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MLB Predictions: Each Team's Struggling Player Who Will Still Have Big Season

Brandon McClintockCorrespondent IApril 21, 2011

MLB Predictions: Each Team's Struggling Player Who Will Still Have Big Season

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Even All-Stars are prone to getting off to slow starts sometimes.

    The benefit of a 162-game season is that even a slump to begin the season can be turned around into a productive season to help their team win.

    No team goes through an entire season without most members of their roster going through a slump at some point. Thankfully for these players it is still only April and there are five full months of baseball remaining to turn things around.

    I don't expect to see any of these players with these same numbers at the end of the season.

    Here's a quick look at each team's slumping player who will still have a productive season.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Armando Galarraga

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Armando Galarraga is probably best known around baseball for his near perfect game last season while pitching for the Detroit Tigers.

    Galarraga threw what would have been the third perfect game of the season last year when the umpire covering first base missed a call that allowed the only base runner of the game against the Tigers.

    That was last year though, and this is 2011. Galarraga is pitching for the Diamondbacks this season and, despite his three wins, his ERA shows that he is struggling to keep runners from crossing the plate.

    Galarraga will benefit from pitching in the National League though, and should see his ERA drop from 6.00 back down to around his career average of 4.50. I expect Galarraga to break out in his first season in the NL and drop the ERA below 4.00 while being one of Arizona's most consistent starters.

Atlanta Braves: Dan Uggla

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    Dan Uggla already has four home runs on the early season, but he also has a batting average of .200.

    Uggla is just adjusting to a new team and a new set of expectations.

    He is still playing in the same division and will see his batting average rise back to around his career averages, while clearing the 30 home run plateau for the fifth straight season.

    I predict a .275/35/105 line for Uggla at the end of his first season with Atlanta.

Baltimore Orioles: Vladimir Guerrero

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    Last season Vladimir Guerrero helped lead the Texas Rangers to the World Series with his .300 average, 29 home runs and 115 RBI.

    So far this season Vlad is off to a slow start, by his standards, with a .254 average and only two home runs for the Orioles.

    Guerrero will be just fine though as the summer continues—he is too good of a hitter to see such a drastic drop.

    Guerrero is also playing for another contract at the end of the season. Expect him to hit right around .300 again this season with a slight drop in his power—I am guessing 25 home runs and 100 RBI.

    He should give Oriole fans a reason to cheer at the ballpark this summer, or provide a valuable trade trip to Baltimore management if a contender comes calling for an impact bat.

Boston Red Sox: Carl Crawford

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    Carl Crawford is a prime example of a star player struggling, who will still have a big season.

    Crawford is an elite player, and much better than his current .149 average suggests.

    Since Boston just finished a two-game set in Oakland (where I live and cover the A's), I had the opportunity to listen to Red Sox manager Terry Francona speak on the radio about Crawford.

    The appearance is that Crawford is trying to live up to his huge contract and putting unnecessary pressure on himself early.

    He will make the necessary adjustments and bring his average back up to the .300 range.

    As the summer heats up in Boston so will Crawford, and he will play an integral role in leading the Red Sox lineup deep into the postseason.

Chicago Cubs: Matt Garza

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    Similar to Armando Galarraga, I expect Matt Garza to benefit from a transition to the National League.

    Garza is currently 0-2 with a 4.74 ERA. Last season with Tampa Bay, Garza was 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA.

    There is no reason to think that Garza won't be able to lower his ERA to better numbers than his 3.91 ERA from 2010.

    The NL Central is solid, but does not have the offensive fire power the AL East possessed while Garza was pitching there. He will also benefit from no longer having to face the designated hitter.

Chicago White Sox: Adam Dunn

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    An appendectomy slowed Adam Dunn down, but he has struggled offensively before and after the medical concern as well.

    Dunn is currently batting .162 with only a pair of home runs in ten games.

    This being his first season in the American League, and likewise first season as a designated hitter, Dunn will have some adjustments to make.

