50 Bold MLB Predictions for 2012

Mark MillerCorrespondent IDecember 21, 2011

50 Bold MLB Predictions for 2012

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    With teams' rosters starting to take shape after a number of free-agent signings and trades this offseason, we now sit just 105 days until Opening Day.

    A great deal of moves will no doubt be made in the interim, but that doesn't mean we can't speculate on what will happen once the season gets underway.

    A number of outcomes next season will likely be expected, while we'll see many surprises in 2012 as always seems to be the case.

    Given that I'm fairly certain my predictions won't all pan out a year from now when we're looking back on the season, this slideshow should, if nothing else, be used to start a conversation in hopes of gaining some insight on what the B/R community's predictions are for the upcoming season.

Theo Epstein Seals the Deal for Prince Fielder

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    As the Theo Epstein era gets underway in Chicago, all eyes will be on him as he looks to make a big move this offseason.

    A number of teams are in on the Prince Fielder sweepstakes, but it just seems like the Cubs will trump the Mariners, Blue Jays and any other suitor when it's all said and done.

Hiroki Kuroda Doesn't Sign with MLB Team

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    Earlier this offseason it appeared that Hiroki Kuroda was set on either signing a contract extension with the Dodgers or heading back to Japan.

    In bringing Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang in for 2012, it appears Kuroda won't be back in Los Angeles.

    Kuroda appears to have since indicated he'd be willing to consider other teams, but with the amount of other free agents on the market, he may opt for the more comfortable situation in Japan.

Carlos Quentin Brings Offense Back to Padres Lineup

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    With a lack of power in San Diego last season, the Padres saw themselves scoring less runs than all but two teams in baseball.

    They'll look to improve on that in 2012 if they can get a deal done to pry Carlos Quentin away from Chicago.

    Quentin hasn't hit fewer than 20 home runs in a season since 2007 despite playing in fewer games due to injury. If he can get healthy in 2012, he could make a big impact on the run production.

Chris Parmelee Starts More Games at 1B Than Justin Morneau

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    Fans in Minnesota are hoping for a brighter 2012 season after watching their team narrowly escape 100 losses this season.

    A big part of that problem was the absence of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau from the lineup much of the time.

    If the Twins are still concerned about Morneau's ability to play in the field in 2012, they could very well move him to DH and play Chris Parmelee, who batted .355 with a 1.035 OPS in 21 games, as their full-time first baseman.

John Danks Is on the Opening Day Roster for the Yankees

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    Having passed up on Mark Buehrle and now Yu Darvish, the New York Yankees are clearly taking the more calculated route in working to improve their rotation.

    Chicago White Sox starter John Danks would be a great fit with the Yankees rotation in 2012, and with the White Sox in a rebuilding mode it wouldn't be surprising to see them part with the pitcher.

Michael Pineda Breaks Through as a Star

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    Michael Pineda went 9-of-10 with the Seattle Mariners in 2011, posting an ERA of 3.74. His efforts were good enough for an All-Star appearance and a fifth-place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.

    I'd expect him to make big strides in 2012 as he looks to improve in the win column while continuing to strike out nearly 10 batters per nine innings.

Carl Crawford Experiences Deja Vu in 2012

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    After signing a massive $142 million contract with the Boston Red Sox last offseason, Carl Crawford failed to live up to any expectations in 2011, batting a career-low .255 while seeing more than a 150-point drop in OPS.

    Some could chalk it up to an adjustment to Fenway Park and his new teammates, but for whatever reason I just don't see things returning to normalcy for Crawford in 2012.

Joe Saunders Leads the Twins in Wins in 2012

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    With the questions surrounding whether or not Michael Cuddyer or Jason Kubel will return to Minnesota answered, the Twins now turn their attention to starting pitching.

    With Brian Duensing likely headed back to the bullpen, they'd be wise to bring in a left-handed starter and could bring in Joe Saunders to fill that void.

