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10 Bold MLB Predictions for 2018

The holiday season is officially over, which means one thing — this is the final month in which we won’t get to see any on-field MLB action until about November. While a lack of major transactions have made the winter feel more excruciating than normal, the light is at the end of the tunnel.

Now that we’re about five or six weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to their assigned locations in Arizona and Florida, why not light the fire of anticipation with some bold predictions, right? Here are 10 to keep you warm until something big happens to get the Hot Stove burning.

Craig Kimbrel Will Post a 50% Strikeout Rate and 20% Swinging-Strike Rate

Why This Is Bold

Since 2002, only Aroldis Chapman has accomplished this feat, doing it in 2014 for the Cincinnati Reds with a 52.5% strikeout rate and 20.2% swinging-strike rate.

Why It’ll Happen

Kimbrel has nearly reached both of these benchmarks two different times. In 2012 with the Atlanta Braves, he recorded a 50.2% strikeout rate with a 19.4% swinging-strike rate in 62.2 innings. The other close call just happened in 2017, with marks of 49.6% and 19.8%, respectively, in 69 innings of work (nice).

On the heels of a truly dominant season, the hard-throwing right-hander is entering his age-30 campaign and is set to enter free agency next winter. It wouldn’t be shocking if that walk-year magic hit him with another eye-popping performance.

Miguel Cabrera Will Be a Top-20 Hitter

Why This Is Bold

Cabrera just experienced the worst season of his big league career, which included personal worsts in homers (16), RBI (60), OPS (.728), ISO (.149), wOBA (.313), wRC+ (91) and fWAR (-0.2) since becoming a full-time player in 2004. As if this wasn’t bad enough, he finished the year on the bench because of a back injury that could impact him for the remainder of his career.

Why It’ll Happen

Miggy certainly has a lot of things working against him heading into 2018, but he’s still one of the best right-handed hitters of this generation. He’s posted a wRC+ below 130 just twice between 2004-16, and that number settled in at 129 both times.

Plus, some of his peripherals were still legit. Last year’s .292 BABIP was much lower than his career number (.344) despite posting the third-best line-drive rate (27.3%), second-lowest soft-hit rate (9.9%) and seventh-best hard-hit rate (42.5%) among qualified hitters. He may not be the force he once was, but I’m not yet convinced that he’s totally done.

Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird Will Out-Homer at Least 2 Teams

Why This Is Bold

An active MLB roster is 25 guys deep during a season (not counting September).

Why It’ll Happen

These four hitters weren’t all on the same team in 2017, but they still accomplished this feat. Stanton (59), Judge (52), Sanchez (33) and Bird (9) combined to slug 153 dingers last year, which was more than the San Francisco Giants (128) and Pittsburgh Pirates (151).

Stanton and Judge have a shot at becoming MLB’s best home run-hitting duo of all time now that they’re both in pinstripes. And when we add a healthy and productive Bird to those two and Sanchez at a homer-friendly place like Yankee Stadium, who knows what they’re capable of.

Jon Gray Will Be an NL Cy Young Award Finalist

Why This Is Bold

The Colorado Rockies have never had one of their pitchers win the National League Cy Young award. It’s pretty hard to perform well on the mound while calling Coors Field home, ya know.

Why It’ll Happen

Despite being limited to just 110.1 innings last year, Gray continued an encouraging three-year trajectory since debuting in 2015. His SIERA in each campaign has remained consistent (3.75 career mark), but his ERA has fallen significantly (5.53 in ’15, 4.61 in ’16, 3.67 in ’17) while both his ground-ball rate (48.9% in ’17) and hard-hit rate (28.4% in ’17) have also improved each season.

After struggling at Coors Field as a rookie (8.27 ERA at home), he’s figured things out — his home ERA (4.30 in ’16, 3.13 in ’17) has actually been better than his road ERA (4.91 in ’16, 4.06 in ’17) the last two years.

Paul Goldschmidt Will Make a Run at a 30-30 Season

Why This Is Bold

Among all seasons in MLB history where a player has hit 30 homers while stealing 30 bases, only one first baseman has done it. That’d be Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell, who reached this milestone in 1997 and 1999.

Why It’ll Happen

Goldy is a unique player because he’s a first baseman that can contribute in these categories. He just hasn’t put it all together in one year yet. Check out his home run and stolen base numbers since 2015.