    He will improve as the season progresses and finish with over 30 home runs for the eighth season in a row. In fact, I expect Dunn to approach the 40 home run mark by the end of the 2011 season.

    His batting average should rise about 100 points by the time 2011 is over as well.

Cincinnati Reds: Scott Rolen

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    Last season Scott Rolen turned back the clock a few years and gave the Reds an All-Star performance with 20 home runs and a .285 batting average.

    He's off to a bit of a slower start this season, currently batting .232 with two home runs.

    His big season in 2010 was not merely a coincidence that it was also his first full season back in the National League after spending a year and a half with Toronto.

    Rolen is in the decline phase of his career, but his numbers should be only slightly worse than 2010, which will benefit the Reds as they look to repeat as NL Central champions.

    Rolen should still bat around .280 or higher with 18 home runs.

Cleveland Indians: Shin-Soo Choo

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    Shin-Soo Choo's current .215 average will only raise as the season progresses.

    The last two seasons Choo has posted .300 averages, and his home run totals have risen each year as well.

    Choo will rebound from his slow start and put together a solid campaign with an average above .300 and also increase his home run total to above 25 long balls.

Colorado Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez

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    Ubaldo Jimenez is one of the best starting pitchers in the National League. He is not the pitcher currently sporting the 7.36 ERA in Colorado.

    Jimenez is off to a slow start, but he will put together a string of dominant starts that will remind everyone of the type of pitcher he truly is.

    The Rockies are a solid team that should compete for the NL West division title this year, and Jimenez will be a key contributor with 15 or more wins and an ERA right around the 3.00 mark.

Detroit Tigers: Austin Jackson

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    Was Austin Jackson's 2010 season a fluke? I'm going to assume no, and I'm also going to assume that he won't suffer a sophomore slump and see his stats drop off significantly.

    In fact, I'm going to predict the opposite.

    Jackson's slump to start the season, he is batting just .157, will not last past the end of April.

    Jackson will slowly climb back above the Mendoza line, and continue from there.

    The speedy center fielder will wind up being a catalyst for the Tigers offense in 2011 and beyond. I don't see Jackson having a huge season for the Tigers, but he will be much better than what his early statistics suggest.

Florida Marlins: Anibal Sanchez

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    Anibal Sanchez is currently sporting a 5.51 ERA for the Marlins.

    That won't last. Sanchez will drop his high ERA two points back down to around the 3.50 level before 2011 is complete.

    My thought is that his current 0-1 record will wind up around 15-10 by the time the season is over.

Houston Astros: Wandy Rodriguez

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    Wandy Rodriguez is currently 1-2 with a 5.48 ERA?

    Yeah, but like Anibal Sanchez in the last slide, Rodriguez is a much better pitcher than his early statistics suggest.

    Rodriguez will reduce his ERA to the 3.50 range or below, and should finish up with double-digits in the win column for the third year in a row.

Kansas City Royals: Mike Aviles

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    Is Mike Aviles really an impact player? No, probably not, but he is better than his current .200 average suggests.

    Last year Aviles put up a .304 average for the Royals, and in 2009 he batted .325.

    He may not wind up a power hitter capable of driving in a ton of runs for the Royals, but he should reach base much more consistently and raise his average around 100 points to the .300 range; a big boost for the Royals offense.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Vernon Wells

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    Vernon Wells isn't expected to live up to the value of his contract with the LA Angels this season, but they would like to see a bigger return on their investment than the .186 average he is currently producing for the Halos.

    Wells had a good season in 2010 with the Blue Jays though, batting .273 with 31 home runs and 88 RBI.

    Once he settles into his new team and division he should start hitting around the .260-.270 range and still put up home run totals in the high 20's to low 30's.

    The Angels lacked offense last season, and are counting on Wells to help provide some of that missing production the remainder of 2011.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Juan Uribe

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    Juan Uribe was a key member of the 2010 World Champion Giants team, hitting 24 home runs and knocking in 85 runs for the defending champs.

