MLb Predictions 2012: 8 MLB Veterans Who Will Come Up Huge in 2012
Nowadays baseball is dominated by young, up-and-coming talent, and the veterans are merely an afterthought.
But we easily forget that these players have been around longer than the “newbies,” and they know the ins and outs of the game.
Chicago White Sox Adam Dunn—who really struggled and took a lot of heat for his lack of power in his first season in the American League—is on the list, along with former Cub Aramis Ramirez, who now calls Milwaukee his home.
I’ve chosen two hitters and two pitchers from each respective league and compiled a list of eight veterans around the MLB who will have a major impact on their respective club this season.
1. Designated Hitter Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox
Dunn will be hitting in the third spot in Robin Ventura’s lineup, and he’s set to be the team's designated hitter.
After coming over from the Nationals after the 2010 season, the expectations for Dunn were very high. And last season, he did not live up to them at all.
He finished hitting .159, and not only did his average drop, his power numbers dropped off even more. For the first time in eight seasons, he did not hit at least 38 home runs. He smashed 11 bombs and drove in only 75 for the Sox.
From 2005 to 2008, Dunn jolted 40 home runs each season. He crushed 46 home runs, a career-high, in 2004.
Everyone is aware of Dunn’s problem with contact. But, the White Sox are in need of power and are expecting him to return to his power hitting form.
This spring, he recorded five home runs and 14 RBIs in 20 games along with a .415 OBP, .569 slugging percentage and .984 OPS.
The spring numbers suggest Dunn will come storming out of the gate and put together an impressive comeback season.
2. Designated Hitter Travis Hafner, Cleveland Indians
Hafner has not been himself since the end of the 2007 season. Between 2004 and 2007, he smashed 127 home runs (42 in 2006 alone). Not only was he able to hit for power, he batted over .300 in three of those four seasons.
However, over the last four seasons, Hafner has been plagued by numerous injuries. He only appeared in 94 games last year, 118 in 2010, 94 in 2009 and only 58 in 2008. The problem has been his inability to stay healthy.
The media continues to say he’ll be back to himself next season and this year will be his year. It seems like we’ve been hearing that for the last three years.
Well, finally, I think he’ll have a comeback year.
Maybe not as big as Dunn’s, but I think he’ll rack up more than 20 home runs (around 25). Each season, his average continues to increase (.197 in ’08, .272 in ’09, .278 in ’10 and .280 last year). So, if the trend continues, it's possible he’ll raise his average to around the .300 mark.
3. RHP Derek Lowe, Cleveland Indians
The Indians lucked out with the acquisition of Derek Lowe in the offseason. Some might think he’s over-the-hill and slowing down since he’s 38. But it doesn’t seem like he’s letting up, and he still wants to win.
Last year was one of his worst seasons, and since he is on a new team and back in the American League, he’ll be looking for ways to impress and reverse his fortunes. He went 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA for the Braves. In his two previous years with the Braves however, he won 31 games.
In his career, Lowe has accumulated 166 wins, including a 21-win season in 2002 with the Red Sox. He’s won 15 or more games five times in his career and many forget he began his career as a reliever with Boston.
Although he’s been up and down this spring, Lowe still has something left in him. Especially since he struggled last season, there’s something he wants to prove
4. RHP Jonathon Broxton, Kansas City Royals
After spending the first seven years of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Royals picked up Broxton and will be using him as their closer this season.
Broxton has closed and basically pitched in every relief situation in the majors.
Broxton will have a major impact in the Royals young bullpen because he’s experienced hitters at the major league level for seven plus seasons.
But he’s also pitched his entire career in another league. There is definitely a difference in the National League hitters and although he’ll have to learn and adjust, he’ll still be able to flourish.
In his career, Broxton sports a very impressive 3.19 ERA, and he’s racked up 84 saves in 117 opportunities—36 of them coming in the ’09 season.
Although he only saved seven games last year, he’s shown the ability to be versatile. He flies under the radar and could have a productive season.
The Royals have a very young team, especially their bullpen.
Broxton can have a great impact on that bullpen, and he can also be an on-the-field leader for Kansas City. Watch out for Broxton this season as he could be one of the leaders in the saves category, as long as the Royals are able to put together some wins.
5. Right Fielder Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals
I’m sure all baseball fans are familiar with the name Carlos Beltran, after playing for the New York Mets and his history-making feats in the playoffs with the Astros years ago.
Well, he’s with a new team again, and this time, he has a great shot at helping the Cardinals win yet again another World Series title.
Although they lost Albert Pujols, who is going to be very tough to replace, Beltran has put up some very impressive years in the past. With his move to right field permanently, it will help Beltran focus more at the plate and concentrate on his batting eye.
The switch-hitting Beltran is a career .283 hitter with 302 home runs.
Last season, he finally broke out of his two-year slide, as he jolted 22 home runs and finished with a .300 batting average with the Giants. Getting out of New York was key for Beltran.
If his new home is the right fit, he’ll be able to hit between 25 and 30 home runs, drive in 80 RBIs, hit around .300 and patrol right field with the best of them.
In his last four days, Beltran's collected three multi-hit games and continues to get hotter as opening day approaches.
6. Third Baseman Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers
Ramirez has something to prove as he vies for a playoff spot like the Brewers accomplished last year.
Not to mention, the Brewers have a very strong offense, even though they lost Prince Fielder. Ramirez is sandwiched between MVP Ryan Braun and Corey Hart in the line, and he’ll have greater protection here than in Chicago, which will definitely help Ramirez get better pitches to hit.
Last season, he batted .306, smashed 26 home runs and drove in 93 Cubbies. Although he didn’t hit a remarkable number of home runs, he still jolted 26 and was able to bat over .300.
Over his last 17 at-bats this spring, he’s collected eight hits and seems on track.
In his career, he’s recorded 315 home runs and has time to prove he can make a difference and really help a team win. The Brewers found a great off-the-radar player, and he’ll have a strong impact on Milwaukee.
7. LHP Randy Wolf, Milwaukee Brewers
The veteran left-handed pitcher Wolf will begin the season as the third starter in one of baseball's best rotations.
Over his last two seasons with the Brewers, he’s won 13 games each year.
Although Wolf is 35 years old and has spent 13 years in the league, he’s still able to record outs and make it look easy. One of the reasons he’ll flourish this season is because he’s behind Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo, and he sits in front of Shaun Marcum.
In his career, Wolf has won 10 or more games eight times, and that feat isn't out of the question this season either.
In his last spring training game, Wolf allowed one run on only two hits during his four innings of work. Although his spring 4.45 ERA is a bit high, he can still settle down and regain his control as opening day approaches.
8. RHP Carlos Zambrano, Miami Marlins
Although Zambrano will be starting the year as the fifth member of the Marlins’ rotation, at least he has a spot, right?
His behavior is always erratic, and I'm sure everyone remembers his blow up and tantrum that whisked him out of Chicago.
He's still on this list because with a new team, manager, stadium and an entirely new concept in South Florida, he’s going to break out. Last season, he finished with a 9-7 record and a 4.82 ERA.
In his career, Zambrano is 125-81 and sports a 3.60 ERA. From 2003 to 2008, he won at least 13 games each season. And he's won 16 games in a season twice during that span.
His career-high of 18 wins came in 2008, but he’s tapered off over the last three years as he’s won only 29 games.
Yes, he’s struggled over the last couple of years, but his struggles and his departure from the Cubs could fuel Zambrano this season to do better and get back on track.
There are four proven starters in front of him, which will also help take the pressure off, and he can go out there and relax.