MLB Predictions 2012: Answers to MLB's 50 Burning Questions Entering Season

Robert Knapel@@RobertKnapel_BRCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2012

MLB Predictions 2012: Answers to MLB's 50 Burning Questions Entering Season

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    As a new season of baseball approaches, there are a number of questions that will be answered during the year.

    The following are some of the most pressing questions that baseball fans will have heading into this year. Everyone wants to know the answers to these burning questions about the 2012 season.

    Answers to pressing questions concerning star players and their futures, as well as if they can continue their success, will be among some of the things that are answered here.

Can David Freese Build on His Postseason Success?

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    With one swing of the bat, David Freese made himself a household name in 2011. The huge home run in Game 6 of the World Series put a lot of attention on Freese.

    Now, the St. Louis Cardinals are hoping that Freese will be able to produce as well as he did in the postseason during the 2012 season. Freese has never played more than 97 games in a season, and his career high is 10 home runs, but there are big expectations for him.

    It is possible that Freese can put up a year in which he bats .270 with at least 15 home runs and 70 RBI.

Will Johan Santana Be an Ace Again?

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    The New York Mets thought that Johan Santana would be their ace for a long time after they traded for him during the 2008 offseason.

    After three solid seasons of production with the Mets, Santana missed the 2011 season following shoulder surgery.

    Santana should win 10 games and put up a sub-3.50 ERA, but he will not be an ace for the Mets in 2012.

Will Adam Wainwright Be a Star Again?

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    The St. Louis Cardinals lost one of the best pitchers in the majors last year when Adam Wainwright underwent Tommy John surgery before the season started.

    Wainwright was a 20-game winner in 2010, but don't expect that many wins from him in 2012. A 15-win season and a sub-3.25 ERA are reasonable expectations for Wainwright this year.

How Will Yu Darvish Fare in the United States?

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    Yu Darvish was able to put up some incredible numbers in Japan, but there is no guarantee that he will have success in the United States.

    Pitchers who have come over from Japan have struggled in the past, but Darvish should be different and shouldn't be a bust.

    It is not unreasonable to expect 14 wins out of Darvish to go along with a sub-3.50 ERA. That will prove that Darvish was worth what the Texas Rangers paid for him.

How Will Michael Pineda Perform in the Bronx?

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    The New York Yankees made one of the bigger acquisitions of the offseason when they traded for Seattle Mariners starter Michael Pineda.

    New York made the move in hopes of shoring up its rotation, but things may not turn out that great during Pineda's first year with the Yankees.

    It will be an up-and-down year for Pineda as he moves to the much more difficult AL East. Expect an ERA that is around 4.25 to go along with 13 wins.

Will Jesus Montero Live Up to the Lofty Expectations in Seattle?

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    In exchange for Pineda, one of the players that the Seattle Mariners received is Jesus Montero.

    Montero is considered one of the top prospects in the game and is supposed to have incredible offensive potential.

    It is expected that Montero will be a starter for the Mariners right out of spring training. A .280 batting average, 25 home runs and 80 RBI are all possibilities for Montero this year.

What Impact Will Buster Posey's Injury Have on Him?

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    Buster Posey was on his way to a great season in 2011 before he suffered a broken leg, which ended his season way too early.

    That will certainly have some impact on Posey this year as he makes his return. Offensively, Posey should be the same player that he was before he got hurt. Defensively, however, Posey will shy away from collisions at the plate, and he should see more time at first base.

How Will Mike Trout Fare in 2012?

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    Reaching the major leagues as a teenager is a huge accomplishment. However, it should not be surprising that Mike Trout struggled during his stints with the Los Angeles Angels in 2011.

    Trout will only play part of the season in the majors this year, and his numbers should be decent. Expect Trout to appear in around 75 to 85 games this year. He should end the year with a batting average around .255. Additionally, he should hit 10 home runs, drive in 40 and steal 20 bases.

When Will Bryce Harper Make His Big-League Debut?

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    There is certainly an argument that could be made that Bryce Harper should break camp with the Washington Nationals this year.

    However, that does not appear like it will happen. Instead, Harper will likely spend some time in Triple-A. Harper might not be there for long if he can produce at that level.