    Uribe jumped ship in the offseason for the division rival Los Angeles Dodgers, and so far early in 2011 his statistics are suffering.

    Uribe is currently batting .183 without a single home run for LA.

    He is familiar with the division though and he will break out of his slump and contribute to the Dodgers in 2011 and throughout his contract.

    Uribe should still see 15-plus home runs for the Dodgers while batting around .250; not a great season, but far better than his .183 average would currently suggest.

Milwaukee Brewers: Yuniesky Betancourt

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    The Brewers have a few players not currently contributing who could wind up having big seasons. Zach Greinke and Corey Hart come to mind instantly. They aren't actually slumping though, they just haven't played yet.

    Yuniesky Betancourt on the other hand has slumped early on this season. He is currently batting .210 without a single home run; he has only driven in six runs so far for his new team.

    Last season Betancourt hit a career-high 16 home runs for the Kansas City Royals.

    When he breaks out of this early slump, he should benefit from playing in the National League and with a strong lineup around him to offer protection.

Minnesota Twins: Justin Morneau

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    Justin Morneau's 2010 season was cut short when he was forced to sit around for the entire second half with a concussion.

    Whether or not that injury has contributed to his early season struggles, we'll likely never know.

    Morneau is currently batting .208 with no home runs and only three RBI.

    For his career though, Morneau is a .284 hitter who averages around 30 home runs and over 100 RBI.

    Once he regains his timing, and gets comfortable again in the batter's box, he will return to form and should finish the season close to his career averages.

New York Mets: David Wright

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    The 2011 Mets are in a downward spiral at the moment, but David Wright should see his stats spiraling upwards again soon.

    Wright is still in the prime of his career and has expressed his desire to be part of the solution to the Mets' problems.

    Wright is currently batting just .239—expect him to raise that average back to around .285 before the season is finished if he is to truly contribute to fixing the Mets' problems.

    Wright should wrap up 2011 with about 30 home runs and 100+ RBI.

New York Yankees: Phil Hughes

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    Phil Hughes' early season troubles seem to be attributed to his "dead arm" that landed him on the 15-day disabled list.

    Hughes had a solid season in 2010 for the Yankees, pitching to an 18-8 record with a 4.19 ERA.

    His 2011 ERA is 13.94. Hughes is an easy candidate for a player who will rebound and have a good season; after all, his numbers can't get much worse when he returns.

    In all seriousness though, I believe that his problems will be fixed with the rest his DL stint is providing him. Returning with a rested arm, Hughes should return to the effectiveness he displayed in 2010 and help New York back to the playoffs.

Oakland Athletics: Josh Willingham

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    The A's have several players currently underachieving in their lineup, but Josh Willingham is the most likely to turn it around and have the biggest impact on Oakland's fortunes.

    Willingham was on pace for his best offensive season of his career when his season was cut short by injuries in 2010.

    2011 is his first season with Oakland and the American League, and so far the transition has caused his batting average to suffer at just .200.

    Willingham leads Oakland with three home runs though and has also driven in ten runs. As he adjusts to the league and gets more comfortable with the American League, his average will climb and he will finish with over 20 home runs for the A's.

Philadelphia Phillies: Raul Ibanez

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    Raul Ibanez needs to help the Phillies make up for some of the lost production from Jayson Werth departing for the Washington Nationals.

    So far, his slow start, a .219 batting average with only one home run, is not quite what the Phillies had in mind.

    Ibanez may not hit 34 home runs again, as he did for Philly in 2009, but he should bring his average back up to around .275 with 20 home runs and 80-90 RBI.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen

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    McCutchen hit .286 in each of his first two seasons in the big leagues, so his .230 average to start this season is definitely below his talents.

    His home run total also increased from 2009 to 2010, going from 12 to 16 long balls.

    When he starts hitting the ball more consistently, which he will do, his batting average should finally eclipse .286 for the first time in his career, and his home run total will approach 20 long balls.

San Diego Padres: Ryan Ludwick

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    Ryan Ludwick is a .260 hitter capable of 20-30 home runs a season.

