WARNING!: Extreme levels of 🌶 ahead. Be careful not to burn your tongue.
1. Cooper Hummel has the best wOBA on the D-backs this season (min. 300 PA), achieves quad-eligibility status and wins NL ROY.
I’ve already done a Hummel hype piece here. He’s a late bloomer coming off a really strong AAA season with an interesting defensive profile that could get him time at C, 3B and 1B in addition to OF. According to my sources, he is quite a long shot to win ROY (his odds aren’t even listed), but I BELIEVE.
2. Jake Fraley hits 30 bombs.
I am really excited for Fraley in GABP. Fraley had a tale of 2 halves last year over the course of 265 PAs. If we arbitrarily cut his season’s PAs down the middle, he had a .386 wOBA in 134 PAs before July 7 and a .257 wOBA over 131 PAs after. First half Fraley showed off some legit power with a .225 ISO that I still believe can be a regular thing for him. He also has huge platoon splits that tend to muddy up his overall numbers. He has no doubt been awful from the left side, but from the right side he put up a .354 wOBA last season even with the putrid second half. Fraley actually increased his HardHit% (+8%) over his second half but the GB% went up too (+10%). If Fraley can consistently combine the harder hit balls with an increased fly ball rate, I think he could be on the precipice of a breakout with half his home games at GABP and a clear path to playing time.
3. Clarke Schmidt starts 10 games and has 10 saves.
Clarke Schmidt is one of my favorite baseball players. He reminds me a bit of the pitcher version of Brett Phillips. Just an all-around genuine guy with an interest in advanced stats. Schmidt came out of nowhere post-injury and looked dominant this Spring to the point where the Yankees made somewhat of a surprise move and included him on the Opening Day roster. Schmidt’s stuff ranked second to only Jhoan Duran in all of Spring Training. He is in a unique Smoltz-like position where I think he is in line for glamor as both an RP and SP. He will start in the pen where I actually prefer him, but the Yankees have also mentioned he will be one of their go-to options as a spot starter throughout the season when needed. Because of Schmidt’s injury history, I don’t think they push him more than 5–10 starts which means he could see well over half the season in the pen if he stays healthy. Outside of their current closer Aroldis Chapman, who appears to be in a decline phase, their other best options are Chad Green (who they rarely give saves to) and Jonathan Loaisiga who I think Schmidt will be chasing for high leverage innings. This could finally be the year Schmidt stays healthy and puts it all together and it should be fun watching how the Yankees use him.
4. Jeremy Peña finishes the season with 4+ fWAR and wins AL ROY.
I am still scratching my head at how the Astros let Carlos Correa walk. While I didn’t see him taking a short-term deal at the beginning of the offseason, I always thought Houston would have the best chance if he did pivot in that direction. Anyways, there is only one good reason I can think of for why they let Correa walk and that is Jeremy Peña. The Astros org and its beat writers have been hyping this guy all offseason/Spring Training and I think the Astros believe he’s the real deal. The defense is supposed to be stellar and the bat is rumored to be sneaky good. I am excited to watch this kid play. For reference, 4 fWAR is more than both 2021 ROY’s Randy Arozarena and Jonathan India put up last year. (ROY Odds: +1200).
5. Trea Turner breaks the single-season runs record.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. The Flash is now hitting in front of one of the best lineups ever put together before Opening Day. The record for most runs scored in a single season in the common era (post-1936) is held by Jeff Bagwell from the 2000 season at 152. I don’t know if or when that record will ever be broken but I can’t think of a better bet than Trea Turner hitting amongst Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, Max Muncy, and friends.
6. Vinnie Pasquantino puts up a higher wOBA and more fWAR than Nick Pratto this season.
Nick Pratto has been getting all the hype as the Royals 1B of the future which has created quite the sleeper opportunity for Pasquantino. Projections don’t think this is much of a hot take as Steamer prefers Pasquantino’s bat and ZiPS has them with identical wOBAs with more PAs for Pasquantino. But despite the projections, the industry groupthink and Ottoneu roster% (14% for Vinnie and 82% for Pratto) indicate the market is much higher on Pratto. I have a Vinnie hype piece coming soon, but I absolutely love this guy as one of the biggest sleeper prospects before Opening Day this season and think he will get his fair shot at beating out Pratto for MLB playing time.
7. Yasmani Grandal starts 150 games and is Ottoneu’s most valuable C.
There’s no need to explain how good the bat is here but the playing time is the real hot take. With Grandal aging and still crushing baseballs, it makes a lot of sense for the White Sox to give him even more playing time at DH. I think the White Sox do whatever it takes to keep his bat in the lineup as much as possible this season. My guess is he sees most of his DH starts vs RHP and catches more vs LHP with Andrew Vaughn stepping in at DH (short-side platoon DH seems to be his role for now). Grandal has topped 150 games one time in his career with Milwaukee in 2019.
8. Justin Verlander wins the AL Cy Young at 39 years old and coming off Tommy John surgery.
Like Scherzer, Verlander has aged really well. The recent news around Verlander has been nothing but positive in regards to his approach to rehab and Spring Training performance. The biggest concern here like most TJ survivors is more workload than performance, but because of Verlander’s age, I think this is a rare case where the post-TJ restrictions won’t apply much and the Astros will ride him for however many innings he’s capable of. If he can stay on the mound this season, I really like his chances for CY votes. (CY Odds: +1600)
9. Dinelson Lamet is Ottoneu’s most valuable closer.
Lamet has always been an electric arm, and although injuries have derailed his path to the rotation, I actually like him more in the pen. Assuming his stuff plays up even more as a reliever, I think he has elite closer upside. Combine that with the fact he’s on a ZiPS projected 90-win team and I think there is a lot of saves/closer potential here for Lamet. (Edit: Hello Taylor Rogers! I am sticking with the bold prediction!)
10. Darin Ruf is the 2022 NL HR leader and has the best wOBA on the Giants (min 300 PA).
Closing it out with my favorite Ottoneu sleeper of the year! Similar to Hummel, I have a write-up on Ruf here. Ruf no doubt has a legit power bat but has struggled to find consistent playing time. I think the NL DH just changed that. Ruf does have a bit of a gopher problem (43% GB% in 2021), but he still puts a ton of hard-hit balls in the air and Statcast is a believer in his strong HR/FB rate. This bat combined with more playing time screams breakout candidate. Gimme 45 bombs for Darin Ruf!
P.S. A few more award predictions…
NL CY: Sandy Alcantara
NL MVP: Francisco Lindor
AL MVP: Carlos Correa