Brandon Warne’s 10 Bold Predictions

1. Cliff Pennington will be a top-five AL SS.

Pennington was a line drive machine last season, finishing sixth among all qualified hitters in both leagues with a 24.8 percent rate. The season before, Pennington still checked in at a solid 21.5 percent, which would suggest ‘11 wasn’t a total aberration. Thus, coinciding with his excellent plate discipline in the minors (nearly 1:1 K/BB rate), Pennington would seem to have a solid chance to improve quite a bit on his .302 wOBA in ‘11, especially if he can start using his non-line drive powers for good (as in, more grounders).

2. Anibal Sanchez will be the best roto starter in Miami (and best outright).

I’ve heard rumblings that the new park could be Petco East, but even before that I loved Sanchez’ potential. Last season, Sanchez induced almost 45 percent ground balls while fanning more than a hitter per inning (24.3 percent overall). However, it only resulted in an 8-9 campaign and a good, but not necessarily shiny 3.67 ERA. The durability is already there (two straight seasons of ~195 IP), so if he can normalize his HR rate a bit towards his career marks, there should be no reason he doesn’t win 15-plus games.

3. Scott Baker will be a top 10-15 starter in the American League.

My affinity for Baker is already well-documented, but I’m also not high on the AL Central as a whole this year — expect Chicago and Cleveland to take steps back — and even when he faces a loaded Detroit lineup, he’ll either be doing it in his extremely accommodating home digs (2.34 career ERA at Target Field, 45.0 percent career FB rate), or at an also-helpful Comerica Park (88/108 park factor via StatCorner). Durability will be key here.

4. Tyler Flowers will assume the starting catcher duties in Chicago, and be a viable fantasy catcher down the stretch.

A.J. Pierzysnki holds 10-5 rights in Chicago, but I foresee a rebuilding year on the south side, and think that A.J. will waive those rights to go to a contender at some point this summer (how about another veteran catcher to block Devin Mesoraco, Mr. Baker?). I don’t know that Flowers, at his size, can stick behind the plate, but I think he could be good for 10 or so home runs, a palpable batting average, and plenty of opportunity.

5. Mike Adams will take the closer’s role from Joe Nathan, and sign a long-term extension in Texas as a result.

Adams is already the superior pitcher, but I just didn’t see quite enough from Nathan last season to feel like I’m completely confident he’ll return to his old 10-12 K/9 ways, which I think Adams can provide. Certainly Nathan doesn’t have to get back to those to be an effective late-inning hurler, but to close on arguably the best team in the junior circuit, he’ll probably have to come close. Maybe it’s just society, but more likely it’s just the fact that Nathan is entering his age-37 season, and that arm surgery didn’t do him any favors. Adams was downright scintillating last season (with an ungodly 0.79 WHIP), and might reverse course on not signing an extension in Texas if the club is willing to give him a longer commitment with the closer’s role attached.

6. Jason Kubel will pound 30 home runs, and still not be much more than a 1.5-2.0 win player.

Chase Field was built for Kubel, who has sputtered in two seasons after the Twins moved to Target Field, which was one of the league’s worst run environments the past couple seasons. Take a look at these extra base hit park factors for Chase for lefties: 115-172-114 (2B-3B-HR respectively). Target Field, on the other hand, is a 91 for home runs (nine percent suppression below average). Provided Kubel can stay healthy, and fend of Gerardo Parra in left, there’s a good chance Kubel could return to the player he was back in 2009. That’s a player who had a 907 OPS, but was still only worth 2.7 wins because he was able to be shielded in the DH role for 82 of the 146 games in which he appeared.

7. The Cincinnati Reds will win the NL Central by 10-plus games.

For a fantasy spin on this one — it is RotoGraphs after all — I really think Jay Bruce takes the next step and becomes a superstar, and that Zack Cosart is a revelation at shortstop for the club. Mat Latos, despite moving to a much less accommodating park, will still be an awesome pick by virtue of his strikeout potential, and I’m expecting continued growth out of Homer Bailey in ‘12 as well (love that 3.2 K/BB rate). On the team side, I don’t trust the Brewers to be as good as last year — for obvious reasons — and I think the Cardinals will still be very good, but just not quite good enough to know off this rising group in Cincy.

