For fantasy baseball aficionados, the All-Star break is truly a break. No worries for a few days about setting lineups or players getting injured (unless Albert Pujols pulls a hammy in the All-Star game) or who has the best matchup.
For the first time in the past three-plus months, we have a moment to reflect on a half-season’s worth of baseball, reassess where our fantasy teams are and how silly we all were during the preseason when we thought every one of our teams would be smoking the competition at this point.
It’s also a good time to reflect on fantasy expections gone awry. Right before the season opener, I developed my own list of bold predictions. Time to assign some mid-term grades and look ahead to Part Deux of the MLB marathon.
Ryan Zimmerman will outproduce (from a fantasy standpoint in 2010) all third baseman not named Alex Rodriguez. This is not me hating on Evan Longoria and the other options as much as me man-crushing on Zimmerman this season.
According to Yahoo stat rankings, Zimmerman is currently eighth among all third basemen … one spot ahead of Mr. ARod. Wiser folk may reconsider such a brash comment as my bold prediction, but no one in their right mind would expect Zimmerman to underproduce guys like Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre and Martin Prado the rest of the way. Sanity be darned, I’m sticking with my man-crush on Zimmerman.
The Yankees, Red Sox and Rays will be in a three-way Battle Royale for both the AL-East crown and AL wildcard at least until Joe Paterno gets his next win with Penn State’s football team. When the dust settles, Boston will be on the outside looking in.
Now here’s a bold prediction with teeth so far. The Yanks, Rays and Red Sox are all in the thick of things. The Red Sox look very, very mortal, especially with a list of injuries longer than the ticket booth line at a Hannah Montana concert. Sticking with this prediction, with no hesitation.
Rickie Weeks will start more than 130 games this year (his highest was 129 in 2008) and will produce Brandon Phillips-like numbers during large stretches of the season.
Rickie Weeks stay healthy a majority of a season? Malarky you say. Yet, Weeks has logged 351 at-bats and counting and has produced very Brandon Phillips-esque numbers in bunches. In fact, Weeks has just as many net stolen bases, three more homers and 22 more RBI than Phillips at this point. Sure, he’s hitting 0.30 worse at the plate than the Cincinnati second-sacker, but considering that Weeks was avaible in the wee hours of your springtime fantasy baseball drafts, his current standing is no laughing matter. He does produce in bunches, but overall stats are what matter in roto formats, and Weeks will continue to rake.
Ian Kinsler will start less than 130 games this year.
OK. Kinsler isn’t currently injured and has been on the field fairly regularly since his return from the DL. However, he isn’t the Kinsler we all know and love and drafted higher than we should have. In fact, Anthony Andro of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently admitted that Kinsler’s ankle “still isn’t right.” Hence the lower stolen base totals. Hence the possibility that he’ll continue to underperform and may see more DL time in the coming months. It doesn’t help that Kinsler also has just two homers in the past 223 at-bats.
Jonathan Sanchez will lead the National League in strikeouts in 2010.
Sanchez currently has 98 strikeouts in 100 innings pitched. He’s currently 28th among all pitchers in Ks, 15th in the NL. Teammate Tim Lincecum has 131 strikeouts so far. In other words, Sanchez may not even lead his team in Ks at this pace. I knew the prediction was a major stretch, and seems less likely than ever to happen considering the pace. However, the goal with this prediction was to illustrate Sanchez’s strikeout potential. I expect better things moving forward, and suggest everyone consider purchasing Sanchez at a reduced rate with an eye to the future.
Jay Bruce will hit more home runs than any other batter in the NL-Central short of Albert Pujols.
Just 10 home runs in the first half of the season, Bruce has not lived up to his end of the bargain. I told him all he had to do was whack home runs at an insanely awesome rate and I’d continue to talk him up in the Ninja circles. Bruce has been very inconsistent in spurts and many are starting to think him a liability more than a starting outfielder in fantasy circles. I’ll continue to suggest that he’s a buy-low guy. I’ll even suggest he whacks at least 15 more homers the rest of the way … I want to say 20, but don’t want be the cause of any ninja-induced heart attacks among our readers.
The Detroit Tigers will win the AL-Central.
Currently leading the AL-Central by 4.5 games over the Chicago White Sox, with plenty of pitching and hitting potential, I’m still fully expecting the Tigers to win the AL-Central.
Jose Valverde saves more games than Mariano Rivera.
