The 2021 regular season has concluded, and though October baseball is in full swing, it is time to look back at 2021 with a critical eye. From prospects and fringy long-shots to closer predictions and breakout candidates, Armchair Roto covered a lot. What follows is a quick hit on every piece ahead of and through the 2021 season that had a predictive element to it. I'll assign each piece a grade on the following scale:
Home Run ("A")
Brandon Lowe: In this article on Brandon Lowe (Oct. 30, 2020), I discussed Lowe's continued growth as a hitter and how it suggested another level. Though a bit overly optimistic on the batting average (projection: .272 BA), the power and counting stat breakout in Lowe's first full full-length season were very real. Scoring this one a Hit ("B").
Nomar Mazara: This analysis on Mazara (Oct. 31, 2020) hyped him as a good 400ish range pick in draft-and-hold formats: "Somewhere between a full-time and strong side platoon player, Detroit should give Mazara between 400 and 600 plate appearances, which makes 15 to 22 homeruns a realistic range of outcomes." Actual result: 3 home runs in 181 plate appearances. Strikeout ("F").
Rowdy Tellez: Rowdy was a popular late round target in 2021 drafts. In this article (Nov. 5, 2020), I discussed his growth as a hitter and projected 450 plate appearances with 27 homeruns and a .268 batting average. That power projection seems pretty silly now, driven largely by 2019, which is a clear outlier. Tellez hit only 11 homeruns in 2021 (326 PAs), but his batting average following the trade to Milwaukee was .272. Walk ("C").
Wander Franco: This Nov. 23 article on "Projecting Wander Franco" is easily the most read piece on Armchair Roto to date. The projection in that article (Projected: 350 PA, 51 R, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 5 SB, .298 BA) was nearly spot on (Actual: 308 PA, 53 R, 7 HR, 39 RBI, 2 SB, .288 BA). Finally, Home Run! ("A").
Carter Kieboom: As this December 1, 2020 article explains, all Kieboom needed was a real shot with consistent at-bats, right? He got that shot when Washington traded Trea Turner and he produced a .207/.301/.318 slash line. Seriously, the guy had a 10% walk rate with a .301 OBP. I'm somewhere between taking one last end-game shot and being all-the-way out. Whiff ("D").
Tarik Skubal: On December 22, 2020, this site declared that "Tarik Skubal's Breakout is Coming." While Skubal did not enjoy a full-blown breakout, he shaved more than a run off of his ERA (from 5.63 to 4.34) and, as predicted, he cut his walks and homeruns, and increased his groundball rate. He showed considerable growth, perhaps setting the stage for that full-blown breakout in 2022. Hit ("B").
Colin Moran: In this piece (Jan. 22, 2021), I popped the hood on Colin Moran and predicted power growth. Instead, Moran regressed in the power department and his mini-breakout in 2020 looks like an outlier. I still think he's a decent end-gamer in deep leagues for 2020 with a floor of 12 HR and a .250 BA, but for most leagues he's not draftable. This was a Whiff ("D").
Ka'ai Tom: Blaze Tom was a favorite of mine, and I took him the final rounds of 9 out of 15 NFBC Draft Champions leagues. In this (Feb. 7, 2021) deep dive, I urged Armchair Roto readers to do the same. Tom never got a chance to get going in Oakland, and he didn't do much with 117 plate appearances in Pittsburgh either. Even though the cost of taking this gamble was negligible, I'm grading this a Strikeout ("F"), especially given how deeply I invested in Tom shares. Note, however, that in September Tom signed a minor league deal with the Giants, so maybe Farhan Zaidi knows something we don't. I might grab a 50th round share or two in 2022 drafts.
Jesus Sanchez: In one of the most fun articles of 2021, "Praise Jesus" looked at Sanchez's Statcast data in his very small MLB sample from 2020. On the surface, Sanchez fell on his face, but his Statcast data showed near-elite power potential. It suggested that Sanchez was a strong candidate for fantasy in 2021 if he got another shot. And that is exactly what happened. In 251 plate appearances, Sanchez hit 14 home runs with a .251 batting average. His maximum exit velocity and hard hit rate were 113.9 mph and 42.7%, respectively, which are both good for top 50 in the league. Sanchez is the real deal. This was a Home Run ("A").
Demarcus Evans: With all of the uncertainty and instability surrounding the Texas bullpen heading into 2021, Demarcus Evans looked like a strong dark horse candidate to take over as closer by mid-season. He was coming off of two elite minor league seasons in which he saved a combined 21 games, followed by a brief but successful MLB debut in 2020. Injuries plagued Evans heading into and throughout 2021 and he only pitched 26.1 forgettable innings. Whiff ("D").
Victory laps are fun, but analysts should be equally forthcoming when they make predictions or recommendations that go wrong. I'm more than happy to own rostering Ka'ai Tom in nine leagues and recommending him to others. Sometimes you have to strike out if you want to hit a home run.
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