    If they're out of contention at midseason and trade Carl Pavano and/or Francisco Liriano, the title for team lead in wins would seemingly be up in the air.

Aaron Rowand Plays a Big Part in Miami

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    Aaron Rowand was a major disappointment in San Francisco after signing his five-year, $60 million contract prior to the 2008 season.

    After batting just .233 in 2011, the Giants released Rowand, who recently signed a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins.

    Rowand has shown that he can play, and at just 34 years of age he should view the change of scenery as a second shot at playing on high expectations.

C.J. Wilson Doesn't Come Close to Expectations

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    Since moving to the starting rotation after the 2009 season, C.J. Wilson has certainly dominated batters throughout the league, posting a 3.14 ERA with 31 wins over the last two seasons.

    He doesn't appear to be the best of big spot pitchers, with a 1-5 record and ERA approaching 5.00 in postseason play, so there's definitely a chance he'll fail to live up to the high expectations being set for the Angels after their offseason spending spree.

Jamie Moyer Wins 10+ Games

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    Despite not playing in the major leagues in 2011, 49-year-old (yes, 49) Jamie Moyer has his sights set on a 2012 return, and despite a plethora of free-agent starting pitching available, it's really not out of the question to see him return.

    In his last three seasons, Moyer has won 42 games while pitching nearly 600 innings. A veteran presence like him would be valuable on the right pitching staff, and with something to prove he could easily reach double-digit wins.

Royals Finish over .500 for First Time in Nearly a Decade

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    The Kansas City Royals' last winning season came in 2003 when they finished 83-79, good enough for third place in the AL Central.

    They followed that season up with three consecutive 100-loss seasons but have recently shown signs of improvement.

    With some offseason acquisitions going in their favor and the continued improvement of young players on the roster, the Royals have a great shot at getting back into the win column in 2012.

Buster Posey Returns Better Than Ever

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    After running away with the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year award and leading the San Francisco Giants to a World Series championship over the Texas Rangers, Buster Posey was poised to repeat his performance in 2011.

    Those plans were quickly derailed after a leg injury ended his season after just 45 games.

    Posey's rehab has been going smoothly, and this season Posey will put up numbers that exceed his 2010 stats.

Bobby V Dons Another Disguise After Ejection

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    The Boston Red Sox made a somewhat surprising move when Bobby Valentine was named as the manager that would succeed Terry Francona in 2012.

    If nothing else, he's a highly entertaining character, and I'd love nothing more than to see what disguise Valentine could come up with in the Red Sox clubhouse.

Carlos Beltran Leads the Offense in St. Louis

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    With Albert Pujols out the door, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday remain as the most dangerous offensive weapons for the St. Louis Cardinals.

    The team has an interest in the services of Carlos Beltran, who is one of the best free agent targets remaining this offseason, and would benefit from his acquisition.

Roy Oswalt Is an All-Star in 2012

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    After making consecutive All-Star appearances from 2005 to 2007 with the Astros, Roy Oswalt has been absent from the midsummer classic since.

    It remains to be seen who Oswalt will sign with, but with the number of teams looking for help in their rotations, he'll certainly get a chance to win games and should put up good numbers as long as he remains healthy.

As Padres Continue to Clean House, Rizzo Makes Name for Himself in Tampa

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    Despite struggling to a .141 batting average with only 10 extra base-hits in San Diego during the 2011 season, Anthony Rizzo has an upside that makes him appealing for multiple teams.

    Looking for pitching, the Padres could let Rizzo grow in Tampa Bay in exchange for one of their available pitchers.

Carlos Pena Strikes out 200+ Times

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    After finishing 10th in the league in strikeouts in 2011 with 161, Carlos Pena is a free agent and has been considered a potential target of the Seattle Mariners.

    With the tough pitching he'll face on a regular basis, Pena, who has struck out more than 150 times in a season four consecutive years, could reach the dreaded 200 mark.

Mat Latos Trade Doesn't Pay off for Reds

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    The Cincinnati Reds certainly made a bold move when they traded for San Diego Padres starting pitcher Mat Latos last week.

