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2019 FreezeStats Bold Predictions (Mid-Season Review) – Fantasy Baseball

Well, last year I hit on two out of eight bold predictions. I guess my prediction on Ozzie Albies wasn’t terrible. I projected 25 homers and 30 steals. I hit on the power, but he did not run as much as I hoped. I’m most proud of my long-shot (at the time) that Patrick Corbin would finish the season as a top 20 SP. I had him ranked in the low-40s and most sites had him between the 60th and 80th SP off the boards, so this was extremely bold. Yes, I’m bragging about my one really good bold prediction, but I also had some really bad ones like Delino DeShields over Starling Marte… Whoops. Alright, enough intro. I want to focus my bold predictions within the fantasy realm and write a quick blurb as to why I feel there’s a chance they come to fruition. Now that we are approaching the All-Star break, it’s time to reflect on where these predictions stand. I’ll review all my preseason bold predictions in this maroon color below. Remember, these were meant to be bold, so I am hoping to hit on a few of them rather than most of them.

2019 BOLD PREDICTIONS – FREEZESTATS

Michael Conforto leads the National League in home runs in 2019

Conforto ended 2018 with 29 home runs but spent a good portion of the first two months recovering and gaining strength from his offseason shoulder surgery. He showed us he was healthy in the second half by hitting 17 home runs in just 68 games. I don’t love the prorating game as much as the next person but that’s 40 home runs across a 160 game pace. Last year, Nolan Arenado led the National League with 38 home runs. The other candidates Conforto will have to overcome include Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Trevor Story, Rhys Hoskins, and I suppose my guy Hunter Renfroe (see below). The BAT projects Arenado to lead the National League with 40 homers. Can a healthy Conforto reach 40 this year? I think so, especially with power down across the board last year, Conforto is my guy this year and I’ve ranked him inside the top 60 overall.

OK, so Conforto has just 16 home runs when everyone and their mother is pacing to hit 30+ bombs this year. Conforto hasn’t really gotten hot in any month hitting 6, 4, and 6 homers each month thus far. If you remember, Conforto mashed nine home runs in Sept/Oct last year, so he still has a shot at reaching 40 home runs with a hot second half. However, I was not counting on a juiced ball this year and 40 home runs will fall well short of the home run leader this year. Christian Yelich already has 31 followed by Cody Bellinger with 29 and Pete Alonso at 28. All of which I expect to surpass 40. Conforto hasn’t shown any growth in the power department as his HR/FB rate is in line with last season. I give this prediction a less than 5% chance as it would require a ton of things to fall his way to come to fruition. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. is a top 100 fantasy asset in standard 5×5 Roto

Bradley Jr. has modified his swing and is working with J.D. Martinez. I’ve been putting my money where my mouth is grabbing JBJ pretty much everywhere. I’ve got him in my PitcherList Best Ball draft, TGFBI, and my 12-team home league. Bradley finished 2018 with just 13 homers and a .234 average. As a result, he’s being drafted around 230 overall. However, he stole a career-best 17 bags on only 18 attempts. Yes, he’s faster than you think. He’s likely to hit seventh or eighth in a stacked Red Sox lineup which isn’t great but not a death sentence in a deep AL lineup. Bradley’s hard-hit rates and exit velocities are up with the big boys and he was extremely unlucky on his barrels last year. This is a guy who is still in his prime and hit 26 home runs while hitting .267 in 2016. If he gets back to 25 homers and 15 steals with a .260 average, that should be right near Aaron Hicks just inside the top 100.

Not a great start. He’s currently ranked 575 overall in Yahoo! but I don’t trust Yahoo!. On the ESPN Player Rater, Bradley is ranked as the 166th best hitter to date. That doesn’t include pitchers. I would suspect that at least 75 pitchers are ranked ahead of him, so Bradley is well outside the top 200 overall. I’m not even going to check the Razzball Player Rater. The point is, this one is going well. Although, Bradley’s been hot of late hitting .315 with five home runs and three steals in June. I can’t say for sure what JBJ will do going forward but hitting five home runs and stealing three bases per month is not out of the question. Given that production and a solid BA, he could finish with over 20 HR and 15 SB. That puts him in the conversation as a top 100 overall fantasy asset. I give this one a 15% chance of coming true.

Hunter Renfroe becomes Khris Davis

I wanted to go extremely bold and have Renfroe finish the season ranked higher than Davis, but that would be nuts. Davis is so steady with 40+ homers and 100+ RBI. Unfortunately, I don’t think Renfroe will get the at-bats to reach 100 RBI. So, how can Renfroe become Khris Davis? First off, Renfroe hit 18 home runs in the second half of 2018, so we know he has elite power. I tweeted out a comparison of Davis from 2015 and Renfroe from 2018 back in January. Their results and Statcast metrics were nearly identical. The outfield in San Diego is crowded so something does have to give in order for this prediction to come to fruition. To qualify, Renfroe needs to hit over 35 homers and drive in 90 runs in 2019 and become a consensus top-100 player in 2020 drafts.

Finally! I nailed this one. At the halfway mark, Renfroe already has 24 home runs which are only two fewer than his previous career-high. He’s also getting more playing time as he’s pacing out for around 520 plate appearances which would also be a career-high. He’s hitting .248 so I guess I missed on this one unless he finishes at .247. That was a joke. His strikeout and walk rates are almost identical to Khris Davis’ as he’s sitting at a 26.8% K rate and an 8.4% walk rate. He is pacing for just 90 RBI but the Padres don’t have high OBP players in front of him. My only concern is Renfroe being a top 100 overall player next year. If he hits 45 homers, then yes he will be, but if he slows down in the second half, he may not make it. Either way, I’m giving this one a 60% chance of coming true.

Victor Robles is more valuable than Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Soto in standard 5×5 Roto value.

The hype on both Soto and Guerrero is understandable. Soto, at age-19, looked like a 10-year veteran and by all accounts, Vlad has the best bat in the Minors since Mike Trout. Both are going inside the top 42 overall since February 1st. Robles, while has seen a massive jump in ADP, is still going just after pick 100. Here’s my thinking, coming into 2018, Robles was the second-ranked prospect after Ronald Acuña but a shoulder injury derailed his season. Robles has elite speed, like 40 SB-type speed. His power hasn’t quite developed as he’s just 21 but has been graded out with 50-raw power. We’ve seen plenty of low-to-moderate power hitters come up and increase their home run production. Robles’ high-Contact, high-BABIP profile gives him a solid batting average floor. A high-end, realistic projection for Robles is something like .290 18 HR 32 SB. That’s extremely similar to Starling Marte’s 2018 who finished 29th on the Razzball Player Rater. Vladitio is already dealing with an injury, but Robles over Soto would be extremely bold based on ADP. I currently have Soto at 39 overall and Guerrero at 60, so there you have it.

