GM's OFFICE: 2018 Prognosticating Successes, Part 1

Hey, we're not boasting (well, OK...maybe a little), but the staff here at BaseballHQ.com made some great calls last spring, as seen here and in the Baseball Forecaster (order the 2019 edition today!). While we didn't get every call right, the real key is understanding the forecasting process, and the tools we provide to understand the leading indicators. Our writers and analysts use these methods every day, and hopefully they contributed to a YooHoo shower for you this year.

Over the next two weeks, we go into more detail on our many 2018 hits — times when our process foretold a spike or dip in performance. Most all of following commentaries appeared either on the site or in the 2018 Baseball Forecaster during the pre-season. Each provides a concrete example of how our projection model and the analysis that stems from it continues to put you in a position to win your league. 

The hitters successes are collected here (stats in most cases are HR-RBI-SB-BA); pitchers will be covered next week.

Jesus Aguilar: On surface, a marginal hacker still waiting for a full-time shot with age 30 around the corner. Before you dismiss, there was some legit growth here. Power fully backed by xPX, hit both lefties and righties with authority. Opened up his swing to do it, so he's not for the risk averse. Still... UP: 30 HR (Nickrand)
2017: 16-52-.265 in 279 AB
2018: 35-108-.274 in 492 AB

Ozzie Albies: Terrific debut at age 20. Previous MLEs played up, with solid skills that bounced back across the board after 1st half dip. Sure, the speed is foremost, but this is potentially stat-filling stuff, with xPX suggesting more power upside. And the glove at 2B? Well, he does go by Ozzie, after all. (Truesdell)
2017: 6-28-8-.286 in 217 AB
2018: 24-72-14-.261 in 639 AB

Jorge Alfaro: Beware the small sample size. Slashed .241/.291/.358 at AAA, then posted 3/33 BB/K in majors. So heed full-season skills, notably abysmal strike-zone control. Still a baby as catchers go, with a history of decent pop, so there's plenty to hope on. Just don't expect him to arrive in 2018. (Truesdell)
2017: 5-14-1-.318 in 107 AB
2018: 10-37-3-.262 in 344 AB

Javier Baez: PRO: Patience uptick; HR, PX spike; more h% elevation; solid SB%. CON: Sub-par ct%; mediocre HctX; too many GBs; limited SB opps. Mixed signals, but a fine year from a growth stock. Recent hr/f numbers suggest a winter launch-angle project. With a few more FBs and more bb% gains… UP: 30 HR. (Thompson)
2017: 23-75-.273 in 469 AB
2018: 34-111-.290 in 606 AB


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Mookie Betts: Solid 1st half metrics were undone by unlucky swing in h%, and from there he started pressing, unraveling his 2nd half even further. But xPX, SBO/SB% provide a solid HR/SB foundation, and ct%/HctX make him elite. After 2016, his owners might have been disappointed, but this is still a core $30 first rounder. (Carroll)
2017: 24-102-26-.264 in 628 AB
2018: 32-80-30-.346 in 520 AB

Xander Bogaerts: He’s coming off a disappointing 2017, but you should see it as a buying opportunity. The hesitance to draft him is understandable as it's difficult to get a sense of exactly which hitter to expect, but he played with a sore wrist for most of the second half of 2017, so there's reason to hope for a rebound…  There's more upside than downside here. (Cederholm)
2017: 10-62-.273 in 571 AB
2018: 23-103-.288 in 513 AB

Alex Bregman: Passed first full season with flying colors thanks to 2nd half surge. More 5-category goodness to come, as contact gains bolstered xBA/BA, took full advantage of green light, and power growth suggests he'll push HR envelope. Shortstop eligibility is just icing on the cake. Enjoy the ride. UP: 30+ HR (Bloomfield)
2017: 19-71-.284 in 556 AB
2018: 31-103-.286 in 594 AB

Keon Broxton: 20/20 season, but with an overwhelming wart: plethora of whiffs led to AAA demotion, sporadic 2H playing time; dismal xBA, bb% dip offer little hope for immediate improvement. One of two players with that xPX/Spd combo (min. 100 AB), so counting stat ceiling is high. But if bat-to-ball skills don't improve... DN: More AAA time (Bloomfield)
2017: 20-49-21-.221 in 220 AB
2018: 4-11-5-.179 in 78 AB (299 Triple-A AB)

Matt Carpenter: Took swing-for-fences approach to new level with NL-high FB%. In 1st half, that yielded a straight HR-for-BA tradeoff, then bum shoulder in 2nd half muddied the waters. If he goes back to line-drive swing, 2015-16 profile should return. If he keeps uppercutting, then BA will stay near .250, but... UP: 35 HR, still. (Rudd)
2017: 23-69-.241 in 497 AB
2018: 36-81-.257 in 564 AB

