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Amazing things will happen in 2017.
Some that no one will foresee. Others that some will.
I want to be one who foresees the amazing, and to do that, I’ll need to go out on a limb.
How ’bout 30?
This column is truth disguised as nonsense. Or maybe the other way around. I mean, part of the appeal to writing it now as opposed to, say, spring training is that next season is still far enough away for everything to seem plausible, even if it stretches the limits of the imagination.
I’m already making excuses, aren’t I? Whatever. Just read it.
1. Addison Russell catches up to his contemporaries.
Russell rated just as highly as Carlos Correa , Corey Seager , Francisco Lindor and Xander Bogaerts coming up through the minors, and the fact he hasn’t peaked yet at 22 makes him the normal one of the group. He’s showing signs, though, with a recent power binge and incrementally improving strikeout rate.
2. Gary Sanchez gives the catcher position an elite foursome.
He’s not this good, but he’s one of the best home run hitters we’ve seen at the position in quite some time. And unlike Kyle Schwarber and Evan Gattis , his catching chops aren’t at all in question. What really sets him apart, though, is that he’ll probably play more regularly than those two (not to mention every other catcher) since the New York Yankees value his bat enough to stick him at DH on his “off” days.
3. Super utility players make position scarcity a thing of the past.
Within reason, anyway. The two hardest positions to play, catcher and shortstop, will still depend on naturals for their depth, but the number of multi-eligible players in Fantasy right now is unprecedented. Just a few years ago, you might find two or three triple-eligible players with some modest Fantasy appeal. Now, it’s studs like Kris Bryant and Matt Carpenter. Then, you have quadruple-eligible players like Jose Ramirez. Jedd Gyorko is eligible at every infield position. Ditto Javier Baez. It’s just the way the game is evolving. With managers’ increased willingness to play so many of their best players at multiple positions, you have more options to choose from at every position.
4. Greg Holland gets right back to closing.
With all the press Wade Davis has gotten over the last couple years, it’s easy to forget Holland was arguably even better before his elbow began to act up, ultimately requiring Tommy John surgery in 2015. And since he’ll have had a full 18 months to recover by the time spring training rolls around, he shouldn’t need long to convince his new team of his health, even if not quite by opening day.
5. Lance McCullers and Robbie Ray enter the ace conservation.
Because you don’t miss bats like they do by accident.
6. Jose Abreu makes 2016 seem like just a bad dream.
He may already be on his way to doing it with six home runs in his last 18 games, and it was only a matter of time given that his strikeout rate, walk rate, fly-ball rate, pull rate and hard-contact rate are all virtually identical to last year. In fact, some are a little better. He’s the exact same hitter, just minus a few home runs, which sounds like something time will correct, even if it runs out on him this year.
7. The New York Mets rotation becomes the bat-missing monstrosity we all know it can be.
Taking a leap here with Zack Wheeler ‘s sluggish recovery from Tommy John surgery and Matt Harvey ‘s troublesome bout with thoracic outlet syndrome, not to mention Noah Syndergaard ‘s and Steven Matz ‘s impending elbow surgeries. But those four, combined with Jacob deGrom , give the Mets a stable of Cy Young candidates still yet to be unfurled on the league all at once. And missing the playoffs this year — yeah, I said it — may be the best thing to happen to them. All of those additional innings last year had to have something to do with this year’s nonsense.
8. The Cleveland Indians add a couple left-handers in the offseason, making Andrew Miller ‘s ascension a foregone conclusion.
Aroldis Chapman ? Fine. But Cody Allen can’t be the one who keeps Miller out of the ninth inning, and I’m guessing if the Indians had another left-hander who they could trust in high-leverage situations, he wouldn’t be.
9. Adam Duvall hits .150 the first month and is consumed by the next wave of talent.
Using the term “talent” rather loosely here, but then again, the same could have been said for Duvall at this time a year ago. The 27-year-old was a classic Quadruple-A slugger in the San Francisco Giants organization — a two-true-outcomes guy (you can guess the one he’s missing) who only got a chance because he found himself on a team with nothing to lose. It’s a bit reminiscent of Michael Morse’s 2011 or even Ryan Ludwick’s 2008, except those two actually hit for average those years.
