With the MLB season almost upon us, it is always fun to offer bold fantasy predictions for the upcoming season. Here is one bold fantasy prediction for each team in the A.L. East.
Conjuring up bold fantasy predictions is one the more intriguing offseason exercises as it blends conjecture, player situations, and stats together. While most bold predictions fail to come true, there is always that hope that one does strike gold and would be the one that fantasy owners believed in. Here is one fantasy prediction for each of the teams in the A.L. East.
New York Yankees: Each of the “Baby Bombers” hit 30 home runs.
This prediction would have been a little bolder prior to the monster spring training by Greg Bird, and the solid springs from Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge. But, it shows the sheer upside that these three possess.
Bird has skyrocketed up fantasy board after his spring and the fact that he looks healthy after the shoulder surgery. Fantasy owners sometimes overlook the solid end of the season that he had in 2015, where he went on a Sanchez-lite run. He is easily the best first baseman on the team, has the perfect stroke for Yankee Stadium and has hit at every level he has played at so 30 HR are in reach.
Sanchez is the safest bet of the trio to reach this mark after his absurd 2016 and the fact that his peripheral stats point to the fact that a severe regression is not likely. The AVG may not be there, but the power will.
Judge is the wildcard of the group. The only player to rival Giancarlo Stanton in terms of exit velocity, he has the raw power to hit it out of Yosemite if he had to. He has altered his swing some in the offseason, and so far this spring, he looks good at the plate. With a full season of at-bats and the new approach, 30 HR are more than realistic.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista mashes 40+ HR.
Playing on the turf over the last nine seasons has taken its toll on Bautista and the injuries have become a major part of his value. After a down year in his contract season, and the fact that there was little to interest in him during free agency, one would have to think that revenge is on his mind.
It is hard to quantify what may further spark a player’s performance, but it is not as though his batted ball data does not support a rebound either. Last season, he posted a 19% LD, 42% FB, 38% Med, and a career best, 41% Hard contact rate. He is still squaring the ball up with the best of them, the walk rate is still exceptional and now he has something else to prove. Book 40+ HR from Joey Bats this season.
Boston Red Sox: Craig Kimbrel loses the closer job by the end of the season.
This may seem like sacrilege and his paycheck will more than likely play a part in it as well, but Kimbrel’s numbers have been slowly waning the last few seasons. The K have dipped, the BB are up, and he had a career worst, 3.40 ERA last season.
While he will still be serviceable on most nights and continues to show the glimpses of his wipeout stuff, the Red Sox have huge expectations this season and can not afford to give away games in the ninth. In-house options look bleak in terms of replacing Kimbrel but do not sleep on the return of Carson Smith this season.
Smith was nearly unhittable in 2015 with the Mariners and would have put a lot of pressure on Kimbrel last season during his struggles if not for going under the knife. Smith will be back sometime in June, making him a huge wildcard in the bullpen. This is not to say that Kimbrel will all of a sudden suck next season, it is just a fact that he is slowing down and the Red Sox will have a great option waiting in the wings.
Baltimore Orioles: Dylan Bundy finally makes 25 starts and provides SP4 fantasy value
Dylan Bundy is by no means the epitome of health, as the youngster has been plagued by arm issues. He made 14 starts last season and was up and down but the flashes of upside were evident. He notched 104 K in 109 innings last season, which is a respectable K rate, had a healthy 61% First Strike clip and was able to generate an 11% Swinging strike rate.
The stuff can be dominant and as he gets his footing under him in the majors, there is a ton to be excited about. The Orioles will limit his innings down the stretch, but this is the season he makes 25 starts and should post somewhere around a 3.80 ERA and 10 S0/9.
Tampa Bay Rays: Brad Miller hits 15 HR.
Miller posted the quietest 30 HR campaign in MLB last season. The 30 HR were a career best and the slap-hitting lefty morphed into a slugger seemingly overnight. It is easy to pick Miller out as a regression candidate, but even for all the positives in his batted ball profile, it is hard to believe in him.
He did add a pronounced leg kick and pulled the ball a ton more in 2016, which are solid tangible adjustments. But, can owners trust a guy that strikes out 25% of the time, needed a career-high 601 plate appearances to reach his totals, posted a rough 23% Soft contact rate and only mustered a .682 OPS versus LHP last season?
It is easy to be enamored with a 30 HR performer at the SS position, no doubt. But, there will be fantasy owners that chase Miller expecting him to remain a power entity. His career high in the minors was 15 HR, and prior to 2016, his major league high was 11. Take the above-listed concerns and add the fact that 11 out of his 30 homers were considered to have “just enough distance”, and it is easy to see why the concern is real.
Some of these predictions may be bold, some may be somewhat obvious. But, fantasy owners should keep these in the back of your mind during the last weeks of drafting. Good luck.