LORG’s 2017 MLB Bold Predictions

Compiled by: Ray Butler

With less than two weeks remaining until MLB Opening Day, the members of the League of Ruthless Gentlemen have submitted their bold predictions for the upcoming season.

These aren’t typical, shot-in-the-dark predictions made by fair-weathered, light-hearted fantasy baseballers. I know it’s somewhat trivial to shamelessly promote your own guys, but LORG is chalked full of well-researched, bright-minded guys who know way too much about baseball to not be paid for the work they do.

A disclaimer: There’s a little bit of overlap in some of these predictions since each LORG owner submitted their predictions separately. Now, buckle your seat belt. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

#1. Pablo Sandoval finishes the season as a top 1o fantasy third baseman.

DO WE HAVE YOUR ATTENTION NOW? With his weight issues seemingly a thing of the past, Sandoval (and his jaw-dropping bat speed that we all know and love) will be of equal fantasy value as, say, Anthony Rendon in 2017. It’ll be a reemergence for the ages.

#2. Christian Yelich will hit 30 home runs.

Yelich had never shown anything more than fairly minimal power until he blasted 21 home runs last season. Instead of succumbing to expected regression, he’ll build on that success in 2017. Why? Let’s take a closer look. Yelich has been one of the most ground ball-heavy hitters in the entire league since being promoted in 2013. His ground ball percentage in respective seasons was 63.2% in 2013, 61.0% in 2014, 62.5% in 2015, and 56.5% in 2016. There seems to be a strong correlation between the drop in GB% and the increase in home runs. It might be because he leads the league in hard contact percent on balls hit in the air since his arrival in 2013. When Yelich hits a ball in the air, be it a line drive or fly ball, he hits it harder on a more consistent basis more than anyone else in baseball. If Yelich can continue to increase his launch angle on batted balls, he should become a hitter capable of 30 home runs on yearly basis.

#3. Ryan Schimpf will lead all second basemen in home runs… and strikeouts. 

This obviously means that Schimpf will hit more home runs than Brian Dozier, Rougned Odor and Daniel Murphy. He’ll also strike out more times than Jonathan Villar and Odor. The Padres’ second baseman offers very little outside of big flies (most season-long projections think his OBP will drop after finishing at .336 last season), but he could be an underrated role player on fantasy teams this year (especially with 2B and 3B eligibility).

#4. The Gurriel brothers (Yulieski and Lourdes Jr.) will combine to hit fewer than 25 home runs across the MLB and MiLB.

If you truly follow baseball, then you know that the Gurriels’ defection from Cuba to the United States last year was a much bigger deal in the world of baseball than was expressed by the mainstream sports media. Yuli and Lourdes were likely the best players in all of Cuba when they defected, and they have since settled with the Astros and Blue Jays, respectively. There’s quite a bit of hype surrounding the duo heading into the 2017 season, but the helium will be fleeting for the brothers this year. There will be flashes of athleticism and above-average hit tools, but the pair won’t come close to meeting power expectations (Yuli in the MLB and Lourdes in the minors).

#5. Kyle Schwarber makes enough starts at catcher to retain/gain fantasy eligibility for 2018.

Less than a week ago, Joe Maddon admitted that in a perfect world, Schwarber will catch fewer than 75 innings in 2017. But even if he only catches 50, that SHOULD be enough for him to gain or hold onto catcher eligibility, depending on the format. Being able to slot a 30 home run leadoff hitter into the catcher spot would be a big, big deal.

#6. Yasiel Puig finishes as a top 20 fantasy outfielder.

Remember in the summer of 2013 when it seemed like Yasiel Puig was literally the next big thing in all of baseball? It hasn’t exactly worked out since then (though Puig has shown flashes of superstardom at times since), but 2017 will prove to be a huge step in his attempted ascension to the top.

yasiel puig
Yasiel Puig will officially insert himself amongst the most valuable outfielders in the game this season. (h/t AP Images)
#7. Francisco Liriano finishes with more wins, strikeouts, and a lower WHIP than Aaron Sanchez.

I know it’s the spring, but Liriano has absolutely been dominating MLB-level hitters thus far in spring training. His reunion with Jarrod Saltalamacchia will play a large role in him being a better overall pitcher than teammate Aaron Sanchez in 2017 (whispers: Sanchez also won’t be as good as he was last season).

#8. Kennys Vargas will lead the Twins in home runs thanks to a Brian Dozier trade and a Miguel Sano demotion.