Robles is currently ranked 72 among hitters per ESPN’s Player Rater and that’s not bad, but not quite what I had hoped for. Meanwhile, Vlad is all the way down at 235 among hitters. Vlad could very easily go nuts in the second half and surpass Robles but I don’t see it happening with the speed component of Robles’ game. Then there’s Juan Soto. Mr. Phenom himself is ranked 33rd overall among hitters this year. Despite a low SB total, he’s just mashing hitting for average, power, and a ton of run production. The metrics don’t paint an optimistic picture for Robles going forward and it would be a long-shot for him the catch Soto. Assuming health from all three players, I give this one a 10-15% chance of coming true.

Anthony Alford is fantasy relevant in 12-team leagues in the second half.

That means, he’s either a top 260 overall player or a top 175 hitter in the second half of 2019. The Blue Jays have a stacked farm system, we know that. Before Vlad and Bo Bichette, there was Anthony Alford. He’s still just 24 years old with only 28 plate appearances in the big leagues. The outfielders currently on the Major League roster are Randal Grichuk, Kevin Pillar, Billy McKinney, and Teoscar Hernandez. I’m not sold on McKinney or Hernandez and the Blue Jays are rebuilding. They need to see what they have in Alford. He’s had a nice spring which is nearly meaningless unless you’re like Alford trying to fight for a spot on the roster. He’s going 750 overall in drafts and therefore undrafted in 99% of leagues; that’s what makes this bold. He has good speed and some pop and was a top 25 prospect once upon a time. With playing time, he could hit a handful of homers and steal double-digit bases in the second half to make this prediction a reality.

I understand that this one is a prediction for the second-half but I would have hoped that Alford would have at least been up at the big league level for a few weeks heading into the break. Alford is hitting .256 with five homers and 17 steals at Triple-A but his strikeout rate is just a hair below 30%. I was optimistic we would see a power spike given the Triple-A ball but it hasn’t shown up with Alford. The good news for Alford is McKinney (just sent to Triple-A) and Teoscar are not performing well even though Teoscar has picked it up of late. Only Lourdes Gurriel Jr is playing well in that outfield and given Alford’s double-digit walk rates in the minors, he could see quite a bit of play in the second half. Like I said above, if he can hit 6-8 homers and steal 12-15 bases in the second half, he should be owned in 12-team leagues. I’m still not sold, let’s give this one a 20% chance.

Lewis Brinson is more valuable in Standard 5×5 Roto than A.J. Pollock

Now, this is BOLD! Brinson hit .199 with a 30% strikeout rate last year. Yikes. He was the top prospect from Milwaukee in the Christian Yelich trade before the 2018 season. His 2018 was brutal, there’s no doubt but he was a top 20 prospect as recently as one year ago. Brinson is crushing this spring but I’m not putting much weight into that. He’s modified his swing to stay in the zone longer increasing his probability for contact. That’s a small adjustment but one that could help vault Brinson to the next level. Last year he’s was very unlucky with a .257  BABIP. His xBABIP was .301 and xHR was 14 per xStats.org. Keep in mind, that’s in just over 400 plate appearances. Per BaseballSavant, he was just inside the top third of hitters on average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives (EV FB/LD). Where things really get interesting is his speed. He hasn’t stolen many bases but regularly stole 20+ bags in the minors. His sprint speed is in the top 96% of the league. If he can hit 22-24 HR with 15-18 steals, he will provide more value than an often injured Pollock. I like Pollock and I think if he’s healthy, he’s a top 50 player. I just don’t expect more than 400 plate appearances from him and believe these two players are more similar than you think. I need quite a bit of help here, but Pollock’s injury history gives this prediction some life.

Injuries. That was part of the selling point for this one though. Even with Pollock missing 90% of the season so far, he still holds more value than Brinson. This one is a 50-50 toss-up but if I don’t want it that way.

Robbie Ray Wins the NL Cy Young

Ray’s walk rate was brutal in 2018 at 13.3% and over five walks per nine innings. Walks always seem to be an issue for Ray. Even in his breakout of 2017, his walk rate was over 10%. What he can do and always has been able to do is strike batters out at a high clip. Do you know who else had issues with walks but transformed into a Cy Young winner? How about Blake Snell? Snell’s walk rates the years prior to 2018 were 12.7% and 10.8%. Both pitchers throw hard and have good breaking balls. Snell ramped his fastball velocity up in 2018 averaging over 96 MPH. Ray, on the other hand, saw a slight dip in his velocity last season. I think for Ray, velocity is key because his fastball used to be a plus pitch for him with a 12.3 pitch value in 2017 but down to -3.2 in 2018. Obviously, Ray needs to get his walks under control as well but if his velocity looks good and he cuts down on the walk rate, we are a lucky BABIP away from a Blake Snell-type season.  

A 4.10 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. Boo. However, 129 strikeouts in 98.1 innings are pretty nice though! The O-Swing is good and his Z-Contact is a career-low. In 2017, he had a 2.73 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP in the second half. He’s not that far away from those numbers if the BABIP and LOB% fall his way. Given those ratios and about 110 strikeouts, he would at least be in the NL Cy Young conversation. The problem for Ray though is Max Scherzer. He’s running away and hiding in the NL despite Ryu’s insane first half. This one is down to a 5% chance.

Matt Strahm is a top 50 Starting Pitcher

It’s finally happening, Matt Strahm is likely joining the Padres starting rotation. He was a starter in Royals system in 2015 and 2016 and has never thrown more than 125 innings in a single season. But, Strahm put on a bunch of weight in an unorthodox way to help build strength to hold up over the course of a full season. He’s reportedly hitting 96 MPH on the gun this spring. He throws four pitches and has a great fastball and curveball. If he can develop either his change or curve, he could not only have great strikeout rates but go deeper into games. I’d only expect a maximum of 150 innings this year but with 160+ strikeouts and good ratios, that’s easily top 50. Now for part two.

Strahm is currently 131st among starting pitchers per the ESPN Player Rater. That’s not good and he was just blown up by the awful Giants. At this point, I don’t see Strahm turning it completely around to finish inside the top 50 for starting pitchers. His velocity and strikeouts are down as well as a starter, so I’m essentially burying this one giving it a 2% chance.

