Ben Pernick’s 10 Bold Predictions for 2021

Ben Pernick brings his boldest & most outlandish fantasy forecast yet.

These predictions are more Bold than they are beautiful. I love my deep-dive hitters and am bringing the heat with predictions that could land me in a sanitarium, or worse, as an “Everything must Go” TV salesman. These predictions have less than a 10% chance of happening, and some may argue I’m closer to 1%. But it makes it so much sweeter if any of these fantasy dreams come true.

ADPs are based off February NFBC ADPs.


1. Franchy Cordero is a Top-30 Outfielder


Legalize Franch! In my recent article, I point out that Franchy Cordero, in his limited sample, was one of the best hitters in baseball and also the unluckiest, according to Statcast, with a .343 xBA and .643 xSLG. He posted his usual barrel rate and sprint speed, but what changed was a drastic improvement in Z-contact% combined with improved pitch selection.

Now Franchy is on the Red Sox in a possible timeshare with Renfroe, a combo I call Frenchfry. He’s in a better hitter’s park (at least for average), and I think he’ll retain enough of the contact gains to make use of his power, something I think Hunter Renfroe won’t do. I’m also less pessimistic than most about his ability to stay healthy as he’s still young enough and none of his injuries were of the chronic variety.

I’d downgrade the SB potential in Beantown, but I think if healthy he can hit .260+ with 25 HR and 10 SB. So he’s a steal at his current ADP of #352… provided his current COVID IL stint isn’t too serious.


2. Alex Bregman is Not a Top-15 3rd Baseman


Look, I know it’s easy to hate on Alex Bregman. Some would argue that the hate has gone too far, but I would argue that it hasn’t gone far enough. Yes, I know he averaged .290 with 36 homers and 7 stolen bases from 2018-2019 before his flop of a 2020 season, and his stock has dropped with a February ADP of #43.

But Bregdrop Soup also has managed his great numbers in spite of mediocre barrel rates and hard-hit rates and drastically performing his expected stats. With a new dead-er ball, I don’t think he’ll be able to poke as many cheapies over the wall in his home park, and without that he starts to look more like a slightly faster and more patient Tommy La Stella than a top-100 player. But I also really like the rest of the top end of the third base pool this year.


3. The Royals Win 5+ More Games Than the Cubs


I got more flak last year than any of my wild predictions for saying the Marlins would win more games than the Cardinals, so I’m doubling down. I believe Salvador Pérez will be a beast again in 2021, and while the Royals have many hitters coming off bad seasons, Hunter Dozier, Jorge Soler, and Carlos Santana can all be monsters with even a partial bounceback to their 2019 levels. I believe they can with their strong barrel ability (Soler was #1 in baseball), which will be more necessary than ever.

The additions of Andrew Benintendi, Hanser Alberto, Michael Taylor, and Edward Olivares add depth to their lineup and bench, and I think Mike Minor can bounce back in KC and mentor their young rotation. In a year where more pitcher injuries and fewer innings are expected, they can succeed with quantity over quality, and I’d expect to see their 24-year-old high-end pitching prospect pair Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar arriving as reinforcements. Their bullpen is highly underrated with Josh Staumont and Scott Barlow being shutdown arms behind Holland.

The Cubbies meanwhile will keep bleeding out Cubbie blue. Their top pitchers Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies are coming off banner years, but I expect both to regress rather heavily and the rest of their rotation to be pretty awful, with Adbert Alzolay the only potential bright spot. And I will double down on my 2020 assertion that Kris Bryant is (still) overrated, and I see Anthony Rizzo and Javier Báez as in decline. Not only that, but Craig Kimbrel remains a shaky closer with few quality alternative options, and their minor league depth is mostly still at least another year away. When it comes to the Cubs, I guess you can say I’m bearish.


4. Jose Marmolejos Hits 25 HR and is a Top-50 Outfielder


I just learned that Marmolejos is Spanish for “marbles”. So anyway, Joe Marbles is arguably the most underrated outfielder with a projected starting role, with a current ADP of #661. I get why he’s not exactly hyped as a 28-year-old bat-first type who hit just .206 with 6 HR in 115 PA. But he posted a strong 12% Barrel/BBE% with a sub-30% K%, and Jose Marmolejos‘ top Statcast player affinity comps were Rafael Devers, Pete Alonso, Bryan Reynolds(?), Franmil Reyes, and J.T. Realmuto. While I don’t think he’ll hit like those top-100 hitters, the lefty slugger has little competition for at-bats and is projected to hit sixth in Seattle’s weak lineup.


5. Nick Senzel Outearns Cavan Biggio


Cavan Biggio gets a lot of love in fantasy circles as well as fantasy rhombuses for his combination of power, speed, and OBP, but I think the power may be a mirage. He ranked as one of the luckiest players in the majors according to Statcast, with an xBA of .215 and xSlg of .347. Yuck. He benefited from playing half his games in a minor league bandbox, but I didn’t like his low-barrel, high-flyball approach even before the dead balls.