Valverde has been a great closer this season, although he is still two saves behind Mariano Rivera at the moment. My arguement before the season stands for the remainder of the MLB marathon … the Tigers will provide more opportunities for Valverde to save games than the Yankees will provide Rivera. Valverde will out-save Rivera in 2010.
Justin Verlander narrowly beats Jake Peavy for the AL Cy Young.
Verlander has been wildly inconsistent at times this season, but still should be a top-tiered fantasy pitcher the rest of the way. Peavy, meanwhile, has been lost for the season due to injury. So, I was right to suggest he won’t win the CY Young … there just won’t be anything close about it.
Evereth Cabrera has a better season-ending stat line than Elvis Andrus.
Cabrera has struggled with consistency and maturity this season. A stint on the DL didn’t help. He will see an increase in batting average in the second half, but it looks less and less likely that he will eclipse Andrus anytime soon.
The Angels will not win the AL-West.
The Cliff Lee trade emphasized that the Texas Rangers are the class of the AL-West right now, and they’ll have no trouble staving off the Angels down the stretch.
Francisco Liriano finishes the season as the Twins uncontested No. 1 pitcher.
Looking only at Yahoo’s current pitcher rater, Liriano is just behind Carl Pavano as far as top fantasy pitcher for the Twins. Much of that is due to Pavano’s nine wins compared to Liriano’s six. However, Liriano easily leads all Twins pitchers with strikeouts and in spite of an embarassing outing Friday night, will continue to emerge as the best thing Minnesota has going from a starting pitching standpoint.
Jason Heyward will not win the NL rookie of the year.
What an impressive start to Heyward’s rookie campaign. He will have some growing pains, and is currently on the DL, but will ultimately mature into a great player for the Braves. However, Stephen Strasburg’s utter dominance since being called up is just too hard to overlook, even if he posts middle-of-the-road numbers the rest of the way.
Andrew McCutchen outproduces Ichiro Suzuki.
McCutchen is currently 11 spots higher than Suzuki in Yahoo ranking. Both are nearly identical in stolen bases, with Ichiro having a slight edge in batting average and McCutchen hitting more than double homers over Suzuki. Plus, McCutchen has plenty of potential to do more, while Suzuki is playing right around his ceiling.
Geovany Soto finishes the season as the second-best NL catcher.
Soto is currently rated ninth among all fantasy catchers by Yahoo, fourth among National Leaguers. The goal in making this bold prediction was to illustrate the potential of Soto over guys drafted much higher than him. At the moment, Soto is hitting .010 higher than Brian McCann, with just two homers less. Considering my skepticism that Rod Barajas and Miguel Olivo continue their torrid paces the rest of the season, and Soto still has a good shot of reaching my lofty goal.
Drew Storen is saving games for the Washington Nationals before Brett Favre makes a decision on whether or not to play in 2010.
Considering Favre is taking his sweet time to announce the inevitable, this off-the-cuff prediction still has a chance of happening. Matt Capps, the current Nationals closer, is helping my cause with multiple blown saves and a ballooning ERA as of late. Manager Jim Riggleman is saying all the right things … that they’ll stick with Capps through this rough stretch, but Storen is the team’s closer of the future, and the Nationals have as much a shot of making the playoffs as I do of kicking field goals for the Baltimore Ravens. Capps may be dealt before the trade deadline, or demoted at some point as the Nationals slowly move towards the future and start to get Storen used to his eventual long-term job.
Brian Matusz wins the AL rookie of the year.
Matusz has been majorly disappointing overall, although impressive in spurts. However, the odds of him winning the AL rookie of the year seem longer and longer at this point. Just saying.
By season’s end, Kyle Blanks’ batting average and weight are within 10 points/pounds of each other.
Injury and ineffectiveness have sidelined one of the chinstrap ninjas’ biggest preseason man crushes. Blanks is a big guy, and my prediction was in hopes that he’d improve his plate discipline moreso than lose a lot of weight. He currently weighs, according to Rotoworld.com, 270 pounds. His MLB batting average is .250. Word from San Diego is that Blanks may be faced with surgery in the near future. I’m hoping he either loses 10 pounds in the hot summer sun or somehow gets a little more playing time in the bigs and bumps up that average a few ticks. Still too close to call.
Denard Span has a much better chance of beaning a relative with a foul ball as I do of drafting Ichiro Suzuki on any of my fantasy teams. (And you doubted my ability to make accurate bold predictions!)
The one stone-cold-lead-pipe lock of the list … Ichiro is not on any of my teams. Never will be. Enough said.
What are your bold predictions for the rest of the season? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.