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Bold Predictions for Each MLB Team (AL)

Bold Predictions for Each MLB Team (AL)
Will Travis Shaw

Will Travis Shaw break onto the fantasy baseball scene in 2016?

Here’s a look at a bold prediction for each American League team. Here are the picks for each of the National League clubs.

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Baltimore Orioles

Manny Machado will be the 2016 MLB MVP
Machado has been labeled as one of the best up-and-coming players in both fantasy baseball and Major League Baseball for the past several years. Outside of his injury-plagued 2014 season Machado has been named an All-Star, won a Gold Glove and has been in the discussion for Major Leagues Baseball’s MVP award (9th in 2013, 4th in 2015).The only limit for Machado’s statline is that he will likely be batting leadoff for the Baltimore Orioles and that will hinder his RBI potential. After leading the league with 51 doubles in 2013, playing 162 games and leading the league in plate appearances in 2015, Manny is primed for another huge season. With the potential of being the first 30/30 player since Mike Trout in 2012 while hitting for a high average, he could very well be your 2016 MLB MVP.
Israel Katz (Orioles Correspondent)

Boston Red Sox

Travis Shaw finishes 2016 as a top 10 fantasy 3B
The Boston Red Sox have big, fat $19 million dollar problem at third base and Travis Shaw is the half a million dollar answer. Over 248 PAs in 2015 Shaw slashed .270/.327/.487 with 13 home runs good for a 115 OPS+. Unsurprisingly, the then 25-year-old did much of his damage at Fenway batting .319 with a .953 OPS. Somewhat unexpected, though, was how well the left-handed hitting Shaw did against left-handed pitching posting a .329/.353/.622 slash line in 85 PAs. Coincidentally, Boston’s current third baseman Pablo Sandoval has struggled mightily against lefties over his career and against just plain everyone in 2015. If Shaw can produce like he did in 2015 (or a fraction of the way he has in Spring Training) he should have no problem earning ABs over Sandoval, spelling Hanley Ramirez at first and occasionally picking up some appearances in left field where Rusney Castillo is no sure thing. Oh by the way, Shaw’s .813 OPS in 2015 would have been good enough to rank him seventh among third baseman (had he had enough PAs) putting just behind Mike Moustakas and right in front of Todd Frazier.
Chris McCoy (Red Sox Correspondent)

Cleveland Indians

Cody Allen will be fantasy baseball’s No. 1 closer
Many of the more analytical evaluators of the game share the opinion that the Indians will win the AL Central. Undoubtedly, there will be many tight, low-scoring games for Cody Allen to save. His peripherals already put him in the tier of elite relief pitchers. The 1.82 FIP by the 27-year-old was the lowest by a closer in 2015, and he finished the season with 99 strikeouts at a rate of 12.85 SO/9. Indians’ manager Terry Francona has unwavering confidence in his ninth-inning guy and there is no standout candidate looking to take over if Allen has a couple of bad outings. And if that wasn’t enough, he has a killer knuckle-curveball that produced a 65% strikeout rate last year.
Gavin Tramps (Indians Correspondent)

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox will make the playoffs after a seven-year absence
In 2015, the White Sox finished fourth in the AL Central with a 76-86 record. The team looked better on paper, but down seasons by Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera played a part in their demise. The team could not generate runs and finished 28th in run production on the year. In the offseason, the White Sox did not make a great amount of noise. Their biggest move was trading away prospects for third baseman Todd Frazier. Their other moves were below the radar, low-risk moves. Then, how will the White Sox win the AL Central? First, the team will need Melky Cabrera to bounce back from one of his worst seasons. Last year, Cabrera hit .273 with a .709 OPS. That is more than 10 points lower than his career average and nearly 40 points lower than his career OPS. It is unlikely Cabrera gets back to his career averages at this stage, but he should finish much closer than he did in 2015. Cabrera has struggled in Spring Training, but the veteran should turn things around once the season starts. He should see more days at DH now that Adam LaRoche retired, and the less wear and tear on Cabrera could be a blessing at the plate. Second, with the addition of Todd Frazier, the White Sox have a solid top of the order. Adam Eaton will lead off. He has proven to be a good lead off guy and has a .355 career OBP. Cabrera should hit second and has a .336 career OBP. However, with his slump in Spring Training, it may be Brett Lawrie in the number-two hole. Either way, the White Sox should be able to produce runs. Hitting clean-up is Jose Abreu, who is one of the best young talents in the game. Abreu will be followed by newly acquired Todd Frazier, who has the chance to put up better numbers in this lineup than he did with the Reds. The White Sox are counting on Abreu and Frazier to be a major force this season. Last year, the two combined for 61 HR. Add in the fact they have Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon at the top of their rotation and the White Sox will once again look great on paper. This should be the year they finally put it together and make the postseason.
Rob Schwarz Jr. (White Sox Correspondent)

