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Realistic fantasies: 10 bold predictions

Stanton could slug 55 homers; Madson may become saves machine
March 8, 2016

Big Leaguers tend to be eerily consistent. Year in, year out, most produce stats similar to the season before.But let's be real. How much fun would fantasy be without a surprise or 10?And with that, let's review's bold predictions for 2016.Giancarlo Stanton will hit 55 homers Stanton had been

Big Leaguers tend to be eerily consistent. Year in, year out, most produce stats similar to the season before.
But let's be real. How much fun would fantasy be without a surprise or 10?
And with that, let's review's bold predictions for 2016.
Giancarlo Stanton will hit 55 homers
Stanton had been on pace to reach the 55-homer mark in 2015 before a left hand injury ended his season in late June. With the benefit of cozier dimensions at his recently altered home park, the insanely powerful 26-year-old is a healthy campaign away from his first long-ball crown.

Jarrod Dyson will lead the American League in steals
This Royals outfielder has never registered 300 at-bats in a big league season, yet he's compiled 126 swipes across the past four years. Yes, Dyson is expected to miss the first two weeks of 2016 with a right oblique strain, but he could nonetheless come to the plate 400 times in an expanded role vs. righties. Jose Altuve led the American League with 38 steals in '15, and Dyson is poised to match that total.
Mookie Betts will be a top-10 fantasy hitter
Betts may not look the part of fantasy stud, but he's undoubtedly an early-round pick with the talent to produce first-round production. The outfielder struggled out of the gate in 2015, but he finished strong, hitting .315 with 13 homers, 13 steals, 70 runs and 52 RBIs from June 1 through season's end. That high batting mark was not boosted by an unsustainable BABIP, meaning another average in the .310s could be in store. Furthermore, Betts has swiped 30-plus bags in multiple Minor League campaigns. The aforementioned facts -- when reviewed beside Boston's strong supporting cast -- paint a bright outlook for Betts in '16.

Buster Posey will lead the Majors in batting average
Few catchers have won a batting title. Even fewer have taken home two. But in 2016, Posey could join that elite class by pacing the game in average for the second time in his career. Last year, Posey cut his strikeout rate for the fourth straight campaign and walked more than he whiffed, which is no small feat. Most fantasy owners will deal with a drain at the catcher position, but those who pick Posey could flourish behind a man capable of hitting .325.
Wade Davis will record 50 saves
The owner of 20 career saves is about to become the undisputed king of fantasy closers. With a 0.97 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP since the outset of 2014, Davis has been in a league of his own. And given the Royals' winning ways -- they combined for 56 saves last year, 53 in '14 and 52 in '13 -- the elite right-hander should have no shortage of chances to dominate in the ninth.

Matt Wieters will be a top-5 catcher
Wieters has undeniably battled the injury bug the past couple of years, playing in just 101 games since the outset of 2014. But still, he showed faith in his ability to stay healthy by taking a one-year qualifying offer -- rather than taking a multiyear pact -- this past fall. One of a few backstops with 20-homer, 75-RBI talent, the switch-hitter could be poised to ride his hitter-friendly home venue and powerful supporting cast into next year's free-agent class.
Mark Trumbo will be better than Albert Pujols
True, Pujols was one of nine players to belt 40 long balls last season, while Trumbo barely exceeded the 20 mark. But his powerful tally aside, the Angels slugger ripped 15 of those roundtrippers across a 24-game stretch from May 28 through June 22. And without another surge in 2016, Pujols may be hard-pressed to repeat the 30-homer plateau. Meanwhile, Trumbo will use his new affiliation with hitter-friendly Camden Yards to crush 30 for the first time since '13. Trumbo may also benefit from joining a powerful O's lineup that includes Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Chris Davis. Aside from Mike Trout and Pujols, the Halos' lineup lacks impact bats.

Ryan Madson will record more saves than Sean Doolittle
With a lifetime 3.04 ERA, 2.26 FIP and 0.93 WHIP, a healthy Doolittle surely has the necessary skills to thrive in the ninth inning. But the southpaw was limited to 13 2/3 innings last season because of shoulder woes, and he elected not to use surgery to repair the issue. If Doolittle were to again spend time on the disabled list this season, Madson would be a reasonable candidate to assume the closer's role in Oakland. And if he could repeat his 2.13 ERA and 0.96 WHIP from a year ago, the right-hander could cement a back-of-the-bullpen spot.
The 2016 Blue Jays will score 100 fewer runs than the '15 team
The Jays had the most dominant lineup last year, crossing home 891 times -- 127 more than anyone else. And, frankly, they could again lead the game in runs during 2016. But there is no way baseball's Canadian team will again fall just shy of the 900 mark. To put Toronto's recent offensive success in perspective, just one other club (the '13 Red Sox) scored more than 808 runs in a single season from 2012-15. Owners who buy in on the north-of-the-border regression should project small declines for virtually every Blue Jays bat.

Johnny Cueto will be better than Zack Greinke
Thanks to his historic 2015 stat line, Greinke will be among the first seven starters off fantasy draft boards this spring. Meanwhile, Cueto will be selected as a No. 2 arm in most formats following his second-half struggles with the Royals. But wise fantasy owners won't get sucked in by one year of data, realizing that the talented Cueto is set to join a pitcher-friendly home park and airtight defensive group in San Francisco. Greinke, on the other hand, is moving from Dodger Stadium to offense-friendly Chase Field, a venue that could push his numbers toward his career 3.35 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB.