30 Bold Predictions for 2019 (Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Mar 14, 2019

Nelson Cruz and the Twins have a chance to be the MLB leaders in home runs this season

This is, hands down, my favorite article to write each and every season. I take a look at each team, and I make a less-than-obvious bold prediction about a player. Remember, these are bold predictions. Some of them will end up being right or at least close to right, while others will be laughable by the end of the May.

In 2017, I predicted Domingo Santana and Mike Moustakas (against lefties) would have power breakouts, while suggesting the Gerrit Cole would struggle. I did, however, suggest that Tommy Joseph would lead the National League in home runs and Aaron Judge would get fewer than 200 at-bats.

Last season, I predicted Brandon Nimmo would finish as a top-50 outfielder (finished 51st), Eugenio Suarez would be a top-12 third baseman (being drafted No. 200 overall), and that Christian Yelich would be a top-five outfielder (he finished second). I also said that Corey Knebel would lose his closer’s job by July, Jack Flaherty would be a top-50 starter (finished 35th), Blake Snell finished as a top-20 starter, Mike Clevinger finishing as a top-30 starter, and Miguel Cabrera finishing with fewer than 150 at-bats.

But the calls weren’t all good. Oh no, they never are. Some of the worst calls of the year were Ryan McMahon and Willie Calhoun winning their respective Rookie of the Year honors, Zack Godley winning the Cy Young, Nelson Cruz failing to hit 25 homers, Byron Buxton as a top-15 outfielder, Ian Happ as a top-five second baseman, J.P. Crawford as a top-12 shortstop in OBP leagues, and Clayton Kershaw throwing 200 innings.

Were they all bold? With the results being what we know, they don’t seem it, but you have to look at who these players were and the expectations of them at the time.

We are going to take another stab at some bold predictions this year, but how about we step the bold factor up a notch? The likelihood of these outcomes coming to fruition are very slim, but if everything breaks right (or wrong), then these are things that I feel could honestly happen.

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NL East

New York Mets – Peter Alonso hits 30 home runs: When Rhys Hoskins was called up, there was a lot of excitement around him. Alonso has a similar profile, and the excitement should be the same when he becomes a permanent fixture in New York.

Atlanta Braves – Josh Donaldson is a top-five third baseman: At his age, you have to worry about it falling apart a bit, but when he has played the past two seasons, the batted ball data was still legit.

Washington Nationals – Trea Turner goes 20/20/20/20: Turner will join Frank Schulte, Willie Mays, Curtis Granderson, and Jimmy Rollins as the only members of the 20 homer, triples, doubles, and steals club. While it seems that Turner has disappointed the past couple of years, his 162-game pace has actually been really, really good. This is the year he has a Jose Altuve-type season.

Miami Marlins – Trevor Richards is a top-50 starting pitcher: Richards had one of the most elite strikeout pitches in baseball last season with his changeup. If he can refine his breaking pitches, he will be a fixture in your fantasy rotation. If he wasn’t hurt by the lack of wins, I’d predict him as a top-30 pitcher.

Philadelphia Phillies – Bryce Harper posts a .323/.455/.623 slash with 43 home runs: Harper wanted the spotlight, and he will have it in Philadelphia. He’ll bring home the MVP award and finish as the top player in fantasy.

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals – Carlos Martinez is a top-five closer: Alex Reyes finds his way back into the rotation, and Martinez’s arm is the perfect excuse to make the swap. Martinez will still return value and solidify himself as a top closer going forward.

Chicago Cubs – Javier Baez finishes outside the top 10 at second base, shortstop, and third base: For Baez to have his career season in 2018 (it will be his career season, by the way), everything needed to break right. To return value as a second-to-third-round pick, Baez will need to count on the same luck again. That’s not happening.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Jameson Taillon is a top-10 pitcher: It’s all about the slider. Taillon’s season took off in 2018 after implementing the slider at the start of June. There’s room for his strikeout rate to improve as the team moves away from their pitch-to-contact approach.

Cincinnati Reds – Yasiel Puig goes 30/30: A 30/20 season is just the starting point for Puig in this environment. If the Reds can contend and he doesn’t get moved at the trade deadline, you’re looking at an MVP-like season from Puig.

Milwaukee Brewers – Lorenzo Cain outearns Christian Yelich: Shoutouts to Adam Aizer from CBS for the statistic here. Cain had a 54.6 GB%, 23 FB%, and a 9.7 HR/FB last season with 10 homers. Yelich had a 51.8 GB%, 23.5 FB%, and a 35 HR/FB last year with 36 home runs. Regression will happen for both guys.

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers – Ross Stripling finishes the season as a top-35 pitcher: He’s out of the rotation to start the year, but we know how this goes with the Dodgers. With Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Clayton Kershaw, the starts and phantom IL trips will be there for Stripling to get nearly a starter’s workload.

