Before the season started, I made some very bold predictions. I took a look at these again at the All-Star Break and was not doing well. I’m hoping to begin the foray into writing more for fantasy, and I’m not sure these will inspire hope for anyone. Let’s get into them.
1.) Justin Smoak builds on his gains, becomes a Top-5 first baseman
This prediction looked pretty good for the first two weeks of the season. Many of these did. But, like many of these predictions, I looked like a fool in the end. This was predicated on Smoak’s major improvements last year, combined with some late season injury troubles, and his former status as a top prospect. I thought there was room for him to get to a 145 wRC+, and figured the Blue Jays would be relatively competitive, letting him rack up some high counting stats. The other part of this was betting that first base would be much worse in recent years, which it was. Last year’s #10 first baseman (Freddie Freeman), was approximately as valuable as the #3 first baseman this year (Anthony Rizzo).
With a very, very low bar to clear, Smoak completely missed on delivering mixed league value anywhere. He ended up as the #25 first baseman, sandwiched in between Carlos Santana (#24) and Niko Goodrum (#26). If we replicated Smoak’s 2017, and applied it to 2018, he’d be the #9 first baseman. Instead, in 147 games he put up a wRC+ of 121, slashing .242/.350/.457 with 25 home runs. Most importantly, for the second straight year, he has stolen zero bases. I would be shocked to see a Top-12 finish at any point moving forward.
0 for 1
2.) Xander Bogaerts hits 25 home runs while hitting at least .300
The good news is the Tim Hyers philosophy worked! The bad news is this prediction is still wrong. Xander ended at .288 with 23 home runs, and xStats agreed almost entirely. Take a look at this very rudimentary table.
It hurts to be right and wrong about this prediction. Sure, Bogaerts was injured much of 2017, but he still had a decent chunk of his career before that and he exploded past his career numbers, including roughly half of his career barrels coming in 2018. He should be one of the first shortstops off the board in 2019, and many of these gains should keep. But alas.
0 for 2
3.) Adalberto Mondesi is a Top-12 second baseman
When I made this prediction originally, I didn’t even realize Mondesi wasn’t going to start. Alcides Escobar was going to receive the bulk of the playing time still. I was embarrassed at the time, and midseason he slotted in as the #55 second baseman and I was going to wear this prediction as a badge of shame forever.
Mondesi ended the season as the #10 second baseman. It is beyond words how this happened and there will never be a prediction this dumb in terms of:
1.) Making it.
2.) Having it come true.
This was the perfect storm of a few things, notably second base being a wasteland this year and stolen bases becoming even rarer. Here’s what I wrote back in March (the beginning of my write-up for Mondesi started with “this is going to be so wrong”):
“But, last year at AAA, Mondesi slashed .305/.340/.539 with some newfound power (13 home runs) and 21 stolen bases in 85 games. With the Royals being *cough* not great this year, Mondesi should get a pretty big chunk of playing time, and has lots of time to develop at 22 years old. Even if he only puts up a 80 wRC+, if he can chip in 30+ stolen bases it may be enough to get him into the Top-12.”
The power has been surprising to people. If only somebody had said something! There’s a great Jeff Sullivan article about Mondesi which does a great job of parsing the risk in the profile, as well as the optimism. His ADP is going to be sky-high next year, and the volatility is likely similar to Buxton this year. You’ll either get Trea Turner-lite or this year’s Byron Buxton with a whole lot of possibilities in between. He’s a fascinating case and one of the most intriguing players in baseball heading into next season.
1 for 3
4.) Matt Olson and Matt Chapman combine for at least 75 home runs
Can Major League Baseball please decide what type of baseballs they want to use? Chapman hit 24, Olson hit 29. For those keeping score at home, they combined for 53 home runs. This prediction was made with the idea that Olson’s somewhat insane HR/FB ratio from 2017 would hold. 40 home runs felt very within reach, but the real stretch here was Chapman. He’d posted elite exit velocities so far in the majors, however it hadn’t quite shown until his monster second half. The good news is Chapman now looks to be among the fifteen or so best players in baseball. The bad news is this prediction is still wrong.
1 for 4
5.) Byron Buxton beats the single season DRS record
He had 2 DRS and wRC+ of -3.
1 for 5
6.) Ketel Marte puts up at least 40 (home runs + stolen bases)
Now, here’s a fun one. To preface this, yes, I missed again. He hit 14 home runs and stole 6 bases. I wrote about Marte as a potential breakout candidate, and while yes, this trade will always be lopsided, Marte had a much better season than you probably thought. He put up 2.5 fWAR with a 104 wRC+, and is quickly becoming a very well-rounded player.
In the first half, Marte slashed .238/.303/.420 and nobody really batted an eye. There were still really, really good indicators that there was more left in his profile, namely in his contact rates and plate discipline. This would shine through in the second half in a big way, as Marte slashed .296/.377/.464. He’s swinging at less balls, making more contact, and in the second half hit ground balls way less often than he was in the first half. While he may never be the HR/SB threat in fantasy we want, he should be a good source of average and possibly R/RBI’s moving forward.
1 for 6
7.) Somebody that wasn’t Top-15 in NL WAR last year will win MVP this year
Barring something unforeseen, Christian Yelich should be NL MVP. He was #14 last year. So close. Other contenders for MVP were Arenado, Baez, and Story. Did Yelich surprise us as the likely 2018 NL MVP? Yes. Is this prediction correct? No.
1 for 7
8.) No Mets starter reaches 150 innings
Of all the predictions I thought would be right, it was this one. There were four Mets pitchers who crossed the 150 inning threshold.
1 for 8
9.) Adam Eaton puts up a Top-40 fantasy season
So, he slashed .301/.394/.411. But he wasn’t on the field very much, only playing in 95 games and racking up a mere 370 PA’s. Even the stolen base total wasn’t very impressive, settling in at nine. He’s worth a flyer still next year in the later rounds, but a lack of stolen bases and power really limit his potential as a dynamic fantasy player.
1 for 9
10.) Carlos Gonzalez rebounds with a .290 average and 30 home runs
.276 with 16 home runs. There was a bit of a dead-cat bounce in there for a second, but next year I will be definitively crossing CarGo off of any list of potential sleepers or bounce-back candidates. That feels great. Getting this prediction wrong does not.
1 for 10
11.) Joc Pederson hits .280 with 35 home runs en route to an 8 WAR season, winning the NL MVP
While this prediction was obviously tongue-in-cheek, it wasn’t all in jest. Joc had a rough year last year, which I also wrote about. The “TLDR” of that was that it seemed like Joc was trying to make adjustments, not necessarily that he was struggling with no direction. In fact, Joc had a great postseason last year and continued to play very well this season, continuing to make adjustments. He’s swinging more but striking out less, and is becoming more patient in certain areas but walking less. He’s picking his pitches and taking advantage of his terrific raw power. While he may never be a superstar, he could accidentally run into a 4-5 WAR season if his plate discipline and power can align at the same time (and all left-handed hitters evaporate into thin air).
FINAL: 1 for 10