Ben Pernick’s 10 Bold Predictions for 2024

Ben Pernick gives his 10 Bold Predictions for the 2024 season.

In 2023, I landed a career-best three out of my 10 Bold Predictions, including a bold Isaac Paredes prediction in which I said he’d hit .250 and 30 homers, and he went on to hit .250 with 31 homers. So obviously, that one was wrong. So this year, I’m keeping the takes spicy, aiming boldness-wise for the odds of any of these happening to be about 10%. That’s much riskier than most “bold” predictions, so expect me to say some pretty crazy things here. Hopefully, you find it instructive or at least enjoy something different from the same old ADP nitpicking. So get some climbing gloves, because it’s time to go bolder.


1. CJ Abrams outproduces Trea Turner


Nationals fans will love this, but this may leave Philly fans A-brimming with rage. As for the Padres, it might be neutral but also makes them sad. I believe that even though the sudden hype for Abrams, who was an afterthought entering the 2023 season, may seem overblown, many of the negative takes on him focus too much on what he can’t do instead of what he can. And what he can, he can like Campbell’s soup. Some very, very, fast Campbell’s soup.

While I get that projection systems tend to pull back on one-year jumps like Abrams’ 47 stolen bases that seem bound to regress, that ignores the fact that his 80% stolen-base-success rate indicates he should take more chances. It also ignores that his stolen base surge coincided with the team’s midseason decision to bat him leadoff. From that point on he ran like a man possessed (or Walter in “Get Out”) with a whopping 34 of his stolen bases in just 71 games (322 PA), with only two caught stealing. He also hit better too, as he had a better walk rate of 7% and strikeout rate of 16% in that spot, also hitting 11 of his 18 homers in the second half. I don’t always read too much into first-half/second-half splits, but when you’re dealing with such a young player who had struggled to find his footing the year before and a pristine pedigree, I think it’s logical to weight the second-half numbers over the first half, especially as he’s expected to bat leadoff again. Lastly, while Abrams isn’t seen as a power guy, his 113 mph maxEV and solid 38% fly-ball rate suggest the raw ability is there, and he actually has the exact same height and weight as Turner (6’2″, 185 lbs) so he can just like him grow into that power.

Turner, meanwhile, had a rather pedestrian year when you ignore the splits, and although I do love the story about getting a standing ovation to break a slump, I’m still more suspect as to the causality for the 30-year-old. For one, he’s been in gradual decline for several years (moreso if we’re counting 2020), with a wRC+ sliding from 159 to 143, 128, and just 108 last year, with a neatly correlated rising strikeout rate. He did still hit .266 with 26 homers and 30 stolen bases, but the 30 bags was actually disappointing given the new SB environment. He’s gradually become more aggressive throughout his career but at the expense of his contact rate, so you might be surprised to learn the table-setter actually had a 71% contact rate and 15% swinging-strike rate, both of which are worse than Abrams’ (81% contact rate and 10% swinging-strike rate). Sure, the reduction in called strikes has helped Turner maintain a steadier CSW% but he’ll turn 31 this year, which is a year in which Eno Sarris found that O-Contact rate “falls off a cliff”, so the fact Turner had a career-high O-Swing rate of 38% makes him vulnerable to getting punished more for chasing.

I’m not saying Turner is a bum, but he may not produce like a first rounder and he could end up looking more like Francisco Lindor or a .260, 20-25 guy which is closer to Matt McLain projections. Even if he doesn’t, Abrams’ raw superior stolen base output means that even if he hits .250 with another 18 homers, he may still come out on top as the superior fantasy asset due to the potential 20 stolen base edge over Turner. Abrams is going to lay Ceej to the basepaths.


2. Will Smith is not a Top 10 fantasy catcher


It’s not that I don’t like Will Smith, but when I see him still with an ADP in the top 100 players, I just can’t get jiggy wit it. He was basically the same price last year, and he’s coming off a down year, and all the other catchers have improved, so why is he still going so high? Now, I should admit that “down year” may be too harsh as he still finished the fourth overall fantasy catcher according to the ESPN player rater. But even if his .261/.359/.438 with 19 homers line looks similar to his steady-Eddie previous years, I’m not just penciling him in for more of the same.