Detroit Tigers

Justin Upton will hit 30+ home runs
This is a very unpopular prediction, as Upton has only hit 30 or more home runs once in his career. In addition, Comerica Park is not very conducive to home runs, as it allowed just 1.89 home runs per game, ranking fourth worst in the American League. The reason I like Upton to reach the 30-home run mark is because he had a phenomenal year inside Petco Park in San Diego, hitting 15 of his 26 home runs there. Petco did see a huge uptick in home runs as compared to years past, but that can probably be viewed as an aberation. Upton’s pull rate last year was near 40 percent. That, combined with the left field wall being smaller at Comerica Park, is a huge reason why I feel Upton will see 30 or more home runs this year. It also doesn’t hurt that Upton will most likely be hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera, which will allow Upton to see better pitches to hit.
Nick Tasso (Tigers Correspondent)

Houston Astros

George Springer will be the Astros’ best fantasy player
While the spotlight in Houston, and in the fantasy world, has been on Carlos Correa (and for good reason), I believe it is George Springer that will have the best fantasy season in 2016 for the Astros. Springer might have a slightly less potent power bat, but it is speed where he makes up the difference. Springer has stolen as many as 45 bags as recently as 2013 (combined Double-A and Triple-A), and that, along with his HR capability (he had 37 that same year), gives him a legitimate 30-30 ceiling. That hasn’t been done since 2012 (Mike Trout & Ryan Braun), and it makes his potential greater than that of Correa’s, at least for 2016.

Eric Townsend (Astros Correspondent)

Kansas City Royals

Eric Hosmer will win the MVP
After a solid season in 2015, Eric Hosmer is set for a breakout year where he puts up over 30 homers and drives in over 100 RBI. The Royals’ balanced lineup leaves him in a position to get pitches to hit and drive in runs. The confidence that he gained from being a part of a World Series victor should spring board him to take things to the next level.
Brad Pitzl (Royals Correspondent)

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Garrett Richards will win the AL Cy Young award
Richards was having a breakout year in 2014, but then on August 20th he blew out his knee covering first base against the Red Sox. Before the injury Richards was being considered for the Cy Young award. He was 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA, and he had only given up 5 home runs in 168.2 innings. Richards wasn’t completely healthy to start the 2015 season, and consequently didn’t put up the same results. He finished 2015 with a 15-12 record and a 3.65 ERA. This season Richards has taken over for Jered Weaver as the Angels ace. He will be making his first Opening Day start, and with a healthy and full offseason Richards could return to his 2014 numbers, and win the Cy Young award. The Angels will need Richards to pitch this well as they don’t have as strong of a lineup as in years pasts, and they also have some other questions in their rotation. Mike Trout is going to put up MVP numbers, but if the Angels want to make a run for the playoffs, Richards is going to have to put up Cy Young award numbers as well.
Dylan Brunnenkant (Angels Correspondent)