10. A.J. Pollock and Michael Brantley regain stud standing.
Shoot, Pollock might do it this year, the way his rehab assignment is going. Learning his latest elbow fracture was a result of the screw coming loose from his first gives me hope it’s not a chronic issue. Michael Brantley’s recovery from shoulder surgery has taken several twists and turns, including two follow-up procedures, but mostly, it sounds like a rush job gone wrong. Now, he’ll have an offseason-plus to get right.
11. The Los Angeles Dodgers , already without a recovering Clayton Kershaw and holding back Julio Urias for the start for the season, give up on Hyun-Jin Ryu in three weeks’ time after already burning through Brandon McCarthy in two, and after taking another look at Brock Stewart just to make sure they didn’t miss anything, then and only then do they finally pop the lid on Jose De Leon .
That’s assuming he doesn’t come up Saturday. But we know better, right?
12. Carlos Correa shifts to third base, freeing up shortstop for Alex Bregman .
The ramifications for this one are mostly long-term, though it would ensure Bregman regains the shortstop eligibility he’s expected to lose next year. Correa is still playable at shortstop, but he has shown some vulnerability there this year. And at 6-feet-4, he may not be playable there for long. If the Houston Astros wait too many years, they risk Bregman losing touch with the position and creating a hole in their infield for what basically amounts to marketing concerns.
13. Jon Daniels is featured on Hoarders.
You got that? Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo aren’t going anywhere, so don’t go drafting them under the assumption they or someone ahead of them will be traded. The Texas Rangers general manager delights in driving transcendent players crazy with boredom, to the point that their talent shrivels into something of fractional value and leaves us wondering what could have been if not for his sick compulsion.
14. Billy Hamilton becomes the stuff of legends with a 100-steal season.
With 31 stolen bases in 36 games since the All-Star break, Billy Hamilton is beginning to make the most of his legendary speed, which was rightfully hyped, as you’ll see from J.J. Cooper’s writeup in the 2013 Baseball America Prospect Handbook:
“A few years ago, the Internet spawned a meme called Matt Wieters facts, where impossible feats were attributed to baseball’s top prospect. (One sample: Matt Wieters draws intentional walks in batting practice.) Billy Hamilton facts seem equally overblown — except they’re true. When a left fielder lost sight of a fly ball, he ran out from his shortstop position to catch it near the warning track. He scored the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly that didn’t leave the infield. He scored from second on an infield grounder. And along the way, he set the professional baseball single-season stolen base record last year with 155, eclipsing Vince Coleman’s 30-year-old mark of 145.”
How quickly we forget. But then, how quickly we’re reminded. As fast and aggressive as Hamilton is, he may need to hit only .275 or so to do something historic, and now that he’s not giving himself away on fly balls so much — otherwise known as Willie Mays Hayes syndrome — it’s within the realm of possibility.
15. Sandy Leon fades into oblivion.
Because a .447 BABIP was never meant to be sustained. His sudden power is but a mirage to those left to wander this wasteland of a position, and soon enough, we’ll all treated to another glorious round of Christian Vazquez . Huzzah!
16. Garrett Richards’ stem-cell therapy allows him back for opening day, ushering in a new era of sports medicine.
Believe it or not, Richards hasn’t had Tommy John surgery yet, and there seems to be genuine optimism that this experimental treatment will stave it off completely. We should know for sure within the next two or three months — delay the surgery too long, and it’s impacting his 2018 as well — but as things stand now, you can’t rule him out as a sleeper for next year.
17. Dylan Bundy becomes the ace we forgot he could be.
Once considered the top pitching prospect in baseball, the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft may have had the most unorthodox development of any pitcher, having his minor-league career mostly wiped out by injuries and then getting forced onto the major-league roster simply because he was out of options. But his recent transition to the rotation has gone as smoothly anyone could have imagined. And it’s not like he’s lacking for stuff.
18. The shortstop position returns to normalcy.
It may not be the complete cesspool it was a couple years ago, not with all the talent graduating to the majors recently, but so much has gone right to make the position as deep as it is this year. Ian Desmond won’t be eligible there anymore. Ditto Jung Ho Kang (as much as he did for you) and Jose Ramirez . Eugenio Nunez has already begun to fall off, and you have to think the same will happen to at least one of Jean Segura , Jonathan Villar or Trevor Story (don’t make me choose).
19. Mike Napoli signs a team-friendly multi-year deal with the Oakland Athletics and then mysteriously stops hitting for power.
The unnecessary specificity makes it all the more plausible, right?
