Well, it’s that time of year again. It’s time for all of the baseball lovers to unleash their bold predictions about the upcoming season. Bold predictions are fun because they will yield the most extreme feedback. When a baseball fans gives his bold predictions in the spring, he will either look like a genius or a moron. He will either say, “I told you so!” or have to endure the verbal abuse from his baseball peers for the entire offseason. Last year, I had mixed results. Although I never wrote an official White Sox piece for Midway Madness, I was convinced that Jeff Samardzija would have a great year. I even went as far as to say that he would win more games than Jake Arrieta.
Ok, thank you. Well yeah, I didn’t exactly peg that one, but I did have a few noteworthy predictions outside of the Sox realm. I can prove some of them here.
All in all, the fun thing about making predictions about a Major League Baseball season is that no one really knows what will unfold throughout the 162-game grind. Baseball writers don’t have the luxury of football writers. Without further ado, here are some bold predictions for the 2016 White Sox season.
1. Carlos Rodon will win 15 games
When I analyze how I think a player will perform in an upcoming season, I usually look back at how they finished the previous one. Momentum plays a huge role in sports; and if a baseball player has a good August and September, you know he will be headed into the following April with a head of steam. Carlos Rodon’s first 15 starts in the big league last year weren’t anything to write home about. He went 4-4 with a 5.17 ERA in his first 15 starts with a K:BB ratio worse than 2:1. Then, something clicked. In his final 8 starts, he went 5-2 with a 1.81 ERA and also improved his K:BB ratio a bit. Combining my “momentum” theory with the fact that he is super-talented and the Sox think higher of him than they did of a young Chris Sale, I see 2016 as Rodon’s breakthrough year.
2. Avisail Garcia will start living up to the hype
It was no secret during this past offseason that Avisail Garcia was a very bad player in 2015. I noted a couple months ago that fangraphs.com evaluated him as the worst full-time outfield in the game last year.
But it appears that all of the negativity made an impact on him this winter. He showed up to spring training 25 lbs lighter and with some changes to his swing. As a result, he finished Spring Training with a team-high 17 RBI and an OPS north of 1.000. It feels like he has been around for a while, but he is still just 24 years old and 2015 was his first full season in the big leagues. Something is telling me the time is now for him to turn into a very good ballplayer.
3. Carson Fulmer will take the fast track to the big leagues
Last year, the White Sox were so desperate for starting pitching help, that they called up Carlos Rodon from AAA just a couple weeks into the season; and by May, he was already in the team’s starting rotation. I don’t Carson Fulmer arrives faster than Rodon did last year, but I also don’t think it will take him much longer. I’ll give it until the All Star break. The Sox currently don’t have any promising right-handed options in their starting rotation, and that will play a role in how long they want to develop Fulmer in the minors. Matt Latos will begin the year as the team’s lone righty in the rotation. I’m not saying Latos will be another Samardzija, but he’s yet to give reasons for anyone to be confident that he will have a good season. Last year, he battled injury for most of the year. This spring, he gave up 18 hits and 12 earned runs in just 8.2 innings. My bold prediction is that we see Fulmer make a push for the rotation by mid-summer.
4. We’ll see Matt Davidson before Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson is the organization’s #1 prospect. There’s no doubting that. He has elite speed, and is thought to be a player who can hit for average and also drive the ball out of the ballpark from time to time. But Matt Davidson was the most impressive prospect this spring. Davidson, whose career was in a downward spiral, suddenly rediscovered the swing that made him a 1st round draft pick in 2009. After hitting a team-high .413 this spring with 5 home runs, Davidson nearly broke camp with the team. It is thought that the Sox would like to see Davidson continue this hot streak a little longer before they promote him to the big leagues. The same can be said for Anderson, who had 5 hits in 17 Cactus League at bats (.294). Since Anderson is only 22 years old, and the Sox already have two natural shortstops on the roster in Rollins and Saladino, his quickest road to the Majors in 2016 is probably earning a call-up in September when rosters expand. Davidson, however, just turned 25 and might be on the verge of reaching his potential. He won’t be playing much 3rd base with Todd Frazier on the team, but I’m sure that Robin Ventura would love to have Davidson’s bat in the lineup at some point this year if he continues his hot hitting.
5. Alex Avila will flop
I wasn’t a big fan of this signing when it happened, and I’m still not a big fan of it. During the offseason months, I was able to cope with the signing by repeating, “At least he’s not Tyler Flowers.” in my head over and over again. But once the season begins and Avila is as bad as I think he’s going to be, I won’t be able to cope so easily. After 5 consecutive years of sitting through miserable at bats from Adam Dunn and Adam LaRoche, I was hoping to be done watching lefties who strike out at an alarming rate and can’t hit the ball to the opposite field. I guess I’m in for at least one more year of it. Can someone draft a catcher next year please?
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