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Howard Bender’s 10 Bold Predictions for 2012

Posted By Howard Bender On March 1, 2012 @ 11:15 am In Projections | 44 Comments

So we’ve decided to turn this 10 Bold Predictions thing into a friendly competition amongst the RotoGraphs writers. Here are mine…

Adam Jones will go 30/30 — Putting my money where my mouth is.  Sure, he swings at a ton of pitches. Sure, his SwStr% is typically in double digits. Sure, he’s considered an average runner at best. But Jones is entering his prime and ready to take yet another step forward in 2012. Keeper league owners should grab him now as he’ll never come this cheap again.

Prince Fielder will hit fewer than 30 HR — It’s not just the move to the AL, but also the fact that Comerica Park makes Miller Park look like a sandlot. He’ll also see some seriously ugly pitches and while that may help his walk rate and OBP, his power numbers are going to suffer. Wouldn’t you rather take your chance with Alex Avila or Delmon Young than Fielder?

Nick Hundley will hit a minimum of 15 HR — Last year’s mid-season elbow surgery to clean out loose bodies in the joint did wonders for Hundley’s work at the plate. He crushed the ball over the final two months of the season and hit six home runs in the process. This year he carries that momentum in from day one.

Brad Boxberger notches at least 10 saves for San DiegoHuston Street is fragile and Luke Gregerson is better suited to come in on a moment’s notice in the 7th or 8th inning. Boxberger is green and needs to limit the walks, but his arm is live and he’s got tremendous strikeout potential. The Padres may not turn to him immediately, but they will call on him at some point.

Bryan LaHair hits at least 30 HR — This late-bloomer will have Cubs fans saying, “better late than never!” Though the PCL is notoriously hitter friendly, something clicked for LaHair last season and his power really took off. Look for him to start hot right out of the gate and lead the Cubbies in home runs this season.

Trevor Cahill wins 15 games and notches 175 Ks — A switch to the NL will help revitalize Cahill’s game. He’s a ground ball pitcher so the switch to Chase Field won’t hurt too much and facing a pitcher instead of a DH will certainly help increase his strikeout totals. He actually might even end up as Arizona’s top hurler, and that’s saying a lot.

Jesus Montero finishes the season as a top three catcher — Yes, 61 at bats is a very small sample size. But Montero’s bat is for real and while he may not like the dimensions at Safeco, he’ll still find a way to muscle the ball over the fences both at home and away at least 25 times. Look for a solid walk rate and strong BABIP totals to help keep his average north of .285 as well. And while he’ll likely DH more often than not, he should still get at least 40 games behind the dish thus solidifying that catcher eligibility.

Cameron Maybin will hit 15 HR and steal 50 bases — We’ve been waiting to see the 5-tool potential for some time now and last season we got our first taste of what could be. The stolen bases will continue to come for Maybin and Bud Black will keep the green light on for him. And although Petco Park will continue to stifle his power, there are still 81 road games that will afford him better opportunities. He’s only 25 years old, so that power is still developing.

Jon Rauch saves more games for the Mets than Frank Francisco — It’s more about a lack of faith in Franky Frank than it is a belief in Rauch. Francisco lost his job in Texas and he lost it, not once but twice, in Toronto last year. Though he was nearly an even split between ground balls and fly balls last year, he still sported 12.7% HR/FB ratio and the fact that they moved the fences in at Citi Field isn’t going to help. Rauch has closing experience and will be more than capable to pick up the pieces once Francisco crumbles.

Matt Cain wins the 2012 NL Cy Young Award — Cain is a workhorse and an innings-eater with remarkable consistency. While his numbers have been incredibly similar year in and year out, Cain took an interesting step forward last year when he produced an FIP of 2.91 and reduced his HR/FB to a remarkable 3.7%. This year, unless the Giants’ brass suddenly get their collective heads out of their posteriors before the season begins, he is pitching for a contract. Big bucks and a long term deal await this 27 year old hurler and an award-winning season should cinch that up.


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