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Riley Mrack's 10 Bold Predictions for 2020


Who doesn't love a good set of bold predictions? There's nothing like some biased analysis to persuade you to target or avoid the players that are featured in this specific article series. While I will present some factual data, I must admit my personal rooting interest has had some influence on a few of these predictions.

I did my best to put the "bold" in bold predictions, so it's hard to anticipate all, or even most, to come to fruition, but boy will it be sweet when one or two of them hit. Go big or go home, am I right?

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on 10 players this season who have the potential to make or break your squad this season.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off. Get access to our exclusive articles, rankings, projections, prospects coverage, 15 in-season lineup tools, daily expert DFS research, powerful Research Station, Lineup Optimizer and much more! Sign Up Now!

 

Marcell Ozuna Channels His 2017 Self

The Marlins sold high on Marcell Ozuna after the 2017 season, where he hit 37 bombs with 93 runs, 124 RBI, and a .312 batting average before getting dealt to St. Louis. After a pair of productive, yet unspectacular seasons, his move to the cleanup hitter in the Braves lineup will benefit him considerably. Stuck behind a Cardinals top-third of the order that got on base at an underwhelming .325 clip in 2019, Ozuna suffered from a four-year low in plate appearances with RISP. He didn't help himself either in these situations with a .231 BA, a wide margin from his .286 career mark, a number that I expect him to revert towards in 2020.

The Braves top-third of the order, on the other hand, produced a .358 OBP a year ago, which will give Ozuna ample more opportunity to drive in runs. I also anticipate some positive regression in batting average after an uncharacteristically low .257 BABIP in 2019, despite setting career-highs in Barrel% (12.6%), Exit Velocity (91.8 MPH) and Hard Hit% (49.2%). Coupled with an improvement in Park Factor, my final prediction for Ozuna's 2020 roto line looks like 35 HR, 90 R, 115 RBI, and a .295 BA over 155 games played.

 

Stephen Strasburg Falls Outside the Top-25 Pitchers

It's fair to say the Washington Nationals wouldn't have secured the World Series without Stephen Strasburg in 2019. His strong postseason performance rewarded his teammates with the Commissioner's Trophy, and himself with the Worlds Series MVP. Now in 2020, people are paying full price for this, plus his regular-season campaign that netted him 18 wins, a 3.32 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 251 strikeouts in a career-high 209 IP. These numbers surely would merit a top-10 finish among hurlers, but he was basically the same pitcher he's always been, yet we've slashed his ADP in half from 2019.

K% BB% Barrel% Hard% FB%
2019 29.8% 6.7% 6.1% 33.8% 19.1%
Career 29.1% 6.5% 6.0% 34.2% 20.4%

The chart above shows a slight improvement over his career marks, but nothing to boost his 59.3 ADP from 2019 to 28.8 this season except for a dominant postseason. Strasburg upped the usage on his curveball last season from 19.5% to 30.7% for his most frequently thrown pitch. For a hurler with a history of elbow and shoulder injuries, this seems like a dangerous game to play combined with the fact that he threw over 115 more innings than the year previous. Averaging just over 24 starts per season from 2015-18, injury risk is the biggest thing that scares me about Strasburg. I have a hard believing he'll make 30 starts in 2020, which will be enough to push him outside the top-25 pitchers.

 

Matt Carpenter Will Return Top-150 Value

Most fantasy players have written off Matt Carpenter after a disastrous 2019 campaign where he hit a measly .226 with a .334 OBP and 15 dingers in 129 games played. How quickly we forget that this man carried an outstanding .377 career OBP entering 2019 as one of the league's best leadoff hitters over the previous handful of seasons. Carpenter admitted to playing with back and shoulder injuries for the majority of the season, and after a cortisone shot in his ailing shoulder in September, he went on to slash .267/.366/.500 in this month.

Despite his struggles with batted ball data, Carpenter still kept his keen eye to a top-20 mark in walk rate (12.8%), and Chase% (20.7%). If health cooperates in 2020, I foresee Carpenter returning to the top of the order, at least versus right-handers, since he has the track record of thriving there. Manager Mike Shildt has toyed with Kolten Wong as the leadoff hitter this spring, but in my estimation, that would be the Wong choice. He has just five games of experience over the past two seasons as the leadoff man and holds a middling .332 OBP for his career, which Carpenter bested in his worst season. Tommy Edman, the next likely candidate, profiles better as a two-hole hitter since his 4.6% walk rate isn't the ideal patience you want to bat first so the rest of your team can get a feel for the pitcher and his movement. Chalk the veteran up for 500 PA as the leadoff man where he'll record totals north of 25 HR and 90 runs on the season.

