It’s easy to reflect back on last year’s big news. But predicting what’s AHEAD takes a fantasy baseball writer with the willingness to risk his own reputation.
But this is fantasy baseball. What reputation? Check out Tanner Bell’s 2014 Fantasy Baseball Bold Predictions in his “Year in PREVIEW.”
1. Alex Rios Will Finish the Season as a Top 10 Hitter (Again).
Alex Rios has been a member of the 15 HR-15 SB club for seven of the last eight years. He’s also played in at least 145 games for seven straight seasons. So we don’t have any reason to suspect a drop off in production or injury concerns. He now moves from the worst offense in the American League to arguably the best (TEX was 7th in R/G last season and now has a full year of Rios, Fielder, and Choo), so his counting stats should be there. Not to mention that TEX led all MLB teams in stolen base attempts last season (195 to 147 for the White Sox).
2. Julio Teheran Will Out-Earn Danny Salazar, Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha, and Sonny Gray.
It seems to me that Julio Teheran is being overlooked. He broke out last year, so he loses appeal because everyone wants to prove they can pick the next big thing in Salazar, Cole, Wacha, or Gray. But Teheran has already done it for a full season at the major league level. Others have not. Not to mention that he’s just as young as the others.
I also like the fact that he’s seen a steady increase in IP over his career, while some of the others in this group have never exceeded 150 IP. Teheran is poised to crack the 200 IP threshold, while you cannot expect that for all of the other youngsters. Check out each player’s birthdate and IP max to this point in their careers:
Teheran (1/27/1991, 185 IP)
Salazar (1/11/1990, 145 IP)
Cole (9/8/1990, 185 IP)
Wacha (7/1/1991, 149 IP)
Gray (11/7/89, 182IP )
3. Kole Calhoun Finishes as a Top 50 Hitter.
Kole Calhoun has the on-base skills to hit leadoff for the Angels and he’s already batted there in several preseason games. If the Angels are willing to take a risk on Calhoun in that spot, 85 R, 20 HR, 15 SB, and a .275 BA are all within reach. That would put him right around the 50th best hitter in my preseason projections.
He is due for a large increase in playing time, has an above average BB rate, and about a league average strike out rate. Hitting in front of Trout, Pujols, and Hamilton gives him a huge boost in value.
4. Freddie Freeman Disappoints.
Freddie Freeman is being taken in the 2nd to 3rd round at this point in time. I have him projected for a line of .291, 24 HR, 85 R, and 95 RBI, or my 49th best hitter. Look at his season totals for the last three years and he appears to be a very safe player. So if you tell me he’s worth a third round pick because of that safety, I can buy into it.
But I think people are drafting him expecting a huge leap forward. I don’t see another .319 BA. It was based on a career high BABIP of .371 (he never posted that high of a number in the minors either). His power is progressing, but it would be out of line to draft him expecting a 30 HR season. I like him and I like safety. But is he really that different from Adrian Gonzalez 30 picks later?
5. Homer Bailey Finishes as a Top 10 Pitcher.
It’s taken Homer Bailey a while to figure everything out… but it seems like he has figured EVERYTHING out. Each of these stats are trending in a positive direction for Bailey: velocity, GB%, FB%, K%, K/BB, ERA, FIP, and WHIP.
Not to mention that he’s also increasing his IP each season. If he can get a little lucky in the Wins department, he has the potential to crack the top 10 and post a sub-3.50 ERA, sub 1.20 WHIP, and 200+ strikeouts.
6. Aaron Hill Finishes as a Top 5 Second Basemen.
If Aaron Hill is able to stay healthy, I see him vaulting over Kinsler and Zobrist. Hill did have a recurring hamstring injury that cost him time in 2010 and 2011, but a broken hand last season does not indicate a problem staying healthy. Hitting second in a solid Diamondback bodes well for him.
If I project him for good health, I see a .280 BA, 82 R, 75 RBI, 21 HR, and 8 SB. It seems like he’s being forgotten simply because of a somewhat flukey injury last season.
7. Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Matt Kemp All Finish Outside the Top 50.
Your fantasy baseball team is no different than a portfolio of investments. We’re buying stock in players at a certain price and hoping to earn a positive return on that investment. We are in a competition to maximize that return. It is this exact reason that I can’t comfortably draft any of these guys. The risk of a huge negative return is too great. At least for Carlos Gonzalez there’s an argument that he might only needs to play in 125 games to put up 1st round value (he finished 32nd on ESPN’s Player Rater in 2013 while playing in only 110 games).
But I’m still worried about him. He elected not to have surgery on the finger that caused him to miss so much time last season and he’s changed his grip on the bat because of this. That’s scary. Let me invest my first round pick in guys that don’t have to worry about nagging finger injuries and aren’t altering their swing.
Gonzalez played in 145 games in 2010, 127 in 2011, 135 in 2012, and 110 in 2013. Troy Tulowitzki played in 122 in 2010, 143 in 2011, 47 in 2012, and 126 in 2013. Matt Kemp played in 106 games in 2012 and 73 in 2013. A good projection takes into account all possible outcomes for a player, including the possibility of injury.
I can see the wheels turning in your head, thinking, “You just projected Aaron Hill for health. Yet you’re bashing CarGo, Tulo, and Kemp.” The difference is that Aaron Hill is being drafted outside of the top 100 while CarGo and Tulo are both in the top 15, while Kemp is being drafted right around #50.