The biggest reason is that his barrel rate took a plunge, down to just 7% from his 2022 rate of 10%. In fact, the barrel rate has been declining every year since he broke through with a 13% mark in 2020. I mean, his barrels per plate appearance was slightly Tyler Stephenson and Ty France, and you don’t want to be even tied with those Ty’s. It may seem weird for him to have such a low barrel rate despite setting a career-best MaxEV of 111 mph (previous best MaxEV was 109 mph). But Smith also had a ground-ball rate of 37%, and it’s easier to hit hard on the ground (See Hyun-Soo Kim), so the story’s mostly negative. I’m not predicting a collapse or anything, but entering his age 29 season, we’ve likely seen the best of him, and I’m not sure how much he’ll play with Ohtani firmly in the DH role and Teoscar also wanting room there, and the team having so much offense they could decide they don’t even need his bat.

But the real reason I think this could come true is because I love so many of the other catchers. Aside from the catchers going ahead of him already, I think so many can break out for different reasons. Raleigh could just barrel his way into it with 35 homers, Murphy and Heim were having great first halves before their injuries. Also, Willson was hitting the ball much harder, and Yainer rocks the barrel and contact rates of a truly elite hitter and will finally get regular reps. I even think later guys like Bo Naylor could outproduce him just from his stolen base output, Garver could if he just stays healthy, and I love Campusano as a sneaky high average play with pop. Those are my targets, but even younger guys like Moreno and Ruiz are already not far from his production level. Sort of like keeping all your money in a traditional savings account, sometimes by staying safe, you’re actually moving backward.  I’d avoid drafting Smith unless he comes at a bigger discount for that reason, you should only draft boring when it comes with the Boring Player Discount (I am not licensed to give medical advice about BPD).


3. Nelson Velázquez outproduces Nick Castellanos


Castellanos has been a fantasy fortification for years, but it’s time starting to be like “The Castle” at my college that looked like an old-school castle from the outside but was a jumbled mess from the inside (they stole blueprints from the outside only and then improvised, Nick can verify). He’s currently going at a rather ludicrous ADP of 101 (NFBC March Drafts), whereas Velázquez is down at 309 (although ranked #291). But why? Velázquez had the 2nd-highest barrel rate, a wildly good 21% rate, in his small sample of 179 plate appearances, with a dinger every 10 at-bats. Castellanos bounced back to give all the pretty surface stats, with a .272 AVG, 29 home runs, and 11 stolen bases but comes with more red flags than a stadium of Phillies fans in a bullfight. They’re the one group of fans that the bull would be scared of.

This prediction may seem extra bold due to the fact that Velázquez hasn’t even been promised a starting job, with the team talking about Kyle Isbel and company as options, but I think that even if Nellie rocks DH, his bat cannot be held down. He will always have a higher strikeout rate, but even in 2022 in which he struggled, he showed a high 13% barrel rate, and I believe in his ability to hit a higher-than-expected barrel rate and hard-hit rate despite merely above-average raw power (a maxEV of 111 mph). Given how much drafters bought the hype from strong small samples like Evan Carter (ADP of  110), it’s pretty surprising that a 25-year-old with some pedigree who prorated to 57 homers per 600 PA last year has remained between pick 250 and 300 all offseason. I mean, he has no close comps, but his top Statcast affinity comp based on his 2023 numbers was Shohei Ohtani, with Ozuna, Yordan, and Ozuna the next closest comps. Even with a high strikeout rate, why couldn’t he be like Jake Burger but in the outfield? I also expect some contribution in stolen bases this year, given the new SB environment and the fact that he stole 5 bases in the majors in 2022 before the switch.

Castellanos meanwhile actually may be more strikeout-prone, as last year’s success masked the fact that he had a pretty terrible 28% strikeout rate with a 5% walk rate and a career-worst 67% contact rate. I’m not optimistic that bounces back as he has a wild 43% chase rate, and age 31 is when O-Contact rate tends to drop off a cliff, and his 50% O-Contact rate from last year isn’t far from his 54% career rate so it may yet drop further. While he does hit the ball hard, it’s not exceptionally hard and not as hard as Nellie, with a decent but more pedestrian 10% barrel rate and 43% hard-hit rate. To succeed with a 67% contact rate you need to do better than that, and I haven’t seen much cause to expect the trend to reverse. Castellanos will still have the advantages of a more hitter-friendly park and a more potent lineup and lineup position, but that last one can change if he struggles, and we seem quite quick to forget that he had down years in 2022 (.263 with 13 home runs in 558 plate appearances) and 2020 (.225 with 14 home runs in 242 plate appearance). Maybe it’s an even/odd year thing.