 

Josh James Becomes the Astros' Second-Best Fantasy Starter

I love pouncing on post-hype sleepers, and Josh James is the epitome of the term for the 2020 season. Although his fantasy appeal is gaining more traction as we get closer to Opening Day, James may have burned enough owners who touted him in 2019 to keep his ADP in the high-200s over the next couple of weeks. The right-hander will be a bargain at this price since he's the front-runner for the fifth spot in the Astros rotation, where I am high enough on him to suggest he becomes the second-best fantasy hurler on the staff.

It's easier to justify James outperforming Lance McCullers Jr. and Jose Urquidy, but to surpass either Zack Greinke or Justin Verlander will come with a challenge. The 27-year-old's dominant 37.6% K-rate last season speaks volumes, albeit coming out of the bullpen, but his electric three-pitch arsenal will transfer to a starting role just fine. He pairs his 97.1 MPH heater with a slider/changeup combo that both posted whiff rates north of 50% in 2019, the only thing hindering him is a double-digit walk rate and an innings limit. Even with a 160-inning season, James can hit 200 strikeouts with a mid-three ERA, and if he can clean up his free passes a bit, a WHIP around 1.20 is reasonable. Verlander's lat injury will likely need to be serious for this claim to pan out, but a bold prediction is what you came here for, and that's what you'll get.

 

Yuli Gurriel Hits Fewer Than 15 Home Runs

Yuli Gurriel had a career year at age-35, where he surprisingly slugged 31 long balls after combining for the same amount over his two previous seasons combined. His expected regression has more to do with luck and a juiced ball than it does with any sort of sign-stealing shenanigans, although we can't be too sure about the latter. Last season, Gurriel was close to par in regards to his Hard% (37.5%), Exit Velocity (89.3 MPH), and fly-ball rate (21.4%) compared to his 13-HR campaign from 2018. The main difference was a 5.2% increase in pull rate and a nearly 2% increase in Barrel%, although his 3.8% mark was well under the 6.3% league average.

Gurriel's average home run distance of 387' was the second-lowest mark for a player with 30 or more homers, with first-place going to teammate Alex Bregman. These right-handed bats used the short porch in left field at Minute Maid Park to their advantage with Gurriel clubbing 19 of his dingers at home to a 22.1% HR/FB that doubled his road clip (10.6%). These stats helped him finish with the third-highest expected slugging differential of .119, meaning he turned more two-baggers into four-baggers than he should have. With reported changes in the baseball from a few hurlers so far in spring training, I expect the Cuban to suffer as much as anyone, bringing his home run total below 15 for the second time in four seasons.

 

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Will Lead The Blue Jays In R+RBI

While his older brother is trending downwards, Lourdes Gurriel Jr.'s stock is on the rise entering the 2020 campaign. Between a pair of injuries and an early-season case of the yips, the 26-year-old only played 84 games a season ago, but there was enough of a sample to see the potential in his bat. Returning from a minor-league demotion in late May, Gurriel Jr. launched 20 big flies the rest of the way while recording 50 R, 43 RBI, to a crisp .292/.339/.580 slash line in 71 contests.

Now entering the season in full health, he's locked into the three-hole in the Jays lineup behind table-setters Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, and ahead of the promising Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and former 100-RBI producer Travis Shaw. Bichette and Biggio's knack for getting on base will present Gurriel Jr. with plenty of run-producing at-bats, especially with their speed ready to put them into scoring position at any time. Followed by the big bats of Guerrero Jr., Shaw, and Randal Grichuk, Gurriel Jr. will also be able to score just as quickly as he gets aboard the base paths. I'm pegging him for 90 R and 90 RBI as he quietly puts up a monster season with the majority of preseason focus landing elsewhere on the team.

 

Corbin Burnes Bests Brandon Woodruff's 2019 Season

Corbin Burnes is turning heads so far in Brewers camp, much like he did a year ago when he cracked the Opening Day rotation. He only lasted four starts, however, giving up 21 earned runs and 11 dingers before getting sent down and relegated to bullpen duties upon his major-league return. Burnes' stuff is drool-worthy after posting a 58.0% Whiff% on his slider last season and a curveball and changeup that both caused swing-and-misses over 40% of the time. The right-hander has even refined his slider this offseason, touching 94 MPH on the gun, which will add more elusiveness to his 95 MPH fastball and keep more batters honest against this pitch.