The Padres have 3 starting pitchers that finish inside the top 50 for SPs

This is a spin-off if the Matt Strahm bold prediction because I had the Strahm prediction, pegged about a month ago. Now, he’s being drafted just outside of the top 50 SPs. This is bold because the Padres don’t have a single pitcher drafted as a top 50 starter. Lucchesi is the closest at 55 and 195 overall. I love Lucchesi this year who was successful last year with two pitches and is adding a cutter this spring. The other possible top 50 options include extreme riser Chris Paddack (441), Matt Strahm (386), and Robbie Erlin (577). Paddack has had massive inflation with a dominant spring. He looks like a prime candidate to make the rotation out of spring. He’s just 23 years old and coming off of an injury. Don’t expect more than 125 innings, but he might just be good enough to sneak into the top 50.

Well, Strahm is basically out. That leaves us with Chris Paddack and Joey Lucchesi. Paddack is ranked 26th and Lucchesi is at 41 on the ESPN player rater for starting pitchers. That’s great and I believe both can maintain top 50 status, especially Paddack. We already discussed how far down Strahm is and the next Padre starter is Eric Lauer currently the 98th SP. That’s followed by Strahm at 131 and Cal Quantrill at 162. Lauer doesn’t possess the strikeout upside required to make that jump into the top 50 but at least he has an outside chance. Also, Dinleson Lamet returns to action this week but given his lengthy layoff, his innings will be limited. I also don’t believe his command will be consistent going forward in 2019. So while both Paddack and Lucchesi will likely exceed expectations, I don’t have the third SP to complete this bold prediction.

Zach Eflin outperforms everyone’s favorite sleeper and teammate Nick Pivetta

While I had this prediction drafted up about two weeks ago, I’ve got to give some credit to @BatflipCrazy for throwing this out first on his podcast this week. Great call! I get the hype on Nick Pivetta, I’m not even low on him as I have him as my 35th SP. His K-BB% is fantastic. He seemed to be unlucky in terms of ERA and BABIP last season based on all ERA-estimators. The Phillies had one of the worst defenses by Fangraphs DEF metrics last year. They upgraded by adding Jean Segura at shortstop and replacing Rhys Hoskins in left field with Andrew McCutchen and the aforementioned Hoskins moving over to his natural position, first base. So while I expect both to improve, let’s compare the two by the numbers.  

2018 K-BB% FIP SwStr% Soft% HR/9
Nick Pivetta 19.7% 3.80 12.0% 18.7% 1.32
Zach Eflin 15.7% 3.80 10.3% 20.5% 1.13

Pivetta has the better strikeout upside, that’s evident in the K-BB% and SwStr%. However, Eflin’s FIP matched Pivetta’s thanks to inducing more weak contact and limiting hard contact/home runs. Elfin has a good slider and changeup to go with a 95 MPH fastball. That sounds similar to Pivetta’s repertoire, doesn’t it? I actually think Eflin has some more strikeout upside in that arm as well. Given his well-above-average control and ability to limit hard contact, I think the strikeout rate could push Eflin over the top of Pivetta in 2019. I’ll add to this prediction that Eflin will be drafted above Pivetta in 2020 drafts as well.

Eflin 39th SP on ESPN Player Rater, Pivetta 173 SP. I give this one a 90% chance of coming true. Eflin would have to fall flat on his face in the second half and Pivetta would have to become Chris Sale. Eflin hasn’t quite had the strikeout ceiling I had hoped for but he’s also pitching with great command. I think he should limit terrible outings and maintain success even if he’s unable to keep such a low ERA. Pivetta has the skills to go on a second-half run but will still have the occasional outing that kills ratios. I don’t see him catching Eflin and Pivetta will not carry any inflated love going into the 2020 drafts. This one is close to being in the books.

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


Image credit:Alex Gallardo; AP
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2019 Bold Predictions – Fantasy Baseball

Well, last year I hit on two out of eight bold predictions. I guess my prediction on Ozzie Albies wasn’t terrible. I projected 25 homers and 30 steals. I hit on the power, but he did not run as much as I hoped. I’m most proud of my long-shot (at the time) that Patrick Corbin would finish the season as a top 20 SP. I had him ranked in the low-40s and most sites had him between the 60th and 80th SP off the boards, so this was extremely bold. Yes, I’m bragging about my one really good bold prediction, but I also had some really bad ones like Delino DeShields over Starling Marte…. Whoops. Alright, enough intro. I want to focus my bold predictions within the fantasy realm and write a quick blurb as to why I feel there’s a chance they come to fruition.

2019 BOLD PREDICTIONS – FREEZESTATS

Michael Conforto leads the National League in home runs in 2019

Conforto ended 2018 with 29 home runs but spent a good portion of the first two months recovering and gaining strength from his offseason shoulder surgery. He showed us he was healthy in the second half by hitting 17 home runs in just 68 games. I don’t love the prorating game as much as the next person but that’s 40 home runs across a 160 game pace. Last year, Nolan Arenado led the National League with 38 home runs. The other candidates Conforto will have to overcome include Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Trevor Story, Rhys Hoskins, and I suppose my guy Hunter Renfroe (see below). The BAT projects Arenado to lead the National League with 40 homers. Can a healthy Conforto reach 40 this year? I think so, especially with power down across the board last year, Conforto is my guy this year and I’ve ranked him inside the top 60 overall.

Jackie Bradley Jr. is a top 100 fantasy asset in standard 5×5 Roto

Bradley Jr. has modified his swing and is working with J.D. Martinez. I’ve been putting my money where my mouth is grabbing JBJ pretty much everywhere. I’ve got him in my PitcherList Best Ball draft, TGFBI, and my 12-team home league. Bradley finished 2018 with just 13 homers and a .234 average. As a result, he’s being drafted around 230 overall. However, he stole a career-best 17 bags on only 18 attempts. Yes, he’s faster than you think. He’s likely to hit seventh or eighth in a stacked Red Sox lineup which isn’t great but not a death sentence in a deep AL lineup. Bradley’s hard-hit rates and exit velocities are up with the big boys and he was extremely unlucky on his barrels last year. This is a guy who is still in his prime and hit 26 home runs while hitting .267 in 2016. If he gets back to 25 homers and 15 steals with a .260 average, that should be right near Aaron Hicks just inside the top 100.

Hunter Renfroe becomes Khris Davis

I wanted to go extremely bold and have Renfroe finish the season ranked higher than Davis, but that would be nuts. Davis is so steady with 40+ homers and 100+ RBI. Unfortunately, I don’t think Renfroe will get the at-bats to reach 100 RBI. So, how can Renfroe become Khris Davis? First off, Renfroe hit 18 home runs in the second half of 2018, so we know he has elite power. I tweeted out a comparison of Davis from 2015 and Renfroe from 2018 back in January. Their results and Statcast metrics were nearly identical. The outfield in San Diego is crowded so something does have to give in order for this prediction to come to fruition. To qualify, Renfroe needs to hit over 35 homers and drive in 90 runs in 2019 and become a consensus top-100 player in 2020 drafts.