4. Tanner Bibee is not a top-40 starter


I love rookies but I just can’t get into Bibee, and not because he’s NOT a vehicle like bicycle but instead of wheels, riding on giant twin bumblebees. I hate to be the wet blanket on a successful rookie campaign, as he dazzled with a 10-4 record, 2.98 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 141 strikeouts in 142 innings. But I think he’s merely a good but not great pitcher who got lucky, and there’s a lot more downside than upside at his pricey ADP of 116. Nick has already given his take on why he chose him as a bust candidate, but I independently reached that conclusion by using my less advanced and less generally smart methods.

My main issue with him is that I really can’t see what makes him dominant enough to truly be a top-tier pitcher. His fastball comes in hard at 95 mph, but it lacks good shape, so he can’t bully batters with it like a Bryan Woo or Bryce Miller fastball. Just as bad, despite his hat saying “Stay verty” he doesn’t practice what he preaches as he seems to lack the ability to consistently elevate his fastball out of the zone. Although his slider, his best pitch, is an impressive offering, it can’t live up to its potential as long as Bibee doesn’t execute the Blake Snell Blueprint. He uses that heater 47% of the time, a lot more than his slider, so that may catch up to him.

My other issue with him is that he pounds the zone, but can’t expand the zone and induce people to chase well. Even though the slider seems impressive, it falls short of being a Money Pitch because it only has a 33% O-Swing rate, and his other main pitches, his fastball and changeup, have only a 26% and 28% O-Swing rate. While his changeup is actually his best pitch at inducing whiffs, with his 17% swinging-strike rate making it appear like a viable second-offspeed weapon, it currently hugs too much of the middle of the plate, much like his fastball. I also don’t love that his slider and changeup are in the same velocity band, coming in at 85 mph and 84 mph, respectively (I’m not counting his lousy curveball because it falls below the 10% “Show-Me Threshold”).

Still, some might argue that he might have such elite stuff that command doesn’t matter, but Statcast tends to disagree. Not only do they think he got very lucky with an xERA of 3.66, but they rate his top comps in terms of pitch velocity and movement to be Ryne NelsonRoansy ContrerasConnor Phillips, and Justin Verlander (old 2023 version). In case you want to pivot to say he has elite batted ball suppression, his top batted ball comps are Aaron CivaleBryan WooMichael Wacha, and Jon Gray. Not that any of those pitchers are bad… they’re just not being taken in the first 120 picks (well Verlander, perhaps). Really, I think people are seeing the ERA and working backward to justify it, and if they looked instead at the process they wouldn’t fawn over his “upside” the same way.

It’s just weird to me also that all four of his pitches pound the zone with over 50% zone rate. I know the easy thing to do is compare Bibee with Shane Bieber (I mean, the names make it so easy) since Bieber also threw too many strikes in his debut before truly breaking through one he tried to make people chase his breakers. But I think that Bibee, unlike Bieber, doesn’t have the command to make this approach change work. And going at such a high price, you basically need him to repeat or improve on last year’s numbers, which I don’t see happening.

I’m not saying he’ll be the next Lance Lynn. I think he’ll be a fine pitcher with a strikeout rate around 8.00 per nine innings, a walk rate around 2.5 per nine, and an ERA around 3.60, but that’s not so different than José Berríos, who you could have 50 picks later. And if you’re valuing him because of his elite slider, you could just target Reese Olson with an ADP around 300, who had an identical 95 mph fastball velocity (but worse shape) with an elite slider and actually had a higher whiff rate and CSW?. At an ADP of 116, I just see too much downside on a weirdly sad team that won’t do him many favors.


5. Jake Burger hits .250 with 40 homers


I’m honestly surprised that the beefy slugger hasn’t gotten more love for his juicy hard contact. I’m also disappointed that they didn’t partner with my favorite Connecticut-based fast-food chain Jake’s Wayback Burgers… it was right there! Free burgers when he hits one wayback! Unlike the preseason market in which he’s often cited as an obvious regression candidate, I expect more Burger blasts in 2024, but also while being less of the all-or-nothing slugger we saw in early 2023. Why? Well for one, I think we’re not weighing properly how Burger has aged.

