Fantasy leagues are won by taking calculated risks. No Fantasy Baseball owner is more obsessed with safety and reliable veterans than I am, but you’re going to have a tough time winning with a roster full of those players. Whether it is avoiding a player you think will disappoint or reaching a round or two early on a player that you believe will significantly out-produce his ADP, you need to enter your draft with some strong convictions that are different than the norm. If you’re confident in the research you’ve done and the numbers you’ve crunched, you should be able to build a competitive team, thus allowing you to take a few chances during the draft, knowing that you can make up for it as the draft progresses. Here are bold predictions (sorted by my projected win total), one positive and one negative, for each team as we enter the 2015 season.
Washington Nationals (102 wins)
+ The shoulder issues drop Jayson Werth further down draft boards than it should and he returns the greatest value of anybody on this loaded roster.
-Ryan Zimmerman’s declining OBP continues and even his high leverage spot in an elite offense can’t make him a reliable Fantasy starter this season.
Los Angeles Dodgers (95)
+ Whether it is in an occasional platoon role or filling in for an injury, Scott Van Slyke produces another sneaky good stat line.
-Yasiel Puig continues to play with reckless abandon and entertain us, but he fails to total 30 homers-plus-steals and finishes with an identical stat line to former teammate Matt Kemp.
St. Louis Cardinals (91)
+Kolten Wong finishes 2015 as a Top 10 middle infielder
-Matt Holliday ages overnight, hits fewer than 20 homers for the first time in a decade, and has his worst Fantasy campaign as a member of the Cardinals.
Seattle Mariners (91)
+ This offense is among the five best in the league, a year of production that allows Mike Zunino and Seth Smith to find relevancy in 12-team leagues.
-Due to the pitching friendly nature of the game these days, Hisashi Iwakuma’s raw numbers are a bit overrated and he doesn’t finish among the Top 50 starting pitchers this season.
Cleveland Indians (90)
+ Brandon Moss is fully healthy and reminds owners that his 600-at-bat pace was 84 runs, 39 homers, 123 RBIs, and a .268 batting average before the All Star Break last year. He challenges for Top 75 overall status and gives his owners tremendous value on draft day.
-It’s not a bad season, but Michael Brantley’s 2015 stat line looks more like his average from 2012-2013 than 2014: 75 runs, 13 homers, 80 RBIs, 14 steals, and a .286 batting average.
Detroit Tigers (89)
+ In terms of value, there is no better Fantasy outfield than this one (Yoenis Cespedes, J.D. Martinez, and Rajai Davis/Anthony Gose).
-Victor Martinez disappoints in a big way and simply doesn’t provide the right stats at first base. He finishes outside the Top 15 in power at his position, a flaw that makes winning a league with him on your roster very difficult.
Los Angeles Angels (88)
+Joe Smith may own the most boring name in professional sports, but he offers an exciting stat line and surpasses the 20 save plateau.
-With the exception of Smith, Garrett Richards is the only player on this team that offers value for where he is currently being selected.
Pittsburgh Pirates (87)
+ Like they did in 2013, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez combine to hit 50-plus homers.
-This outfield is loaded with upside, but Starling Marte is someone to avoid in 2015. With an increasing fly ball rate but power I don’t trust, Marte finishes outside the Top 25 outfielders and provides less value than a popular regression pick in Josh Harrison.
San Diego Padres (87)
+ The pitching staff produces a Top 5 ERA for the second consecutive season and their first four starters combine to win 55 games.
-The loss of Everth Cabrera manifests itself as the Padres rank dead last in team stolen bases, a stat that limits the RBI ceiling of the newly acquired Matt Kemp and Justin Upton. No player on this roster drives in more than 80 runs in 2015.
Boston Red Sox (86)
+ Hanley Ramirez finishes 2015 as the top rated shortstop eligible player and challenges for a spot among the Top 10 hitters.
-Mike Napoli and Dustin Pedroia are not being drafted very high … and yet they still won’t return value. The fading veterans have more name value than Fantasy value and essentially zero upside.
Texas Rangers (86)
+ Prince Fielder posts a similar 2015 stat line as consensus Top 20 pick Anthony Rizzo.
-The hope for power from Leonys Martin fades and he is viewed as a more expensive version of Lorenzo Cain.
Chicago Cubs (84)
+Starlin Castro joins Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez as the only shortstops in the last five years to crush more than 15 homers and hit .300.
-Jon Lester is greeted rudely by the National League and finishes the season closer to a SP4 than a SP1.
Toronto Blue Jays (83)
+ Russell Martin proves that 2014 wasn’t a fluke and finishes as a Top 5 catcher on ESPN’s player rater again.
-Neither Jose Reyes nor Josh Donaldson finish inside the Top 5 at their position.
New York Mets (83)
+ The Mets join the Nationals and Dodgers as the only pitching staffs with multiple SPs that finish inside the Top 25 at the position.
-Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda combined for 50 homers in 2014 but those two and David Wright fail to total 50 bombs this year.
San Francisco Giants (81)
+Brandon Belt reaches career-highs in homers and RBIs while rediscovering the batting average on his way to being the top first base bargain of 2015.
