1. Cliff Pennington will be a top-five AL SS.
Not a good start, as Pennington wouldn’t be a top-five shortstop in California right now. It hasn’t been for lack of opportunity, either, as the A’s have let him trot out there 100-plus times before deciding Stephen Drew was a better choice.
2. Anibal Sanchez will be the best roto starter in Miami (and best outright).
He’s no longer in Miami, but while he was there this was probably close to true. Josh Johnson has more wins, but has also thrown 50 more innings as a Marlin this season. This wasn’t actually all that bold of a prediction, as Buehrle — who by most scoring systems probably is the de facto top dog — has been typical Buehrle, and the team has completely fallen apart, depriving most of these hurlers of their deserved wins. Carlos Zambrano and Ricky Nolasco need not apply.
3. Scott Baker will be a top 10-15 starter in the American League.
Well, crap. Baker’s season was derailed before it even started. This one wasn’t probably going to come to fruition anyway, as it’s been another awful season in Minnesota, but Baker’s right arm gave way on him before the season even got underway.
4. Tyler Flowers will assume the starting catcher duties in Chicago, and be a viable fantasy catcher down the stretch.
Flowers kind of sucks — though he’s picked it up in a big way the last month or so — and A.J. Pierzynski is hitting enough for two career seasons. I whiffed on this more than Flowers (35.5 percent whiff rate).
Nathan turned out to be the Nathan of old, so not even a solid season from Adams — whose rates are taking a troubling Heath Bellian tumble — was enough to usurp the venerable righty closer. Adams will be closing for someone else next season, and probably making far too much money.
6. Jason Kubel will pound 30 home runs, and still not be much more than a 1.5-2.0 win player.
Kubel presently has 29 home runs and has been worth 2.2 wins. What he is probably costing the Diamondbacks however, besides salary, is a chance to play a cheaper and better player in Gerardo Parra. Those pre-arb years burn up whether you’re on the field or not, so the D-Backs would be well-suited to deal Kubel to a team looking for relatively cheap power, though it’s unlikely any other place is as well suited for his skill set.
7. The Cincinnati Reds will win the NL Central by 10-plus games.
I’d say a 9.5 game lead with 20 games to go is pretty close to a win in this one. This was the prediction that drew the most ire in the comments section this spring, but what I was most confident about was that the Brewers would be stepping back and the Cardinals were pretty old and injury-prone, and not great up the middle. Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and Lance Berkman have all missed significant time this season, and while that’s given time for guys like Matt Carpenter to emerge, it’s severely hampered the Redbirds’ chance to repeat. The Reds, on the other hand, have been nothing short of sensational. Aroldis Chapman is the frontman in the year of the reliever, and Joey freaking Votto has a .471 OBP.
8. The Cleveland Indians will regress considerably in 2012.
Feels like I’ve picked up steam as we come to the finish here. In the spring I hated the Indians in the corners, didn’t love the defense, and didn’t love anything about the pitching staff except for the tail end of the pen. Surprise, with three of the four corners occupied by Jack Hannahan, Casey Kotchman, and Shelley Duncan — which is nothing to say of the decaying remains that were once Johnny Damon — the Indians season has fallen apart down the stretch. Once in the division lead in late June, the Tribe have tumbled to 23 games under .500, tied for last in the Central with the Twins. Where the club goes from here is anyone’s guess, as the offense and pitching staff both lack top-end projection.
9. The Colorado Rockies will finish in fourth place in the NL West.
I absolutely nailed this one, as the Rockies appear ahead of only the lowly Cubs and Astros in the race for the worst record in the senior circuit. Virtually none of the offseason moves panned out, as Michael Cuddyer was OK but only about as good as the guy he replaced, Seth Smith, while Jeremy Guthrie, Jeff Francis, and basically everyone else who pitched for the Rockies in 2012 struggled mightily. It has to be pretty discouraging when pretty much the only good seasons come out of the back end of the bullpen on a team destined to lose around 100 games. Only time will tell what will come out of this pitching experiment, as well.
10. The Washington Nationals will win the NL East, and at least one playoff game.
The Nationals are the talk of baseball, with the best record in either league. It would seem as though winning at least one playoff game shouldn’t be too difficult, though Stephen Strasburg sitting the rest of the season severely hampers….nah, I’m just kidding. I love what this team has accomplished, and it would be great to see the Nationals become an NL powerhouse.
Bonus – Huston Street will be the best closer in the NL West. Those rates in that ballpark? YES PLEASE.
He missed a good chunk of the season, but wow was he good. In 37 appearances to-date, Street tossed 36 innings, garnering 21 saves, a 0.75 ERA, 0.53 WHIP, 11.3 K/9, 5.6 K/BB, and an opponents’ batting line of .094/.151/.145. Now, put your eyes back in your head. I won’t say he’s been the best closer in the West, because guys like Rafael Betancourt and Kenley Jansen have been flat out awesome all season, but he’s certainly in the running.