Year HR SB
2015 33 21
2016 24 32
2017 36 18

He’ll be entering his age-30 season in 2018, but he’s been an above-average base runner throughout his career. It’s clear that he has the ability to do so, giving us a chance that we’ll see him at least get close this year.

The New York Mets Will Have a Top-10 Rotation

Why This Is Bold

Despite all the apparent talent, the Mets’ starting staff finished 2017 with the National League’s second-worst ERA (5.14) while their 8.8 fWAR ranked in the bottom half of the league.

Why It’ll Happen

For as bad as they struggled last year, New York actually had one of baseball’s best rotations in 2016 — their 18.0 fWAR was tied for first and their 3.61 rotation ERA was third best. Pairing Jacob deGrom with a healthy Noah Syndergaard again will help lead this group, and you have to think it can’t get any worse for the trio of Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. None of them posted an fWAR better than 0.4 or an ERA better than 5.21, while Harvey led the group in innings pitched (88.2). This doesn’t take hopeful rebounds from Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman into account, either.

Having a new manager in Mickey Callaway and pitching coach in Dave Eiland will also help. It doesn’t seem like the Mets can get any worse, but they certainly have the talent to bounce right back.

Mike Trout Will Make a Run for a 40-40 Season

Why This Is Bold

Is it actually bold to predict Mike Trout doing anything on a baseball field? Probably not, but there have been only four different 40-40 seasons in MLB history: Jose Canseco (1988), Barry Bonds (1996), Alex Rodriguez (1998) and Alfonso Soriano (2006).

Why It’ll Happen

After watching his stolen base totals steadily decline from 49 thefts in 2012 to just 11 in 2015, Trout re-committed himself to swiping bags in 2016. The results speak for itself, as he stole 30 bags that year, followed by another 22 in just 507 plate appearances last year.

The power isn’t going anywhere — he’s slugged at least 33 homers three times in the last four years. If it wasn’t for his first career stint on the disabled list, he would’ve challenged for his second 40-homer performance in 2017 (his .323 ISO was 33 points better than his previous career high).

With a fully healthy season (which hasn’t been a problem for him) and a better offense around him, there’s no reason to think the 26-year-old can’t make a run at a 40-40 season. I mean, he’s Mike Trout, he can do anything.

Cole Hamels Will Keep Declining

Why This Is Bold

Outside of a 2017 season in which he dealt with some injury issues, Hamels has been as consistent as they come. The southpaw has thrown at least 200 innings eight times since 2008. He’s been worth at least 3.5 wins eight different times during this time period, as well.

Why It’ll Happen

Reputation aside, this past season was a troubling one for Hamels. His 11-6 record and 4.20 ERA weren’t bad, but he was worth just 1.5 fWAR with a career-worst 4.90 SIERA. After inducing soft contact at least 20.0% of the time in each of the last four years leading up to 2017, that number dropped to 13.7%, while his 36.0% hard-hit rate allowed was a career high.

His 17.1% strikeout rate and 9.7% swinging-strike rate were also personal worsts for the left-hander, who will be entering his age-34 campaign in 2018.

3 Teams Will Win 100-Plus Games Again

Why This Is Bold

There have only been six seasons in baseball history that have included three different 100-win teams. It’s only happened in consecutive seasons once, which took place in 2002 and 2003.

Why It’ll Happen

We’ve got ourselves a solid base here — the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros both won 100-plus games in 2017 and are returning mostly the same rosters that helped each of them reach the Fall Classic last October. The Cleveland Indians, who led the American League with 102 victories last year, will also bring back the nucleus of their roster for another run at a title (with Yonder Alonso in place of Carlos Santana at first base).

The Washington Nationals only have one glaring hole on their roster after winning 97 games, while both the Chicago Cubs and Yankees could have a legitimate shot at reaching the century mark.

The Seattle Mariners Will Make the Playoffs

Why This Is Bold

They haven’t tasted champagne since 2001.

Why It’ll Happen

This will be a tall order since they reside in the American League West with teams like the Astros, Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers, but it’s not impossible. In fact, we’ve seen three teams from the same division reach the playoffs four times since the wild card format expanded in 2012.

General manager Jerry Dipoto has seemingly done a good job of upgrading the offense this winter with the additions of Dee Gordon and Ryon Healy, but they’ll have to hope for more consistency (and health) from their pitchers in 2018 to break baseball’s longest playoff dry spell.

About Matt Musico

Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at FanDuel Insider, numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s a lover of all baseball, especially the Mets.

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