We need to remember that he is still an injury risk given his extensive injury history, but his outlook has certainly brightened after having a season of relatively solid health, with a career-high 540 PA in 141 games. But he lost multiple years of development due to tearing and then re-tearing his Achilles tendon as a prospect, so even though he’ll be turning 28 in April, we still need to think of him as a prospect who is still refining his tools, and the tools are why I can’t quit him. The former 1st-round pick (11th overall) always had huge power, but another year of health seemed to unlock a new level in 2023, with an insane 118 mph MaxEV. That’s FOUR mph higher than anything he hit in 2023, and 114 mph was already elite! It was also the sixth-best in baseball, behind only Acuna Jr, Stanton, De La Cruz, Ohtani, and Olson. That company alone makes something clear:  If you can hit the ball that hard, you’re already in a league of your own. So why do people keep calling him a “30-homer bat”?

But aside from just raw power, unlike Stanton, he actually does have elite batted-ball outcomes too. His 17% barrel rate was in the 98th percentile, and barrel rate may be the single most important stat to identify a hitter’s value. His 50% hard-hit rate was also elite (91st percentile), which likely explains why despite poor plate discipline, Statcast thinks he actually deserved better with a .270 xBA and .512 xSLG… though it’s worth noting Pitcher List’s xAVG gave him a .243 xAVG so there’s likely a strong batted ball direction factor. It’s true that his high strikeout rate (28%) and low walk rate (5%) make him streaky with a low floor (dare I say Daniel Palka-esque) but we have seen players who hit the ball hard succeed in spite of this (and he hits much harder than Nick Castellanos who had those same rates.

But the other reason I see him as underrated is because of how he evolved as a hitter over the season. Even before his trade to Miami, he was working on cutting down his strikeout rate, and it paid off, with his 34% strikeout rate in the 1st half going down to just 22% in the 2nd half. While he did sacrifice some isolated power to make the change, in the 2nd half he actually hit for a slightly higher slugging percentage ( .515 to .522) thanks to a healthier .279 AVG, and a notably higher overall wRC+ (110 in the 1st half, 131 in the 2nd half). While I often think first-half/second-half splits are overrated, it matters a lot more when the player has only had 765 total Plate Appearances in the MLB. That’s why they say breakouts often happen for hitters in year 3 or around a thousand at-bats. I’m not saying he’ll necessarily continue right where he left off, and he’ll lose a few homers in Miami’s more spacious confines, but his power will play anywhere (like former teammate Jorge Soler and then some).

I get that there is high risk, and typically you regress after an out-of-nowhere season. But I think that once you get past the first tier of third baseman, every third baseman has risk. Arenado has chronic back issues, weak batted ball quality, and regression, Josh Jung had the same strikeout rate with less power and injury issues, and Bregman has such limited power he could only reach 25 taters by racking up 724 PA. Heck, even Machado has some decline and injury-related concerns. Burger is the only one with elite batted-ball quality, so even if he regresses into more of the hitter he was in the first half, he could still tally a 40-homer season (something like Adam Duvall’s 2021 .228 with 38 homers), but I’m optimistic he can keep a strikeout rate below 28% in which case we could be looking at him as a Top-7 third baseman by season’s end.


6. Jazz Chisholm Jr. is not a top-25 outfielder


As a saxophone player who studied at Berklee, only now can I finally admit that I’m not into Jazz. Look, I just said I listen to Charlie Parker because it was the “safe answer”! I obviously adore Chisholm’s raw tools and it’s so easy to dream on the power and speed if he could just stay healthy, but I could say the same about a player drafted after pick 500… Adalberto Mondesi. Maybe that comparison doesn’t seem fair, as Chisholm is younger and actually played (and did well) in his sample last year, but it’s not just the spotty health record that has me running Miles away. And looking at his Statcast page makes me feel Kind of Blue.

