Over the last two months, we’ve blanketed the fantasy baseball world from coast to coast. We discussed the breakout potential of David Peralta, the first-round bona fides of Mookie Betts, and the sleeper candidacy of Ketel Marte. We highlighted rising stars on the mound in opposite corners of Ohio, level jumpers on both sides of Chicago, and value busts on either side of the Bay. We’ve drafted and auctioned—though we all know we should only be auctioning. Now the main event is here.
There’s just one thing left to do before Opening Day: get bold. The following bold predictions are guaranteed to be 100% correct.* You could just take our word for it and not even watch the baseball season, but where’s the fun in that? Just remember that as you’re watching these bold predictions come to fruition, you heard them here first.
*Not an actual guarantee
George Springer goes 30/30
There’s no doubting Springer has 30/30 ability. He would have come close in 2015, had a broken wrist not cost him about 60 games. Springer took impressive strides last season, cutting his strikeout rate by nearly 10 percentage points. If he makes similar gains this year, and stays healthy, he’ll be our first 30/30 player since Mike Trout belted 30 homers and stole 49 bases in his rookie year of ’12.
Carlos Carrasco wins the AL Cy Young
With all due respect to Chris Sale, the AL pitcher who I’d want on the mound if I had to win one game, this will be Carrasco’s year. He pitched to a 2.66 xFIP, 1.07 WHIP and 10.58 K/9 last season, his true breakout campaign. All that’s left for him to do this year is win a few more games with a better offense and bullpen at his back. Carrasco throws five pitches well, three of which are elite. Few pitchers can match his repertoire. No AL pitcher will match his overall season.
Meanwhile, in the NL, Clayton Kershaw will restore some order, edging out Jacob deGrom for the Cy Young.
The Indians have three top-15 fantasy pitchers
Carrasco won’t have to look too far for Cy Young competition. He’ll get it in his own rotation, not only in the form of Corey Kluber, but also from Danny Salazar. All three Cleveland flamethrowers will finish among the top 15 at the position in standard fantasy leagues. Last year, the Dodgers had two starters—Kershaw and Zack Greinke—finish in the top three in Cy Young balloting. Cleveland will turn that trick this year, with Kluber joining Carrasco, finishing third behind Sale. It’ll be a good year to be an Indians fan, which we will discuss later.
Giancarlo Stanton and Chris Davis hit 50 homers
The long ball returned with a bang last season, with 17% more home runs in 2015 than ’14. Davis led all major leaguers with 47 jacks, while Stanton racked up 27 in just 74 games. Both players will stay healthy this season and eclipse the 50-homer threshold, making ’16 the first season with multiple players with 50 home runs since Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder both did it in ’07.
David Peralta is a top-15 fantasy outfielder
I’ve been singing Peralta’s praises all winter and spring. Time to put my bold prediction where my mouth is. Nothing about Peralta’s 2014 or ’15 seasons was a fluke. He’ll prove that to a national audience that is finally paying attention. Thanks to his talents, as well as a great ballpark and lineup that includes A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt, Peralta will be a top-15 outfielder, outperforming Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz and Carlos Gonzalez.
Buster Posey is not a top-30 hitter
You can stuff your positional scarcity in a sack (tweet me if you get the reference, and you’ll get my sincerest Internet congratulations). I don’t mean to downgrade the real-life version of Posey, who’s a legitimate MVP candidate. The fantasy version, however, gets too much love based on his status as, far and away, the game’s best catcher. Posey will still hit .310 with 18 homers and 85 RBI, but that won’t be enough to make him a top-30 hitter in standard fantasy formats. He’ll go down as one of the greater value busts of the season, through no fault of his own.
Matt Carpenter is a top-five third baseman
Come October 2016, we’re going to look back on Carpenter’s average draft position and wonder how it happened. How could a player coming off a .272/.365/.505 season with 28 homers at a relatively shallow position be drafted outside the top-70 picks in a typical draft? It’ll look even crazier when you remember that the player has a successful track record in both the batting average and OBP departments. The only third basemen who will outproduce Carpenter this season will be first-round locks Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado and Kris Bryant. Carpenter may not match their numbers, but he will provide one of the best returns on investment of any player this season.
Rougned Odor is a top-five second baseman
Everything clicked for Odor in the second half last year. That will be the case for the entire 2016 season. Odor will lead all second basemen in home runs while hitting in the middle of a potent Texas lineup. He’ll finish this season fifth among second basemen in standard fantasy formats, behind Jose Altuve, Dee Gordon, Robinson Cano and Anthony Rendon. At just 22 years old, he will have established himself as a legitimate star, and perhaps the one to take the torch from Cano into the next decade.
Raisel Iglesias, Lance McCullers, Jose Quintana, Drew Smyly and Kyle Hendricks are top-35 starting pitchers…
If you’ve been following along with our draft prep this spring training, you had to know these five pitchers would factor into a bold prediction at some point. Iglesias and McCullers are strikeout artists who just started to scratch the surface last season of what they can be. Quintana is a forever underappreciated starter who has had consistently terrible support from his offense, a run of bad luck that is bound to turn eventually. Smyly simply needs to stay healthy to be not just a top-35 starter, but potentially inside the top-25 at the position, and Hendricks is coming off a season in which he struck out nearly a batter per inning and posted a ground-ball rate north of 50%. These are five pitchers on whom you want to bet in 2016.
…Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann are not
And here are two who you’ll want to fade at all costs. Cueto may be back in the NL, but there were some significant red flags surrounding his brief stint with the Royals last year. Zimmermann, meanwhile, regressed from a standout 2014 campaign, and made the reverse move, trading a hitting pitcher for the DH. Almost every pitcher who makes that trade sees his numbers go in the wrong direction, even the ones who can miss bats with a higher regularity than Zimmermann. Neither pitcher will be terrible, but both will fail to turn a profit at their respective ADPs.
Yoenis Cespedes is not a top-15 outfielder, while Adam Jones falls outside the top 20 at the position
Cespedes galvanized the entire Mets lineup after arriving in New York last season, and there’s little doubt that the team would have struggled to reach the playoffs, let alone the World Series, without him. Still, it’s going to be nearly impossible for him to match the per-game averages he put up with the Mets last season. He won’t miss the top 15 by much, and he’ll still be a profitable player, but those banking on another 35-homer season just might be disappointed. Jones, meanwhile, has been trending in the wrong direction for the last three years, and it’s only going to get worse in 2016. He’s still a fine player, but in a deep outfield position, he’s no longer a top-20 option.
Jose Berrios wins the AL Rookie of the Year
We didn’t see last year’s AL Rookie of the Year, Carlos Correa, in the majors until June 8. We might have to wait just as long for this year’s AL ROY to make his debut, but once he does, there won’t be any turning back. Berrios is right at the head of a bright prospect class on the mound that also includes Lucas Giolito, Tyler Glasnow and Julio Urias. Berrios has the best chance of the four not only to debut this season, but to make a significant impact, as well. He has three plus-pitches, including a changeup that could very well be among the game’s best the moment he steps foot on a major league field. There’s a cache of young talent in Minnesota that’s going to make the Twins serious players in the AL Central for years to come, but they won’t have to wait until 2017 and beyond for Berrios to start paying dividends.
Carlos Correa nearly wins the AL MVP, and Corey Seager is closer to him than he is to the rest of the shortstop pack
Speaking of last year’s AL ROY, Correa has his sights set on a bigger individual prize this season. He won’t quite get his hands on the AL MVP, but he will set himself up as a perennial threat for the award, along the lines of Mike Trout. Over in the NL, Corey Seager will finish as the No. 2 fantasy shortstop, leading the Dodgers to a division crown while winning the NL ROY. Sometimes, you don’t want to think about these award predictions too hard. Seager was a force in his 113 plate appearances with the Dodgers last season. He’s the runaway favorite to win the NL ROY, and he’ll show why from day one this season.
Anthony Rizzo is your NL MVP
There are high hopes in Wrigleyville these days, and while a lot of that rests on the foundation of being the deepest team in the majors, it’s still the star players who make this team go. None of those will shine brighter than Rizzo, who is ready for his moment as the best player on the best team in the league. He finished fourth in NL MVP voting last year, hitting .278/.387/.512 with 31 homers and 101 RBI. Consider those floors for the 26-year-old first baseman. Rizzo is just entering his physical prime and is already among the most dangerous hitters in baseball. In one of the most entertaining MVP races in years, he’ll narrowly edge Bryce Harper while helping the Cubs win their first NL Central crown since 2008. It won’t stop there.
The Astros win the AL Pennant
Houston, Cleveland and Toronto will win their respective divisions in the AL, while Texas and Boston will grab wild card spots. The Astros will ride Correa, sleeper MVP candidate George Springer, Altuve, and an underrated rotation led by Dallas Keuchel to their first ever AL pennant, and first World Series appearances since 2005, beating the Indians in the ALCS.
The Cubs are NL Champions
You know all about the Cubs futility over the years, but for just a minute, forget about the fact that they haven’t been to a World Series since 1945. They’ve only been to the NLCS four times since divisional play began in 1969. They’ll get to the NLCS for the second straight year, only this time they’ll win it, knocking off the NL East champion Nationals. The Dodgers will once again win the NL West, while the Giants and Mets will round out the NL side of the playoffs as wild cards.
The North Side of Chicago enjoys its biggest party in 108 years
Teddy Roosevelt was the president the last time the Cubs won the World Series. It is, then, perhaps fitting that the current White House resident calls Chicago home. This October, there will be a celebration about 13 miles from his house, the likes of which the city has never seen. The Cubs have arguably the deepest lineup in baseball. They have stars all across the diamond, from Rizzo to Bryant to Jason Heyward. They have young players like Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler (not to mention Rizzo, Bryant and Heyward), who are only getting better, as well as veteran leaders who play key roles in Ben Zobrist and Jon Lester. They have the defending NL Cy Young in Jake Arrieta, and a strong rotation that also includes the aforementioned Lester and John Lackey. They have a bullpen stocked with power arms. They have more positional flexibility than any team in the league, and quite possibly the perfect man, Joe Maddon, pulling all the strings.
Being the best team on paper in April doesn’t guarantee anything, other than that you have a very real chance to win the World Series. For the first time in 108 years, that’s exactly what the Cubs will do, dispatching their erstwhile division rivals—the Astros—along with a century’s worth of the dashed dreams of countless Chicagoans.