Nick Senzel actually is already projected by TheBatX to produce similar numbers, but I’m bullish that he can do more. For one, his stolen base upside is way higher with his 97th percentile sprint speed (Biggio’s is 72nd).

He also was unlucky in his sample last year, and he improved his plate discipline and contact with an 89% Z-Contact. Especially in a park rated the most-homer friendly in 2020 by a large margin, I think Senzel can easily go .270-20-20 even if he just gets 500 PA. And while he may lack Biggio’s 2B eligibility (at least for now), he’ll be so much better it won’t matter.


6. Tarik Skubal is a Top-35 Starter


When you look at his 2020 debut, it’s easy to get scared enough to say “Zoinks, run Skub!” But when you rip off the mask, you see that Tarik Skubal was a whole new person in his last few starts with more reliance on his changeup and better results, averaging 7 Ks and 1 BB in his last 3 starts. With his hard-to-hit fastball, I think he can turn into a rich man’s version of Matthew Boyd, who has been his mentor for his breaking-ball pitch grips.

Speaking of which, Skubal had an extreme 54% flyball rate, so the deadened ball should help him keep more of them in the park. Without having to start 2021 off with COVID, I think he can post a mid 3s ERA and 26-28%+ K% en route to a top-35 starter season, and despite the playing time risk, I think he has the upside to spike better stats even if Julio Teherán and José Ureña temporarily keeps him down (likely not for long).


7. Chad Pinder is a Top-10 2nd Baseman


If Frenchy and Renfroe are Frenchfry, Pinder and Tony Kemp are… I bet they could rock matching purple suits and canes. Chad Pinder has long been one of the lefty-killers on the team, but I think he’s never been given the fair shake he deserves and this might be the year.

Kemp can’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag hologram, and Pinder can also take time from the fallen-from-grace Elvis Andrus as well as outfield. But what really caught my eye is that he set a new max EV in 2020 of 115 mph (22nd in MLB), three mph over his previous best, and especially impressive given the smaller sample size.

Not only that, but he’s become a more refined hitter, improving his Z-Contact from 85% to 92%. With that potential combination of contact and power, I think with full-time reps he could hit around .260 with 25 HR and 5 SB, which is basically Brandon Lowe production but from a February ADP of #509. Just have a plan for if they keep him in Platoonsville.


8. The Best Hitter on the Giants Will Be Tommy La Stella


Most of La Stellar’s bandwagoners jumped off after a ho-hum 2020 campaign but I’m more bullish than ever. First, he led all of baseball in contact rate as well as swinging strike rate, even beating out contact king Luis Arráez. Just look at that 12% BB-rate and 5% K-rate.

Unlike Arráez, Tommy La Stella does still have thump. In fact, although he didn’t match his 2019 hard-hit rate, his max exit velo in 2020 of 109 mph is three mph more than his 2019 previous best of 106 mph. I also love that he hits lots of pulled flyballs (40% FB, 47% Pull%) as he moves from Oakland to a park that played well to lefty flyball hitters, as Brandon Belt and Mike Yastrzemski can attest to (though that’ll change if they re-open the gate).

Yaz may be the lineup’s top dog (Belt, Mauricio Dubón, and Alex Dickerson also contenders), but I think Yaz will regress as one of 2020’s luckiest hitters, and La Stella will shine as the near-perfect leadoff man (if only he had speed). I’d expect 100 runs scored, 70 RBI with a .290 AVG and 20+ HR, and finally getting recognized also as a better hitter than Jeff McNeil.


9. The Rangers Will be Top-10 in Team Catcher Offense…And Most of the Production Won’t Come From Sam Huff


Holy overly specific predictions, Batman! Most people really don’t want to even get involved in the Texas backstop situation, with Sam Huff being the top name taken in February drafts at #395, with Jose Trevino and Jonah Heim as afterthoughts at #448 and #549 respectively. I actually think the latter two names make underrated deep league plays, as both Trevino and Heim are rare catchers that can actually make contact.

Trevino lacks upside as a 28-year-old journeyman, but last year balanced his plate discipline, backed by a strong 80% contact rate and 8% swinging-strike rate, with some punch, backed by a 13% barrel rate and a 41% hard-hit rate. He’ll get the first crack at the job, and I think he’ll hold it longer than most expect.

Heim struggled more in his cup of coffee hitting just .211/.268/.311 in just 38 PA, but he did show elite contact rates with a 89% contact rate and 5% swinging-strike rate, both of which were top-10 in baseball. While the 25-year-old hasn’t shown much pop yet, he’s a 6’4″ switch-hitting, cold-weather catcher prospect, all factors that suggest a late-bloomer.

Huff may be the one we think will blow the house down with an outstanding small sample with an insane .355/.394/.742 line in 33 PA mostly backed by Statcast, but he could be delayed by a hamstring strain, and even if not, his 59% contact rate last year suggests he’ll be quite volatile without more seasoning. But also I’m saying that outside the top few names, the catcher position is a wasteland again this year.


10. C.J. Cron Outearns Nolan Arenado


I saved my boldest for last, this prediction may lead some to think I’m Rocky Mountain high. Look, I was right a year late on predicting Arenado’s decline (I know, I know it was shoulder-related, but still), so this time I’m doubling down on a different Rockies slugger.