Victor Robles is more valuable than Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Soto in standard 5×5 Roto value.

The hype on both Soto and Guerrero is understandable. Soto, at age-19, looked like a 10-year veteran and by all accounts, Vlad has the best bat in the Minors since Mike Trout. Both are going inside the top 42 overall since February 1st. Robles, while has seen a massive jump in ADP, is still going just after pick 100. Here’s my thinking, coming into 2018, Robles was the second-ranked prospect after Ronald Acuña but a shoulder injury derailed his season. Robles has elite speed, like 40 SB-type speed. His power hasn’t quite developed as he’s just 21 but has been graded out with 50-raw power. We’ve seen plenty of low-to-moderate power hitters come up and increase their home run production. Robles’ high-Contact, high-BABIP profile gives him a solid batting average floor. A high-end, realistic projection for Robles is something like .290 18 HR 32 SB. That’s extremely similar to Starling Marte’s 2018 who finished 29th on the Razzball Player Rater. Vladitio is already dealing with an injury, but Robles over Soto would be extremely bold based on ADP. I currently have Soto at 39 overall and Guerrero at 60, so there you have it.

Anthony Alford is fantasy relevant in 12-team leagues in the second half.

That means, he’s either a top 260 overall player or a top 175 hitter in the second half of 2019. The Blue Jays have a stacked farm system, we know that. Before Vlad and Bo Bichette, there was Anthony Alford. He’s still just 24 years old with only 28 plate appearances in the big leagues. The outfielders currently on the Major League roster are Randal Grichuk, Kevin Pillar, Billy McKinney, and Teoscar Hernandez. I’m not sold on McKinney or Hernandez and the Blue Jays are rebuilding. They need to see what they have in Alford. He’s had a nice spring which is nearly meaningless unless you’re like Alford trying to fight for a spot on the roster. He’s going 750 overall in drafts and therefore undrafted in 99% of leagues; that’s what makes this bold. He has good speed and some pop and was a top 25 prospect once upon a time. With playing time, he could hit a handful of homers and steal double-digit bases in the second half to make this prediction a reality.

Lewis Brinson is more valuable in Standard 5×5 Roto than A.J. Pollack

Now, this is BOLD! Brinson hit .199 with a 30% strikeout rate last year. Yikes. He was the top prospect from Milwaukee in the Christian Yelich trade before the 2018 season. His 2018 was brutal, there’s no doubt but he was a top 20 prospect as recently as one year ago. Brinson is crushing this spring but I’m not putting much weight into that. He’s modified his swing to stay in the zone longer increasing his probability for contact. That’s a small adjustment but one that could help vault Brinson to the next level. Last year he’s was very unlucky with a .257  BABIP. His xBABIP was .301 and xHR was 14 per xStats.org. Keep in mind, that’s in just over 400 plate appearances. Per BaseballSavant, he was just inside the top third of hitters on average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives (EV FB/LD). Where things really get interesting is his speed. He hasn’t stolen many bases but regularly stole 20+ bags in the minors. His sprint speed is in the top 96% of the league. If he can hit 22-24 HR with 15-18 steals, he will provide more value than an often injured Pollack. I like Pollack and I think if he’s healthy, he’s a top 50 player. I just don’t expect more than 400 plate appearances from him and believe these two players are more similar than you think. I need quite a bit of help here, but Pollack’s injury history gives this prediction some life.

Robbie Ray Wins the NL Cy Young

Ray’s walk rate was brutal in 2018 at 13.3% and over five walks per nine innings. Walks always seem to be an issue for Ray. Even in his breakout of 2017, his walk rate was over 10%. What he can do and always has been able to do is strike batters out at a high clip. Do you know who else had issues with walks but transformed into a Cy Young winner? How about Blake Snell? Snell’s walk rates the years prior to 2018 were 12.7% and 10.8%. Both pitchers throw hard and have good breaking balls. Snell ramped his fastball velocity up in 2018 averaging over 96 MPH. Ray, on the other hand, saw a slight dip in his velocity last season. I think for Ray, velocity is key because his fastball used to be a plus pitch for him with a 12.3 pitch value in 2017 but down to -3.2 in 2018. Obviously, Ray needs to get his walks under control as well but if his velocity looks good and he cuts down on the walk rate, we are a lucky BABIP away from a Blake Snell-type season.  

Matt Strahm is a top 50 Starting Pitcher

It’s finally happening, Matt Strahm is likely joining the Padres starting rotation. He was a starter in Royals system in 2015 and 2016 and has never thrown more than 125 innings in a single season. But, Strahm put on a bunch of weight in an unorthodox way to help build strength to hold up over the course of a full season. He’s reportedly hitting 96 MPH on the gun this spring. He throws four pitches and has a great fastball and curveball. If he can develop either his change or curve, he could not only have great strikeout rates but go deeper into games. I’d only expect a maximum of 150 innings this year but with 160+ strikeouts and good ratios, that’s easily top 50. Now for part two.

The Padres have 3 starting pitchers that finish inside the top 50 for SPs

This is a spin-off if the Matt Strahm bold prediction because I had the Strahm prediction, pegged about a month ago. Now, he’s being drafted just outside of the top 50 SPs. This is bold because the Padres don’t have a single pitcher drafted as a top 50 starter. Lucchesi is the closest at 55 and 195 overall. I love Lucchesi this year who was successful last year with two pitches and is adding a cutter this spring. The other possible top 50 options include extreme riser Chris Paddack (441), Matt Strahm (386), and Robbie Erlin (577). Paddack has had massive inflation with a dominant spring. He looks like a prime candidate to make the rotation out of spring. He’s just 23 years old and coming off of an injury. Don’t expect more than 125 innings, but he might just be good enough to sneak into the top 50.

Zach Eflin outperforms everyone’s favorite sleeper and teammate Nick Pivetta

While I had this prediction drafted up about two weeks ago, I’ve got to give some credit to @BatflipCrazy for throwing this out first on his podcast this week. Great call! I get the hype on Nick Pivetta, I’m not even low on him as I have him as my 35th SP. His K-BB% is fantastic. He seemed to be unlucky in terms of ERA and BABIP last season based on all ERA-estimators. The Phillies had one of the worst defenses by Fangraphs DEF metrics last year. They upgraded by adding Jean Segura at shortstop and replacing Rhys Hoskins in left field with Andrew McCutchen and the aforementioned Hoskins moving over to his natural position, first base. So while I expect both to improve, let’s compare the two by the numbers.  

