We — collectively — are going to steal Mike Podhorzer’s idea and make some crazy predictions for the coming season. Every year, something happens to surprise baseball viewership. Jose Bautista and Lance Berkman come to mind over the past few years.
So let’s try to open our minds and let crazy in for some fun. Then we’ll look back at the end of the season and see which RotoGraphs staff member can access the other side most effectively — then we’ll scoot down the bench a little away from him.
1) No player will hit 40 home runs this year. Obviously Mike Stanton and Jose Bautista loom large, but there were only three guys that managed the feat last year, and the point is that power is down. Handy graph time!
2) Lucas Duda will outproduce Logan Morrison in every 5×5 roto category. I’ve been hinting at this all year and it’s time to just outright say it. I love el Dudarino and I don’t care who knows. He couldn’t be any more different than Logan Morrison in terms of demeanor and pedigree, but their peripherals are similar and Duda is about to get a nice home park boost from the change in Citi Field dimensions.
3) Dee Gordon will steal 60 bases — and won’t hit a single home run. Is this bold? The stolen base total has to be — only one player (Michael Bourn) managed 60 stolen last year. And considering that he got on base almost 35% of the time and Gordon won’t get on base at a 33% clip, Gordon will have to work extra hard to make it happen. But, dude knows where his bread is buttered, and the Dodgers are an old-school organization that will let him run wild.
4) Brandon Belt is finally freed (to the tune of a .280 average and 25 home runs, seven stolen bags) when Bruce Bochy sees Aubrey Huff for the piece of toast that he is. Hey if you’re not right the first time, keep plucking that chicken, amiright. It’s just that Aubrey Huff is old and not good, and Brandon Belt is neither of those things. Playing time is the real question, but left field and first base are so old that a spring training run to first could be all the break Belt needs. He won’t let the next break go by.
5) Ryan Hanigan will get twice as many PAs as Devin Mesoraco. Mesoraco is a trendy pick, but the Reds are a veteran team — just look at their big offseason trade for Mat Latos — and they are ready to win now. Worst of all, Dusty Baker is at the helm, and he likes veterans and he likes Hanigan and he’s already said that it’s no lock that Mesoraco is the starting catcher when the season begins. Maybe Spring Training changes things, but tomorrow is March 1st, so count this as bold for now.
6) Jarrod Parker will be the Athletics’ best pitcher this year. We all love Brandon McCarthy, but all it will take is a tiny step back from the nerd-warrior and a little luck love for Parker to switch the tables on the A’s rotation. Projection systems don’t love Parker’s lack of strikeouts in his post-TJ surgery Double-A stint, but before the surgery, Parker was closer to a strikeout-per-inning guy. Scouts love his 93+ MHP fastball and slider, change combo, and his home park should help any fly ball tendencies he might have. His other competitors for Best A’s Pitcher include an old man (Bartolo Colon), an injured man (Dallas Braden), and two men without as much pedigree (Tom Milone and Brad Peacock).
7) This year, the role of Brandon Beachy will be played by Juan Nicasio. Last year, Beachy was the prototype for the out-of-nowhere pitcher with gobs of stuff, an unclear shot at playing time, and no Average Draft Position. There’s no better way to get value out of nothing than to find one of these guys, and Nicasio is an interesting bet for this year’s version. He showed up on Carson Cistulli’s “Next Michael Pineda” list, and he showed the same above-average swinging strike stuff and great control that he had in the Minor Leagues in his debut. He even added passable ground-ball rates. When his strikeout rate catches up with his 94-MPH gas and swinging strike rates, the man with the surgically-repared neck (and gruesome highlight reel) will surprise in a lot of leagues. Don’t worry about those eight candidates for the final spot in the rotation, Nicasio is well ahead of all of them.
8) Jimmy Paredes will outproduce Emilio Bonifacio relative to cost. You want bold? How about predicting one flawed, no-glove speedster to replace another flawed, no-glove speedster? This year, though, Paredes is the one on the team that needs players at multiple positions and will give him the green light to swing away and steal away. The Marlins may have more on the line, and their speedster will most likely cost you more than the Houston version. Spend less, get the same production.
9) Gio Gonzalez will miss significant time this year. Guessing that any starter will go to the DL has about a one-in-three chance of coming true, so maybe this doesn’t seem so bold. But Gonzalez goes to the curveball almost a third of the time and using the curve and the slider a ton leads to the most injuries.
10) Vinnie Pestano will lead a smaller group of ‘new’ closers. Yes, Addison Reed is the sexy pick, but Matt Thornton is a better pitcher than Chris Perez. Who is already hurt. Define ‘new’ closers as those that add more than 20 saves to their previous seasonal high if you want, if Perez doesn’t improve he won’t keep his job.