Minnesota Twins

Rookie Jose Berrios will impact Twins’ rotation in 2016
Twins minor league pitcher of the year, Jose Berrios, failed to secure a spot in the starting rotation this Spring and was optioned to Triple-A Rochester on March 18, but don’t expect Berrios to remain there. After working out some of his control issues, I think we could see this 21-year-old rightly in the Twins’ rotation before the All-Star break, as early as May or June. Currently, the Twins starting rotation is shaky at best. The lead spot is owned by Phil Hughes who posted a 4.40 ERA in 2015, followed by Ervin Santana who spent 80 days suspended last season for violating the MLB steroid policy and Kyle Gibson who posted a career-low ERA of 3.84 last year. After that, it looks like Tommy Milone, who had a decent Spring, and Ricky Nolasco, who had less-than-stellar spring performances. There is also always the question of health to consider when it comes to Milone and Nolasco. Berrios did struggle a bit with command in his first spring outing, but he looked much better in the three innings of his second appearance. He has a career 2.98 ERA in the minors with a 1.12 WHIP. Berrios’ fastball usually clocks in the mid-90s, and he has a decent curve and impressive change-up as well. MLB.com ranks him as the No. 19 overall prospect. With some fine-tuning on his pace and command, Berrios can be that spark in the rotation that this Twins’ club truly needs to compete for a playoff spot in 2016.
Kevin McGuire (Twins Correspondent)

New York Yankees

Masahiro Tanaka will win the AL Cy Young
Two years ago, Tanaka and Cy Young in the same sentence wouldn’t have sounded that crazy. The inability to fully finish a season and lingering elbow issues have put a lot of doubts if Tanaka is truly worthy of being called an ace. He came into the league in 2014 and posted a 13-5 record with a 2.77 ERA. If Tanaka can stay healthy and duplicate those numbers from 2014 with a few more wins it would put him into Cy Young consideration. In 2014 his season was cut short due to a torn ligament and decided not to have Tommy John surgery. He opted for physical therapy, which seemed to hold him back as he posted a 12-7 record with a 3.51 ERA in 2015. In the offseason, he had a bone chip removed with the hope that his elbow is now 100%. The biggest hurdles besides injury is the AL East. The division is improved with several teams expected to contend for the AL East crown. If the Yankees want to contend this year they need the best from Tanaka. The best should put him into the Cy Young debate.
Jamison Malasko (Yankees Correspondent)

Oakland Athletics

Billy Burns will steal more than 40 bags in 2016
Eric Townsend (Athletics Correspondent)

Seattle Mariners

Robinson Cano is your 2016 AL MVP
Robinson Cano has never finished higher than third place in the MVP voting. That was back in 2010 when he was smack dab in the middle of his New York Yankee career. Fast-forward to 2015, his second season a Mariner, and you saw a pretty good sized dip in production compared to that 2010 season. Saying that Cano will win the MVP will likely not get a ton of support, but let’s take a look at why it is certainly possible. Cano struggled in the first half of 2015 as he was dealing with an abdomen injury that hampered his ability every day. He batted just .251 with six home runs and 30 RBI in the first half of the season and was well on his way to his worst statistical season of his career. Then came the second half when Cano started to feel better health-wise and caught fire at the plate. He finished the second half batting .331 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI. That is the version of Cano that I am expecting to see, especially after his scorching spring, where he is batting .388 with seven home runs and 16 RBI. If you take a look back at Cano’s second half of 2015, when he seemed to be healthier, he averaged a home run once in every 18.5 at-bats. That is a number that is certainly obtainable again over an entire season with his new-found health, and if he does average that again he would finish with around 34 home runs. Couple that with a return to a .300 batting average, something that he has done in eight out of his first 11 seasons, and you have yourself a strong MVP candidate. Now move onto the final piece of evidence and you look no further than the lineup the Mariners will have hitting around him. He will likely be hitting in his customary third spot in the order with on-base specialist Nori Aoki and Kyle Seager hitting in front of him. Those two should offer plenty of run-creating opportunities for Cano this season. When you factor in the protection of Nelson Cruz hitting behind him, Cano should have no trouble getting plenty of pitches to hit. Everything is in place for a big season out of Cano. Barring any health setbacks, I say he has no trouble reaching new heights.
Kyle Smith (Mariners Correspondent)