    Do not be surprised if Harper reaches the big leagues by the beginning of June.

Which Adam Dunn Will Show Up in 2012?

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    To say that Adam Dunn had a miserable year in 2011 would be an understatement. He had the worst season of his career, and his production was just terrible.

    The 2012 season represents a chance for Dunn to prove that he is still an elite power hitter. However, Dunn may not seize this opportunity.

    Dunn certainly won't hit .159 again, but his batting average will once again be below .230. Some of the power will come back, but Dunn will only hit 20 home runs.

    The Chicago White Sox will certainly not get what they paid for.

Can Ryan Braun Clean Up His Image?

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    There is no doubt that Ryan Braun's image was hurt when it was announced that he failed a drug test. Although Braun won his appeal of the positive test, his image has certainly taken a hit.

    Opposing fans will certainly get on Braun this year, and he will be jeered by many. While he may be forgiven by most, there will still be some fans who will not see him the way that they once did.

Will David Wright Have a Bounce-Back Year?

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    David Wright had a tough season in 2011, and he did not live up to expectations. He had strikeout problems, and his batting average and home run total were not what the team expected.

    Without Jose Reyes in New York, Wright is now the biggest star in the Mets lineup, so a lot will be expected of him.

    With the fences moving in at Citi Field, Wright should have a much better season. He should once again crack the 20 home run mark and approach 100 RBI. Wright's batting average should be around .275 this year.

Will Hanley Ramirez Be Able to Handle Third Base?

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    After the Miami Marlins signed Jose Reyes this offseason, it was clear that Hanley Ramirez would need to change positions.

    He will now be the Marlins' starting third baseman. There will certainly be times when Ramirez struggles, but he should eventually adjust to the position.

Can Miguel Cabrera Play Third Base?

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    Miguel Cabrera is another big name who will be moving to third base this year. There are no doubts about what Cabrera can do at the plate, but there are many concerns about his defensive abilities.

    Cabrera has played the position before, but he is below average defensively as a third baseman. He will struggle this year and should see a number of at-bats in the DH spot if his defense is suspect.

Will 2012 Be a Breakout Year for Ike Davis?

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    It looked as if Ike Davis was going to break out in 2011, but he missed most of the season as a result of an ankle injury.

    Davis will be looking to pick up where he left off last year. This season could be a monster year for Davis, in which he bats over .280 while hitting 30 home runs and driving in 100.

    If he does this, he will be one of the top first basemen in the National League.

When Will Ryan Howard Return?

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    Ryan Howard is a big part of the Philadelphia Phillies lineup, and the team will be without him for at least part of the year as he recovers from surgery on his ruptured Achilles tendon.

    Howard suffered a setback when his surgical wound became infected. As a result of this, Howard's timetable was pushed back. The Phillies should get Howard back into their lineup in the beginning of May.

What Should Be Expected of Yoenis Cespedes in 2012?

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    The Oakland Athletics surprised a number of people when they signed Yoenis Cespedes this offseason.

    There is a lot of uncertainty about how Cespedes will perform this year. The Cuban League is considered a much lower level of baseball than MLB.

    Cespedes showed what he can do when he hit a home run in his spring training debut with the Athletics. It would not be surprising to see Cespedes hit 20 home runs and steal 15 bases this year. However, he will likely bat around .245 and strike out often.

Will Manny Ramirez Last All Season in Oakland?

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    Since he was traded by the Boston Red Sox, Manny Ramirez has dealt with a number of problems both on the field and off it.

    Now, Ramirez is a member of the Oakland Athletics. He will sit out the first 50 games of the year as he serves his suspension from his failed drug test in 2011.

    It seems unlikely that Ramirez will spend the full year with the Athletics. If he is performing well, then he may very likely be dealt at the trade deadline. Should Ramirez struggle or cause problems within the organization, it would be no surprise if he gets cut.

Can Matt Moore Live Up to the Hype?

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    Following his performances in the regular season and playoffs, Matt Moore has drawn a lot of attention and is one of the early favorites to win the American League Rookie of the Year award.

    Moore will have a good season in 2012, but he will not be the AL Rookie of the Year. Moore should have an ERA around 3.60 and should pick up 13 wins.

