My esteemed colleagues have run the gamut of dumb, dumb, and hilariously dumb Cincinnati Reds predictions, so it's high time someone ventured into the nether regions of baseball to produce some sad, horribly off-beat postulations for the upcoming 2015 season.
I am that nether-region venturer. To there we go.
1) The 1st rounders from the 2010 draft will take over baseball in 2015.
You could make a legitimate case that the 2015 Cy Young winners from both leagues, Rookies of the Year from both leagues, and NL MVP will all come from the 1st round (and supplemental 1st round) of the 2010 MLB Draft, or I could go ahead and do that since I'm the dumb one typing this dumb sentence. Matt Harvey (7th overall pick in 2010) is back and set to resume his eyeball slicing for the New York Mets, and while I'm not quite predicting that he'll unseat Clayton Kershaw for the NL CYA in 2015, there's little doubt in my mind that he'll find himself in the top handful of vote-getters. Next to him in the rotation by mid-year will be Noah Syndergaard (38th overall), and I will absolutely go on a limb suggesting that he and his "hook from hell" will be the second consecutive Mets SP to take home the NL ROY. Taijuan Walker (43rd overall) is my pick for the AL's ROY, as I think 2015 will finally be the season where the Seattle Mariners let him loose, and up until he freakishly broke his foot getting out of a truck, Chris Sale (13th overall) was my hands-down pick to take home the AL's CYA (and I'll stick by that until I hear he's had a setback).
As for that NL MVP I alluded to, I do think that 2015 is the first full season where Bryce Harper bashes brains the way the hype surrounding him has always suggested he should, and while I'm not picking him to take home the hardware at season's end (I'm picking Giancarlo Stanton), I think his breakout production will certainly warrant consideration. In all, that's an absurd collection of talent from one round I expect to see burst onto the national stage, and I haven't even gotten to Christian Yelich & Yasmani Grandal yet (more on them later). That's one heck of a draft class.
2) Mike Trout will not win the AL MVP in 2015.
In his brief career, Mike Trout has already been the single-season league leader in bWAR, fWAR, RBI, walks, total bases, OPS+, steals, and runs (three times). That has helped pack his trophy room with a Rookie of the Year Award and an AL MVP Award, and it has also added his name to the esteemed Plaque for 2nd Place in MVP Voting a pair of times, too.
He's also nearly a full year younger than Billy Hamilton, which boggles my fragile little mind.
Trout has also seen his steals decline from 49 to 33 to 16 since 2012, and while he still carries the reputation of being a phenomenal defender in the OF, most every metric seems to agree that he isn't one of the league's best there. A spike in strikeouts had him lead the AL in that category in 2014, and while he still maintained a stellar .349 BABIP last year, even that was a significant decline from his otherworldly 2012 and 2013 season. These trends won't keep him from being an offensive monster in 2015, or anything, but I do think they'll be enough to knock him slightly off the warranted pedestal he's been placed on for the last three years.
I still have him as finishing in the Top 3 in AL MVP voting, but I think 2015 is the year Robinson Cano finally wins his.
3) Josh Harrison takes the 2015 Jay Bruce Award.
Jay Bruce dropped from a solid 4.0 fWAR season in 2013 to a brutal -1.1 fWAR in 2014, and that -5.1 decline was the single largest year over year drop of any player in the National League. In fact, only Baltimore's Chris Davis (-6.3) managed to beat Bruce's drop among all players in both leagues.
When looking for which player might take that honor away from Jay this season, the defining characteristics of the top candidates I identified were either freakish BABIP-fueled 2014 production or older players that stand perilously close to a steep career-end decline. Sticking to just NL players, the three that stood out the most to me were Juan Uribe, Juan Lagares, and Harrison, and while I do expect each to decline markedly, Harrison's breakout 2014 and subsequently high fWAR gives him the most room to drop, so he's the choice. The Pirates' former utility man and presumptive 3B in 2015 saw his BABIP jump from .253 in 2013 all the way to .353 in 2014, leading to a massive jump of near 25 runs in offensive value that I don't believe to be replicable. And while he's spent a decent amount of time at 3B, he's not a natural there, and I wouldn't be shocked to see his metrics there shrink some, too.
Lagares has an elbow issue that could nag him throughout 2015, and that won't help his heavily defense-fueled fWAR (or help sustain his .341 BABIP aberration). At age 36, Uribe won't likely be able to maintain his .368 BABIP from 2014 (that's a full .080 above his .288 career mark), either. However, It's Harrison I'm giving the nod to since his 4.9 fWAR mark in 2014 gives him a full 1.1 fWAR of additional collapsing room over the 3.8 fWAR posted by both Uribe and Lagares last season. He's a Pirate, too, so one can hope.
4) Christian Yelich will lead the NL in runs scored in 2015.
He finished tied for 5th last season with 94, and that was with Giancarlo Stanton missing most of the last month of the season with an exploded face. As I mentioned before, I think Stanton flips the exploding script in 2015 en route to his first NL MVP award, and his dingers are going to drive in Yelich a heckuva lot in the process. The additions of Mike Morse and Martin Prado should also help the team's overall run producing (though Dee Gordon will likely destroy a decent portion of that), and if Yelich can avoid a DL stint like the one he had in 2014, he stands to be crossing the plate at a prolific rate this season.
I say 110 runs scored for Yelich. Pair that with .295/.355/.425 at the plate and Gold Glove defense, and that's a 5 WAR season for the 23 year old. That's downright Johnny Damon-ish.
5) Yasmani Grandal is a 4+ WAR player in 2015.
Finally rescued from the dinger black hole of Petco, Yas will get to call Dodger Stadium home for at least the 2015 season, and while it's not exactly a dinger haven itself, it's markedly easier to whack them with Vin Scully on the call than it is in the land of Johnny Weez. There's this perception around Grandal that he hasn't quite lived up to the lofty prospect status once bestowed upon him, and with one steroid suspension and a shredded knee that ended a season early already on the books, I suppose that may be the case. However, he's just a freshly minted 26 year old, and despite a few odd 2014 splits that I think correct themselves in 2015, he did just log a season with 15 dingers, a slugging percentage over .400 while calling Petco home, and has garnered pretty rave reviews about his pitch framing.
Here's where I'm coming from for 2015. For one, the knee isn't bothering him like it did for much of 2014, and I think that'll go a long way to helping his crazy platoon splits normalize. In 2014, he hit .241/.329/.452 against RHP as a lefty, and all of his 15 dingers were hit from that side of the plate, but he hit just a woeful .162/.323/.189 against LHP as a righty. That's completely out of whack with his minor league balance (.908 OPS vs RHP, .886 vs LHP in 2011), and in 2012 in the majors, he even hit LHP (.971 OPS) better than RHP (.821 OPS). His 2014 also featured just a .277 BABIP, and for a guy with his type of batted ball profile and power potential that's lower than I would expect. He'll be forced to split some time with A.J. Ellis behind the plate, and his playing time is the only thing I think may stand in the way of him being a 4 win player, but I do think 2015 is the year where things all fall in place for Yas.