Mike Petriello’s 10 Bold Predictions For 2013

1. 70% of opening day closers won’t still have their jobs by the end of the year…

You don’t need me to tell you that closers are easily replaced, and so saying that we’ll see changes in the ninth inning isn’t really that bold. So if we’re going to make this exciting, let’s say that more than a full two-thirds of closers won’t last the season, either through injury or ineffectiveness. That may sound like a high number, but then again, remember who teams were counting on to finish games for them last April — guys like Alfredo Aceves, Javy Guerra, Jordan Walden, Brett Myers, Heath Bell, & Matt Capps. Even top-tier closers like Mariano Rivera & Brian Wilson weren’t immune, though of course for other reasons. By my count, only 10 closers made it wire-to-wire, and a few more (Carlos Marmol, Huston Street, etc) had to deal with changes at some point in the season. This really drives the point home that you can almost always find saves somewhere. The bell tolls for thee, Sergio Romo & Jim Johnson.

2. …but Brandon League will.

This is bold in the sense that just about everyone expects Kenley Jansen to take the job from League, just as he did from Guerra last year. (This is also in somewhat direct opposition to Mike Axisa saying that League will be the first closer to lose his job.) Obviously, I’m not going to argue that League is the better pitcher, because he isn’t. But obviously the Dodgers see him as the man in the ninth — regardless of whether you think the contract they gave him was foolish, you don’t pay that kind of money out for a setup man — and statistical reviews that look at League’s 2012 as a whole somewhat miss the mark. League struggled in Seattle and in his first weeks as a Dodger, but after taking time off to work out a mechanical issue with coaches, he was phenomenal for the last six weeks of the season. In 22 games (22.1 innings) after August 17, League struck out 22 and allowed just a single earned run. A small sample size against uneven September competition? Perhaps. But this bold prediction says that he hangs on to the job all season.

3. Jake Arrieta will be the most valuable Baltimore starter.

I could probably have simply said “Jake Arrieta will stick in the rotation all season” and stopped there, because a guy who went 3-9, 6.20 last year and has a 5.33 career ERA has more than a little to prove. But we’re being bold, so let’s go all the way. Until Dylan Bundy & Kevin Gausman arrive, there’s not a lot of top-level talent in a rotation fronted by Jason Hammel & Wei-Yin Chen, so Arrieta doesn’t have a Kershaw or a Strasburg to contend with.

Besides, a funny thing happened last year: for as awful as Arrieta was, there was a lot to like. His FIP was only 4.05, and his K/9 (8.56) and BB/9 (2.75) both improved for the third year in a row. The resulting K/BB was better than guys like Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, & Mat Latos. Arrieta looks likely to win the fifth starter spot thanks to a very good spring, and scouts still swear by his stuff. Heading into his age-27 season, everything is cued up for Arrieta to put it together.

There’s almost certainly no middle ground here; I’m either going to look like a fool when we get back to these in the fall, or a genius.

4. The National League leader in stolen bases will be someone who wasn’t in the top 10 in MLB last season.

Last year’s NL league leaders — Michael Bourn, Jose Reyes, Jose Altuve, & Shane Victorino — all ended up moving to the American League this season. Ben Revere moves from the Twins to the Phillies, but he’s the only current National Leaguer from last year’s top 10. He may be a safe bet to lead his new league, but in the interest of being bold, I’ll say that Norichika Aoki leads the league in steals. Unlike last season, when he stole 30, Aoki enters the year with a guaranteed starting job, and no team swiped more bags than Milwaukee last season. (Update: I missed Everth Cabrera‘s 44 and Carlos Gomez‘ 37 because they didn’t qualify for the batting title. My mistake on that; I’ll stand by the prediction, though.)

5. Justin Smoak is going to put it together to be a top 15 mixed-league first baseman.

You’d think that after nearly three full seasons of ineptitude along with the arrival of Kendrys Morales & Michael Morse, the Smoak train would have completely left the station, and maybe it should. But I haven’t lost faith yet, and that’s partially due to an insane September that saw him post a .428 wOBA in 101 plate appearances. No, that’s doesn’t count more than three years of terrible, nor does a spring line that sits at .434/.483/.811 in 60 plate appearances as of this writing.

