Nick Pollack’s 10 Bold Predictions For 2017

We’re continuing Bold Predictions week at Pitcher List after featuring Ben Palmer’s and Ian Post’s ten predictions thus far and it’s time for me to get in the game. Some are silly,...

We’re continuing Bold Predictions week at Pitcher List after featuring Ben Palmer’s and Ian Post’s ten predictions thus far and it’s time for me to get in the game. Some are silly, some are super bold, and others just make sense. Let’s do it.

1. Rick Porcello will not receive a single Cy Young Vote

It was a fun 2016 for Porcello, who barely edged Justin Verlander to earn the Cy Young award and he had so much go his way to get it. First was his 7.6 Runs Per Game, which was nearly ten percent higher than any other starter in the majors, which led to him going deeper into games (think sticking it out for the seventh in a 5-2 game instead of a 3-2 game) and earning Wins that he didn’t deserve. But it gets worse than that. Porcello held a 3.15 ERA with a poor 3.89 xFIP as he pitched in the AL Beast. He miraculously held a 9.3% HR/FB that should not stick around when called Fenway his home, especially when he allowed just 16.8% soft contact last season (14th worst in the majors among qualified pitchers) and 30.0% hard contact. What I see is a pitcher who gets 16 wins, holds a 3.40-3.50 ERA and doesn’t strikeout enough players to outclass ten other pitchers in the AL in a baseball writer’s view. Obviously predicting Porcello doesn’t win the Cy Young again is far from a bold prediction, but let’s go in the complete opposite direction, proclaiming Porcello will go from getting the most votes to tied for the fewest: None.

2. Maikel Franco makes his ADP look stupid as he becomes a Top 75 player entering 2017

Sure, a .255 average, 67 Runs and a decent 25 HR tally doesn’t inspire much confidence moving forward and his ADP past the 140 mark represents that popular distaste, but there’s just so much to like. First is his low 16.8% strikeout rate paired with an ISO that’s currently estimated to sit around .200 in 2017. Then his 14.7% HR/FB rate could find itself rising a little to say, 17% as he continues increasing his flyballs and BAM you have a 30+ HR season with an RBI total above 90 while hinting at 100 in the middle of an improving Phillies lineup. Did I mention that he’ll be just 24-years-old this season?

3. The Detroit Tigers 1-2-3 Starters will be Top 2 in the Majors

There are plenty of doubters of Justin Verlander’s ability to come close to last year’s “Cy-Young” effort, but I’m not one of them. It was the first season Verlander has been fully injury free 2013, and he made a significant change to switch from a Slider to a Cutter in May that propelled him through the season. I’m also well on the Michael Fulmer train, especially with his found love for his Changeup and a Slider that could easily improve on its 13%+ whiff rate late season. It’s possible he can touch 190-200 innings in front of a strong offense, elevating him to possible Top 20 status in his own right. Meanwhile teammate Daniel Norris looks prime for a breakout as his velocity jumped from 92.9mph in August to 94.3mph in September. That increase came with added success: A 2.73 ERA, 3.36 xFIP, 11.53 K/9, 2.43 BB/9 with a near 6.0 IPS and 2017 could spell a major breakout for Norris. Other 1-2-3 punches have their problems: Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar could have injury problems in Cleveland, David Price could face major injury time and I just went over Rick Porcellowho knows what happens behind Clayton Kershaw and Kenta Maeda in LA, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg could miss significant innings just like the Mets’ rotation, and it’s possible Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester all take steps back as well (Arrieta command, Lester with no Ross + Yips, and Hendricks for…I’ll explain later). There’s simply too much that needs to go right for me to give the Tigers the #1 spot, so I’m going for at least #2 overall in the majors with their 1-2-3 punch of Verlander + Fulmer + Norris.

