Ceilings and floors. Upside and downside. Best- and worst-case scenarios. However you choose to term them, players’ most and least optimistic outcomes are integral parts of their annual fantasy baseball outlooks.
They are also, unfortunately, among the more misunderstood such ingredients, with many fantasy managers often mistaking upside for “most probable outcome” or worst-case scenarios for “I won’t draft this player under any circumstances whatsoever.”
They also represent my greatest issue with rankings and cheat sheets. Those resources aim to identify the player’s most likely outcome but don’t explain how wide his range of outcomes is. Imagine that Player X has the potential to finish 100-plus spots better than his ranking number, while Player Y is one of the game’s best bets to finish at or around his projected spot. Without considering the upside, you could wind up with a team comprised entirely of “Player Y’s” and have practically none of the player profit potential you’d need to win your league.
Chances must be taken, such as your decision about whether Michael Brantley, as one example, is worth the historical injury risk. He’s currently my No. 114-ranked player and is going 108th overall on average in ESPN live drafts, but he has registered finishes of fourth overall, 41st, 1,137th, 246th and 40th on our Player Rater in the past five seasons. Brantley has an outstanding chance at another top-50 overall fantasy season if he can stay on the field regularly, but his five injured-list trips the past three seasons combined saddle him with plenty of downside.
This column is designed to help identify the Brantleys — or the Josh Donaldsons, Bryce Harpers or Alex Reyeses — of the fantasy baseball world, the players who have the highest statistical ceilings and/or lowest statistical floors, and don’t worry, I’ll have predictions for those latter three below. These are my annual bold predictions, providing an added element to my rankings.
Use them however you wish: Jot them down as notes on your cheat sheet, helping you make tough decisions between similarly ranked players, use them as a way to balance your roster with reliable and risk/reward players, rather than having too many of one or the other, or simply print them out so you can call me out on all of my blown calls at season’s end (or on April 15, as has often happened). Hey, it’s all good.
I’ve bunched these alphabetically by the player’s team (or the team itself), then alphabetically by player within said team.
I’ve got to start with a bang, don’t I?
Ronald Acuna Jr., at age 21, will become the youngest player in baseball history to hit at least 35 home runs with at least 20 stolen bases. Currently, the youngest to do it was Alex Rodriguez, who was 22 years, 247 days old at the onset of the 1998 season.
Josh Donaldson will hit 30 home runs on his way to running away with the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year award.
The Atlanta Braves will still miss the playoffs by at least 10 games.
Archie Bradley will finish the season a top-10 fantasy closer.
Robbie Ray will rebound to set a career high with 240 strikeouts.
Jonathan Villar will lead the major leagues in stolen bases.
The Boston Red Sox‘s closer on the final day of the 2019 regular season? That’d be Darwinzon Hernandez, who will save at least 15 games for them.
Carl Edwards Jr. will lead the Chicago Cubs in saves. I keep going to the well on this one — what can I say? I don’t think this particular team-leading total will be pretty, but Edwards will emerge from the committee.
Jose Quintana will rebound with numbers that improve on his 2015-17 three-year averages of a 3.55 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 22 quality starts.
Though he won’t debut in the majors before May 15, Eloy Jimenez will be the Chicago White Sox‘s greatest-earning fantasy player from the date of his major league debut forward.
David Hernandez will register 30 holds, and among pitchers who fall short of double-digit saves, he’ll be one of the five highest-finishing relief pitchers on our Player Rater.
Trevor Bauer will win the American League’s Cy Young Award.
Despite missing the first six days of the regular season, Francisco Lindor will rebound to earn American League MVP honors.
All five Cleveland Indians starting pitchers will finish among the Player Rater’s top 30 at the position and their closer will finish in the top 10 among relief pitchers, with all six ranking among the 30 best among all pitchers. Outside of Lindor’s performance, the Indians’ pitching dominance will be the primary reason they easily win the AL Central again.
Garrett Hampson will steal at least 30 bases while earning position qualification at second base, shortstop and outfield by the end of the season.
German Marquez will become the first pitcher in Colorado Rockies history to strike out 200-plus batters with a sub-4 ERA in consecutive seasons. Not bold enough? I agree. He’ll also become the Rockies’ first pitcher to earn a first-place Cy Young vote.
Daniel Murphy will lead the National League in batting average.
Miguel Cabrera will bat .300-plus and hit at least 20 home runs.
Carlos Correa will rebound with at least a .280 batting average and 30 home runs.
Wade Miley will win 15 games.
Ryan Pressly will lead the majors in holds, post a sub-2 ERA and finish as the highest relief pitcher on the Player Rater who had fewer than five saves.
Jorge Soler will bat at least .260 with 25 home runs.
Kenley Jansen will set a new career high in saves, exceeding his 47 in 2016, en route to leading the majors in the category.
Joc Pederson will have at least 75 walks, a .350 on-base percentage and 30 home runs.
Keibert Ruiz will reach the majors before Aug. 1 and will have a greater impact in 2019 than Danny Jansen had in 2018.
Justin Bour will hit 30-plus home runs.
Lewis Brinson will have a 25/15 season, but let’s not talk about how ugly his batting average will look in the process.
It’ll take him some time to fully nail down the role, but Adam Conley will be the Miami Marlins closer to roster, leading the team in saves and finishing among the top 20 pure relief pitchers on our Player Rater. Conley will essentially be to 2019 what Brad Hand was to 2017.
The Marlins will place more pitchers among the Player Rater’s top 75 fantasy starting pitchers than will the Braves.
Ryan Braun will rebound to hit 30 home runs.
Corey Knebel will rebound to again finish among the top five relief pitchers on the Player Rater — he finished third at the position in 2017.
Willians Astudillo will lead all catcher-eligibles (minimum 250 plate appearances) in batting average while earning qualification at two infield positions in addition to his current catcher eligibility.
Byron Buxton will finally enjoy the 20-homer, 30-steal season that so many had predicted from him after he was made the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft.
Michael Conforto will hit at least 35 home runs.
Domingo German will enjoy a top-75 fantasy starting pitcher season.
Giancarlo Stanton will hit at least 50 home runs.
Jesus Luzardo will give Vladimir Guerrero Jr. a legitimate run for American League Rookie of the Year honors, thanks to a top-60 starting pitcher finish on our Player Rater.
Bryce Harper will appear in at least 150 games for only the third time and hit at least 40 home runs for only the second time in his big league career.
Aaron Nola will win the National League’s Cy Young Award.
Jameson Taillon will strike out at least 225 hitters.
Alex Reyes will finish the season the Cardinals’ closer, saving at least 10 games with a sub-3 ERA and at least 80 K’s in 60 innings.
Seeking to inject some offense into their wild-card-contending team, the Padres will promote Fernando Tatis Jr. on May 10, and he will promptly do enough despite the limited time to finish a close second for the National League’s Rookie of the Year award.
Steven Duggar will steal at least 25 bases while playing at least 140 games.
Domingo Santana will return to form as a top-40 fantasy outfielder.
Jose Alvarado will save at least 25 games and finish among the top 10 relief pitchers on the Player Rater.
Austin Meadows will break through in a big way, filling all five traditional Rotisserie categories on his way to a top-25 outfielder finish on the Player Rater.
Rougned Odor will rebound to close to his 2016 form, re-establishing himself as a top-five fantasy second baseman.
Ken Giles will save at least 40 games and finish as a top-10 relief pitcher on the Player Rater.
It’s the question everyone wants answered: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will make his major league debut on Monday, May 6.
Victor Robles will win the National League’s Rookie of the Year award behind a 15-homer, 30-steal campaign.