Predicting the end of a Major League Baseball at the All-Star break, in many ways, could have zero implications on how one manages their Fantasy Baseball team the rest of the way.
For example, no Fantasy Baseball player cares if the Milwaukee Brewers continue their dreadful campaign, as long as Carlos Gomez begins to hit.
This, however, is not just an article for end of season predictions. Instead, while I will touch on my end of season predictions, there’s a method to my madness, and I promise, some Fantasy implications as well.
Hypothetically speaking, and I can’t exaggerate the “HYPOTHETICALLY” enough, it may not mean anything to predict the Cincinnati Reds make a playoff push. However, predicting that surge means they do not have a fire sale, nor do they trade Aroldis Chapman, once again rendering Tony Cingrani useless this season, which would certainly have underlying consequences on whether or not you should continue to hold out hope for Cingrani.
Likewise, my actual prediction of the Houston Astros falling back in a major way could mean that someone like Luke Gregerson may actually have a lot more value for the long run than he might have if the Astros went and acquired, say, I don’t know, Mr. 104 MPH.
End of Season MLB Predictions
1. Houston Astros finish 4th in AL West
Quite frankly, fourth is generous in my opinion. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are the best team in the division and Seattle is better than what they have shown, especially with Taijuan Walker now on track. Unless they become major sellers, I think Oakland will play their way into the Top Three as well.
As I touched on in my previous article, the Astros story this season is awesome, and I think they certainly have a good core to build long term success. In saying that, however, Springer’s injury will be very costly. The lineup is far too streaky, the bullpen, aside from Neshek and Gregerson, is similar to the same dreadful bullpen that cost them the past few seasons late in ballgames. Their rotation, aside from Dallas Keuchel and I suppose Lance McCullers, can’t work deep enough in games to hide those faults.
I certainly don’t expect them to become sellers, but I don’t think Gregerson owners need to worry about them acquiring someone to take his job. I also do not believe they acquire anyone to take away playing time from Preston Tucker. In addition, aside from inning constraints, I think Vincent Velasquez is in the rotation for better or worse the rest of the way, unless they acquire a lower end starter like Mike Leake or Aaron Harang.
2. Baltimore, Toronto, Boston go from 3-5 to 1-3 in AL East
I realize the AL East is jam packed, so this is not exactly a “bold prediction.” However, I think the bottom three teams leap frog the top two in the AL East after all three have a very busy trade deadline, leaving the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays to finish 4th and 5th respectively.
If the Blue Jays are serious, and they should be with the lineup they have, I see them acquiring Johnny Cueto (as they have Stroman to replace Cueto next year), and knock Drew Hutchison from the rotation as he has been awful.
Jimmy Paredes owners should probably sell high, if that’s even possible, as I could see the Orioles acquiring a right fielder to move Davis back to first base permanently and shift Paredes/Parmelee into part time roles as the DH.
Everyone mentions the Red Sox as the main team to acquire an ace, but I can’t see them moving Blake Swihart, Xander Bogaerts or Mookie Betts, so I don’t know how they are acquiring them. In saying that, with Dustin Pedroia due back, I do think they make a move. Whether it is in Boston or for a different team, I think Castillo finally gets his shot at every day playing time. If they move Brock Holt, he would suddenly become very secure as well, allowing him to play every day for a rebuilding team at second base (Milwaukee Brewers anyone, sorry Scooter Gennett owners, Holt for Francisco Rodriguez sure sounds interesting though).
3. Detroit Tigers finish last in AL Central
Perhaps my most “bold” prediction, with the loss of Miguel Cabrera, I think the Detroit Tigers become major sellers and move David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria. All three are impending free agents, and could rebuild their future overnight. The Tigers lost three straight to close out the first half, and without “Miggy,” they really aren’t any better than the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox or, with how well they played in the first half, Minnesota Twins.
I think Kansas City runs away with the division. They are about to get Kris Medlen and Jason Vargas back healthy to help out in the rotation, and they will probably acquire an additional rotation piece or bench bat in the outfield.
