Written by: Ray Butler
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Accountability. You don’t see a ton of it throughout the fantasy industry. Some of it’s because a ton of baseball writers double-dip and immediately transition to football at the conclusion of baseball season. They don’t really have much of an opportunity to write postmortems on their baseball predictions and fantasy teams.
We’re also humans. It’s not fun nor easy to admit when we’re wrong, especially on a scale as large as a baseball writer’s predictions and articles over the course of an entire season.
But it’s needed. I want you to trust me, my creative process and my thought process. Even when the result is bad, I want you to have peace-of-mind that the process was right. Writing and publishing an article certainly does not put me on a pedestal higher than writers who don’t publish postmortems following baseball season (it’s a list of everything I got wrong this season, for crying out loud).
It is, however, a pledge to continue attempting to perfect my craft moving forward. I’ll never be perfect, but I hope to continue growing each season. Accountability is extremely important to me. It’s what I appreciated most about the fantasy writers I followed growing up, and it’s what I want you to expect from me. Expect an article like this at the conclusion of each season.
I’ve divided this article into two sections: a prospects section and an active players section. I tried to be as detailed as I could without rambling too much. Expect my ‘Everything I Got Right This Season’ article later this week. I guarantee I’ll enjoy writing it more than I did this one.
Ronny Mauricio and Luis Garcia (PHI) both being top-25 prospects by the end of the season
In my eyes, a halfway-right prospect bold prediction means this was wholly incorrect. Mauricio will finish the 2019 season as a top-25 prospect, and the hype for the young shortstop will be extremely high heading into 2020. Garcia, on the other hand, struggled mightily this season. In fact, the Phillies have taken a lot of heat within prospect circles for handling the infielder too aggressively by placement in 2019. Garcia will still rank comfortably as a top-200 prospect, but it was fairly evident early in the season he wouldn’t bust-out like a lot of prospect writers predicted before the season.
Kyle Muller becomes the 2nd-ranked LHP prospect by the end of the season
I’m still completely enamored by Muller after seeing him twice this season, and there’s no doubt he has the stuff (and boy does he have the body) to be a big-time pitching prospect someday. The 3.14 ERA and career-best 25.6 K% in 2019 were awfully nice, but the 14.5 BB% in 111.2 IP means the southpaw will remain in that #130-160 range in my end-of-season rankings.
Kristian Robinson ranking higher than Wander Franco by the end of the season
I don’t feel too bad about this prospect bold prediction, mostly because both Robinson and Franco proved to be exactly who we hoped they would be this season. Both members of the duo have an astronomically-high ceiling, but Franco’s safer floor makes him more appealing (currently) amongst prospectors around the dynasty world. The shortstop has more than earned his #1 overall prospect rating, but Robinson certainly helped his stock this season as well.
Royce Lewis is the #1 prospect in baseball heading into 2020
This bold prediction was published well-before I (or we) knew about Lewis’ swing overhaul that seemed to hinder him for most of the 2019 season. A player who was once considered a solid bet to eventually reach a 55-or-60 hit tool was out of whack this season, hitting 12 home runs and stealing 22 bases but only slashing .236/.290/.371 with a wRC+ of 94 between the Florida State and Southern Leagues. Realization and simplification needs to occur with Lewis and whoever is advising his swing mechanics. The hand-eye coordination and exit velocities are very much still there, and Lewis’ pedigree easily allows me to think we’ll witness a bounce back campaign next season. He’s been great so far in the AFL, so perhaps we’re already on our way there.
Will Smith ranking 132nd in my preseason top-200 prospect list
I assumed this preseason the Dodgers had made up their mind about the future of their catching position at the big league level. It was obviously going to be Keibert Ruiz. That’s why Smith played so much third base last year in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, right? Smith would catch from time-to-time, but he would become somewhat of a utility role-player while Ruiz would eventually assume the everyday catching role in Los Angeles. Wrong. Not only did Ruiz not take an expected step forward this season, but Smith accrued 196 big league plate appearances in 54 games this season. He’s starting for the Dodgers in the playoffs. He looks like a big league starting catcher, and his 132 wRC+ confirms what the eye-test suggests. At this point, it looks like Ruiz could become the young catcher the Dodgers choose to part-ways with in an offseason trade. We just know it will no longer be for Felipe ‘literal human garbage’ Vazquez.