C.J. Cron: The RH-batting Cron is also expected to be more than just the short side of a platoon while seeing most of his time at 1B and DH, and his 2H2017 power spike after a rough first half (1H 96 xPx, 2H 148 xPx) provides some optimism for 2018. (Dodge)
2017: 16-56-.248 in 339 AB
2018: 30-74-.253 in 501 AB

Nelson Cruz: Continues to exhibit metronomic consistency as age 40 casts a larger shadow. Even managed to stunt the signs of decline that were sneaking into the picture (HctX). Last four years have traded in a narrow range; still-robust skill set and AAA reliability say he can hold that ground for at least another year. (Murphy)
2017: 37-106-.284 in 547 AB
2018: 37-97-.256 in 519 AB

Khris Davis: Answered any questions about whether 2016 was a career year with a full repeat. Now has 107 HR over last 2.5 seasons (1,365 AB). Power is elite, plate skills passable, and both are stable. Career platoon split is negligible. Fine, he doesn't run and BA isn't going much past .250. But you can take the power to the bank. (Murphy)
2017: 43-110-.247 in 566 AB
2018: 48-123-.247 in 576 AB

Adam Duvall: Aside from back-to-back seasons of 2H collapses, there are other concerning signs in Duvall’s skills. Power has been his chief asset, but his PX outpaced his xPX in 2017, indicating potential HR downside. The 29-year-old’s overall shoddy plate discipline puts a hard cap on his BA. The second half decline vs. RHP is also worth monitoring, as it could cost him playing time, particularly given Cincinnati’s crowded outfield. All told, Duvall could have a tough time delivering a full repeat. (Pyron)
2017: 31-99-5-.249 in 587 AB
2018: 15-61-2-.195 in 384 AB

Jarrod Dyson: Yet another slugger raises FB% and posts career high in HR (sadly, most of this is true). Those extra fly balls cost him nearly 30 points of xBA, and only fluky 10 HBP kept OBP from similar fate. Recent slides in Spd, SBO have quietly eaten into SB upside, and after season-ending sports hernia surgery...DN: 200 AB, 15 SB (Kruse)
2017: 5-30-18-.251 in 346 AB
2018: 2-12-16-.189 in 206 AB

Avisail Garcia: Feels like former top prospect's talent has been in hibernation forever, which made 2017 seem like the breakout we've all been waiting for. But h%, xBA say it was mostly a dream. Still only 27, and 2nd half did see gains in bb%, ct%, Eye, so maybe this was a tentative step forward. But odds are he doesn't hit .300 again. (Kruse)
2017: 18-80-.330 in 518 AB
2018: 19-49-.236 in 356 AB

Marwin Gonzalez: Three reasons he might not sustain breakout: 1) PX/xPX gap, marginal HctX, somewhat fluky 1st half hr/f put HR repeat at risk; 2) "improvement" vR was driven by 37% h%; 3) Multi-position eligibility is great for us, but teams will often opt for a stable regular if one emerges, putting his PT stability at risk. Just be cautious. (Chesser)
2017: 23-90-.303 in 455 AB
2018: 16-68-.247 in 489 AB

Mitch Haniger: The pieces are all here for potential age-27 breakout. Haniger's 4235 Mayberry Method line is exactly same as that of Travis Shaw, and if Haniger can stay healthy enough for 500+ at bats, he could approach the .270, 30 HR, 10 SB line Shaw posted in 2017. (Boyd)
2017: 16-47-5-.282 in 369 AB
2018: 26-93-8-.285 in 596 AB

Ian Happ: Reasons why the next step isn't forward: 1) xPX casts doubt upon sustainability of lofty hr/f rate; 2) low ct% gives him some BA risk and suggests more growing pains are possible. Future is bright, but more refinement is needed. (Pyron)
2017: 24-68-8-.253 in 364 AB
2018: 15-44-8-.233 in 387 AB

Eric Hosmer: He extended 2016's hr/f spike while turning ct% and h% recovery into big BA rebound. But xPX fell to a remarkable low (heck of a testimonial on the league-wide power level). There is a dearth of plus skills here, just a lot of ct% over huge AB totals yielding a ton of balls in play. Don't pay for another 25 HR. (Murphy)
2017: 25-94-.318 in 603 AB
2018: 18-69-.253 in 613 AB

