Last year was full of bold takes that looked really, really stupid. I did hit my Aaron Nola breakout prediction out of the park. But I also tabbed Lewis Brinson as “this year’s Tommy Pham“, and predicted he would outperform Christian Yelich. Right or wrong, it’s always fun to make predictions so you can look back on them at the season’s end and laugh at yourself.
Jimmy Nelson finishes a Top 15 fantasy pitcher
He likely won’t be healthy in time for Opening Day, but provided the shoulder holds up Nelson is primed to be the biggest pitching bargain this year. Nelson finished in the top 10 of many pitching categories in 2017, racking up 199 Ks in just 175 IP and providing the 8th most WAR of any SP. If anything, his .340 BABIP in 2017 indicates he ran into bad luck. The slider has every bit as filthy as 2017 Jimmy Nelson’s in Spring Training looks. I’m buying in.
Richard Lovelady leads Kansas City in saves
Royals beat writer Rustin Dodd mentioned Lovelady when asked by Ben Lindbergh on Effectively Wild for a name to watch in the Royals system. The only thing more legendary than Lovelady’s name are his minor league strikeout numbers. He’s knocking on the door in AAA, and the only relievers I currenlty recognize in the KC bullpen are Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger. If he starts hot I could see him settle in as the closer by the All-Star break. He might only get 10 saves on this dumpster fire of a team, but if he leads the team it still counts.
The league hasn’t seen a better 19 year old since Mike Trout, and Trout’s gone on to win two MVP awards. It’s bold (not to mention stupid) to compare any player to Trout, but Soto’s ridiculously advanced plate discipline gives me confidence in making such a bold prediction. The on-base ability guarantees an elite floor. If his power takes a step forward he could easily become the best player in baseball.
Trevor Rosenthal leads the NL in saves
This prediction is brought to you by Sean Doolittle‘s shoulder. Rosenthal is reportedly throwing 102 MPH and looking healthy in Spring Training action. If Doolittle goes down early in the season, he should be next in line for saves and dominate in a packed NL East that should feature tons of tight-scoring games.
Aaron Hicks does not finish inside the top 40 outfielders
Another health based prediction. Hicks is already sidelined with back soreness, and has never eclipsed 500 ABs in his career. The Yankees committed to Hicks as their starting CF with a lucrative extension over the off-season, but I don’t see him staying healthy long enough to warrant his price tag.
The Pirates take the NL Central by surprise and win the division
The Pirates were widely panned last season for giving up Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows, two blue chip prospects on the verge of contributing, for Chris Archer. Why would a rebuilding team sacrifice two young, cost-controlled assets for a former ace who hasn’t posted a sub-4.00 ERA in three seasons? Even if they are rebuilding, if Archer returns to form this season the Pirates will look shrewd for buying low on a perennial Cy Young candidate. Paired with Jameson Taillon, Archer gives the Pirates a formidable front two. If Joe Musgrove can put it together this season and top prospect Mitch Keller makes an impact, the Pirates could have the best rotation in the division. Add in a bullpen led by Felipe Vazquez and Keone Kela and you’re not going to be scoring many runs off this team.
The offence is more questionable. A lot depends on Josh Bell playing like 2017 Josh Bell, Corey Dickerson bumping up his walk rate, and … Jung Ho Kang? I’ll also mention I like Ke’Bryan Hayes‘ odds of making an impact in his debut. Hayes has hit .293/.375/.444 in Spring Training, and his plus defence makes him valuable enough to contribute value even if his bat slumps.
Plus, the rest of the division just doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. Milwaukee and Christian Yelich are due for regression. The Reds still have atrocious pitching. The Cardinals are a bit of a wildcard with the addition of Paul Goldschmidt. The Cubs are projected for a losing record by PECOTA. It’s anyone’s division.
Randall Grichuk leads the AL in home runs
This might be my boldest prediction given the fact that Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, JD Martinez, Joey Gallo, Mike Trout, and most of the league’s best power hitters all play in the AL. Bear with me. Grichuck’s never gotten more than 450 ABs due to injury or playing time battles, but he’s a lock to get a full seasons worth of playing time in the Blue Jays’ weak outfield mix. He’s got established a track record of elite power: over the past four seasons, his .250 ISO ranks 16th in the league, between Edwin Encarnacion and Yoenis Cespedes. If he can take another step forward in trimming his strikeouts, 40+ HR is a reasonable outcome.
Christian Yelich regresses, fails to reach 25HR, 100R or 100RB
Yelich’s OPS by year:
2013 – .766
2014 – .764
2015 – .782
2016 – .859
2017 – .807
2018 first half – .823
2018 second half – 1.219
I’ll accept that Miller Park is a better hitter’s park than Marlins Park, and that Yelich is young enough to still be developing, but I’m not betting on him to come anywhere close to his MVP season. The projection systems think he’ll finish somewhere between .896 and .903 OPS. I think his 36 HR total in 2018 was way inflated by a 35% HR/FB ratio almost 15 points higher than his career average rate. I’m not saying he won’t be an elite player, but I think 2018 was his peak.
Glove Pop’s Not-Bold Baseball Predictions for 2019
Here’s how I think the season will shake out, just so I can say I was right.
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay Rays
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals
Los Angeles Angels
New York Mets
St. Louis Cardinals
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
AL Champion: New York Yankees
NL Champion: Washington Nationals
World Series Champion: Washington Nationals
AL MVP: Aaron Judge
AL Cy Young: Trevor Bauer
AL Rookie of the Year: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
NL MVP: Juan Soto
NL Cy Young: Aaron Nola
NL Rookie of the Year: Victor Robles