When I was a kid in Cleveland, my crazy predictions always revolved around Rick Waits. He was a promising left-handed pitcher for the Indians, who always seemed to me on the brink of breaking out and becoming a star. Every year, I would predict to my Dad: "This is the year that Rick Waits wins the Cy Young Award."
And every year my Dad would look at me sadly because I still had so much to learn about what it meant to be a Cleveland sports fan.
Waits never did win the Cy Young Award or even get a Cy Young vote, though he did gain a minor reputation as a Yankees killer, mainly because on the last day of the 1978 season, he threw a complete game and Cleveland beat New York, 9-2. That Yankees loss forced the famous one-game playoff between the Yanks and Red Sox; Boston was so thrilled that on the Fenway Park video board the Sox wrote, "THANK YOU RICK WAITS. GAME TOMORROW."
Side note: That didn't turn out all that well for the Red Sox. But that wasn't Waits' fault.
Anyway, ever since then, I've thought that Opening Day was the time for crazy predictions. For a prediction to qualify as "crazy" it has to be two things:
Saying, for instance, that the Marlins will win the National League East certainly fulfills the "unlikely" part, but it really isn't plausible. On the other hand, saying that Giancarlo Stanton will hit at least 50 home runs if he stays healthy is plausible, but not all that unlikely.
Let's make some crazy predictions for all 30 teams. Admittedly, some are crazier than others, and for each, we have a Plausibility Quotient (PQ), to determine if the prediction is Half-Crazy, Crazy or Insane.
American League East
Blue Jays: Randal Grichuk makes the AL All-Star team
It never quite fell into place for Grichuk in St. Louis -- injuries, inconsistencies and an extreme strikeout-to-walk rate kept him from fulfilling his great promise. Now, a new scene, a great hitters' ballpark and a chance to share the outfield with defensive maestro Kevin Pillar just might energize him. Grichuk is a good athlete, a plus defender, has great power -- this could all happen for him in Toronto.
Orioles: Manny Machado has the highest MVP vote tally of his career so far
Machado finished fourth in the AL MVP Award voting in 2015. This crazy prediction is that he finishes in the top three -- it's crazy because Machado is coming off his roughest full season as a Major Leaguer and he's a free agent at the end of the year, so there will be lots of pressure and rumors surrounding him. The Orioles also are unlikely to contend, which makes him a less viable AL MVP Award candidate. But this is still plausible because he's Machado, and he's a shortstop now, and he can do everything.
Rays: C.J. Cron will drive in 100 runs
Well, somebody has to drive in runs for the Rays, and Cron projects to be Tampa Bay's cleanup hitter. He's flashed some power in the past, has had a great spring and doesn't draw a lot of walks, which is another sneaky way to rack up RBIs. Now, with a chance to play every day in the middle of the lineup, 100 RBIs could absolutely happen. As for what it would mean -- RBIs are not an especially revealing statistic -- that's a discussion for another time. Anyway, there's something that resonates about a hitter who knocks in 100 runs.
Red Sox: Mookie Betts has the first 40-homer, 40-stolen base season in Red Sox history
Betts had a somewhat disappointing season after almost winning the AL MVP Award in 2016, when he hit 31 homers and stole 26 bases. It would take a huge leap, but you can expect him to be fully motivated to prove again that he's one of the game's greatest players. Bonus crazy prediction from my PosCast partner, Michael Schur: Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. -- he of the 105-mph throw as measured by Statcast™ -- throws out a runner at first base on a line drive up the middle.
