50 Bold MLB Predictions for 2013
"You can observe a lot by watching."
The legendary Yogi Berra made that claim decades ago, and although it is a typically baffling statement from the 10-time World Series champion, it is a lesson for baseball fans.
The game of baseball is never short on surprises. In fact, even the most thorough general managers find it difficult to quantify what makes a successful club.
By analyzing the game, however, you begin to notice trends which then can be used to predict future performance.
In this slideshow, I will attempt to predict the baseball season and highlight my 50 bold predictions for the 2013 campaign which is right around the corner.
The Tampa Bay Rays Will Win the World Series
The Tampa Bay Rays did not make the most noise in the offseason, but that is not always a bad thing. They were in the news for trading James Shields to Kansas City for a package deal, including Wil Meyers, who happens to be a top-five prospect in the game.
My basis for this claim is simple. The Rays are extremely efficient at converting batted balls into outs and their pitchers getting strikeouts.
In addition to having a loaded starting staff, led by 2012 AL Cy Young David Price, the bullpen was lights out last season led by Fernando Rodney and Joel Peralta.
They made a few acquisitions to help their offense by adding Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson and James Loney.
Evan Longoria will be healthy and ready to lead the offense with Meyers ready to introduce himself to the league.
The addition of Jose Molina will benefit their young pitchers as well.
Playing in the difficult AL East will benefit them, because they are so accustomed to nail-biting games that the playoffs will not have any increased pressure.
The AL and NL Pennant Winners Were Laughingstocks Less Than a Decade Ago
As recently as 2011, the Washington Nationals were a sub-.500 team. In fact, they hadn't finished with as many as 80 wins since 2005.
The Tampa Bay Rays, who were previously known as the Devil Rays, hadn't won more than 70 games in their existence, entering 2008. Suddenly, they changed their name and their color schemes and turned into one of the elite teams in baseball.
It wasn't magic, however. Both teams finally turned their first-round picks into cornerstone players. The players they were unable to retain were traded for valuable parts such as trading James Shields for Wil Meyers.
Both of these teams are formidable, and I predict they will be playing in the Fall Classic, thanks to their starting pitching and overall depth.
The Angels and Dodgers Will Make Quick Postseason Exits
It appeared the Miami Marlins' failed attempt at buying success would have been a lesson to the rest of Major League Baseball.
Instead, the Dodgers and Angels actually outspent them in an attempt to return to prominence.
I believe they will fare better, simply because they actually spent their money on successful players such as Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke.
On the other hand, "dream teams" tend to take longer to mesh, and they find it difficult to handle adversity.
I believe both teams will make the playoffs before losing in the first round of the playoffs.
Mike Trout Will Exceed Last Season's Performance and Win AL MVP
Living on the East Coast, I did not get to watch Mike Trout play too often. When I did, it was clear he was robbed of the MVP Award, and it has nothing to do with his WAR of 10.0.
1) He plays one of the toughest positions on the field, playing much better than Cabrera.
2) He stole 49 bases in 54 attempts, meaning his contributions on the basepaths were actually beneficial to the team.
3) By leading the league in runs with 129 and having the advantage in OBP of .399 to .393, he essentially negated two of the categories Cabrera led the league in.
4) The playoff argument is meaningless, considering the Angels won one more game in a tougher division.
With that being said, Trout is 21 years old and will get even more pitches to hit this season with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in the lineup. I look for him to steal a few less bases, but put up similar counting numbers (runs scored, RBI, home runs).
Joey Votto Will Win the NL MVP
Joey Votto is coming off an injury-shortened year in which he played in only 111 games. He still finished No. 14 in the NL MVP voting.
In fact, since 2008, when he finished runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting, the 29-year-old has been among the most productive players in baseball.
A slash line of .316/.417/.553 is as solid as it gets for a middle-of-the-order hitter.
With the addition of Shin Soo Choo, Votto will have another monster year and will win his second MVP award.
