This was always one of my favorite series when I wrote at FanGraphs. A chance to go crazy, lean into the guys I stan for, and just be…well…bold. So, here you go – 10 bold predictions for the 2020 baseball season:
- Travis Shaw leads the Blue Jays in HR. FanGraphs’ Depth Charts projections have Shaw at 8 HR in the shortened season, tied with Bo Bichette for fifth on the team, behind Randall Grichuk (11), Vlad Guerrero, Jr., Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., and Teoscar Hernandez (9 each). Shaw was a stud in 2017-2018, posting a .356 wOBA with 31 and 32 HR, before the bottom fell out in 2019. At 29, still young enough to be in his prime, Shaw posted a .248 wOBA and 7 HR in roughly half a season. ZiPS and Steamer projections, which are combined to create the Depth Charts projections, put Shaw’s 2020 wOBA and .329 and .322 respectively, but I think they are underestimating the likelihood that he returns to form. While they can see his great AAA numbers (.426 wOBA and 12 HR in 42 games), they don’t know the backstory. Shaw made a swing adjustment prior to 2019 that he said didn’t take and by the time he tried to correct it, it was too late, his mechanics were gone and the season was lost. With an extended off-season to fix his swing, I expect Shaw to return to form.
- The top hitter, starter and reliever in ottoneu FanGraphs Points leagues this year will be guys projected outside the top 10 when the season starts. Short season means a LOT of noise and I expect there to be random players who do unexpected things. Some low-power hitter who relies on BABIP is going to get a little lucky and hit a couple extra HR, post a .425 BABIP and put up video game numbers as a result. Some pitcher is going to manage to avoid HR all year and inflate his P/IP as a result. To get specific, the top ten projected hitters by P/G (min 175 PA) per Depth Charts projections are: Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, Juan Soto, Cody Bellingers, Giancarlo Stanton, Alex Bregman, Nolan Arenado, JD Martinez, Yordan, Freddie Freeman. The top ten SP by projected P/IP (min 45 IP) are Gerritt Cole, Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, Justin Verlander, Jack Flaherty, Stephen Strasburg, Walker Buehler, and Tyler Glasnow. The top ten RP by projected P/IP (min 20 IP) are Aroldis Chapman, Kirby Yates, Josh Hader, Edwin Diaz, Liam Hendriks, Nick Anderson, Taylor Rogers, Craig Kimbrel, Brad Hand, and Kenley Jansen. None of those 30 will end the year at the top in P/G or P/IP.
- Ok, fine you want me to get really specific, here are the guys who will end up on top, starting with Ronald Acuña, who will be the top hitter in P/G. He has the wheels and stroke to put up a high BABIP and the power to hit enough extra HR to leap those ahead of him.
- The top SP in P/IP will be Dinelson Lamet. The K-rate is there and if he gets even a little lucky on HR/FB rate (19.7% last year and projecting to allow 8 HR this year), he jumps. HR/FB rate takes a long time to stabilize so it wouldn’t be crazy if he cut his in half or more. If he allows 4 HR instead of 8, he’s basically deGrom. Cut it to 2 or 3 and he is your top guy. Of course, if that HR/FB rate doubles instead of cuts in half…volatility carries risk but in a short season, place your bets!
- The top RP by P/IP will be Austin Adams. He has the skills and falls short of the top in the projections because he only projects to 4 saves and 3 holds. With 10 saves (even the M’s will win 10 this year), he is solidly in the top ten RP. A little BABIP or HR luck on top of that, and you have your top RP.
- Didi Gregorius is a top 10 SS in P/G. His $8.27 average value in FanGraphs Points leagues is 20th among SS and he projects to 15th best in P/G, so he is already a great guy to pick up – projects as a top tier option for your MI spot and paid like he might be a bench guy. But Didi was 7th in P/G as a SS in 2018, and last year was marred by injury. He’s in a good spot and he’ll perform.
- Gavin Lux is a non-factor in FanGraphs points leagues. He isn’t going to make the Dodgers Opening Day roster, but most still project him as the NL Rookie of the Year and with good reason – he is a future star. But he has had a rough camp, now has to get his job back, and he has a lot of competition and a likely short leash. I think he plays, but doesn’t grab the job fully, and as a result ends up sharing time with a slew of other guys and never establishes himself as a regular in fantasy lineups. Which will maybe create an opportunity to acquire him for 2021, if you are looking that direction.
- Fernando Tatis is not a top 10 SS in P/G. When trying to assess what a player’s ottoneu market price is (how much ottoneu players think the player should be paid), I look at first year league average salaries. Looking at average salaries across all leagues you get a mix of newly acquired players and players kept from last year, which skews the data. First year leagues, every player was available for auction and paid a fair “market rate.” Fernando Tatis, Jr., in first year FanGraphs points leagues, is paid an average of $33.56, which ties him with Ketel Marte for the 4th highest paid SS, behind Alex Bregman, Francisco Lindor and Trevor Story. He won’t produce to that level, though. Depth Charts projects him to be the 9th best SS on a P/G basis, and I generally think that is pretty fair – Steamer and ZiPS actually see Tatis improving his K- and BB-rates, but are factoring in BABIP regression (and, I believe, HR/FB regression) that ottoneu players are not. I think he falls even below that. Trea Turner, Marcus Semien, Javier Baez, Corey Seager and Bo Bichette are the next highest ranked SS by P/G, and I think Tatis ends up in that group, not above it.
- Someone hits 30 HR. According to this fancy 60-game-stretch leaderboard on FanGraphs, the following players have hit 30 HR in a 60-game stretch: Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Albert Belle, Giancarlo Stanton. That’s it. But I think we see someone match that feat this year. Depth Charts projections show your MLB leaders in HR as Mike Trout and Pete Alonso at 17. But someone is going to get hot and get to 30. If I had to pick one name, it would be Joey Gallo, but I would keep an eye on Trout, Stanton, Alonso, JD Martinez, and Eugenio Suarez.
- Dominic Smith leads all Mets in P/G from Aug. 1 on. Smith has the pedigree as a prospect who hit everywhere. He had a great season last year. He has all the skill needed to be a star. He just doesn’t have a job. But between Yoenis Cespedes being fragile, the continuing spread of COVID-19, and Smith outperforming his teammates, he’ll stake a claim to a job by around August 1 and be the best ottoneu hitter on the Mets the rest of the way.
I’ll be back in a couple months to see how I did!