San Francisco Giants  – Mac Williamson hits 30 homers: A late pop-up breakout player last year put on quite the power display in Triple-A. He suffered a concussion when he was called up, halting his momentum. The Giants have absolutely nothing to play for this year, so there’s no reason Williamson shouldn’t get 600 at-bats.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Wilmer Flores is a top 10-second baseman: Flores is finally freed (here’s hoping Adam Jones doesn’t screw this up), and he’s a Steamer preseason darling with his projections, as he’s projected to outperform Gleyber Torres. Flores isn’t just a lefty killer; his splits are similar throughout his career.

San Diego Padres – Eric Lauer and Robbie Erlin are top-70 pitchers: Both have great changeups, and both are underrated from a real-life and fantasy sense. Sans Coors Field, it’s a great division to pitch in.

Colorado Rockies – Kyle Freeland finishes the season outside the top-100 starters: Freeland’s season was luck-driven, and the regression is going to hit Freeland hard. Quantity is his most valuable skill for your fantasy team.

AL East

New York Yankees – Aaron Hicks is a top-10 outfielder in points leagues: Hicks was rewarded by the Yankees, and he’s going to reward fantasy owners in a similar fashion…if he leads off. He’s going to hit .265 with 24 home runs, 16 steals, and 111 runs.

Boston Red Sox – Rafael Devers is a top-seven third baseman: He’s the ultimate post-hype sleeper, and he’s trimmed down a ton. You’re looking at a 25-homer, .285 guy this year, and that’s playing it conservative.

Baltimore Orioles – Cedric Mullins is a top-30 outfielder: Opportunity matters, and that’s what Mullins has going for him. He’s going to get 600 at-bats and flirt with a 20/20 season. Stop sleeping on Mullins.

Tampa Bay Rays – Tyler Glasnow is a top-15 pitcher: The new hitch in his delivery is the latest discovery by Tampa Bay when it comes to Glasnow. His relief-eligibility makes him even more attractive, and this is the year he finishes with a sub-3.20 ERA while lowering his walks and boasting a K/9 of 10.25.

Toronto Blue Jays – Vladimir Guerrero finishes as a top-five player: He’s arrived, folks. Missing two weeks won’t hurt him in his chase to be the top player in fantasy, but the lacks of stolen bases will.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox – Dylan Cease is this year’s Walker Buehler: Cease was overshadowed by Eloy Jimenez in the Jose Quintana deal, but he’s going to be the ace of the Sox’s staff by the end of the season.

Cleveland Indians – Jose Ramirez goes 40/40: Ramirez almost hit this mark last season, but hit a late-season skid. He’ll silence those who are fixated on this and will make up for the loss of Lindor with another elite season.

Kansas City Royals – Adalberto Mondesi finishes with fewer than 300 at-bats: There will be no bigger bust in fantasy this year than Mondesi. His god-awful approach at the plate will have the Royals sending him to Triple-A to “figure it out” by midseason.

Minnesota Twins – The Twins will lead all of baseball in home runs: The Twins have made my favorite offensive additions this year, adding Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, and Marwin Gonzalez. That’s a lot of right-handed power. Add that to a Miguel Sano-rebound (once healthy) and a Max Kepler-power breakout season, and the Twins are going to out-homer the competition.

Detroit Tigers – Miguel Cabrera reaches 600 at-bats: With Victor Martinez now retired, the Tigers realize the best way to keep Cabrera healthy is to DH him full-time. He still hits the hell out of the ball, and he’ll give you a great batting average with 20-plus homers.

AL West

Texas Rangers – Nomar Mazara is a top-15 outfielder: So far, Mazara has failed to live up to his superstar potential. He had a huge first half in 2018 (fueled by numbers that were unsustainable by every measure), but he’s only 23 years old. This is the year that he becomes more than just the outfield version of Eric Hosmer.

Los Angeles Angels – Justin Bour is this year’s C.J. Cron: Cron had similar numbers to Nelson Cruz last season. So maybe Bour is this year’s Nelson Cruz? It will be an interesting situation to see what the Angels do when Shohei Ohtani is ready to go, as they’ll have three guys (Albert Pujols, sadly) vying for at-bats at first base and designated hitter.

Seattle Mariners – Mallex Smith leads the league in stolen bases: He’s hitting leadoff for the Mariners, which is a plus. But, unlike teammate Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton, he’s able to draw a walk. It’s going to be a big year for Smith in category-based leagues.

Oakland A’s – Ramon Laureano goes 20/20: After this year, more people will talk about his offense than they will about his defense.

Houston Astros – Kyle Tucker hits .300 with 30 homers: Tucker is better than both Tyler White and Yuli Gurriel, and it won’t take long for the Astros to realize it.

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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