Oh yes! And to think that some people thought 2016 was as bad as it could possible get for the Twins. How about Miguel Sano being so bad early this season that he’s demoted to Rochester before June, and Brian Dozier (who will hit way fewer HR this season that in 2016) being moved to a contender before the trade deadline? That means that Kennys Vargas will lead YOUR Minnesota Twins in home runs in 2017 (he’ll hit exactly 22).

#9. James Paxton will win the AL Cy Young.

Paxton is 28 and has never thrown more than 121 innings in an MLB season. That all changes in 2017, as the hard throwing southpaw will strike out over 200 batters and post an ERA that matches his FIP from last season (2.80).

james paxton
2017 will be the season that a healthy James Paxton finally finds his ceiling. (h/t USA Today)
#10. Joe Musgrove ends the year with the most wins on the Astros’ staff.

It’s no secret that the Astros need someone to step in and be a quality back-end starter, and Musgrove will do just that. Heck, he’ll further succeed expectations and win more games than both Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers in 2017.

#11. C.J. Cron will be a top 10 first baseman, slashing .280/.350/.550. Bonus Bold: He’s an All-Star.

The Angels are seeming increasingly comfortable with Cron being an almost-everyday contributor in 2017 after flirting with a three-man platoon that would include Luis Valbuena and Albert Pujols during the offseason. Cron will force his way into everyday playing time regardless, though. He’ll even be in Miami for the All-Star game.

#12. The Cardinals will win the NL Pennant after making the playoffs via the Wild Card.

The Cardinals’ voodoo magic still has a little left in the tank. Dexter Fowler will do wonders for that lineup and the pitching staff will get sizable contributions from both Lance Lynn and (gasp) Michael Wacha in 2017. St. Louis will do just enough to clinch a Wild Card spot before making a Cinderella run in the postseason.

#13. Keon Broxton will have a greater home run + net stolen base total than Bryce Harper.

In what was obviously a down year, Bryce Harper finished with 24 HR and 11 NSB in 2016; Broxton finished with 9 HR and 19 NSB (in far fewer plate appearances). So after considering those numbers, this prediction may not be as bold as it seems. But consider this: would any of us be surprised if Harper combined for 45 HR+NSB this season? What about 50? Then consider the type of season that means Broxton would have to put up to top it. 2017 will be a bounce back season for Harper, but it’ll also be the season that Broxton officially introduces himself to the baseball world.

#14. Ivan Nova will finish the season with an ERA under 3.50.

On paper, Ivan Nova’s holistic performance in 2016 was pretty meh. A career 4.30 ERA pitcher, Nova posted up a 4.17 ERA while splitting his time with the Yankees and the Pirates (he was traded to Pittsburgh near the deadline). There’s little reason for optimism until you consider that he finished with the best BB/9 (1.56) and GB% (53.6%) of his career. Let’s also check out Nova’s 1st and 2nd half splits:

Split

IP

K/9

BB/9

WHIP

BABIP

ERA

FIP

xFIP

1st half

80.0

6.86

1.91

1.35

.326

5.18

4.57

4.50

2nd half

80.2

7.24

1.21

1.16

.288

3.18

3.79

3.15

Nova figured something out around the middle of last season (Ray Searage, anyone?) and the peripherals make it seem like his second half could be sustainable. A sub-3.50 ERA along with similar counting stats as his 2016 second half performance would likely make Nova a top-30 fantasy pitcher this season.

#15. Carlos Rodon throws more than 190 innings and strikes out more than 190 batters.

The White Sox have been purposefully conservative this spring in preparing Rodon for the 2017 season after the young lefty pitched through arm fatigue last year. He’ll get stronger as the year goes on, and (bonus bold prediction) the southpaw will be hailed as the arm that will lead the White Sox through their rebuild after Jose Quintana and David Robertson are both moved before the 2017 MLB trade deadline.

#16. Alex Bregman finishes as a top-5 fantasy third baseman, tallying triple-digits in both runs scored and RBIs.

He certainly got off to a rocky start after being promoted to The Show last season, but Bregman had a strong finish and will pick up right where he left off in 2017. Thanks partly to a stacked lineup, Bregman will drive in more than 100 runs in 2017; he’ll also score more than 100 runs. He’ll be drafted within a handful of picks of Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado next season.

alex bregman
Alex Bregman seems awfully under-hyped heading into the 2017 season. Buy shares while you still can. (h/t ESPN)
#17. Giancarlo Stanton will finally put together the season everyone has been waiting for, finishing with 45 home runs and a .400 OBP on his way to winning the NL MVP.

It’s easy to stay giddy about Stanton’s ability when you witness moments such as his mammoth homerun against the Dominican Republic last Saturday night in the World Baseball Classic. He’ll stay injury-free in 2017 and finally post a season of statistics that match his hall-of-fame ability.

