After reading my ten hopefully-bold-enough predictions for the upcoming season, be sure to peruse the other Bold Prediction articles that have been published this week. We can then reconvene once the regular season has ended and discuss just how foolish the majority of these predictions proved to be.
It’ll be fun. Kind of.
(1) Starlin Castro will see his batting average fall under .275.
Although I love the power/speed combination offered by Castro and he just turned 23 last weekend, I’m worried his poor plate discipline will rise up and continue to take a bite out of his batting average this season. Consider this: his O-Swing% rose to 37.4% in 2012, while his strikeout rate, swinging-strike rate and swing percentage all increased in a similar fashion for the second-consecutive season. Sure, he’s young and has ample time to develop his skills, but those peripheral numbers are not trending in the right direction. Every projection model on his FanGraphs player page has him hitting over .290. I’m not so certain we’ll see that in 2013.
Hop on the bandwagon, folks. I’m driving. Both players will be absolute studs this season and provide significant value in all five roto categories. It’s important to not allow spring statistics to drive draft-day strategy — I know — but Harper and Trout are OPS-ing 1.238 and 1.120 in spring training. That’s decent, right?
(3) Jarrod Parker will be a top-20 starter in mixed leagues.
Parker’s solid rookie campaign was overshadowed by Mike Trout last year, but the right-hander will turn some heads this season when he becomes a top-20 starter. That improvement will be spearheaded by an increased strikeout rate. Amongst qualified starting pitchers who had a swinging-strike rate of at least 9.0% — Parker was at 9.9% — only two pitchers failed to post a K/9 above 7.00: Jarrod Parker and Hiroki Kuroda. I believe Parker rides his plus-changeup to a higher strikeout rate, and O.co Coliseum helps keep his home-run rate depressed. If he stays healthy, that could mean big things for fantasy owners.
(4) Jean Segura will hit at least .290 with 30+ stolen bases.
The diminutive shortstop headlined the return for Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke trade last summer, and he’ll be the everyday starter this season. He only hit .258/.315/.325 in his brief 45-game debut at the big-league level. However, his September was fantastic, compiling a .309/.378/.407 slash line with a .339 wOBA. He then led the Dominican Winter League in hitting and has drawn great reviews from scouts this spring. Segura has great bat control, uses the entire field well and his stolen base totals should benefit from having Ron Roenicke as his manager, as the Brewers led Major League Baseball in stolen bases last year. Essentially, I’m thinking Jose Altuve at shortstop — but with a better offense surrounding him.
(5) Ben Revere will hit his first big-league home run, but it will be an inside-the-park home run.
It’s been 1064 plate appearances and no home runs for Ben Revere. As in, zero. His career ISO is .044, which is the lowest ISO amongst all players who have logged at least 1000 PAs the last three years. That’s even lower than Juan Pierre (.049 ISO). Revere is also the only player in that time frame who hasn’t hit a single home run. I predict that will end in 2013! Largely thanks to his speed, though, and probably an ill-timed dive by an outfielder, rather than suddenly discovering some pop in his swing.
(6) Al Alburquerque will accumulate the most saves of any reliever in the Tigers’ bullpen.
With Bruce Rondon getting sent to the minors, the Tigers devolved into the dreaded closer-by-committee bullpen. It’s unclear what the plans currently are in Detroit for the ninth inning, but long term, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict Al Alburquerque ends the season with the most saves for the Tigers. Right-handed batters crush Phil Coke and Jim Leyland said over the winter that he doesn’t believe Joaquin Benoit can physically handle the closer’s role, which leaves the door wide open for Alburquerque. The right-hander has struggled staying healthy, but he’s nasty when on the mound, featuring a mid-90s fastball and a heavy dose of his wipeout slider. He has a career 13.50 K/9 strikeout rate in 56.2 innings and has held his opponents to a ridiculous .138 batting average. Durability is probably a concern — like Benoit — but I’m going to go with the stuff. Alburquerque it is.
(7) Brett Anderson finally stays healthy for an entire season, pitches 175 innings and is a top-30 starting pitcher.
Considering he’s only thrown 175 innings once in his career, I suppose this bold prediction is mostly a blind prayer for health from the lefty. He’s already dealt with a right trapezius issue in spring training, but he’s back on the mound already and reportedly is throwing without any pain. If the body holds up, the production will be there. He has a career 3.57 ERA, generates a ton of ground balls, has good command and pitches in a spacious ballpark. Again, the body has to hold up, and if ignoring three-consecutive seasons of injuries isn’t a bold enough prediction, then these NotGraphs predictions may be more your speed.
(8) Jeff Samardzija will be a top-ten starter in the National League.
The Cubs transitioned Samardzija to the starting rotation last year, and he attracted fantasy owners early in the year with a 3.09 ERA through the month of May and more than a strikeout per inning. He then was dreadful in the month of June, and many jumped off the bandwagon and missed out on his 2.58 ERA second half with a 9.82 K/9 strikeout rate. This year, he avoids the blow-up month — which was due to a combination of walks (5.79 BB/9) and bad luck (.377 BABIP) — and dominates the National League en route to being one of the top-ten starting pitchers in the NL and receiving some Cy Young votes at the end of the year.
(9) Jonathan Sanchez will post a 20% walk rate this year.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have officially named southpaw Jonathan Sanchez as their number-four starter heading into the regular season. In case you forgot or perhaps simply repressed the memory as a coping mechanism, Sanchez imploded last season with a 8.07 ERA and 6.60 FIP in 64.2 innings. No pitcher who has thrown at least 50 innings in a season has posted a higher earned run average than Sanchez’s 8.07 ERA since Luis Mendoza threw up a 8.67 ERA in 63.1 innings with the Rangers in 2008.
It all stems from Sanchez’s control, and I think it’s going to get worse this season and balloon over 20%. It’s certainly trending that way.
And for those telling yourself he’s probably improved — otherwise why else would the Pirates commit a roster spot to him, right? — he has walked 10 batters in 18.0 innings this spring and compiled a 1.556 WHIP. Again, just spring statistics, but when it matches the results from the previous season, it means a little more.
(10) No starting pitcher for the Miami Marlins posts double-digit win totals.
Pitcher wins are always difficult to project, but this prediction stems from two areas: (1) the Marlins’ rotation is likely below average, and (2) they’re really going to struggle scoring runs. I mean, we’re talking an everyday lineup featuring Placido Polanco, Adeiny Hechavarria, Donovan Solano, Juan Pierre and Casey Kotchman. That combination doesn’t bode well for win totals in the starting rotation. I do think Nate Eovaldi has a chance to cobble together a solid season. Come draft day, though, I’m not going to bet on it.
J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).