13 Spring Training Bold Predictions (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
Friday, February 21 marks the beginning of spring training exhibition games. Guys trying to make the cut will spend the next month-plus and change convincing the club that they deserve to be in the bigs. Vets whose place on the team isn’t in jeopardy will use that time to practice new pitches, work out kinks in their swing, or just get their timing back and ease themselves into the day-to-day grind of an MLB season. Let’s also not forget that teams will still be signing or trading players during this time so they can field the best possible roster for Opening Day or improve their farm system.
That is what we expect … but what don’t we expect? Which crazy “out-of-left-field” call-ups, performances, or depth chart moves can happen that would take us by surprise? That’s what we have our featured analysts here for today. Read on to see what their spring training bold predictions are.
Q. What is one bold prediction that you believe will happen by the end of spring training and why?
“While he may not make the Opening Day roster, Nick Madrigal makes a strong impression in spring training and we see him in the Kris Bryant timeline that grants the team an extra season of control. Madrigal’s ridiculous contact ability combined with his above-average (although not elite) speed helps him finish the season as a top-15 2B on the player rater. On a per-game basis, Madrigal ends up being more valuable than Whit Merrifield or Jeff McNeil despite likely hitting toward the bottom of the order and is drafted ahead of both in 2021. As Razzball co-founder Grey Albright has been shouting from the mountaintops all preseason, he only has to beat out Leury Garcia (who may have some sneaky value in deeper leagues still).”
– Brandon ‘B_Don’ Myers (Razzball)
“Nick Madrigal will win the starting 2B job with the White Sox. This isn’t insanely bold, but with the way teams have manipulated service time or offered a long-term contract to a prospect to start the clock, it would be a little surprising. The White Sox are in go-mode, and he would be another young guy who steals bases, makes great contact, and has a strikeout rate that makes Willians Astudillo jealous. Madrigal would be an obvious upgrade over Leury Garcia, but he would also give fantasy players another speed option at a time where we so desperately need them.”
– Michael Waterloo (FantasyPros)
“Franchy Cordero will be the ultimate helium man in ADP among hitters in spring training when he shows off his power and speed combination all while making enough contact to hit for an acceptable batting average. Cordero’s the favorite to play center field for the Padres and while his power and speed are tantalizing, his propensity to swing and miss has resulted in an ugly 38.8 K% in his career in the majors, per FanGraphs. A big spring would be merely a continuation of a strong offseason for Cordero after he slashed .364/.462/.576 with a bad, yet more palatable, 30.8 K% in 39 plate appearances in the Dominican Winter League, according to Baseball Reference.”
– Josh Shepardson (FantasyPros)
“Jesus Luzardo will emerge as the ace of the Oakland A’s staff and be named the Opening Day starter on his way to winning Rookie of the Year. Luzardo was worth the wait and produced impressive numbers in his debut last season. The southpaw owned a 1.50 ERA and 0.667 WHIP while surrendering only five hits in six big-league games and 12 innings. A’s manager Bob Melvin mentioned that he would not impose a strict innings limit as Luzardo moves into the Oakland starting rotation this season. He has an elite pitching repertoire with three plus offerings. He should pick up where he left off and serve as the A’s anchor this season and for years to come.”
– Dennis Sosic (Fantasy Six Pack)
“Austin Voth wins the fifth spot in the Nationals’ rotation. Roster Resource lists Joe Ross as the Nationals’ fifth starter and Voth as a long reliever. Erick Fedde is also in contention for the fifth spot. In 43.2 innings last year, Voth finished with a strikeout per inning, a 3.30 ERA, and a 1.05 WHIP. His curveball is an elite offering and his cutter generated a ton of swings and misses. Both of those pitches had higher swinging strike rates (SwStr%) than any of Ross’ offerings, which gives Voth the edge and the higher upside for 2020.”
– Max Freeze (Freeze Stats)
“Josh James wins the fifth spot in Houston’s starting rotation and becomes a must-draft option in fantasy leagues of all sizes. He struggled with walks in his first extended taste of big-league action, but his 14.67 K/9 rate was fifth-best among all pitchers who threw at least 60 innings in 2019. His strikeout rate won’t be quite as high as a starter as it was when he was a reliever, but this is a prized prospect who has garnered glowing reports out of Florida so far. There are plenty of good reasons to hate on the Astros’ right now, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that they’ve been masterful at developing pitchers in recent years. James could be next and that should have fantasy owners very excited.”