Travis Jankowski: Fractured foot in April sidelined him until July, and likely cut into his running game after his return. Contact is shaky and power non-existent; but the speed is elite, the bb% respectable, and the GB% profile ideal. If and when he stumbles into playing time, he's an instant SB asset. (Murphy)
2017: 0-1-4-.187 in 75 AB
2018: 4-17-24-.259 in 347 AB

Max Kepler: Mostly a carbon-copy of 2016, but xPX took a step backward as those 19 HR didn't quite have as much value as they did in '16. Still young with time to adjust, but there are some roadblocks to a breakout: Can't hit LHP, 2nd half dips in HctX/xPX and waning Spd. Until those results improve, his upside is limited. (Dopp)
2017: 19-69-.243 in 511 AB
2018: 20-58-.224 in 532 AB

Manny Machado: Tested our patience in 1st half but xPX kept hope alive despite unlucky h% and ct% dive. Both returned to form in 2nd half as rest of the profile held strong, and there’s a glimmer of even more upside. Team context continues to hold SB back (30th in SB 2014-17), but BA/power skills are elite. No SS eligiblity for 2018, but still a star. (Sporer)
2017: 33-95-9-.259 in 630 AB
2018: 37-107-14-.297 in 632 AB

Nomar Mazara: 20/100 production/value fueled by durability, plate appearances. Prospect pedigree keeps our interest, but little here hints at a near-term breakout. 2nd half FB plunge neutralized HctX bump; squinting is required to notice bb%, PX upticks. Young, healthy, with two MLB seasons under his belt. But future doesn?t appear to be now. (Thompson)
2017: 20-101-.253 in 554 AB
2018: 20-77-.258 in 489 AB

Jeff McNeil (mid-June): The numbers he is putting up in the AA-Eastern League are ridiculous. And since he did spend 18 games at Triple-A Las Vegas last year, and the Mets are starved for offense, this is one unheralded batter who could suddenly pop up on the radar without warning. (Richards)
2018: 3-21-7-.335 in 230 AB

Adelberto Mondesi: Toolsy prospect struggled with 58% MLB ct% while flashing plus running game. Triple-A pitchers didn’t slow him down, as suggested by .879 OPS, power spike and 73% ct%. But MLBers still exploit his impatient, hyper-aggressive approach. With less twitchiness: UP 15 HR / 30 SB. (Thompson)
2017: 1-3-5-.170 in 53 AB
2018: 14-37-32-.276 in 275 AB

Logan Morrison: One of the HR-boom poster boys. Combined uncharacteristic DL avoidance, improved patience and a conscious effort to hit more fly balls to generate career-high AB and season to match. Held FB% spike all season, but contact trend, health risk remain troublesome. 2H is your benchmark. DN: More DL time, .230 BA, 15 HR. (Thompson)
2017: 38-85-.246 in 512 AB
2018: 15-39-.186 BA in 318 AB, two DL stints, season-ending surgery in mid-Augus
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Eduardo Nunez: his value needs to come from his strong contact and his speed; his 73 xPX from 2015-2017 illustrates his lack of power. His Spd dropped in 2017, and unlike 2015, there were no health-related explanations. His SBO% was also halved in his first month in Boston, which may be a good indication of how he'll be used there in 2018. Don't pay for 25+ steals. (Cederholm)
2017: 12-58-24-.313 in 467 AB
2018: 10-44-7-.265 in 480 AB

Marcell Ozuna:  Obviously a remarkable career year, but sustainable breakout? PRO: Eye has never been better; ditto HctX; owned right-handers wire-to-wire. CON: Outlier BA fueled by lofty h%, lacks xBA support; hr/f looks equally suspicious; GB% remains stagnant; xPX is skeptical. The CONs have it. He’s good, but not $30 good. (Thompson)
2017: 37-124-.312 in 613 AB
2018: 23-88-.280  in 582 AB

Jose Ramirez: Laughed in the face of projected regression with dominant encore. HR surge was highlight, backed by HctX and FB boost. xBA/HctX confirm his solid .300+ BA foundation. xPX history questions full power repeat, but with speed skills hanging on, there's support for a five-category redux. Pay up. (Bloomfield)
2017: 29-83-17-.318 in 585 AB
2018: 39-106-34-.272 in 578 AB

Mark Reynolds: Best HR total since 2011; of course, Coors helped (.294, 21 HR), so keep that in mind if home park changes. Unsustainable 1st half hr/f came back to earth, 2016 ct% bump now seems like one-shot deal, and success vR last two years was driven by 37% hit rate. Let others overbid on a HR repeat and endure the BA risk. (Olson)
2017: 30-97-.267 in 520 AB
2018: 13-40-.248 in 206 AB