Yankees: The Bronx Bombers become the first team to have three 50-home run hitters
This has been talked about so much that it hardly even seems crazy anymore … but it is, especially now that Greg Bird, who perhaps had an outside shot at 50, will miss the first six to eight weeks due to foot surgery. For it to happen, Stanton and Aaron Judge both have to stay healthy and overcome what will unquestionably be some significant pitcher adjustments in 2018. Then, Gary Sanchez has to find enough plate appearances as a catcher/DH to hit 50 (the home run record for a full-time catcher is 45 by Johnny Bench in 1970, but he didn't have the luxury of DHing). It's crazy, but …
Indians: Trevor Bauer wins the AL Cy Young Award
The original idea was to predict that the Tribe's staff would set the MLB record for most strikeouts in a season … but that's almost a given. The 2017 staff already owns that record, and the '14 staff held the record for a couple of years, too. So let's go deeper -- Bauer is an immense talent, and when he's on, he's really on. He took a moderate step forward in '17 if you count the whole season. But in Bauer's past 12 outings, including the postseason, he was lights out, going 8-2 with a 2.51 ERA and a 74-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Royals: Whit Merrifield starts for the AL at second base in the All-Star Game
It isn't looking too promising in general for Kansas City, but everybody loves Merrifield, who plodded his way through the Minors for seven long seasons before emerging last year. Merrifield led the AL with 34 stolen bases, hit 19 homers and was a very good player. Yes, to start the All-Star Game, he'd have to beat out Houston's Jose Altuve, which seems, um, unlikely. But let's not forget: Royals fans know how to stuff those ballot boxes.
Tigers: Jose Cabrera has a huge bounceback season
I'm not sure this is quite crazy enough -- Statcast™ numbers suggest that Cabrera is a good bet for a rebound year if he stays healthy -- but let's not underplay what he's up against. Cabrera turns 35 years old in April. By that age, great players like Jose Pujols, Ken Griffey Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero had begun the decline that they could not stem. Plus, it could be a long summer in Detroit. Cabrera's one of the greatest hitters of recent times, though, so let's make the bet.
Twins: Miguel Sano hits 40 home runs and makes a strong AL MVP Award case
Most of the crazy predictions for the Twins this Opening Day will surround Byron Buxton. Will he have a 30-30 season? Will he win the AL MVP Award? Buxton's extraordinary talent makes anything possible. But that makes it easy to overlook Sano, who has dealt with off-the-field problems and injuries. But Sano's hitting talent is very real and his power is extraordinary. He hit the ball harder than just about anyone in baseball. This is the year it all comes together.
White Sox: Chicago's youth movement comes faster than expected, and the White Sox contend
In baseball today, gifted teams come together much faster than anyone expects -- remember the 2008 Rays and the '15 Astros? The White Sox have a powerful middle lineup with Avisail Garcia, Jose Abreu and newly signed Welington Castillo. Young starter Lucas Giolito looks exciting, as does second baseman Yoan Moncada. Mega prospects Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech are probably up before the end of 2018. There's something building on the South Side. The White Sox don't expect it to happen this year, but watch out, it could happen fast.
Angels: Shohei Ohtani gives up hitting and becomes an AL Cy Young Award candidate
Sure, many of us got very excited about the possibility of Ohtani reinventing baseball as a double-threat hitter-pitcher, which might still happen. But it's easy to forget just how hard it is to break through in the Majors, and Ohtani's rough spring is a good reminder that he might want to take it step by step. First, become a terrific pitcher -- he shows the stuff right now to do that -- then later, work the hitting in.
Astros: Houston challenges Seattle's modern record of 116 victories set in '01
The AL West has four pretty-good-to-good teams, so it won't be easy for the Astros to stockpile victories. But it might not matter. This roster is utterly loaded -- with the addition of Gerrit Cole, a full season of Justin Verlander and a healthy Carlos Correa -- and Houston looks markedly better than the team that won 101 games last year. And the Astros insist that they are more motivated than ever.
Athletics: Khris Davis leads the AL in home runs
You'll notice that several of these crazy predictions clash -- more than one player is pegged to win the Rookie of the Year Award or the Cy Young Award, and it's hard to square Davis leading the AL in home runs with the crazy prediction that the Yankees will have three 50-homer hitters. But you could win a lot of bar bets with the question: Who is the only player in baseball to have at least 40 home runs each of the past two seasons? Even if someone gets it right, they probably mean Chris Davis, the guy in Baltimore. Khris Davis is just 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, but he's a flat-out masher. Even the enormous Oakland Coliseum can't contain him.