Esteury Ruiz, MJ Melendez and Jahmai Jones, in general
I’ll never apologize for betting on athletes, but it’s also important to know when to cut players loose. Ruiz is still a top-200 prospect in my eyes thanks to base-running skills and raw power, but he certainly hasn’t developed on the path I thought he would when I ranked him 67th last midseason (or 92nd this preseason). Melendez had a horrific 2019 season. Jones was only bad. Neither are top-200 prospects currently. This isn’t as much an incorrect take this season as it is an ‘over time’ incorrect take. I’ll still be keeping an eye on this trio (Melendez specifically) moving forward.
Yusei Kikuchi ranking 55th in my preseason top-200 prospect list
LOL. Allow me to take a gigantic L on behalf of the entire prospect community for this one. A lot of my wonderment regarding Kikuchi this preseason was how much he would help you immediately. A prospect promised a spot in a big league rotation with an intriguing arsenal who will face hitters who have never seen him before? It sounded too good to be true. And it was. The left-hander posted a puke-worthy 16.1 K% and 5.46 ERA in 161.2 IP this season, ranking as the 209th-best starting pitcher in 2019 according to Razzball’s Player Rater. I don’t often get bitten by the Shiny New Toy Syndrome, but I certainly fell victim here. I didn’t roster any shares this season, but it certainly wasn’t from lack of trying. I’ve heard absolute horror stories regarding the southpaw being selected aggressively in FYPDs heading into the season, so this write-up likely won’t be the last one you read on Kikuchi this offseason.
Predicting an in-season breakout for Buddy Reed
Buh. An early-season Hard Hit % and spray chart that led to a perplexingly-low BABIP for a plus runner led me to writing an article that, in retrospect, is egg on my face. Reed’s 14 HR and 23 SB in 121 games this season is awfully interesting, but the .228/.310/.388 slash (28.6 K%, 93 wRC+) better represents the reports I received on Reed down the stretch of the regular season. Recently-acquired Taylor Trammell is likely a corner outfielder, but the Padres’ legitimate interest in giving him every possible chance to succeed in center field is, at minimum, a little telling on how the organization currently regards Reed (especially since the bat absolutely does not play from a corner outfield spot). My best guess is Trammell is eventually transitioned back to left field, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if San Diego shopped Reed this offseason in a package for big league help.
Prospect Obsessions: Akil Baddoo, Mariel Bautista, Austin Beck, Luis Garcia (PHI), Wander Javier, MJ Melendez, Shervyen Newton, Nick Pratto, Mark Vientos, Chavez Young, Josh James, Resly Linares, Chris Rodriguez, Luis Oviedo, and Joey Wentz
Won’t touch on all these guys, but will highlight a few before moving on to active players. A lot of scouts and evaluators I talked to this season were really disappointed in Bautista’s performance in Low-A. Pratto probably had the ‘best’ 2019 season amongst his offensive teammates MJ Melendez and Seuly Matias. Pratto finished with a 73 wRC+ and 34.7 K%. Not a great year for that Royals trio. Performance didn’t lead to Rodriguez’s inclusion on this list; injury did. Wentz was fairly disappointing in person, but I was told the outlook was a little brighter post-trade to the Tigers. Hello, Dusty Colorado. It would appear for now as you chose the wrong Wander.
Trevor Bauer Winning the AL Cy Young
I mentioned my worry this bold prediction had turned to mush in the write-up in the original article, but I simple thought that would mean Bauer would finish fifth or so in AL Cy Young voting. Instead, by ERA, Bauer posted his worst season as an MLB pitcher since 2015. The strikeout rate went down, the walk rate went up. The ERA increased by more than two runs from last season to this season. This prediction was so wrong that Bauer was traded away from the American League prior to the trade deadline. He’s not even eligible for the AL Cy Young Award. Nailed it.
Julio Urías and Matt Strahm posting similar numbers
Neither one of these pitchers had horrific 2019 campaigns; they just weren’t very similar. In my original bold prediction article, I suggested both members of the duo would post approximate lines of 120 IP, 130 K, 3.5 BB/9, 3.75 ERA this season. Urías (unsurprisingly) didn’t come close to pitching that many innings, though he was impressive in his 79.2 IP. Strahm came-up short in the ERA department, though he was a better pitcher than his 4.71 ERA suggests. Both have decent outlooks moving forward, though the latter is likely destined for a long-term multi-inning relief role. Here’s how Urías and Strahm finished their 2019 seasons.
