Nearly three weeks have passed since the start of the new MLB season. Majors teams are nearing their 20th game. What has happened in the 162-game schedule so far is not much. What's the point of saying this?
With this in mind, we asked the MLB experts to share their findings and create a prediction using this small sample. Two conditions were required: The prediction had to be bold and must be something they believe can happen.
Some of our predictors were very bold while others chose to be more conservative. So we ranked them from mild to spice. Here's what they chose.
Enjoy a mild walk
The Orioles will strike out more than any other team in MLB history
AJ Mass The Baltimore OriolesThe club already has nine players with double-digit strikeouts and will break the record for the most players on a team that has more than 100 whiffs in one season. They'll also be the first team to reach the 1,600-strikeout mark in a single season with the lowest average team batting in 162 games.
It's mild because: You predicted a major league record. That is bold. We all know two things going into the modern season of baseball: (1) There will be a lot more strikeout records than usual, and (2) Orioles will be very bad. While we appreciate your effort, we simply can't continue to go above that.
The AL Central is not won by the White Sox
Jesse Rogers: This is an excellent take. Although the White Sox were the best team in a division they won last year, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. April has allowed for the entry of other teams and I don't know who is going to win this division. While Minnesota, Cleveland, and Detroit all have a chance to challenge for the title, the Guardians could be the most likely. They have a veteran coach, which is more offense than many thought. Shane BieberIt's looking a lot like Shane Bieber from the past. The White Sox won't be able to overcome injuries this season.
It's mild because:When did we release? our predictions going into the MLB seasonOur 38 experts correctly predicted that the White Sox would win this month's AL Central. Four of our experts predicted the Twins. Now These are the peoplePeople were bold. Although we still appreciate your willingness and ability to make the call after 15 games of baseball, you did not choose who would win the White Sox. This took a lot off your prediction. This won't be our last White Sox hot take today, but we are confident.
Cody BellingerDodgers player of 5-WAR.
Alden Gonzalez:Although I don’t know if Cody Bellinger, the infamous pitcher who terrorized the game for most of the 2019 season will be seen again, I also don’t know if that is what we should do. Bellinger, the 2019 NL MVP, and amazingly one the worst hitters of the sport in 2021 will settle down into who he really is this year. He will be a high-impact player, who may look dominant at times and perhaps even lost at times. Two-homer, 2-strikeout Sunday afternoon was a great snapshot. In his first fifteen games, Bellinger scored four runs, stole three bases, and had a.915 OPS. He also recorded 20 strikeouts in just 60 at-bats. He is an elite player, with exceptional speed and defense at a high-value position. However, he also strikes out a lot. Dodgers will accept that.
It's mild because: We get it, Bellinger was really bad last season. He is also 26 years old and has won the NL MVP Award. This is in addition to the fact that Bellinger has had exactly the start that the Dodgers hoped he would, as you have mentioned. We don't know how much heat Belli becoming Belli again will actually generate.
It's heating up
Wander FrancoWill be the American League MVP
Bradford DoolittleI've seen enough proof to believe that he is a good prospect. He's almost impossible to believe that he can live up to his prospect 80-grade hit. But, he's so much more. He has power from both ends of the plate. Great defense. You have a flair to be dramatic. He's a clubhouse leader at the Rays. He is willing to battle through minor injuries to remain on the field. His superior performance delights his older teammates. Franco's stats are the first thing I glance at when I check the daily box scores.
Tristan Cockcroft:Brad is right here. Franco will be the sixth 21-year old (or younger) to have 200-plus hits or 300-plus total bases. This will make him the American League MVP Award winner.
It's got heat! OK, it is bold to expect a 21 year old in his first season of winning a major award. However, we have all seen Wander Franco in action and we are awestruck by his talent! Yes, we give you credit in predicting Franco will surpass the likes Mike Trout, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The reigning MVP Shohei OhtaniHere's the problem: This prediction is too bold if only two of you would make it.
Carlos RodonWill be the top signing in last offseason’s free-agent class
David Schoenfield:Carlos Rodon will be the most notable signing, as 11 free agents signed contracts worth at least $100m this offseason. In his three starts, Rodon has allowed just two runs across 17 innings. His 29 strikeouts are a career high and he only allowed eight hits. The most important thing is that his velocity has returned to full volume after his Tommy John surgery. He averages 96.4 mph. Rodon's changeup, which batters hit.367 on in 2021, was an issue for him, has been scrapped by the Giants. They have now shifted their focus to his fastball-slider combination. The Giants are willing to take a Cy Young-caliber year even if Rodon opts out after 2022. His two-year contract already looks great.
It's got heat! Everyone has their definition of hot. This one is definitely on the border between downright spicy. You mentioned 11 free agents signing $100 million deals last offseason. That list includes some of best players in the whole sport. Max Scherzer, Freddie Freeman, Carlos Correa Corey SeagerTo name just a few. Carlos Rodon, who had a 2.37 ERA, was in the top five in the AL Cy Young voting and is now in San Francisco. The Giants have made every starting pitcher they have touched into gold.
That's right, it's spicy!