2018 K-BB% FIP SwStr% Soft% HR/9
Nick Pivetta 19.7% 3.80 12.0% 18.7% 1.32
Zach Eflin 15.7% 3.80 10.3% 20.5% 1.13

Pivetta has the better strikeout upside, that’s evident in the K-BB% and SwStr%. However, Eflin’s FIP matched Pivetta’s thanks to inducing more weak contact and limiting hard contact/home runs. Elfin has a good slider and changeup to go with a 95 MPH fastball. That sounds similar to Pivetta’s repertoire, doesn’t it? I actually think Eflin has some more strikeout upside in that arm as well. Given his well-above-average control and ability to limit hard contact, I think the strikeout rate could push Eflin over the top of Pivetta in 2019. I’ll add to this prediction that Eflin will be drafted above Pivetta in 2020 drafts as well.

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

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2018 FreezeStats Hitter Projections Revisited

(Cover image courtesy of Star Tribune)

This past season was the second time I did my own full projections covering over 300 players. In total, that came out to approximately 225 hitters and 100 pitchers. I wanted to get an idea of the overall accuracy of my projections, which of course is difficult if I don’t compare them to other project systems. The problem is, I didn’t project enough players to accurately compare them to the major projection systems. What I did do, is run my projections against each player’s final statistics and calculate the z-Scores for each statistic. For hitters that’s Runs, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, OBP, & Plate Appearances; for pitchers, it’s IP, W, K, ERA, and WHIP. I also eliminated any player that had under 300 PA or pitcher with less than 90 IP.  For this article, I’ll only touch on the hitters. I’ll follow up with pitchers in a day or two.


The link to each projection spreadsheet is below.  I’ve used conditional formatting for the Z-Scores where Dark RED is very poor accuracy (high Z-Score), white is an average projection, and dark green is very accurate. I’ll highlight a few from both ends of the spectrum below, but make sure to take a look at the link to see the results of the rest of the projections. In the meantime, I’ve already started my projections for 2019 and plan on doing well over 400.

2018 Hitter Projections vs Actual

A few players I basically projected to a “T” were:

Andrelton Simmons (SS – LAA)

Actual 68 11 75 10 0.292 0.337 600
Proj 65 12 72 12 0.278 0.332 612

Simmons hit for a higher average than I projected thanks to yet another improvement in contact rate. Simmons rarely swings and misses, but he’s more of a compiler than anything else. If Simmons hit my 612 PA, he may have gone 12-12 as I projected.

Nelson Cruz (DH – SEA)

Actual 70 37 97 1 0.256 0.342 591
Proj 87 35 104 1 0.264 0.345 635

Not surprising that I hit on Nelson Cruz. The elder statesman has been a model of consistency for the better part of the last decade. I projected a decrease in power and batting average due to natural age-progression, and that’s exactly what happened. Going into 2019, Cruz will turn 39 during the season, so it’s difficult to project better than .250-34-90 this coming year as he hits free agency.

Eddie Rosario (OF – MIN)

Actual 87 24 77 8 0.288 0.323 592
Proj 74 24 84 8 0.273 0.316 592

Rosario had a nice breakout in 2017 at age-26, so naturally, he should continue to improve, right? Instead, he basically finished with the same results he had in 2017. My projection for plate appearances (592), home runs (24), and steals (8) all were a direct hit! I liked Rosario’s value coming into 2018 but didn’t expect a skills bump. For 2019, I see regression for Rosario due to a decrease in plate discipline and I’m staying away.

Rhys Hoskins (1B/OF – PHI)

Actual 89 34 96 5 0.246 0.354 660
Proj 81 37 95 3 0.256 0.345 609

Talk about projections that were all over the map for Hoskins. After bashing 18 homers in 50 games at the conclusion of 2017, I saw anything from mid/upper 20 homers to 40+ homers from Hoskins. There was also talk of a higher batting average given his elite plate skills. The problem was, he hits far too many fly balls and doesn’t run well, limiting his BA upside. I had Hoskins at .256 which turned out to be HIGH and almost nailed his HR projection with 37 but he had 50 more PA than my projection. I’ll be cautious with Rhys for 2019 and don’t think he’s a lock to be a top 50 player.


Jean Segura (SS – SEA)

Actual 91 10 63 20 0.304 0.341 632
Proj 86 11 64 20 0.282 0.328 622

Jean proved me wrong with a .300+ batting average, but everything else worked out pretty nice. Whether it seems like it or not, Jean is becoming more consistent but his upside is relatively limited at this point. Still, a solid player giving you speed which continues to decrease league-wide without complete lack of power. Segura should hold some value for 2019 as flashier players begin to move ahead of him.


Justin Upton (LAA – OF)

Actual 80 30 85 8 0.257 0.344 613
Proj 83 30 95 11 0.254 0.336 625

After blasting a career high in home runs and RBI in 2017, I figured Upton was due for some regression. Well, duh. Even getting to play a full season hitting behind Mike Trout, Upton’s rate stars were a bit out over their skis in 2017. In addition to the HR/RBI regression, I knew that Upton could maintain another .270+ batting average given his high-20s K rate. Going forward, Upton’s speed s dwindling and he is looking more like a .250-28-90-7 guy which is useful but could be overvalued in drafts for 2019.

Now for the projections that were so far off, it’s hard to fathom how I got there. I’ll give it a shot to figure this out as I recap.

Carlos Correa (SS – HOU)

Actual 60 15 65 3 0.239 0.323 468
Proj 94 29 103 10 0.295 0.378 637

Injuries. It’s not just that he missed time due to his injured back, he also recently had offseason surgery to repair a deviated septum. In other words, he couldn’t breathe. OK, he could breathe, but not well. So, Correa went from hitting .315 in 2017 to a meager .239 in 2018. I think one thing I’m going to do with Correa’s 2019 projection is to limit his plate appearances to around 550-575. I see a big bounce-back in average and power but the speed isn’t coming back friends.


Javier Baez (2B/SS – CHC)

Actual 101 34 111 21 0.29 0.326 645
Proj 62 21 67 9 0.251 0.299 465

On the other end of the poor projection spectrum, we have Javy Baez. One of my bust picks finished second in NL MVP voting. Yikes. Well, I discussed Baez’ awful plate discipline which he has embraced. I also factored in Manager Joe Maddon‘s decisions to move players around the field, in the lineup, etc. I figured Baez would see the bench during slumps and that Ian Happ would see more time at 2B. Whoops. The lesson for 2019, never bet heavily against power/speed talent.

