Ray Butler’s 2019 MLB Bold Predictions

Written by: Ray Butler

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Trevor Bauer wins the AL Cy Young

I know ‘Trevor Bauer wins the AL Cy Young’ has become such a popular bold prediction that it’s basically turned into mush, but I believe in this one so strongly that I’ve invested in the prop (+1100 odds). The outspoken right-hander spent time this offseason refining his changeup, and it paid immediate dividends this spring. Bauer might have the deepest arsenal in the big leagues, and it’ll all come together for him this season. The Indians’ starting lineup isn’t great and the Twins are underrated, so Cleveland will need every ounce of Bauer’s greatness to win the AL Central in 2019.

Matt Chapman finishes top-3 in AL MVP voting

Chapman’s glove is already ‘David Gilmour’s guitar solo on Comfortably Numb’ good, but the offense taking another step is what will earn the third baseman this acclaim. The Athletics are going to be a very interesting team worthy of staying up late to watch (if you’re not a West Coaster), and Chapman will be the headliner. Think .350 OBP with 30 home runs and 190-200 R + RBI to pair with elite, Gold Glove-caliber defense.

Julio Urias and Matt Strahm finish with nearly identical numbers. Both are really good.

You’re likely well-aware that @Prospects365 often doubles as a Julio Urias fan account, and it’s pretty surreal that the southpaw actually made a full recovery from brutal shoulder surgery and is ready to make an impact in the big leagues once again. Strahm’s long-term outlook has been quite the enigma for awhile as well, but a strong spring (in which he proved durability as a starter) has landed him in the Padres’ Opening Day rotation. Both are going to be impact arms in 2019, and we’ll look back at how similar their final regular season numbers are. I’m thinking 120 IP, 130 K, 3.5 BB/9, 3.75 ERA apiece.

Trevor Richards and Caleb Smith are both top-40 starting pitchers

When I made the Marlins ‘under’ the biggest play of my season win totals article, I was underestimating their starting rotation. Miami will still win fewer than 63.5 games, but I’ve got my eye on Trevor Richards and Caleb Smith. Richards added a curveball to his arsenal this offseason, which should allow him to throw his fastball less while also keeping hitters off his earth-shattering changeup. The added dimension certainly seemed effective this spring, as Richards posted a 1.86 ERA and 0.62 WHIP with 20 strikeouts in 19.1 IP. Smith has pretty effective last season before a lat injury derailed his campaign. It wasn’t necessarily expected for the southpaw to break camp on the Marlins’ active roster, but the team’s release of Dan Straily makes it apparent Smith will make their Opening Day rotation. Both are capable of a strikeout per inning with an ERA under 4.00. The wins will be hard to come by if that’s what you’re searching for, but I believe both Richards and Smith will finish in the back-end of the top-40 starters this season.

Spencer Turnbull is a top-50 starting pitcher

Turnbull needed a little help to make the Tigers Opening Day rotation, but a 1.80 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with 15 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched this spring (along with Michael Fulmer’s significant elbow injury) proved enough to be the right-hander’s golden ticket. Armed with three above average pitches and solid command, Turnbull will take the opportunity and run. I thought about including the 26-year-old with Richards and Smith as a top-40 starter, but I don’t think the strikeout upside is quite as high. Still, Turnbull will give you a fantastic return on investment in 2019, especially since the price tag is ‘free’. You want a bonus Tigers rotation prediction, you say? Matthew Boyd is going to be really freakin’ good this season, too.

Michael Conforto hits 35 home runs with an OBP greater than .375

Conforto’s game will ascend to a different level in 2019, but my uncertainty regarding his AVG makes me reluctant to float ‘NL MVP’ when discussing his outlook. The walk rate will be outstanding, and I fully expect his OBP to flirt with the .400-mark. Exceeding 35 home runs won’t be too far removed from the 32 the ATC projection system predicts he’ll hit, but the fact remains Conforto will be the offensive toast of what should be a very good Mets team.

Joe Musgrove is a top-20 starting pitcher

Check this out: In order for this bold prediction to become reality, Musgrove has to throw fewer pitches in the zone. As a guy who spends a lot of time evaluating prospects, I don’t often find myself wishing that. But it’s true of the right-hander’s outlook, especially since he possesses an impressive fastball that, simply put, hasn’t reached its potential thanks to Musgrove’s propensity to attack the zone a little too much with the pitch. I think that’s remedied this season; with an effective slider and changeup (and hopeful durability), the 26-year-old will connect all the dots in 2019. Musgrove was included in my high-value active player list.

@batflipcrazy is on the Musgrove train too…

Jackie Bradley Jr. finishes top-8 in AL MVP voting

If you check out JBJ’s batted ball data from last season, you’d probably guess he’s already broken out.

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Instead, the Gold Glover posted a pedestrian 90 wRC+ in 2018. Positive regression abounds this season, and a swing change that began in the middle of last season might expedite the process. Spring Training is Spring Training, but 3 home runs and 2 stolen bases with a .326/.396/.628 slash in 48 plate appearances this preseason certainly won’t damper the hype. With superb defense in center field to boot, JBJ will flirt with a 25 HR/20 SB campaign this season. As if the Red Sox needed another dynamic threat on offense. Bonus Boston prediction? Raffy Devers hits 30 home runs this season.

The Yankees win the World Series behind the greatest bullpen of all time

Armed with a lineup destined to break the record for home runs (a record the Yankees themselves broke last season) and a deep, elite bullpen, the Yankees will win the World Series this season. I feel a little slimy making this prediction about a team whose rotation has so many question marks (and Aaron Boone has been pretty meh so far), but the fact of the matter is, at full strength, the Yankees have five superstar relievers perfectly capable of pinning down wins every time their number is called. J.A. Happ should be considered the early favorite to log the most innings of any Yankees starter, with Luis Severino and James Paxton likely totaling 150 regular season innings pitched apiece. Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga are both capable of providing impact innings, and C.C. Sabathia should be primed for 120 adequate IP along the way as well. But that’s not the story here. Chad Green, Adam Ottavino, Zach Britton, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman will help form what will be, analytically speaking, the best bullpen in the history of baseball. With Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres leading the way offensively, the Yankees will send the Dodgers back to Los Angeles as losers of their third-consecutive World Series.

Division Winners

AL Central: Indians

AL East: Yankees

AL West: Astros

NL Central: Cardinals

NL East: Phillies

NL West: Dodgers

Wild Cards

AL: Red Sox

AL: Minnesota

NL: Cubs

NL: Mets

Championship Series

AL: The Yankees defeat the Astros

NL: The Dodgers defeat the Phillies

Award Winners

AL MVP: Mike Trout

NL MVP: Bryce Harper

AL Cy Young: Trevor Bauer

NL Cy Young: Aaron Nola

AL ROY: Eloy Jimenez

NL ROY: Victor Robles

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Featured image courtesy of photographer Brad Rempel and USA Today Sports

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