Before the season started, I decided to make some awfully bold predictions. It’s now the All-Star Break, a time for review, and maybe enough time to ask for forgiveness.
1.) Justin Smoak builds on his gains, becomes a Top-5 first baseman
Justin Smoak had always been a remarkably frustrating player, from being a top prospect, to a Mariner, to an inconsistent part-timer in Toronto. Last year, he finally committed to being good and put together a .270/.355/.529 line, chipping in 38 home runs along the way, with a final month essentially lost due to injury.
After starting off white hot in the beginning of April, Smoak is slashing .245/.364/.480, good for a 130 wRC+ (last year was 132). He has 14 home runs on the season so far, with xStats lining up almost identical He’s at a good level and has yet to hit a prolonged hot stretch, but at this point he would have to be red hot for most of the second half. Part of this prediction was believing first base to be much weaker in fantasy than people thought; which it has been. But, at this point he’s #19 on the player rater and would essentially have to outproduce Max Muncy (current #5) by 250% the rest of the season. This is probably a loss.
0 for 1
2.) Xander Bogaerts hits 25 home runs while hitting at least .300
This was one of my bigger breakout picks of the year. With a new hitting coach and a nice post-hype sheen to him, I expected big things from Bogaerts. Sure enough, this year, he’s been great, slashing .284/.353/.535 with 16 home runs and putting up an excellent 3.2 fWAR. He’ll have to have a few more balls in play drop to hit .300, but I’m hopeful. He’s had a .331 BABIP for his career, and currently sits at .306, but he’s also hitting more balls in the air than he has in his career.
For what it’s worth, xStats has Bogaerts at 18.6 home runs, and a .293/.362/.554 line. This is enough for me to count this as a win halfway into the season, and he has a case for being one of the most underrated players in baseball on a team dominated by star power.
1 for 2
3.) Adalberto Mondesi is a Top-12 second baseman
Well, I didn’t put enough research into this when I made it and decided to keep it in here as a lesson for not being thorough enough. He has not been good in AAA. He has not been good in the majors. He currently ranks as the #55 second baseman in fantasy. And unless he channels the post-hype powers of 2018 Jurickson Profar, he’s probably close to done as a major leaguer.
1 for 3
4.) Matt Olson and Matt Chapman combine for at least 75 home runs
This has been kind of funny so far. Matt Chapman started off red hot in April, adding six home runs, but has only gone yard four more times since the beginning of May. Yes, he was injured for some time, but he’s going to have to hit about 20 home runs in the second half for this to become true. He’s scorching the ball at a nearly obscene 92.4 MPH average exit velocity (minimum 150 batted ball events), giving me hope that the power will eventually start to show. On a side note, he’s developed into one of the better players in baseball with a 117 wRC+ and an excellent 3.5 fWAR so far.
The reason why this is funny is because Olson started off in a fairly mediocre fashion, but has since turned it on lately. The 113 wRC+ has been disappointing, but he’s been worth 1.6 fWAR and there are some very positive indicators in his profile. He’s at 19 home runs currently, giving the both of them combined 29. This is not a 75 home run pace.
Some of the positive indicators for Olson include dropping his strikeout rate from 27.8% last year, to 25.2% this year, and an incredible 51.2% hard hit rate which is third the majors. He’s also fifth in baseball in average exit velocity at a ridiculous 93.9 MPH (minimum 150 batted ball events). Curiously, he’s going up the middle and the other way significantly more and pulling the ball less, which is where he made this living. I have no issue believing he can get to 40+ home runs; the problem is Chapman needs to harness that exit velocity.
1 for 4
5.) Byron Buxton beats the single season DRS record
While I didn’t believe in Buxton offensively after last year, I certainly did believe in him defensively. This was possibly the prediction I was most excited for as he’s probably the best centerfielder I’ve ever seen. He’s been injured nearly the entire year, compiling a .156/.183/.200 slash line when healthy. He’ll always keep finding jobs at the major league level, but we probably have to accept that he’s much closer to Cameron Maybin than the stardom we’ve long expected from him. Maybe in another life.
1 for 5
6.) Ketel Marte puts up at least 40 (home runs + stolen bases)
For a couple weeks it looked like he might have had something going, but he’s gone right back to being mediocre. He’s slashing .238/.303/.420, good for a 92 wRC+, but has nine home runs. This prediction largely relied on Marte being able to steal around 15-20 bases. He has two. For those keeping score at home, we’re at eleven combined. He’s still got elite contact rates, but he needs to become more selective in order to make better contact. Off chance we see him breakout in the second half, but I might be a year early on this (if ever).
1 for 6
7.) Somebody that wasn’t Top-15 in NL WAR last year will win MVP this year
The Top-Five hitters in fWAR in the NL currently stands as Nolan Arenado (4.1), Freddie Freeman (3.9), Lorenzo Cain (3.5), Ozzie Albies (3.4), and Javier Baez (3.4). The way I see it, Arenado will get knocked for playing at Coors, and Cain and Albies have strange profiles for MVP. This leaves us with Freeman and Baez, both who have legitimate cases for MVP. Both ranked outside the Top-15 in NL WAR last year, with Freeman on pace for the fabled 8 WAR season from a first baseman before being hit on the wrist. My bet is the MVP voters would favor a young star on a resurgent Braves team with an excellent hit tool (though Baez is no slouch). I’m guessing I’d have this right if the season ended today.
2 for 7
8.) No Mets starter reaches 150 innings
Jacob deGrom is already at 123.1. Zack Wheeler has 107.1. Steven Matz is at 96. Even Matt Harvey is at 91.1. Damn it.
2 for 8
9.) Adam Eaton puts up a Top-40 fantasy season
Again, health is main qualifier here for Eaton as he’s once again been excellent when healthy. He’ll get more playing time in the second half but man, he is one frustrating player to own.
2 for 9
10.) Carlos Gonzalez rebounds with a .290 average and 30 home runs
Now, I thought I was going to be much further off than I was. He’s currently hitting .280 with eleven home runs. A hot month or two could seal this for him; and we’ve seen it before. That being said, he still has been underwhelming overall, but the Rockies ineptitude may actually make this prediction come true via brute force.
2 for 10
11.) Joc Pederson hits .280 with 35 home runs en route to an 8 WAR season, winning the NL MVP
Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for, folks. Pederson has actually gotten a bunch of playing time with injuries and has made the most of his opportunity, slashing .247/.333/.515, good for a 128 wRC+ and chipping in fifteen home runs. He’s currently at 1.6 fWAR and is striking out an excellent 15.1% of the time. Though he will not approach this bold prediction, he’s become a really nice piece for the Dodgers especially against right-handers where he’s slashing .270/.366/.577. Wow. A 153 wRC+. He’s becoming a monster side of a platoon, but is absolutely anemic against left-handers still. I imagine he’ll continue to get at-bats en route to a Trout-like second half to smash this prediction.