4. Whoever Alex Fast drafts as his third start starting pitcher in our Pitcher List Staff League will be a bust

Okay, so this one doesn’t really do anything analytically, but what’s bold predictions without a bit of fun? We’re doing an in-house fantasy league and talking about it through the season and I have a feeling Alex Fast, the main host of our On The Corner Podcast, will flop with his third starting pitcher. “Bust” will be quantified by comparing his pick to the starter picked twenty picks later (i.e. the #24th starter off the board compared to the 44th). This will essentially make me root for the later pick and grow hateful bias against Fast’s pick and I greatly look forward to that.

5. Ten different second basemen hit over 25 HRs in 2017

It was a power boom across the major leagues last year as batters are giving into the “generate lift” philosophy driven by guys like JD Martinez and Josh DonaldsonLast year saw seven qualified second basemen hit at least 25 HRs and I don’t see a reason three more can’t join the party. Robinson Cano, Brian Dozier, Rougned Odor all seem like easy picks for 25+, I’m a believer in Ian Kinsler’s and Matt Carpenter’s recent power spikes, Jonathan Schoop surely has the pop in his bat, Daniel Murphy altered his swing as well and 25 bombs aren’t out of the question, Jedd Gyorko might have trouble coming close to the 30 HR tally from last year, but he did it 128 games opening a window for 25 tates in 2017, Ryan Schmipf shocked us with 20 longballs in 89 games, Jose Altuve could jump from 24 to 25, and it’s not out of the question Neil Walker pushes his 23 jacks to 25 as well in 2017. This is ignoring Javier Baez, Jason Kipnis, Starlin Castro, Logan Forsytheand heck Trea Turner who smacked 13 in 73 games. Because why not.

6. Both Danny Duffy and Kyle Hendricks are outside the Top 30 starters

I’ve been preaching my lack of affection for these pitchers’ ADPs (#16 for Hendricks, #24 for Duffy) and it doesn’t seem ridiculous that both players massively disappoint in 2017. Duffy has two areas working against him: A terrible batted ball profile and a velocity jump that should continue its decline in 2017. Among all qualified starters last season, only Hector Santiago had more hard contact than Danny Duffy who held an atrocious 36.6% mark as he elected to throw more Sinkers down the middle of the plate. Now, this was a bit by design – Duffy had atrocious walk rates in the past with a 3.49 BB/9 mark in 2016 and he made a note to improve that control (2.10 BB/9 last season) at the cost of more hard contact…which makes it tough to believe he can have both a great walk rate and significantly reduce the hard contact. On top of that, Duffy was able to carry over a bump in velocity he had as a reliever into his games in the rotation, but it didn’t last through 2016 as he saw his 96.2mph FB velocity in June fall to 94.5mph by September. And yes, that September was poor: A 5.50 ERA, 44.0% hard contact, and 12.8% soft contact. It’s hard to imagine Duffy holding elite velocity in 2017 (FWIW, he’s averaged 93.2mph in his two WBC starts this March), making it tough to be a Duffy fan.

Moving on to Hendricks, we saw a pitcher in 2016 who played at his peak. Despite having sub 90mph velocity on his heater, he used pinpoint command, deception, and an elegant pitch mix to earn outs and roll through lineups. We’ve seen this before from other pitchers – Zimmermann, Keuchel, Hughes, Fister, etc. – and it is incredibly difficult to repeat over multiple seasons. In fact, given that he doesn’t have the stuff to mask his mistakes like other arms in the league, Hendricks could be a man of extremes where it goes extremely well (i.e. 2016) or it he becomes a middling pitcher (i.e. 2015). It’s not out of the question we see an enormous regression ahead.

