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As the good mathematician I am, I always get hung up on the thought “how can we define this?”. The idea of classifying something as one thing scares me because when you do that, you also classify it as not everything else. But enough about the demons inside my head, because you are here to see how wrong I’ll be at the end of the year when none of these pan out.

Also, if you are wondering “Is this a bold or a not-so-bold one?”, well, it is up to you to decide, because as the above paragraph clearly states, I could not. So here it is!

Teoscar Hernandez gets the AL triple crown.

I am embarrassed to say that I did not notice the great season Hernandez had, probably because he played next to Vladdy every single day and it took the focus off him. Well, no more. After my first article for SP Streamer I thought “hey, those are some nice numbers. How did I miss that?”. Now we are here to do a 180 and overhype this previously overlooked performance.

Hernandez finished 3rd in RBI (116), 18th in home runs (32), and 7th in batting average (.296). However, if his home games were played in Toronto we could have seen a different scenario. In Toronto his home run total would go to 37, putting him at 11th in this category and at least 121 RBIs, tying him with Jose Abreu for the league lead.

How can he get to number one in all of them, you ask?

The 29-year-old improved his K% to the lowest of his career at 24.9% while posting a 34.3% O-Swing%, the highest of his career. His BABIP went even higher than 2020, and he also had the best Z-Swing%, Z-Contact%, and Contact% of his career.

All of these numbers can show us that he is more aggressive. He is swinging at pitches inside the zone more. But he also got lucky with the .352 BABIP, some regression is expected since all of Fangraphs projections have his BABIP around .315. But, in this take, we say, who cares about projections?

In here we are hopeful. Hopeful he can improve his plate discipline even more since it is still not good. Hopeful that he can figure out his high GB% and send more of his batted balls into the air the same way his teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. did, and maybe, just maybe, he will have an incredible 2022 season leading to a triple crown!

Blake Snell bounce back to a top-five starting pitcher.

Once in college, I was arguing with my best friend if humans are more rational or irrational beings. “Why”, you ask? Because we had the time. It was a nice way of procrastinating instead of studying for calculus, algebra, or whatever test we had in the upcoming weeks, with the bonus of feeling like a smart person. We got to no conclusion at all. I argued that we are more rational, and he thought we were more often than not irrational beings.

Nowadays I am not so sure if it is possible to classify an entire species as one or the other, but it takes like this one that makes me think humans – or at least myself – are not that rational at all.

Blake Snell is good. He is not elite, with the exception of 2018. That year he pitched 180.2 IP with a 1.89 ERA, meaning he was incredible, and he did it often. That is what good pitchers do. Sometimes they get help from their defense or they get lucky – however it happens, they deliver good innings. Period. There are a bunch of good metrics to analyze a player, but they need to be good in reality. They cannot be just theoretically good.

2018 was also the year that I really got into fantasy baseball. Yes, I don’t have the track record of most writers/analysts, so I am still emotional about some guys, and Snell is one of them. The year I started following MLB more up close I saw him dominate the league. We can be as rational as we want, but we are still human beings and emotion is part of what we are, what we build, what we make, and so far occasionally once a month, what we write.

Most projections have Snell pitching around 28 starts with a 150 IP and a mid-to-high-3’s ERA. What excites me the most for this year is his second half from the 2021 season.

Period FB% FBv SL% SLv CB% CBv CH% CHv
First half 48.9% 95.4 20.2% 87.3 14.8% 79.5 16.1% 88.6
Second Half 56.9% 95.0 29.9% 86.0 11.2% 79.7 0.2% 85.8

Just half of a season is a small sample size for most numbers, but here we are talking about the approach. Snell shifted to a slider-heavy approach and almost no changeups, which is great because his slider and changeup were his best and worst pitches respectively by pretty much every metric there is.

As a strike-out pitcher, Snell had his money pitch as the curveball until last year. His put-away percentage dropped significantly all the way to 21.9% on the curveball, so he had to find a way to improve his game.

First Half SDP 3 3 16 16 70.1 11.90 5.63 1.28 .324 4.99 4.34 0.8
Second Half SDP 4 3 11 11 58.1 11.88 3.86 0.93 .246 3.24 3.20 1.4

From one small sample size to another, Snell got better. His ERA dropped 1.75 runs, the BABIP dropped almost 60 points and he even threw more innings per start. All of that was done with an approach change: fewer change-ups – who were getting crushed – and an increase in sliders and fastballs. That is it.

Betting that an injury-prone player will succeed is always a gamble. To gamble that this is enough is kind of insane – or emotional as I mentioned previously. However, I like this new approach from Snell very much; if he can get the curveball working as well, and deliver this approach for a full season of work, I believe he can have a 2018-like performance, and we can simply just enjoy what a dominant southpaw can do on the mound.

Ha-Seong Kim breaks out.

Two predictions down. Now it is time for some Asian love (or bias), don’t you think?

But, believe it or not, this is the one I find least bold of them all, and this is a guy with only 298 plate appearances last year, with a slash line of .202/.270/.352 and a wRC+ of 70. How are we going to squeeze a breakout out of these numbers?

Well, Kim is also the guy who has been playing professional baseball ever since he was 18 years old. His first full season was at 19 where he already had a 113 wRC+ according to Fangraphs.