Lewis Brinson (OF – MIA)

Actual 31 11 42 2 0.199 0.24 406
Proj 73 18 65 12 0.256 0.315 565

Speaking of players with the talent of power and speed… Well, I figured the move to Miami would allow Brinson to play every day without an OF roster crunch like there was in Milwaukee. As it turns out, if you hit .199 with an OBP that’s below Giancarlo’s weight, you don’t get to play every day. Oh well. My projections weren’t even that optimistic, Brinson was just straight BAD.

Logan Morrison (1B – MIN)

41 15 39 1 0.186 0.276 359
68 26 77 2 0.243 0.328 548

After a late breakout in 201, Logan Morrison was in the spotlight for less time than his great-uncle Jim. (That’s a Doors reference for those of you who aren’t 60 years old). Not much to say here. I knew that the 36 bombs he hit in 2017 wasn’t for real but come on Lo-Mo! 15 homers and a .186 batting average?!? Who are you, Chris Davis? It’s safe to keep Morrison out of my projections for 2019 and for everyone’s sake, hopefully, he retires. Thanks for reading! I’ll continue my projections for 2019 riiiiiiiiight now!

Follow me on Twitter @FreezeStats

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8 Bold Predictions 2018 MLB Season – Results

The 2018 season is in the books, let’s see how I did on my eight bold predictions.  My original post is the black text and my current comments are in red. For comparison sake, I’ll use the ESPN Player Rater as it is more widely known even if I believe the Razzball Player Rater to be more accurate.


Delino DeShields (ADP 190) outperforms Starling Marte (ADP 49) in Standard 5×5
I’m not the biggest fan of Starling Marte coming into 2018 and the hype train is once again full steam ahead for Delino DeShields aka “The Dentist” (just like in 2016). On the surface, it’s easy to see DeShields pulling this one off because he’s finally been given the leadoff spot and there isn’t much competition for his job in center field. Obviously, he has to perform and get on base for the Rangers to keep him there. What I see is six home runs and 29 steals in only 440 plate appearances in 2017. Given 600 to 650 PA this year he could hit 10 home runs and steal 35-40 bases and while I don’t think he will hit for as high of an average as Marte, the run total should be around 90 given his 10% walk rate. My projections for Marte are .275-9-33, I just don’t believe in the power and he’s never been a great run producer.
Um, well ok. So Marte finished 27th on the ESPN Player Rater and Delino DeShields is nowhere to be found.  He’s been so bad, I’m not even willing to look up where he’s ranked. DeShields is hitting an embarrassing .209 with 2 homers and 20 steals in 384 plate appearances. His walk rate has improved and his strikeout rate has decreased which leaves his plummeting BABIP as the culprit. Marte on the other hand had a great season and his power has returned. My projections more or less nailed his batting average and stolen bases but he nearly doubled my HR projection. This one was just straight BAD. 0 for 1

Ozzie Albies hits 25 home runs, steals 30 bases and is a top 25 player
I’ve seen a lot of people ridiculously high on Albies, but not many are predicting 20 home runs let alone 25; that’s what makes this one bold. I threw in the top 25 player ranking even though almost anyone who goes 25/30 is likely a top 25 player. The steals aren’t as crazy because he stole 29 bases in 154 games in 2017 (AAA and MLB) and 30 in 2016 between AA and AAA plus scouts have tabbed him at 70-grade speed out of 80. Here’s where it gets bold; he is being projected for between 10 and 15 home runs, so where do I get 25? Albies changed his approach early in 2017 to try and elevate the ball more which he accomplished upping his fly ball rate from about 30% in 2016 to 39% in 2017. He ended up hitting 15 home runs between AAA and the Majors which was 9 more than in 2016. He’s continued this trend in the spring with a ground out/air out ratio of 0.73, meaning he’s hitting only about 40% ground balls and 60% LD+FB. Let’s assume 41% FB rate for 2018 with 650 PA for Albies (hitting 2nd for 150+ games) with a 17% K rate and an 8% BB rate. That comes out to about 485 balls in play at 41% FB rate with a HR/FB rate of 12.6% comes out to 25 HR. I believe.
When Albies came out in April absolutely crushing baseballs, I though this one has a great shot. However, Albies never managed to steal many bases attempting only 16 and successful on 13. Albies has managed a high success rate but a lower walk rate and batting average than I projected are only part of the problem. I’m interested to see if he will run more next year because if he doesn’t I don’t think his fantasy upside will meet my lofty expectations.  0 for 2



Patrick Corbin is a top 20 Starting Pitcher
Here are the statistics from the 20th best SP in 2017: 10 Wins, 3.86 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 209 strikeouts. That’s Yu Darvish if you’re wondering. Kind of a mixed bag, low win total, high(ish) ERA, low WHIP and a lot of strikeouts. My projections for Corbin this year are 13 Wins, 3.65 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 179 strikeouts. More wins and a better ERA but fewer strikeouts and a higher WHIP, but that would definitely be good for a top 30 stater for sure. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to assume more wins (he did win 14 games in 189 innings in 2017) and maybe a few more strikeouts given 200 innings pitched (I have him projected for 190) to put him right around the top 20. He’s got a 50+% ground ball rate, a Swstr rate of 11% last year, the humidor should help with some of his HR issues as well as the high BABIP effectively lowering his projected ERA and WHIP.
BOOM! Corbin checks in as the #11 SP on the ESPN Player Rater just behind Trevor Bauer and ahead of Luis Severino. Corbin was much impressive than I even imagined. You can see my projections for Corbin above and he blew that shit out of the water. Who would have guessed that Corbin would introduce a spinoff (get it?) of his already great slider and throw them combined nearly 45% of the time? Those Ks are gorgeous and that propelled him into the elite. Nailed it! 1 for 3

Lewis Brinson Outperforms Byron Buxton in Standard 5×5
Brinson should be given every opportunity to show his skills this year in Miami because let’s face it, there’s really no else that should take his spot. He’s mashing this spring to the tune of .339/.377/.607 triple slash line and RosterResource has him leading off! Brinson doesn’t have the speed Buxton does (not many do) but I feel that Brinson will be the better hitter long-term and takes a step in that direction in 2018. I think given a full season, Brinson is more than capable of hitting 20 homers and stealing 15-18 bases while hitting .260-.275. That’s good enough to keep him in the leadoff spot (if he can walk a little) and with Castro, Realmuto, and Bour hitting behind him, I can see 85+ runs. Buxton, on the other hand, may hit 8th or 9th so that’s a killer for run production. I can see Buxton struggle to hit for average again and while I like his ability to hit 15-20 homers with 30 steals, I think Brinson has a chance to outperform him.
So technically Brinson outperformed Buxton this year, so it’s a win. However, it’s one of the saddest wins ever. Now that 2018 has come and gone, this doesn’t seem that old, but remember the hype on Buxton coming into the season? He was being touted as a top-50 player by some perts. His ADP settled in the 60s and Brinson was between 250 and 300, so yes, this was bold, but both greatly under-performed and that’s a understatement. Have I used “under” enough here? I’m underwhelmed, let’s move on. 2 for 4

