Andy Patton’s 2021 Bold Predictions in Review

If you only listened to my hitter advice, congratulations!

Looking back at bold predictions is always a strange process. Hindsight is of course 20/20 and remembering how everyone was feeling about certain players in early March is tougher to do when you’ve had a full season to see those opinions change, often quite radically.

Looking back at the ten bold predictions I made before the season, some of them look obvious, some of them look downright silly, and most fall sort of in-between. If you heeded all my advice on these you would have ended up rostering Kyle Tucker, Austin Riley and Jonathan India (nice) Gregory Soto and Logan Gilbert (okay) and would have invested too much time into Matt Manning, Daniel Lynch, and, at least in dynasty formats, Jackson Rutledge.

No one is going to win them all and the goal here wasn’t to get them all correct but to highlight a few players I was targeting last year. Let’s see how it went, and talk about what we think about these players going forward:

(A link to my original article which provides my rationalizations can be found here)


1. Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle out-homer Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge (0/1)


Judge and Stanton finished with 74 combined home runs, an all-time high for the duo, while Mancini and Mountcastle totaled just 54, falling well short of the pair of Bronx Bombers.

Judge paced this quartet of players with 39 round-trippers, followed closely by Stanton at 37 and Mountcastle at 33. Mancini was the weak link, hitting just 21 bombs on the season and only two in the season’s final two months—which is what ultimately allowed Stanton/Judge to pull away.

For most of the season, it was a close battle, with the duos only one home run apart on July 31. From that point on, however, Stanton and Judge combined for 37 home runs, while Mancini and Mountcastle had just 18—16 which came from Mountcastle.

Mancini’s lack of power late in the season was disappointing for fantasy players, but he still had a solid year with 77 runs scored, 71 RBI, and a respectable .255/326/.432 slash line and a 105 wRC+. His future in Baltimore is questionable because of the emergence of Mountcastle and his free agency looming in 2023, but for now, he remains a solid corner bat in 12 team leagues.

Mountcastle rewarded fantasy players who used a late-round pick on him quite handsomely, blasting 33 home runs with 89 RBI, 77 runs scored, four steals, and a .255/.309/.487 slash line. He’s still just 24 years old and should continue to boast 30+ home run pop as long as he remains in the AL East, making him a reliable corner infield bat going forward.

Judge and Stanton both went the entire season without missing significant time, and they reminded baseball fans and fantasy players what they are capable of as they each came very close to eclipsing the 40 home run mark. A ridiculous second-half surge, particularly from Stanton, kept the New York team from falling out of the playoff picture, and those who rostered either of these guys in fantasy leagues were thrilled to see them still contributing, and not sitting in an IL slot, come September.


2. Kyle Tucker finishes as a top-8 fantasy outfielder (1/2)


Even though this one did come true, I wish I hadn’t tossed it on here. For starters, it simply wasn’t that bold. Tucker was being taken between 9-11 among outfielders last year, so predicting he would slightly surpass that isn’t exactly the piping hot take people want to see out of a bold prediction.

Still, though, it was nice to see the 24-year-old outfielder finally step into a full-time role and do what most were hoping he would; hit a lot of home runs, steal some bases, and hit for a high average. Tucker racked up 567 plate appearances for the Astros and blasted 30 home runs with 83 runs scored, 92 RBI, 14 stolen bases, and an excellent .294/.359/.557 slash line. He was one of the league’s best hitters and truly served as a fantasy stud, rewarding fantasy players who took him at the round 3/round 4 turn last year.

By most metrics Tucker was right around the eighth-best outfielder in fantasy, depending on if Fernando Tatis is considered an outfielder, and while injuries to Mike Trout and Byron Buxton likely impacted that outcome, it’s pretty clear he’s a special talent and future fantasy stud year in and year out.

Using Statcast tables isn’t an exact science when it comes to fantasy analysis, but the pictures are fun and Tucker’s is especially fun to look at, so we are going to do it anyway:

Tucker improved his walk rate (9.3%) while dropping his strikeout rate to a minuscule 15.9%, all while maintaining well above league average hard hit and exit velocity readings.

There’s no reason not to believe Tucker’s performance last season was real (his xBA was .300) and as long as he continues to run at least somewhat consistently he should be a top-10, and maybe top-5, outfielder next season.


3. Aaron Civale finishes top three in AL Cy Young voting (1/3)


Aaron Civale made me look like a savant through his first 15 starts of the season. He was 10-2 with a 3.32 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and seven quality starts. While he probably wasn’t a top-three Cy Young candidate even at the time, he was cruising and rewarding fantasy players quite handsomely heading into July.

However, a finger injury suffered in late June cost him about 2.5 months of action and torpedoed any chance of this prediction becoming a reality. He returned to make six starts down the stretch—two great, one okay, and two terrible—finishing the year with a 12-5 record, 3.84 ERA, and 1.12 WHIP—although his 19.9% strikeout rate was underwhelming.

Civale is not going to finish top three in Cy Young voting, making this a loss, but his decision to go away from the sinker and focus more on the cutter did seem to pay off, and his new split-finger nearly registered as a money pitch, posting a 34.8 O-Swing%, 41.3 zone%, and a 13.6 SwStr% despite a -2.6 pVAL.

Volume is key in all fantasy formats, and while 12 wins and a 1.12 WHIP helped quite a bit, Civale’s 99 strikeouts and 3.84 ERA across 124.1 innings wasn’t quite the pay-off most people were hoping for—although considering his NFC ADP of 174, it’s hard to get too nitpicky.


4. Logan Gilbert wins the AL Rookie of the Year Award (1/4)


Logan Gilbert is not going to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award, although he did finish the season with a 2.2 fWAR in 119.1 innings pitched, tied for the third-highest mark among AL rookie pitchers behind Luis Garcia and Shane McClanahanThe award is likely going to either Randy Arozarena or Wander Francoboth deserving candidates, while Gilbert’s season was largely viewed as a disappointment despite a few bad starts being all that separated him from a very solid rookie campaign.

Gilbert came up in mid-May, struggling in his first two starts against Cleveland and Detroit (seven earned runs in 6.2 combined innings). His next 13 starts were outstanding, however, as the big right-hander rattled off a 5-1 record with a 3.51 ERA, (3.02 FIP) a 1.02(!) WHIP and a 28.4% strikeout rate and 5.9% walk rate.

His final three starts in August were a mess (19 earned runs in just 12.2 innings) before he closed out the season with a 2.70 ERA in six September starts with a 31:8 K:BB ratio.

It’s easy to cherry-pick and look at Gilbert’s season through rose-colored glasses while ignoring the warts, but the fact is he’s a young pitcher who had his moments—moments that make you think he could be a top-30 starter down the line—mixed with some real issues.

Of the three rookie starting pitchers covered in this article (more on Matt Manning and Daniel Lynch coming) I’m far, far more confident in Gilbert’s ability to be a fantasy-relevant pitcher as soon as 2022, and his long term outlook is more promising as well.

He has an electric fastball that posted an 18.3 pVAL this year, but he struggled to generate chases on his secondary offerings—particularly his changeup (19.5 O-Swing%) and his curveball (18.8%). If he can more effectively locate those offerings going forward, he has very very solid potential.


5. Matt Manning finishes the season as Detroit’s best starter (1/5)


Oof. I realize now that labeling my prediction this way makes them tough to quantify, but any way you slice it, Manning was not Detroit’s best starter. Far from it.

Manning began the season at Triple-A Toledo, making seven starts and posting a very nice 36:10 K:BB ratio in 32.1 innings. However, his ERA was a ghastly 8.07—in part because he was just pumping fastballs right down main street. It was an odd development for the right-hander, who has long been labeled as a good command arm with multiple plus secondaries. Instead, we were looking at a guy with an average fastball who couldn’t hit a corner to save his life. Walking hitters is bad (duh) but it almost felt like Manning was too afraid to nibble so he was just going down the middle. He may have gotten away with that in the lower levels, but at Triple-A it resulted in 11 home runs and a .299 average against.

Despite those struggles, Manning was promoted to make his big league debut on June 17. His first two starts were okay as he threw 10.2 combined innings with just four earned runs and only one home run surrendered. Still, he had just four strikeouts and four walks, so it felt like the other shoe was about to drop.

And boy did it.

Manning faced Cleveland on the road in start number three and gave up nine earned runs in 3.2 innings, surrendering two home runs and only striking out a pair.

Thus continued a pattern of Manning occasionally having decent starts, although never showing any strikeout potential, along with a few absolute disasters sprinkled in.

He finished the year making 18 starts and throwing 85.1 innings of 5.80 ERA ball with a 1.51 WHIP and a measly 14.8% strikeout rate. Yuck.

I won’t go through every Detroit starter, but safe to say Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal were better. Spencer Turnbullbefore he succumbed to Tommy John surgery, was better. Notoriously finicky Matthew Boyd was better. Hell, down the stretch, Wily Peralta was (much) better.

I’m not completely abandoning ship on Manning in dynasty leagues, nor am I looking to sell-low, but I can’t say I’m thrilled about his lack of command and unimpressive strikeout totals across his first big league season. Pitching development is rarely, if ever, linear, so there is still potential for a big step forward especially with pitching guru Chris Fetter still at the helm.

Deeper leagues may take a shot on Manning in redraft formats next season, particularly if he looks improved in the spring, but this is likely more of a wait-and-see situation in all leagues.


6. Daniel Lynch finishes the season as Kansas City’s best starter (1/6)


Similar to the last prediction—no matter how you slice it, Daniel Lynch was not Kansas City’s best starting pitcher.

And in a season where nothing seemed to be right for any of Kansas City’s pitchers, major league or minor league, that’s not a good thing.

Lynch was very surprisingly called up to the big leagues in early May, having not thrown a professional inning since 2019 at High-A—a bold move that ultimately didn’t pay off. Lynch gave up three runs in 4.2 innings with four walks and three strikeouts in that debut before getting torched by the White Sox in his second start, giving up eight earned runs in just 0.2 innings pitched. Chicago was elite at hitting left-handed pitching, and there is some belief that Lynch was tipping pitches, but it was a brutal way to begin his big league career.

A third start where he gave up four runs (three earned) against Detroit was enough for him to get sent back down to Triple-A, where he spent the next two months before resurfacing with eight shutout innings against the Tigers on July 25.

Lynch was pretty uneven for the rest of the year, posting seven consecutive outings with three or fewer earned runs, but only going deeper than five innings in two of them. He ultimately finished the season with a 5.69 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, and 17.7% strikeout rate across 15 starts and 68 innings pitched—numbers that aren’t too far away from Manning’s. Blegh.

Kansas City struggled with pitching all season long. Jackson Kowar was an even bigger bust at the big league level, Brady Singer had his moments but still posted a 4.91 ERA, Brad Keller struggled, heck even top prospect Asa Lacy had a disastrous first full minor league season.

Lynch is still a young arm with a lot of potential, but command issues and underwhelming strikeout stuff were concerns even coming into this year and he did not do anything to assuage those issues. Like Manning, I’m going to hold in dynasty and potentially gamble a late-round pick in redraft, but my confidence is not nearly as high as it was at this time last year.


7. Gregory Soto finishes the season as a top-10 closer (1/7)


Another prediction that, while it didn’t come true in absolution, the general advice (use a late-round pick or waiver claim on Soto) was sound.

At the time of this prediction, the closer role in Detroit was thought to be some combination of Joe Jimenez, Bryan Garciaand Soto. Garcia and Jimenez combined for just three saves, while Soto ultimately racked up a team-leading 18 along with a 3.39 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and a 27.5% strikeout rate. No one will confuse those numbers with the production of the top-10 closers, but if you did use a late-round pick on Soto in deeper formats, or snatched him up off the waiver wire, you were likely happy—or at least not disappointed—with the results.

Soto would have gotten up over 20 saves had the Tigers not discovered failed starter Michael Fulmer had the chops to cut it as a late-inning weapon. Fulmer finished the year with 14 saves in 57 innings coming out of the bullpen, posting a 2.53 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and a 27.4% strikeout rate. These two gentlemen will be Detroit’s primary options in late-game situations next season, and unless one of them cements themselves as the go-to guy it could be a tricky pen to predict during draft season.

Soto’s poor command will forever limit his upside as a fantasy asset, but if he is in the mix for saves next year he’s probably worth another look in 12+ team leagues for those who like to punt saves, or those in K/9 or SV+HD formats.


8. Austin Riley is a top-75 fantasy asset in 2021 (2/8)


Credit to fellow PitcherList staff writer Chad Young who wrote a far more detailed piece about Austin Riley before the 2021 season, detailing what could make him a breakout candidate. He was right, and anyone who snagged Riley anywhere near his ADP (206 at NFBC, sandwiched between Leody Taveras and Andrew Heaney) has to be absolutely thrilled with how this season went down.

