12:55 PM ET
Spring training is ending soon and the 2022 regular season is just about ready to (finally) get underway. As such, it is time to get a little bit bold when it comes to fantasy baseball! There are, of course, different levels of bold. For example, while I believe that White Sox OF Eloy Jimenez may end up posting a career-high HR total, I do not think he will hit 55 blasts. There’s a big difference in degree of boldness there!
Bold predictions are wonderful until they look utterly ridiculous, which is quite often. They are not supposed to come to fruition, but if they do, well, then you look smart. I am not trying to look smart. I doubt it would fool anyone anyway. I am trying to make some predictions that are a bit outside the norm but ones that I think are realistic.
Anyway, let’s get right to it, starting with the American League. (We’ll voice our National League opinions tomorrow.) Again, to be clear, most, if not all, of these bold predictions are not going to happen. Still, perhaps I am on the right track with some of them — and that may be just as important as we tackle our final fantasy baseball drafts before the start of the regular season.
6dTristan H. Cockcroft
Baltimore Orioles: All aboard the Jorge Mateo train! Who? Well, learn the name. Mateo is a fast guy who may have trouble getting on base. He’s not a prospect, but the Orioles figure to keep him on the roster and play him. I think they will love his energy and versatility. We will love the 15 home runs and 25 stolen bases. This may be a lite version of Cedric Mullins! Also, I took my time believing in lefty John Means, but I am giving him 15 wins. Yes, on this team.
Boston Red Sox: Would you believe me if I said I think Trevor Story, formerly of the Colorado Rockies, will have a better season with Boston than he did in 2021? Yep. More home runs and stolen bases. A higher batting average. That seems bold. Story is a great player, and while we cannot delve into the minds of players, he must be ecstatic to play for a winning franchise. Do not panic here. Oh, and good for prospect Triston Casas and his continued ascension, but Bobby Dalbec is hitting 35 homers in the bigs this season.
Chicago White Sox: If you think that was a legit Michael Kopech breakout last season, just wait until this summer. Kopech whiffed 36% of the hitters he faced. He probably cannot do that as a starter, since nobody struck out that percentage among qualified starters, but … well, why not? This is the Corbin Burnes of the AL. Kopech does not win the AL Cy Young (yet), but roughly 130 innings, 2.90 ERA, and 200 Ks will work. Also, as hinted at in my intro, Eloy Jimenez whacks 40 homers.
Cleveland Guardians: There is no reason why SS Amed Rosario cannot double his stolen base total and lead the team. He just has to want it. In fact, let us give a trio of Guardians — the name is growing on me — 30 steals. Myles Straw and Jose Ramirez have done it before. Rosario joins them and rookie OF Steven Kwan makes it four — OK, no, I cannot give him that many steals, but the “lefty David Fletcher” hits .300.
Detroit Tigers: All that enticing lefty Tarik Skubal needs to do is limit the home runs. I say it happens and Skubal drops more than a run off his ERA to 3.20, and whiffs 195 hitters. Oh, and rookie Spencer Torkelson is legit. He leads the team in home runs with 33.
Houston Astros: It’s time for Michael Brantley to win his first AL batting title. Jeremy Pena finishes third in AL top rookie voting, with 22 home runs. Justin Verlander wins 18 games. The Astros win 100.
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Kansas City Royals: The Royals need to give Edward Olivares a starting role right now. It happens before the end of April and Olivares, who hit .313 with power and speed at Triple-A Omaha, ends up as a 20/20 player and a fantasy free-agent find. On the mound, Carlos Hernandez is the Royals starter to roster. He finishes with a 3.75 ERA. Whit Merrifield finishes the season with the San Diego Padres.
Los Angeles Angels: I see five Angels hitting 30 home runs. Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon have already achieved this, and Jared Walsh fell just one short a season ago. Jo Adell makes it five! The skills and the power are hardly in question. Making contact is, but the pressure is off him now. He can be Franmil Reyes.
Minnesota Twins: How about 500 PA for Byron Buxton? Eh, if I believed that, I would rank him in my top 20. Let’s give him 350 PA (which he has achieved only once in seven seasons), but a cool 28 home runs and 15 steals. Go get RHP Joe Ryan before the real breakout. He’s a totally legit arm with strikeout potential. He wins 15 as the Twins surprisingly earn an AL wild-card spot.
New York Yankees: Something has to give in this crowded infield, because I do not see how Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Josh Donaldson all can each accrue more than 550 PA. I wanted to predict that Rizzo leads off and scores 100 runs, but that seems too improbable. So let us go to the pitching side and give Jameson Taillon the second-best season of his career. He will pitch deeper into games than 2021 and win 15, with a 3.50 ERA. It beats last season.
Oakland Athletics: Rookie Kevin Smith came over in the Chapman deal and he has power. His 25 home runs will lead the team, though the batting average may hurt a bit. This is not a great team. Cole Irvin will lead the club in innings after Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas end up on NL contenders St. Louis and Philadelphia, respectively. Daulton Jefferies leads Oakland pitchers in wins, ERA and whiffs.
Seattle Mariners: It seems too convenient to give pending star Julio Rodriguez 500 PA and Rookie of the Year honors, so let us focus on Jarred Kelenic, his value significantly down after his rookie struggles. I refuse to believe “that’s all there is.” He hits .260 with 25 home runs. In fact, six Mariners hit 25 blasts (Jesse Winker, Mitch Haniger, Ty France, Eugenio Suarez, Kelenic and Rodriguez). Logan Gilbert is the No. 2 starter.
Tampa Bay Rays: Where do I begin? I will not give Wander Franco a .330 batting average or 25 homers, because I cannot make that case. I do think Vidal Brujan, however, forces his way into the lineup — and few in fantasy seem focused on him. This is a 30-steal fellow, and quickly. So let us give him 500 PA, somehow, and he hits .300 with 10 home runs and, yep, 30 steals. Also, Drew Rasmussen is going to have similar stats to Shane McClanahan, but only one of them is going in drafts.
Texas Rangers: No more excuses for RHP Jon Gray. He’s in a better pitcher’s park. He misses bats. He has a solid defense backing him up. Gray was far better at Coors Field than on the road last season. He is 30. It’s time for 15 wins and a 3.40 ERA. At the plate, 1B Nathaniel Lowe hits more home runs than Corey Seager and Leody Taveras ends up leading the Rangers with 20 stolen bases. Some young players just need more time than others!
Toronto Blue Jays: Third baseman Matt Chapman hit 36 home runs for the 2019 Athletics, and 21 of those came in home games in a rather large, spacious stadium. He is capable of doing that again. Nobody says he wins a batting title, but in a friendlier home stadium, he hits 37 home runs and knocks in 110 runs, each second on the team to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Also, Kevin Gausman wins the AL East clincher and earns Cy Young votes. He was better in road games each of the past two seasons with the San Francisco Giants, you know.
Source: ESPN MLB