20. Kyle Schwarber disappoints again, but for totally different reasons.
Can Kyle Schwarber still catch for the Chicago Cubs after tearing his ACL and LCL? Do they dare try it with Willson Contreras now at their disposal? It affects Schwarber’s 2017 value because, as of then, he’ll no longer be eligible at the position. And if he’s limited to the outfield, where he’ll be costing Jorge Soler and Javier Baez (via Kris Bryant ) at-bats, his poor production against left-handed pitchers may confine him to a platoon role.
21. Kyle Hendrick’s ERA rises a full run, but nobody really cares.
Michael Fulmer ‘s ERA could rise half a run, and the same would be true. They’re good pitchers who are due for an innings increase next year, and the way this year has gone, a low-threes ERA for a pitcher with an ace workload would still contend for a Cy Young award. Still, neither pitcher misses enough bats to lead the league in ERA year after year.
22. Miguel Sano and Maikel Franco combine for 70 home runs.
Two of the trendier breakout picks coming in have underwhelmed this season, but not in a way that should have us rethinking their potential. If Sano improves his conditioning and finds a position to play and Franco has a little better BABIP luck, they’re right where we want them to be.
23. Infield shifts become an ancient relic cited only as a cautionary tale of our lawless past.
Come on, Robert Manfred! Expose this “strategy” for the gimmick it is! Do it for Brian McCann ! Do it for Mark Teixeira , for Albert Pujols , for every hitter whose batting average has suddenly and unpredictably tanked! Return us to the days where quality of contact counted for something and couldn’t be undermined by a cheat code! Remove that element of uncertainty! Make my job easier!
24. Mike Foltynewicz emerges as the Atlanta Braves ‘ ace — and through no fault of Julio Teheran .
I get the feeling he’s oh so close, having cut down on his walk rate this year without sacrificing his 98-mph heat. And every few starts, he’ll deliver the big strikeout total you’d expect from such stuff, but he’s still more hittable than you’d like to see. Is it poor location? First comes control, then command, then … domination? Hey, the tools are there.
25. Mitch Haniger lays claim to right field, rendering David Peralta an afterthought.
I understand David Peralta hasn’t had the healthiest of seasons, but seeing as so few bought into his breakthrough 2015, it feels like a case of “I told you so” (not that I was the one telling you so — don’t give me that much credit). Haniger is a forgotten prospect who just hit .351 with 19 homers in 228 at-bats at Triple-A Reno and has late bloomer written all over him.
26. Greg Bird recovers to make Yankee Stadium his personal playground.
Remember him? He was one of last year’s clutch waiver wire pickups, homering 11 times in 157 at-bats down the stretch, but even though he bats left-handed, more than half of his home runs came on the road. That’s a sign of someone who isn’t aware of his surroundings. Provided his surgically repaired shoulder is recovered, he and Gary Sanchez should look right at home in the heart of the Yankees lineup.
27. Aaron Nola proves his elbow injury was entirely to blame for his collapse.
I mean, he was looking like a left-handed Cliff Lee . Nobody falls that far that fast.
28. Josh Bell cruises to NL Rookie of the Year honors.
I’m talking a Corey Seager-style, no-doubt-from-start-to-finish-type runaway, complete with an All-Star nod and fringe MVP candidacy. OK, maybe I’m pushing my luck there — first base is never lacking in All-Stars, after all — but the future is bright for this one. He’s the quintessential No. 3 hitter, a guy whose exceptional plate discipline makes him a safe bet for batting average and whose power potential finally began to manifest at Triple-A. And I’m thinking there’s more where that came from. If you haven’t seen him play yet, he looks like a beast in the batter’s box.
29. The St. Louis Cardinals let Matt Holliday and/or Brandon Moss walk.
I really want to see Tommy Pham play, OK? I understand that at 28, he may not be worth the trouble for a team looking to win now, but he’s a toolbox just waiting to go to work. If he gets the chance, he’s putting together a 20-20 campaign.
30. Marcus Stroman becomes a premier bat-misser and the unquestioned ace of the Toronto Blue Jays .
They have a few candidates for that title now but not really a runaway. Stroman could change that, though, if he just continues to do what he has done over his last six starts, averaging 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He gained traction as a prospect precisely because of his bat-missing ability, so why he changed his approach upon reaching the majors is anybody’s guess. If he’s tapping into that ability again, though, particularly with his extreme ground-ball tendencies, he could be a 5-foot-8 force.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Fantasy Baseball: 30 bold predictions for 2017