Sean Roberts’ 10 Bold Predictions for 2023

Now 15% more bold!

You know the deal by now. I’m hoping to hit on two or three of these picks to balance being sufficiently bold while still giving a little insight into the directions I’m leaning in for 2023.

Disclaimers include that I’m using NFBC average draft positions and any end-of-season rankings will be based on standard 12-team 5×5 using the Razzball Player Rater. Let’s dive in!


1. Dansby Swanson finishes with a higher WAR than Fernando Tatís, Jr.

Let’s start off with a high and tight fastball. Why not?

Tatís is being drafted 60 spots ahead of Swanson as of this writing, and let me start by being clear that, of course, I would still draft Tatís over Swanson for fantasy purposes. However, I’m a little higher on Swanson and a little lower on Tatís than the average.

I’m cheating a bit here by using WAR as my measure, because I think Tatís playing more outfield and possibly DH’ing a bit to save on wear and tear will give Swanson a clear edge as he plays one of the best shortstops in the league. On the offensive end, we already know for sure Tatís is finishing out his suspension and will miss the first 21 games of the season, and between that and the labrum and wrist surgeries, I’m sufficiently terrified for perhaps the best young talent to debut since Mike Trout.

On Swanson’s end, I understand the concerns about the sustainability of his plate discipline, but ultimately he’s steadily improved at the plate just about every year he’s been in the majors, and that gives me a lot of confidence that he’ll be able to find adjustments and remain a productive offensive/fantasy player.


2. Brandon Drury outearns Gunnar Henderson

Look at these Steamer projections:

Steamer 2023 Projections

I think Drury gets as many plate appearances as he can handle, and if so the projections already have him on a higher home run pace than the supremely talented Henderson. I also like the Angels’ lineup better than the Orioles and so Drury should have more run/RBI opportunities. Currently, Drury is going almost 100 spots later in drafts and outside of steals, I think these are two similar players in terms of 2023 production only.


3. Willy Adames is a top five shortstop

Currently going as the 13th shortstop off the board, this is a bet that Adames keeps his power gains from last year (31, second-most for shortstops in MLB) while bringing his average back more in line with his career norms (.255 vs .238 last year).

The batting average last year is perplexing. Adames saw the lowest BABIP of his career by far in 2022. He was shifted more than he ever has in his career, and it showed, as he produced the lowest wOBA while being shifted in his career. On non-shifts? It was Adames’ highest wOBA of his career.

I believe Adames has sold out for more power, and it’s largely worked. With the shift going away, I expect him to get on base more often and add to his run and homer totals in addition to the better batting average.


4. Jarred Kelenic is mixed-league relevant (top 50 OF)

One of just a couple of the bold predictions I got right last year was that Robbie Grossman would out-earn Jarred Kelenic in fantasy, despite being drafted much lower. So why change my tune on Kelenic now after last year’s less-than-inspiring performance?

Kelenic is being drafted just inside the top 300, and there’s a path for him to be better than that. Obviously nothing is guaranteed, but he’s still just 23 and he has demonstrated the raw bat skills in the majors that you can’t teach or fake (96th percentile in max exit velocity last season). The other problems, like the concerning amount of whiffs, you can fix. Will he? It seems worth an end of roster spot to see, given the high prospect pedigree and underlying skills.

And look, both you and I are smart enough to know to never pay attention to spring training stats. They’re worthless, so I’m not even going to mention to you that Kelenic is hitting .368/.400/1.000 with four homers through 20 plate appearances. I just won’t!


5. Christian Yelich finishes outside the top 50 outfielders

Historically speaking, it’s unlikely Yelich can return to his previous MVP levels. At first glance, some of the new rule changes might benefit Yelich who, despite not being 2019 Yelich in 2022, was still a productive player and managed to swipe 19 bags.

However, there are a few concerning trends in Yelich’s profile that have me worried more than usual this season. The first is the precipitous and sudden drop in his speed. He’s still fast, in the 70th percentile in the league, but his previous career-worst was 81st percentile.

Second, Yelich has actually done better against the shift than without it throughout his career. It’s hard to figure out, but that’s worth monitoring as his batting average and on-base really don’t have much room to drop for him to remain an above-average offensive player. The power could come back to offset that, as Yelich is still among the league leaders of exit velocity and hard hit rate. But it’s now been three full seasons since Yelich had an OPS above .800, and so I’m not bullish on it coming back this year, and hope I’m wrong.


6. A Yankee wins the Cy Young

Obviously, Gerrit Cole is doing a lot of the heavy lifting on this prediction, and Carlos Rodón starting the season on the IL isn’t ideal. But in Cole, Rodón, Cortes, and Severino, you’re getting four of the top 30 or so pitchers in MLB, so there’s a decent enough chance that one of them will end up as the best pitcher in the AL. What I’m really high on though, is the new balanced schedule for the Yankees. The East is the most competitive division in the American League, and so I think those teams will get an extra bump from the 24 or so fewer divisional games they’ll have to play against each other.


7. Yasmani Grandal finishes as a top-five catcher

It’s hard to figure out what went wrong with Grandal last season, who walked at his lowest rate since 2017 last season. Yet, none of his plate discipline numbers really seem far out of line with his career averages. Grandal’s walk rate has cratered before (in the aforementioned 2017 season), but it bounced right back the following year. Catcher seems as wide open as it usually is in fantasy, so you could do worse than gambling on a bounceback from Grandal.


8. Joey Meneses outearns Rhys Hoskins

Meneses is going nearly 80 picks after Hoskins, despite similar value in ZiPS projections:


2023 ZiPS Projections

Hoskins is likely to fare better with the lineup around him, but ZiPS is pretty high on Meneses after a breakout 2022. I’m extremely high on the upside of Meneses based on his Hitter Performance metric last year. Hitter Performance measures the runs added per 100 pitches seen, after adjusting for the PLV pitch quality. Meneses found himself in excellent company in 2022:

It’s not a knock on Rhys Hoskins, but Meneses already is projected to produce like a top-1o first baseman in fantasy and his pitch-level value metrics suggest he could have more upside.


9. 3,000 Stolen bases

The new pickoff rules, the pitch clock assisting in runner timing, and larger bases seem to conspire to add up to more steals. 3,000 is sufficiently bold, as there haven’t been even more than 2,500 stolen bases since 2017.

Sure, it’s spring training, but stolen base attempts are up 50% from spring training 2022. Whether MLB actually sees 3,000 steals for the first time since 2012 or not, I’m slightly discounting speed in drafts, as there are simply going to be more steals to go around. Players who derived a decent amount of fantasy value from speed (Randy Arozarena, Tommy Edman, every Oriole), will be at less of a premium when the league runs wild.


10. Cubs win the NL Central

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.


Image adapted by: Chris Corr (@Chris_Studios on Twitter)

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

One response to “Sean Roberts’ 10 Bold Predictions for 2023”

  1. Guy says:

    only 4 of these are really bold

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