Mariners: Mike Zunino establishes himself as an All-Star catcher
Zunino came into the league with a lot of hype -- third pick in the 2012 Draft and one of the top prospects in baseball before his debut -- but then he struggled to make contact, hitting .174 with a .staggering .230 on-base percentage in '15, enough to get him sent back to the Minors. Zunino kept at it and last year had by far his best season offensively (25 homers, .840 OPS) and defensively. He's been a monster this spring. It might be Zunino time in Seattle.
Rangers: Matt Moore comes all the way back and challenges for the AL Cy Young Award
No Rangers pitcher has won the AL Cy Young Award, and no Rangers pitcher is likely to win it this year. If you wanted to bet on someone, you'd probably pick Cole Hamels. But consider Moore. He's coming off a rough season in which he led the NL in losses and earned runs. But he now seems fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. He showed great promise before the surgery. One negative: He has struggled in the spring. But, hey, they're not called crazy predictions for nothing.
Braves: Atlanta finishes in the top three in runs scored
The easy crazy prediction is that phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. will be up soon and will win the NL Rookie of the Year Award. But basically everyone is predicting that. The Braves finished 10th in the NL in runs scored last year. With the emergence of Acuna, a full season from star Freddie Freeman and the continued improvement of Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies, look for Atlanta to skyrocket up the run-scoring charts.
Marlins: Lewis Brinson wins NL Rookie of the Year Award
Brinson is an interesting player. He's a good athlete, has shown good hitting skills and has power and speed. Brinson has looked very good in spring, and the Marlins, in full-fledged rebuild mode, will need someone to add a little bit of excitement. He is their best hope and it looks like he'll get a lot of at-bats, which helps his ROY case.
Mets: Mickey Callaway wins NL Manager of the Year Award
I will admit, it's not really a crazy prediction. The Manager of the Year Award tends to go not to the skipper whose team had the best year but rather to the manager whose team improved the most from the season before. The Mets lost 90 games in 2017 as their pitching rotation fell apart. In other words, the Mets are a good bet to outperform last year, making Callaway a leading MOY contender. Still, he's a rookie manager in New York, and he's likely to face some real challenges.
Nationals: Bryce Harper wins the Triple Crown
Well, I'm on record saying that I think this will be a mind-blowing year from Harper, so let's go all-in on the Triple Crown. He's already hit .330 and led the NL in home runs. Harper has not yet recorded 100 RBIs -- his plate discipline is so good and pitchers will not challenge him in big situations -- but you'd have to think he'll figure it out. His hero, Mickey Mantle, who walked a ton, won the AL Triple Crown in 1956.
Phillies: Nick Pivetta takes a huge leap forward, and the Phillies will challenge for playoff spot
For the first time in years, there's something to dream about in Philadelphia. That pitching staff, anchored by former NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob Arrieta and breakout starter Aaron Nola, suddenly looks like it can be a real weapon. The Phillies are particularly enthralled with Pivetta, who got batted around in 2017 (6.02 ERA, righties slugged .605 against him). Pivetta averaged more than a strikeout per inning and was a tad unlucky. If the Phils are right, this team could surprise.
Brewers: Milwaukee contends for the division title all year, and wins an NL Wild Card spot
Bill James' Plexiglas principle is that teams that improve a great deal one season tend to decline the next and vice versa. The Brewers took a huge and surprising step forward last year, winning 13 more games than the year before and contending for much of the year in the NL Central with the Cubs. So you'd expect them to take a step back. But general manager David Stearns was aggressive this offseason, picking up Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich for the offense, and Jhoulys Chacin for the rotation.
Cardinals: Alex Reyes is the Cardinals' closer as the team contends late in the year
The Cardinals have specifically said this will not happen, which is what makes it crazy. But there are three things to consider. One, the Cards' closer situation is deeply unsettled; they start the year with Luke Gregerson in that spot, which might work and might not, and he's set to begin the year on the DL with a hamstring strain. Two, when teams struggle to close out games, they will often do extreme and unexpected things, especially if the team is in contention. Three, Reyes is an amazing talent coming off Tommy John surgery, and St. Louis has a history of using brilliant young starters (see: Adam Wainwright) to close late in the year.
