Well, as you have seen here recently on CineSportsTalk we have become feisty and are going head to head with the “experts” in the business. We decided to take it a step further and take on the MAN of fantasy sports. Here are Matthew Berry’s bold predictions and Steve Farace’s not so bold predictions. Let’s see what Steve agrees with and where his head is at. You can see Matthew Berry’s full article here!
Matthew Berry: A.J. Pollock goes 20/20. My thinking: He has the pop and speed, he just needs full-time at-bats. If he can learn to hit righties a little better and Cody Ross can’t get healthy (both entirely possible), Pollock will get his PT.
Steve Farace: Playing time is something that you can really never predict. I don’t deal in possibilities. I deal in probabilities. So I’m going with Paul Goldschmidt winning the MVP in the National League and the Diamondbacks making huge strides in the NL West even with Patrick Corbin going down with Tommy John surgery.
Matthew Berry: Andrelton Simmons, currently going in the 15th round (and 12th among shortstops), finishes the year as a top-5 shortstop on our Player Rater. My thinking: The power is real, and the contact rate tells me the average is coming up. There are a lot of health risks at the top of the shortstop chart; playing every day with an improved batting average and a little more speed (he did steal 26 bases in 131 games in the minors in 2011) vaults Simmons into the top five.
Steve Farace: I’m going to side with Berry on this one. With Tulo, Hanley and Reyes up at the top 3, there is always room for someone like Simmons to take advantage if 1, 2 or even all 3 of those guys go down with injuries (which is a probability every year).
Matthew Berry: At least 220 strikeouts for Jeff Samardzija with a sub-3.50 ERA and sub-1.20 WHIP. My thinking: Well, last year in this column I predicted 220 strikeouts for him, and he came within six of that. Of course, the rest of it wasn’t good, but he got unlucky somewhat. Needs to get walk rate back to where it was in 2012, and I think he will. With luck (or just no bad luck), he becomes the pitcher I thought he’d become last year. Especially if he gets dealt.
Steve Farace: I actually think that the Chicago Cubs portion of this prediction is what could be changing. The Cubs are not a good team at this point and they will likely be looking to trade the strikeout machine known as Samardzija. I also happen to think that Starlin Castro will bounce back in a big way although I don’t know how bold that is being that he stunk it up last season.
Matthew Berry: Tony Cingrani, currently going in the 18th round, finishes the year as the Reds’ highest-ranked pitcher on the Player Rater. You heard me. My thinking: The injury to Aroldis Chapman means it won’t be him; Johnny Cueto can’t stay healthy; Homer Bailey could crumble under the pressure of $100 million; and I put Mat Latos on the “love” list this year, meaning I’ve probably cursed him. Most importantly, Cingrani has a K/9 of over 10 as a starter, has a slot in the rotation and needs only to get his walk rate down a bit to become the fantasy ace he can be.
Steve Farace: Cingrani will not be the highest rated pitcher on the Reds in 2014. That’s a big stretch. I agree Cueto can’t stay healthy, but Homer Bailey came up in my farm system on my fantasy team (Team Captain America) and I believe he is just going to get better.
Matthew Berry: Troy Tulowitzki plays at least 150 games. My thinking: Just because he hasn’t done it since 2009 doesn’t mean he can’t! As Stephania Bell always likes to say, there’s injury-prone and then there’s bad luck. Tulo is injury-prone, but he also has had some bad luck, and at some point all luck runs out, good or bad.
Steve Farace: Now THAT is bold. I can stick with this one. One of these years it is bound to happen. Why not in 2014? If it does happen it would be one of the more stunning developments of 2014 and would go a long way in the Rockies being a respectable team.
Matthew Berry: Among Dodgers starting pitchers, Zack Greinke finishes no higher than fourth on the Player Rater. My thinking: Clayton Kershaw is the easy one, but Hyun-Jin Ryu is no joke, and a strong year from Dan Haren in the NL West won’t shock anyone. Meanwhile, here’s what I wrote about Zack in this year’s Love/Hate: “His K/9 dropped under eight for the first time since 2010, he had his lowest ground-ball percentage since 2009, his walk rate was slightly up, and there’s no doubt he was helped by the fourth-highest strand rate in baseball.” Add to that the fact he has pitched fewer than 180 innings in two of the past three years, and I won’t be the one paying the going rate for Mr. Greinke’s services this season.
