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Sam Chinitz's 10 Bold Predictions for 2020


Bold predictions can be the key to fantasy seasons. Predicting players who will outperform or underperform expectations by extreme amounts can win leagues. Bold predictions can also be entirely unhelpful, speculative thoughts that are just fun to consider.

With that in mind, I do think that each of these predictions has a legitimate chance of occurring this year. Not all of the predictions are going to be correct, but they do shed some light on how I feel about certain players coming into the season.

The 2020 MLB season isn’t starting on time this year, so here are 10 bold predictions to consider while waiting.

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Joey Gallo Finishes In The Top-10 In AL MVP Voting

Injuries held Gallo to just 70 games last season, but the 26-year-old took an important step forward with his plate approach. Gallo was substantially more patient than usual at the plate last year with a career-low 40% swing rate, driven partially by a career-best 24.2% chase rate. Additionally, Gallo’s z-contact rate improved for the fourth consecutive season, reaching 73.1% last year. The combination of Gallo’s improved contact on pitches in the strike zone and a more patient plate approach resulted in a career-best 16.2% swinging-strike rate. When Gallo does make contact, few players are more productive. Consider the following leaderboard of xwOBA on contact over the past three years (minimum 250 plate appearances), where Gallo shows up three times:

If Gallo can get his swinging-strike rate down below 15% and raise his z-swing rate back up around 70%, then an OPS above 1.000 is well within reach. Playing for a middle of the pack Rangers team might hurt Gallo’s MVP chances, but Gallo could have a huge year at the plate this season that makes him impossible to ignore.

 

Corey Kluber Posts An ERA Below 3.00

Between 2014 and 2018, Corey Kluber owned a 2.85 ERA. He posted an ERA below 3.00 in three of the five seasons and finished in the top-10 in AL Cy Young Award voting every year. Kluber struggled before fracturing his arm last season though, posting a 5.80 ERA and a 4.06 FIP in seven starts. Kluber uncharacteristically struggled with command last season with a career-low 37.8% zone rate, leading him to a career-worst 8.9% walk rate. Additionally, despite posting a 12.3% swinging-strike rate in-line with his 12.6% career average, Kluber’s strikeout rate dipped to 22%, helping push his strand rate down to an unusually low 63.8% (74.7% career average). 

Kluber was traded to the Rangers over the offseason, the team that made Lance Lynn and Mike Minor unexpected Cy Young Award contenders last season. The Rangers tweaked the pitch mixes of Lynn and Minor to spur their performances, so Kluber is likely to rely less on his sinker this year, as it’s been his worst by xwOBA in each of the past three seasons. An altered pitch mix won’t solve all of Kluber’s problems -- his four-seamer was also hit unusually hard last year, and his command will have to rebound -- but fewer sinkers would be a step in the right direction. Kluber really only needs a command bounceback and a slight rebound in strikeouts to be the pitcher he has been for the past five years, so an ERA below 3.00 is in the cards.

 

Nick Solak Is A Top-50 Hitter

Solak was traded to the Rangers mid-season last year and proceeded to tear the cover off of the ball, slashing a ridiculous .347/.386/.653 in Triple-A before posting an .884 OPS in 33 major league games. What jumps out about Solak’s major league performance last season was his lack of any major flaws. 

Solak’s 8.5% swinging-strike rate, 26.3% chase rate, 88.3 mph average exit velocity, and 9.2% barrel rate were all better than average last year, and his 28.7 ft/sec sprint speed placed him in the top 11% of hitters. Overall, Solak owns a patient plate approach and solid contact skills (79.9% contact rate) with above-average power and speed. Solak should have plenty of opportunities to use his speed in 2020 too, as the Rangers stole the most bases in the league last season. That combination gives Solak the potential to post an OPS above .850 with a strikeout rate below 23%, a walk rate above 10%, and double-digit stolen bases as long as he gets playing time.

 

Matt Magill Collects At Least 20 Saves

Magill is currently recovering from a shoulder injury and isn’t a lock to win Seattle’s closer job out of the gate this season, but his high strikeout ability should allow him to stand out quickly in a fairly weak bullpen. Magill enjoyed a mini-breakout last season with career-best chase (33.9%), contact (70%), and swinging-strike (14.3%) rates, powering him to a 28% strikeout rate. 

Armed with a fastball that sits in the mid-90’s mph and a pair of breaking balls that generate whiffs at an above-average rate (19.5% swinging-strike rate for his slider, 16.96% for his curveball), Magill owns a formidable arsenal that should allow him to succeed in the Mariner bullpen. Magill saved five games after being traded to Seattle mid-season last year, so he should claim the closer job fairly quickly and pitch well in the role. An ERA below 3.50 with a save rate above 65% is a real possibility for Magill, giving him a shot at more than 20 saves in 2020.

 

Joey Votto Is A Top-15 First Baseman

Votto endured the worst season of his career in 2019, posting career-worsts in OBP (.357), OPS (.768) and strikeout rate (20.2%). From a plate discipline perspective, Votto was once again elite in 2019 with a 21.1% o-swing rate and a 7.3% swinging-strike rate, both of which are in line with his career averages and suggest that a bounceback in his strikeout rate is likely. Votto’s power wasn’t unusually poor last year either, as his 88.8 mph average exit velocity and 37.7% hard-hit rate were also in line with his career averages. 

