Let’s Go Crazy: Off-The-Wall 2018 Predictions
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson-USA Today Sports2018 American League MVP: Byron Buxton
As a 23-year old, Byron Buxton radically changed his swing while playing every day at the big league level. Say good-bye to his leg kick and say hello to a completely different player at the plate. In the second-half, he hit .300/.347/.546 with 11 home runs and 13 other extra-base hits. His speed also makes him a menace on the bases as he was successful in 29 of his 30 stolen base attempts. The only time he was thrown out, he beat the throw and overslid the bag. His defense was also the best in the league as he was at or near the top according to most advance metrics.
For Buxton to be in the consideration for MVP, he is going to have to continue to make strides on the offensive side of the ball. He needs to get better at pitch recognition so he can cut down on his high strikeout total. Buxton also needs to avoid injuries with his reckless pursuit of fly balls in the outfield.
Minnesota has the opportunity to be in the playoff hunt and Buxton has the chance to be the best overall player on the team. He might be a long shot for the 2018 AL MVP but he could be in the discussion if he makes some small improvements.
2018 American League All-Star: Jose Berrios
Minnesota bolstered its starting staff with the likes of Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi. Both pitchers helped to add depth to the rotation but neither is considered an ace. Jose Berrios has a chance to be the leader of the pitching staff this season and he could end up as a 2018 All-Star. His walk-rate shrunk from 5.4 BB/9 in 2016 to 3.0 BB/9 last season. He was also able to post a strong 8.6 K/9 strikeout rate because of his devastating sinker.
Berrios will need to improve away from Target Field this season. He made 15 road starts last season and scuffled to a 5.17 ERA because of 12 home runs allowed. His change-up was his least used pitch last season but mixing in more breaking pitches could help to increase his strikeout rate. He’s had plenty of success in the minor leagues and this season will be his opportunity to take the next step at baseball’s highest level.
It’s going to take a hot start to the season to get Berrios the recognition he will need to head to the Midsummer Classic.
2018 Gold Glove Winners: Byron Buxton, Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, and Max Kepler
Minnesota had multiple Gold Glove winners last season with Buxton and Dozier taking home the honor. Barring injury, Buxton should lead the planet in most defensive metrics. Dozier made quite the defensive turnaround in 2017 as he only trailed Ian Kinsler in SABR’s Defensive Index. With Dustin Pedroia injured to start the year, Dozier’s main competition might come from the 35-year old Kinsler and Jose Altuve, last year’s AL MVP.
Joe Mauer was robbed of being a Gold Glove finalist last season. He ranked as one of the top-3 AL first basemen according to SABR’s Defensive Index, while Eric Hosmer, the eventual winner, was ranked as the second worst. Max Kepler is going to have a tougher hill to climb. He ranked as the fifth best right fielder and Mookie Betts lapped the field. For Kepler to steal a Gold Glove, Betts would need to get injured or shift to a different position.
There you have some of my crazy predictions. Do you have any crazy predictions for 2018? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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