The New York Yankees Will Not Hit 200 Home Runs as a Team
This one may not exactly sound like going out on a limb, but the Yankees have been living (and dying for that matter) on the strength of their power bats for years.
Without Nick Swisher, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixieira, Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin, who were a part of their lineup last season, the Yankees will be without 186 of their 245 home runs from last season (via Buster Olney).
Relying on players like Juan Rivera, Matt Diaz, Francisco Cervelli and Eduardo Nunez will certainly test the patience of Yankee fans. Once the team is healthy, the offense will return to being an elite one, but they will not hit 200 home runs which had previously been a rite of passage for them.
Clayton Kershaw Will Win the NL Cy Young
Even with the addition of Zack Greinke, the Los Angeles Dodgers will be relying on Clayton Kershaw to be their ace.
The soon-to-be 25-year-old appears to be just reaching his potential as he finished runner-up in the NL Cy Young race to R.A. Dickey in 2012, just a year after winning it.
Kershaw's combination of a plus fastball, knee-bending curve and pinpoint control does not bode too well for offenses.
Over the past two seasons, he has won 35 games, while compiling a 2.40 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 9.3 K/9 and only 6.7 H/9.
I expect a lot of the same this season, and there is no Dickey to prevent him from being crowned the league's best pitcher.
Chris Sale Will Win the AL Cy Young
Not many pitchers go from college campus to the big leagues in a matter of months. Chris Sale did that in 2010 and has not struggled in doing so.
The No. 13 overall pick in the 2010 draft has compiled a 2.89 ERA between the bullpen and the starting rotation and has a nifty 3.44 K/BB ratio to go along with it.
Sale did struggle a bit in the second half, certainly a sign of fatigue in his first full year as a starter.
On July 15, his ERA stood at 2.11, and it was ultimately elevated to 3.05.
He now has the experience of going through a full season, and I believe he will outlast the trifecta of Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and David Price for the coveted award.
Carlos Gonzalez Will Win the NL Batting Crown
Carlos Gonzalez is a dynamic player who combines speed, power and the ability to hit for average.
Despite playing on a poor team, the sweet-swinging Gonzalez is one of the best hitters in the majors. I predict he will perform close to his 2010 form in which he finished third in the NL MVP voting.
I predict he will hit .340 with 25 home runs, 110 RBI and 30 stolen bases. He is at the peak of his prime. Only injuries could prevent him from maintaining his superstar status.
R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson Will Be Disappointments
R.A. Dickey's path from hopeless journeyman to 2012 NL Cy Young award winner is nothing short of remarkable.
He took the league by storm and dominated from April through the end of the season, winning 20 games on an otherwise abysmal Mets team.
He was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for a package including Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. I do not think he will be a calamity, but not likely to dominate the AL East like the NL.
Granted, he is a savvy pitcher and an unconventional knuckleballer who has the ability to throw it harder than most.
I just feel that he will find it more difficult to roll through those lineups in a similar fashion. I predict a 13-13 win-loss record with an ERA closer to 4.00.
Josh Johnson simply cannot stay healthy. I think he can dominate over a 30-start season, but I think he will post a 11-6 record with a 3.20 ERA, but will throw only 150 innings.
The Pittsburgh Pirates Will Finally Finish over .500
People have been saying this for years—and it almost came to fruition two years in a row.
In fact, they were 60-44 on August 1 with Andrew McCutchen playing as well as anybody in the majors.
From that moment on, the walls caved in. The Pirates couldn't do anything right, and poor Clint Hurdle and McCutchen had to face the reality that another losing season occurred.
With above-average players at three positions—McCutchen, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez—the Pirates are not as bad as they finished the season.
Obviously, the absence of the Houston Astros is not beneficial, but the pitching staff will be the strength of the team.
The addition of Francisco Liriano could prove to be formidable along with A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald.
If I'm wrong, just chalk it up to a pity pick, because nobody wants to see this team suffer anymore.
Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox Will Be the AL Wild Cards
I expect the AL East to be a dogfight, but ultimately, the Red Sox will finish in second behind the Rays with 89 wins.
