Dan Schwartz

Fangraphs’ Rotographs just had their contributors put up a solid list of bold predictions. Here is my Ballsy Forecast:

As always, thanks to Fangraphs for their stats & ability to customize player profiles

 

1) Albert Pujols finishes outside of the top 50. This already lacks integrity because he’s ranked #10 overall in my Top 105.

However, in 2012, according to ESPN’s Player Rater, Albert Pujols ranked 32nd by going .285 with 85r, 30 hr, 105rbi and 8sb. Most will point to his first month where he didn’t hit a single HR and batted .217. However, in September (119 At-bats), he only hit a single HR with a .269 avg. You can point to his “leg issues” and validate that by his off-season minor knee surgery. I’ll point to his negative trends that started in 2011 and not 2012. His GB/FB ratio at 33 could jump back up to 2011 form. A dip in FB% and a naturally albeit slightly regressed HR/FB ratio and contact rate based on age and park factors exacerbated by some discipline drops (increase in out-of-the-zone swing%, bb% drop and k% jump), could have us talking 27-29 HR as a ceiling. It looks like most projection systems are regressing (positively) back to the mean/past here while for Pujols in LAA, I would look more at the trends. Like I said in my Top 105, you have to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s only 33 and has an excellent supporting cast and has a big contract to live up to, but buyers beware. I would not draft him over the likes of Robinson Cano at 2b, Andrew McCutchen and Matt Kemp with their power-speed combos or other 1B’s, Joey Votto and Fielder. Why would you want Pujols at this stage of his career over Prince Fielder, who has as much runs produced (r+rbi-hr) potential? Fielder is a lock for .295+ 30HR+. He’s younger and much less of a health concern. The SB differential is not enough to distinguish the two. Ignore my rankings as it relates to these two – go with the big Veggie.

 

2) Madison Bumgarner is a top 4 fantasy starter

Madison Bumgarner will only be 23! He’s one of only three guys I initially gave a contract to in our unique dynasty league (6 years and a 2013 6th round draft pick). The other two I initially bid on and was rewarded was Buster Posey (6 years and a 2013 5th round draft pick (2 catcher league)) and Miguel Cabrera (6 years, round 1 draft pick). Madison Bumgarner does all the things you see us pointing to for sleepers except he’s a sure thing: a solid GB/FB ratio approaching 1.4, potential for a 4.0 K/BB ratio and an awesome repertoire:

 

A slider he obviously likes more and more as his career progresses

A solid enough fastball that did dip somewhat toward the end of the season

My favorite (and underrated) video game pitch, the 2-seamer

A curveball that he mixes in slightly more than his last pitch…

A deceivingly enough changeup which was much more effective in 2012 than it was in 2011 (check out his PITCH f/x weighted On Base Avg (wOBA))

 

At 23 with only utter success already under his belt, as long as he stays healthy, he should put up a sub 3.25 era, 1.15 whip with 190+ K. His HR/FB ratio should actually regress positively. He’s a true 3.45-3.50 era guy, but in SFO, there’s no reason we can’t see a sub 3.00 era in the near future. In my Top 105 I ranked him 33 overall after only Kershaw, Strasburg, Verlander, Cliff Lee and King Felix, but in a dynasty league, I would pay slightly less (disclaimer) and take him over any of these guys.

 

3) Anthony Rendon is the 2nd best fantasy hitter on the Nationals in the 2nd half – only behind Bryce Harper (Who goes 30/30).

This IS a big and ballsy prediction because it assumes Ryan Zimmerman gets hurt – whether because of his throwing shoulder or his back. It’s a big, irrational assumption, but if it happens, Rendon should get the nod and could run away with the job moving Ryan Zimmerman to first as soon as ’14. This also assumes Rendon’s perpetual ankle shenanigans don’t continue to surface (which nixed the 2b transition all together). As bold of a prediction as this is, he had an even bolder spring: .375/.412/.875 with 4 HR, 4 2B and 11 RBI in just 13 games. LaRoche & Zimmerman are still blocking his way for now.

 

National fans – get excited about him and Brian Goodwin, who was just ranked in Fake Team’s top 15 OF prospects (excellent list for you to adhere to).

 

4) Freddie Freeman goes 100-30-100-.285 and is top 5 1B

 Freddie Freeman is my favorite sleeper. That’s right – sleeper. Everyone is tunneling in on Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo (as they should). I have also seen people take Ike Davis, Ryan Howard, Eric Hosmer and Mark Trumbo a bit too early. If you are in re-draft leagues, don’t forget about Paul Konerko. If you are in re-draft leagues and keeper/dynasty leagues – DEFINITELY DO NOT forget about Freddie Freeman.

First off, Freddie Freeman will only be 23 next year! As Eno Sarris depicts, power peaks well before the age of 27 even though HR/FB can max out later based on discipline, contact, etc. He has already belted 21 HR at 21 and 23 HR at 22. There’s little reason not to think he will surpass 25 at 23. On Freddie Freeman’s Fangraphs+ profile (requires a well-worth-it subscription), they rationally pointed to his early hacking tendencies, but it looks as though Freddie is fitting into a good and realistic trend. From 2010 (MiLB) to 2012:

BB%: 8.3 > 8.3 > 10.3

K%: 16.2 > 22.4 > 20.8

Ct%: 77.4 > 77.6

ISO: .200 > .166 > .196

 

From a balls in play (BIP) perspective, Freeman made a good leap in only his second full season  - while succumbing to vision issues:

GB/FB: 1.23 > 1.01

2011: G/F/L – 42.4%; 34.6%; 23%

2012: G/F/L – 37.1%; 36.9%; 26%

 

2013 MAPProjection:

In 2013, I projected Freddie Freeman as the 43rd best 5×5 provider in our Top 105. I rationally projected 89r-27hr-99rbi-2sb with a .278/.357/.483. His HR total came from a 37.5% FB rate and a 16% HR/FB ratio on just over 450 balls in play, but at 23, there’s little reason not think he can lift the ball even more. Two years running, Freeman averaged about 290 ft. with his HR and FB distance according to Jeff Zimmerman’s Baseball Heat Maps Leaderboard and Turner field has little effect on LH HR expectations.