Tampa Bay Rays

Kevin Kiermaier finishes as a top-25 OF
You would assume that Kiermaier finished outside of the top-50 OFs in 2015 based on his current draft cost (64th OF, 272nd overall) but that’s actually not the case. The 26-year-old finished 48th at the position, while netting career highs in SB, Contact%, Runs, RBI, and at-bats despite hitting out of the 8th spot in the lineup the majority of the time. In 2016 Kiermaier isn’t only expected to function as the two-hitter, but should continue to display growth on the basepaths as well. His Spd score was tied with Dee Gordon for fourth in all of baseball, and with that kind of speed, he could net huge gains for fantasy. If we look at the 25th best outfielder in fantasy last year – Brett Gardner – we can come up with a general baseline for top-25 OF production. He hit .259 with 16 HR, 20 SB, 66 RBI, and 94 runs. While I’ll admit that the power is a long shot for Kiermaier to achieve, the difference could be made up if he steals 25 bases and hits 10 homers (like he has in each of the two years prior). The R/RBI numbers could be extreme as well, but Kiermaier’s spot in the lineup gives him the opportunity to accrue numbers in that general vicinity. Either way, the ground ball profile and high Contact% give him a safe batting average floor. Combined with counting stat upside, this could generate a top-25 season if some things break right.
Mike Werner (Rays Correspondent)

Texas Rangers

Ian Desmond becomes MLB’s top offseason acquisition
While the Arizona Diamondbacks made the biggest splash on the free agent market with the signing of Zack Greinke, and the Cubs feel the acquisition of Jason Hayward puts them one step closer to the World Series, the signing of Desmond will prove to be the top move of the offseason. A consistent 20-HR, 20-SB player for the Nationals from 2012-to-2014, Desmond had a rough 2015, at least by his standards. His batting average fell to .233, and his home run totals (19), RBI (62) and stolen bases (13) were all below the All-Star levels he had previously attained. Despite all that, he posted a 2.0 WAR, and among shortstops, his numbers were among the leaders in both leagues. The Rangers are taking a risk by putting him in left field, considering he’s only played the position a handful of times, but this move serves a couple of purposes. First and foremost, it fills the one void in the lineup, but just as importantly, crushes the Rangers’ fantasy that Josh Hamilton will ever be the player he once was. Depending on Hamilton to be healthy and perform consistently is like hoping Saturday Night Live is funny from beginning to end. It just isn’t going to happen. Desmond solves that issue, as well as bringing another right-handed bat with pop into the lineup and speed to a group that includes Elvis Andrus, Delino DeShields and Rougned Odor. He’s been on fire during the spring, and I expect that to continue once the regular season gets underway.
Mitch Cox (Rangers Correspondent)

Toronto Blue Jays

Devon Travis will finish as a top-12 fantasy 2B
As a 24-year old rookie, Devon Travis burst on the scene as the Jays’ starting second baseman after a strong spring showing, and was an early candidate for the Rookie of the Year Award as he was awarded the American League Rookie of the Month honors for April. Through the first 36 games of the regular season, Travis was slashing a solid .269/.333/.500 with seven home runs, 26 RBI, and 24 runs scored, however, he was forced to miss five games with a left shoulder injury before being transferred to the 15-day disabled list on May 22nd with left shoulder inflammation. Travis returned to the Blue Jays’ lineup on June 26th, and immediately put himself back in the ROY conversation as he hit .357 with one home run, nine RBI, and 14 runs scored over his next 26 games. Travis’ season would be cut short after re-injuring his left shoulder on July 28th, finishing his rookie campaign with an impressive .305/.361/.498 slash with eight home runs, 35 RBI, and 38 runs scored. Travis underwent exploratory surgery in the offseason which resulted in having screws inserted into the extra bone in his left shoulder to help stabilize it. During the 2015 season, Travis had an impressive .349 BABIP, .361 OBP, and an .859 OPS as a rookie, which some may feel will regress. However, those numbers are identical to his three-year span in the minors so there shouldn’t be much in the way of regression. What’s also impressive about his rookie season is the fact that he did not go hitless in three straight games, which shows his ability to handle major league pitching. If Travis can cut down on his 18% strikeout rate, there’s reason to believe he can become one of the game’s elite fantasy second baseman. Travis is expected to return to the Jays sometime in mid-May, and in a loaded lineup, there is ample opportunity for him to reward owners in multiple categories across the board. By season’s end, I can envision Travis as a top-12 fantasy second baseman, especially considering the position’s scarcity.
Marc Walton (Blue Jays Correspondent)

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