One author owns his preseason prognostications -- both good and bad
By Alex Chamberlain
Special to MLB.com |
We don't all review our bold Spring Training predictions at the midway point of the season -- some of us like to wait until October. Others, however, don't have the discipline for such delayed gratification. I speak for that latter group, whether they like it or not. But looking back on my predictions -- man, sometimes I wish I hadn't.
Well, Skaggs and Wilson haven't thrown a pitch this year. In that sense, at least both sides of this prediction are still balanced.
And, fortunately, it's pretty clear-cut, so I don't have to do any funky calculations to determine aggregate value. Santiago and Tropeano had generated virtually equivalent fantasy values as of July 1. Santiago's July 2 start changed that, but Trop is back up in the Majors to have a word about it. That leaves Shoemaker and Weaver, and it's not even close: Shoemaker has been one of the best pitchers the last month-plus, whereas Weaver has been the third-worst qualified starter by WAR (wins above replacement) all year. Santiago has been fourth-worst. I could have used almost any other name in baseball, and he would have been better than both Weaver and Santiago.
And that's kind of the point. The Old Guard of the Angels' rotation is not something to envy. Meanwhile, Shoemaker shows no signs of slowing down and would have no problem out-producing Weaver and Santiago (and Wilson, were he to appear this season) by himself. I'll admit, it's more than I (or anybody) envisioned, but it's not like Shoemaker never had promise, either.
Prediction No. 2: Jose Berrios will be a Top-30 starting pitcher.
This one hurts. Berrios, who has exhibited both excellent put-away stuff and excellent control for the last two years, looked like a lock to be the Minnesota Twins' best starter. It wouldn't be too impressive an accomplishment given the general disarray of the rotation, but still, as a 22-year-old rookie, it's no small feat.
For whatever reason, Berrios' control has evaded him. His walk rate skyrocketed, both at the Major League and Minor League levels. The .405 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and 61.5 percent strand rate are really unlucky, regardless of sample size, but he still hasn't resembled the budding ace I thought he would.
That's not to say there's no hope for the future. He's only 22 and has plenty of time to pan out. If anything, this will certainly leave a bad taste in the mouths of many fantasy owners, dampening his price for next year. But for this year, the dream is all but shot. I'm calling it kaput, but it ain't over 'til it's over, right?
We need a lot more time for this to develop, but odds are Travis won't pull this one off. Second basemen have hit to the tune of a 99 wRC+ this year -- almost perfectly average, yes -- but if the season ended today, it would be the most prolific offensive production by second basemen since 1924. The deck is inherently stacked against Travis, who missed the first two months while recovering from shoulder surgery.
At least Travis is doing what I expected: hitting for a high average, flashing moderate power, and occasionally swiping a bag. He's hitting a few more fly balls, but the batted-ball profile doesn't quite support a high BABIP. A dozen home runs, five steals and a .290 batting average in only a partial season? That'll fly at second base for the rest of the year.
Prediction No. 4: Dellin Betances is a Top-50 pitcher, assuming zero saves.
What's there to say about this dude? We've long past the point where we questioned if any of this was legit. The New York Yankees bullpen is a juggernaut. If the season ended today, it would have the best adjusted xFIP (xFIP-) for any bullpen since 2002. The 24.2 percent K-BB rate would be unprecedented in baseball.
But this isn't about them. It's about Betances. He has a lot of ground to make up to make this prediction true. I think he'll have to vulture a few more wins, or maybe the field will collectively regress toward more normal performance. Until then, Betances will give you the best 90 innings of relief pitching that fantasy money can buy.
At least I admitted this was a silly prediction. In hindsight, I don't really know what I was thinking. I guess I just liked Machado a little more for his slightly better plate discipline. Oh, how the tables have turned -- we haven't seen this kind of plate discipline from a power hitter of Arenado's caliber since, well, current David Ortiz, but also peak Albert Pujols. I don't think Arenado is the next Pujols, but he's doing a mighty fine impression in the meantime.
I also liked Machado because he ran wild last year. If he did anything remotely close to that this year, we wouldn't be stuck in this dilemma.
Machado and Arenado have generated roughly equivalent fantasy values as of July 2. Pretty crazy. But give Machado maybe eight stolen bases -- slightly less than last year's pace up to this point -- and he would be a Top-10-level fantasy player to this point in the year. However, he's yet to swipe a bag after taking 20 a year ago.
Barnes isn't even a Top-50 catcher, because he has seen all of 22 plate appearances at the Major League level this year. What's he doing at Triple-A, though? Oh, just .293/.396/.402 with almost as many walks as strikeouts and 13 stolen bases. In only 218 plate appearances.
It's a shame for fantasy owners that A.J. Ellis and Yasmani Grandal are blocking Barnes' way, but the former two are signed to one-year deals set to expire in the fall. The Dodgers could elect to not re-sign one of them, which I think would immediately elevate Barnes to Top-10 status -- maybe even Top-5. He'll hit for average with a little bit of pop, too, and he'll run. Think 2002 Jason Kendall or maybe even 2005 Joe Mauer. (Ignore the fact that I just compared Austin Barnes to peak Joe Mauer.)
At least I can take solace in knowing that almost everything I said about Marte (at one point or another) is true. His power wasn't legit, as he's on a very typical Marte pace of 12 home runs in 600 plate appearances. And his plate discipline -- while still good for him in terms of contact -- still leaves something to be desired, especially now that he's generating the worst walk rate of his career.
Yet there he is, running like crazy, turning the clock back to 2013. It's not that long ago, I know, but Marte didn't steal his 21st base last year until Aug. 5.
At least Pillar is doing something -- seven home runs and stolen bases apiece isn't bad -- and he's a fringe starting outfielder in standard formats.
I once said: "Buchholz has no one to beat but himself." And, boy, has he beaten himself.
I only have a few regrets, but one of them is drafting Buchholz. There was plenty of young talent from which to pick at the end of my draft -- and I ended up with a good staff anyway -- but having Buchholz hurt my ERA and WHIP from the get-go was a discouraging way to start the season.
The San Francisco Giants are an even-year team. Maybe Buchholz is an odd-year guy.
Man, Franco is barely a Top-30 third baseman. BABIP hasn't liked him, and he has scored very few runs on a rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies squad. It was never in the cards -- Franco hits relatively few line drives, pops up too often, and actually makes a lot of soft contact for being such a powerful kid.
You could consider him a buy-low opportunity, but his batted-ball profile suggests there's not a lot of, if any, BABIP regression on the way. Oh well.
I actually wrote an entire post about Ramirez last week because the last thing I needed was this post to crack the 2,500-word mark. Otherwise, just know that Ramirez is legit, and if you don't have any shares of him and he's still available in your league, you should snatch him up right away. If you don't have room for him, consider making some.
I'm projected, so to speak, to hit two predictions and miss eight. There aren't really any that stand to be too close, although a Shoemaker injury would be devastating, as would Ramirez losing playing time when Michael Brantley returns from the disabled list. I guess we'll know more in October.