 

Jason Heyward (another LH) hit the ball 2 ft. further on average to a 16.9% HR/FB ratio within a similar angle at an almost identical 36.7% FB clip. He spanked 27 HR last year. If we project Freeman at a 38% FB rate with a 17% HR/FB ratio on 450 BIP, we’re at 29 home runs already!

 

According to ESPN’s HR Tracker, zero of Freeman’s 23 HR last year were considered Lucky while 3 were No Doubters (5 Just Enoughs) – another source somewhat qualifying his power.

 

With his LD rates (23 & 26% to date, he has a lower BABIP and hit expectancy than one would think). Some luck here and we can see an avg. closer to .285 versus the .278 projection above. A line of .282-28hr-92r-102rbi-2sb is certainly within reach. This line would make Freeman the #35 overall and the 8th best 1B if you are including Posey’s eligibility. In keeper leagues I would only value Joey Votto and Prince Fielder as more valuable while thinking similar value short-term from Paul Goldschmidt & Anthony Rizzo.

 

Long story short, he’s got a great supporting cast, he’s in a solid trend and I would say (with his success to date), his next 5 years should incur you some awesome counting stats.

 

5) Joe Mauer hits less than 5 HR

If you live in Minnesota, the only reason you hate Joe Mauer is all the Mauer Chevorlet commercials on the radio – especially if you’re driving a prius in the middle of winter without snow tires. In our Dynasty League, he went super early, but we use runs produced (R+RBI-HR) as well as plate appearances, OBP and SLG so he is actually quite valuable (and it’s a 2-catcher league), but in 5×5 terms, he’s still going relatively too early at times. #50 according to Mock Draft Central is early – 2 catcher league or not. In any case, he remains valuable when healthy, and my seemingly ballsy prediction here is simply rational from a balls in play perspective. This isn’t out of left field – Rotochamp has Mauer at 11 HR while the usual suspects on Fangraphs averages Mauer’s HR total to 10.6 HR.

 

Mauer’s FB rate last year was an abysmal 22.4% (similar to 22.1% in 2011). League average was 34% for reference. His HR/FB of 9.7% should probably regress (5.4 & 6.7% in the two years prior). Mauer only hit 10 HR last year in 147 games played. I think it would be rough for him to hit 10 HR in the same quantity of games played this year and that’s no lock either.

 

Our 2013 MAPProjection for him (in 501 AB) is .305-8hr-4sb-79r-71rbi

 

6) Joey Votto (approaches 20% BB again) and Adrian Gonzalez (FB & HR/FB rates) don’t make it onto the top 20 NL HR list again

I realized last second I had to take Chris Carter (26 HR) off of this list:

1-Giancarlo Stanton (41)

2-Ryan Braun (34)

3-Jay Bruce (34)

4-Ike Davis (33)

5-Wilin Rosario (30)

6-Jason Heyward (28)

7-Anthony Rizzo (28)

8-Ryan Howard (28)

9-Paul Goldschmidt (28)

10-Freddie Freeman (27)

11-Matt Kemp (27)

12-Bryce Harper (27)

13-Andrew McCutchen (26)

14-Pedro Alvarez (26)

15-BJ Upton (25)

16-Allen Craig (25)

17-Ryan Zimmerman (25)

18-Adam LaRoche (25)

19-Joey Votto (25)

20-Adrian Gonzalez (24)

 

And the guys with a good chance to knock them off:

Alfonso Soriano (24)

Aramis Ramirez (23)

Ryan Ludwick (23)

Matt Holliday (23)

Justin Upton (22)

Jason Kubel (22)

Carlos Beltran (21)

Buster Posey (21)

Carlos Gonzalez (21)

Troy Tulowitzki (20)

 

…And last, but not least…

 

7) Miguel Cabrera wins the Triple Crown again!

 From a HR perspective:

I actually project Bautista with slightly more HR, but that’s no lock. Albert Pujols in LAA, Edwin Encarnacion slightly regresses, Adam Dunn, Mark Trumbo, Prince Fielder, and Adrian Beltre all fall short. Evan Longoria gets close with enough AB (misses enough games and BB% jumps enough where it doesn’t happen). Hamilton doesn’t come close in LAA.

 

Avg. perspective:

Mauer gets closest. No other (qualifying) AL hitter is a lock for .300. Cano, Beltre, Fielder, Butler, V-mart and Trout makes up the group between .294 and .304.

 

RBI perspective:

I like Austin Jackson’s trends and the addition of Torii Hunter provides more than enough RBI opportunities. Prince Fielder on the same team, will be his only real competition!

 

Heck if something happens to Trout, Miguel Cabrera leads the league in runs as well – in addition to AL SLG and OPS (2nd to Fielder in OBP). Face it, the Tigers lineup is stacked:

 

1. Austin Jackson (3rd in AL in runs)

2. Torii Hunter

3. Miguel Cabrera (Triple Crown)

4. Prince Fielder (2nd in RBI to Miggy)

5. V-mart

6. LF (Accoutrement followed by Nick Castellanos)

7. Alex Avila/Johnny Peralta

8. Johnny Peralta/Alex Avila

9. Omar Infante

 

It’s almost baseball season folks. I’m so excited – I just can’t hide it. Right, Jesse Spano?

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