8. The Cleveland Indians will regress considerably in 2012.

Let’s face it, Asdrubal Cabrera was a mirage in the second half, and the rest of the infield is in its first full year, or is ground ball machine Casey Kotchman, who is one year removed from the historically-bad Seattle Mariners giving up on him. Think about that for a second. The outfield is a mess, where only Shin-Soo Choo is really any good, and even he’s coming off a down season. The pitching staff is way too contact dependent for how defensively defunct this club is, and the bullpen is one Chris Perez implosion (check his K rates) away from being completely in flux. They were outscored by nearly 60 runs last year, and still almost finished .500. I’d bet they win closer to 70 than 90 this year.

9. The Colorado Rockies will finish in fourth place in the NL West.

They got older, but they didn’t get better. Michael Cuddyer can’t field, can’t hit righties, and is headed into his mid-30s, and still got more money than a superior hitter in Josh Willingham, and was signed in favor of Seth Smith, a comparable player with reverse splits. Jeremy Guthrie, at least to me, has always profiled as the kind of guy that was always worth more to the Orioles than he was to anyone else; he doesn’t strike anyone out, doesn’t really stand out as a ground ball or fly ball pitcher, and has a career FIP of 4.68. To me, this offseason was about spending money just to do it, and the Rockies failed miserably.

10. The Washington Nationals will win the NL East, and at least one playoff game.

What can I say? I love the rotation, love the back of the ‘pen, and can really envision the offense rounding out into a more-than-capable group. This is the one I’d feel least confident about, but each time I study it, I love it a bit more. Go find a centerfielder!

Bonus – Huston Street will be the best closer in the NL West. Those rates in that ballpark? YES PLEASE.

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In addition to Rotographs, Warne is a former Minnesota Twins beat writer for 1500 ESPN Twin Cities, and current sportswriter for Sports Data LLC in downtown Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Warne, or feel free to email him to do podcasts or for any old reason at brandon.r.warne@gmail-dot-com

40 Responses to “Brandon Warne’s 10 Bold Predictions”

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  1. SecondHandStore says:

    Reds by TEN games??? Not only will that not happen this year, it will never happen, ever.

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    • That makes it bold then, I think.

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    • stan says:

      It would be bold enough to predict that the Reds would win the division. There’s probably only a 1/5 chance of that given that the Cards are big favorites. However, to predict that the Reds will win by 10 is just nuts. You’re basically predicting that they’ll win 100 games because either the Cards or Brewers are a lock to win 90.
      Not only that, but Cozart, Bruce, Rolen, Mesoraco and Latos are all going to have to come through just for them to have a chance in the division. If ALL of those guys don’t come through, you’re looking at a pretty bad team. Heck, Arroyo is pitching every 5th day, Cueto isn’t a lock to repeat his performance and Leake and Bailey aren’t locks to be even decent. They’re rotation is suspect at best.

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      • I don’t disagree, I just wanted at least one to really stand out.

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      • Jonathan says:

        “You’re basically predicting that they’ll win 100 games because either the Cards or Brewers are a lock to win 90.”

        Brewers maybe, but calling the Cardinals a “lock” to win 90 games is a bit of a stretch. They lost the consensus best position player the game’s seen over the last decade and they only managed ninety wins last year. Sure they’re getting Wainright back and adding in Beltran, but the former is coming off of major surgery and the latter hasn’t topped 145 games in the last three seasons. Not to mention the losses of TLR and Dave Duncan (And I doubt you could find a Cardinal fan who isn’t at least a little concerned with Duncan taking time off). 90 wins is certainly within the realm of possibility, but 85 wins is just as likely. Calling them anything approaching a lock is at least as bold as saying the Reds will top the Brewers by ten games (Something that would’ve been more in the realm of possibility had the prediction been made before Braun’s suspension was overturned)..

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  2. Kevin says:

    Yeah bold is saying they will win the Central at all! But for what it is worth:

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  3. Al Damlo says:

    1. I love Pennington’s game – defensive range is +, arm is ++ … he just lacks discipline and an inability to consistantly hit righties.
    2. Ick
    3. Just stay healthy – he lacks that physical ability to endure. Has the make-up to be a very good AL pitcher.
    4. Yep
    5. Yep
    6. He never hit 30 in the dome … I see platoons and late inning substitutions for him coming his way… cut your guess in half.
    7. There isn’t much talent in the central this year – except the Reds. I can see that too.
    8. I love the young kids in Cleveland and that bullpen has some dirty… dirty arms in it.
    9. Oh Brandon… Rockies win the NL.
    10. They have a CF – his name is Bryce Harper… I know they are positioning him to the corner but up the middle is where he will maximize his value. Love the Nats in ’12

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    • SecondHandStore says:

      Guys, I know it’s hard to look past Fielder’s departure, but the Crew is better this year despite the loss. Ramirez+Gamel>Fielder+McGehee, also the infield defense is significantly better. The bullpen is better. The starting pitching seems to be the same, except Greinke won’t start the season in May coming off an injury and pitching major league games as if though they were his spring training warm-ups. Also, Greinke, Marcum, and essentially Wolf are pitching in contract years if you believe in that.

