So this is my fourth year running this. At first, I was really full of myself, but as time has passed it has become abundantly obvious that bold predictions are bold for a reason. They have very little chance of coming to fruition. A prediction, or even a guess for that matter could be simplified as a 50/50 sort of thing, but each year I go on the hunt for something that’s considerably less likely than 50/50 that I think may happen. Let’s give a very general background first.
2014: 3/5 (the MWAH days)
As I said last year, for the sake of my own humility, take these predictions as a source of entertainment value. Something to ponder, or maybe simply something to get a conversation started. Just because the first year went well, doesn’t mean any succeeding years would show the same promise. Now let’s recap my 2017 bold predictions…
1. The Angels will win a playoff game
No way around this one, I got it wrong. It was bold though. The Angels were coming off a very down season, and they would finally be getting Garrett Richards back healthy. We had a new LF and 2B, a remade bullpen, things were looking up. Looking back now, I think we can all see that 2017, like the seasons before it, were ventures into building a competitive team without spending any money. The Angels were in it all the way until the end, but the Minnesota Twins (of all teams) ended up overtaking the Angels for the second wild card. 0/1.
2. Ben Revere will dethrone Cam Maybin as the starting LF and turn in one of his prototypical seasons when he was healthy.
Should have happened, but didn’t. I think the spirit of this prediction was to say that Ben Revere would outplay Cam Maybin. No where in there did I expect the Angels to trade for Justin Upton though. I was totally robbed! Revere hit .275 and stole 21 bags in a reserve role while Cam Maybin hit .235 and stole 29 bases in an everyday role. Still, the prediction itself was that Revere would be the starting LF, and that didn’t come to fruition. 0/2
3. Bud Norris will be the Angels best reliever
For a long while, this one looked like it would be true. Norris found himself closing for the Angels and truly flourishing in the role, until he wasn’t. The second half of the 2017 season was not friendly to Bud Norris. The spirit of the prediction was accurate, and it was a good pickup for the Angels, but I think we can all agree that Yusmeiro Petit was likely the Angels best reliever last year, and if not him then Blake Parker. 0/3.
4. Yunel Escobar is traded at the trade deadline, even though the Angels are still in it.
Escobar simply couldn’t get healthy last year. He hit the ball pretty well when he was healthy, as he usually does, but the defense wasn’t there, and neither was there a market for an injured third baseman that hit for an empty batting average. 0/4.
5. Ricky Nolasco will have the second finest season of his career.
Hey, he kept his ERA under 5.00….barely. It speaks volumes about the Angels 2017 season that Ricky Nolasco managed to toss 180 innings for them. 0/5.
Alright, so now that we know it’s literally been two years since I’ve gotten a single bold prediction right, we can all use the following five predictions as a source of entertainment.
BOLD PREDICTIONS FOR THE 2018 SEASON
1. The Angels will win more than 90 games in 2018.
I notice that when it comes to the offseason, everything is the flavor of the moment. Like back in December, when the Angels had managed to bring in Justin Upton (bring back), Shohei Ohtani, Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart….they were the darlings of the offseason. The clear winner. No one could improve as much as the Angels had. They were going to win the wild card, if not unseat the Astros in the AL West. The Angels were the flavor of the moment. Three months later, the Angels aren’t even considered one of the most improved teams by a major news article. Everything seems to be centered around the Twins, Red Sox and Yankees, which is understandable.
But the games still need to be played, and I think once they’re played, the Angels will win more than 90 games in 2018. Despite the Spring Training struggles, adding Shohei Ohtani to the rotation should really do wonders over the long run. A 23 year old with his repertoire is pretty amazing. The Angels have Garrett Richards apparently healthy (I know we’ve heard that somewhere before), Andrew Heaney is back and on the flip side of the mound, and looks great. Nick Tropeano is back and ticketed for AAA. Jaime Barria is knocking on the major league door after another spectacular season in the minors. Even J.C. Ramirez has managed to escape the TJ bug and is pumping 98 mph heat this Spring.
Every single facet of this team has improved in dramatic fashion, and I think it will lead to 10+ wins over 2017.
Why is this bold? Because the Angels have won more than 90 games once in the last eight years.
2. Ian Kinsler will record his fourth and last 20/20 season at age 36.
Kinsler has two 30/30’s and a 20/20 all under his belt so far in his career, but every single one of those occurred during his twenties. Not a single one in his thirties. This isn’t to say he’s been a bad player in his thirties. Not at all, he’s been great player. But being slotted atop the Angels lineup, playing for October again, hitting in front of Trout and Upton, I think Kinsler has his stage set for the finest season of his thirties.
