Justin Vibber’s 10 Bold Predictions

Hi, I’m Justin Vibber. You may remember me from such ottoneu projects as “Ottoneu Surplus Calculator”, “Ottoneu Power Rankings”, and “The Ottobot Podcast”.  When Chad Young kicked around the idea of starting a fantasy blog with an Ottoneu slant but the freedom to expand into all things fantasy, well that sounded like something I wanted to be a part of. I enjoyed my time writing for RotoGraphs (FanGraphs Fantasy), but struggled to find the time and energy to keep up with a once/twice a week schedule consistently. I strong armed Chad into giving me carte blanche to post as frequently or infrequently as I’d like, giving up all equity in this lucrative blog business as a concession.

With that introduction, and accompanying silliness, out of the way, let’s move onto some bold predictions!

1. J.T Realmuto is the #1 Catcher in all formats this year

To be honest, maybe this isn’t that bold of a call, as Realmuto has a few things going for him. First, he’s projected for a top five wOBA by nearly every projection system out there. Second, he might be the only catcher likely to steal more than a single base in this shortened season (pertinent for you 5×5 cultists out there). Third, and perhaps most significantly, no catcher is projected by FanGraphs Depth Charts to play more games or accrue more plate appearances than Realmuto. Catcher seems like a prime position to punt this season, but Realmuto is my pick to click in a bounce back from a somewhat disappointing 2019.

2. Nate Lowe finshes as a top six 1B in points formats by PPG (minimum 20 games)

I know, I know, the Rays have an incredible amount of interesting bats. I also know that Ji-Man Choi is slated to be the Opening Day first baseman, and that Lowe might not even make the 30 man roster. I don’t care. Lowe is currently projected by ZiPS/Steamer for a better wOBA than either Choi or Jose Martinez, and he has the defensive flexibility to potentially be an option at third base. Beyond that, I have my eyes on Lowe as a breakout candidate, as his minor league career includes a 149 wRC+ and 13.6% walk rate.

3. Mike Moustakas finishes as the top 2B in points formats

This is mostly an endorsement of Moustakas, but also partially an arbitrage play against the top six 2B in first year FGPts auctions this year (Altuve/Albies/Hiura/Muncy/McNeil/Merrifield/LeMahieu all had higher average prices than Mous). Moustakas was in a good home park last season in Milwaukee, but moves to one that is even better for hitting in Cincinnati. His upside is certainly not as high as the young studs at the position, but I’m placing my bet on him having a dependable season hitting everyday in the middle of a very interesting Reds lineup.

4. Bo Bichette proves his debut was no fluke and finishes as a top three SS in all formats

What makes this prediction especially bold is just how deep the SS position is in 2020, with Lindor/Bregman/Story/Turner/Tatis/Machado/Torres/Bogaerts all commanding $30+ salaries in first year FGPts leagues. Despite those obstacles, I think Bichette and his 60 hit tool and 60 raw power will hit at least as well as he did in a short stint last year (.311/.358/.571 triple slash). Couple that with a projected 10 SB according to FanGraphs Depth Charts and you have a league winner at a prime position in every ottoneu format.

5. Miguel Sano hits 20 HR on his way to being a top two 3B in points formats

I’ve made bold predictions for Sano before, but this time they will come true. Sano absolutely hammers the ball when he makes contact, as evidenced by his 100th percentile Exit Velocity, Hard Hit %, and Barrel % in 2019 according to Statcast. Sano’s largest impediment at the plate has been his ability to make contact, with a 36.3% career K%, but if he can bring that down to anything close to his minor league career 26.2% K%, he would look a lot like his Twins teammate Nelson Cruz. Sano hit 16 HR in 47 games from August through the end of 2019, so even if he doesn’t play 50 games, 20 HR isn’t inconceivable.

6. Yordan Alvarez channels peak David Ortiz and is a top two OF in points formats by PPG (minimum 30 games)

I should probably stop including players who likely won’t be in the lineup on Opening Day in my Bold Predictions, but Yordan is worth including here. From the day he debuted in June 2019 through the end of the season, Alvarez had the fourth highest wOBA in baseball. As a rookie. Alvarez combines patience, slightly worse than league average contact, and massive power (94th percentile or higher in Exit Velocity, Hard Hit %, and Barrel %), and should be the Astros primary DH this season. The bonus for ottoneu is that he is guaranteed to retain OF eligibility into the 2021 season, which makes him one of the best surplus assets around.

7. Alex Verdugo is a top 10 OF in all formats

The key piece the Red Sox received in return for Mookie Betts this past offseason, Verdugo has a lot to prove in Boston. The good news is Verdugo has hit well in limited time with the Dodgers (107 wRC+ in 488 PA), and he boasts a 60 grade hit tool and 55 grade raw power. He likely won’t actualize all of that raw power in the short term, but as a lefthanded hitter he can take advantage of Pesky’s Pole and turn a few long flyballs into “cheap” home runs. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Verdugo puts up something like a .325/.375/.525 line over this short season, a very similar slash to what DJ Lemahieu just produced in his change of scenery year for the Yankees in 2019.

8. Tyler Glasnow has an ERA under 1.00 and is the top SP by Pts/IP (minimum 40 IP)

We just saw Glasnow put up a 1.78 in 60.2 IP for the Rays last season before getting hurt, and the Rays excel at maximizing the performance of their pitchers in shorter stints. Glasnow may not pitch more than 4 or 5 innings in most starts, but those shorter outings will just make his outstanding stuff play up. I think the control gains he showed in 2019 are mostly for real, and he has the potential to pull off a hot stretch of starts in this wacky short season.

9. Jose Urquidy is a top 30 SP in FGPts by Pts/IP (minimum 40 IP)

Urquidy is a name we discussed on the SP positional preview episode of The Ottobot Podcast with Eno Sarris, and he’s a unique pitcher who offers above average command and very good stuff. He was pretty good in 41 IP for the Astros last year (3.95 ERA, 3.68 FIP), but his AA and AAA performance portends even greater things (11.71 K/9, 1.83 BB/9, 3.66 xFIP). He gives up a lot of flyballs, so he’ll stuggle with HR allowed, but if he gets some good luck with his HR/FB in a 50 IP stretch, that won’t matter. He’s currently on the IL, but once he’s activated he should slot right into the Astros rotation.

10. James Karinchak is a top 5 RP in all formats

As mentioned on our RP episode of the podcast, Karinchak is projected to be top 10 in Pts/IP for RP if you remove Saves and Holds. I think those projections are underselling Karinchak, and I think he could make a Nick Anderson type impact for Cleveland this season. Obviously this prediction presumes he becomes the closer at some point early in the season, which is far from a given, but as Chad has noted, Brad Hand has been struggling with velocity and might be better suited to be a multi-IP 7th/8th inning relief ace as a LHP than closer. It’s unlikely to happen, as Hand himself is top 20 in Pts/IP projection regardless of Saves and Holds, but I’m being BOLD. It doesn’t hurt that I literally discovered Karinchak early last season deep in my spreadsheets, so I feel like he and I have a special connection.

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