4. New York Mets win second Wild Card, pull off steal of deadline
I don’t necessarily believe they will win the second Wild Card, however, for Fantasy Baseball purposes, I think they will go for it all given their 7-3 record over the last ten games. They won’t catch Washington, but they can compete with San Francisco, Chicago or Arizona. And, more importantly for them, they get to pick on Atlanta and Philadelphia in August and September. Their pitching is as good as anyone, and I think they find someone desperate that gives them a decent bat for Bartolo Colon. Perhaps Alex Guerrero or Brock Holt and/or package Jonathan Niese with Kirk Nieuwenhuis for a third baseman, the aforementioned Holt, Trevor Plouffe or Aramis Ramirez.
The one obstacle for them is Steven Matz’s untimely injury. They will not move Syndergaard or Harvey and I don’t imagine they move Jacob deGrom. Matz was their big piece to truly upgrade their lineup with a Carlos Gomez type hitter. However, even without him, they can get by with Rafael Montero as a fifth starter for a month until Matz returns, if they can find a taker for Colon and/or Niese.
5. Cincinnati Reds DO NOT enter full Fire Sale
I don’t really have a prediction for the NL Central … it is what it is. The Milwaukee Brewers are terrible, and will likely begin selling off a few pieces in the coming weeks. I think Pittsburgh wins the division, St. Louis gets the wild card and Chicago comes up just short. In saying that, I don’t think either team makes any drastic changes at the deadline. So instead, I will predict Cincinnati remains competitive, they move Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto, but hold on to Aroldis Chapman in hopes of competing next season.
A lot of people, smarter than me, keep saying they need to “blow it up,” start fresh and retool for the long haul. My question, however, is retool with what? Everyone says they need to move Cueto/Chapman/Phillips/etc. to acquire prospects to compete with Chicago’s magic fountain of young talent, as well as the Pirates and Cardinals in the next five years. The issue, though, people like Kris Bryant, Mookie Betts, and Sonny Gray do not get moved at the deadline.
Unless you develop them yourself, Billy Hamilton, Todd Frazier, Devon Mesoraco, etc., or have the ability to wait 2-3 more years for them to develop, which Cincinnati does not have, in most trades, the best “prospects” you tend to get, even for Johnny Cueto, are the likes of say Nick Franklin and Drew Smyly (see David Price trade in 2014). And, while Smyly is a legitimate Major League talent, they aren’t game changers like Kris Bryant.
I definitely see moving Marlon Byrd and Johnny Cueto (guys gone at the end of the season), but Chapman and Bruce are both signed through 2016, while Votto and Phillips they have for at least a couple more years. As for Leake, I do think he gets moved, but unless they can get two prospects back for him, what’s the point? You know he won’t accept arbitration this winter, leaving you with a first round compensation pick regardless.
6. San Diego pulls a Jeffry Loria
I briefly touched on my feelings about the NL West in my other article, however, the division runs through Los Angeles, with San Francisco and, in my opinion, Arizona battling for a Wild Card. San Diego made a splash this past off season, similar to Jeffry Loria and the Miami Marlins a few years back. I think the talks of James Shields getting moved are overblown, as I don’t think the Padres are as bad off as the Marlins were when they recklessly signed Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes to big contracts.
With that said, I think they admit their defeat and move Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy, given their impending free agencies, and hopefully finally solve their middle infield inadequacies. While an Andrew Cashner and/or Joaquin Benoit trade would not shock me (one year left after this season), I do not see Craig Kimbrel or Tyson Ross enter free agency until 2017, at the earliest.
One step above San Diego, I really like what Arizona has done this season. They control arguably the best player in the National League through 2019, while Nick Ahmed and Jake Lamb have each shown their comfort at the plate in the Major Leagues lately. If the Diamondbacks can figure out a way to unload Jeremy Hellickson’s contract with Aaron Hill for a bullpen piece, and one of Ender Inciarte, David Peralta or Peter O’Brien into a mid-rotation starter, they could pose a major threat to San Francisco, as well as New York or Chicago, for the second Wild Card spot.
And by the way, where is Peter O’Brien anyway? Or Jose Peraza for that matter? Soon young grass hopper, very soon. Well, a man can dream at least. Peraza is batting .284 with 23 stolen bases while playing center field in Gwinnett. If Cameron Maybin gets moved, it may finally be his time.
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