Though this isn’t part of the prediction, I’ll just throw these numbers out there. .275/.340 30 doubles 22 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Good for a 4-win season.
Why is this bold? Because how many 36 year old middle infielders have ever accumulated this power and speed combination?
3. Justin Upton will lead the AL in RBI’s in 2018.
Upton had 109 RBI’s playing the majority of last year of the hapless Tigers. He had a down year from Ian Kinsler hitting in front of him, and that’s about it (Cabrera and J.D. Martinez hit behind him while Castellanos spent the majority of the season at the bottom of the order). This year, Upton comes with a rejuvenated Kinsler and the greatest player in baseball, Mike Trout, hitting in front of him. Albert Pujols managed to top 100 RBI’s last year, and he only hit .241.
This isn’t part of the prediction, but I think Justin Upton will clear 140 RBI’s.
Why is this bold? Considering the contingent of hitters Upton will be battling for the RBI crown (Trout, Springer, Correa, Stanton, Judge, Martinez, Donaldson etc..), Upton will need to have a great year to drive in more runs than all of them.
4. Kole Calhoun will have a career year at age 30.
We’ve seen a different Kole Calhoun this Spring, and circumstantially, he couldn’t be in a better position. Kole was always sort of a misfit at the top of the lineup. Sure, he’s left handed and can be a bit of a pest, but despite the speed, he doesn’t steal bases and despite the patient approach, his career OBP is still just .330. Not the best person to slot in front of Trout.
But all that has changed this offseason. Calhoun has tweaked his batting stance a bit, keeping his hands further away from his body, not wrapping the bat and staying more relaxed, more balanced in the batters box. Teams also really began shifting on him last year, which has led to an offseason worth of focus on hitting the ball the other way, which Calhoun has done an exemplary job of this Spring. The tall RF wall at Angel Stadium has routinely robbed Kole for five-ish home runs on an annual basis, and now that the Angels have made the awful decision to redo the score board and stick an unsightly yellow line across the bottom eight feet of the wall, Kole’s power output should improve. The Angels also went out and acquired top of the order hitters, which puts Kole further down in the lineup, where he actually belongs.
Again, not part of the prediction, but I think Kole slashes .280/.350 30 doubles 25 home runs and 100 RBI’s.
Why is this bold? Because Kole hit .244 last year, and his career batting average is .261. Because Kole has never once hit 30 doubles and 20 home runs in a single season and has never come close to driving in 100 RBI’s.
5. The Angels will have five starting pitchers log more than 100 innings with an ERA under 4.00
This one is going to be pretty hard to accomplish. As exciting as the six man rotation and all the new additions and healthy options are, it still doesn’t change the fact that there is just so much unproven about this staff. Richards hasn’t ever pitched a full, healthy season. Not once. Shohei Ohtani is 23 years old and has never thrown a single inning in the major leagues. Andrew Heaney is coming off Tommy John surgery and has also, never pitched a full, healthy season in the major leagues. Matt Shoemaker is coming off a series of ailments. Tyler Skaggs has never pitched more than half a season in a row before getting hurt. J.C. Ramirez has roughly one quarter of a major league season as a starter under his belt, and is coming off a PRP injection to avoid Tommy John surgery. Nick Tropeano is coming off Tommy John surgery. Parker Bridwell hid a horseshoe, rabbits foot and four-leafed clover inside his glove during 2017 after being traded for practically nothing, and Jaime Barria is still just 21 years old.
But yes, I believe that somehow, someway, this collection of starting pitchers will assemble into a quality pitching staff. Starting with Richards. It’s his last year before free agency, and while he has all the upside in the world, he’d had none of the health. He’s playing for a paycheck next year. Ohtani’s stuff is just too good not to play up in the major leagues and he’ll grow into a staff ace as well. Andrew Heaney was one of the best LHP prospects for a reason when the Angels acquired him. Before injury, he showed that he was a very good mid-rotation starter. Now with a clean bill of health and more experience under his belt, Heaney could take yet another step forward in his development. Tyler Skaggs has potential as a tall lefty with good downward slope, good velocity and a great curve. Matt Shoemaker has been great for an extended stretch twice in his career. I’m not saying he will be again, but I am saying the potential is there. Jaime Barria posted an ERA under 3.00 in the California League and the Pacific Coast League at age 20. Those are two of the most hitter friendly leagues in the minors and Barria isn’t even old enough to drink yet. He posted an ERA of 3.21 in AA. If given a chance in the majors in his age 21 season, anything can happen. Jaime has ice water running through his veins and won’t be intimidated at all by facing down the best hitters in the world.
Why is this bold? For all the reasons I explained above. Health and unproven mostly.