    Batting in pitcher-friendly Petco Park will take a toll on any hitter's statistics, but Ludwick is better than his current .200 batting average.

    He is still making the adjustment from his mid-season trade from the Cardinals last year.

    He will turn his season around and hit to his career averages though. The Padres will be dependent on Ludwick for offense after trading Adrian Gonzalez during the offseason to the Red Sox.

San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt

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    I know, he is not even in the Major Leagues right now.

    The Giants sent Brandon Belt back down to Triple A to make room for Cody Ross' return from the disabled list. I considered changing the player here when the move was announced, but I still feel Belt is the player most likely to turn around his slow start in 2011 and have a big season for the Giants.

    Belt will be recalled after he gets around 100-150 at bats in Fresno for the Giants, and I expect him to jump into the rookie-of-the-year conversation when he does return.

    Belt will have a similar impact on the Giants as Buster Posey had in 2010.

Seattle Mariners: Chone Figgins

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    The Mariners hoped that a return to his natural position (third base) would help Figgins return to the offensive numbers he produced while playing for the division rival Angels before he signed with Seattle.

    So far the experiment has not worked out, as Figgins is hitting just .176 so far this season.

    The Mariners can count on Figgins to turn things around though—he will give them a batting average of at least .275 when he breaks out of his early season slump, and will add 40 stolen bases to the Mariners offense as well.

St. Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols

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    The Cardinals can count on Albert Pujols annually for a .300 average, 40 home runs and around 120 RBI.

    They failed to sign the to-be-free agent to an extension this past offseason and the expectation was that Albert would have a monster season in his walk year as he approached a historic payday.

    So far Albert has not dealt with the pressure of his impending free agency well, and it has put him in an early slump.

    Currently Pujols is batting just .254, well below his .330 career average.

    He will be fine though; he will emerge from this slump, put up Pujols-like statistics and compete for an MVP in his walk-year.

Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria

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    Evan Longoria isn't exactly slumping. He played just two games before being placed on the disabled list.

    He was without a batting average through those two games though, and since Manny Ramirez retired in shame, I needed to pick someone from the Rays capable of returning to have a productive season.

    Longoria is a difference-maker in the lineup, which is not news to any baseball fan. When he returns and gets into the rhythm of playing everyday again, he will produce for the Rays.

    I still expect a .290 season with 20-plus home runs from Longoria in 2011.

Texas Rangers: Ian Kinsler

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    The early good news regarding Ian Kinsler is that some of his lost power last season seems to have returned. He had only nine home runs all 2010, and already has four so far this year. (He had 31 home runs in 2009).

    The bad news is that his average has dropped from .286 in 2010 to only .200 so far this season.

    The Rangers lineup is stacked, and Kinsler is among the many Rangers capable of putting up big numbers as Texas looks to repeat as AL West champs and make another run at the World Series in 2011.

    Kinsler should have an all around more productive season than his 2010 campaign when he breaks out of his early slump.

Toronto Blue Jays: Juan Rivera

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    Juan Rivera was basically a throw-in player in the Vernon Wells trade this offseason, added to help offset some of the salary the Angels were acquiring.

    Rivera is a valuable bat in any lineup though, and the Blue Jays will be better with any contributions he adds to their offense.

    So far that has not been much of anything. Rivera is currently hitting just .103.

    I would expect Rivera to rebound to around a .250 average with between 10-15 home runs by the end of 2011.

Washington Nationals: Jayson Werth

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    Jayson Werth has a long way to go to live up to the expensive contract he signed with the Washington Nationals in the offseason.

    He seems to be feeling that pressure and struggling to produce so far, midway through April.

    Werth is currently batting .206 with two home runs in 2011, after batting .296 with 27 home runs for the Phillies in 2010.

    I personally don't believe Werth will live up to the value of his contract, but he is still capable of rebounding from his rough start to put up a respectable season.

    A .280 average with around 20 home runs is a reasonable expectation out of the Washington outfielder in 2011.

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