    As much as the team might be in love with the pitcher who won 14 games in 2010 with a sub-3.00 ERA, the package of players they gave up in return (Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger) may prove to leave the team with holes they weren't anticipating.

Adrian Beltre Will Lead the League in Home Runs

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    Adrian Beltre's postseason power surge left a mark on many fans who had otherwise not realized the true threat he poses to opposing pitching.

    He hit 32 home runs in 2011 despite missing 38 games and should be able to near his 2004 career high in home runs, when he went deep 48 times.

Joe Nathan Loses Job as Rangers Closer

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    After saving an average of 41 games per season from 2004 to 2009 with the Minnesota Twins, Joe Nathan missed the entire 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery and failed to return to form in 2011.

    Nathan removed himself from the closer due to a lack in confidence and ended up finishing the season with only 14 saves and an ERA hovering around 5.00.

Mets Trade David Wright

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    After indicating towards the end of the season that he'd work towards keeping Jose Reyes in a Mets uniform for years to come, it appears that Sandy Alderson never actually even made an offer to the star shortstop.

    Alderson has also made it known that the team has no plans on trading David Wright, but after the botched negotiations with Reyes anything could be up for debate.

Jim Tracy Loses Job as Rockies Manager

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    With great potential comes great expectations. The Colorado Rockies have to be looking to turn a corner in 2012 after putting together a nucleus of players that certainly appears capable of getting the job done.

    Should the team struggle with their NL West counterparts next season, it's likely ownership will look somewhere to place the blame.

    Like it or not, that blame is oftentimes placed on the manager, meaning Jim Tracy could find himself on the short end of the stick if his team struggles to keep pace.

AL Wins Midsummer Classic in Walkoff Fashion

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    Having not lost an All-Star game since 1996, the American Leaguers appeared to be in control of the midsummer classic.

    That all changed in 2010 when the National League All-Stars won their first of two consecutive All-Star games. On top of that, the National League representatives of the World Series used their new-found home-field advantage to take home the trophy each season.

    With stars like Albert Pujols migrating to the American League, it could very well be their game to lose come July 10 in Kansas City.

Tim Wakefield Returns to Red Sox During Season

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    At this point it seems unlikely that the Boston Red Sox will bring back 45-year-old knuckleballer Tim Wakefield for an 18th season in Fenway Park.

    As is the case with essentially every team though, the Red Sox will find themselves in need of help at some point during the season.

    Whether or not they end up signing Wakefield to a minor league deal before the season or he's called upon after it starts, we may not have seen the last of him in Boston.

Aroldis Chapman Is Back in the Bullpen by Midseason

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    Even with the acquisition of Mat Latos, it looks like the Cincinnati Reds have full intention to keep Aroldis Chapman in the starting rotation.

    Past pitchers have had trouble adjusting to an increased role, and if that's the case with Chapman, the Reds could opt to move him back to the bullpen where he's struck out nearly 13 batters per nine innings.

Marlins Continue to Improve, Get Gio Gonzalez Before Deadline

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    The Miami Marlins have surprised many this offseason with their pursuit of bringing big-name players on board to make a splash in their new stadium.

    With Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Ricky Nolasco holding down the rotation, the Marlins could look to bring in a starter like Gio Gonzalez to compete with their NL East counterpart Philadelphia who boasts one of the most dominant rotations in baseball.

Jonathan Papelbon Sets NL Record for Saves in a Season

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    Jonathan Papelbon is coming into a good situation in Philadelphia, with a great pitching staff and a strong offense behind him.

    He'll have many opportunities to close the door on games in 2012, and if he's able to remain composed in high-pressure situations, he could push towards the 55-save mark.

Yu Darvish Fails to Pan out in 2012

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    Now that we finally know that the Texas Rangers are the lucky team who gets to negotiate with Pacific League phenom Yu Darvish on a major league contract, we can also make an attempt to speculate on what he'll do when he gets here.