The AL Central will feature the Tigers winning by several games over the White Sox with the Royals, Twins and Indians all finishing under .500.
The AL West will be another tight one. The Angels have the firepower to win 95 games with the Rangers at 90 due to the loss of Josh Hamilton.
The Athletics will experience a significant regression due to their sophomore pitchers struggling to adjust to the league.
The two wild-card teams will be from Boston and Texas, and they will battle out in a one-game playoff.
Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers Will Be the NL Wild Cards
The Braves upgraded at the outfield spot which will improve their offense drastically—an offense that finished No. 17 in the majors in runs scored with 700.
The Upton brothers will improve that.
Atlanta will be led by their incredible bullpen and solid starting pitching. Their 3.42 team ERA ranked No. 5 in the majors and held opposing batters to a .243 average.
They will win between 90 and 95 games once again.
The Dodgers finished with only 86 wins in 2012, despite revamping their team at the trade deadline. They have obviously adopted a win-now approach.
The addition of Zack Greinke will form one of the most potent 1-2 punches in the majors with Clayton Kershaw.
Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley and one of Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang or Ted Lilly will round out the rotation.
With Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, the team should have no trouble scoring runs.
Their bullpen will be important, but they are a 90-win team on talent alone. I expect a slow start like the 2011 Boston Red Sox, but a quick recovery minus a late-season collapse.
The Baltimore Orioles Will Finish in Last Despite Power Arms Emerging
Last season, the Baltimore Orioles defied all odds to compete with the imposing New York Yankees until the last day of the season, thanks to their resilient team which had an uncanny ability to win one-run games, especially in extra innings.
That will not occur this year, simply because it is way too much to expect.
Nevetheless, Buck Showalter did an incredible job reviving baseball in Baltimore. Additionally, they have the optimism regarding their two pitching prospects.
Dylan Bundy, who dominated professional ball in his first year, will soon be joined in the rotation by Kevin Gausman, their top pick in the 2012 draft.
That may be enough to digest a last-place finish this season.
NL Rookie of the Year Will Be Travis D'Arnaud
The 24-year-old has received attention for being the only player to be traded for two Cy Young winners. Incredibly, he has yet to reach the big leagues.
At this point, it is simply a matter of time, as he has proven that he is ready to make the leap after dominating the Pacific Coast League to the tune of .975 OPS prior to his injury last summer.
He will begin at Triple-A Las Vegas for the Mets, but he will most likely appear at the end of April.
D'Arnaud has been lauded for his work ethic and all-around ability, and I believe we will see close to a .300 batting average to go along with decent power numbers, while displaying tremendous leadership behind the plate.
Wil Myers Will Win the AL Rookie of the Year
He enters the season ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the MLB. He is as close to a "sure-thing" prospect as it gets.
Meyers, 22, posted a .987 OPS, thanks to 37 home runs in 2012 which earned him the Minor League Player of the Year award.
Whether or not he begins the year in the big leagues should not hinder his development.
I expect 20 home runs and an an OPS close to .800 for the most recent wunderkind.
Alex Rodriguez Will Make His Debut in September
It would be an understatement to say Alex Rodriguez has experienced peaks and valleys in his New York Yankees career.
Until last year, the only valleys were his bizarre off-the-field moments and his abbreviated, but dismal, slumps.
Last season, he combined injury, steroid scandals and declining performance, which certainly complicates his standing with the organization.
Since having surgery to repair his hip labrum, A-Rod is saying all the right things.
Of course, he doesn't have much of a choice when he is getting paid to be a distraction.
The injury is serious, and I expect a setback or two. Rodriguez will return this season, despite his possible connection to a steroid distributor.
Of course, it could be too little too late for the 37-year-old.
Albert Pujols Will Not Reach His Perennial .300/30/100 in Any Catergory
Albert Pujols barely missed out on his historical streak of .300/30/100 in 2011 by hitting .299 and driving in "only" 99 runs.
