2020 Bold Predictions

1) The Pittsburgh Pirates will have a top-five rotation.

The Pirates rotation has been talked about a lot this offseason. On Twitter, we recently did a poll as to who's everyone’s favorite pitcher is post 200 ADP. The final came down to two Pirates pitchers who were Joe Musgrove (the winner) and Mitch Keller. It seems like a lot of people are in on this rotation this year. So why in the top five? With a new philosophy in Pittsburgh, it seems like they will finally allow their pitchers to throw more breaking balls. This benefits all of their pitchers greatly.

Musgrove has a mediocre fastball but his slider, changeup, and curveball are all above average. In fact, all three produced an SwStr% of 17.3% or higher, a rather impressive feat. Mitch Keller is a young and upcoming arm who could potentially have one of the more lethal sliders in the game. In 2019 his slider produced a .200 batting average against, .089 ISO, .226 wOBA, and 26.8 SwStr%. Chris Archer is a pitcher everyone can’t seem to quit and this year might be the year to get behind him. In the second half, he made legit pitch mix changes and had a 3.29 FIP. In 2019 Archer’s breaking balls hit the edge of the zone 15.8% of the time which was 15th best amongst starters. He also had a 43.0 K% when doing so which was 5th best. While Trevor Williams is a boring name, in 2018 we produced a 3.11 ERA in over 170 innings of work. As for whether their fifth starter is Chad Kuhl or Steven Brault remains to be seen.

If Musgrove, Archer, and Keller put up sub-four ERA’s along with Trevor Williams potentially matching them, this rotation could become one of the best in the league.

2) Garrett Richards finishes 2020 ranked higher than Dinelson Lamet.

Let’s start with Lamet first, we all know the main issue with him is that he gives up hard contact. Did you know Lamet had a Command+ of 89? That was ranked 262nd in the league amongst all pitchers. In 2017 Lamet had a BB% of 11.1% and in 2019 he had a BB% of 9.6%, the league average was 8.5%. Simply put, control is a big issue. What about the high strikeout upside? Yes, it certainly is there but it will be an up and down roller coaster. Lamet has one pitch, his slider, albeit it is quite the pitch. In 2019 in over 500 throws it produced a 41.1 O-Swing%, 23.2 SwStr%, and 12.0 pVAL. Sure, it is clearly an amazing pitch but that is all he has. The wRC+ on his four-seam and sinker are both over 160. The batting average against both of those pitches is over .326. If he has no slider, he doesn’t have anything.

Now for Garrett Richards, while health is the main concern here I am clearly betting on him staying healthy. In 2018 Richards pitched 76.1 innings producing a 3.66 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, both better numbers than what Lamet put up in 73.0 innings last year. Richards has a really good slider/four-seam combination that he has always utilized well. He uses the four-seam to create strikes and the slider to create swing and misses (19.4 SwStr% in 2018). The main worry is his fastball velocity and we have to see if it can get back to the 96/97 MPH range. With Richards’ history of having two above-average pitches, plus a decent third offering with his curveball he could certainly out produce Lamet.

3) Bo Bichette will be a first-round draft pick in 2021.

Bichette is a player to be very excited about, in 2019 he produced a .311 average, 11 home runs, 32 runs, 21 RBI’s, and 4 stolen bases in 212 plate appearances. Just for fun, let’s prorate those numbers to about 600 plate appearances. His line turns into 33 home runs, 96 runs, 63 RBI’s, and 12 stolen bases all while hitting around .300. Pretty good for a first-year player.

Bichette’s plate discipline is slightly interesting as his O-Swing%, and SwStr% were above the league average. Funny enough though, his BB% was better than average at 6.6%. Hitting leadoff might hurt the RBI potential but he will be part of a young exciting lineup in Toronto. With a shortened season we could certainly see Bichette go on a hot streak for three months, produce in every category and become a first-round draft pick.

4) The Washington Nationals don’t make the playoffs.

The Nationals lost one of the most consistent players in their lineup in Anthony Rendon. The addition of Starlin Castro helps but doesn’t fully fill that void. My main concern is the rotation, not in skill but in health. Scherzer clearly has back issues and Strasburg has never been the poster boy for health. If those two shut down in a shortened season how can you expect a rotation of Corbin, Voth, Ross, Sanchez, and Fedde to carry the Nationals?