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      • SecondHandStore says:

        Let me slightly tweak that, I meant to write Ramirez+Gonzalez+Gamel> Fielder+Betancourt+McGehee.

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      • Cookierojas16 says:

        Gonna take a few more tweaks to make that a valid claim. I do like the Brewers’ pitching, though.

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      • If it wasn’t bold, it would be obvious. I like the Brewers’ pitching too.

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      • stan says:

        I get what you’re saying about McGehee, but you can’t assume that Gamel (or even Green) are going to be even league average either, and Fielder is pretty darn good… To me, Fielder >>Ramirez + Gamel by himself.

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  4. The A Team says:


    RE #4: I have never before experienced a batting average that is palpable. Might Flowers be the first to provide an average so unique that it can be experienced through the sensation of touch? Possibly, but highly unlikely. I will say, that is a bold choice indeed.

    Personally, I expect Flower’s average to be palatable.

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  5. jon says:

    This was my favorite top 10 bold predictions. They were actually bold but not insane (as in i wouldn’t bet on them, but I also could see them happening)

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  6. Sam Samson says:

    My bold prediction is that Brandon Warne will get more bold predictions right than Chad Young and Michael Barr put together.

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  7. Todd says:

    The last time a team won the NL Central by 10+ games was the ’04-’05 Cardinals, who won 100 and 105 games and were generally ridiculous. The last time the Reds won 100 games was the Big Red Machine of the mid-70s. Predicting the Reds to do that kind of thing is bold in a silly way. The odds are just incredibly low. If you said “Reds will win the Central comfortably”, you’d stand a fighting chance of being right, while still being bold (on account of, yeah right =P). As it is, forget it.

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      • jerbear1985 says:

        I understand the idea of a bold prediction, but I can’t get behind the Red’s either, mostly because Dusty ruins almost any pitcher he comes across and I’m not a big believer in their pitching anyways (besides Marshall/Madson). They’ll be in the race but it would take a plague for them to win the division by that much.

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      • KDL says:

        I’m no Dusty Baker fan. (I was glad to see him, his star-coddling, and horrible offensive approach leave Chicago.) But really?
        What pitchers did he burn out in SF? Who has he messed up in Cincy? Or another way…name any pitchers he is responsible for ruining. I’ll get you started. Wood and Prior…what’s your next move?

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      • jpg says:

        Seriously? Jason Schmidt, Aaron Harang, Russ Ortiz and that’s just off the top of my head. I’m too lazy to link stuff but Dusty’s questionable usage of pitchers is pretty well chronicled.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        jerbear, a plague such as Carpenter, Berkman, Furcal, and Beltran being old and maybe falling off a cliff/getting hurt? I don’t know if the Reds will win the Central by 10, but I can see them beating the Cards by 10.

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  8. bstar says:

    So, Brandon, what are you suggesting is not going to happen with the Braves, Phillies, or even the Marlins for them to not finish ahead of the Nats?

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  9. Brian says:

    The Reds could have the best lineup in the NL, and theyre pitching is solid. It is not unreasonable to expect Latos, Cueto and Leake (his numbers were very good for a second year pitcher) all to get better, with Arroyo there to eat innings and Chapman waiting in the wings. This race might be over in August.

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  10. Brian says:

    The Reds could have the best lineup in the NL, and their pitching is solid. It is not unreasonable to expect Latos, Cueto and Leake (his numbers were very good for a second year pitcher) all to get better, with Arroyo there to eat innings and Chapman waiting in the wings. This race might be over in August.

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    • George says:

      It’s also possible that the Brewers or Cards could runaway with the division. The Reds lineup is overrated. We can’t just assume Bruce will take that step forward AND Phillips will continue to hit .300 AND Stubbs will rebound AND Mesoraco will be good his rookie year AND Cozart will do good his second year (rookie eligibility). The Brew might also have the best lineup with that logic. Braun will have another MVP season AND Weeks will stay healthy all year AND Ramirez will hit like 2011 not 2009 AND Gamel will hit 20 HR AND Morgan/Gomez will hit .300 combined AND Gonzalez will hit 20 HR.