Last season, his average dipped by .14 points, and his OPS dipped below .900 for the first time in his career.
Is it something to be concerned about? If you are expecting his 2009 MVP season, then yes. But with Mike Trout and Pujols in the same lineup, he does not need to drive in 135 runs to be productive.
I expect another decrease in average, perhaps to .280 with a home run total around 27 and 95 RBI.
Johan Santana Will Be the Biggest Name Dealt at the Deadline
In 2008, Johan Santana was the most sought after player on the market.
Five years and multiple injuries later, he still could be, but only because of a weak trade market.
If Santana is healthy and the Mets are willing to pick up most of his $25 million salary, a team could be willing to give up a top prospect in order to receive a two-time Cy Young winner.
Santana may seem old due to the time he has missed, but at 34, he still has something left in the tank.
I expect the White Sox to deal for Santana. They are very familiar with him from his days in Minnesota.
Mariano Rivera Will Record 35 Saves and a 1.75 ERA, Finishing Fifth in Cy Young
When I initially wrote this, I had planned to predict that Mariano Rivera would retire at the end of the season. I have revised it to include a more updated bold prediction.
His career has been so remarkably consistent that these numbers would generally be conservative, but given the ACL injury he is recovering from at age 43, it would be incredible for him to have a 35-save season.
The five-time World Series champion owns the record for most saves with 608 and a career WHIP of 0.998, but the most mind-boggling statistic is that his career postseason ERA is 0.70 spanning 141 innings.
It is impossible not to respect the man for his accomplishments on and off the field, while conducting himself in such a professional manner. Rivera will retire with a bang.
Mark Appel Will Be Drafted by the Astros and Rival Stephen Strasburg's Contract
Last season, Mark Appel was expected to be the first overall pick in the draft. His 10-2 record, with a 2.56 ERA, were among the best numbers in the nation.
The Houston Astros raised some eyebrows when they selected Carlos Correa instead. Appel ended up dropping to the Pittsburgh Pirates' No. 9 pick. Not surprisingly, Appel chose to stay in Stanford for his senior year, most likely hoping to be the No. 1 pick in 2013.
I believe he will, considering he has gotten off to a dominating start. With his ability and projection, I think he can land a signing bonus in the neighborhood of Stephen Strasburg's deal, possibly north of $10 million.
Dylan Bundy Will Post the Best Under-21 Pitching Season Since Felix Hernandez
In 2005, Felix Hernandez burst onto the scene as a flame-throwing 19-year-old from Venezuela. Eight years later, Dylan Bundy is poised to become the next great teenage phenom.
Bundy posted an incredible professional debut last season, beginning with 30 shutout innings in the South Atlantic League.
Bundy got the call to the big league team before the end of the season, firing 1.2 shutout innings.
He may not begin the year at the big league level, but he will most likely be up at the end of April and will dominate, despite his relatively small 6'0", 195-pound frame.
The Detroit Tigers Will Lead the Majors in Runs with 815
The Detroit Tigers were expected to be a dominating offense last season. They did win the AL Central by three games, but were far from potent, aside from AL MVP Miguel Cabrera.
This season, however, the acquisition of Torii Hunter and a healthy Victor Martinez will go a long way in establishing the Tigers as a dynamic offense.
With Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Hunter, Martinez, Omar Infante, Alex Avila and Austin Jackson, they will average 5.0 runs per game.
The Atlanta Braves' Outfield Will Combine for 75 Home Runs...
The Atlanta Braves were already deep entering the offseason.
They upgraded their outfield by acquiring the Upton brothers, who will join an outfield already featuring a star in Jason Heyward.
I expect 30 home runs from Justin Upton and Heyward along with 15 from B.J. Upton, who will also contribute solid defense and baserunning to form a very potent outfield.
I don't expect them to miss Michael Bourn very much.
...But They Will Regret Trading Tommy Hanson
I knew the Atlanta Braves had a deep rotation, but there was no reason to trade a 26-year-old who has averaged 14 wins and a 3.61 ERA in his four-year career.