Steve Farace: I actually see Greinke finishing 2nd among Dodger pitchers this season. It’s not that bold, but it is not that safe either. The Dodgers pitching staff (and rest of the team) is loaded and maybe even Dan Haren has a good year. Maybe that is more of a bold statement than the original!
Matthew Berry: Double-digit wins, a sub-3.40 ERA and sub-1.10 WHIP for Henderson Alvarez. My thinking: Just 23, he was a top-20 pitcher in ground-ball percentage last year, and, although he pitched well, the underlying numbers suggest he might have gotten unlucky. He also has pitched well this spring. The Marlins aren’t good, but they’ll be better than last year. He’s not gonna help in strikeouts at all, but you could do worse at the end of your NL-only draft.
Steve Farace: Even with a sub-3.40 ERA and sub-1.10 WHIP for Henderson Alvarez, I still think he might come up short in the double digit wins category. I will agree with some, but not all of this one.
Matthew Berry: A .285 average and 25 home runs for Khris Davis, currently going in the 19th round. My thinking: The power is legit (at least 15 home runs in every season of professional ball). All he has needed is playing time. This year, he finally gets it.
Steve Farace: I am all in on this one. In all of my drafts this year I actually had Khris Davis targeted as a bench guy. I think everything will click for him this year based on him having the starting job.
Matthew Berry: Eric Young Jr. leads the National League in steals. That’s right. You heard me. My thinking: If Billy Hamilton flames out (a possibility), EY Jr. finally has a full-time gig to himself on a team that has no better leadoff options and that needs to generate offense. Forty-six steals last year despite posting his lowest OBP since his rookie season, and he’s not even being drafted among the first 60 outfielders.
Steve Farace: I just don’t know if Eric Young Jr. gets enough playing time to lead the league in steals. He has to battle it out with Juan Lagares and I think Lagares is the better hitter and the better outfielder. The silver lining for Young is that he is more of a prototypical leadoff guy and I think THAT is what will buy him some more playing time.
Matthew Berry: Thirty home runs for Ryan Howard. My thinking: My hate for Ryan Howard has been well documented over the years, and, more often than not, I’ve been right. Certainly, the past two years have made me look good. But maybe the hate has gone too far. Finally healthy, he improved his strikeout and contact rates last year (when he played). If he can stay healthy, he’ll play every day and swing for the fences.
Steve Farace: I think the big IF here is the staying healthy part. If he is then this is really not bold at all. This is a really old team and with that I am going to pick them to finish last in the NL East. I also see Cliff Lee having a great statistical year, but his win total will be held down significantly due to poor team play.
Matthew Berry: Pedro “Hey! It’s a-me!” Alvarez, currently being drafted ninth among third basemen, is a top-three fantasy third baseman this year. My thinking: We know the power is insane, it’s just about the average. He did improve his strikeout rate in the second half last year, and there definitely are some injury-prone guys at third this year. I say he hits closer to .260 than .230, and that’ll be enough to make him a stud.
Steve Farace: If Pedro Alvarez hits .260 then he might just approach MVP status on this Pirate team. The man can hit some mammoth homeruns and if he can just stop striking out so much he will move his way up the charts of the fantasy third basemen world. He might just end up being a top 5 third baseman in 2014.
Matthew Berry: Andrew Cashner (being drafted in the 17th round) and Tyson Ross (undrafted) are both top-30 fantasy pitchers this year. My thinking: When in doubt, go with the pitcher in Petco. Cashner was my bold prediction for this piece last season, and he clearly had a big year, so obviously I’m a believer. Think he picks up where he left off while adding some more strikeouts, and Ross, with a K/9 over 8 and inducing ground balls more than 50 percent of the time, will continue how he finished last year. A 2.95 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 80 innings in the second half.
