10 Early 2019 Fantasy Baseball Bold Predictions

by Bobby Sylvester | @bobbyfantasypro | Featured Writer
Dec 6, 2018

Where will Bryce Harper end up this off-season?

Baseball has excited us this week with the signing of Patrick Corbin and yesterday’s blockbuster trade of Paul Goldschmidt. I figured it was the perfect time to jump in and offer a series of bold predictions for the season. Some of these names will surprise you, but get used to hearing every expert in the industry rave about them. Others, like Adalberto Mondesi, are glowing with all the hype they’ve been receiving, but it still may not be enough. 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.

#10 Free Agent/Trade Predictions

  1. Bryce Harper (WAS)
  2. Manny Machado (PHI)
  3. J.T Realmuto (HOU) for J.B. Bukauskas, Framber Valdez, Tyler White
  4. Mitch Haniger (CHC) for Kyle Schwarber, Aramis Ademan, Brailyn Marquez
  5. A.J. Pollock (COL)
  6. Zack Greinke (NYY) for Sonny Gray, Greg Bird
  7. Daniel Murphy (LAA)
  8. Andrew McCutchen (CHW)
  9. Yusei Kikuchi (TEX)
  10. Craig Kimbrel (BOS)
  11. Dallas Keuchel (MIL)
  12. Andrew Miller (ATL)
  13. Michael Brantley (CLE)
  14. Nathan Eovaldi (BOS)
  15. Nelson Cruz (A’s)
  16. Mike Moustakas (CHW)
  17. Kirby Yates (BOS) for Bobby Dalbec and Darwinzon Hernandez
  18. Adam Ottavino (STL)
  19. Wilson Ramos (WAS)
  20. Zach Britton (LAA)
  21. Yasmani Grandal (NYM)
  22. Charlie Morton (TOR)
  23. Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAA)
  24. Jose Martinez (SD) and Austin Gomber for Austin Hedges and Franchy Cordero
  25. David Robertson (PHI)

I know this one will disappoint many, but be honest with yourself: the chances Bryce Harper or Manny Machado signing with your team are likely under 30% even if you are among the favorites. Neither would see their fantasy stock change much, but if #3 were to happen, Realmuto would immediately become a top 40 pick. Miami has the #1 worst ballpark for right-handed hitters and a move anywhere else, especially to Houston, would set him apart even further from the pack of catchers behind him. Likewise, #4 would shoot Pollock up fantasy lists quickly. If you haven’t heard the name Kikuchi, make yourself familiar with him before next spring’s drafts.

#9 Josh James will be the AL Rookie of the Year

The embarrassment of riches Houston has at starting pitcher is really something else. They moved Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh into the bullpen last year, just lost Lance McCullers to surgery and will likely wave goodbye to Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton in a few weeks. Still, somehow, Forrest Whitley, the game’s top prospect, is expected to miss out on the rotation out of Spring Training and James is the reason why. No one in the minor leagues dominated hitters as much as James last year who posted an absurd 13.5 K/9 and just 6.2 H/9 across Double-A and Triple-A. He was every bit as impressive in 23 big league innings. Don’t be surprised if he ends up as this year’s Patrick Corbin.

#8 Franklin Barreto will be the biggest breakout hitter

Wait a second, the guy who has hit .215/.252/.424 in 151 big league plate appearances? Yep. That’s the one. There was another top prospect who batted .220/.281/.390 in similar playing time as a rookie. Experts also recommended drafting him the following year he is now regarded as one of the best players of all time. Yes, I’m referring to Mike Trout. Don’t hear me wrong, Barreto isn’t Trout–that’s ridiculous. But he truly has the upside of Derek Jeter. Not only are his intangibles a match, but he projects to potentially win multiple batting crowns while knocking 15 homers and stealing 30 bases per year. Whether that happens this year, five years down the road or never is anyone’s guess, but it is well worth mentioning as a possibility. This is the type of player you should target late in drafts.