– Andrew Seifter (FantasyPros)
“Freddy Peralta will earn a major role in the Brewers’ pitching staff. He has had some ups and downs, which you might expect from a 23-year-old who throws mostly fastballs. However, that fastball is electric and he’s been learning how to use it better against major league hitters. That growth coupled with his newly developed slider could result in a VERY dangerous pitcher. Craig Counsell is going to stretch Peralta and Corbin Burnes out as rotation depth this spring, so an injury to one of Milwaukee’s starters could put Peralta in the rotation. He may win a spot outright if he really impresses in March. Even if that doesn’t happen, he could prove to be a high-leverage reliever for the Brewers, potentially closing out games while Josh Hader is deployed in the seventh or eighth inning based on matchups. Either way, Peralta could be playing some really big innings for the Brewers.”
– Tim Young (Brewer Rat)
“Alex Reyes will win a job in the St. Louis Cardinals’ rotation. With Miles Mikolas now dealing with a forearm injury, it seems likely that he will miss some time or even be shut down. That leaves the final spot up for grabs between Kwang-Hyun Kim, Reyes, and Daniel Ponce de Leon. Among them, Kim is considered the frontrunner, but Reyes is far and away the most talented. In fact, he has been receiving rave reviews from the coaching staff already and they’ve said all winter that they’d love to have him in the rotation if he was healthy and his velocity was back to where it should be. If Reyes wins this job, he could be the breakout ace of the year for fantasy teams.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)
“My bold prediction is that Corbin Burnes not only makes the Brewers’ rotation out of spring training, but he becomes a reliable fantasy asset. Burnes has all the talent in the world and an elite strikeout rate, but gave up home runs like they were going out of style last year and had a disastrous season. He saw a sports psychologist this winter, had LASIK, and will be stretched out as a starter this spring. Between Brett Anderson, Adrian Houser, Josh Lindbloom, and Eric Lauer standing in his way, there’s a good chance that Burnes can beat out one of them, make the rotation, and succeed out of the gate.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)
“Here’s a far-fetched prediction. In Braves camp, Felix Hernandez will show some renewed velocity and ability to get batters out with secondary offerings. With the injury status of Cole Hamels, the Braves will need to plug a couple holes in the rotation behind Mike Soroka, Max Fried, and Mike Foltynewicz. ‘King’ Felix shows enough to earn a spot in the rotation and becomes an NL-only option with mixed-league sleeper status. Hernandez obviously has far more experience than any of the Braves’ other in-house options.”
– Nate Miller (FantasyPros)
“Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s ADP will rise to dangerous levels by Opening Day. First, there were reports of the youngster improving his conditioning (can someone make the ‘best shape of my life’ claim before turning 21?). Then he discussed making a concerted effort to improve his launch angle, the main deterrent that prevented him from meeting his outlandish hype as a rookie. If he displays that offseason work in spring action, expect his 55 ADP to jump as high as fourth-round territory.”
– Andrew Gould (FantasyPros)
“Yoshihisa Hirano will be named the Mariners’ closer. I’m not sure if this is bold enough, but I believe he will get the first shot to close games over Matt Magill. Hirano and Magill both have similar career strikeout and walk rates and Hirano’s contract will specifically pay him more for finishing games. That could be a tip to the manager’s hand.”
– Ariel Cohen (FanGraphs)
“A collective bargaining agreement happens between Major League Baseball and the Witness Protection Program, and someone who looks like Mike Fiers, but goes by the name Fike Miers, begins pitching for the A’s. Miers complains about not getting good Italian in Oakland and how it’s all egg noodles and ketchup, but at least he doesn’t need to disguise himself anymore with a beard in the shape of a monkey’s tail.”
– Grey Albright (Razzball)
Thank you to the experts for making their bold predictions for spring training. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter for more advice all season and check out our latest podcast below.