7. The Philadelphia Phillies are in contention for the playoffs within the final two weeks of the season

I almost made it playoffs, but that’s asking way too much from a team that has many holes still to fill. However, don’t write off the Phillies to be a sub 80 win team this year as they have a good amount of pieces that can make them be competitive through a good amount of September. Their pitching staff led by Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoffand Jeremy Hellickson can keep the team in many games (maybe Clay Buchholz or Jake Thompson can be a somewhat serviceable #5…?), with Hector Neris acting as one of the better relief arms around and Joaquin Benoit + Pat Neshak very capable of pulling their own weight. Their offense is the biggest question mark, but big seasons from Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph, Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, and Cameron Rupp could make the team surge farther than expected.

8. Steven Matz and James Paxton combine to throw fewer than 280 innings making them both end up outside the Top 35 starters

It’s pretty apparent that I adore Steven Matz and am crazy about James Paxton. Matz was able to throw all four of his pitches inside the zone over 50% of the time last year and plenty of ink has been spilled discussing the 2017 breakout of Paxton. However, I think it’s important to make a point about the dark clouds hovering above each of these players as hype trains continue gaining steam. Both players have had multiple injuries to their name over the years and while Paxton did throw upwards of 170 innings across the minors and majors last year, I’m not ready to throw out years of data suggesting that another injury or two is going to keep him off the field for a significant amount of time. Matz seems a little more prone than Paxton with shoulder, lat, and elbow issues to his name, making it tougher to believe Matz can log the innings to make the impact of a Top 35 starter. It’s too bad, really, as his talent speaks of Top 20 upside easily.

9. Greg Bird and Aaron Judge combine to hit at least 5 more HRs than Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez

Betts and Ramirez had incredible 2016 seasons, featuring at least 30 Hrs apiece and owners everywhere rejoiced. Regression is expected for both, however, while Yankee rookies Greg Bird and Aaron Judge both display power upside that could breakout into 60+ HRs between the pair. There were early thoughts that Bird would be platooning with Chris Carterthough the Bird has flown his way through spring training, making it hard for Giradi to consider replacing him with the recently struggling Carter. Judge on the other hand, needs to make a jump in reducing his strikeouts (44%+ rate last year!) to secure playing time, though 30 HR power is well within his reach given the at-bats. Bird and Judge could make their presences well known in the Bronx, while Hanley’s affection for injuries could resurface and Betts’ power could take a small step back.

10. Tyler Glasnow is a Top 40 starter in the second half

I love a good prospect story as much as anyone and every season features young arms making their impact: Syndergaard, deGrom, Urias, Taillon, Fulmer, etc. This year’s will be last year’s most hated prospect pitcher: Tyler GlasnowThere have been two glaring issues for Glasnow over the years that have created major concern for owners: horrendous control and a lack of a third pitch. It’s never smart to put heavy weight on spring rumors and numbers, but I’ll go out on a limb that the story being written for Glasnow this February and March continues its journey in the majors this year. Glasnow has reportedly fixed his delivery to prevent extra movement, while altering his Changeup to the Ray Searage ways of a Two-Seam circle grip that could find plenty of success in the bigs. Sure, it’s a pipe dream – these are bold predictions after all – but don’t be too shocked if Glasnow shows up this year and looks like a new man.

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former college pitcher, travel coach, pitching coach, and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

2 responses to “Nick Pollack’s 10 Bold Predictions For 2017”

  1. JerryOnDrums says:

    Nick! Love the article. But, you mention that you don’t love Duffy’s adp @ 24, yet you have him @ 21 on The List. Care to elaborate?

    • Nick Pollack says:

      Good question! The answer comes down to draft value.

      Duffy is part of my tier 3 of starters, which ranges from Carlos Martinez at #16 all the way to Marcus Stroman at #40 (I’d even consider as far as John Lackey, but I digress). Given this wide range of options, I don’t want to be paying for Duffy at his current ADP and I’d rather wait until they are 5-10 pitchers left in that tier before I start selecting guys.

      I’ve found that pitchers I rank higher than Duffy (Taillon and Nola for example) are often still around well after Duffy has been selected, while I’m incredible happy to own Fulmer, Paxton, Manaea as well at their ADP value instead of Duffy at his.

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