Ben Pernick’s 2021 Bold Predictions in Review

Ben Pernick reviews what went wrong (and occasionally right).

In previous years, I had a pretty impressive record of getting3 or so predictions right out of 10, I and took that as a sign that I was not bold enough. Well, I got super extra bold this past year, and guess what? I might’ve overdone it. But let’s not be so black and white about it. I’ll try a different style to the predictions in review this year.

1. Franchy Cordero is a Top-30 Outfielder (0/1)

What went right: Nothing!

What went wrong: Everything! I went all-in on Franchy this offseason, and Franch fried me. Despite making huge small-sample contact improvements in 2020, all those gains disappeared and then some, as he hit a hideous .189/.237/.260 with 1 HR and 0 SB in 127 AB. The Sox probably regret trading Benintendi for him, considering they just DFA’d him. He was arguably the worst MLB regular in his time in the majors, despite logging one of the hardest-hit balls of the year at 117 mph. He did contract COVID in the offseason, and it’s entirely possible that it threw him out of whack as it did with Moncada and several other players in 2020, but that doesn’t mean I think he’ll be a great rebound candidate in 2021.

2. Alex Bregman is not a Top-15 3rd baseman (1/2)

What went right: This is probably my closest to correct prediction, though arguably on a technicality, as he was injured for a good chunk of the season. Hooray for technicality! I predicted Bregman’s decline would be primarily due to his poor barrel rate and batted ball data which made me consider him to be deceptively risky at his preseason ADP of #43. While his rate stats were decent, even in a 600 AB season, he was only pacing for 18 HR and mid-70s Runs and RBI with 1 SB. You may have yielded better fantasy value from his real-life replacement Abraham Toro, and his lack of counting stats pushed him outside the Top 15, with a rank of #33 according to both the Razzball Player Rater and ESPN Player Rater. Due to his low K rate and high walk rate, he has many believers, but he can quickly become boring with his SBs drying up, as I doubt he’ll ever return to his previous home run highs. He’ll still likely be a top 50 pick for the name value, but I won’t be buying. My hottest preseason Twitter hot take was that offensively, Alex Bregman is just a younger and more patient Tommy La Stella, and while a bit too spicy, it looks less outrageous now.

What went wrong: Although he wasn’t elite, he was fairly good in his playing time, hitting .270/.355/.422 with 12 HR, 55 R, 54 RBI, and 1 SB in 400 PA. Many people will write up his poor performance to injury issues, which he may have been battling while he was on the field as well. I’d feel better about this if he struggled like this over a full season or if his stats regressed closer to his true blue batted ball data. He might just be one of those guys who really knows how to take full advantage of his non-barrel flyball-friendly home park to beat out the Statcast expected statistics (which continue to be bearish).

3. The Royals will beat the Cubs by 5+ games (1/3)

What went right: Well, the Cubs were bad like I predicted and did have a worse record than the Royals. As I warned, Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies crashed back to earth, and hitters like Anthony Rizzo and Ian Happ stepped back as well, which led to Kris Bryant getting flipped. This would have been correct had I taken the less extreme (but still bold) option of predicting the Royals would win more games than the Cubs, and even the bolder prediction nearly came true.

What went wrong: The thing that kills me is I nearly chose the Tigers over the Royals to oust the Cubs but reasoned that saying that would simply be too bold. I really expected the glut of Royals’ young pitching talent to not be the dumpster fire that it was with Mike Minor adding kindling. While my bullishness on Sal Perez was rewarded, the hitters didn’t do enough to make up for their pitching woes.

4. Jose Marmolejos hits 25 HR and is a Top-50 Outfielder (1/4)

What went right: Marmolejos is the Spanish word for marbles, and clearly, I lost mine thinking this was a good prediction. Part of my argument for his relevance was that people discounted the likelihood that he would get another opportunity for playing time after hitting .206 with 6 HR in 106 AB in 2021. And he did get the opportunity after just two weeks in April. Then he hit 3 HR in his first 33 ABs and was handed the reins to left field. He also crushed his previous Max eV of 108 with a ball hit at 114 mph. The good news ends there.

What went wrong: After a modestly hot start, he just laid a big fat egg, and definitely not a golden one. In total, he hit a Franchy-esque .160/.262/.311 line with 4 HR in 106 AB., which makes me wish I bet on all my players in a Bizarro league. While he still had a barrel rate over 10%, his strikeout rate dropped by 5%, and his HardHit% fell from a strong 45% in 2020 to just 35% in 2021. By the time Kelenic was ready, Marmo’s bat was a lifeless husk and was cast aside for the rest of the season. He still may be a source of platoon pop for some team with his strong barrel rate, but as a 28-year old who is a poor defender, the odds are stacked against him.

5. Cavan Biggio will be outhit by Nick Senzel (1/5)

What went right: I thought Biggio was massively overvalued (ADP: 60) given his speed and his seemingly unsustainable rates due to abysmal batted ball data. And he was! The injury gave him a smaller sample size, and I’m not holding that against him, but his power and speed outputs declined, as he hit just .224/.322/.356 with 7 HR and 3 SB in 250 AB.

What went wrong: I made the fatal error of assuming a full season of health for Nick Senzel. Even in a half-season, his power, which had looked to be at least of the double-digit variety, completely dried up, and he was terrible on the base paths with only 2 successful SB in 7 attempts. In total, he hit .252/.323/.315 with 1 HR and 2 SB in 111 AB. Pedigree be damned, I’m steering clear until he shows improvement in at least two of these areas, and I’m not optimistic.

