Brett Talley’s 10 Bold Predictions for 2013 by Brett Talley March 25, 2013 We’re making bold predictions this week. My ten will be guys currently not being drafted as “starters” in ten-team mixed leagues that I think should and will be. In other words, I’ll be picking a guy going outside the top ten at each infield position, two guys going outside the top 50 in the outfield, and three guys going outside the top 60 starters. All ADP numbers are from ESPN. 1) Jonathan Lucroy, currently the 14th catcher being selected, will be a top ten catcher. Lucroy was well on his way to being a top ten catcher last season had he not missed two months in the middle of the year with a broken hand. Check out how he compared to other catchers with 300+ PA last year in the five roto categories on a per plate appearance basis: Name PA HR HR/PA Rank R R/PA Rank Jonathan Lucroy 346 12 0.034682 14 46 0.132948 3 RBI RBI/PA Rank SB SB/PA Rank AVG Rank 58 0.16763 2 4 0.011561 5 0.32 3 2) Eric Hosmer, currently the 14th first baseman being selected, will be a top ten first baseman. Basically, he’s this year’s Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt’s 2012 season is the blue print for Hosmer being a top ten first baseman this year. Goldy was 6th among first basemen on ESPN’s player rater last year thanks to his ability to contribute in all five categories. Most notable, Goldy swiped 18 bases, an accomplishment that is rare from his position. But Hosmer is one of the few at the position who can run as well (16 steals last year). More importantly, Hosmer will need his average to bounce back. He hit just .232 last year after hitting .293 in his 2011 debut. But his average wasn’t the only thing that dropped about 60 points, his BABIP did as well despite an almost identical line drive rate. He showed more patience and increased his walk rate and made almost the same amount of contact. If the average bounces back, the runs and RBI will jump up as well and should end up somewhere in the low 80’s, just like Goldschmidt did last year. 3) Rickie Weeks, currently the 13th second baseman being selected, will be a top ten second baseman. Health could obviously derail this prediction as Weeks has missed some big chunks of time in the past, but he’s a power/speed combo who just needs to stay healthy and avoid bad luck to be a solid contributor in each category. He’s a safe bet to be a 20/15 HR/SB guy, but he has to avoid the low BABIP that made him an average killer last year (.285 BABIP). And he should avoid it. His career BABIP is .305, so he could jump back to his career batting average around .250 with the positive regression alone. But Weeks also showed more patience and made more contact last year, so that’s another reason to expect the average to go back up. If it does, the runs and RBI will go along with it, and he’ll put up numbers similar to what Danny Espinosa did last year when Espinosa was a top ten second baseman. 4) Will Middlebrooks, currently the 18th third baseman being selected, will be a top ten third baseman. Power. Middlebrooks has it in spades. In 843 plate appearances at AA or higher, Middlebrooks has popped 44 home runs. That works out to a home run once every 19.16 times he has come to the plate. Only ten major leaguers have a rate better than that over the last three seasons. Granted, Middlebrooks did a lot of that in the minors and is unlikely to continue on the 30+ HR pace he was on last season. But the point is that he has power and potential. You would also be right to be concerned about his ability to maintain a .288 batting average given his 24.5% strikeout rate and 4.5% walk rate. But his plate discipline might be better than those numbers indicate. He was actually pretty patient at the plate last year with a 44.6% swing rate. The problem was contact rate (76.2%). He’s probably due for some regression with the average, but maybe it will only fall to the .270 that Steamer, Bill James, and the fans project as opposed to the .255 that ZIPS and Oliver project. 5) Josh Rutledge, currently the 14th shortstop being selected, will be a top ten shortstop. Like Weeks, Rutledge also projects to be somewhat like Espinosa was last year. Rutledge is another power/speed combo whose average will determine how good he can be. Something like 15/15 with 140 R+RBI seems like the stick for Rutledge, but the R+RBI total will be dependent on his average. There’s some concern because the kid likes to swing and doesn’t walk much, but he made good, hard contact last year. If that keeps up, his average will be good enough. 6) Starling Marte, currently the 63rd outfielder being selected, will be a top 50 outfielder. With the exception of Weeks, each guy I’ve discussed so far will be 27 or younger this year. And with the exception of Middlebrooks, each guy is, to some degree, a power/speed combo. And Marte is no different. He projects conservatively as a 15/25 HR/SB player. Once again, his average will be key. If he can keep his strikeout rate in the low 20’s as opposed to high 20’s where it was during his brief debut last year, he should be able to use his speed to hit for a decent enough average. He isn’t one to take a walk so he may not be able to stay atop the lineup, and his run totals could take a hit. But the power/speed numbers alone give him a good shot to crack the top 50. 7) David Murphy, currently the 65th outfielder being selected, will be a top 50 outfielder. Murphy isn’t young like the others, but he is a contributor in multiple categories. In five seasons as a Ranger, Murphy has hit a home run once every 34 plate appearances. He’s going to be the everyday left fielder in Texas this year, so if he gets 575-600 plate appearances, he could hit 17-18 home runs to go along with double digit steals. He has a career average of .285, and in that lineup he could get to 140 R+RBI. It’s almost impossible to find that kind of multi-category production as late as Murphy is going. 8) Jason Hammel, currently the 92nd starter being selected, will be a top 60 starter. Hammel’s ERA dropped from essentially 4.80 in his last two seasons in Colorado to 3.43 last year in Baltimore. Taken alone, this screams fluke. But Hammel’s ERA was backed up by a 3.46 xFIP and 3.53 SIERA. Why the major improvement? A lot of it had to do with a jump in his strikeout rate to 22.9% (16.7% career), which was backed up by a big jump in his swinging strikeout rate up to 9.9% (8.1% career). Why the jump in strikeout rate? Hammel’s pitch mix shifted as he relied on his slider and two-seam fastball more. But maybe the most encouraging stat from Hammel’s surprise season was his .087 ISO allowed. That was the 5th best mark in the league among starters with 100+ innings behind only Kris Medlen, David Price, Felix Hernandez and Gio Gonzalez. 9) Erasmo Ramirez, currently the 116th starter being selected, will be a top 60 starter. Ramirez posted a 3.36 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in an excellent 59 inning debut last year. The control is certainly for real. He had an excellent walk rate at each level of the minor leagues, and even if he can only muster a league average strikeout rate he’ll still have above average strikeout-to-walk skills. But his strikeout rate could be a lot higher than the 20% it was last year. His swinging strike rate was 11.3% thanks in large part to a fastball that has good velocity and a solid change that comes in on average about 11 mph slower. He’s going to see some BABIP regression, but he plays in the second best BABIP ballpark for pitchers. There’s upside galore here. 10) Dillon Gee, currently the 117th starter being selected, will be a top 60 starter. Gee is my boyfriend. I love him. Why? Had he accumulated enough innings to qualify last year, he would have finished top 30 in K/BB (28th), swinging strike rate (14th), and groundball rate (21st). The swinging strike rate is important because it means he should be able to maintain the increased strikeout percentage of 21%. The extra swings-and-misses were probably due to the increase in use and effectiveness of his slider. He threw it just 35 times in 2011 and got zero whiffs. But last year he threw it 249 times and got 23 whiffs (9.2% SwStr%). If he keeps using that slider and stays healthy, Gee has more than top 60 upside.