The Astros will have a better shortstop than their old one
Eric Karabell Nothing against new Twins shortstop Carlos Correa, but new Astros shortstop Jeremy PenaPena will have a better season and bring more value to his team. Correa is still great, even though his start to the season has been rough at the plate. Pena, however, looks better, not just defensively (where he may be a legitimate Gold Glove nominee even as a rookie), but with his power. He scored the game-winning run and could be the top hitter in the team's lineup. Astros knew exactly what they were doing and trusted this crucial defensive position to someone without any big league experience.
Why it's so spicy Correa was No. Correa was the No. 1 free agent in a loaded category and is undoubtedly the best shortstop in all of baseball. Jeremy Pena on the other side has just 50 major league appearances. You are now ready to say that Pena will not only fill Correa's shoes this season in Houston, but that he will be even better than him. This is what we refer to as bringing the heat.
Tony La Russa won’t last the season at Chicago
Tim Keown: You can chalk this up to some recency bias — the White Sox are currently losing seven straight games — but La Russa won't be in Chicago for more than two seasons. Last season's White Sox team was not as successful. They lost in the division series, just like Rich Renteria's last year. A 6-9 start with a strong roster in baseball's weakest league doesn't bode well. Recently, he has made some head-scratching choices. Leury GarciaHe should not be ranked third in that lineup, in disobedience to both analytics and common-sense. His old-school explanations are that he wants to jump-start Garcia by hitting him in the front. Jose AbreuI have not done anything to help the cause.
Why it's so spicy La Russa was back in Chicago for one season, and the White Sox won that season's AL Central title. So, you're not saying it will be bad on the South Side. You're saying that things will change so fast that the White Sox have to change their direction before the end. This is, in a word: bold. It's in a spicier place on our list, so why is it there? We were impressed by the events of La Russa’s first year in Chicago. And the take-outs get even more spicier.
Byron Buxtonwill deliver one of the greatest seasons in MLB history
Jeff Passan: The 10-WAR mark is the gold standard for an outstanding season. According to FanGraphs, only eight position players have achieved it in the last 50 years. Barry Bonds has done it five times and Mike Trout twice. Mookie Betts, Rickey Henderson, Joe Morgan, Buster PoseyAlex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken Jr. were each once in a while. Byron Buxton, a Minnesota center fielder, will join the club for 2022. Buxton is not a Carolina Reaper because of his talent, but because of his difficulty staying on the field.
He has missed 203 games since 2019, which is a total of 400 for the Twins. Buxton has averaged an absurd.076 WAR/game over the past two seasons — higher than Mike Trout's (.069). Fernando Tatis Jr. (.056), Ronald Acuna Jr. (.052), Jose Ramirez(.045) Juan Soto (.044). Buxton will need to play just 132 games to reach the 10-win threshold at this pace. Buxton has missed six games this season because of a knee injury. He's only been there once before, and that was in 2017.
It's so hot! An indicator that this will finally be the year for Byron Buxton has been made. April tradition around here. Anyone who saw Buxton in action this season will be able to attest to his talent and what he can do when he's on it — the only question is how long he can stay on the field.
But, you did something different: You added a specific number to Buxton's season. Ten WAR! We checked Mike Trout’s two 10-WAR seasons. He played 157 and159 games. Buxton has missed one week of the season, however. You are not just predicting Buxton's health and good fortune, but you are also predicting who the best player in the history the sport will be from now until 2022. A Carolina Reaper indeed.
Mike Trout will become the first player in over two decades to record 60 homers per season.
Buster Olney: He is improving every year as his raw skills are fueled by an increased knowledge of how pitchers will work for him. Now that he has Angels protection, he'll be able to get more pitches. He showed signs of the future with his two-homer weekend. He's had four homers, three doubles and a.690 Slugging percentage in 2022. Barry Bonds was the player who reached the 60 milestone 21 years ago when he had 73 homers.
It's so hot! Did you say 60? You'd have us at 50, I think. Mike Trout has been the best player in MLB for a decade. He never reached more 45 runs in a single season. Let's be clear: Trout will turn 30 in the year that non-home runs are allowed. Will he hit 60 instead of 50? It is a wonderful thing! This spice is just what we need.
Are you sure that this heat can be handled?
Albert PujolsBabe Ruth passes Babe Ruth to the top of the all-time HR lists this season
Paul Hembekides: Albert Pujols has 681 career home runs. He is 15 away from A-Rod, and 33 away to the Babe. Although he may have looked tired a year back, he now has a.256/.305/.470 line of batting with 14 homers over 93 games since his release by the Angels. Early returns for this season show that he still has plenty of zing (90.4 mph average exit velocity), which is a significant improvement on the Cardinals' other DH choices (Corey Dickerson, Lars Nootbaar). We might just see The Machine chase down 714 if he gives us 400-500 at-bats.
It belongs in a different category than others: Do you want to know the three words that grab our attention fast? “Passes Babe Ruth.” Is this Byron Buxton's career year? This is very bold. Is Trout calling 60 home runs? This is quite spicy. It is hard to believe that Albert Pujols would surpass Babe Ruth on this year's all-time home run record. Literally, lava. We beg your pardon while we prepare to witness history.