I expect a rebound for Burnes this season, where he will post similar numbers to Brandon Woodruff's breakout 2019 campaign (11 W, 3.62 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 29.0% K%). Burnes may have some more volatility since his 8.5% walk rate was a bit unsettling, but he can significantly limit his damage against by keeping the ball inside the ballpark. Thirteen of his homers last season were given up on his fastball despite holding a below-average 20.0% fly-ball rate on the pitch. With better command of this delivery paired with a slider with a similar velocity, Burnes will become more efficient with his four-seamer and take the next step in his young career.

 

Andrew Benintendi Rebounds For a Top-12 OF Finish

Andrew Benintendi universally let owners down in 2019, but if the law of averages has it's way, I think he's in store for a massive 2020 campaign. He really hasn't been the same since he chopped his luscious hair down, but few expected him to take a step back entering his age-24 season as he finished his year with 13 HR, 10 steals, and a ho-hum 266/.343/.431 slash line. Although his end results lagged, he managed to post career-high marks across the board in Barrel% (8.1%), Hard Hit% (37.7%), and Sweet Spot% (40.1%). These figures led to a .333 BABIP, which bested his 2018 mark, yet his batting average fell .024 points since he uncharacteristically threw his plate discipline metrics out the window.

With a new mindset and a leaner physique this season, Benintendi is set to take over the leadoff duties batting ahead of three potent bats in Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez. While it's true he failed to capitalize on this role at the beginning of last season, a fresh start will do him some good with more comfortability building up this spring. I don't expect him to replicate Mookie Betts' MVP production, but a 180 R+RBI season with 25 homers, 20 thefts, and a .300 BA is possible if the stars align, and absolute if he grows his flowing locks back.

 

Aaron Bummer Will Lead The White Sox In Saves

The Chicago White Sox rewarded Aaron Bummer earlier this offseason to a five-year deal, instilling their faith in his late-inning arm. For him to take over the ninth-inning duties, Alex Colome will either need to get injured or suffer enough collapses that they'll demote him from the job. Although the veteran successfully closed out 30 games in 33 chances last year, he was extremely volatile in 2018, blowing five saves in 17 tries. Fortune benefitted Colome in 2019 as his 4.61 xFIP, and 4.38 SIERA came in nearly two runs higher than his 2.80 ERA, and his -.053 xBA differential was the second-highest mark for a reliever. It's also worth noting that he'll become a free agent this offseason, making him a potential trade deadline mover if the White Sox want to let Bummer gain some closing experience before the year ends.

Bummer's 22.9% K-rate doesn't contend with the elite power-relievers across the league, but he does possess a 95 MPH fastball and a cutter that generated a terrific 47.2% Whiff%. However, the left-hander only threw these offerings at a combined 28.6% of the time last season since he relies on his sinker that helped him finish with the second-highest groundball rate in the majors (71.4% GB%). It'd be foolish to expect Bummer to post a 30-save season, but a path to 10-15 seems plausible, which might be enough to pace the South Siders who are looking to seriously contend in the 2021 season.

 

Scott Kingery Will Go 30/25

This prediction is admittingly lofty, but I'll do my best persuasion by pointing out that Kingery will finally receive everyday at-bats for the Phillies in 2020. After getting 500 PA in 2019, he still managed to swat 19 round-trippers with 15 thefts as he saw playing time at five different positions in all nine spots of the batting order except for the cleanup spot. With a consistent job at the keystone this year, Kingery can put his mind at ease when he arrives to the ballpark every day and put his sole focus on hitting.

The former top prospect didn't shine in terms of hard-hit batted ball data in 2019, but he did finish just outside the top-20 in Sweet Spot% (39.2%) and third in line-drive rate (30.9%). If he can exchange a few liners for fly balls and keep pulling the ball around his 42.7% clip from last season, he has a shot to hit the 30-HR plateau this season. With the injury to Andrew McCutchen, Kingery can seize the vacant spot at the top of the order and feasibly take it over with his 96th percentile speed and raw hit tool. He needs work on his single-digit walk rate, but if he carves out a top-third of the order spot, 700 PA is in the cards, and that quantity may be enough to push his numbers into exclusive territory.