#18. Yu Darvish finishes the season as the best starting pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw.

I hope you’re ready for the hype train. We’ve been waiting and waiting for Darvish to put together a full, healthy season that matches his outlandish potential. 2017 will be it. He’s already 30, but Darvish will be the most talked about pitcher around the league heading into next season.

#19. Evan Longoria will finish with 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, and leads the Rays to an AL Wild Card spot.

Longoria is more than capable of hitting 30 home runs in a season, so the 100 RBIs and an a Wild Card birth for the Rays are the bold parts of this prediction. Longoria will drive in more runs (and the Rays’ offensive will be better in general) due to Kevin Kiermaier’s emergence as a reliable, top-of-the-lineup hitter this season.

#20. Michael Fulmer will be the third best starting pitcher on the Tigers’ staff.

This is partly because Fulmer will regress and partly because Daniel Norris will emerge as a viable SP option in 2017 (it’s certainly not because Anibal Sanchez or Mike Pelfrey will remember how to pitch). Fulmer won’t be bad, but he won’t match his 2016 numbers.

michael fulmer
His emergence last season was a pleasant surprise, but Michael Fulmer won’t find the same success in 2017. (h/t Sports Illustrated)
#21. Khris Davis will lead the league in home runs and strikeouts.

He flies under the radar mostly because he now plays in Oakland, but man does Khris Davis have some unreal power. You’ll hear his name pop up in discussions more often this season when he hits more home runs than he hit in 2016 (42). He’ll also strike out north of 200 times. Hey, you win some, you lose some.

#22. Greg Bird will finish the season as a top 7 first baseman and will play in the Mid-Summer Classic.

Back healthy after missing all of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury, Bird is ready to make Mark Teixeira seem like a distant memory to Yankees fans. The left handed 24 year old will begin cementing his place in Yankees lore this season, hitting over 30 home runs and playing in his first All Star game.

#23. A.J. Pollock will not be a top 80 hitter according to end-of-season wRC+.

In 2015, Pollock finished with a 131 wRC+ (a stat that attempts to measure a player’s total offensive value). That number ranked him 24th amongst all hitters that season. This is a recap A.J. Pollock’s miraculous season in which he contributed in every single category:

PA

HR

R

RBI

SB

ISO

BABIP

AVG

OBP

SLG

673

20

111

76

39

.182

.338

.315

.367

.498

Since Pollock began playing professional baseball in 2009, he has hit more than 8 home runs ONCE. Assuming that the 2015 season was an outlier, a more realistic expectation for Pollock is somewhere around 10 HRs, 70 R, 60 RBI and 25 SB. Those numbers are useful, but they lack a little bit of luster when considering where Pollock is being taken in fantasy drafts this preseason.

#24. Aaron Judge will lead the MLB in home runs and strikeouts.

The MLB’s version of The Mountain will have the opportunity to see everyday at-bats at the big league level in 2017. He looks like he could be Giancarlo Stanton’s brother, but he’ll put up a Chris Davis-esque stat line this season, totaling 45 home runs and 215 K’s, which will be good for the league lead in both categories.

#25. The Rockies win the NL West thanks to a great lineup and solid pitching contributions from Jon Gray and Jeff Hoffman.

Anyone other than the Dodgers or Giants winning the NL West would be a big deal, but the Rockies will make it happen in 2017 thanks in large part to a ridiculously good starting lineup featuring Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, David Dahl and D.J. LeMahieu (AND Ian Desmond once he recovers from a wrist injury). The rotation will be better than expected, too, with young hurlers like Jon Gray, Jeff Hoffman, and Tyler Anderson (who’s not mentioned in the prediction) leading the way. Winning the NL West means the Rockies will likely win more than 90 games this season.

#26. Tanner Roark will expand on his 2016 success, and, thanks to injuries to Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer, will lead the Nationals’ staff in innings pitched and overall fantasy value.

There’s a lot of layers to this prediction, but I’d like to start by saying that Roark seems widely underappreciated heading into this season after the year he put together in 2016. The Nats’ rotation is going to have some major health issues in 2017, but Roark will step in and assume the role of a makeshift ace.

#27. Danny Salazar will win the AL Cy Young.

Salazar comes into the season with concerns surrounding his health and his command of pitches. He’ll put it all to bed, though, when he throws more than 200 innings in 2017 and walks fewer than 3 batters per nine innings. He’ll also strike out 225 batters.

danny salazar.jpg
What if I told you that Danny Salazar will be the best pitcher on the Indians this season? (h/t MLB.com)
#28. Manuel Margot will attempt 60 steals.