I’ll start off by saying that every major projection system thinks what I’m saying is dumb and my brain is full of rocks that were buried in sediment of stupidity. Aside from ZIPS, every projection projects him for at least 545 plate appearances, and between 24-27 home runs and 27-36 stolen bases. If he hits even the mean or median of these, he’ll likely finish a top-30 player, a great value given his current ADP of 60. Also, he’s looking great so far this spring. But hear me out.

For one, beyond the gaudy power/speed totals, his contact ability has appeared to be in free fall. Even though he’s remained close to his career 29% strikeout rate, his Z-Contact% has fallen precipitously, weighing down his other contact stats:

Z-Contact Contact% SwStr%
2020 91% 75% 10%
2021 82% 73% 13%
2022 78% 71% 14%
2023 74% 66% 15%

Why is no one talking about this when Christopher Morel (176 March ADP), who has been oft-maligned in fantasy for whiffing at strikes, managed a superior 77% Z-Contact rate in 2023? Jazz’s strikeout-prone teammate Jake Burger’s Z-Contact rate was 83%. Now, I know these are smaller samples due to injuries cutting his seasons short, but injuries and the resulting lack of reps could also be behind his withering batting eye. The overall declining contact rate and swinging-strike rate actually downplay the severity of his contact decline, since it’s the pitches on the plate that have far better batted ball outcomes, so it’s a much bigger problem than if this happened to his O-Contact rate (though this has also declined every year since 2021). And you can’t fix it by telling him to “wait for his pitch” as his Z-Swing rate of 67% is already relatively low. His 32% CSW% last year was the fifth worst of MLB hitters only behind Jose Siri, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Rooker, and Matt McLain (min 350 PA).

In order to make up for his troublingly low batted ball quantity, he’d need truly elite batted ball quality. And he may have that raw ability, but last year it fell short. His 12% barrel rate is okay, but it’s just above average at 79th percentile, and his hard-hit rate was a less impressive 42% (56th percentile). And it seems when he’s not barreling, he’s rarely hitting the ball at useful launch angles, as his Sweet-Spot rate of 25% was actually bottom of the barrel at just 1st percentile. I also think Statcast may overlook a non-ideal direction of his batted balls, as his Statcast xBA of .242 was not nearly as bad as his Pitcher List xAVG (directionality included) of .206 (321st in MLB) and xwOBA of .283 (304th in MLB). Yikes.

Nowadays, you don’t need elite sprint speed to steal bases, but it’s worth mentioning that his sprint speed isn’t really that elite. His 28 ft/sec is just 77th percentile and 139th in baseball, tied with the likes of Dansby Swanson and the near-retired Andrew McCutchen, though he’s ranked 15th in home-plate-to-first-base time, though he does have an advantage by being a lefty. But also consider that, given his propensity for injuries, the team could take the Mike Trout approach and decide to give him the red light more often just to keep him on the field for longer. And given that he’s playing center field, an extremely injury-prone position, yeah. Oh, and for what it’s worth, Roster Resource lists him as the cleanup hitter, but also in a platoon, which would be understandable given he hit just .172 with a shockingly bad wRC+ of 29 (!) versus southpaws. So if you want power/speed after pick 50, I think you’re much better off taking your chances with Wyatt Langford, Jackson Chourio, maybe even the Chas McCormick. I get you want to dream on Jazz’s “upside” if healthy, but as they say “Shoot for the moon, and if you miss you have a high probability of getting stuck in the vacuum of space until you asphyxiate.” Or something like that.


7. Tigers win the AL Central


Look, as a lifelong Detroit sports fan (moreso than Boston), I think that if the Lions could do it, why not their big cat counterpart? Most analysts acknowledge they’re now an interesting team but not ready yet, but I’ve seen this before (like when the young rebuilding Astros made their first surprise playoff charge), and I think the team’s offseason’s moves seem to reflect they may believe it too. I think they’re considered a sleeper team by some to be above average, but I think saying they’d make the playoffs was still too mild so I’m taking it one step farther.

