Lucas Zenobi’s Bold Predictions for 2021

A return to non-MVP form for Bellinger? Arenado still a stud?

2020 was a weird season, but maybe some of the oddities will carry over to 2021. Let’s try and predict some of those wild things that may happen! The chances that many or any of these come to fruition is slim, but hey, let’s have some fun!


Tyler Glasnow has an ERA over 4.00 (again)


Why not start with a repeat of one of my 2020 bold predictions? This is one of the few that actually came true. Tyler Glasnow finished the season with a 4.08 ERA over 57.1 innings, yet he is still being drafted as the 17th starting pitcher off the board on average. This continually confuses me, since most of his elevated ADP for the past two years comes from a sub-50-inning sample size in 2019 from before he got hurt. During this time, he looked like an absolute ace, but not only is it an incredibly small sample size for a starting pitcher, the rest of Glasnow’s career is telling a different story.


Nick Castellanos is drafted in the first two rounds next year


Nick Castellanos was always a victim of the pitcher-friendly park that he called home in Detroit for most of his career. From 2016 to 2018 with the Tigers, Castellanos had an xBA and xSLG within the top seven percent of the league or better. He was clearly underperforming these expected stats because of Comerica Park. Now, Castellanos resides in his hitter-friendly Cincinnati home, and in his first season with the Reds, he was on pace for over 37 homers. Yes, the OPS left something to be desired, but we caught a glimpse of what he could be in a short stint with the Cubs where he had a 1.002 OPS. Castellanos still hit the ball incredibly hard last year and had elite xBA and xSLG stats that weren’t reflected in the final numbers. He stays healthy pretty consistently, and with a full season in Cincinnati, he may just surprise everybody with an MVP-caliber season.


Nolan Arenado is going to be as good as a Cardinal as he was as a Rockie


A blockbuster trade that happened over the offseason was that the Colorado Rockies traded Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals. As a consequence, Arenado left the hitter haven that is Coors Field. Year after year, Arenado is an MVP and triple-crown candidate. It would be foolish to presume that this is entirely dependent on his home park. He has been falling down draft boards since the trade, and while it is likely he takes a step back, I think it is entirely possible he is just as good in St. Louis as he was in Colorado. Many Rockies hitters have talked about the “Coors Hangover Effect”. This refers to the fact that because the Rockies hitters have to constantly change hitting environments, they perform worse on the road. This means that it’s not the fact the Coors is wholly propping them up, but constantly adjusting to different elevations and pitches moving in different ways on a series-to-series basis can lead to an adaptation crisis for Rockies hitters. Getting rid of this, Arenado could become a consistently great hitter. We saw it happen with DJ LeMahieu.


This is the last season that Max Scherzer is drafted as an ace


Max Scherzer has held onto one of the top spots of starting pitchers being drafted for most of his career. He has become a staple among the ace-class of starting pitcher. I don’t think a ton needs to be said outside of the fact that he has been dealing with back injuries (that tend to linger), he is entering the season as a 36-year-old, and he had his first ERA over 3.00 since 2014. That ERA wasn’t on the low-3.00s side either; it was a 3.74 ERA. It’s entirely possible that we have seen the last of Scherzer’s ace production.


Ke’Bryan Hayes finishes as a top-five third baseman


Ke’Bryan Hayes had a monstrous 2020 campaign, wherein he had an astonishing 1.124 OPS. Hayes always had the prospect pedigree to become a standout third baseman, and when he got his chance, he delivered and then some. He showed signs of power that had not really been present throughout his minor league career. This isn’t completely unheard of though. A good comparison is Francisco Lindor. He didn’t show a ton of power potential in the minors, but we all saw what happened with him. He is consistently a top-tier shortstop. The same could happen with Hayes.


Blake Snell doesn’t improve in San Diego


Blake Snell has been similar to his former teammate Tyler Glasnow in that his draft position is consistently elevated by an isolated performance. At least in Snell’s case, it was over almost a full-season Cy Young campaign in 2018. Since then, he had an injury-riddled 2019 season that came with a 4.29 ERA. 2020 was a solid 3.24 ERA effort over the full, shortened season. Many are predicting a breakout for Snell in San Diego, since he will no longer have his starts consistently shortened by the coaching in Tampa Bay. I don’t think that his usage was limited in Tampa Bay only because of their coaching philosophies. During the 2018 Cy Young season, Snell landed on the IL with shoulder fatigue halfway through the season. I’m not entirely convinced that Snell can handle a full season’s workload on a consistent basis, and if San Diego pushes him to do so, injuries may follow. If they don’t push him to do so, he is still hampered by limited usage and doesn’t improve anyway.