-Buster Posey is elite, but I’ll take “the field” to finish as the top catcher, making the 50 spots that separate him from C2 in most consensus ranks a bit much.
New York Yankees (80)
+Dellin Betances finishes the season as an elite closer and challenges for the league lead in saves.
-Brett Gardner produces similar numbers to Austin Jackson, a major disappointment considering his elevated price tag after an unsustainable 2014.
Chicago White Sox (79)
+Newcomers lead the team in batting average (Melky Cabrera) and home runs (Adam LaRoche)
-The above prediction indicates that Jose Abreu experiences a bit of a sophomore slump: look for third round returns out of a first round pick.
Milwaukee Brewers (78)
+ Jean Segura will join Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Gomez as the only players with two seasons of 35 steals and 10 home runs since 2013.
-Kyle Lohse’s run of sneaky production (3.30 ERA over the last four seasons) runs out as his FIP finally catches up to him. Don’t be fooled by the ERA, he’s not worth your time.
Baltimore Orioles (77)
+ Given the power-starved nature of our game, J.J. Hardy not only holds value but re-emerges as a Fantasy starter as he finishes in the Top 5 in shortstop round-trippers. Matt Wieters possesses value in a similar fashion.
-Adam Jones struggles out of the gate as a result of losing Nelson Cruz’s protection and his lack of plate discipline. I think he bounces back, but it will require patience.
Miami Marlins (77)
+ Christian Yelich does something no player did in 2014: score 95 runs, hit at least 10 homers, and steal 20 bases.
-After a surprise campaign, the league catches up to Marcell Ozuna and takes advantage of his limited abilities. The high strikeout rate and low contact rate result in him not achieving any of the plateaus he reached last season (72 runs, 23 homers, 85 RBIs, and a .269 batting average).
Kansas City Royals (76)
+ Alex Rios reminds Fantasy owners that he was among the most reliable outfielders prior to 2014 and produces a strong 80-20-80-30-.285 line.
-Wade Davis doesn’t provide Fantasy owners with much value, as the wins are difficult to count on and the ratios were unsustainably good. His days as a starter are likely done and the Royals have shown no real interest in having him move to the ninth inning.
Cincinnati Reds (75)
+ Marlon Byrd leads the team in home runs.
-Johnny Cueto is a fringe Top 20 starting pitcher, not Top 10.
Colorado Rockies (74)
+ Nolan Arenado produces the gaudiest overall stat line (not on a per game basis, but season totals) of any Rockies player this season.
-Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson combined for 156 runs, 43 homers, 148 RBIs, 36 steals, and a .300 batting average in 2014 but fail to tally a 140-35-135-25-.290 line in 2015.
Atlanta Braves (73)
+ The lack of offense in Atlanta unfairly drops the asking price for three pitchers (Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, and Shelby Miller), all of whom return significant value this year. Look for the trio to record an ERA around 3.30 with over 540 strikeouts.
-No offense has more quality starts against them than the Braves and Freddie Freeman struggles as pitchers take an aggressive approach to the promising first baseman (.246 batting average last season after falling behind 0-1 in the count).
Tampa Bay Rays (72)
+ In this age of declining offense, James Loney does what James Loney does and is a viable CI starter. The stat line won’t jump off the page at you, but his 60-13-75-5-.290 is gaining value as stable hitting numbers are tough to find in the later rounds.
-Drew Smyly is not a Top 60 starting pitcher this season, as his low strikeout numbers and fly ball style are concerning.
Oakland Athletics (71)
+ Tyler Clippard leads this team in saves and does so in a very efficient manner.
-Sonny Gray is the Athletics ace, but as discussed here, that doesn’t mean he is even an SP3 in our Fantasy world.
Arizona Diamondbacks (71)
+The powerful quartet of Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Hill, Mark Trumbo, and Yasmany Tomas hit 118 homers … the same number that the Diamondbacks hit all of last season
-Arizona finishes the season in the bottom three in both ERA and runs scored.
Houston Astros (70)
+ Colby Rasmus continues his trend of offering reasonable production in his first full season with a new team and hits 20 homers while driving in 70 runs and scoring 70 times.
-Long term, dynasty owners will enjoy owning George Springer, but it’ll require patience, as 2015 isn’t the year he realizes his elite Fantasy potential.
Philadelphia Phillies (68)
+Ben Revere, with at least seven stolen bases in 14 of his 15 career months with at least 90 at-bats, helps Fantasy owners as much as Dee Gordon, despite being drafted 75-plus picks later. He steals 50 and hits .300, something only five players have done over the last decade.
-A combination of age, durability, and lack of protection results in Chase Utley finishing outside the Top 30 middle infielders.
Minnesota Twins (66)
+ Trevor Plouffe hits 20 homers and bats .270, something only two third base eligible players did last season (one of which was Anthony Rendon, a player most Fantasy owners started at second base).
-Joe Mauer is under 50 percent owned by the All Star Break. He offers no power and the plus-batting average is no longer a guarantee. First base has home run upside in the later rounds and that’s got more value in the current state of the game than Mauer’s ho-hum stat line.
What are some bold predictions that you are entering your draft with? Hit me up on Twitter and I’ll let you know if I believe you are on to something or if you’re set to lose your draft before it begins.