The cliff notes version of Chad’s piece is that Riley dropped his strikeout rate tremendously from 2019 to 2020, and while his power output dipped as well, his Statcast numbers still showed a guy who was hitting the ball pretty hard. The hope was that Riley would continue to improve upon his plate discipline, or at least the gains he made from 2019 to 2020 would stick, while his Statcast numbers would start to show up in his in-game performance. I labeled Riley as a guy who could approach 90/35/90, but thought he wouldn’t hit much higher than .240 with a .310 OBP.

I was wrong.

Riley not only blasted 33 home runs with 107 RBI and 91 runs scored, but he also slashed an incredible .303/.367/.531, good for a 135 wRC+ and a 4.2 fWAR. A little luck helped in the batting average category, as his xBA in 2020 (.263) and 2021 (.277) look a lot more similar than his actual batting averages of .239 and .303.

Still, we saw a player who posted a nearly identical walk rate (7.9%) and a slightly elevated strikeout rate (25.4%) from his 2020 numbers, both of which far improved upon his debut 2019 numbers of 5.4 and 36.4%.

The days of Riley being a 200+ ADP dart throw are long gone, as the Braves slugger finished well inside the top 50 on most player raters, and was 23rd overall at Fangraphs. If you want to have him on your roster going forward, the price is going to be a lot steeper. The production, however, may still be worth it.


9. Jonathan India wins NL Rookie of the Year, goes for 20/20 (3/9)


So I’m going to go ahead and give myself a victory here. I need to not have my predictions be three-in-one like this one, but India did hit 20 home runs (21 in fact) and he is almost certainly going to win the NL Rookie of the Year, so “only” racking up a (still helpful) 12 stolen bases seems a little nitpicky.

At the time of this prediction, India had played some at Double-A in 2019 but had no experience in the big leagues or at Triple-A. The Reds were planning to move Eugenio Suarez to shortstop, allowing Mike Moustakas to play third base and leaving a competition at the keystone.

Most felt the job would go to veteran Dee Strange-Gordonalthough 26-year-old prospect Max Schrock was in the mix as well. That was before India had an outstanding performance in spring training, winning the job outright and proceeding to have an outstanding season.

India was a highly regarded prospect before his spring performance, but few expected him to come out and rack up 631 plate appearances for a competitive Reds ballclub, never mind post a quietly excellent .269/.376/.459 slash line with 21 home runs, 12 stolen bases, 98 runs scored, 69 RBI, 122 wRC+, and a 3.9 fWAR.

In fact, between 10/1/2020 and 3/20/2021 at NFBC, India’s ADP was 550. He came in one spot behind reliever J.B. Wendelken and just ahead of Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner and Astros right-handed prospect Forrest Whitley. Those who were quick enough to snag him off waivers, and were smart enough to hold onto him all year, were rewarded with really nice production from a middle infielder.

India’s power surge came with fairly middling Statcast data, something to keep in mind when drafting ahead of the 2022 season, but he is clearly the man for the job in Cincinnati going forward and should continue to be a fantasy-relevant middle infielder in all formats.


10. Jackson Rutledge is a top-40 prospect in 2022 (3/10)


Two years in a row I’ve made a bold prediction about Nationals right-handed pitching prospect Jackson Rutledge, and two years in a row it has not delivered. However, I’ve been known to be a year (or two) early on guys (see Drew Rasmussen and Spencer Turnbull), so I’m still willing to wait this one out.

Rutledge began the season at High-A with the expectation he would climb up the minor league ladder quickly, but a blister and a strained rotator cuff limited him to just 36.1 innings last season, and massive control issues helped lead him to an ugly 7.68 ERA.

As a guy who was barely top-100 heading into the year, there is now virtually no chance anyone will have him on their top 100 lists heading into next season, never mind the top 50. However, the hulking right-hander with the plus fastball and hammer breaking ball still has the tools to be a mid-rotation starter with above-average strikeout stuff at his peak—or, at the very least, a dominant late-inning weapon a la Dellin Betances.

So, if I roster Rutledge in dynasty I’m squarely in the hold category. No need to sell him for pennies, although I’ll be watching to see if his command improves in 2022 with what will hopefully be a full, healthy season on the farm.


Photos Wikipedia Common/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Andy Patton

Andy is the Dynasty Content Manager here at PitcherList. He manages all of the prospect content on the site, while also contributing a weekly article on dynasty deep sleepers, and the weekly hitter and pitcher stash lists. Andy also co-hosts the Never Sunny in Seattle podcast on the PitcherList Podcast Network, and separately hosts the Score Zags Score Podcast.

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