First of all, they have lots of interesting young talent that has already demonstrated a high floor with upside for more. On offense, Spencer Torkelson finally seemed to tap into his promised massive power, and Riley Greene complements him well as a well-rounded hitter. Carpenter and Meadows also showed promise as top-of-the-order hitters. For pitching, Skubal seems poised to be a legit #1 starter, and with the Flaherty and Maeda signings, the Tigers plan on making up for the lack of another ace or No. 2 starter with lots of depth with lots of No. 3 and No. 4 starter types. Reese Olson showed intriguing stuff and poise, but Manning and Mize seem finally healthy with improved stuff this spring, with pop-up phenom Sawyer Gipson-Long also waiting in the wings. And if they’re going well, they can get an extra push by calling upon their secret weapon, Jackson Jobe, who Nick Pollack says is the top pitching prospect in the minors. Oh, and there’s also Ty Madden and Wilmer Flores who are both major league-ready arms waiting in the wings too. Sure, it’s a high injury-risk rotation, but they’re ready for that as any team, and especially with several of their pitchers’ stuff ticking up this spring, I trust their analytics and development to have their kitchen sink rotation clean up in midseason power rankings.

As far as the hitting, it’s hard to get excited about Javier Báez and Gio Urshela in a playoff contender starting lineup (though I bet the pitchers love it) but I see lots of opportunity. For one, the signing of Colt Keith gives them a big offensive boost at the keystone and puts McKinstry where he belongs as a utilityman, but I expect big contributions off the Opening Day roster. Justyn Henry-Malloy has nothing left to prove in the minors and can provide versatile thump as a three-true-outcomes third baseman/outfielder, and Jace Jung is also a likely midseason call-up candidate with big pop. The vets  (including underrated signee Canha) will likely give way when the prospects are ready but provide coverage if things go south. It’s a good sign of depth that their projected No. 9 hitter Jake Rogers hit 21 homers in just 365 plate appearances. And I even love their backups as sleepers, as Andy Ibáñez and Matt Vierling showed both versatility and a combination of high contact and potential for high batted-ball-quality. The bullpen is another story, as Lange is shaky, but Foley seems legit and they quietly acquired decent depth of potential set-up/firemen with Shelby Miller and Tyler Holton behind Will Vest.

A final reason though I think they can make it is that aside from the Twins, their division just stinks. They may not face their own division as much as they used to, but they’ll still face them a lot, and I think the White Sox disaster distracts from the fact that a third of the Guardians’ roster is hot Cleveland garbage, and the Royals, while also having some intrigue, seem far inferior at pitching development and their hitting development hasn’t seemed much better. I don’t think the Tigers can top the Twins, but crazier things have happened with their team full of high variance and high-injury risk players, but they don’t need to with three other misfit teams to take their hacks against. And I think, unlike the Twins, if they make the playoffs, they could actually advance with all of their prospects joining an all-hands-on-deck team (but my predictions are in-season only so don’t hold me to that). They may be frustrating in fantasy but exciting in real life as it’s rare for a team to have this much major-league-ready prospect talent joining the finally ready-to-rock earlier batch of top prospects. Let ’em roar.


8. Rowdy Tellez finishes as a top-20 1st baseman


In 2023 he may have been a lost boy, but I’m expecting him to boomerang like bangarang so get Rowdy. I mean, how can he not, he just joined the PIRATES! It’s easy to forget that Tellez was still red-hot in April, hitting .247 with 8 homers in 85 plate appearances. So it’s pretty crazy that he hit more homers in April than he did for the entire rest of the season, hitting just five in the next 266 PA with a sub-Mendoza Line batting average before spending the rest of the year on the shelf and on the farm, like a scarecrow elf. But everyone seems to be discounting why, including all of my favorite analysts who gave him a collective “Nah”.

He hit the IL with arm inflammation in July, and later a nail injury I don’t even want to elaborate on because it makes me cringe. But he admitted that he played while hurt, and Jeff Zimmermann’s research shows how playing hurt affects performance. Given that in 2022 he hit 35 dongs, isn’t it Occam’s razor to deduce he was probably dealing with forearm pain weeks or even months before finally hitting the IL, tanking his numbers? That would explain why despite a career-best 80% contact rate, he swung considerably less at all pitches, at just a 39% swing rate and a terrible 53% Z-Swing rate. If my forearms hurt, I’d probably want to avoid swinging heavy lumber unless I had to as well.

