Being the team player that I am — as well as a glutton for punishment from the comments section — I am about to share with you the reasons why you’ll win your league this season. These are my highly coveted secrets of the trade. Normally a transaction of this magnitude is done in a shady alley in the dead of the night, involving non-sequential bills and lots of glances over my shoulder. I guess in theory you could be reading this in a shady alley in the dead of night, but I digress. These are my 10 bold predictions for the 2013 fantasy season.
1. Paul Goldschmidt will go 30-20 while being the most valuable first baseman in 5×5
It could be that I’m drinking the Goldy kool-aid (which is not Goldschlager and kool-aid…but I could be on to something there too). It’s just looking at some of the numbers he did to major league pitching last season, I think this is the year that he truly gets ill, at least from a technical standpoint. The power is there and the home park is perfect for him for hit the home runs. The tricky part will seeing if he runs enough to get to that magically arbitrary 20 plateau. The guesswork begins with what the Arizona Diamondbacks have done with their roster construction. They have shipped out any perceived selfish or abrasive players in favor of more “hustle” type players. Hustle players steal bases. Is Goldy a hustler? You bet your fantasy title he is! I’m going all-in with Goldschmidt this year.
2. For the third straight season, Melky Cabrera hits .300 plus going 20-15
Without getting into the PED discussion, Melky has always been an immensely talented hitter. He was fixture in the Yankees outfield by the age of 22 and while now with his fifth organization, I believe he is primed for another big year. We all know how friendly the Rogers Centre is for right-handed hitters, and Melky has higher HR/FB rate as righty than a lefty for his career. Last season he set a career high in right-handed HR/FB%, up at 26.7%, putting him above now teammate Edwin Encarnacion. While some regression is to be expected, he did log just 144 PA’s against left-handed pitching and socked eight home runs in that sample size. With the lineup around him and a very friendly park, I expect big numbers from the Melk Man. I’ll tack this on too: if he hits leadoff, I expect him to score 110 runs for an extremely powerful offense.
3. Re-discovering his speed, Austin Jackson grabs 30 bases
I’ve mentioned how I’ve hoped that Jackson would start running again, and I think this year he does just that. Between 2010 and 2011, Jackson stole 49 bases and was caught just 11 times. Then in 2012, he suddenly stole just 12 bases and was caught a brutal nine times. With the off-season hiring of baserunning consultant Jeff Cox, I anticipate a big uptick in Jackson’s steal attempts and success.
4. Joe Blanton will end as a top 50 SP in 5×5
Since 2010, Blanton has rated in the top 20 (of starting pitchers with at least 200 IP thrown) of K/BB and in the top 10 of BB%. His SwStr% over that time frame is in the top 40 as well, and he seems to be missing bats while limiting walks. So why has he fallen off most — if not all — fantasy radars? It really boils down to his tendency to give up the long ball. After leaving the huge outfield and foul territory of the Coliseum, Blanton found himself pitching in a comparative band box in Citizens Bank Park. His HR/FB rates skyrocketed with every ball that was put in the outfield stands. His tendency to let batters touch em all has led to a huge difference between his ERA and FIP compared against his xFIP. Now that he is back in an extremely pitcher friendly park in Anaheim, I fully expect his strikeout and walk ratios to come down a bit, but also his HR/FB to fall back to a normal rate. If he managed to match his ERA and xFIP, his past three years ERA would have been 3.87, 3.15, and 3.39. I’ll take some of that for the price of a waiver wire pick.
5. Jeff Samardzija will finish with the most value of any starter in the NL Central
Yes, even over the likes of Johnny Cueto, Adam Wainwright, Yovani Gallardo, and Mat Latos. You heard it here first, folks! We were all awed by Samardzija’s ability to induce whiffs as a reliever, but questions about him being able to do it for multiple innings always lingered. Well, last season all Samardzija did was have the fifth highest qualified SwtStr% of any starter while posting the seventh highest strikeout rate. Great things are on the horizon for him, and 2013 will be his big breakout season.
6. Once again Jake Peavy will throw over 200 innings
After years of success in Petco with the San Diego Padres, Peavy struggled with injuries for multiple seasons after being traded to the Chicago White Sox. Last year saw him bring his first full season to the south side, as he went 32 starts and hurled almost 220 innings of 3.37 ERA baseball. He was everything that White Sox fans — not to mention fantasy owners — have been waiting for. His pitch repertoire is different than that of his old days and his F-strike% was almost the best of his career last season. Rather than throwing four-seam fastballs, he has began to throw more two-seamers, change-ups, and cutters. He may be making a conscience decision to throw fewer four-seamers as his velocity as dipped to a tick below 91 mph average. His breaking ball selection is more evenly distributed between his slider and curve and his SwStr%, while lower than previous single season highs, was still a strong 9.3% last season. If he ends up as a top 30 starter, I wouldn’t be shocked. That places him in the same area as a solid SP2, but you can find Peavy being taken much later than that. He is being drafted as a borderline top 50 pitcher, so draft him accordingly and watch him pitch you to the championship.
7. Sean Doolittle will lead the Oakland A’s in saves
While realizing that both Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook sit ahead of him on the closing depth chart, but struggled at times last season. Although won’t be placed on the disabled list after knee surgery, concerns about his knee will pop up at the first sign of trouble. Last season Cook dominated both right-handed hitters and fellow lefties to the tune of a 31.4% strikeout rate and 12.5% SwStr% to back it up. His F-Strike% was a solid 66.5% too, so he was getting ahead of batters and putting them away. People worry about his innings — despite being a reliever, he set a career high in innings pitched by about 400% last season — due to him being a converted first baseman. Doolittle pumps 93+ with ease from the left side and although his secondary pitches haven’t caught up to his fastball, his ablilty to end games via the strikeout is quite clear.
8. Dexter Fowler will set a career high in games played
He will also go 15-15 and score over 100 runs. I expect his .390 BABIP to come back down a bit, but for his career he has a .353 BABIP, so it isn’t exactly dropping to the basement. He has always posted an above average walk rate to get on base, but last season he also showed the highest ISO of his career. His strikeout rate is still a touch high, but I expect Fowler to be Austin Jackson-lite. While I anticipate Jackson stealing 30 bags, if Fowler can manage 15-20 I will call that a success. Neither will hit .300 again, but they don’t have to steal that much to still be a valuable fantasy asset.
9. Jose Reyes will hit a league leading 20+ triples…and will win the AL MVP
As mentioned in the Melky blurb above, the Rogers Centre is a great place if you’re a right-handed power hitter. But if you happen to be a switch-hitting shortstop with plenty of gap power and speed to boot, you’re in for a treat. While turf is never good for ankles and knees — yikes! — the ball also travels faster on turf. A fly ball that lands won’t slow down as much, potentially giving Reyes that extra bit of time needed to scamper to third base. He’ll use his legs en route to the Toronto Blue Jays winning the AL East, and Reyes will earn himself an MVP award in the process.
10. Carlos Quentin will play in more games than Nelson Cruz
Not only that, but Quentin will also finish more valuable in 5×5 leagues than Nelson. And Quentin will do this while getting hit by no less than 20 pitches, of course. The tricky part is that while he might not be locked in a positional battle, playing time questions surround Quentin. He has suffered various injuries throughout his career and when (read: if) he does play 130 games, that would tie the second most games of his career in a single season. Furthermore, this prediction needs him to play as much as possible because his home park won’t do him any favors in the home run department. Cruz has had plenty of injuries over the course of his career too, and although he did set a career high in games played last season, it was the first time that he never spent a day on the disabled list in a season. This is a 50-50 coin flip and I’m taking Quentin.