Caleb Smith and Trevor Richards both being top-40 starting pitchers
Smith looked like a solid candidate to finish the season as a top-40 starting pitcher for a while, but a rough finish to the season (6.39 ERA and 4.1 BB/9 in September) eventually landed him outside of the top-50. Richards looked okay early in the season, but he eventually scrapped new pitches he added to his arsenal during the offseason and went back to his fastball/changeup combination. The right-hander was then traded to Tampa Bay with Nick Anderson at the deadline in exchange for Jesus Sanchez. He finished the season in the bullpen. Richards’ final line for the season was 135.1 IP, 127 H, 61 ER, 56 BB, 127 K. The 4.06 ERA and BB/9 of 3.7 are both positives for the 26-year-old, but the lack of wins (6 wins in 30 games) doomed his fantasy value in 2019.
Spencer Turnbull being a top-50 starting pitcher
The red-headed right-hander was a much better real-life pitcher than fantasy asset in 2019, ranking 139th amongst starting pitchers on Razzball’s Player Rater compared to 43rd amongst starting pitchers in 2019 fWAR (minimum 100 IP). A hilarious 3-17 record and sizable disparity between his ERA and FIP is likely to blame for his fantasy shortcomings. The Tigers will still be really bad next season, but I do wonder if Turnbull is destined to give us a positive ROI in 2020. Pitcher records suck.
Michael Conforto hitting 35 HR with an OBP >.375
A 33 HR, .363 OBP campaign from the 26-year-old means we were fairly close, but a loss is a loss nonetheless. I miss the 32.4 Pull%, .328 BABIP Michael Conforto who slashed .279/.384/.555 with 27 home runs in 109 games in 2017. A 126 wRC+ this season is certainly fine, but it suddenly feels like the outfielder may never consistently reach the 55-hit, 60-power big league seasons that were considered inevitable less than five years ago. Still, a top-75 season tracks just fine. I’m hopeful he’s able to improve on the .316 OBP vLHP next season and beyond.
Joe Musgrove being a top-20 starting pitcher
Musgrove needs to become the right-handed version of Patrick Corbin. One of the best sliders in the game, and he only threw it 23% of the time this season. Inexcusable. With Clint Hurdle and (more importantly) Ray Searage booted from Pittsburgh, it’s easy to believe brighter days are ahead for the right hander. No one will talk about this, but it was awfully nice to see the 26-year-old make it through 170.1 IP this season (easily a career high). Musgrove finished as SP54 and outside the top-200 overall according to Razzball’s Player Rater. I imagine I’ll be back-in again in 2020.
Jackie Bradley Jr. finishing top-8 in AL MVP voting
Blinded by an unreliable sample from a player who’s made his career over-performing in unreliable samples. Blinded by 2018 Statcast numbers. Blinded by reports of a swing change. This may be the 2019 prediction (and player) I was most wrong on. There were several things about the Red Sox that were unpleasantly surprising this season, and Bradley Jr. only mustering a wRC+ of 90 (which actually matches his highest output since 2016) has to be near the top of the list. The Exit Velocity and Hard Hit % were still above average this season, but I’ll be off the JBJ Train in every capacity imaginable next season. #burnt
Bryce Harper winning the NL MVP
Harper finished with a .372 OBP, 35 home runs and 15 stolen bases. He was much better defensively than he was in 2018. But in the end, there were a number of National Leaguers who were simply better than the 26-year-old. And despite more-and-more people beginning to figure out batting average isn’t all that important, it’s hard to validate an MVP campaign for a player who hits .260. Perhaps this is just who Bryce Harper will be throughout his prime—a 4.5-to-5.0 win player who is consistently great but never otherworldly. Perhaps the outfielder is able to make more contact and increase his BABIP in the future, both of which would propel him closer to his magnum opus 2015 campaign.
Aaron Nola winning the NL Cy Young
Another bold prediction that never really gained much momentum. Nola had a 5.68 ERA at the end of April, and it seemed like the the 26-year-old was never able to connect the dots on several really good outings in a row. The right-hander’s (somewhat) disappointing 2019 campaign is quite indicative of the Phillies’ season as a whole. Extremely hyped with extremely high expectations. It just didn’t happen. Nola finished as SP26 and outside the top-100 overall according to Razzball’s Player Rater, so I assume the price tag will be slightly discounted in drafts next spring.
Eloy Jiménez and Victor Robles winning the ROY Awards
Jiménez took too long to figure out how to beat sliders away. Robles simply isn’t as good as Pete Alonso, Fernando Tatis Jr. or Chris Paddack. The former hit .308 with 14 home runs in August and September combined. Robles has some really concerning trends with Hard Hit % and Exit Velocity. The speed certainly props-up the fantasy value, but I still want Jiménez in dynasty leagues.