Cody Bellinger is drafted outside of the top 40 next year


Cody Bellinger won the NL MVP in 2019, posting a 1.035 OPS with 47 homers and a .305 batting average. It was an absolutely stellar campaign, and as a result, Bellinger was drafted early in the first round in 2020. He posted a .239 average with a .789 OPS. There was talk of him switching up his batting stance early in 2020, and there are reports of him switching it up again this year. That saying of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” feels like it should have applied in 2020, and now it is broke! Who knows if this fix will work? On top of that, Bellinger had shoulder surgery in the offseason to fix a right shoulder that was dislocated during a celebration in the 2020 World Series. If we need any more evidence that Bellinger will continue to not deliver on his draft position, he went back to struggling against lefties in 2020. There are too many red flags this year for Bellinger, and I think it’s possible that Bellinger returns to his 2019 (pre-MVP) ADP outside of the top 40.


Another year, another missing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. breakout


One of my bold predictions last year was a breakout from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and it feels like a rise to MVP-level production has been predicted and expected from Vlad ever since he made his MLB debut. It should happen eventually, but I don’t think this is the year. Why is this a bold prediction when this has consistently been the outcome? I think this may be the year that there are the highest expectations for Vlad. He has had time to settle into the majors, he underwent an offseason transformation to get in better shape, and he has been absolutely destroying Spring Training. Both of these feel a little bit like confirmation bias. Vlad consistently has trouble elevating the ball to get the most out of his elite hard-hitting skills, and I need to see more than a Spring Training sample size to believe a breakout is coming.


Trevor Bauer becomes 2019 Trevor Bauer again


Trevor Bauer is coming off of a career-season, wherein he won the Cy Young with a 1.73 ERA and 12.3 K/9. Any time a player is coming off of a career-season, it is entirely fair to question that the player has nowhere to go but down. Given Bauer’s tendency to constantly tinker his approach, many have not applied this lens to him and are drafting him as a top-5 starting pitcher. I don’t think it is entirely bold to say that Bauer will regress some in 2020, but I do think it is bold to say that he will return to his 2019 4.48 ERA with a 3.5 BB/9. However, I still think the 10.7 K/9 from 2019 is a solid fallback place for Bauer. Why do I think this? The tinkering I mentioned led Bauer to an unbelievable season, but it could also cause struggles for him. You never know whether his adjustments will help or hurt his game, even though more often than not they help. Add on top of this the possibility of pitching every fourth day, which we haven’t really seen play out for Bauer, and things could go off the rails quickly.


Only one player gets 35 or more saves, and nobody has over 40 saves


Every year, there is a decrease in the number of bonafide closers that will get almost all of a team’s saves. Analytics has moved many teams away from this one-closer system into a closer-by-committee approach. In 2018, there were three closers with over 40 saves and six with over 35 saves. In 2019, this became one with over 40 and four with over 35. Projecting the pace of 2020 relievers over a full season, there would have been one with over 40 saves and three with over 35. I’m not entirely confident that those numbers would be the same over a full season, and they are already on the decline from 2019. I don’t think it is out of the realm of possibility at all that nobody has 40+ saves, and only one player gets 35 or more saves. The last time that a player did not have 40+ saves in a season (disregarding the strike-shortened 1994 season) would be 1982.

Featured Image by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)

Lucas Zenobi

Lucas Zenobi is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and a life-long Pittsburgh Pirates fan. His other interests include film, music, and any and all things Pittsburgh.

2 responses to “Lucas Zenobi’s Bold Predictions for 2021”

  1. King Donko of Punchstania says:

    You pretty much took a dump on half my lineup. The fact that you’re a lifelong Pirates fan makes it easier to stomach.

  2. Harry Yambag says:

    I don’t know man. 4.09 isn’t that bad of an ERA and the K’s are elite. I guess it depends on the league and how it scores, but Glasnow seems top 20 to me. Top 30 at worst.

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