Will Neftali Feliz Have a Smooth Transition into the Rangers Rotation?

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    Neftali Feliz came through the Texas Rangers' system as a starting pitcher before the team decided to convert him into a reliever. The results were positive, as Feliz won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2010.

    Now the Rangers are trying to turn Feliz back into a starter. There may be some bumps along the way, but Feliz should have a fairly easy transition into the Rangers' starting rotation. Ten wins and a 3.75 ERA are likely production targets for Feliz this year.

Can Chris Sale Cut It as a Starter?

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    Chris Sale was a starter during his sophomore year at Florida Gulf Coast before he got drafted by the Chicago White Sox.

    The Sox moved him to the bullpen in the hopes of having him reach the majors sooner. Now, they are making him a starter. Sale should win nine games and post a 4.25 ERA this year.

Will Daniel Bard Be a Successful Starter?

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    Daniel Bard was one of the top starting pitchers in college while he was at the University of North Carolina. That is why the Boston Red Sox spent a first-round pick on him.

    Bard was terrible in his first year in the minors, posting a 7.08 ERA between Single-A and High-A. The Red Sox then converted him into a reliever, and he had a lot of success.

    Now, the Red Sox want to make Bard a starter again. He will struggle with the transition and eventually find himself back in the bullpen.

Will Aaron Crow Stick in the Royals Rotation?

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    Another pitcher who is attempting to make the move back to the starting rotation after spending time in the bullpen is Aaron Crow.

    The Kansas City Royals righty was an All-Star out of the bullpen last year, but he was originally a starter.

    Crow won’t spend the whole year in the rotation since the Royals will look to limit his innings, but he will be good when he is making starts.

What Can We Expect from Kendrys Morales?

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    The last time Kendrys Morales played in a Major League Baseball game was May 29, 2010. He injured himself celebrating a walk-off grand slam.

    Morales will need to prove that he can stay healthy this year. If he can do that, then 20 home runs and 75 RBI are not out of the question.

Will Julio Teheran Be Able to Maintain His Minor League Success in the Majors?

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    As one of the top prospects in baseball, there is a lot that has been expected of Julio Teheran. He got his first taste of the major leagues in 2011—and he struggled. Teheran went 1-1 with a 5.03 ERA in 19.2 innings.

    This was obviously not the start to his career that people were hoping for. Teheran has proven pretty much all that he can in the minor leagues. He will make an impact in the majors this year by winning at least 10 games and posting a sub-4.00 ERA.

Will Joe Mauer Be an MVP Candidate Again?

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    Between 2006 and 2010, Joe Mauer finished in the top 10 of the American League MVP voting four out of five years. In 2011, Mauer only was able to play in 82 games as the result of a few injuries.

    The Minnesota Twins are counting on Mauer this year if they are going to have a chance to compete in the AL Central. He should once again bat over .300 while being a key run-producer for the Twins.

Can Travis Snider Finally Hold Down a Starting Job?

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    Travis Snider has already gotten three chances to win a starting job with the Toronto Blue Jays before he turned 24, but he struggled with each of the chances that he has had.

    Now, Snider is competing with Eric Thames for the starting left field job in Toronto. Snider has been on fire in spring training and should win the role. He should finally break through this year and launch 20 home runs while posting a .265 batting average.

Is This Mariano Rivera’s Last Year?

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    There is no doubt that Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all time. Now, his storied career might be coming to an end.

    Rivera hinted at retirement this year, but no one knows what his intentions are. There is nothing left for Rivera to prove, and he will likely hang up his spikes after the year.

Can Josh Hamilton Stay Sober?

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    Josh Hamilton has all of the baseball skills in the world, but his major league career hasn't yet reached its peak as a result of his substance abuse problems.

    This winter, Hamilton relapsed with alcohol. As a result of this incident, the Texas Rangers have hired an assistant to make sure that Hamilton stays sober.

    Hamilton will stay clean this year and should be in for a great season as he nears free agency.

Will Matt Cain Sign an Extension?

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    After this season Matt Cain will become a free agent. The San Francisco Giants desperately want to make sure that one of their top starters does not hit the open market.