Cubs: Yu Darvish wins the NL Cy Young Award
The Darvish signing seems like it will either pay off in a big way or be a massive disappointment. Well, Darvish has never been a middle-of-the-road kind of guy. The Cubs give him a perfect situation -- they play great defense, they should score a bunch of runs and they are almost certain to be in contention. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein senses that Darvish is in a good place mentally and physically, and he could be ready to take off.
Pirates: Gregory Polanco finally has his breakout season
The Pirates signed Polanco as a teenager for just $175,000, and he quickly became a superstar prospect -- a brilliant center fielder with power and speed and remarkable hitting talents. It hasn't worked out that way, yet -- he was moved to an outfield corner, had injuries and hasn't hit as expected. But Polanco had a tremendous spring and has looked healthier than at any point since early 2016, when he was playing like a star. The immense talent is still there for Polanco to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases.
Reds: Eugenio Suarez becomes an All-Star and an NL MVP Award candidate
The Reds have lost 94 games each of the past two seasons, and Joey Votto has taken just about all the positive talk surrounding the team, so it is easy to miss just how good a year Suarez had in 2017. Suarez only hit .260, but he did so with power and he walked 84 times while playing a good third base. Cincinnati probably surprised a lot of people by locking up Suarez to a seven-year deal, but the club believes -- for good reason -- that he is a burgeoning star.
D-backs: Archie Bradley becomes an All-Star closer
Arizona manager Torey Lovullo named Brad Boxberger as his closer on Tuesday, but the truth is that, in the end, closers aren't named, they evolve. However, as the D-backs start the season, the best bet is that Bradley -- a former starter who became a star in the bullpen last year -- seems to be the guy with the stuff and the makeup to do the job. The crazy prediction is that by the All-Star break he has established himself not only as Arizona's closer but as one of the better ones in baseball.
Dodgers: Walker Buehler wins the Dodgers' third NL Rookie of the Year Award in a row
This is unlikely for numerous reasons, beginning with the fact that Buehler will start the year in the Minors, and there doesn't really seem any opening for him to become a major part of the Dodgers' staff. He's so young (first-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt) that he will unquestionably be on a strict pitch count. That said, Buehler is remarkably talented -- and Dodgers players always seem to win NL Rookie of the Year Awards -- 18 of the 71 total. They are on another streak after Corey Seager in '16 and Cody Bellinger last year.
Giants: Evan Longoria regains form and starts at third base for the NL in the All-Star Game
Longoria is 32 years old now, and it has been a few years since he's been both a Gold Glove Award defender and elite power hitter. Time stops for no one. But it's a new environment for him now and there is a history of AL veterans finding new life in the NL. Longoria has had a very good spring and impressed his new teammates with his professionalism and work ethic -- and the Giants need him to be great again.
Padres: The Padres will have three Gold Glove Award winners in 2018
The Padres have not had a Gold Glove Award winner since Chase Headley in 2012, but they have three players who have a shot at one this year. Catcher Austin Hedges is the complete package as a defender -- great arm, quick release, excellent framing skills, etc. -- and probably deserved the honor last year. His .262 OBP, while it should not matter, didn't help him. Manuel Margot is a Gold Glove Award candidate in center, and newly acquired first baseman Eric Hosmer has always impressed Gold Glove voters -- he's won four of them.
Rockies: Trevor Story wins a Gold Glove Award, and challenges for best shortstop in the NL
Story started his career in the biggest way possible, hitting seven home runs in his first six big league games. He fell off after that, as any one would, and last year led the NL in strikeouts and hit only .239. Still, the ability is there … plus Story is a superb defensive shortstop who tends to get overlooked. This crazy prediction is: Corey Seager, watch out.
Joe Posnanski is a columnist for MLB.com.