But I’ll admit that’s all trending in the right direction, along with the fact that there’s at least a tangible reason to point to for his late-season success — the fact that he switched to a lighter bat just before the hot streak started. Add that to a park that should be easier to hit in thanks to shorter fences and a team that’s in every position to give him one more chance to prove himself, and Smoak is positioned to turn himself around. In the land of the bold, he’s going to do it.

6. Justin Maxwell will put up a 20/15 season.

It took Maxwell years of trying to break through in Washington and the Bronx before he finally got a shot with Houston last year, and he took advantage, hitting 18 homers in 352 plate appearances. Given a full season of play, 20 homers seems more than reasonable (even if it’s the only 20 times he makes contact all year, because it’ll come with a ton of strikeouts), and he has 20 career steals in just over a full season of play. There’s clearly not much else pushing him in the Houston outfield right now, so he’ll get his time, and he’ll provide some value.

7. Cliff Lee will pitch almost exactly the same as he did in 2012, yet double his win total — or more.

Obviously, Lee’s 6-9 record last year was due more to bad luck and a lousy Phillies team than it was anything he did, because a 3.16 ERA / 3.13 FIP remains outstanding. It’s just not often that you can say that a pitcher who made a full slate of starts one year will double his win total the following year, so let’s put that down right now. Lee will still strike out more than six times as many hitters as he walks, his FIP will be in the 3.00 range, and he’ll win at least 12 games.

8. Yasiel Puig will be a fantasy disappointment.

As a Dodger fan, I’ve had an up close and personal view of the show Puig has put on this spring, hitting over .500 and wowing fans and media alike with his ridiculous feats of strength. I’ve also been seeing him go a lot higher in fantasy drafts — and I’m talking redraft leagues, here — than is realistic, simply because he’s missing one very important component: opportunity. The Dodgers have Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, & Andre Ethier in their outfield, and while all have dealt with injury concerns over the last few years, the Dodgers aren’t likely to make a move to displace any of them until at least the second half. That limit’s Puig’s playing time, and it limits his value.

9. Matt Harvey will be a top-20 NL starter.

It’s probably not all that bold to be high on Harvey, but think about all the shiny names in the National League, from Clayton Kershaw to Stephen Strasburg to Zack Greinke to Kris Medlen to Lee to Cole Hamels to Madison Bumgarner to Matt Cain to Johnny Cueto, and so on. That’s just a brief listing off the top of my head, and it’s stiff competition. Harvey’s brief MLB debut last season just couldn’t have gone any better, continuing the big strikeout numbers he’d had in the minors, and while the lousy Mets squad could limit his wins, he’s the real deal — and he’s ready now.

10. Juan Uribe will at some point be owned in at least 5% of one of the three main fantasy sites — ESPN, Yahoo, or CBS.

5% is almost nothing, so perhaps you’ve forgotten how awful Uribe is. Here, let me remind you:

You want bold? That’s bold.

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Mike Petriello lives in New York and writes about the Dodgers daily at Dodgers Digest, as well as contributing to ESPN Insider. He wrote two chapters in the 2014 Hardball Times Annual as well as building The Hardball Times and TechGraphs, and was an editorial producer at Sports on Earth. Find him at @mike_petriello.

32 Responses to “Mike Petriello’s 10 Bold Predictions For 2013”

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  1. lester bangs says:

    I agree with almost all of these. Great points on League; he’s turned into a misunderstood player.

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  2. mitch says:

    I’m trying to figure out how Altuve is going to lead the NL in bags whole playing in the AL.

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    • Mike Petriello says:

      Ugh, that’ll take some getting used to. Fixed — and it’s actually good, because him being out of the NL makes my prediction more likely.

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    • Truckstop says:

      The Astros will be forced into dissolution after they lose their first 30 games. They will reemerge in the NL as the Juarez Caballeros and the first Mexican based team in the MLB. Pitchers will be too afraid to pick him off, and catchers too scared to throw to second due to threats from the cartel. He will go on to post SB numbers in his home park that would make Lou Brock blush. Unfortunatley, border patrol will not allow him to enter country because of his ties to the drug trade, and Aoki will run away with the lead (pun intended).

      Now that is a bold prediction.

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    • PDR297 says:

      HE’S JUST THAT DAMN GOOD. Or maybe Mike is subtlety implying nothing is safe on the Astros and he snuck in another some what less bold prediction of the Astros trading Altuve to the NL over the course of the season.

