You can review rankings, sleepers, breakouts and busts all you want in the spring, but in the end, fantasy owners just want some bold predictions that stick a writer's neck out there. We'll give 'em to you right here.
It's like walking up cold and asking someone out, even if they might be out of your league. You can't get that date unless you ask and you can't win your fantasy league unless you do some bold things on draft day.
The problem with predictions is they can look bad at the end of the season. In order to be "bold," though, a prediction has to fly in the face of common sense, or public perception. We are willing to take the risk; that fantasy championship -- or hot date -- is worth it.
Here are the top 10 bold fantasy predictions for the upcoming season, which, remarkably, is just days away.
Price is coming off a sub-.500 season at just 12-13 last year, when he looked more like a mere solid pitcher than a complete ace. With Justin Verlander coming off an AL MVP and Cy Young Award, Roy Halladay still a rock-solid stud and Clayton Kershaw looking like the second coming of Sandy Koufax, Price might not get picked among the
Price has built up his arm to handle 220-230 high-pressure innings and does it with a strikeout per inning and a walk rate that has declined each of his first three seasons as a starter. We love players at the
Draft Price a little bit higher than the masses. No, you don't want to pick him among Verlander, Halladay and Kershaw -- even if he will be better. A sleeper isn't a sleeper if you draft him too early. Instead, take the bold pick on Price where it's right: Anywhere after those premium three and maybe even before the likes of CC Sabathia, Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, Cole Hamels and Jered Weaver.
Stanton is going to hit 45 homers and lead all of fantasy. This means the homer leader won't be Jose Bautista, Albert Pujols or No. 1 overall pick candidate Miguel Cabrera. But Stanton is just 22 years of age and will be playing half of his games in a ballpark that figures to play at least even, if not pitcher friendly. Further, Stanton is a relatively unprotected slugger who can get pitched around, which isn't good news for someone who isn't exactly a model of selectivity at the plate.
At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds-plus, Stanton is a physical freak of nature, a la Mark McGwire, who hit 49 homers at age 23. Stanton is already coming off a 34-homer campaign in his first full season and there is still plenty of room to improve and -- God, help us -- grow. In SI.com's
Like Price, Stanton is barely in the Top 10
This is not a bold prediction when considering Justin, who is already going in the second half of the
B.J. Upton is in the perfect situation for a breakthrough. Again, we go back to our rule of thumb on
You are going to want to consider Justin Upton around the turn from Round 1 to 2, but if you miss out on him, you can grab an even better value on B.J. between the start of Round 5 and end of Round 6. B.J. Upton still steals more bags than Justin and has proved he can hit .300; he did it in 2007 at age 22. Maybe this is B.J.'s .300-30-100-100-50 breakthrough year. He absolutely has the look of a player who rips off ridiculous numbers before signing a ridiculous contract.
Every year there are a slew of solid arms that rise from the depths of fantasy and outpitch their draft position. It is one of the main reasons so many fantasy drafters wait so long on pitching and why auction dollars are not equally allocated to arms as bats. Still, Hughes isn't assured of winning a spot in the Yankees' rotation and the signing of Andy Pettitte makes it even less likely he stays there. Also, Hughes was out of shape and his velocity was down a season ago, when he went just 5-5 with a ghastly 5.79 ERA and 1.49 WHIP.
Hughes isn't a .500 pitcher on the Astros. He has the potential to win 18 games with the Yankees , as he did just a couple of seasons ago. With just 71 career starts, he still fits (roughly) in the category of a
Trust this writer even if the New York media is down on this once-prized arm. The negativity is more a function of the failed expectations than the true '12 potential. He just might be
Ramirez is coming off a disastrous '11 that ended with shoulder surgery. His numbers have declined across the rotisserie categories in each of the past three seasons and his home run totals are in a four-year swoon after hitting a career-high 33 as a leadoff man in '08. Ramirez no longer leads off and hasn't had more than 600 at-bats in five seasons.
Complicating Ramirez's ranking is the notion that Troy Tulowitzki and Ramirez teammate Reyes will have something to say about who the No. 1
The problem with Ramirez now is where to pick him. He has gone as high as late in Round 1 in some drafts,
Well, because everyone loves them some Brett Lawrie. The Jays' third baseman was a stud in his 150 at-bats last season. Further crowding the field are Braves reliever Craig Kimbrel, the
Well, getting Lawrie at a reasonable price is the tricky thing -- if not impossible. You are going to have to pay a premium for a player with just a 150 at-bat sample. Kimbrel is tops at a position that is notoriously erratic year-to-year, and Hellickson has his detractors in the stat-guru section of the seamheads (justified or not). It will be easy to get Belt at a reduced rate at the deep
We love drafting
This is one of the most-anticipated
Harper is already back in Triple-A, Trout will be headed there soon and Moore opened camp with an abdominal injury and was roughed up in his last spring start.
Darvish, for his part, is displaying upper-90s stuff and will be starting games for the two-time defending AL champion Rangers, who can get him great run support. Darvish comes labeled as the best Japanese pitching prospect in history, so naturally you have to see him as a threat to better the numbers of first-year imports Hideo Nomo (13-6, 2.54 with 236 strikeouts in 191 1/3 innings) or Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-12, 4.40 with 201 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings).
Darvish can beat those numbers, so he is going to be the most important rookie picked this spring. Consider him a bargain after the top 100 players are off the board.
This won't take much convincing. Beckham has looked like fantasy garbage. He won't even get picked in many mixed leagues, slotting out of the top 18
When he came up in '09, he looked like a future leader at second base in fantasy. Now he looks like mixed-league cannon fodder. It is easy to forget he is still just 25-years old. New manager Robin Ventura went through a slow start and broke through, so the new manager should help get the best out of this lost talent. Beckham is going to be a great
If you miss out on Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia or Ian Kinsler at second base, wait a long, long time to fill the position. Beckham is going to be on the board and we are anticipating a .280-20-80-100-10 season that might not only make him a top-10 producer at the position, but top five.
Bautista has earned top-five status overall. He has put back-to-back fantasy monster seasons together and has convinced even the most cynical fantasy drafter he has arrived in the elite to stay.
We list Bautista as one of the top
Avoid Bautista all together. Let someone else take the risk on him in the middle of Round 1. Take Cabrera, Pujols, Braun, Matt Kemp, Tulowitzki and even Adrian Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Cano and Longoria before Bautista. You can even justify taking Jacoby Ellsbury or a couple of the top pitchers before Bautista in rotisserie formats.
You couldn't have liked what you have seen from Salty since his rookie season, and you shouldn't be considering him as a No. 1 catcher in mixed leagues, even in AL-only formats where he is out of
Saltamacchia is 27 and finally will be an unquestioned full-time backstop in the major leagues. He is ready to step forward as a game-caller, Bobby Valentine said, and run producer at the position. Boston has a hitter-friendly ballpark and hitting-heavy lineup, particularly for a right-handed slugger. You might not have noticed, but Salty slugged 10 homers in 175 at-bats in the second half last year, which sets him up for a potential 25-homer breakthrough. He might even trump Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana -- widely considered the top picks at the position -- in the homer department.
One of our favorite
After reading the above, you are well within your rights to doubt. And if that's so, we've done our job in asking you to consider some non-traditional opinions.
And don't forget our track record after these predictions from last year come true::
OK, so five out of 10 ain't bad. Hey, being bold isn't easy, but at least it is worth trying. That answer from your out-of-your-league date will always be no, if you don't ask.