But even if you think the injury was just an excuse and the struggles were legit, there are still viable reasons to believe in a bounce-back. For one, he still hit the ball very hard with a 115 mph MaxEV, a healthy launch angle of 15 degrees, and a 40% hard-hit rate that is hardly lousy. The 13% home-run-per-fly-ball rate is well below his career average of 18%, and believe it or not, he’s still just 28… even if his Wii Fit age is like 78. Man, I miss that game. While it’s true that the Pirates’ home park is less cushy than the Brewers’ confines, as a lefty, the impact of PNC’s cavernous left field is reduced, and he’s more likely to be given regular reps here so they can flip him Carlos Santana-style. Until that happens, the surrounding lineup is actually sneaky good with Oneil Cruz and Hayes surging up draft boards, Suwinski and Henry Davis adding some thump, and McCutchen entering the year healthy. However, Tellez has little to no competition at the cold corner, with the weak-hitting Connor Joe the only first-base-eligible hitter on the roster and no decent 1b prospects on the horizon.

I consider Tellez’s March ADP which has cratered to just 464 to be ridiculous as even a mild bounce-back would make him an easy top 300 player with his blend of raw power and underrated contact skills and a relatively safe playing time. He currently doesn’t need to be drafted in 12-team formats, but he’s a draft-and-hold/NL-only sleeper and given his streakiness he can truly shine in a best-ball format. I fully expect to be writing him up again after some red-hot Rowdy weeks this spring, so scoop up shares before he brings his taters to Show-and-Tellez.


9. FIVE rookies will steal 30+ bases


Teams always talk about giving their young players some runway, but this year I think teams will have their players do things the always-run way. Last year, I expected a drastic uptick in stolen bases but bet on the wrong horses, so this year I’m going to go with the index fund instead of picking specific stocks (which also went badly for me). While I can’t say who specifically, there are a few high-octane rookies who, whether or not they start in the majors, can be five-tool monsters. I’m thinking mostly of Wyatt Langford and Jackson Chourio, who have impressed this spring and looking likely to stick or at least debut very early. But let’s not forget about Evan Carter, Masyn Winn, and Jackson Merrill, who may have less power but are skilled with the bat and getting on base and have displayed speed (Carter moreso than Merrill, but at age 20 he’s still developing), and even Jackson Holliday could surpass expectations on the basepaths (granted, a longshot, but in this environment, it could happen.

However, beyond the rookies who are going early in drafts, there are currently many prospects/rookies with a less certain debut date who can be had at the end of drafts. Victor Scott II stole over 90 bags in the minors and could have an opportunity thanks to injuries. Tyler Black was already sent down, but he has little more to prove and has a high OBP approach with his high stolen base totals that give him a higher floor than most speedy types. And I’m still relatively bullish on Jacob Young mostly because I don’t believe at all in Victor Robles, and Young had a strong spring and can even rack up that total as a pinch runner like Dairon Blanco almost did last year. Speaking of which, Blanco will still technically have rookie eligibility due to his 138 plate appearances, as well as Samad Taylor who could fill a similar role and be sneaky. There are a few others who can surprise like Xavier Edwards, Jakob Marsee, Graham Pauley… I think you might get why I didn’t hand pick just a few.

Of course, the major limiting factor is that most of these players don’t currently have roles, and they’ll need to secure roles for a solid chunk of the season to amass that many nabbed bags. But I do think that now perhaps more than ever, you can do quite well attempting to poach stolen bases off the wire if you didn’t get enough in your drafts, and a few of these guys who currently are not taken even in most draft-and-holds will rocket up draft boards by next season, and if you’re savvy on their playing time opportunities, you’ll have an advantage through early speculative adds on them before they “break out”, and maybe you’ll end up with a CJ Abrams-lite. I’d still not recommend punting speed as most of these guys have lower floors, but I don’t think you need to panic and chase rabbits like Esteury Ruiz, Jake McCarthy, or Jorge Mateo in late rounds anymore with the knowledge that you can just get the next Jake McCarthy for free.


10. Seth Brown outproduces Anthony Santander


This may be my most outrageous prediction of them all. I mean, Santander’s player rank is 132, and Brown’s is 478, and I had to use Rank over ADP because Brown goes undrafted so often (so his ADP is 589). But quick, tell me which one of these two… completely random players you would rather have?

