!