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    • Jay says:

      “Last year’s NL league leaders — Michael Bourn, Jose Reyes, Jose Altuve, & Shane Victorino — all ended up moving to the American League this season.”

      Try reading more closely.

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  3. matt harvey, don’t be this years matt moore…thanks.

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  4. Matt says:

    LOVE that Uribe video!

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  5. Tim says:

    I’m so torn on Smoak. I should be able to get him cheap in my AL-Only today…i’m just not sure it is worth the risk.

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    • Mike Petriello says:

      If it’s really cheap, the only risk is a roster spot. I couldn’t bring myself to draft him in mixed leagues, but in an AL-only I think it’s worth a shot.

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    • UrbanShocker56 says:

      I wanted Belt in my keeper league but I backed off when his price reached 14. I went with Smoak for 2. I figure Smoak is much more likely to be valuable at a reserve price of 5 next year than Belt is to be at 19. But if Smoak has another season like his last few, I’ll be thinking about 2014 by June……

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  6. Benzedrine says:

    Arreita has always struggled with runners on, think his career strand rate is like 64%. If pitchers can fix that he will be good.

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  7. Nick says:

    Did I miss something or did E. Cabrera not lead the NL in steals last year, with under 400 AB! The kid is still relatively young, and his minor league contact rates suggest he could get onbase at a better clip this year. Aside from injury no one is coming close to his SB totals in the NL.

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    • Mike Petriello says:


      That’s a good point. I guess the FG leaderboards default to “qualified”, and as you note he had too few plate appearances so he didn’t appear. I’ll update to reflect.

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  8. OhMyEY says:

    You dug up some gems but you didn’t catch the biggest thief. Weiss will play a crafty game of hide-and-seek with EY Jr’s glove to finally get him 500+ PAs and EY will turn it into 55 bags.

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  9. steve says:

    Regarding Brandon League and his contract……..Jonathon Broxton says hello

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    • Mike Petriello says:

      Not sure what one has to do with the other.

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      • batpig says:

        This: “you don’t pay that kind of money out for a setup man”.

        The connection seems pretty obvious… because the Reds just did what you said teams don’t do.

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      • Mike Petriello says:

        Not really. When the Reds signed that deal, they expected Broxton would be the closer.

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      • steve says:

        And the Dodgers are expecting League to be the closer. Things change. The Marlins expected Bell to be the closer.

        Not really that difficult to draw the comparison. We’ve seen this time and time again.

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  10. batpig says:

    Good job actually being pretty bold with many of these, something some of the other writers failed on.

    The only one that isn’t particularly bold is the Cliff Lee one, which seems more likely than not (and likely is the opposite of bold). And I guess Puig. But good job.

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    • Mike Petriello says:

      Thanks. It’s harder than I expected trying to hit that sweet spot between “far too likely, not bold” and “so insane that it’ll never happen”.

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  11. Ashman says:

    That uribe video made me feel bad for the guy

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  12. game6ers says:

    …I was saying Boo-Ribe

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  13. Jay29 says:

    I don’t think 7, 8, and 9 are bold.

    7 – every projection on his FG page has Lee matching or surpassing 12 Ws

    8 – always worth betting against unproven, hyped players. 2012 was bizarre with Trout, Harper, Darvish, and Cespedes all coming through.

    9 – Harvey’s probably already being drafted close top 25-30 among NL SPs — he was my 21st favorite prior to my auction, for what it’s worth.

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  14. Bucfan says:

    Smoak’s very low BA the past 2 years is linked to his horrible BABIP. It was a miserable .242 last year, where he is NOT a major flyball hitter.

    His weakness was infield popups, which he hit at an alarming frequency. If his switch to a lighter bat helps him square up balls just a tick more and avoid popups, and his BABIP gets close to league average, with that much improved line-up, I think he is likely to post .275/25/80/85.

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  15. Bip says:

    6 and 7 not bold at all

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  16. Jeff says:

    It’s refreshing to see someone leave their predictions up for perusal.

    Arrieta? Maxwell? Smoak? Puig? League?

    Post mortem? ;)

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  17. kingoriole says:

    juan uribe at 6.1% owned!

    just picked him up!

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