High Value Active Players: Jackie Bradley Jr., Brian Dozier, Wilmer Flores, Joey Gallo, Aaron Hicks, Jonathan Lucroy, Corey Seager, Andrelton Simmons, Chance Sisco, Jesse Winker, Cody Allen, Tyler Glasnow, Andrew Heaney, Josh James, Trevor May, Collin McHugh, Joe Musgrove, Nick Pivetta, Julio Urías, Luke Weaver
Flores was dynamite… in 89 games and 285 plate appearances. Ugh. Injury L’s are the worst, but that’s what I’m taking on Joey Gallo, Tyler Glasnow and Luke Weaver. We were headed to victories on all three of those players before their respective injuries. Such is life. How about that Cody Allen L? Absolutely brutal. Train never left the tracks. Heaney’s injuries and ERA mask an underrated campaign when you look under the hood. I’ll be back on him again next season, me thinks. Never again, Nick Pivetta.
The Reds and Padres win totals
We ended up winning three units from this article attempting to find value in season win totals, but I missed the Reds and Padres prediction. The back-end of the Reds bullpen seemed to cost them early in the season, and the lineup wasn’t as dynamic or explosive as perceived prior to the season. I felt good about the Padres’ prediction once it was announced both Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack would make their Opening Day roster, but there were just too many holes on this roster (especially in the rotation) to legitimately compete in 2019. Eric Hosmer’s is going to be a huge issue for that team as their contention window opens.
The Indians winning the AL Central
A lot of baseball folks (myself included) thought the AL Central would come down to the wire between the Indians and Twins, but I gave Cleveland the edge thanks to more offensive star-power and a better rotation. Instead, Jose Ramirez was a below-average player for a huge chunk of the season. Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco both missed most of the season, the former thanks to a fractured forearm and the latter due to an unfortunate cancer diagnosis. The Twins were much better offensively than folks predicted, and they got just enough out of their adequate rotation and underrated bullpen to take down the Central crown.
The Phillies winning the NL East
In my eyes, 2019 would mark the Gabe Kapler Redemption Tour. With the additions of Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto and a breakout campaign from Nick Pivetta, the Phillies would stave-off quality opponents to win a salty NL East. Nope. Harper was great offensively and Realmuto was okay (and phenomenal defensively), but the Phillies couldn’t overcome a poor rotation and an injury-ridden bullpen. Pivetta was horrific and was removed from the rotation early in the season, Jake Arrieta was really bad (you hate to see it) and even Aaron Nola regressed from his stellar 2018 campaign. It wasn’t just the fact that it materialized for the Phillies—it never really even felt close. I expect Kapler to be removed within the next ten days, and the Phillies should have another opportunity to contend in one of baseball’s best divisions next season.
The Red Sox, Cubs and Mets clinching Wild Card spots
Lots to digest here. I think just about everyone expected the Red Sox to regress a little bit following a World Series win this season, but I don’t remember any baseball writer predicting they miss the playoffs all together in 2019. But it happened, largely due to an injured and underperforming rotation and a bad bullpen.
It just felt like something was missing from the Cubs for most of the season, and they suddenly found themselves extremely beat-up at the worst time of the season. Allowing a sans-Yelich Brewers team to sneak into the playoffs instead of them basically sums-up the season. The good news: the Cubs legitimately need a new voice from the managerial helm. They’ll get it. Yu Darvish is going to be really good next season, and Nico Hoerner should excel in his first legitimate sample to team nicely with Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez returning to full health.
While the Red Sox might have been the most disappointing team of the 2019 season, the Mets were the most hilarious. From head-scratching one-liners, to mind-numbingly bad in-game tactics, to ostracizing and begrudging one of the best pitchers in the organization in Noah Syndergaard, ex-manager Mickey Callaway most certainly will not be missed in Flushing. But it’s the Mets, so I’ll refrain from saying there’s no way it could possibly get worse. The Edwin Diaz/Robinson Cano haul immediately flopped, both from a big league impact standpoint and because of the fact prized return piece Jarred Kelenic emerged as one of the best prospects in baseball for the Mariners’ organization.
More than anything, me being wrong about this prediction also means I incorrectly (and indirectly) predicted both the Braves and the Nationals would miss the playoffs this season. I really nailed that one.
If I missed writing about a prediction I got wrong this season, please tweet me to let me know. I’ll take extra L’s if need be.
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Featured image courtesy of photographer Adam Hagy and USA TODAY Sports