The C.J. Cron signing may be my favorite move of the offseason. Yes, the guy who hit .190 last year. Cron flopped in 2020 but can definitely rebound, as he dealt with injuries last year and still managed to increase his barrel rate for a fourth consecutive year at 19%.

Over that time he’s managed over a 40% flyball rate, which is very good for a park that is so friendly to fly balls. While many are concerned about his strikeouts after a 31% K-rate in 2020, I’m not concerned as his swinging-strike rate of 13% isn’t too bad for a slugger and he’s never had Zone-Contact% below 80.

If healthy, I see him edging out Josh Fuentes for playing time and hitting .275-ish with 28-32 homers easily, but I still believe with his combination of decent contact rate, barrels and park, he can do even better and hit .290+ with 35 HR. With a February ADP of #363, he’s well worth the shot.

As for Nolan Arenado, consider this… his #1 top Statcast comp for 2020 was José Peraza. He’s improved his contact rate, but the pitcher-friendly park plus the dead ball with his declining thump will do him no favors.

For a player who is valued so highly for his power, he has some of the lowest barrel rates aside from Bregman, who I’m even more bearish on. Nolan will still be solid, probably hitting .270-ish with 25 taters, and is the superior real-life player with great defense, of course, but who cares about that?

Photo by Keith Birmingham, Brian Rothmuller, Gerry Angus /Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)

Ben Pernick

I've been writing for Pitcher List since the beginning, and have been a fantasy baseball addict now for 20 years. I grew up as a Red Sox fan in New York, but now I declare allegiance only to my fantasy teams.

15 responses to “Ben Pernick’s 10 Bold Predictions for 2021”

  1. Harry Lime says:

    Ok , It’s on you… I’m drafting Franchy. I’m hoping this, ” insufferable enthusiast of puns” doesn’t apply to your writeup.

    • Ben Pernick says:

      Best of luck! The great thing is that at his ADP there’s really no risk as an endgame pick

      • Aaron says:

        There’s always risk even with the low picks. Not much but definitely still there especially in a 2021 draft with so much value late in the draft. I love franchys potential I believe cut his k% rate this year quite nicely as well but to be cliche….such a small sample. Te barrel rate shows the upside. It’s the swing and miss that ithinkkeeps him on the wire. I know u addressed that in your breakdown but AGAIN. Minuscule sample. To me he seems like the kind of guy u dont draft but pray nobody else drafts him either and the first sign of consistency u jump all over that wire pickup.

        • Ben Pernick says:

          I definitely agree that Franchy has risk… I guess what I’m saying is that the upside isn’t really baked into the price. Just look at what big small samples did for the draft stock of KeBryan Hayes or Drew Smyly, but Franchy’s improvement was largely ignored due to the poor surface stats and his reputation.

          I’m just saying it’s low risk in the sense that if you pick him up late, you can cut him if it doesn’t pan out and it’ll hurt your team far less than someone you used a top 200 pick on. In 10-teamers or shallow 12-team OBP, you can afford to take a wait and see approach and pounce if he hits.

      • Aaron says:

        Also I pretty much agree with all your bold predictions except 4 and 5.

      • Aaron says:

        Also dont step foot in ny ever again as a red Sox fan?. Your banned.

        • Ben Pernick says:

          I honestly don’t know if I can still call myself a Red Sox fan since they traded Mookie. I root for C.J. Cron more than the whole team combined!

          • D.B. says:

            As a Yankee fan that has loved the rivalry for multiple decades, even before 2k4, I can agree with this. CJ isn’t going to help enough, though. (Please don’t hate me for agreeing, but it is what is.)

    • D.B. says:

      I think he’s SEVERELY underrated, and his injuries will provide an outlook on his future value… Buying low on him isn’t a problem, considering the ADP, but I’d probably pick him up off the wire after an unexpected problem w/ someone else.

  2. BB says:

    Jose Marmolejos, meet Jarred Kelenic.

    • Ben Pernick says:

      It’s going to be really interesting to see how this playing time grievance with Kelenic plays out. Until recently Roster Resource had Marmolejos tabbed as the starting LF, but they just switched it to Fraley. I don’t think that experiment will last too long, but maybe the Mariners have lost their marbles.

  3. Jacstorm says:

    :) I think the best hitter on the Giants won’t get full-time ab’s…. Wilmer ‘Crybaby’ Flores.

  4. D.B. says:

    2, 4, 6, and 9 count as bold predictions. Everything else… it depends what you are looking at and looking past in the prediction game.

    Considering past articles, I’m surprised Pollack let these through.

    • Ben Pernick says:

      I appreciate your opinion, and glad you think saying a non-roster invitee will outproduce a perennial first rounder doesn’t count as bold! ADP indicates huge value differentials between the players, so even if it’s not as unlikely in our minds, it is in the minds of the baseball and fantasy communities at large.

      These do still need to have some realistic chance of coming true, I aim for 10% or one out of 10, because if it’s crazy predictions but all of them are dead wrong, what’s the point?

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