It's especially true, considering their bullpen was already their strong point.
The only logical explanation is that they know something about his arm. To be fair, his ERA has risen each year from a 2.89 in 2009 to 3.33 to 3.60 and finally 4.48 in 2012.
I think he is too young to be in a decline, and they will miss his durability.
Bryce Harper Will Get Suspended
It's no secret that Bryce Harper's antics have irritated the opposition.
If he was comfortable as a rookie under scrutiny, imagine what type of showboating he will perform in Year 2?
I think he will be involved in some sort of bizarre incident, perhaps involving a malicious slide into an infielder which will invoke action from the league.
Perhaps, that will teach him to behave nicely.
Aroldis Chapman Will Have Durability Issues as a Starter
Much like Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman posted a historically dominant season in relief in 2012. He racked up 122 strikeouts in just 71.2 innings.
He was able to rear back and throw his 100-plus mph heat and occasionally baffle hitters with a scintillating slider, a borderline illegal combination.
As a starter, however, it's different.
One long inning can can change the complexity of an outing, even if a run is not surrendered.
I think it's going to be an adjustment year for the 25-year-old, featuring a K/BB ratio closer to 2:1 with a 12-10 record spanning 170 IP.
Three No-Hitters Will Be Thrown: Derek Holland, Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer
Just a hunch but I feel good about this for some reason.
Obviously, 2012 was basically the "Year of the No-Hitter" in baseball with seven no-hit games. I think that number is unmatchable, but we will be treated to three.
Giancarlo Stanton Will Lead the Majors in Home Runs and Intentional Walks
Poor guy is the last man standing from the 2012 offseason champs who dished out money like it was going out of style.
The bad news is, unless Logan Morrison provides protection, there is no reason to pitch to him.
The good news is pitchers aren't willing to walk him every time he's up, which bodes well for his slugging percentage.
I expect 41 home runs, a very high strikeout total near 170 and close to 30 intentional walks.
Amassing 93 home runs by age 23 is nothing to scoff at.
Mike Napoli Will Be the Best Free-Agent Bargain
Mike Napoli on a one-year deal worth $5 million is an extremely valuable commodity. At three years and $39 million, he's an overpriced one-dimensional player.
The Red Sox actually benefitted from the news that Napoli has a hip issue.
There is not much risk associated with a one-year deal, and with his track record—which includes 33 home runs per 162 games and an .863 OPS—the Red Sox will not regret this decision.
He is a winner and will add another threat to their lineup.
The Cleveland Indians Will Regret Michael Bourn
I went back and forth on this a few times, but I'm certain that Michael Bourn is not worth the four-year, $48 million contract he signed.
The 30-year-old has two strengths—his defense in center field and his ability to steal bases. Both of those facets can deteriorate, since he's on the wrong side of 30.
His stolen bases decreased from 61 to 42. He was caught a league-high 13 times last year.
The biggest weaknesses are his low OBP and high strikeout total. For a leadoff man, there is no way he should average 126 strikeouts per year and a .339 OBP.
The Cleveland Indians made a couple risky signings this offseason by also bringing in Nick Swisher on a lofty deal, but the real problem will be the huge strikeout totals between Bourn and Drew Stubbs.
By year three, the Indians will be looking for a way out of this deal.
Blue Jays' Prospect Marcus Stroman Will Have a Big Impact in the Big Leagues
The creator of the #HDMH trend on Twitter is short in stature, but can light up the radar gun and buckle knees with his filthy slider.
The Long Island native has been dominant at every level he has played at, dating back to high school, and possesses the pitching acumen to succeed, despite his lack of ideal pitching height.
Some have compared him to Tom Gordon, but I believe he can be the next Tim Lincecum. The Toronto Blue Jays would be foolish to waste his value in the bullpen.
Marcus Stroman will join the big league club, after his 50-game suspension has been served, in early May, and by the All-Star break, he will be a household name if he hasn't garnered enough buzz already.
Adam Dunn Will Strike out More Than Mark Reynolds
Teams used to shy away from players who struck out.