The primary issue for Votto appears to be his swing. Votto got under the ball at a career-worst 29.4% rate last season, leading to a 6% IF/FB ratio that doubled his career average and an uncharacteristically low 7.9% extra-base hit rate. Importantly, Votto’s struggles in 2019 seem to be fixable. At 36-years-old, Votto still boasts elite plate discipline, strong contact skills, and above-average power. As a result, a bounceback year in 2020 is very possible, as are Votto’s chances of finishing the season as a top-15 first baseman.

 

Justin Turner Is A Top-10 Third Baseman

This one doesn’t feel particularly bold to me but Turner is the 22nd third baseman off the board in drafts this year, and there’s a 100 player difference in ADP between him and the 10th third baseman getting drafted. Between 2014 and 2019, Turner owns a .302/.381/.506 slash line and has posted an OPS above .850 in all but one season. 

At .881, Turner’s OPS dipped below .900 for the first time in three seasons, but there were no real red-flags that suggest an incoming decline in Turner’s performance. Turner’s power numbers (90.2 mph average exit velocity, 43% hard-hit rate) were largely better than his career averages, pushing him to a strong .410 xwOBA on contact. Combined with Turner’s still solid plate approach (28.1% chase rate) and strong contact skills (7% swinging-strike rate), Turner posted a .378 xwOBA that ranked among the top-10% of hitters last season.

Injuries are almost always an issue for Turner as he’s only played in more than 140 games once in his career, but he’s about as close as it comes to a lock for an OPS north of .850 in one of the best lineups in baseball. With a little injury luck, that should be enough for a top-10 season at third base.

 

Aroldis Chapman Doesn’t Lead The Yankees In Saves

If the previous predictions aren’t bold enough for you, this one should do the trick. Chapman has picked up more than 30 saves in each of the past two seasons and has been one of the most consistently dominant closers in baseball since 2012. Last year was no different for Chapman, as he posted a 2.21 ERA with 37 saves. This is what his performance looked like:

All that being said, Chapman pitches in what is potentially the best bullpen in baseball. Fellow Yankee relievers Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino are more than equipped to close games for the team. All it takes is a couple of shaky outings and a short IL stint to knock Chapman out of the closer role for an extended period of time. This is an almost entirely speculative prediction, but with Chapman entering his age-32 season and his velocity declining in each of the past two years, 2020 may be the first time in a long time that Chapman isn’t an elite fantasy closer.

 

Brandon Dixon Is A Top-300 Fantasy Hitter

Yes, Dixon was optioned to Triple-A late last season and hit just .174/.174/.239 while there, but he also posted a .725 OPS in 118 MLB games. Dixon strikes out a ton thanks to his 36.4% chase rate and 17.2% swinging-strike rate, but his contact quality is solid. Dixon posted an 89.5 mph average exit velocity, an 11.2% barrel rate, and a 40.2% hard-hit rate last year, helping fuel a well-above-average .430 xwOBA on contact.

If Dixon can develop a more patient plate approach to increase his 5% walk rate and decrease his 32.4% strikeout rate, then he has a real chance of being an above-average major league hitter. Dixon will need playing time to open up, but his ability to DH, play first base, and play in the outfield should allow him to see the field at some point this season.

 

David Fletcher Leads The AL In Batting Average

Fletcher’s .302 xBA ranked 12th in the league among qualified hitters last season, seven spots and nine points above last year’s batting average leader Tim Anderson. With a 91.1% contact rate and a 3.2% swinging-strike rate that both led the league, few players make more contact than Fletcher. As a result, Fletcher struck out at a ridiculous 9.8% rate that ranked behind only Hanser Alberto for the best mark in the league, though Fletcher’s swinging-strike rate was half of Alberto’s. 

Fletcher is an abysmal power hitter with an 83.7 mph average exit velocity, a 0.4% barrel rate, and a 16.9% hard-hit rate, but his impressive contact ability minimizes his power issues. Fletcher just needs a little power bump and some luck to claim the AL batting average crown in 2020, neither of which is out of the question.

 

Collin McHugh Is The Best Fantasy Starter On The Red Sox

I like Eduardo Rodriguez as much as anyone, but McHugh may be the better pitcher in 2020. McHugh has struggled over the past few seasons and has spent most of his time in the bullpen recently, but he could bounce back in a big way this season. Last year, McHugh increased his slider usage from 24% to 43% in a move that should significantly improve his performance. McHugh’s slider was his best pitch by swinging-strike rate (17.38%) and xwOBA (.221) last season, making it an excellent pitch to continue featuring in 2020.

Beyond his slider, McHugh offers an arsenal that is largely consistent with his early career pitches in terms of velocity and movement. Despite his 4.70 ERA, McHugh was also quietly pretty good last year with a 25.9% strikeout rate and a better than average .369 xwOBA on contact. An ERA around 3.50 with a strikeout rate around 25% is an optimistic but not unreasonable expectation for McHugh in 2020, and that could be enough to make him the fantasy ace of the Boston staff.

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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


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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