2014 넥센 KBO 18 60 59 2 17 7 4 13.6% 22.0% 208 206 188 298 396 310 66
2015 넥센 KBO 19 140 582 19 89 73 22 9.6% 19.8% 200 337 290 362 489 374 113
2016 넥센 KBO 20 144 599 20 92 84 28 10.0% 13.4% 196 297 281 358 477 370 105
2017 넥센 KBO 21 141 601 23 90 114 16 9.7% 10.8% 211 306 302 376 513 386 123
2018 넥센 KBO 22 129 576 20 95 84 8 9.4% 14.1% 186 306 288 358 474 361 106
2019 키움 KBO 23 139 625 19 112 104 33 11.2% 12.8% 183 328 307 389 491 399 143
2020 키움 KBO 24 138 622 30 111 109 21 12.1% 10.9% 218 304 306 397 523 411 141
2021 SDP MLB 25 117 298 8 27 34 6 7.4% 23.8% 150 241 202 270 352 270 265 70 1.4 -9.9 6.0 0.6

I remember the art promoting Kim’s arrival to the MLB with some of his stats from KBO.

I also remember thinking “Oh my, these are some elite hitter stats”. And then I watched this possible fascinating middle-infielder working as a platoon player – I know it was with Tatis, but come on, it still hurts, people.

According to Fangraphs roster projections, Kim is not even in the starting lineup. In order for a breakout, the guy needs to play! And I believe he will.

I don’t buy that last year showed what kind of hitter Kim is going to be throughout his major league career. He had his absolute worst K% and BB% of his 8-year professional career. I also don’t buy that San Diego will keep an above-average defender on the bench for long. The way I see it, they move Tatis to the outfield, and Kim and Cronenworth will split the middle of the infield among them.

And I know. It is not fair to compare his production to the KBO and expect the same in MLB but come on, last year was awful for a guy with his KBO caliber. I am not expecting this guy to deliver 30-20 HR-SB season, as he did on KBO, but he has shown that South Korea may be too small for his full potential.

All that said, Kim is my go-to breakout potential for the season. He is capable of delivering a solid season with the bat and he has an 8-year career in professional baseball to prove that. If he can get the at-bats, I believe he will show us the player he was in Korea and amaze us alongside a solid crew in San Diego.

Los Angeles Angels win it all.

A team with the two best active players should not go unnoticed one more year. I believe it is time for us to say that enough is enough.

The offense is there, and it is scary when healthy. Ohtani, Trout, Rendon, and Walsh. All of whom Steamer projects for a wRC+ above 120, with Rendon only projected to play 133 games. We know what kind of hitter they all can be, and if they play the script they should, Angels’ fans are going to have a lot of fun watching those games.

Behind those guys, we have two potential breakouts in Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh. The projections are not kind to them, with all of them placing them as below-average players based on wRC+.

Adell appears to be still figuring out his approach in the majors. He got his K% way down from 41% to 22.9%, but he only has a handful of PA, which is not really reliable. However, by combining his triple-A stats with the majors last season, Adell got a total of 27 HR and 10 SB – a good sign of what we can expect. If we can stay away from his debut performance that is not even worth mentioning, Adell can, and hopefully will be, one of the centerpieces for this prediction.

In the second possible breakout, we have Brandon Marsh. Scheduled to debut in 2020, but postponed to 2021 due to injuries, Marsh is another name on the Angels roster that we need to succeed for this prediction to come true. Steamer projects him as the starting center fielder for the Halos – moving Trout to left field. Unlike Adell, Marsh brings his value through his defense. But that is not it. A sprint speed on the 95th percentile and a .403 BABIP indicates a possible path for his hitting approach. Put the ball in play and let’s see what happens. If he can access his raw power consistently, well, that is a plus. If not, a .400 plus BABIP looks really nice as well.

Now the painful part: Pitching.

On Steamer’s projections, no starter has an ERA lower than 3.5 or a WHIP lower than 1.2. How am I supposed to feed my family with these numbers?

Well, we can hope for the best – and maybe get prepared for the worst if you are an Angels fan.

Also on Steamer’s projections, we have Ohtani and Syndergaard pitching 160 plus innings. That is amazing (although it sounds like a lot of innings). One of the best hitters on the roster and a guy coming off of Tommy John? Yes, please!

We all saw what Ohtani can do in 2021 – 130 innings with a 3.18 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. I would love to see him pitch 160, especially if he is followed by an SP2 who can possibly perform as a 2018 Syndergaard? Ok, maybe that is too much. But we know that both of them can and have performed at high levels. Why not all together?

And if we are really hoping, I have one last guy for you. It is the Irish panda, Patrick Sandoval!

One of the best changeups thrown last year belongs to this man. He got an entire article on Pitcher List to check if he is legit or not, and it is impressive as hell! He improved in pretty much every aspect of his game, earning his spot in the rotation by the end of the year, and this was a guy who wasn’t even in the Angels opening day roster.

If he can pick up this year’s performance where he ended last year, I believe he can take this rotation to another level.

Now, “Is that enough?” or “what are you talking about, man?” you are for sure asking yourself because three different voices inside my head did ask those same questions.

In my honest opinion, I believe it is, and for one simple fact. The 2021 Seattle Mariners.

The 2021 Seattle Mariners had a run differential of -51. The Toronto Blue Jays who were neck and neck with the Mariners until the very end of last year, finished with a +183 run differential.

They have shown us that you can have a playoff run, even if you are not really good throughout the entire season. And in the playoffs, they have guys who can deliver performances to lead the team to the World Series. Shohei, Trout, Rendon, Iglesias and Syndergard. All of them can have major impacts on a playoff run. All we need is to get to October baseball and see/hope for some magic.

Will Teoscar get the triple crown? Is Snell’s new approach enough for him to not only bounce back but be dominant again? Is Ha-Seong Kim’s numbers from KBO legit? Can the Angels improve in every aspect of the game and get to the playoffs? I have absolutely no idea whatsoever. However, these are fun takes to make us think twice when we watch these performances unroll through the season. So all we need to do is what Seattle did in late September last year.

Mariners playoff push tied to 'Ted Lasso' catchphrase

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