5 Bold Fantasy Baseball Predictions for 2016

Not everything goes as planned. Here are five things that may surprise fantasy baseball owners in 2016.

I'm about to write some checks my body probably can't cash.

That's right. It's time to make some bold predictions for the 2016 season. These are predictions, however, rooted in the numbers. These are five things that, if you step back and take a look, make a lot of sense.

With less than just one week left until baseball games start counting for real, here are five bold predictions for the 2016 season.

Todd Frazier Is Going to Struggle

Todd Frazier was on a serious roll after winning a breathtaking home run derby last year, capping off a fantastic first half in which he was clearly one of the best third basemen in baseball.

Then, the second half happened.

Split PA wOBA wRC+ HR
1st Half 374 .389 146 25
2nd Half 304 .285 75 10

Did the home run derby foul him up? It's been known to happen to some players, but it's not a strict quid pro quo. And it's also important to note that Frazier suffered a similar tail-off in the second half of 2014, too, losing 146 points off his OPS. Last year, his OPS was down 258 points after the break.

While Frazier has a history of being a very good player and has consistently provided steals and power, it's fair to wonder if he'll ever be able to sustain it over a full season. And, heaven help him if he gets off to a slow start, in a new league, facing brand new pitchers.

Jerad Eickhoff Will Be a Better Fantasy Option Than Aaron Nola

Most people believe Aaron Nola is the best starting pitcher on Philadelphia's starting staff, and this assessment is probably correct. He will likely have the best overall season of any Philadelphia starter. But in terms of fantasy baseball, it's entirely possible Jerad Eickhoff will be the pitcher you most want on your roster.

Nola is not a strikeout pitcher -- it ain't his thing. Eickhoff, however, has shown the ability to generate a lot of swings and misses so far in his career. Of course, neither pitcher has a long resume.

Pitcher IP ERA K/9 BB/9
Aaron Nola 77.2 3.59 7.88 2.20
Jerad Eickhoff 51.0 2.65 8.65 2.29

The numbers above are based off of last year's MLB statistics, with each pitcher getting just a handful of starts with the Phils. Nola started 13 games while Eickhoff started eight. However, Nola pitches more to contact and doesn't have a swing-and-miss fastball. He relies on pinpoint control. He also doesn't have a wipe-out pitch like Eickhoff's curveball, on display in his last time out this spring against the Red Sox.

While Nola should be going before Eickhoff in your drafts, Eickhoff may end up being the better fantasy pitcher based on his ability to generate more strikeouts.

Starlin Castro Will Be an All-Star

This may turn out to be a really dumb bold prediction, but if it wasn't, it wouldn't be bold, would it? 

At one point in his career, Starlin Castro was one of the better shortstops in baseball, although there have always been questions about his work ethic and hustle on the field. But after wearing out his welcome with the Cubs and getting squeezed out by the young guns the club had coming up through the ranks, Castro was dealt to the New York Yankees this offseason, where he will be the team's everyday second baseman.

Castro was mostly terrible last year at shortstop. However, the light seemed to click on when he made the transition to second full-time.

Split PA wOBA wRC+ OPS
2nd Base 121 .397 154 .941
Shortstop 443 .259 59 .597

Castro still hits too many ground balls, but it's easy to forget he's still just 26 years old and entering the prime of his career. He's also entering a new situation in New York, so one would think motivation won't be an issue.

I see a return to prominence for Castro in 2016, where he will be one of the three or four best second basemen in the American League.

Jeff Samardzija Is Going to Struggle

I know many people are buying into a bounce-back season for Jeff Samardzija. But I'm not one of them.

There is no other word to describe his 2015 season other than horrendous. OK, maybe craptastic would work too. Any way you say it, it was just plain ol' bad. But if you look at his other seasons, you see a pitcher who, 2014 aside, hasn't exactly been lights out.

2012 28 174.2 9.27 3.81 3.55 2.7
2013 33 213.2 9.01 4.34 3.77 2.7
2014 33 219.2 8.28 2.99 3.20 4.1
2015 32 214 6.86 4.96 4.23 2.7

Samardzija's strikeout rate has declined four straight years, cratering last year to just 6.86 batters per nine innings. He gave up more hits and runs than any other starting pitcher last year, and if you look back at his 2012 and 2013 seasons, you see a pitcher who was decent but not elite. 

His 2.7 fWAR in 2012 was tied for 36th among qualified starters with Matt Moore, Homer Bailey and Chris Capuana. His 2.7 fWAR in 2013 was tied for 42nd with Andrew Cashner, Travis Wood and Bud Norris

Yes, he was an ace-level starter in 2014, but it is the only season of his career in which he was that kind of pitcher. And now that he's 31 years old with three straight seasons well over 200 innings on his arm, I have a hard time seeing a big season from Samardzija for the Giants.

Justin Verlander Returns to Dominance

One bounce-back starter I am buying is Detroit's Justin Verlander. After missing the team's first 61 games due to a triceps strain, he didn’t make his first start until June 13. And things didn't go so well at first. But after he got his sea legs under him, he was more like the old Justin Verlander. 

Split IP K/9 ERA FIP
1st 6 starts 34 5.82 6.62 6.13
Final 15 starts 103 8.30 2.80 2.81

Batters in the second half batted .216/.259/.327 against him, and for the first time in his career, Verlander actually looked at scouting reports of his opponents. 

It worked, and if you don't believe the numbers, just look at this filth.

It was like that the entire second half.

So, buy Justin Verlander's resurgence as one of the best starting pitchers in the American League in 2016.