Patrick Sonstroem’s 5 Bold Predictions for 2020

With a 60 game season, the possibilities for Bold Predictions are seemingly endless.  Here’s 5.

1. Mike Zunino lowers his career batting average below the Mendoza line (.200) while also surpassing 14.5 fWAR

Zunino has been flirting with lowering his career batting average below .200 for some time.  In the last 20 years, only Jeff Mathis managed such a feat while amassing more than 2000 PA’s.  Zunino is threatening to become the 2nd, but that alone does not a bold prediction make.  Over his career Zunino has also amassed 13.9 fWAR; this is because he’s also an excellent defender, and even though there’s plenty of swing and miss in that bat, there’s also a good amount of pop.  Steamer has Zunino putting up .6 WAR in this shortened season, but also hitting above .200.  To manage the feat of doing both, Zunino is going to have to hit for some decent power, hold up defensively, and strike out/pop up a whole lot of balls.  I, for one, know he has it in him to pull off both this year.  

2. Corbin Burnes  finishes as a top 45 SP in Points Formats (total points)

Really? That Corbin Burnes? In Corbin Burnes’s 49 innings last year, Burnes was lit for 17 home runs—good for a 3.12 HR/9 against, 8.82 ERA, and a 6.09 FIP.  It was bad, but there were some signs that a lot of this was bad luck.  Hitters had a .414 babip against him, and while his swing-and-miss stuff seemingly translated well to the Majors with a 29.8% K rate, those home runs translated to an insane 38.6% HR/FB.  There is a lot of noise in that small a sample, and it does not look like he had nearly enough time to prove his worth because of it.  In a full season, I would not put my money on him managing to pull off a top 45 performance this year, but I think in a 60-game stretch his chances to show his upside with minimal downside can come out and push him to a top 45 finish.  Burnes was a popular sleeper last year and I think people were just a year too early on their predictions. 

3. David Bednar finishes the season being rostered in over 30% of Ottoneu leagues

Go ahead, click the link above—admit you’ve never heard of him.  Right now he’s rostered in a measly 1.3% of leagues (and I have rostered him twice, so I’m definitely helping out). Playing for the San Diego Padres, Bednar just eked onto the 30 man roster to start the season.  The core of this prediction lies within the ZiPS projection of what Bednar would be potentially capable of doing if given a 26-inning opportunity.  Given the right chance, ZiPS believes Bednar could put up 10.8 k/9 while also having decent home run suppression.  To get fantasy players’ attention going his way, everything would have to go right in terms of play time and performance for this prediction to come true.  A week ago I would have said this was too bold, but he’s been given a chance on the 30-man roster and all he needs is a few opportunities to show his worth to become a mainstay in a pretty weak bullpen.

4. Bo Bichette proves his debut was SSS and finishes below top 20 in all SS formats

Justin Vibber had his own bold prediction about how valuable Bo Bichete could be this year, and I’ll take the extreme under.  It’s probable he falls between these two extremes.  Bichette’s 2019 was a small sample, BABIP-inflated masterpiece of a performance.  His blistering .260 ISO over his short 46 game stretch was well above any mark posted in the minors and pitchers have more data to go off on how to pitch him coming into this season.  I think this is the year the pitchers have the edge and what adjustments he makes go forward will determine whether he becomes a mainstay at a surprisingly deep position in fantasy.

5. Yadiel Hernandez gets a chance in the big leagues and becomes fantasy relevant

The 32 year old Cuban has been in the Nationals farm system since 2017.  Last year he absolutely destroyed the ball with .280 ISO, .413 wOBA and 139 WRC+ in AAA while also walking 12.4% of the time.  No projection system has him anywhere near this type of production if he were to get promoted, but I believe they are missing the mark due lack of sufficient data points across prior years and age.  In a normal year, the Nationals depth in OF would likely still make him the odd man out, but with so many additional factors potentially causing players to miss time, this prediction relies on some spots opening up in the Nats outfield to give him a chance in MLB (like Juan Soto getting sick with COVID-19).  If he comes up with a pulse, he’s going to be on a lot of radars going forward. As of right now, he’s only rostered in 0.65% of Ottoneu leagues.

6. (Bonus: too bold) Robbie Ray finds another gear and moves into the elite echelon of fantasy pitchers and scores more than 6 pts/IP

Ray has had an excellent spring training, and the stuff has always been there, but his penchant for allowing hard hit balls go out of the park and volatile BB% has always suppressed his fantasy value.  In this shortened season, Robbie Ray finds his way and keeps all the stuff while reducing hard contact and walks.  Last year only 4 pitchers managed to throw over 100 innings and score over 6 pts/IP.  I expect the number to be far greater given the smaller sample size, but in order for this prediction to come true Ray has to take that next step, and if he does, he’ll be able to continue that level of performance into 2021. 

Feature image courtesy of Hayden Schiff from Cincinnati, USA / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

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