Domingo Santana: A five-category breakout, but this was a perfect storm. By category: 1) HR likely maxed out, as very few sustain a higher hr/f; not enough FBs. 2) Ditto for BA, which hinges on holding sky-high h% and LD%. 3) SB%, Spd baselines question the running game. Tough to expect even a repeat, let alone any further gains. (Bloomfield)
2017: 30-85-15-.278 in 525 AB
2018: 5-20-1-.265 in 211 AB

Travis Shaw: Big question entering 2018: Can he repeat HR outburst? PX/xPX say yes, as does 19 HR away from Miller Park, even if hr/f a bit high. Picked spots well on basepaths, and dispelled bad rap of being unable to hit LHP. Unsustained 1st half ct% suggests BA may have peaked, but otherwise, a solid investment. (Olson)
2017: 31-101-10-.273 in 538 AB
2018: 32-86-5-.241 in 498 AB

Justin Smoak: Funny, these 2017 skills aren't THAT much different from the rest of his career! Except: made better contact, and more hard contact, but even those weren't significant changes. Tailed off late (.194 BA after 8/15), but a 21% hit rate seems to blame; skills didn't suffer much. Some regression to the mean seems reasonable. (Truesdell)
2017: 38-90-.270 in 560 AB
2018: 25-77-.242 in 505 AB

Juan Soto (mid-April scouting report): Jump on the hype train with me; there are plenty of seats available. If Soto stays healthy throughout the season, he's a top 5 prospect or better next off-season, especially for fantasy observers looking for the rare combination of power and average in today's game. Soto projects as a .300 hitter, capable of hitting 30 HRs a season. (Blessing)
2018: 22-70-.292-5 in 414 AB

Steven Souza: Stayed on the field for a change, and showed flashes of former upside. But there are serious flaws, notably the still-awful contact rate that's dragging down BA. What's more, xPX, Spd both hint at downside in counting stats—not to mention that he's never stayed healthy before. Don't be surprised if 2017 was his career year. (Truesdell)
2017: 30-78-16-.239 in 523 AB
2018: 5-29-6-.220 in 241 AB

Eugenio Suarez: PRO: Fine bb% spike, climbing LD rate & power skills, improvement vR, superb health grade, just reaching peak age. CON: climbing K rate, only average hard contact. The downside risk here is less than the upside potential. (Truesdell)
2017: 26-82-.260 in 534 AB
2018: 34-104-.283 in 527 AB

Michael Taylor: On the surface, a big career turnaround. But hold on: Plate skills mostly unchanged, HR spike not fully supported, and xBA and 2nd half point to the likely BA regression. Simply doesn't make enough consistently hard contact for those gains to stick. You can only count on the ~20 SB. (Truesdell)
2017: 19-53-17-.271 in 399 AB
2018: 6-28-24-.227 in 353 AB

Eric Thames: Another big post-KBO season in 2018? FOR: Power supported by skills and looks repeatable, and he devoured RHP. AGAINST: Slid in 2nd half, ct% fell by 10% after May (72% to 62%), and slashed only .125/.205/.212(!) vs. LHP post-April. Could face stricter platoon. More downside than up in this projection. (Truesdell)
2017: 31-63-.247 in 469 AB
2018: 16-37-.219 in 247 AB

Gleyber Torres: Top prospect suffered through injury-riddled campaign, first via sore shoulder, then TJS on his (non-throwing) elbow. But around that, first tour through the high minors—at age 20—did nothing to eclipse his rising star. Shaky contact may bring struggles early on, but going forward, this is a must-own, multi-skill talent. (Truesdell)
2017: DNP in Majors
2018: 24-77-6-.271 in 431 AB

Christian Yelich: Continues to make strides towards a full-fledged breakout. Four reasons it might happen in 2018: 1) Steady rise in FB%, especially in 2nd half; 2) exit velocity top 25 in MLB; 3) legs and acumen on basepaths; 4) ascending Eye confirms maturity. With continued shift towards FBs and stronger green light... UP: 25 HR, 25 SB (Nickrand)
2017: 18-81-16-.282 in 602 AB
2018: 36-110-22-.326 in 574 AB

Ryan Zimmerman: Turned back the clock and single-handedly carried owners to titles given 389 ADP at end of draft season. Fact or fluke? Doubling of hr/f, best h% since '10 say to side with latter. We just can't bet those marks will stick, nor can we bank on another 500 AB given health history. Heed 2nd half and expect substantial regression. (Nickrand)
2017: 36-108-.303 in 524 AB
2018: 13-51-.264 in 288 AB


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