    The two sides have been talking about an extension, but progress on those talks has seemed to hit a bump in the road. If the Giants want to have Cain pitch for them again next year, then they will have to outbid other teams once he becomes a free agent.

Will Cole Hamels Re-Up in Philly?

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    If he becomes a free agent after this season, Cole Hamels will be one of the most sought-after players in the monster 2013 free-agent class.

    Philadelphia has had talks with Hamels and his agent, but they have not really gone anywhere. That does not mean that a deal won’t be done.

    Expect the Phillies to lock up Hamels and prevent him from becoming a free agent.

What Can We Expect from a Full Year of Stephen Strasburg?

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    Believe it or not, pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg has yet to pitch a full season in the major leagues.

    It should be fun to watch Strasburg make 30 starts. Fifteen wins are not out of the question, and Strasburg should have a sub-2.75 ERA in addition to a K/9 rate above 10.0.

Will Jamie Moyer Make the Rockies Rotation?

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    Not even sitting out the 2010 season as a result of Tommy John surgery could prevent 49-year-old Jamie Moyer from trying to pitch in the major leagues for at least one more season.

    The Colorado Rockies have a number of pitchers competing for spots in their starting rotation this year, and Moyer may not break camp with the team. If he is willing to stick things out and pitch in the minors for some time, then Moyer should be able to reach the majors later this season.

Will Matt Garza Be Traded?

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    Matt Garza has had his name come up in a number of trade rumors this winter, but he has not gone anywhere.

    He is by far the best trade chip that Theo Epstein has to deal if he is going to try to rebuild the Chicago Cubs. He will be dealt this year, and the Detroit Tigers could be a possible destination.

Will Ubaldo Jimenez Pitch Like the Ace the Indians Thought They Acquired?

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    The Cleveland Indians gave up two solid pitching prospects in Alex White and Drew Pomeranz in addition to Joseph Gardner and Matt McBride when they acquired Ubaldo Jimenez.

    Cleveland thought it was getting an ace, but instead it got a dud. Jimenez struggled in Cleveland and went 4-4 with a 5.10 ERA in 11 starts with the Tribe.

    Things might get a little better for Jimenez in 2012. His xFIP in 2011 was 3.71, and his ERA this year should drop towards that number. He should win around 13 games. Those will be good numbers, but they will not be ace-like.

Can Matt Kemp Actually Put Up a 50/50 Season?

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    There have been no players in MLB history who have put together a 50/50 season. However, that does not mean that it will never be done.

    Matt Kemp has set a goal of a 50/50 season this year. This is an incredibly lofty goal, and Kemp will not reach it. He still should have a great year, and he may go 40/40.

Will the Houston Astros End the Year with a Worse Record Than the 1962 Mets?

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    The New York Mets had the worst season in baseball in the post-World War II era during their first season of existence, as they went 40-120 in 1962. The 2003 Detroit Tigers almost matched the Mets' futility, as they went 43-119.

    This season the Houston Astros could challenge the miserable Mets team of 1962. The Astros have a number of unproven young players on their roster, and they will be in for a very long year.

    They won't match the Mets' record of futility, but it will be an awful year.

Does Trevor Bauer Make an Impact in the NL West This Year?

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    Trevor Bauer should be one of the first players to be selected in the 2011 MLB draft to reach the major leagues. He will be a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ starting rotation at some point this year.

    Bauer won’t start the year in the major leagues, and he will look to prove himself in the high minors. He should get at least 10 starts in the majors and should win five of them and help the Diamondbacks reach the playoffs for the second straight year.

How Will the Young Arms Fare in Oakland?

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    The Oakland Athletics traded away Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill this winter. In return for two of their top starters, the Athletics got a number of prospects.

    Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock are the two pitching prospects who are most likely to start the year with the big league team. Parker should be able win eight games and have a sub-4.25 ERA. Peacock may hit 10 wins while posting an ERA of just over 4.00.

Who Is the Biggest Name Dealt at This Year’s Trade Deadline?

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    There is always a lot of excitement at the MLB trade deadline as big names are rumored to be moving to new teams. Many of those players stay put, but some are dealt.

    David Wright will become a free agent following the season if he is dealt in 2012, but that will not stop a team from adding him.

