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.