We are finally almost 2 weeks off of opening day, and draft season is upon us. Some leagues like to draft earlier to keep their sleepers under the radar. Other leagues draft as close to the season as humanly possible to avoid the injuries, I am looking at you Ian Desmond. Around this time of spring training I like to put out some of my favorites “bold predictions” but I like to base them in a sense of reality. I’m not going to be telling you that Trea Turner will steal 100 bags this season, or Giancarlo Stanton stays healthy for an entire season. I like to look through the numbers and make a few semi-bold predictions.
1. Trevor Story hits 40 home runs in 2017 and finishes only behind Manny Machado as the top shortstop.
Trevor Story burst onto the scene in 2016, posting a fantasy line of .272/67/27/72/8 in 415 PA. His season was cut short when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb, requiring surgery. He carries a high strikeout rate, but he has shown the ability to take a walk, positing a 11% B% in double-A. He has a surplus of power and has shown the ability to hit the ball hard (44.9%) and puts it in the air (47.1%) a recipe for success in the launching pad known as Coors. If he stayed healthy in 2016, there is a chance he could have broken the 40 home run plateau last year. On top of the power, he has shown speed in the minors stealing 99 bases in 559 games. He stole 8 last season in his injury shortened season, and very well could steal 15+ in 2016.
2. Jose Abreu continues his decline and finishes outside the top 15 first basemen.
Since coming over from Cuba in 2014 and, Abreu posted a great rookie season but has regressed offensively every year since. In 2016 Abreu posted career lows in homers, RBIs, runs, ISO, WRC+ while stealing 0 bases for the second consecutive season. On top of those numbers, his batted ball profile shows him regressing as well, his Hard Hit% is down, while his Soft Hit% was up 3.4%. Since 2014, Abreu has had a slow decrease in HR/FB%, dropping from 26.9% in 2014 all the way to 14.8% in 2016. While Abreu should posses a solid average between .270- .280, and modest power as a first baseman. The White Sox were a bottom third offense last year, and losing Eaton at the top of the lineup will hurt Abreu’s counting stats. I can picture first basemen like Matt Carpenter, Ian Desmond, Carlos Santana or even Greg Bird putting up equal or better numbers than Abreu in 2017.
3. Yu Darvish wins the AL Cy Young.
I’m actually not so sure this is that bold of a prediction. I have read all over the internet people predicting the possibility of Darvish winning. Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it is wrong. Darvish had to get Tommy John surgery at the back end of 2014, causing him to miss all of 2015 and half of 2016. When healthy, Darvish posted a 11.84 K/9 second only to the late Jose Fernandez. Despite the long absence from pitching, Darvish came back sharp only walking 2.78 BB/9 which was his career best, and was hitting 93.6 on the radar which was almost a full mph faster than before his injury. full season of Darvish throwing like he did at the end at the end of 2016 could see him bringing home the AL Cy Young.
4. Steven Matz stays healthy and is a top 25 SP.
When healthy, Matz absolutely has the stuff to be a top 20 starting pitcher but he has failed to throw more than 150 innings in a year. In 2016, before Matz went down with an elbow injury in August that caused him to miss the rest of the season. Despite his rough July which he gave up more runs than his April/May combined Matz had a 3.4 ERA which was supported by his 3.39 FIP and 3.3 xFIP. His K/9 was a respectful 8.77 and could climb higher heading into 2017. If Matz stays healthy and is able to throw more than 170 innings you are looking at a player who can provide around a strikeout an inning, while maintaining a 3-3.5 ERA and a WHIP between 1.15-1.25. The sky’s the limit for a healthy Steven Matz.
5. Joc Pederson continues improving, hits 30+ home runs and steals at least 10 bases and is a top 100 player.
I have previously talked about my love for Joc Pederson this year and the value he presents at his current ADP of 198. Joc is currently ranked in line with his 2016 production, but factoring in his current improvements year after year he should be good value. From 2015 to 2016, Pederson improved his AVG, OBP, SLG, ISO, wRC+, SB’s
His ISO in 2016 was the 20th highest in the league, making him a well above average hitter. His strikeout rate is never going to lend him to posses a high batting average but if he continues to cut down his K%, you’ll see that average climb to more respectable heights than his .210 in 2015. He hit 25 home runs in just 406 at bats last season, adding 5 more home runs to his total is not out of the question heading into 2017.
Pederson showed speed in the minors stealing 32 bases per 550 PA so he has the potential to steal bases. But he has yet to show confidence in his ability despite being successful on 6 of his 8 attempts in 2016.If he continues to be successful stealing bases, it’s plausible to see Pederson running more in the upcoming season.