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Ben Duronio’s 10 Bold Predictions for 2012

Everybody’s doing it! Scattered across the RotoGraphs pages are ten bold predictions by individual writers, so here are mine. Some of mine are out there, and I should get double if No. 2 hits. But I digress, here are my ten bold predictions for the 2012 season.

1. Colby Rasmus will be a top 15 outfielder. I wrote about Rasmus earlier this week, and feel strongly about his ability to bounce back. His average will never be too great, but Toronto is a great park for left-handed home runs (114 on StatCorner) and the Blue Jays finished eighth in the league in steals. A 30-20 season is possible for the 25-year-old.

2. Jayson Werth and Jason Bay both bounce back. Big contracts and lackluster results, that’s been the story for both of these NL East outfielders. I think that changes this year. Bay destroyed lefties last year, 156 wRC+, and I like him getting it together against righties this year. Werth had most of his power disappear, but he is just one year removed from a 146 wRC+ season. I think both finish with marks near 120 this year.

3. Matt Kemp does not even get a 30/30 season. He said he is shooting for 50/50, but he has only hit 30 home runs one time in his career. A great talent who stays on the field and has improved his approach at the plate, Kemp recorded his highest HR/FB rate and highest FB rate of his career. I think both of those numbers drop, leaving him with less than 30 home runs for the season.

4. Kelly Johnson will be a top 5 second baseman. Johnson has always been a streaky hitter, but he ran into some terrible luck last season. His xBABIP was .330 but his actual BABIP came in at .277. His BABIP in his tremendous 2010 season was .339, which shows that his .284 average that season is attainable with a normal level of luck. Still in a hitter’s ballpark and with a team that runs frequently, a 25-20 season is in reach.

5. Ian Kennedy does not reach 12 wins. Kennedy is a very good pitcher, but probably not as good as his ERA suggested last year. With some luck on home runs allowed, Kennedy managed to sport a 2.88 ERA despite a 3.50 xFIP. Pitching in a homer friendly ballpark, he should see his ERA climb and his wins decrease. He is being drafted by many due to the 20 win season, but I’m predicting that he won’t even reach 12 this season.

6. Mike Minor will be the best fantasy pitcher in Atlanta. Brandon Beachy and Tommy Hanson will give Minor a battle, but the young lefty was the only pitcher to top even 150 innings between the three (including minor leagues) last year. He is the team’s best bet for a 200 inning pitcher, and with some better luck on balls in play (.359 career mark) he should end up with an ERA in the low 3.00’s.

7. Madison Bumgarner will be the best pitcher in San Francisco. With Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum as the incumbent 1-2 punch, the 22-year-old left-hander will leapfrog both taking over the position of staff ace. The only three pitchers with a lower FIP in the majors last year were Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, and Cliff Lee. What a group. Cain was not far behind, but Bumgarner is only beginning to touch his near unlimited potential.

8. Matt Moore Will Be Better than David Price. Looking past his ERA, Price took a big step forward last year in bettering himself as a pitcher. His changeup became a great secondary offering, with both his strikeout and walk rates improving. Even with the improvements, Moore may actually already be the more talented pitcher.

9. Russell Martin has a better year than Alex Avila. Avila sported a .295 average last year behind a BABIP of .366, but his xBABIP sat at .326, pushing his xAVG at a less than stellar .267. In contrast, Russell Martin had a BABIP of .252 and an xBABIP of .318, which would have moved his .237 average all the way up to .288. The power is similar, and the averages should even out this year also.

10. Chris Iannetta puts it all together. The move from Coors Field to Angels Stadium is not a friendly one, but Iannetta has the tools at the plate to be a top tier offensive catcher. His power is exceptional as is his plate discipline, and with a season’s worth of plate appearances in LA he will finally reach his potential. He had an xOBP of .394, which is a big reason for me being bullish on him.