Steve Farace: I actually am going with this one. Cashner had a top 6 ERA in the second half last year and that wasn’t just in the NL, but in all of baseball. Count me in on Cashner. By the way, I traded Cashner to Scott last week. I want to believe, but I also don’t care if he flat out fails this season.
Steve Farace: I had Michael Morse on my team when he went crazy a few years ago. Nobody wanted a part of him last year with the Mariners, but he has the job to himself in San Fran and I am good with what Mr. Berry has said about Mr. Morse.
Matthew Berry: Peter Bourjos hits at least 15 home runs and steals 25 bags. My thinking: Defense gets him in the lineup every day, and finally some decent luck with health keeps him there. He’s always had the power and speed potential; this year he makes good on it.
Steve Farace: While I am with Matthew on this one, I am going with my boy Matt Adams. He filled in very nicely for me last year when Allen Craig went down. I see 35 homeruns and 100 RBI in the middle of that potent Cardinals lineup.
Matthew Berry: Ryan Zimmerman is not a top-10 third baseman this year. My thinking: Super-streaky, he has managed to eventually bail you out the past few years, but one of these years that big spurt isn’t going to come, especially given the increased strikeout rate and nagging injuries that always seem to ail him.
Steve Farace: This is going to hurt me because I went with him over Josh McDonald with my 5th round pick in our CST league, but I agree with Berry here. Zimmerman is all over the place and that shoulder injury is always lurking.
Matthew Berry: Twenty stolen bases for Jemile Weeks. My thinking: Well, he’s done it before, stealing 22 in 2011. If they decide to send Jonathan Schoop down to Triple-A, Weeks has to beat out only Steve Lombardozzi for at-bats, plus, once Manny Machado comes back, Ryan Flaherty. Weeks isn’t any good, but neither are those guys.
Steve Farace: I am going to sound like a hater here, but Chris Davis will not hit 30 homeruns this season. I just don’t believe in him. If he does it again this year I will have no choice but to believe. Make me believe Chris.
Matthew Berry: Jon Lester, currently being drafted outside the top 30 of starting pitchers, finishes as a top-12 starting pitcher on our Player Rater. My thinking: Seemed to finally get it back together in the postseason last year. Keeps it going in a contract year.
Steve Farace: Agreed 100%. He is looking for that big money contract from the Red Sox and this is his time to prove himself again.
Steve Farace: Jose Abreu wins the AL Rookie of the Year award and goes for 30 homeruns and 90 rbi on a bad White Sox team. Keep your head up Robin Ventura.
Matthew Berry: The Indians, who don’t have any pitchers being drafted inside the top 40, have three pitchers in the top 30 starters on the Player Rater. My thinking: Justin Masterson has another big year; Danny Salazar puts it all together for a full season; and Corey Kluber, with his K/9 over 8.00 and his walk rate just over 2.00, has his breakout season.
Steve Farace: I have heard nothing but good things about Salazar and Kluber so I am giving 2 thumbs up to this prediction. If it holds true then the Indians can put a big scare into the Tigers this year in the AL Central.
Matthew Berry: A sub-3.50 ERA, a sub-1.15 WHIP and 175 strikeouts for Rick Porcello. You heard me. My thinking: Increasing strikeout rate and ground-ball rate of more than 50 percent, he puts it all together this year. People forget he’s just 25.
Steve Farace: It is because of this prediction that I picked Porcello up on the waiver wire in the CST League. I believe it because Matthew Berry said it. I still can’t believe he is only 25. It feels like Porcello has been not living up to his potential for a decade.
Matthew Berry: Jonathan Villar leads baseball in steals. My thinking: He’ll hit well enough to play every day (not a tall task in Houston); he has crazy speed; they need to generate offense; and there’s a chance Billy Hamilton won’t stick.
Steve Farace: I don’t even know if I care enough about the Astros to make a bold prediction. They have 65 wins in 2014? Is that bold enough?
Matthew Berry: Two hundred strikeouts for Yordano Ventura. My thinking: He’s very young, of course, but the skill is there. They say he could pitch 180-200 innings this year, so, if it ends up a lot closer to 200, he’s got a shot.
