Although the second half may have something unforeseen in store, we can get a good sense now of which bold preseason predictions will come true and which won't come close.Predictably, some have a chance -- a good chance, even. Others, however, are toast already. Let's jump into the predictions.1. The
Although the second half may have something unforeseen in store, we can get a good sense now of which bold preseason predictions will come true and which won't come close.
Predictably, some have a chance -- a good chance, even. Others, however, are toast already. Let's jump into the predictions.
1. The Nationals produce two top-5 overall ranked players.
For the purposes of reviewing the picks to date, I'll be using the ESPN fantasy baseball player rater. With pitching at a premium, maybe it shouldn't be a shock to see Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Chris Sale as the top three ranked players overall, but I was a bit surprised. Regardless, that's one National in the top-5 overall ranked players. Trea Turner's broken wrist is a bummer. He ranks 11th overall, but he's a non-threat to crack the top five now. This prediction does have life, though, as Bryce Harper has returned to his NL MVP form displayed in taking home the hardware in 2015, and he ranks 16th overall. Not far behind him is Daniel Murphy, who checks in 22nd overall. But they're not alone in the top-35 overall players! Ryan Zimmerman's surprising season has him ranked 26th, and Stephen Strasburg checks in 34th. The odds of this prediction coming to fruition aren't a coin flip, but it definitely has life.
2. Julio Teheran is not a top-50 SP.
Through 18 starts, Teheran owns a 4.79 ERA that's actually besting his FIP, xFIP and SIERA. The righty's strikeout rate has cratered to 16.7 percent, and his walk rate has risen to 8.9 percent. He's not helping gamers in WHIP (1.38), but he has matched last year's win total with seven. Overall, he ranks as SP90, and this prediction is likely to be a hit at season's end.
3. ByungHo Park swats 30 or more homers.
Park was in the midst of a big spring when I made my 10 bold predictions before the season, but he failed to be added to the 40-man roster, and he's struggled mightily for Triple-A Rochester. You could set the rest-of-season over/under total at 0.5 homers, and I'd take the under. Heck, you get set the over/under total on plate appearances in The Show in the second half at 0.5, and I'd take the under. This is a big fat miss.
4. Sean Manaea is the most valuable SP in the American League West.
This is likely another miss, but if you didn't prematurely cut bait after a sluggish start, you've been rewarded. He currently ranks as SP34, but the AL West has produced six higher ranked SP-eligible pitchers if you include relievers Chris Devenski and Bud Norris. Since returning from a short DL stint, Manaea has racked up a 3.26 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP, a 7.8 percent walk rate and 23.4 percent strikeout rate in 11 starts, so he's been very good. Having said that, he has an uphill battle to make this prediction come true.
5. The Cubs produce four top-25 SPs.
Jacob Arrieta is the highest ranked starting pitcher on the Cubs, and he ranks as SP43. Jonathan Lester is the next highest ranked SP on the Cubs, checking in as SP59. Their team ERA for starting pitchers is 4.66, which is tied for 16th. The Cubs aren't going to produce four top-25 starting pitchers, and I'd be surprised if they produced even one.
6. Daniel Norris is a top-50 SP.
After getting off to a solid start with my first two predictions, the slide continues with another stinker. Norris has failed to follow up his strong finish to 2016 with a breakout season, and he barely cracks the top 200 as SP193. The lefty is on the disabled list, and he doesn't have a timetable to throw again. His control has regressed and he's somehow become more hittable after serving up a .327 BABIP last year (he's at a .359 BABIP this year). This is another miss.
7. Kendrys Morales hits more than 30 homers, records more than 100 RBIs and hits north of .290.
Morales might hit two of the three benchmarks with 16 homers and 48 RBIs in the bank, but he's on pace to fall just short of both 30 homers and 100 RBIs. Furthermore, he's hitting only .252 and will need to go on a serious heater that neither ZiPS nor Steamer project in order to raise his batting average the 39 points he needs to eclipse a .290 average.
8. Eric Thames hits more homers in 2017 than former Brewer Chris Carter hit in 2016.
Woohoo! Finally, I get a momentary break from my lackluster preseason predictions. Thames has belted 23 homers through the Brewers first 91 games. The slugger drilled 11 of his homers in the opening month of the season before plummeting to just three homers in May. He did rebound in June with a half-dozen homers, and he has three homers this month, so he could surpass Carter's 41 long balls from 2016. I'd call this a legitimate coin flip.
9. Adam Ottavino is a top-10 RP.
I basically wrote this prediction off the day it was published. At the time of writing, there was still speculation Greg Holland might not open the season as the closer. As the piece sat scheduled to be published, there were reports that Holland would, in fact, begin the season as the club's closer. The former Royal has held a firm grasp on closing duties with a 1.62 ERA and 28 saves after missing the entire 2016 season, and for Ottavino's part, he's done nothing to push for save chances with a 5.74 ERA, a 16.0 percent walk rate and a 1.63 WHIP. Add this to the misses pile.
10. Someone steals 70 or more bases this year.
Turner's injury comes back to bite me again. The speedy Nat has 35 stolen bases in just 68 games played, but his disabled-list stint will prevent him from stealing 70 bases -- unless he faces Miguel Montero a few more times this season. This prediction has life, though! Billy Hamilton leads MLB with 38 stolen bases in 81 games. The Reds have played 88 games. Hamilton's averaging 0.469 stolen bases per game, and the Reds have 74 games left to play. If Hamilton kept up his pace and played in all 74 games, he'd steal between 34 and 35 bases, putting him at a season total of 73 stolen bases. Hamilton probably won't play in every game down the stretch, but his pace gives him a little wiggle room to receive a few days' rest and surpass 70 stolen bases. Dee Gordon adds one other long-shot candidate for 70-plus stolen bases with 32 in 85 games played, but he's not on pace presently.
A version of this article first appeared at FanGraphs.
Josh Shepardson is a contributor to MLB.com.