#7 Alex Reyes will end up performing as the Cardinals ace

We’ve heard this one before, right? Plus, Jack Flaherty, Carlos Martinez and Miles Mikolas are no joke. Heck, Reyes might end up a reliever long-term if he ever gets healthy considering the Cardinals also have Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright and Dakota Hudson among a handful of other polished young pitchers. Reyes, though, has stuff that blows the rest away. There is a reason he went 23 scoreless innings with 44 strikeouts and SEVEN hits allowed last year. As a 21-year-old rookie, he posted a 1.57 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and has only improved since then. Before long, we may be talking about Reyes and Walker Buehler as the top pitchers in baseball. Don’t give up on him because of his injury history. It may be risky, but so were Blake Snell and Trevor Bauer last year. You won’t win championships drafting pitchers like Mikolas. It is the next Felix Hernandez you want.

#6 Nick Pivetta will strike out 250 hitters

A few years ago, there was a young pitcher who gave fantasy owners a 4.90 ERA with incredible underlying numbers. The expert consensus was all over him in 2017 and the few who trusted them were richly rewarded with a Cy Young candidate who provided a 2.89 ERA and led the league in K/9. I’m talking about Robbie Ray, of course. All of the experts I’ve spoken to are drooling at the thought of drafting this year’s Ray clone. If you couldn’t guess, that will be Pivetta, who like Ray, posted a 4.77 ERA with filthy underlying numbers.

#5 Adalberto Mondesi will return 1st round value

Everyone is ecstatic about Mondesi and for good reason. I’ve seen his draft position climb from the 8th round to the 4th round in expert drafts already this off-season and it frankly may not be high enough. Some very wise fantasy analysts like Paul Sporer have made excellent points about stolen base opportunity regression, but I’d argue that he will be on base significantly more this season since it is a raw 23-year-old we are talking about. In case you weren’t aware, if you pro-rate Mondesi’s second half to a full season, we’ve got a .286 BA with 30 HR, 75 SB and 100 runs scored. If that were to happen, he would outproduce even Mike Trout from a fantasy standpoint. I’m not suggesting he will, but even 18 HR, 55 SB and a .270 BA would be welcomed by any fantasy owner reaching for him in the 3rd round.

#4 Cody Bellinger will flirt with 60 homers

I know what you are thinking. “This kid killed me last year! Everyone told me to draft him and he was a dud.” Sure, the 22-year-old had a sophomore slump, hitting just 25 homers with a .260 batting average, but let me ask you a question: How many players in baseball history have hit 64 homers in their first two years before their 23rd birthday? The answer is five: Joe Dimaggio, Eddie Mathews, Albert Pujols, Frank Robinson and yep, you guessed it, Bellinger. He has 60 homer potential and don’t be surprised if he realizes it this year.

#3 Nick Senzel will be the NL Rookie of the Year

The Reds’ top prospect had a crazy year last season, missing time for vertigo, burn spurs in his elbow and a torn finger tendon. He was supposed to be a hot midseason pick up in 2018 after posting 57 extra base hits, 14 steals and .321 batting average in 119 games the year prior. His season started similarly, but injuries derailed those plans. The best thing about him, however, is that the Reds are apparently going to use him at second base, third base and shortstop much like the Phillies did with Scott Kingery this year. Now, it is possible that Senzel has a rookie season similar to Kingery, but chances are, it will go much smoother since Senzel is remarkably polished.

#2 Vlad Guerrero Jr. will compete for the AL MVP

The kid is good. You know that. He’s got potential to be great someday right? No. He is already great. If you thought Ronald Acuna and Juan Soto were ready for the bigs, just wait until you see this kid who destroyed their production in the minor leagues. Vlad Jr. hit .402 in Double-A last year and knocked 50 extra-base hits in just 95 games across four levels. That never happens. The most MLB-ready prospects in recent memory were Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Here is what they did at similar levels.

Trout .326/.414/.544
Pujols .314/.378/.543
Vlad Jr .381/.437/.636

You may recall that both Trout and Pujols were in the running for MVP as rookies. Guerrero, however, seems to have a bat even more prepared to obliterate big league pitching from the get-go.

#1 Walker Buehler will win the NL Cy Young Award

Much like Vlad above, I’m not sure Buehler is being appreciated quite enough. From the day the former top overall MLB pitching prospect joined the Dodgers, he was inning for inning as impressive as Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard. I kid you not. As if that isn’t enough, Walker improved in the second half, posting a 2.03 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and just 5.2 H/9 in 80 innings. Here is the list of pitchers who topped the K/9 and H/9 numbers in the second half:

Nobody.

Bobby Sylvester is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Bobby, check out his archive and follow him @BobbyFantasyPro.

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