Fantasy is a speculative game. Predict the future, and you look like a genius. Don't, and you're painfully human. Gazing into the crystal ball, here's our view on nine intriguing over/unders entering spring training.
East Coast versus West Coast. Who finishes with more combined HRs/SBs: Bryce Harper or Yoenis Cespedes?
Brandon – CESPEDES. There's a lot to like about Cespedes' second half of '12, one in which he beat out Harper 24-22 in the HR+SB comparison.
Brad – CESPEDES. Everyone assumes Harper will launch into the stratosphere in short order, but who says Cespedes can't too? He's older, a more refined hitter and built like a Sherman tank. A .290-30-95-90-20 season isn't unattainable.
Scott – HARPER gets the check mark. I have no issues with Cespedes's skill, but let's consider he battled wrist, hand, thumb and hamstring problems last year. I feel safer predicting a full season of Harper.
With the training wheels expected to be removed, Stephen Strasburg innings pitched 195.0
Brandon – OVER. There were 21 pitchers who topped this number last season. No longer shackled to a silly IP limit, I think Strasburg will just make it over this mark in '13.
Brad – UNDER. The Nats front office claims there will be no restrictions placed on Strasburg, but secretly they probably don't want their treasured arm laboring over 200-plus innings. Thinking he finishes in the 190-193 IP range.
Scott– Put me down for UNDER, mostly because Strasburg is the type of pitcher who rings up pitch counts quickly (that's the baggage a lot of high-strikeout arms carry). But even 180 or 185 or 190 innings of Strasburg is going to be awfully good - and this year, we'll see him all September.
Though he’s slated to start the season at Triple-A, Billy Hamilton stolen bases with the Reds 49.5
Brad – OVER. Call me Mr. Optimistic, but the Reds will grow tired of Ryan Ludwick's inconsistent production and Choo's defense in center in short order, pushing Hamilton to the Majors by midseason. That happens and he eclipses the above number with ease.
Scott – I'm almost always going to go UNDER with any rookie hype (stop kicking me, Trout). And remember Hamilton still has to learn a new position; it's not like he's already outgrown the minors and has nothing left to prove or work on.
Andy – UNDER. This is crazy. It's going to take an injury (or injuries) to get Hamilton into the bigs in time to reach this total.
Chase Headley, who cracked 31 homers in a breakout season last year, long-balls in the follow-up 25.5
Scott – OVER for me. The average I'm less sold on, but the power passes the eyeball and secondary test, and obviously the park is becoming more fair (with the fences coming in *and* down).
Andy – OVER. Assuming good health, I think he gets there. The fences are coming in at Petco, which clearly helps the cause.
Dalton – UNDER. Headley had never hit more than 12 homers during a season in his career before hitting 19 over August and September last season. Maybe it's a sign of what's to come from the 28-year-old entering his prime, but he still has to deal with Petco Park, and it sure screams fluke (his GB% was actually a career high last year, while his FB% was a career low).
Fernando Rodney was a ninth-inning revelation last year, slamming the door 48 times. Saves in his second go round with the Rays 39.5
Andy – UNDER. Rodney could very well have another great season, yet still not hit this total. It's a big number. Mariano Rivera has only reached 40 saves twice in the past seven years, and he's as dominant a closer as we've ever seen.
Dalton – UNDER. Obviously last year's MLB record 0.60 ERA is unsustainable, regardless of the pitcher, but the fact it was Rodney, who hadn't posted a WHIP below 1.32 since 2006, made it all the more surprising. He has the benefit of a strong defense and a home pitcher's park, but natural regression and the fact it's tough for any reliever to record 40 saves has me fading this.
Brandon – UNDER. That's a big number, even for the most time-tested of the closer crop. That it's a one-year wonder who was an epic failure his previous two seasons makes it even sketchier.
Zack Greinke changed addresses this past off-season swapping Angels red for Dodger blue. Final ERA in LA 3.15
Dalton – OVER. Not that I'd be shocked if it happened, but Greinke has had an ERA under 3.44 once during his eight-year career. His peripherals are also typically stronger than his run prevention.
Brandon – OVER. I think he'll be close, but he always seems to go off the rails for two months of the season. You just can't count on him to stay locked in over the long haul, no matter how nice the pitching environment.
Brad – UNDER. The pressure is on for the former AL Cy Young winner, but I'm highly confident he'll excel in SoCal. It's a fantastic pitching environment and the threat of multiple complete game shutouts against the Padres are great.
Yu Darvish was brilliant down the stretch last season, sharpening his command greatly over the second half. WHIP in his second year 1.22
Brad – UNDER. Over the second half of 2012 the Yu Haul notched a 1.18 WHIP. With a year under his belt, he thrives in his second season. His vulnerability to free passes, seen early last year, is packed in cold storage.
Scott – OVER is the only way I can play this. Darvish had five months of nasty ratios, then one lights-out WHIP showing in September. Great for him. Batters make adjustments, too. And I hate paying for a major step forward that hasn't been shown before.
Andy – OVER. First of all, I absolutely love Darvish. Owned him in most leagues last season. But we're talking about a guy with a long professional track record, and the knock on has always been that he has a tendency to nibble, to pile up pitches unnecessarily. He walked 89 hitters in his first MLB season, and I don't expect that number to come down dramatically in year two. It's an issue, but you won't care as long as he's striking out 200-plus batters
Injury imp favorites Josh Hamilton and Troy Tulowitzki – who plays more games in 2013?
Scott – Although I hate to sidle up to the player at the attrition position, TULOWITZKI is also three years younger. Age is the deciding factor.
Andy – TULOWITZKI. He's a younger player with waaaay less mileage, plus he has a pair of 150-game seasons on the resume.
Dalton – TULOWITZKI. It's a coin flip. Tulo plays the more taxing position, but he's also younger. Considering their still relatively high costs, I doubt either ends up on any of my fantasy teams (the same can probably be said about Evan Longoria).
Rank ‘em: Justin Upton, B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward
Andy – JUSTIN, JASON, then BJ. I'm not going to fight you too hard if you want to flip Justin and Jason, but BJ really has to finish third. He hasn't hit better than .250 in any of the past four seasons. In any case, these guys should all fly off the draft board in the second and third rounds of mixed drafts.
Dalton – 1) Heyward 2) B.J. Upton 3) Justin Upton. Heyward has the biggest chance of making a huge leap, and while B.J. is older than his brother, he's going to the easier league and leaving an extreme pitcher's park, while Justin is leaving an extreme hitter's park. But it also wouldn't surprise if Justin finally had that top-five fantasy season many have expected for years now. I rank them all closely together.
Brandon – HEYWARD, JUSTIN, BJ. I'm going to be a heavy Heyward investor after a 27/21 campaign in his age 22/23 season. Justin is a close second, but the uncertainty that comes with a change of venue causes me enough pause to go with Heyward. BJ and his trusty .240 BA are persona non grata in my fantasy world.
Brad – BJ, JUSTIN, JASON. I'm clearly in the minority here, but elder Upton was sensational down the stretch last season. Yes, the batting average will hover around .250, but firmly entrenched in his power prime (Age 28), he's a 30/30 candiate. If he can somehow cut-back on the Ks, a .270 BA is achievable.
Scott – JUSTIN, JASON, then BOSSMAN JUNIOR. I'm willing to give Justin a pass for the thumb injury (never, ever mess with the thumb) but BJ's inconsistency is hard for me to deal with. Every time I've owned B.J. Upton, I've come to regret it in some way. I'll need the price to line up before I take the 2013 plunge.