Sean Roberts’ 10 Bold Predictions for 2023 Revisited

Cubs prediction is looking good! Everything else...

While not official (there’s still time for Yasmani Grandal to turn it around!), I like to periodically check in on my start-of-season bold predictions to help me calibrate where my thinking was off, and what biases I was subject to. Playoff and/or stretch run time can be a make-or-break time in the fantasy season, so let’s see where I was on target, and where I failed miserably.

As always, my goal is to get 2-3 of these right, and several others to have a “kernel” of truth– that is, something you learn or can take away, even if they don’t meet the letter of the definition.

Let’s dig in.


1. Dansby Swanson finishes with a higher WAR than Fernando Tatis Jr./strong>

This one’s going to be close! Currently Swanson is at 3.9 fWAR, 4.0 for Tatís. The thinking behind this was Swanson was going 60 picks later than the San Diego superstar, but I liked Swanson quite a bit more than that. Of course, Swanson’s defense was going to play a huge role in the WAR calculation, making this “bold” rather than “wild.”

But the offense might be closer than you think, especially in OBP leagues. Consider:

Of course, Tatís has been better on a per-plate appearance basis, but this is quite a bit closer than 60 draft spots would suggest (and Tatís has the edge in batting average and runs). You’d still rather have Tatís for the long run, but Dansby Swanson has made it reasonably close even in fantasy counting stats due to Tatís’ suspension to begin the year.


2. Brandon Drury outearns Gunnar Henderson

This one is a whole lot of yikes. Drury is ranked as Razzball’s 205th ranked player, and Henderson 71st.

Best not to dwell on this too much, especially the part where I said “I like the Angels’ lineup more than the Orioles’…”

I was high on Drury coming into the season, and to be fair I think his power gains are sticking (18 home runs in 394 PA so far), and the average has remained. He’s striking out more and walking less, but I’m trying to buy low in leagues next year in hopes that injuries are to blame.


3. Willy Adames is a top-five shortstop

It’s worth doing a deeper dive on Adames at some point, because I can’t figure out what’s going on here. I thought with the shift going away, Adames would be prime to see a BABIP rebound, but his BABIP is at a new career low, even as he’s striking out less and walking more, along with 21 home runs.

But the batting average has been a killer for fantasy purposes at .218, making Adames the 24th-rated shortstop by Razzball’s player rater so far.


4. Jared Kelenic is mixed-league relevant

I said this would be successful if Kelenic was a top-50 outfielder, because Kelenic was being drafted in March around pick number 300.

Kelenic is the 75th-rated outfielder at the moment. After a hot start, he’s cooled off considerably and been injured, but I’ll probably double down on this prediction next year. In just 90 games he’s booked double digit homers and steals, and he’s inched closer to a double-digit walk rate. If Kelenic can get the strikeouts under control, he’s an all-star.


5. Christian Yelich finishes outside the top-50 outfielders

I’m glad to be wrong on this one, as Yelich is the seventh-best outfielder so far in the fantasy season. His career trajectory exactly mirroring Cody Bellinger’s has me wondering if they’re actually quantum-entangled players, eternally committed to positive or negative production together for the rest of their careers.

For now, at least Marlins Christian Yelich is back, and fantasy managers should be thrilled.


6. A Yankee wins the Cy Young

Still possible! I admitted that Gerrit Cole was doing a lot of the heavy lifting for this prediction, but I was pretty high on Ródon, Cortes, and Severino too. So, if this ends up being right it will be for the most boring possible reason, that Gerrit Cole continues to be good. I’d still take it.


7. Yasmani Grandal finishes as a top-five catcher

Oof. I hope you didn’t listen to me. Grandal is currently the 33rd-rated catcher. I thought Grandal’s walk rate would rebound after a career second-worst 12% last year, but instead it’s cratered even further down to 8%. His batting average is in line with his career average, but the power isn’t really there anymore, as he’s hit just 8 homers in 106 games.


8. Joey Meneses outearns Rhys Hoskins

Rhys Hoskins has been sidelined with a torn ACL right near the start of the season, unfortunately. Hoping Hoskins can get back later this season or refreshed ready to go next year.

I liked Meneses’ projections coming into 2023 and thought there was further upside. He’s hit admirably, with a .284 average, but only 11 home runs, where a lot of his value would have been tied up. This one will end up being technically correct, but for the worst of reasons.


9. 3,000 stolen bases

I thought we’d see 3,000 stolen bases for the first time since 2012, and eclipse 2,500 for the first time since 2017 due to the new rules. With 2,800 total stolen bases and counting with a month left in 2023, we’re on pace to crush that mark.

The new rule changes worked as intended. For me, this meant fading stolen bases pretty hard, as they were going to be much more abundant on the waiver wire. Not the boldest prediction, but the next one should make up for it.


10. Cubs win the NL Central

The Cubs are in contention for the pennant going into the last month, making this a spiritual win if not one by the letter of the prediction. I’m going to indulge in a little victory lap here and quote myself:

I’m a huge fan of what the Cubs have done this offseason, in that they did something. The Fangraphs playoff odds only give the North Siders a 4.2% of capturing the division, and that’s hard to argue with. But you can also squint and see a much-improved bullpen, Seiya Suzuki taking another step forward (if healthy), and most crucial to this bold prediction—the Cardinals and Brewers not running away with the division.

Each of those teams upgraded their catching spot with Contreri, but largely stayed out of the major free agent pool despite having a winnable division and a core that is going to be competitive. The Cubs going in on Dansby Swanson (who as I mentioned earlier I’m high on) and making some other minor upgrades around the rotation and bullpen (and the flier on Cody Bellinger) could all break right and make the rest of the NL Central regret not capitalizing on their competitive windows.

Can I… see the future? Maybe! (Is reminded of my Willy Adames prediction.) Nevermind.

Final tally: 2 correct, 3 possible, 5 gone horribly awry

Sean Roberts

Sean Roberts is a baseball columnist for Pitcher List. His work has been featured on Baseball Prospectus, the Hardball Times, and October. He's still getting used to the DH in the national league. @seanroberts.bsky.social

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