Once the Steroid Era came, it seemed every slugger was striking out 150-plus times, even shortstop Jose Hernandez who briefly held the single-season record with 188.
Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds made mincemeat of the record, each shattering it on multiple occasions.
Reynolds actually whiffed 223 times in a season, nearly 200 more than Joe Dimaggio averaged per season.
Dunn is coming off a 222-strikeout season, his personal best, while Reynolds actually decreased his substantially to 159 last season.
I think it will be close this season, because Dunn will probably receive less at-bats, and Reynolds plays in the Indians lineup which will rack up strikeouts.
Still, Dunn wins 190-175.
Tim Lincecum and His Short Hair Will Return to Form
After four incredible seasons to begin his career, the diminutive right-hander from Washington hit a bump in the road in 2012.
The two-time NL Cy Young award winner posted a record of 10-15 with an ERA of 5.18, throwing 17 wild pitches, allowing 8.9 H/9 and 4.4 BB/9.
The numbers were not indicative of his abilities, but he was removed from the rotation during the postseason in which the Giants won their second World Series in three years.
Some people believe the mileage has caught up to him, but I disagree.
"The Freak" did not simply run out of velocity at age 28; he hit a bump in the road. He'll respond in 2013 and post a 15-7 record with a 3.10 ERA.
Michael Pineda Will Appear in August
What a different a year makes.
When the New York Yankees traded top prospect Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Pineda, it seemed both teams received a valuable commodity.
At 22 years of age, Pineda was coming off a dominating season in which he registered a 3.74 ERA with a 1.099 WHIP, 7.0 H/9, 0.9 HR/9 and 9.1 K/9.
For his achievements, he finished fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting and was elected to the All-Star game.
Since that time, however, he reported to spring training 20 pounds overweight in 2012, had surgery to repair his labrum and got a DWI.
His standing in the organization has changed a bit, but he is still expected to pitch.
I believe his return date will be pushed back a bit and the 24-year-old will be on the shelf until August. He will have reduced velocity and will not be the same pitcher he was in 2011 until 2013.
Joba Chamberlain Will Be Traded
In 2007, Joba Chamberlain entered the league and dominated, unlike any 21-year-old pitcher in recent memory. By most accounts, he was the heir to Mariano Rivera once the legend would retire.
Sometime since then, his career path altered significantly, to the point where he is simply trying to stay in the major leagues.
The burly 6'2" reliever has struggled to regain the form he had in his rookie season and has been forced to recover from Tommy John surgery and an ankle injury since then.
The Yankees bullpen is very solid, and they could use Chamberlain as a chip to receive a power bat in order to fill the void of Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson's injury.
At this point, Chamberlain has more value as a trade chip than to the Yankees' bullpen.
Philadelphia Phillies Will Spoil a Late September Wild-Card Lead
The Philadelphia Phillies failed to reach the postseason in 2012 for the first time since 2006. It was mainly due to their vast amount of injuries.
Despite their extended age, the team will still compete for a wild-card berth in 2013.
They will get off to a good start, the opposite of the norm for the Charlie Manuel era, but will teeter off as the season progresses.
Ultimately, they will enter September with a 4.5-game lead, but will blow it due to the hot play of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The front office may be forced to change the direction of the team in the offseason—an unpopular decision among the fanbase.
Scott Kazmir Will Win Comeback Player of Year
In 2004, the Mets were within striking distance of a wild-card berth at the trade deadline. General manager Jim Duquette had the genius idea of trading one of the most dynamic left-handed power-pitching prospects in the game for a mediocre veteran with command issues.
The trade went as expected, with Zambrano winning 10 games in his abbreviated Mets career and Kazmir winning an AL Pennant with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
He started Game 1 of the 2008 World Series. The next year, he was an enigma and traded to the Angels.
By 2011, he fell victim to the dreaded "Steve Blass Disease."
Victims rarely recover, but it seems Kazmir is back in the right mental state and is throwing the ball very well.
