Preseason Bold Predictions

I’ve been debating when to post this blog for a while now and figured it would be most appropriate to post once the Yankees had a handful of Spring Training games under their belt. The purpose of this exercise is to be bold and predict things that could happen but odds are that they will not. I may completely flop on these and go 0 for 4 on my predictions, however even if I get 1 correct by end of season, I would be pretty happy about that considering the low likelihood of some of these. Those of you reading this may call me crazy on a couple of these and may even get mad at me for some of the things I will say. What would be the point in wasting time writing about predictions that are more likely to happen than not? Let’s kick this off with a pitching prediction about the recently named 5th starter for the Yankees Jordan Montgomery…

#1: Jordan Montgomery leads the Yankees starters (not named Severino) in K’s

I put the caveat of “all Yankees starters not named Severino” in this prediction because Severino is a bonafide ace and Cy Young candidate and that would just be unfair to compare the 2nd year Montgomery to a guy of his caliber. Gumby had a fantastic rookie season last year which completely flew under the radar due to the success and hype around Aaron Judge and other Yankees stars. By almost all measurements, Montgomery was the best rookie starting pitcher in the MLB last year. Looking just at the Yankees starters from last year that tossed at least 60 innings in pinstripes, Montgomery ranked 4th in K/9 behind Severino, Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Even predicting Gumby to have more strikeouts than established veteran pitchers Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and CC Sabathia may leave some people scratching their heads, however these are the reasons I believe this prediction could hold true.

Reports are going around that Montgomery has a big focus going into 2018 to use his changeup more frequently. From what I have seen so far this spring, it looks like he is definitely focusing on that pitch and it has looked pretty nasty to the eye-test. IF he can get more consistent with the change this year that should make all his other pitches play up and lead to more K’s. I also think that Montgomery could go 180+ innings pitched this year coming off his rookie campaign at 155 innings pitched. If he could get his K/9 a little closer to 9.0 K/9 and go 180 IP, I could see his K total approaching around 170 K’s which would have been 3rd on the Yanks last year right behind Tanaka.

Reasons I believe in this:

Setting the innings pitched threshold to 150 and looking at the leaderboards: Montgomery’s 33.2% O-Swing % was 9th best in the league for SP’s, Montgomery’s 55.9% O-Contact % was 13th best in the league for SP’s and his 12.2% Swinging Strike % was 15th in the league for SP’s. If Montgomery can continue to get people to chase his pitches out of the zone as frequently (or more) than last year, I think we will see a huge step forward from the young southpaw.

 

#2: Gary Sanchez leads the Yankees in HR’s

Let’s do a fun little exercise here… running the numbers from the start of 2016 I calculated a HR/162 Games average for the Yankees big 3 righty bombers- Stanton, Judge and Sanchez. Clouded by the massive 2017 seasons from Stanton and Judge both blasting 50 balls into the stands, I expected Gary Sanchez to be the low number here by a decent margin. Surprisingly… I was wrong with that notion.

Giancarlo Stanton 50.1 HR/162 Games
Aaron Judge 49.8 HR/162 Games
Gary Sanchez 49.1 HR/162 Games

 

As you can see here, over the last full season of games in each of these 3 player’s careers they have had an almost equivalent HR rate. The point of this exercise was not to put any doubt on the abilities of Judge and Stanton going forward, I personally think they will both be as good as they were last year or better! More so this was to show people that Gary Sanchez is just as good of an offensive force as Stanton and Judge and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit more HRs this year than both of them. *Not to mention he is absolutely crushing the ball this spring!

 

#3: Dellin Betances becomes 5th in line of bullpen

Setting the innings pitched threshold to 50 from the 2017 season, Dellin Betances lead the league in BB/9 at 6.64 BB/9. That alone is a major cause for concern and not going to cut it in a bullpen riddled with elite arms. It got so bad last year that at the All-Star game, Bryce Harper was mic’d up telling the first base coach “I feel like he’s a guy you just go up there and take”. By the end of the year he had lost the trust of the coaching staff and only pitched 4 innings in the postseason altogether. Betances has been plagued with control issues throughout his minor league career so this is nothing new for him. What is even worse now (on top of the control issues) is that players have started to realize that if they have any iota of speed they can EASILY steal a base on Betances because of his long, slow delivery to home plate.

A perfect depiction of this was the other day in Spring Training… the Yankees were playing the Mets and Jose Reyes led off the inning with a single off Betances. He went on to steal 2B easily without a throw and then 3B as well on consecutive pitches without a throw. The Yankees simply can’t afford to run the risk that literally any base runner that Betances allows on base could very easily get into scoring position within a few pitches. The combination of the walks and the lack of controlling the run game lead me to believe that Dellin won’t be trusted in high leverage situations this year by the Yank’s coaching staff.

 

#4 Aaron Hicks puts up his first 20HR/20SB season

My boy Hicks has always been touted for his potential. He was drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft by the Minnesota Twins for his toolsy profile and major hype coming out of high school in Southern California. In that year he was tabbed as a Baseball America Rookie All-Star and named the Twins organization top prospect across multiple publications. He didn’t end up debuting in the pros with the Twins until 2013 but never really put together a quality season until last year in 88 games with the Yankees. In those 88 games he slashed .266/.372/.475 with 15 HRs and 10 SBs which was good for a 127 wRC+ and 3.3 WAR.

I am extremely optimistic on Hicks’ gains last year in plate discipline, power and overall as a player in all 3 facets of the game. If Hicks can stay healthy and get around 140+ games in this year, I see no reason why he can’t put together his first 20 HR/20 SB campaign as a professional. I think the tougher category to crack 20 in will be stolen bases given his 66% success rate last season (10 for 15 in steal attempts). I personally think he can improve on that success rate given his higher rates in previous years and in the minors, however the volume of attempts will need to be pretty high for him to eclipse 20 SB. If the coaching staff sees that he is fully healthy and lets him attempt around 30 SB attempts, I think he goes 20/20 in 2018.

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