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Fantasy Baseball Bold Predictions 2017: Bold As Love

When making fantasy baseball bold predictions and putting your reputation on the line, you’ve gotta be fearless. Telling me you think Mike Trout will finish #1 overall, Clayton Kershaw will be the best pitcher in the game or Troy Tulowitzki will get injured is about as helpful as a glass of sand when you are in the middle of the desert.

So I am going to be bold…Bold As Love as my man Jimi Hendrix would say, and I am going to shred through these picks with the same dexterity and proficiency as the greatest guitarist to ever grace this, or any other, planet.

Prediction 1

James Paxton, currently drafted outside the top 40 for starting pitching, will finish in the top 20

My thinking: James Paxton, a former top, can’t miss prospect, is coming into the prime of his career as a pitcher at the age of 28. He also pitches in one of the best pitcher parks, has one of the game’s best closers behind him to protect leads, and posted a career-best 3.79 ERA in a career-high 20 starts in 2016. The injury concern is real, but if we can get past that and look more into his numbers, you’ll find a hidden gem. His 2016 ERA exceed his FIP (2.80) by a FULL RUN, which, if his 2016 FIP ended up as his true ERA, would have been the BEST in the American League last year. Also, Paxton sported a .350 BABIP in 2016, perfectly illustrating his bad luck (and the reason for the large gap in FIP and ERA). Throw in his excellent K and BB rates, combined with his roughly league-average ground ball, line drive and fly ball rates, and you are looking a potential superstar in the making. Just please stay away from sharp edges and bottomless cliffs James.

Prediction 2

Jean Segura, currently being draft 66th overall, finishes outside the top 100

My thinking: Jean Segura finally broke out in 2016 as everybody had been waiting for — finally becoming that true 5-category fantasy star. So why am I trying to burst (Billie) Jean’s (King, double pun) bubble? Because he produced an unsustainable .353 BABIP and has moved from arguably the most friendly confines in Chase Field to the baseball prison known as Safeco Field.

The sharp increase in fly ball percentage may have helped him in the hot air in Arizona but some of those home runs will fall short of the fences in Seattle. That, and an almost guaranteed regression in BABIP, means more outs and less production from someone that has always seemed to under perform from his expectations. Segura will still swipe a good amount of bags and will be productive in a solid Mariners lineup, but expecting that .320 average (previous career high was .294 in 2013), 20 home run total (previous season totals of 6, 5, and 12)  and 870 OPS (previous career high of 750) seems foolish given the obvious park-factor downgrade. I would much rather take a flyer on someone like Dansby Swanson in round 18, or take a true breakout candidate like Addison Russell (see discussion below) in round 11, than waste a top 5/6 round pick on a regressing shortstop.

Prediction 3

Addison Russell, currently drafted outside the top 125, finishes inside the top 75

My thinking: Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. These are the guys Addison Russell (Bill Russell’s cousin, six times removed) will be batting behind. What do those guys all have in common? They’re very good and can get on base at will. Russell led the Chicago Cubs in 2016 in games started batting fifth and took a stranglehold on that lineup spot towards the end of the season. In his age 22 season, Russell took some huge strides forward; improving his walk rate, strikeout rate, ISO, line drive and hard contact percentages — resulting in a career high 95 RBI (tied with perennial fantasy stud Paul Goldschmidt for 11th in the NL). Even more reason to pile on the love, his BABIP dipped below league (and career) average by 2.5% points. If his BABIP increases and he continues to improve on those other categories (which he should given his age), then Russell will produce a much higher average, OBP and OPS.  A sneaky great SS last year, Russell could be looking to breakout further in 2017.

Prediction 4

Cam Bedrosian, currently drafted as the RP 24 and outside the top 250, finishes as a top 15 reliever and inside the top 150 overall

My thinking: Lets get the gigantic pink elephant sitting on top of your computer screen out of the way first… Huston Street is toast. Fin. Adios. Love you mean it but I bid you farewell. He is 33, turning 34, and coming off knee surgery. He hasn’t truly been himself since 2014 and he is more than trending in the wrong direction. Enter scene Cam Bedrosian, the young phenom that the organization already tapped to take over the reigns as their future closer and broke out onto the scene in 2016 with awe-inspiring numbers. And his 2016 numbers were not really based on luck: his BABIP was close to the league norm. Now his ERA was abnormally low (1.12), but even if we use his FIP as his true ERA, that was still 2.13, which is still at the elite, top-tiered-closer level. He does have some control issues, but his ever-high strikeout rate will keep runners off the bases and his ERA in check. The most obvious problem with him for your fantasy team will be getting saves while playing for one of the worst teams in the league. But that is not always a problem (see Tampa, Philly, Milwaukee and Oakland last year). Whenever the Angels do win games (praying they win more than 23 this year), they will likely be tight games where Mike Scioscia will be calling on this thoroughbred to turn the lights out on the opposition.

Prediction 5

Adam Wainwright, currently drafted as the SP63 and outside the top 225, finishes inside the top 150 overall

Image result for rollback walmart

My thinking: Bargain basement shopping alert! Roll em’ back, roll em’ back, roll em’ back!!!!!!! Now I realize that those of us (myself included) that bought high on the ever consistent Adam Wainwright last year are bitter, and rightfully so, but hear me out. Did you know that since 2009, excluding the year 2015 that he lost to injury, Adam Wainwright AVERAGES 33 starts per year, his lowest single-season total being 32. That’s what I like to call Guaransheed (shout out to Rasheed Wallace). Also, did you know that his highest FIP before last year since 2009 was 3.11. The point is he has been consistently great and underrated and pitches in one of the friendlier pitcher parks in baseball. As for last year, his HR/FB rate skyrocketed to 12% (even though he has a career rate of 8%). Also, a notorious ground-ball, precise pitcher, his ground ball rate plummeted, walks increased and hard hit percentage jumped over 30% for the first time since 2007, his first year as a starter. His ERA exceed his FIP by roughly three-quarters of a run, and his 2016 .330 BABIP screamed outlier in comparison to his career, league average BABIP of .300. If we use his 3.90 FIP from 2016 and his roughly 2.90 FIP over the past few years as barometers, lets meet in the middle and call him a 3.40/3.50 pitcher who will log 30+ starts in the National League on a perennially great, playoff-hopeful team. Sounds like an absolute steal in the last few rounds of the draft. If I sound uber excited about the prospects of Adam Wainwright, it is because I am. If you ain’t wrong and you draft him a few rounds earlier than expected, you’ll be looking wainwRIGHT by season’s end (couldn’t resist).

 So those are you fearless predictions from your fearless leader. Gear up for Opening Day by checking out our 2017 Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings and our other draft prep content. Now do yourself a favor and listen to more Jimi Hendrix.

To contact me with any questions or general fantasy baseball discussion, please email me at redsocker45@gmail.com or tweet me @AJGamballer.

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