Baseball is just around the corner! I've done preseason predictions the last few years, and even though all it really does is prove to me how little I actually know about the MLB, I'm going to trot out there again and give you 15 predictions for the 2016 season. I welcome any feedback!
1. Miguel Cabrera finishes the season with .330/30/100.
It all depends on his health for the big fella. If he can stay healthy and play in over 155 games, the HR/RBI numbers should get there, although hitting over .330 will be a challenge. Fangraphs uses two very advanced metrics to estimate a players full season output, called ZiPS and Steamer.
ZiPS has Miggy at .306/24/88 in 131 games
Steamer has Miggy at .313/25/91 in 133 games.
A 155+ game season should get Miggy to the 30/100 range, and I think he will repeat or at least come close to the .338 he hit last year, especially with a lot of power surrounding him in the line-up.
2. Byron Buxton plays a full season, shows why he is a top prospect.
I didn't put any tangible measurements on this prediction, which will make it harder to judge at the end of the year. However, as of right now, Buxton is penciled in as the starting CFer for the Twins, and if he manages to hold onto that job all year and post double digit home runs and steals, I think we will have our answer. Most predictions have him only hitting around .260, but I think he will rebound from his poor showing in the MLB last year and put up big numbers. Mike Trout hit .220/.281/.390 in his 40 game debut in 2011, setting him up for his incredible 2011 season. Maybe Buxton will do the same.
3. Jonathan Schoop finishes with 25+ home runs.
Schoop had a power breakout at the plate last season, blasting 15 home runs despite missing half the season with an injury. If Schoop is able to stay healthy for a full season, he should get an opportunity to mash toward the bottom of an extremely power heavy line-up. Having guys like Machado, Davis, Trumbo, Alvarez, Jones and Wieters hitting around him should allow him to get a lot of fastballs, and a small park like Camden Yards should see the ball leave the yard quite a bit.
4. Marcus Stroman is the 2016 AL Cy Young winner.
Marcus Stroman has made 24 starts in his young career, tallying a 3.31 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP, and a blistering 129/34 K/BB ratio. The fact that he is only 24 years old, pitches for a team that should score him basically 5 runs every night, and that last season's injury should not affect his ability to pitch (since it happened to his knee) should give him an incredible opportunity to win 20 games and have outstanding peripheral numbers. He will have to compete with regular Cy Young contenders Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, David Price and Corey Kluber, not to mention up and coming arms like Chris Archer and Carlos Carrasco, but Stroman is as good a bet as any to take home the award.
5. Nick Castellanos finally breaks out, becomes big piece for Tigers.
Castellanos had been, simply put, a bad MLB player for the first 1.5 years of his career. However, unbeknownst to a lot of fans, a switch flipped in Castellanos over the last half of last season. While the Tigers sold off and limped through the 2nd half, Castellanos came alive to the tune of .275/.323/.481 with 22 home runs. He may never be good with the leather, but a .270+ batting average and 30 home runs would go a long, long way toward fans forgetting about his abysmal first two years in Motown.
6. Didi Gregorius hits more home runs that Alex Rodriguez.
I have to have one ridiculously, comically bold prediction each year, mainly for the one time I get it right and can tell everyone I called it. Gregorius played in 155 games last year and managed to muscle 9 HR, even while playing in the band box that is Yankee Stadium. His Line Drive % improved from 19.6% in 2014 to 21.2% last year, but his fly ball % went from 42.9 down to 34.1%, and his HR/FB ratio dropped from 6.4% to 6%, despite moving to the confines of Yankee Stadium. I am anticipating a slight bump in fly balls for Didi (career rate is 38.2%) which should hopefully help him lift 12-15 home runs this season, assuming he stays healthy. Now of course 15 home runs (maximum) should not beat Alex Rodriguez, but something tells me A-Rod is not going to repeat last years surprise performance with the bat, and if he misses any time with an injury I can see him losing playing time to Beltran/Teixeira at DH. Again it is bold, but if A-Rod can't get it done the Yankees will replace him in the line-up, whereas they have much fewer options to replace Didi with, especially since he at least can hang his hat on having superior glove work.