Steve Farace: We have seen several examples where pitch count and innings limits do nothing to stop a year pitcher from having Tommy John surgery. They need to just let these guys pitch and if the Royals do that with Ventura with that 100 mph heat, I don’t see why 200 strikeouts is not attainable.
Matthew Berry: Other than Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun is the highest-ranked Angels hitter on the Player Rater this year. My thinking: Josh Hamilton never met an outside ball he wouldn’t swing at; Pujols keeps trending downward; and Calhoun does everything solidly, with a little speed, some pop and a good batting average. He’s not gonna hurt you in any one category the way the rest of the players on that team might.
Steve Farace: There is no way this is going to happen. Albert WILL bounce back this year and it will be him that is second behind Mike Trout on the player rater.
Matthew Berry: Phil Hughes has an ERA better than 4.00, a WHIP better than 1.30 and double-digit wins. You heard me. My thinking: Good pitchers’ park; better division to pitch against; he had a sub-4.00 ERA on the road last year; and, if ever there was a guy who needed a fresh start, it’s him.
Steve Farace: Steve agrees with this one as well. I think Hughes is just one of those guys that can’t play in New York. Now in the midwest I think he has a solid season for the Twins.
Matthew Berry: Masahiro Tanaka, currently being drafted as a top-15 pitcher, finishes outside the top 40. My thinking: It all comes down to wins. He’s not a huge strikeout guy to begin with, and, as we saw with Yu Darvish, it can take time to adjust to the strike zone in America. Plus, he has thrown a ton of innings for a young guy, so injury is a potential risk, as well.
Steve Farace: These Japanese pitchers are always coming over after having done great things in Japan and fall short of expectations. I don’t know if he finishes outside of the top 40, but outside of the top 30 first sure and that will be a massive disappointment for everyone that is drafting him.
Matthew Berry: Scott Kazmir has a sub-3.75 ERA, a sub-1.30 WHIP and 175 strikeouts. My thinking: He pitched better than expected last year, and going to the AL West and that ballpark should help. With a K/9 of over 9.00, and a year back to get settled, he just needs to stay healthy to be productive.
Steve Farace: Off the top of my head I can’t think of a bad decision that the Athletics have made. Kazmir sure hasn’t been the guy he was projected to be, but I think he has another solid season in 2014, this time with the AL West Champs.
Matthew Berry: Robinson Cano, who has at least 25 home runs in each of the past five seasons, hits fewer than 20 this time around. My thinking: Much worse ballpark for him; he’s traditionally been worse on the road than at Yankee Stadium; and he wouldn’t be the first guy to flame out after getting a crazy-big deal.
Steve Farace: I agree that Cano’s production falls off just a bit, but he is just too good to fail. I don’t see a flame out in Cano’s future.
Matthew Berry: An ERA of over 4.00, a WHIP over 1.30 and single-digit wins for Matt Moore. My thinking: In his breakout year, he increased his walk rate and got lucky in a few areas. And I’ll take the under on 17 wins, as well.
Steve Farace: I don’t know if he wins 17 games again, but single digit wins? Come on Berry! You’re better than that! I think 12-14 is more realistic.
Matthew Berry: Leonys Martin is a top-15 fantasy outfielder. My thinking: Tons of speed, enough pop to help a little there, decent enough batting average. They don’t have anyone else, really, so he’s gonna play every day in a great ballpark surrounded by great hitters.
Steve Farace: I have been waiting for him to do this for a couple of years now, so I will agree with Berry here. The job is his to lose.
Matthew Berry: R.A. Dickey is a top-10 pitcher. My thinking: Hey, he’s done it before! The back hampered him the first part of last year, but, when finally healthy in the second half, he was close to the Dickey we remember, and he threw his “fast knuckler” at a rate similar to that of his Cy Young Award year. If he gets some run support for wins, watch out.
Steve Farace: I really don’t think Dickey will be a top 10 pitcher in 2014. I just think that he will be a .500 pitcher from here on out in the AL East.