If that's the case, there is no reason he cannot be a solid pitcher for the entire season.
Josh Beckett Will Have a Poor Season, Request Trade
Once upon a time, championship pitching staffs could be built around Josh Beckett. In fact, two teams were led by the 6'5" Texan who was chosen just after Josh Hamilton in the 1999 Rule 4 draft.
Now, however, Beckett has been the subject of more controversies than winning ballgames.
Despite his largely successful 2011 season, Beckett was at the focal point of the Red Sox "fried chicken gate."
That certainly put a sour taste in the collective mouths of the fanbase.
Then, Beckett had the high-profile golf outing when his back was too injured to pitch, and he handled the situation very poorly.
It is clear Beckett does not possess the same level of character he did earlier in his career. The Dodgers were forced to take on his contract and persona, in hopes that he can put it together for a season.
I don't think that will happen, however, and he will be in the middle of trade rumors come July.
Jon Lester Will Rebound to Win 16 Games and Post a 3.78 ERA
I always viewed Jon Lester as the ideal left-handed ace. Standing at an imposing 6'4", 240 pounds and wearing his hat just above his eyes, he certainly looks the part.
Factor in his arsenal of pitches and demeanor and you have an ace.
He put together four solid seasons from 2008-2011, averaging a 16-8 record with a 3.33 ERA, but regressed in 2012 with a 9-14 record, 4.82 ERA and 9.5 H/9 and 7.3 K/9.
It is concerning that he was suddenly more hittable, but with his track record, I'm willing to chalk that up as an anomaly.
Lester will rebound and post numbers in line with his 2008-'11 stretch and provide ace-quality pitching for the Boston Red Sox.
Christian Yelich Will Finish Second in the NL Rookie of the Year
The guy really surprised me by how well he swung the bat in a spring training game earlier this month.
He has great swing and has been called a future batting champ. In 2012, he batted .329 with 20 stolen bases in two levels of the minors.
Having just turned 21, he certainly has time to develop.
The Miami Marlins do have an offensive player to build around besides Giancarlo Stanton, and this is him. I think Christian Yelich will surprise a lot of people, and he will have a rookie year similar to Chris Coughlin's in 2009.
Trevor Bauer Will Regain His Command and Win 12 Games in the AL
Trevor Bauer rocketed through the Arizona Diamondbacks minor league system, thanks to a 12-2 record with a 2.42 ERA in 130 innings last season.
Once he got up, however, he apparently lost his command and fell out of favor with the organization.
I was extremely surprised they would give up on him so quickly, much like the San Francisco Giants trading away Zack Wheeler just two years after drafting him.
Bauer was the third pick of the draft in 2011 so they must've liked something about him then.
In his 16.1 innings at the big league level, he walked 13, which was uncharacteristic for him.
I believe that was simply a case of a small sample size for an unnerved rookie. I look for him to regain his command and ultimately be the best pitcher on the Indians by the end of the season.
K-Rod Will Sign with an NL Team After the WBC
It is perplexing as to how a player could break the single-season mark for saves in a season in 2008 and become unworthy of a one-year contract this late in the offseason.
Francisco Rodriguez will pitch in the WBC for Venezuela and could, perhaps, use that time to showcase his ability to teams in need of a closer.
There is no question he has declined, most likely because he has more mileage on his arm than most 31-year-old relievers do.
2012 was the first year he recorded an ERA+ under 100 in his career. His statistics declined across the board, most notably his ERA of 4.38 and WHIP of 1.33.
I still think a team will sign him on the cheap, perhaps a NL West team such as the San Diego Padres for a two-year deal worth $8 million.
Yu Darvish Will Become a Top-10 Pitcher in the Game
There wasn't a pitcher who has come over with more expectation since...well, not too long ago.
Nevertheless, Yu Darvish made a name for himself for his performance in the 2009 WBC by racking up a tournament-high 20 strikeouts.
In his first MLB season with the Texas Rangers, he was a bit overshadowed by the attention Bryce Harper and Mike Trout received, but he posted a record of 16-9 with an ERA of 3.90 and 221 strikeouts.