Look, if San Diego let Wil Myers (a first baseman, for crying out loud) attempt 34 steals last season, there’s no way they won’t give Manuel Margot the green light on a daily basis in 2017 (especially when holistically considering that the Padres finished third in steals attempted last season). In 2016, Margot stole 30 bases on 41 attempts in 124 AAA games. In 2015, he went 39-for-52 in 110 games across A+/AA. Margot should be the opening day center fielder in San Diego. His hit tool will allow him to produce enough to maintain the starting job, and he’s a sure-fire bet to steal a ton of bases.

#29. Chris Archer will bounce back in a big way, finishing the season as the AL Cy Young Award winner.

After a horrific first-half last season, Archer posted a 3.25 ERA in his last fourteen starts and seemed back on track and well on his way to being an elite option in 2017. The Rays will be the surprise team in the American League this season, and Archer will strike out 250 batters on his way to claiming the league’s Cy Young Award.

#30. Lance McCullers finishes the season with the highest K/9 of all starting pitchers and is a 2018 preseason top 15 fantasy SP.

It seems like he’s been really close to this happening in seasons past. 2017 will finally be the year that McCullers stays healthy and breaks out. That means that right now is your absolute last chance to buy-low in keeper and dynasty leagues.

#31. Aledmys Diaz will be a top 5 offensive shortstop.

Corey Seager, Manny Machado, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Lindor and Trea Turner are the most touted shortstops in all of baseball heading into the 2017 season. Aledmys Diaz will have a better 2017 campaign than two of those guys to finish as a top 5 SS. The Cardinals’ new shortstop posted an extremely respectable BB% (8.9) , K% (13.0) , and ISO (.210) during his rookie season in 2016 (and probably would have won the NL Rookie of the Year if is weren’t for that other rookie SS in Los Angeles). Diaz’s power is legit, and his ability to hit doubles and home runs will soon land him amongst the game’s elite.

#32. Trea Turner will lead the league in stolen bases.

The table-setter for the Nationals kicked down the door as he (officially) entered the big leagues last season. He’s probably due for a little bit of regression, but he’ll still get on base enough to let his game changing speed propel him to swiping the most bases in the entire league.

trea turner
Trea Turner’s top-of-the-scale speed will be put on full display in 2017. (h/t USA Today)
#33. Carlos Gomez finishes as a top 25 fantasy outfielder.

Gomez was absolutely horrific for large portions of the 2016 season. It’ll prove to simply be a blip on the radar, though, as he’ll put together a huge season in the launchpad in Arlington before hitting free agency in the offseason.

#34. Gary Sanchez leads the AL in home runs.

Sanchez will prove that his rise-to-fame in 2016 was no fluke. Not only will he improve on last season’s performance, he’ll be the best fantasy catcher in all of baseball heading into next season.

#35. Jon Gray strikes out more than a batter per inning and finishes the season with a sub-3.10 ERA.

There’s a lot of helium currently attached the talented right-hander. That will all come to fruition this season as he overcomes pitching at Coors Field and puts together a ridiculously good 2017 campaign.

#36. Yoan Moncada finishes with a 35% K-rate in MLB at-bats.

Don’t worry, he’ll have flashes of brilliance this season whether he starts in AAA or in the big leagues. The swing-and-miss ability is daunting with Moncada, though, and it’ll rear its ugly head this season.

#37. Josh Bell will finish his rookie season with more walks than strikeouts.

Bell is going to be a really, really good MLB first baseman. He’s always had a really good sense of the strike zone, and that discipline will be put on full display during his rookie season. Bell will have 70 walks and will only go down swinging 65 times.

#38. The Braves will win more than 80 games.

Atlanta finished 68-93 last year, but they were so much better after acquiring Matt Kemp to serve as protection for Freddie Freeman. With the veteran additions of Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Brandon Phillips and the move to a new stadium, the Braves will be a team to keep an eye on in 2017.

#39. The Pirates will wish they traded Andrew McCutchen when they had the chance.

Don’t get it twisted: Cutch will continue to be an above average MLB outfielder. He’ll never again be a superstar, though, and the Pirates will no longer be able to move him for the return they would have fetched this offseason (and they’ll want to move him, for Austin Meadows is the one who knocks).

andrew mccutchen
Andrew McCutchen’s best days are likely in the rear view mirror. (h/t Getty Images)
#40. Tim Tebow will make one MLB plate appearance.

Yeah……………………………… yeah. Just going to leave this here. But hey, you’ve read this far. You deserve this! We’ve gone this far, so how about this: In his one plate appearance, Tebow will hit an opposite field single off Mauricio Cabrera.

 

 

 

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