Joey Gallo leads the majors in home runs with 50 AND Hits .245 with 10 steals
At first, I thought about just doing 50 homers and 10 steals, but he’s such a beast, if he’s given 650 plate appearances, 50 homers is basically a lock. However, given his 37% K rate, a .245 average is a long shot. He did cut his K rate to under 35% in the second half last year and his BABIP, which was .250, had a xBABIP of about .275. Using a 34% K rate and a BABIP of .275, I still fall short of a .245 batting average, so this prediction needs a bit of luck to something like a BABIP of .290, now that’s possible! For the HRs, he needs to keep his 52% FB rate with his 30% HR/FB rate and 615 plate appearances. Steals can be fluky but he did steal seven bases in only 532 plate appearances, so three more in 85 more PA is certainly possible.
I saw some other “bold predictions” that had Gallo hitting something like .230 with 45 homers? How is that bold? I went a little further but i did not pan out. Gallo was essentially the same player he was in 2017 even though he showed improvements in the first half. Gallo probably needs to cut his K rate to below 32% to have a shot at hitting near .250. 2 for 5

Chad Kuhl outperforms Gerrit Cole in all fantasy categories other than wins
This is more about Kuhl taking a big step forward than significant regression for Cole. The categories I’m referencing in my prediction are ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. Cole’s numbers last year were 4.26/1.25 with 196 strikeouts; Kuhl last year: 4.35/1.47 with 142 strikeouts in 157 innings. Cole has a career K rate of 8.44 and will no longer get to face the pitcher two or three times a game. I’m expecting a slight K rate drop to 8.2. His innings should go down with all the able body long relievers/spot starters (Peacock, McHugh), the 10-day DL, and his ratios should be around 4.00 and 1.25. I do believe Kuhl is a much better pitcher than his numbers indicated last year and a significant walk rate decrease is in order to keep his WHIP in check. I could see a 4.00 ERA and 1.25 WHIP from Kuhl but how about the strikeouts? Kuhl throws 96 mph with a nasty slider that he only threw 20% of the time last year. If he throws that more and can locate his fastball, he could be around a 9.0 K/9. With that rate, he would only have to throw about 175 innings to Cole’s 190 IP.
Uhhhhhhhh, whoops. This one is so bad I don’t even know what to say. The Astros unlocked Cole’s magic and Kuhl looked good at times then was lost to injury midway through the season.  Let’s move along. 2 for 6



The Phillies make the playoffs
Hoskins, Kingery, Santana, Arrieta! Other than 50 games from Hoskins, those are all new ML players for the Phillies this year. All of them should be worth between 2.0 WAR to 4.3 WAR. I also think Nola takes a step forward as well and you lose the likes of Tommy Joseph who was worth -1.1 WAR (yuck) in 2017 and Michael Saunders who was worth -0.7 WAR. I also believe Maikel Franco (-0.5 WAR) improves this year and Odubel Herrera takes a step forward. Now, this is all very unscientific and you can’t just say all of these players/improvements are worth 20+ wins this year (which would put them at 86 wins). Right now they are projected for 75 wins, good for 11th best in the NL. To reach a top-five spot in the NL makes this prediction bold.
(Here is what I wrote mid-season) Ok, this one is looking good.  The Phillies are currently in first place in the NL East by 1 game over Atlanta and 5.5 games ahead of the Nationals. I expect the Nationals to get hot, but even if the Phillies lost the lead in the division, they would still have a very good shot at making one of the two Wild Card slots. I gave them a 60% chance to make the playoffs and they completely feel apart. The offense went to sleep and the pitching staff outside of Nola was bad and inconsistent. I’ll take my L. 2 for 7

Tim Beckham outperforms Justin Upton in Standard 5×5
Yeah, even this one is hard for me to believe. Upton is coming off a career year hitting 35 home runs, stealing 14 bases and driving in 109 runs and now he gets to hit behind Mike Trout. It’s not that I think Beckham will put up those numbers but I think Upton is a bit of a letdown in 2018 after signing a big contract with the Angels. I think Upton’s batting average goes back to the .255 range and his power falls back to around 27-30. At age 30, his speed will continue to dwindle and an 8-10 steal season is likely. Now, for Beckham, he needs to build on his second half of 2017 and now with a full season in Baltimore and an increase in fly ball percentage indicated by his Spring Training GO/AO ratio tells me he can hit 30 home runs. That’s his ground out/air out ratio which is under 1.0 during Spring Training. He’s also not a zero in terms of speed so 8-10 steals is possible. If he hits .260, he’s right on par with Justin Upton. This is a longshot, but that’s what makes it bold.
I was expecting regression from Upton and that made this one a possibility. However, Tim Beckham turned back into, well, Tim Beckham. It’s too bad because he actually cut his K rate by nearly 5% but his hard contact plummeted. Yes, he missed time but he’s starting to look like a .230 hitter with 18-20 homer power and that’s about it. 2 for 8

Overall I’m hitting .250, so better than Gallo and Tim Beckham for what that’s worth. Considering the low probability of some of these predictions, I’m happy with the results. I suppose the Albies predictions is a partial win, he fell one HR shy of 25 homers which was probably more bold than the 30 steals in the preseason. Even though he finished outside the top 50 on the ESPN Player Rater, he did end up ranked 39th on the Razzball Player Rater. 



Eight Bold Predictions for 2018

Delino DeShields (ADP 190) outperforms Starling Marte (ADP 49) in Standard 5×5
I’m not the biggest fan of Starling Marte coming into 2018 and the hype train is once again full steam ahead for Delino DeShields aka “The Dentist” (just like in 2016). On the surface, it’s easy to see DeShields pulling this one off because he’s finally been given the leadoff spot and there isn’t much competition for his job in center field. Obviously, he has to perform and get on base for the Rangers to keep him there. What I see is six home runs and 29 steals in only 440 plate appearances in 2017. Given 600 to 650 PA this year he could hit 10 home runs and steal 35-40 bases and while I don’t think he will hit for as high of an average as Marte, the run total should be around 90 given his 10% walk rate. My projections for Marte are .275-9-33, I just don’t believe in the power and he’s never been a great run producer.

