Well, we’ve reached the end of May – unofficially a third of the way into the MLB season.
Over two months ago, back before the first pitch of Opening Day, I made five bold predictions for the 2018 Fantasy Baseball campaign and now seems as good a time as any to get a sense of where these proclamations currently stand. I’ll be honest, they’ve proven to be a little hit-and-miss, yet, to be fair, we’ve still got four months to go.
There’s loads of time left to turn things around or, heck, even just get back on the field – I’m looking at you Randal Grichuk.
5 Bold Fantasy Baseball Predictions
Prediction #1: Jose Ramirez Finishes as the #1 Overall Player
Ten games into the year, this call looked pretty rough. Ramirez was about as hot as the weather in Cleveland through his first 43 plate appearances, garnering just three hits and an overall wRC+ of 20. However, things have turned significantly.
Entering play on May 30, only two position players have been more valuable in standard 5×5 leagues than the 25-year-old switch-hitter: Mookie Betts and Mike Trout – who are both in the midst of having all-time great seasons. Across the last 30 days specifically, Ramirez has actually ranked better than Trout, reigning as fantasy’s #2 overall player with a .330 average, nine home runs, and 25 RBI. He’s been amazing.
Ramirez, even in today’s three true outcome environment, has remained one of baseball’s most difficult hitters to strikeout, despite maintaining the power surge we saw in 2017. He’s an oddity for his archetype.
Among the 10 lowest qualified strikeout rates in baseball, only Ramirez, Betts, and Michael Brantley have an isolated power above .180, and while Brantley’s is a solid .230, Ramirez and Betts sit well over .300. At this pace, Ramirez will have to be at least considered as a Top-5 player heading into 2019.
Prediction #2: Marcell Ozuna Will Lead the League in RBI
As of May 30th, Manny Machado and J.D. Martinez are tied for the league-lead in RBI with 45 – each almost doubling-up the 23 runs that Ozuna has driven in across his 210 plate appearances. So, what went wrong? For starters, the Xanadu-esque paradise that I assumed would be the top of the Cardinals’ order didn’t exactly go down as expected.
Sure, the walks have been there. As I projected in March, Matt Carpenter, Tommy Pham, and Dexter Fowler have drawn their share of free passes, the trio sitting first, second, and third in walk rate for St. Louis this season. Yet, that’s about the only way two of the three have gotten on base.
Carpenter and Fowler are hitting a combined .191 and have found themselves moving up and down the Cardinals’ lineup all season long. Still, Ozuna sits eleventh in baseball with 111 plate appearances with men on base, so the blame must obviously shift towards the man himself.
Ozuna simply hasn’t been the man St. Louis thought they were trading for this off-season. Despite a 44.5% hard contact rate, Ozuna’s groundball rate has jumped up to 51.6%, a huge factor in his total of just three measly home runs as we near the end of May. In fact, Ozuna’s .077 ISO is the fifth-worst mark among the league’s 160 qualified players, sitting below the likes of Dee Gordon, Mallex Smith, and Billy Hamilton.
Will his HR/FB ratio normalize closer to that of his career rate? Probably, but it’s unlikely that Ozuna will rebound enough in the year’s final four months to return value to those who drafted him this season.
Prediction #3: Randal Grichuk Will Hit 35 Home Runs
Where to begin with this one? Grichuk was a bit of a victim of circumstance to begin 2018, as the barrelled balls that have made him an intriguing fantasy target the past few seasons were not falling in for hits. Actually, among the 354 players with over 40 batted ball events this year, Grichuk still ranks with the sixth-highest percentage of his BBEs being barrels. Unfortunately, batted ball events aren’t everything. Especially when 31.2% of your plate appearances end in a strikeout. Also, and this is important, Grichuk hasn’t played since April 29th.
Grichuk sprained his PCL making a diving catch in right field over a month ago. The ramifications of this have been two-fold.
Firstly, the 26-year-old has obviously been unable to play for the Blue Jays and hit the 35 home runs I predicted.
Secondly, and maybe somehow more foreboding, the butterfly effect of Grichuk’s injury was Toronto recalling Teoscar Hernandez – who has kind of just been a better version of the Grichuk we expected. He’s hit eight home runs, he’s been a barrels machine, and he’s endeared himself to a manager who had already taken a shine to him during last September.
Its very likely the Jays will activate Grichuk, who has been rehabbing the past week in their minor league system, to begin their series against the Tigers on Friday, however, at best, he’ll find himself in a platoon split with Curtis Granderson in left field.
That’s not ideal for people considering grabbing the OF off the waiver wire, not even mentioning that that particular job could be in jeopardy once Steve Pearce is able to return to health. Sans a 2017 Giancarlo Stanton Summer, I’m willing to admit defeat on this bold assumption.
Prediction #4: Charlie Morton Will Finish Top-3 in AL Cy Young Voting
It’s insane that Morton is 7-0 with a 2.26 ERA through eleven outings and he’s only been the third best starter on his own team. That’s where the wording of this prediction will bite me. If American League Cy Young voting were to occur this afternoon, its very likely Morton would appear high on some ballots, but with the presence of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Chris Sale, Luis Severino, James Paxton, and even Trevor Bauer – this thing probably wouldn’t come to fruition.
Still, you can’t knock the spirit of my Charlie Morton claim. The intention was to point out how good he’d be and, well, he’s been fantastic. The RHP has struck of 31.6% of opponents over 67.2 innings and his 53.5% groundball rate is the sixth-best qualified mark in the league. Yes, the BABIP is low and the strand rate is high.
Also, with Morton having never started 30 games in a season for his career, you could argue now is the time to sell high, banking on injury or even the Astros guarding against it. However, whichever way you spin it, nothing Morton does the rest of the way undoes these eleven starts. They are set in stone.
Two months into the season, Morton is SP6. Of course, as luck would have it, four of the five pitchers ahead of him also call the AL home. Will he be hoisting a Cy Young Award to end 2018? He will not. He might get a mention in Justin Verlander’s press conference, though. Isn’t that good enough?
Prediction #5: Cameron Maybin Will be a Top-30 Outfielder
If you had asked me what was most key to Maybin having a huge impact on the 2018 Fantasy Baseball season, I would have said the struggles of Lewis Brinson – the man who was seemingly blocking the veteran from playing time and being the Marlins’ primary leadoff man. Well, Brinson is hitting .157 with a 24 wRC+ and has still seen more plate appearances than Maybin.
I was wrong on this one. Very, very, very wrong.
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