We’ve started bold prediction week for 2013, and it sounds like the readers really want BOLD predictions. Of course there is always a trade-off – don’t go bold enough, and you are just stating what we already know; go too bold and you will likely be wrong and your predictions will have no fantasy value.
But the fans want bold and I like to please the fans, so I am going to go big here. Does that mean I will likely fall short of the four predictions I made last year that were either right or at least close to right? Probably. But I’m swinging for the fences anyway.
1) Ike Davis will be top five in baseball in HR. Last year I said Ike would finish top five in the NL and sure enough he tied for fifth. But when you add in the AL, his 32 bombs sat tied for 14th. But he’s healthy, he’ll avoid that slow start, and he’ll crack the overall top five this year.
2) Justin Masterson will look more like an ace than a guy ROOGY.. In 2011, Masterson posted a 3.28 FIP and a nearly matching 3.21 ERA. In 2012, the wheels fell off. His K% barely budged, but the walks increased, the HR increased, and his long-standing troubles with lefties ballooned the ERA to nearly 5.00 with a FIP north of 4.00. Will he suddenly challenge a fellow Justin for the title of best pitcher in the AL Central (or AL period)? No, but the owners who buy low on him will be pleasantly surprised when the walk rate comes back down, the ball stays in the yard, and Masterson becomes the go-to guy the Indians need.
3) Dustin Ackley goes 20-15. I originally planned to predict him at 15-15, which seemed bold enough for a guy who has never reached either benchmark before. But a few years ago, Ackley seemed destined for perennial 15-15 seasons, so why not take a bigger stand? With the fences coming in at Safeco and Ackley healthy going into the season, I think the 20 HR is pretty straight-forward. And if he reaches base enough, he could get to 15 SB for the first time, too.
4) The most valuable SP in a deep Braves rotation will be Mike Minor. Tim Hudson is the nominal ace, Julio Teheran has all the spring buzz, Kris Medlen is coming off a stellar second half, but Minor will best them all (and Paul Maholm and half a season of Brandon Beachy).
5) Josh Hamilton doesn’t get past HR #25. Thrice in his career Hamilton has crossed 130 games played and all three times he has also crossed the 30 HR threshold. But he is 32, has had injury issues, is moving to a tougher park…I don’t think he’ll even crack 25 HR if he plays most of the season, and there is always the chance he won’t play most of the season.
6) Chris Tillman will be a top-20 AL SP. His velocity faded last year, his ERA was far healthier than his peripherals would suggest it should have been, and he had some elbow soreness that shut him down in September. Those are all good reasons why I am seeing his draft stock stay down and that I hear people tell me he will regress mightily. But if those things are related – if his elbow was impacting his velocity which hurt his peripherals – there is also good reason to think that he could break out. His velocity is up according to reports from Spring Training, and so I am buying Tillman.
7) Cory Luebke will be this year’s Kris Medlen. At mockdraftcentral.com, Luebke’s average draft position is 372, which for a 12 team league means he is the 31st guy on your roster – meaning he not only isn’t drafted but probably isn’t on your watch list. But, like Medlen, despite being all but overlooked in drafts, Luebke will take the NL by storm and post a big time second half.
8) David Freese continues his climb and hits 25 HR this year. I was prepared to make this claim about Mike Moustakas, but Eno Sarris backed Moose in his predictions, so I picked another 3B. Freese has hit 20 HR last year, after hitting 10 and four in 2011 and 2010. He was also 5th in HR and FB distance last year, according to baseballheatmaps.com, meaning the power is legit. The question for Freese is can he get more loft on the ball. His FB% has been around 26% for his career, and that is not enough to support 25 HR. But I think we’ll see him get under a few more this year.
9) Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn will combine for fewer than 55 HR. I am invested in these two in my leagues, so I hope I am wrong, but despite hitting 67 between them last year (and being closer to 70 most years since 2000) I think the two aging sluggers see a pretty precipitous drop in 2013.
10) Kenley Jansen does not get double digit saves. Everyone seems ready to predict that Jansen (who is pretty clearly the best reliever in the Dodgers pen) will take over for Brandon League before long, but I am not buying it. I think it is highly unlikely that Jansen will pitch his way INTO the closer role unless League pitches his way out of that role, and I think that League can be perfectly acceptable in ninth, and can climb up over 25 saves in 2013. If League is a serviceable closer and Jansen is lights out getting big outs when big outs are needed, regardless of inning, the Dodgers will have no cause to make a change, and I predict they won’t. I am sure Jansen will vulture a few saves here and there when League isn’t available, but he isn’t a closer and I don’t think he will become one.