6. Tarik Skubal will be a Top 35 Starter (1/6)

What went right: Skubal evolved as a pitcher, learning to rely more on his breaking pitches, and pulled off a phenomenal summer stretch where it seemed his breakout was upon us until it fell apart. After a brutal 6+ ERA April, In the months of May and June, he had a 3.20 ERA with 76 Ks in just 55 Innings before a 5.86 ERA in July. While still inefficient, he’s continued to succeed at striking major league batters out with a decent 26% K%, though this was down from last year. He may have missed the Top 30, but he likely enters 2021 as a Top 60 and a still-trendy breakout candidate. In the 2022 PL mock, he went as the 62nd starting pitcher off the board.

What went wrong: There was a point when I thought this prediction was laughably wrong. And then, all of a sudden, it looked spot-on. And then, laughably wrong again. Okay, maybe sensible chuckle wrong. I probably should’ve pumped the brakes on a sophomore pitcher, especially after 2020, in anticipation of pitching limits in the second half. Even with that, there’s some concern regarding how bad his Statcast data has been due to lack of fastball command. His xERA of 5.51 suggests he benefited quite a bit from batted ball luck and may have a much lower potential floor than many realize.

7. Chad Pinder a Top-10 2nd Baseman (1/7)

What went right: Pinder being hurt nearly for much of the season gives me something of an excuse? Okay, well, really, there were still encouraging signs for the unrepentant Pinder optimist. Despite the flat-out mediocre surface stats, he posted a career-best fantastic career-best barrel% of 16% and HardHit% of 54%, and his .257 xBA and .494 xSLG suggest he may have been unlucky.

What went wrong: His health. And, well, more than just that. His strikeout rate spiked to 27% after a 21% rate in 2020, mostly due to a big drop in contact on balls in the zone. Another big thing is that while his underlying rate stats look promising, the majority of his at-bats came against lefties, and it seems the team has little to no intention at this point of him ever receiving regular reps on righties. I still love him in DFS formats as a rebound for 2022, but he’s too much of a headache for most other formats.

8. The Best Hitter on the Giants Will Be Tommy La Stella (1/8)

What went right: I’m starting to feel like this format is just hurting my self-esteem at this point. Anyway, the good news is he set a career-best barrel rate of 6% as well as a hard-hit rate of 33%. If you’re thinking, “Wait, THOSE numbers are career bests?” then you may have been unaware of just how little natural power he’s had, and just Bregman-lite volumes his way into decent totals. Statcast also thinks he was unlucky, with a much better .278 xBA and .455 xSLG.

What went wrong: Like many of these failed predictions, La Stella battled leg/ankle injuries for most of the year and struggled to find his footing (pun only semi-intended) when he returned. Still, he wasn’t terrible, hitting .250/.308/.405 with 7 HR in 242 PA. Even if he had better luck and health and hit the .290 20 HR season I dreamed for him, he wouldn’t have managed to outproduce the red-hot Giant bats of Belt, Posey, Crawford, and perhaps a few others.

9. The Rangers Will be Top-10 in Team Catcher Offense…And Most of the Production Won’t Come From Sam Huff (1/9)

What went right: Well, technically, every Rangers catcher was more productive than Sam Huff because despite being the highest-drafted (ADP #443), he never played a major league game. While the primary players Trevino and Heim disappointed, when you add in the brief productive stints of John Hicks and Yohel Pozo, the team totaled a .228 AVG with 20 HR and 4 SB in 655 AB. That’s still not Top 10, but the depth at the position was impressive, and I love Pozo as a deep sleeper.

What went wrong: I figured one of Jose Trevino and Jonah Heim would shine through, but both disappointed to a rather substantial degree, with Trevino posting a disappointing .239/.267/.340 with 5 HR and 1 SB in 285 AB and Heim flirting with the Mendoza Line and getting slapped with a .196/.239/.358 with 10 HR and 3 SB in 265 AB. Perhaps if they gave more time to Pozo, who was demolishing Triple-A, or Hicks, who at least showed big pop in his stint, they could’ve fulfilled this.

10. C.J. Cron will outhit Nolan Arenado (1.5/10)

What went right: A lot, actually! Cron had a career year coming off an abysmal year, hitting .281/.375/.530 with 28 HR, 70 R, and 92 RBI in 547 PA. He had the best walk rate of his career and actually had a better wRC+ (127) than Arenado (113); Arenado also did have a decline in his production, hitting .255/.312/.494 with 33 HR, 81 R, 105 RBI, and 2 SB in 653 PA as he was solid but no longer a top-25 player outside of the friendly confines of Colorado. Given that Cron has locked on with the Rockies for two more years, which should result in more at-bats given health, this is a prediction I’d gladly double down on next year, though it would no longer qualify as super bold.

What went wrong: Close, but no Cigarenado. Nolan (who is the only Nolan in baseball, but no relation to The Only Nolan who played in 1878) managed to stave off Cron by simple virtue of volume and better run production. More time on the field gave Arenado more homers, RBI, and R, which more than made up for the difference. The Razzball Player rater rated Arenado as #56 and Cron as #81. Still, there are many arguments that Cron was better, as he had the better wOBA, AVG, OBP, and SLG%, Barrel%, xwOBA, etc. So if you consider “better” from a rate stat perspective, Cron takes the cake. So I’ll take a half-point. I could just take the L, but I already do that to leave Brooklyn every workday.

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.

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