Ozzie Albies hits 25 home runs, steals 30 bases and is a top 25 player
I’ve seen a lot of people ridiculously high on Albies, but not many are predicting 20 home runs let alone 25; that’s what makes this one bold. I threw in the top 25 player ranking even though almost anyone who goes 25/30 is likely a top 25 player. The steals aren’t as crazy because he stole 29 bases in 154 games in 2017 (AAA and MLB) and 30 in 2016 between AA and AAA plus scouts have tabbed him at 70-grade speed out of 80. Here’s where it gets bold; he is being projected for between 10 and 15 home runs, so where do I get 25? Albies changed his approach early in 2017 to try and elevate the ball more which he accomplished upping his fly ball rate from about 30% in 2016 to 39% in 2017. He ended up hitting 15 home runs between AAA and the Majors which was 9 more than in 2016. He’s continued this trend in the spring with a ground out/air out ratio of 0.73, meaning he’s hitting only about 40% ground balls and 60% LD+FB. Let’s assume 41% FB rate for 2018 with 650 PA for Albies (hitting 2nd for 150+ games) with a 17% K rate and an 8% BB rate. That comes out to about 485 balls in play at 41% FB rate with a HR/FB rate of 12.6% comes out to 25 HR. I believe.

Patrick Corbin is a top 20 Starting Pitcher
Here are the statistics from the 20th best SP in 2017: 10 Wins, 3.86 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 209 strikeouts. That’s Yu Darvish if you’re wondering. Kind of a mixed bag, low win total, high(ish) ERA, low WHIP and a lot of strikeouts. My projections for Corbin this year are 13 Wins, 3.65 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 179 strikeouts. More wins and a better ERA but fewer strikeouts and a higher WHIP, but that would definitely be good for a top 30 stater for sure. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to assume more wins (he did win 14 games in 189 innings in 2017) and maybe a few more strikeouts given 200 innings pitched (I have him projected for 190) to put him right around the top 20. He’s got a 50+% ground ball rate, a Swstr rate of 11% last year, the humidor should help with some of his HR issues as well as the high BABIP effectively lowering his projected ERA and WHIP.

Lewis Brinson Outperforms Byron Buxton in Standard 5×5
Brinson should be given every opportunity to show his skills this year in Miami because let’s face it, there’s really no else that should take his spot. He’s mashing this spring to the tune of .339/.377/.607 triple slash line and RosterResource has him leading off! Brinson doesn’t have the speed Buxton does (not many do) but I feel that Brinson will be the better hitter long-term and takes a step in that direction in 2018. I think given a full season, Brinson is more than capable of hitting 20 homers and stealing 15-18 bases while hitting .260-.275. That’s good enough to keep him in the leadoff spot (if he can walk a little) and with Castro, Realmuto, and Bour hitting behind him, I can see 85+ runs. Buxton, on the other hand, may hit 8th or 9th so that’s a killer for run production. I can see Buxton struggle to hit for average again and while I like his ability to hit 15-20 homers with 30 steals, I think Brinson has a chance to outperform him.

Joey Gallo leads the majors in home runs with 50 AND Hits .245 with 10 steals
At first, I thought about just doing 50 homers and 10 steals, but he’s such a beast, if he’s given 650 plate appearances, 50 homers is basically a lock. However, given his 37% K rate, a .245 average is a long shot. He did cut his K rate to under 35% in the second half last year and his BABIP, which was .250, had a xBABIP of about .275. Using a 34% K rate and a BABIP of .275, I still fall short of a .245 batting average, so this prediction needs a bit of luck to something like a BABIP of .290, now that’s possible! For the HRs, he needs to keep his 52% FB rate with his 30% HR/FB rate and 615 plate appearances. Steals can be fluky but he did steal seven bases in only 532 plate appearances, so three more in 85 more PA is certainly possible.

Chad Kuhl outperforms Gerrit Cole in all fantasy categories other than wins
This is more about Kuhl taking a big step forward than significant regression for Cole. The categories I’m referencing in my prediction are ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. Cole’s numbers last year were 4.26/1.25 with 196 strikeouts; Kuhl last year: 4.35/1.47 with 142 strikeouts in 157 innings. Cole has a career K rate of 8.44 and will no longer get to face the pitcher two or three times a game. I’m expecting a slight K rate drop to 8.2. His innings should go down with all the able body long relievers/spot starters (Peacock, McHugh), the 10-day DL, and his ratios should be around 4.00 and 1.25. I do believe Kuhl is a much better pitcher than his numbers indicated last year and a significant walk rate decrease is in order to keep his WHIP in check. I could see a 4.00 ERA and 1.25 WHIP from Kuhl but how about the strikeouts? Kuhl throws 96 mph with a nasty slider that he only threw 20% of the time last year. If he throws that more and can locate his fastball, he could be around a 9.0 K/9. With that rate, he would only have to throw about 175 innings to Cole’s 190 IP.

The Phillies make the playoffs
Hoskins, Kingery, Santana, Arrieta! Other than 50 games from Hoskins, those are all new ML players for the Phillies this year. All of them should be worth between 2.0 WAR to 4.3 WAR. I also think Nola takes a step forward as well and you lose the likes of Tommy Joseph who was worth -1.1 WAR (yuck) in 2017 and Michael Saunders who was worth -0.7 WAR. I also believe Maikel Franco (-0.5 WAR) improves this year and Odubel Herrera takes a step forward. Now, this is all very unscientific and you can’t just say all of these players/improvements are worth 20+ wins this year (which would put them at 86 wins). Right now they are projected for 75 wins, good for 11th best in the NL. To reach a top-five spot in the NL makes this prediction bold.

Tim Beckham outperforms Justin Upton in Standard 5×5
Yeah, even this one is hard for me to believe. Upton is coming off a career year hitting 35 home runs, stealing 14 bases and driving in 109 runs and now he gets to hit behind Mike Trout. It’s not that I think Beckham will put up those numbers but I think Upton is a bit of a letdown in 2018 after signing a big contract with the Angels. I think Upton’s batting average goes back to the .255 range and his power falls back to around 27-30. At age 30, his speed will continue to dwindle and an 8-10 steal season is likely. Now, for Beckham, he needs to build on his second half of 2017 and now with a full season in Baltimore and an increase in fly ball percentage indicated by his Spring Training GO/AO ratio tells me he can hit 30 home runs. That’s his ground out/air out ratio which is under 1.0 during Spring Training. He’s also not a zero in terms of speed so 8-10 steals is possible. If he hits .260, he’s right on par with Justin Upton. This is a longshot, but that’s what makes it bold.