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Welcome back, RotoBallers!  Below you will find my Week 7 fantasy football lineup rankings. The ranks are available in PPR, Half PPR and Standard formats. They will be updated as needed, so make sure to check back for the latest versions. Skill Position analysis is primarily based on the PPR ranks. The rankings are powered by... Read More


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We are now more than a third of the way into the fantasy football season and a seemingly clearer picture is available across the landscape. After a pandemic-shortened offseason and lack of preseason exposure, there were plenty of worries headed into the first month specifically. Thus far, one of the most prevalent topics with regards... Read More


Fantasy Football Warning Signals for Week 7

The warning signals get brighter by the week since we have more data to work from. The larger the sample size the easier it is for us to connect the dots from the latest trends. Football is a game of small samples and many variables, making it one of the hardest sports to predict. How... Read More


How to Value Clyde Edwards-Helaire with Le'Veon Bell in KC

Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Jonathan Taylor? Coming into the season this was the biggest question for fantasy GMs, both dynasty managers who were thinking long-term and redraft managers who wanted to know who would be better for this season. There were many different theories and believe me when I say, both sides thought they were 100%... Read More


NextGen Stats - Quarterback Breakdowns and Takeaways

It's been a month since the last time we took a look at our beloved quarterbacks. Numbers are numbers, and numbers don't lie. You can twist them, but looking at them objectively, numbers say that no matter what, rushing the ball is almost always a worse option than passing it in today's game. That's why... Read More


Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers - Week 7

Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement.... Read More


Coaching Matters: Offenses That Will Improve From Week 6

This series continues into its sixth week of where I dive into offensive areas that will improve or decline based on coaching in order to glean insight as to fantasy football value. In Week 6, we saw performances such as Ryan Tannehill throwing for 364 passing yards, the Houston Texans running backs combining for 66 rushing yards, and the New... Read More


Tape Tells All: D'Andre Swift's Week 6 Performance

Welcome to another edition of Tape Tells All. I've been thinking of rebranding as just TAPE. All-Caps like that. Probably wouldn't be a good idea for SEO purposes, right? Anyways, this week we'll be discussing Detroit Lions rookie running back D'Andre Swift. Swift set a lot of career highs this week, with bests in carries... Read More


Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups & Adds

Week 6 was like the 2020 of fantasy football weeks. All those great matchups meant nothing, those studs let you down, and your bench likely went crazy. The good news is that we didn't have any season-ending injuries to running backs or games canceled due to COVID, so in retrospect maybe we shouldn't complain. The... Read More


FAB Bidding - Week 7 Waiver Wire Targets

Whether it's injuries, bye-week blues, or simply poor performance, we've got the waiver-wire cure...but it just might cost you! Alongside our famous waiver wire pickups list and our weekly waiver wire columns by position, this column focuses on suggested waiver wire bidding percentages for fantasy football owners in leagues using a Free Agent Budget (FAB). In... Read More


Waiver Wire Express - Week 7 Lightning Round

Week 6 was relatively healthy and had no coronavirus delays, so let's just take a moment to bask in that. That said, we still saw Miles Sanders (knee) and Zach Ertz (ankle) go down, while Mark Ingram (ankle) has a bye to get healthy. Week 7 byes are Baltimore, Indianapolis, Miami, and Minnesota. Let's get... Read More


Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Fantasy GMs are to be commended for rising to the unique challenges that have unfolded during this regular season. Injuries to critical players is an unwelcome reality that occurs every year. This is also the case for backs that were expected to operate as RB1s, but have been relegated to committees. However, this season has... Read More


Wide Receiver Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Six weeks of NFL football are behind us, aside from a pair of Monday games, including a late afternoon game between the Bills and the Chiefs. In terms of wide receiver production this week, we didn't have the huge breakouts like we had in Week 5. Chase Claypool didn't score four touchdowns. In fact, only... Read More


More Recent Articles

 

Dissecting Contact Quality In Search Of Fantasy Bargains

Of the 1,015 hitters sampled(1) between 2015 and 2019, there were only 14 instances of hitters making more productive contact against pitches outside of the strike zone than against pitches inside of the strike zone based on xwOBAcon. Based on the same sample, the average hitter was a whopping .116 points better against pitches inside... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 23rd, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More