It’s my turn to come up with some outlandish fantasy predictions for the 2012 season. All of us here at RotoGraphs will present a top ten lists over the next few days, then check back to see how
right wrong we were after the season. So without further delay, here are my ten bold fantasy predictions for this season, in no particular order…
1. A-Rod will hit 30 HR
Injury problems have prevented Alex Rodriguez from playing in 140 games in each of the last four seasons, and last year his ISO fell below .225 (.185 to be exact) for the first time since 1997. That said, A-Rod is now healthy after undergoing an experimental knee procedure at Kobe Bryant’s behest and will play enough games (and reincorporate his legs into his swing) to bring back the glory days of 30/100.
2. Oswalt’s half season will be better than Wainwright’s full season
One is planning a midseason return, the other is coming off Tommy John surgery. Roy Oswalt‘s second half with the [insert team here] will rival his second half showing with the Phillies in 2010, which will pump about 700 points into your ottoneu league team. Strike-throwing ability is typically the last thing to come back following elbow surgery, and that’s what Adam Wainwright‘s game revolves around. Fatigue will also become a factor later in the season, keeping him from the 700-point plateau.
3. Adam Dunn will hit 40 HR
There would have been nothing bold about this prediction a year ago, but after Dunn’s miserable 2011 effort it’s easy to write him off. The Big Donkey lost some weight and gained a new manager, but most importantly his ridiculous 9.6% HR/FB will get back over 21.0% because he’ll stop hitting all those infield pop-ups.
4. Andrew Cashner will be this year’s Craig Kimbrel
A shoulder injury sabotaged Cashner’s season last year, but he was traded to San Diego in the offseason and is being moved back to the bullpen. His fastball-slider combo was allergic to bats throughout his career as a starter (21.1 K% in the minors) and will only become more deadly when he airs it out in a one-inning relief role. Huston Street won’t even know what hit ’em.
5. Scott Downs will save at least ten games
Jordan Walden is the incumbent closer for the Angels, but he did have three separate instances in which he blew multiple saves within the span of a week. With the new additions and heightened expectations, Mike Scioscia‘s leash will be a little bit shorter in 2012. Jason Isringhausen is the sleeper here.
6. Michael Bourn will steal 80 bases
Bourn has stolen 50+ bases in each of the last three seasons and 60+ bases in two of the last three, but now he’s playing for a contract with free agency on the horizon. Baseball hasn’t had an 80 SB guy since Vince Coleman (81) and Rickey Henderson (93) in 1988, but Bourn will be runnin’ wild now that he’s finally playing for a contender.
7. Ike Davis will emerge as the second best 1B in the NL
The defections of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder to the AL leave Joey Votto as the only elite 1B in the Senior Circuit, but Ike will emerge as the clear number two with a healthy ankle and a shorter right field porch in CitiField. The power is both huge and real and he’s shown the willingness to take a walk all throughout his minor league career, plus his primary competition is Lance Berkman and Mike Morse.
8. Jamey Carroll will hit a homer
It’s been 913 days, 308 games, and 1,066 plate appearances since Carroll took Scott Linebrink deep on August 9th, 2009. The 38-year-old now has an everyday job with the Twins and is a sneaky good middle infield roster candidate (both 2B and SS eligibility) because he consistently hits for average (.290+ last two years), draws enough walks to post better than average OBPs (.355+ last four years), and steals double-digit bases. This year he’ll even chip in a long ball.
Bonus Bold Prediction: Carroll’s homer will come during the three-game series at the Royals from July 20th-22nd. Write that down.
9. Doug Fister will have an ERA over 4.00.
Fister’s 1.79 ERA following his trade to Detroit was partially propped up by inferior competition; six of his ten starts with the Tigers came against the lowly Twins, Athletics, and fading Mariners. His general inability to miss bats (career 5.52 K/9 and 16.7 K%) means there will be plenty of chances for what may be the AL’s worst defense to allow balls to scoot by for hits.
10. Noesi will best Cueto in every 5×5 category (including saves)
Johnny Cueto‘s underlying performance (3.45 FIP and 3.90 xFIP) didn’t line up with his ERA (2.31) last season, and now he’s coming back from a back strain as well. He’s never thrown enough innings (career-high is 185.1 IP) to rack up huge strikeout and win totals either. Hector Noesi is a fly ball guy moving to a friendly stadium with a fantastic defense behind him, plus he has a long track record of missing bats and limiting walks in the minors. He’ll pull a Cory Luebke in 2012.
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