    New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson got a great haul for Carlos Beltran, and he will likely look to do the same with Wright this year.

Who Buys the Los Angeles Dodgers?

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    Frank McCourt will be selling the Los Angeles Dodgers this year, and there are a number of potential buyers that have interest in the team.

    When all is said and done, the group led by former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten will likely be the winning bidder for the team.

Who Is the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year?

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    The National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2012 will not be as tight as it is in the American League.

    A number of good candidates will be in the running for the award, but the winner of the award will not surprise anyone. As long as Bryce Harper is called up before the middle of June, he will take home the award.

    If he is not, then Julio Teheran will win the NL Rookie of the Year award.

Who Wins the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2012?

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    There will be a lot of competition for the American League Rookie of the Year award this season. Two international stars, Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes, will challenge top prospects like Matt Moore and Mike Trout for the award.

    Darvish will just eke out the American League Rookie of the Year award over Moore in an incredibly close vote.

Which Pitcher Takes Home the 2012 National League Cy Young Award?

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    Roy Halladay did not take home the National League Cy Young in 2011 even though he had an outstanding year. Clayton Kershaw managed to put together an even better season than Halladay.

    In 2012, Halladay will take home his second NL Cy Young award since he became a member of the Phillies. Halladay should eclipse the 20-win mark and have a sub-2.50 ERA.

Who Is the American League Cy Young Award Winner in 2012?

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    Justin Verlander’s stunning 2011 season allowed him to take home the American League Cy Young award as well as the American League MVP award.

    Verlander will not repeat as the winner of either award in 2012. CC Sabathia will edge out Verlander as the top pitcher in the American League with Felix Hernandez coming in a close third.

Who Wins the 2012 National League MVP Award?

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    Two of the top candidates for the National League MVP award from 2011 have moved to the American League. Even without Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, there will still be a lot of competition for the NL MVP award.

    Ryan Braun and Joey Votto will both have good seasons, but they will not win the MVP award. With a 40/40 year, Matt Kemp will take home the NL MVP.

Who Is the 2012 American League MVP?

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    Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are both in the American League in 2012, and they will be some of the top contenders for the AL MVP award. Miguel Cabrera will also be involved in what is a very close race.

    At the end of the day, Pujols will join Frank Robinson as the only players who have managed to win both an NL MVP award and an AL MVP award.

What Team Represents the National League in the World Series?

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    A number of outstanding teams will be fighting it out for a spot to represent the league in the World Series.

    The playoff teams in the National League will be the NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies, the NL Central champion Cincinnati Reds, the NL West champion Arizona Diamondbacks, the St. Louis Cardinals as the first Wild Card and the Washington Nationals as the second Wild Card.

    Washington will beat St. Louis in the one-game playoff behind the arm of Stephen Strasburg. Philadelphia will then beat Arizona and the Reds will beat the Nationals.

    Philadelphia will take the series over the Reds by a count of 4-2.

What American League Team Reaches the World Series?

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    There will be a lot of competition in the American League this year for the five playoff spots. The AL East and the AL West will be very hotly contested.

    Three teams in the AL East will be fighting over two spots in the playoffs. The Tampa Bay Rays will win the division, while the Boston Red Sox will win the second wild-card spot by one game over the Yankees.

    Both the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels will make the playoffs with the Rangers as the division champions and the Angels taking the first wild-card spot.

    The Detroit Tigers will have an easy path to an American League Central crown.

    Los Angeles will take care of the Red Sox in the one-game playoff and face the Detroit Tigers in the playoffs. The matchup of Albert Pujols vs. Prince Fielder will be a great one, and the Angels will come out on top.

    Texas will be able to win a tight series against the Rays to face the Angels in an American League West showdown.

    Although the Rangers won the season series, the Angels will come away with the much more important playoff series victory by winning in Game 7.

Who Is the 2012 World Series Champion?

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    The World Series in 2012 will be a matchup between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Angels.

    Each team has a great pitching staff, so fans should be expecting a number of low scoring games.

    Los Angeles will jump out to a 2-0 series lead, but the Phillies will tie things up by winning the next two games.

    The Angels will prove to be too much for the Phillies and will take the series in six behind the bat of World Series MVP Albert Pujols.