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  11. Dan Greer says:

    Tyler Flowers’ K-rates in AAA/MLB scare the crap out of me.

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  12. Peoples Champ says:

    Hey everyone, i need some help.

    5×5, h2h, keep 6, standard categories except k/9 instead of k

    I got Kemp, Votto, Cargo and Pedroia rounding out my top 4.

    I need to pick 2 keepers from Weaver, Haren, Andrus, Latos

    I am thinking about keeping Weaver-Andrus, however, I know I could trade Weaver for a 2nd (essentially an 8th round pick in a normal redraft) or Andrus for a 3rd.

    What do you think is my best option here?

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  13. George says:

    Why are people discrediting the NL Central this year? Just because the Cards lost Pujols and the Brew lost Fielder? The Brewers won 96 games and should be a 90+ winner again. Despite losing Fielder, Saito, Hawkins, gained Gonzalez (better than Yuni) and Ramirez (better than McGehee) and Jose Veras. Also, if Yovani and especially Greinke can pitch closer to their true FIP (thanks to Gonzalez instead of Yuni), they can still win more than 90. The Cards lost Pujols but got Beltran and Wainwright back, they could still be a 90 win team. The Reds aren’t significantly better than either, if better at all.

    I understand these are bold predictions, and they are bold. But people shouldn’t think the Reds are clear favorites for the NL Central.

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    • jim says:

      most people were saying that before braun won the appeal… those extra 50 games of him are a huge help, and put milwaukee right back in the NL central. st louis is still the best team, but with a full season of braun it’s a lot closer

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  14. nick says:

    the reds wining by 10 plus is very bold. did you take into consideration dusty baker is not good at managing ball clubs. i think through the years they have always underperformed whatever club he has managed. has anyone ever said wow dusty’s team is overperforming? no, without the mad scientist leading the helm for the cards i see them falling to a more mediocre team. brewers should win the same amount of games putting them well ahead of the rest of the NL central.

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  15. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    I love the prediction on the NATS, but I am not expecting that to happen. They will win 85-88 wins, but that wont be enough for much more than maybe the lower Wild card slot.

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  16. thatwhizkid says:

    Miami Marlins DIMENSIONS! HUGE!!

    Left Field Line – 340 feet (104 m)
    Left-Center Power Alley – 384 feet (117 m)
    “Bermuda Triangle” In Left-Center – 420 feet (128 m)
    Center Field – 416 feet (127 m)
    Right-Center Power Alley – 392 feet (119 m)
    Right Field Line – 335 feet (102 m)
    Backstop: – 47 ft (14.3 m)

    I love baseball. I am a fan and I love a strong team where I live…(PHANACTICALLY) also I did a lil homework for your BOLD PREDICTION

    i.e. #2. Anibal Sanchez.. in comparison,his new stadium Marlins Stadium is actually BIGGER then PETCO. Amazed? I know I was when I learned this.


    Left field Line – 334 feet (102 m)
    Left field – 367 feet (112 m)
    Left field alley – 401 feet (122 m)
    Center field – 396 feet (121 m)
    Right field alley – 400 feet (122 m)
    Right field – 382 feet (116 m)
    Right field line – 322 feet (98 m)

    So while I can understand your vision on Anibal, he did impress me last season as roto leagues him beating out MR’s: Halladay,Lee,Hamels,Kershaw,Lincecum,Wainwright,Z.Greinke and one serious new Super pitching Stephen Strasburg and fellow teammate Josh Johnson (who alone teamate Johnson is ranked 7th amungst all active pitchers in 450 I.P. with a W.H.I.P. of 1.11, and 4th with an E.R.A. of 2.64)
    I have him ranking in Roto,H2H pts, and All Pitch Stat Cat Leagues 15th to 20th… 15th is the highest he has come to (N.L. Leagues only) League Wide Draft.. like 24th – 30th.. i do like your style tho!! and your Bold Predictions had me take some time out to further educate myself and any other fellow Fan Graph PEEPS! Salute! and thanks for your input! P.S.( anyone who reads this… (sorry for spelling.and proper grammer…im a numbers kinda guy)

    IF by some way some how he does lead … well id def give you credit when i discuss were n when i learned that Anibal was Mr. Brandons Bold #1 Roto!

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