7. Ichiro falls just short of 3,000 hits.
If Ichiro hits .250 on the season (ZiPS and Steamer both predict almost exactly that) he will need 260 at-bats to obtain his 65th hit of the season, and 3000th hit overall. Ichiro had 398 AB's last year, and 359 AB's in 2013, however his role is expected to be diminished this season as long as the Marlins young trio of OF stays healthy. I expect that Ichiro will earn around 200 at-bats this season, which would require him to hit .325 in order to obtain 65 hits. Something like 52 hits in 200 at-bats (.260 BA) would put Ichiro only 13 hits shy of 3k. I expect him to land somewhere around that margin, and am hoping he sticks around next season to get up to 3k.
8. Adam Laroche plays in the MLB this season.
I think once the dust settles on this whole Drake Laroche situation, Adam will want to play baseball again, and I would imagine teams will be interested in adding his services. Taking all this time off, coupled with his poor season last year, will most likely relegate him to a PH/bench role, but I wouldn't be surprised to see someone give him that opportunity, especially a contending team in need of a bench bat.
9. Zack Greinke is not the best SP on the Diamondbacks.
Again, no specific measurements can be used to 100% confirm this at the end of the year, but I have a feeling one of Shelby Miller or Patrick Corbin will end up being a more productive pitcher off the bump than Greinke. Greinke is due for a regression after last years ridiculous numbers, and I think Corbin will bounce back very nicely from his injury, and Miller will flourish with a change of scenery (and some offense!).
10. Carlos Rodon finishes with 200+ strikeouts.
Rodon put up an 8.98 K/9 in his 139 big league innings last year, after putting up a ridiculous 51 K's in 34.2 MiLB innings. Both ZiPS and Steamer project him to improve his K/9 to over 9.0 next season, and as long as he is able to pitch at least 180 innings, 200 K's looks mighty attainable for the young lefty with the nasty slider. The biggest hang up will be an innings count, and if the White Sox fall out of contention it seems likely that Rodon, who threw 149 innings between all levels last year, will get capped around 160 IP or so, making 200 K's much less likely.
11. Kyle Schwarber hits 40 home runs.
I tend to try and make somewhat bold predictions, but this one feels kind of lazy. Schwarber blasted 16 last season in only 273 PA's, which was a 38 home run pace. Assuming he gets to play nearly every day (which is the plan for the Cubbies) he should be able to reach at or near 40 home runs this season. His future is not behind the plate, so if the Cubs can get him in the line-up on a daily basis in LF, he should be able to put up big #'s in a very vaunted Cubs line-up.
12. AL Play-off teams: Astros, Tigers, Blue Jays. Rangers and Royals in the Wild Card.
A lot of people are high on the White Sox and the Indians, but I don't feel either team has enough offensive oomph to challenge in that division. Red Sox still have too many holes in the infield and rotation, and the Yankees didn't improve enough to make a big jump in that division.
13. NL Play-off teams: Giants, Cubs, Mets. Nationals and Dodgers in the Wild Card.
Bye bye Cardinals! I felt weird only selecting one NL Central team, since that division is stacked, but the Cardinals did virtually nothing to improve their team and I think the Pirates are going in the wrong direction. Meanwhile the Nationals have a filthy rotation and improved their offense, and the Dodgers, despite losing Greinke, are still scary good.
14. Blue Jays and Cubs play for the World Series.
What a World Series this would be. Bombs, on bombs, on bombs. Don't get me wrong there are some talented arms in this bunch (Stroman, Arrieta, Lester etc) but this would be a very offensive series, especially since every game would be played in either the Rogers Centre or at Wrigley.
15. I'm gonna do it. I'm going to make this prediction. Cubs win.
Bonus 16th prediction: Will Ferrell dresses as Harry Caray and yells "Cubs win! Cubs win!" and it becomes an internet sensation.