Barrel% MaxEV HardHit% Contact% O-Swing% CSW% xBA xSLG
Player A 12% 113 mph 47% 70% 35% 28% .237 .451
Player B 10% 113 mph 46% 78% 38% 26% .237 .426

Well I’m glad I asked because Player A is F.P. Santangelo and Player B is Corey Koskie from 1999. I just found it interesting. It’s the 25th anniversary. Okay, you got me, Player A is Seth Brown and B is Anthony Santander. And if you look at these admittedly cherry-picked stats, they’re close it’s almost scary!

Now, obviously, there are several factors that make it not nearly so close. The biggest one is that Santander has a longer track record of solid production, and will produce more runs being on a far better team lineup on the upswing. I mean, technically the A’s offense is on an upswing if you count improving from a dumpster fire to a dumpster that is just smoldering. Also, Brown has a serious lefty problem, an issue that Santander is spared from as a switch hitter. Oh and while Baltimore is now a pitcher’s park, Santander is spared from that most of the time while facing righties at home.

But let’s dream and imagine how this can still happen. Well for one, Brown didn’t steal any bases last year, perhaps due to injury concerns as he was hurt a good chunk of the year. But in 2022, he stole 11 bases with only 2 times caught, and that was before the rule changes. Brown’s 50th percentile sprint speed is still better than Santander’s 33rd percentile mark, and Oakland will be more willing to give a healthier Smith the green light (it is team Esteury, after all). Currently, Brown is penciled in as the cleanup hitter against righties, with Santander being the No. 5 hitter, but Baltimore’s bottom of the lineup could potentially push Santander down if they take off and he starts slow.

I’ll admit it’s unlikely that Santander gets pushed into a backup or even a part-time role, but it is a matter of fact that the Orioles have a lot of mouths to feed in their outfield, with Cowser a likely post-hype bounce-back and the likes of Coby Mayo, the 25-year-old mammoth slugger Heston Kjerstad, and the outfield-eligible Connor Norby all likely to play significant roles this year. There’s also the chance Double-A outfielders Dylan Beavers, Jud Fabian, and Enrique Bradfield Jr. have big years and make the push as well, and it’s worth mentioning Santander is not a good defender and DH will be crowded in Ryan O’Hearn has another big year (I believe in him). Sure, Brown is a much worse defender and also has to fend off some prospects like Soderstrom, Butler, and Bleday, but I think he has the advantage of being a high-barrel power hitter on a power-starved team and those prospects have a more bearish short-term outlook (I like Butler though).

There’s one more reason I think this could happen: Santander is seen as steady, but he’s actually been in a steady decline. I blame shrinkflation.

Year LD% Pull% xAVG xSLG
2020 27% 38% .287 .516
2021 23% 43% .269 .446
2022 19% 44% .257 .471
2023 15% 46% .237 .426

When I saw the declining expected stats, I’ll admit that I looked for and did not find significant changes in barrel rate, hard hit rate, or contact rate (I did find he swings less at strikes but not enough to be relevant). However, what is notable is that line drives, while not so “sticky” year to year, definitely have been losing their stick like a lint roller in a house full of cats. Why? Maybe it’s because he’s trying to hit more pulled balls, which is great when it’s pulled flyballs but terrible when resulting in pulled grounders. While you could argue that he’s being underrated by Statcast’s blind spot for pulled flyballs,  his xAVG which accounts for batted ball direction gave him only .239.  So perhaps his career-best .299 BABIP last year is hiding a crumbling facade that can come crashing down.

Look, the data from last year doesn’t exactly say Brown deserved to be Santander, so the odds are very low this happens. Brown is also two years older (31 to 29) for what it’s worth. But I’d take the probably wild Vegas odds on it because it still could happen. Brown could have a year closer to his 2022 and make up for his likely runs-produced deficit with a double-digit stolen base total. Or maybe Santander’s batted ball quality continues to erode and an untimely slump in a pennant race pushes him out of full-time at-bats. In any case, the fact I can even make this argument sound like not total lunacy means you should be like my Metallica choices and choose Fade to Brown over Sant Ander. Pun aside, that St. Anger snare drum still haunts my dreams.

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.

2 responses to “Ben Pernick’s 10 Bold Predictions for 2024”

  1. Aaron Caldwell says:

    Great article! Agree with many of these predictions (or at least hope they come true).

  2. Yancy Eaton says:

    This was an actual bold prediction article. Good shit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login