10 Early 2018 Fantasy Baseball Predictions
Fantasy baseball is over for another five months, but that doesn’t mean we have to wait to talk about the upcoming season. As we know, there are many factors from trades, free agency and injuries that can change the outlook of a season, but I’ll do my best to take a stab at it all and give you the upper hand on acquiring some hidden gems for your keepers leagues. Be sure to shoot me a message on Twitter with your own predictions for the 2018 MLB season and I’ll let you know what I think. If you make a case that is compelling enough, I’ll be sure to retweet it. Alright, here are 10 predictions for you all.
#10 Free Agent/Trade Predictions
Giancarlo Stanton (trade) – Cubs
Manny Machado (trade) – Mets
Shohei Otani – Rangers
J.D. Martinez – Diamondbacks re-sign
Yu Darvish – Dodgers re-sign
Chris Archer (trade) – Braves
Jake Arrieta – Angels
Eric Hosmer – Giants
Lance Lynn – Phillies
There are major implications from some of these moves. If Martinez re-signs with the Diamondbacks, he would be in first round consideration because the ballpark factors in Phoenix are so extreme. Machado’s stock would take a major hit, as Citi Field suppresses power hitters, while Camden Yards is a hitter’s haven. If Eric Hosmer goes to New York, his ranking would rise 20 spots. If he signs with San Francisco, as I’m predicting, he would actually take a step backward in his projections. We’ll get to Stanton and Otani in a few predictions.
#9 Carlos Rodon will be the breakout pitcher of the year
First, apologies are due to Sean Newcomb, Dinelson Lamet and Luis Castillo who all have the makings of being breakout pieces themselves. The title will belong to Rodon, however. He was once considered to have enough talent to be a virtual lock at being the #1 overall pick the MLB Draft. He has flashed that type of stuff at times throughout his career but has been derailed by various injuries including the current shoulder issue that is holding his fantasy appeal in check. When he returned from the disabled list, Rodon posted had stints of dominance with 5 games of 9+ Ks in 9 starts. If he can stay healthy, he has top of the rotation type upside and we just may see it in action next season.
#8 Mookie Betts bounces back and wins the AL MVP
Mookie had a downright terrible season compared to what we expected. His batting average plummetted 54 points from 2016, his power dropped off and he scored 21 fewer runs. There is plenty of reason for optimism, however, as he finished the season on a terror, plus his BABIP was #127 out of 144 qualified hitters. That bad luck is only multiplied by the fact that players with his speed and hard-hit percentage rarely, if ever, show up that low. If his BABIP regresses to the mean next season, we should be looking at a .300 hitter with a 30/30 season and the best defense of any major league baseball player. That, friends, is a good recipe for being named the most valuable player.
#7 Giancarlo Stanton hits 71 homers
This one is quite simple. Derek Jeter has said the Marlins expect to shed near 25 million dollars off their payroll. Giancarlo, as you know, has the largest salary on the team and it jumps another 10 million in 2018. Miami’s ballpark only allows right-handed batters to hit homers at 76% the clip the average ballpark does. If he signs with a team that has a middle of the road park, his home game bombs would be expected to leap from 31 to 40.7. Now, if he goes to a park like Wrigley, where I predict he will land, it would soar even higher to 47.2. I’m not manipulating any numbers. That is the cold hard data, and has been proven reliable time and again. His ceiling is almost unimaginable if he can leave Miami.
#6 Ian Happ will be the breakout hitter of the year
Special mention is owed to Randal Grichuk, who has top-tier exit velocities, Javy Baez and C.J. Cron. It is Happ, however, who takes the cake as next year’s breakout piece. Don’t be surprised to see him shipped away this off-season for a pitcher (or as I mentioned above, Stanton) and end up batting in the middle of the order for years to come. His minor league production was elite, but playing time and a position fit were the only items holding back his prospect status. We saw what he can become with 24 homers, 8 steals and an .842 OPS in just 115 games, but he will have to cut down his strikeouts much closer to what he maintained throughout the minors if he wants to see his batting average leap back up toward to the .280 range. If you couple that with 35 homers and 15 steals and at a premium position, we would be talking about a top 25 fantasy player.
#5 Brent Honeywell will be the AL Rookie of the Year
We unfortunately didn’t have the privilege of watching a great young pitcher make his debut last season, but it should be to our advantage in fantasy next year, as few have heard of him. Last season, as a 22-year-old, the screwball pitcher (yeah you read that right) struck out 172 hitters in 136 innings pitched. His 3.49 ERA was actually a career worst, after posting a 1.07, 3.18 and 2.34 in years previous. Put a premier defending Kevin Keirmaier behind him and we could be looking at a complete steal in fantasy drafts next season.
#4 Shohei Otani will be a top 3 starting pitcher
If Otani does, in fact, come to America to play this winter, the 23-year-old sensation could sign a 200+ million dollar contract. Whatever the total, he will almost certainly be underpaid, as he should enter the big leagues as one of the top handful of pitchers on the planet. As a 21-year-old, he posted a 1.86 ERA with 174 Ks in just 140 innings pitched. Compare that to Darvish, who the year before his dominant rookie campaign, struck out “just” 10.7 hitters per 9 innings (and at an older age) and you can begin to see how special the kid is. Despite already touching triple-digits, Otani’s best years may still be ahead of him.
#3 The Cardinals will have 2 breakout starting pitchers
St. Louis is expected to let their #2 pitcher, Lance Lynn, walk in free agency this season although they have plenty of money to re-sign him and are by no means rebuilding. It is for good reason, however, as the Cardinals have two future all-stars set to permanently join their rotation. Luke Weaver, has been downright filthy in his first 100 big league innings with 10.9 strikeouts per 9 innings. To put that into perspective, Clayton Kershaw has only topped that once in ten big league seasons. Then, they have Alex Reyes, who should be healthy by the end of spring training. The former top prospect has out of this world stuff and carried a 1.57 ERA with 10.2 K/9 in his major league debut as a 21-year-old. Expect special things from these two and make sure to grab one or both of them in your fantasy drafts.
#2 Matt Olson will lead the American League in home runs
Rhys Hoskins made his debut September 10th for the Phillies and was quickly known nationally as the second coming of Babe Ruth. He was excellent, there is no denying that, with a .259/.396/.618 line and 18 homers. He wasn’t the best young outfielder in that time though. Rather, it was Olson of the Oakland A’s, who batted .278 with 20 homers and a slugging percentage a whopping 118 points higher than Hoskins. What’s more, is that Olson is a full year younger and displayed every bit as much power as Hoskins in the minors despite playing in significantly more difficult ballparks for power hitters. You can grab yourself 40 to 50 homers deep into drafts if you just wait for Olson.
#1 The Houston Astros will repeat as World Series Champions
Ok, this one isn’t as much about fantasy baseball, but there are some takeaways here for sure: Charlie Morton and his suddenly blazing fastball continue the breakout, making him an undeniable all-star (3.47 ERA with 95 Ks in 83 IP after the all-star break). Lance McCullers bounces back to good health and stakes his claim as one of the top handful of pitchers in baseball (3.05 ERA with 106 Ks in 91 IP before the all-star break). Perhaps most notably in the fantasy community will be the emergence of Derek Fisher, who struggled in his debut and is no longer rookie eligible. He batted .318 with 21 homers and 16 steals in just 84 games before being called up. This, after going 21/28 and 22/31 in his previous seasons despite the shorter minor league season. The Astros have another young star ready to join Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa in the middle of that already dominant lineup.
Thanks for reading! Enjoy the playoffs and make sure to remind me how I did on these a year from now!