He struggled a bit with his command, which could be due to the adjustment of pitching with a different-sized ball and on shorter rest.
I expect Darvish to take the next step forward, lower his ERA under 3.00 and become a workhorse for the Rangers.
I'll predict an 18-8 record with a 2.85 ERA in 210 IP.
Kenley Jansen Will Become the Next Craig Kimbrel
Not many people outside of Los Angeles noticed the dominance of the 6'5" flamethrower from Curacao.
It's hard to ignore his statistics. They are quite mind-boggling.
In his three seasons, spanning 145.2 innings, Jansen has a 2.22 ERA, 0.947 WHIP, 4.6 H/9, 0.6 HR/9, 4.5 K/BB and an incredible 14.6 K/9.
He has been brilliant, but will face the pressure of being relied upon in the September playoff chase, which may or may not bring him back to earth.
From his recent track record, it appears he will be the next Craig Kimbrel.
Craig Kimbrel Will Seem Only Slightly More Human
Pitchers aren't supposed to perform with machine-like efficiency. Well, nobody told that to Craig Kimbrel.
The 23-year-old had a season for the ages, striking out just over 50 percent of the batters he faced.
His lethal fastball/slider combo had batters flailing hopelessly all season.
Most impressively, Kimbrel completely erased the taste of the 2011 collapse from the fanbase in a way that seemed outside of the realm of possibility.
That type of short-term memory is precisely what separates one-hit wonders from perennial All-Stars.
I don't expect Kimbrel to dominate in that type of fashion, but a sub-2.00 ERA along with 40 saves is definitely attainable.
Houston Astros Will Post Their Third Straight 100-Loss Season
The Houston Astros are redefining what it means to be cost-conscience.
In an era where the Dodgers and Angels are handing out $100 million to anybody who owns a baseball bat, the Astros' highest-paid player—Wandy Rodriguez—doesn't even play for them.
Yes, compiling No. 1 overall picks has been proven to work by the Washington Nationals; the Astros should not expect to be very competitive with a) a very poor team and b) in the top-heavy AL West.
Houston Astros, you are on the clock.
Ike Davis Will Win the Home Run Derby on His Home Field
There has not been much excitement in Citi Field since its inception in 2009. Aside from Johan Santana's no-hitter, the Mets have suffered four straight sub.-500 season which has tested the patience of their faithful.
This summer, they will be hosting the midsummer classic which is certainly a source of enthusiasm.
Ike Davis will most likely be representing the Mets, considering he is their biggest power threat, having hit 32 home runs last season.
He possesses prodigous power and will ignite the crowd when he knocks baseballs into the "Shea Bridge," and perhaps, the Brooklyn Bridge.
Bruce Rondon Will Throw the Hardest Pitch of the Seasonâ€”and Cause an Injury
Move over, Aroldis Chapman.
When you hear 98-103, your first thought is the average temperature in the Sahara Desert.
In this case, it is the scouting report on Bruce Rondon's fastball. The kid can throw hard.
Rondon may struggle with his mechanics and command, but he will not get squared up on too many heaters.
He is reminiscent of former Tigers' reliever Joel Zumaya.
I expect high strikeout rates, lots of panicked hitters and possibly a broken wrist from a hitter.
The Detroit Tigers Will Hold a Seven-Game Lead Entering May
This seems like an odd number, but there is a reason.
The Detroit Tigers have improved on last year's team which won the division by three games over Chicago. By having Victor Martinez, the team will add another dimension to an offense that had the third-highest AVG in the American League last season.
Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter and Martinez will form a formidable trio in the middle of the lineup.
The pitching staff is also dynamic. With Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello, they possess one of the deepest staffs in the MLB.
The wild card will be the poise of their young closer, Bruce Rondon, who has struggled, thus far, in spring training.
They could look to provide insurance to him by adding a veteran closer. Regardless, they are headed for an easier path to the playoffs in 2013.