    A number of players coming over from the Pacific League have panned out and become stars in Major League Baseball, while others have experienced far less success.

    I have no doubt that Darvish, who has been compared to Pedro Martinez, will become a force in this league, I'm just not so sure it'll be in 2012.

Twins Trade Francisco Liriano to a Contender

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    Francisco Liriano's name has long been brought up as a potential trade piece for the Minnesota Twins.

    His slider has the power to get any batter out, but his mind sometimes seems to get the best of him—something that the Twins may be growing tired of.

    With Liriano possessing a great deal of potential and the Twins in somewhat of a rebuilding mode, the conditions appear ripe for a change of scenery for the enigmatic starter.

Wandy Rodriguez Still Doesn't Find a New Home

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    Another name that seems to constantly be in trade talks is Wandy Rodriguez. The Houston Astros starter has come seemingly close to changing homes on different occasions, but the asking price always seems to trump any interest.

    With a big contract through 2013 and a 2014 option that becomes guaranteed in the event of a trade, Rodriguez may not find a new home next season.

A.J. Burnett Doesn't Finish the Season in Pinstripes

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    The New York Yankees have been fairly open about the fact that they're listening to anyone who has an interest in starting pitcher A.J. Burnett.

    At this point it seems unlikely that a deal gets done because of the Yankees' unwillingness to eat much (if any) of his remaining contract.

    If they deem him enough of a failure by Yankee standards, however, they may do whatever it takes to cut ties, leaving another team to figure out how to work with Burnett.

Mariners Once Again Set the Bar for Offensive Futility

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    Finishing last in runs scored in 2011, the Seattle Mariners made efforts to improve their offensive capacities in pursuing Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham as well as being on a short list for the services of Prince Fielder and Carlos Beltran.

    With Willingham and Cuddyer already spoken for and Fielder and Beltran less-than-likely options in Seattle, the Mariners will likely struggle to put runs on the board once again in 2012.

Jose Bautista Doesn't Reach 30 Home Runs

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    After going deep 97 times over the past two seasons, Jose Bautista has made a name for himself as one of the best sluggers in the league.

    At the same time, he may be due for a regression considering in his six prior seasons he never managed to hit even 20.

Justin Verlander Wins Second Straight Cy Young Award

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    It may not seem like much of a stretch that Justin Verlander could win a second straight Cy Young award in 2012 after putting up one of the most dominating seasons in recent memory in 2011.

    But with only 10 or so pitchers ever repeating as Cy Young award winners, it's clearly not the easiest task and certainly is no guarantee.

Manny Ramirez Is on a Postseason Roster

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    Manny Ramirez has made it known that he intends to return to baseball again after calling it quits after last season's debacle in Tampa Bay.

    It's hard to say which team at this point would take a chance on Ramirez, as he seems like more of a liability than anything else, but if he catches on somewhere once his suspension ends, he could prove himself to be a strong candidate to play some October baseball.

Jason Heyward Returns to 2010 Form

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    After batting 50 points lower and driving in barely half as many runs as he did in 2010, nobody wants to forget 2011 more than Jason Heyward.

    With another year under his belt, he should be able to put up numbers that much more closely resemble, or even exceed what he did in 2010.

Bryce Harper Wins NL ROY

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    As the most highly-touted prospect since, well, his future teammate Steven Strasburg, Bryce Harper appears to be ready for the limelight.

    Harper has excelled in 2011, and while he may not start the season with the Nationals, it won't be long before the organization has no choice but to bring him up. When he does arrive, opposing pitchers will definitely have their hands full.

Fielder-Less Brewers Still Make Playoffs

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    With Prince Fielder out of the picture in Milwaukee and Ryan Braun's status (at least for the first couple months of the season) up in the air, you wouldn't blame the Brewers faithful for having doubts about 2012.

    But with little, if any, changes to the starting rotation in 2012 and some tested pieces now in place, the Brewers should be able to push themselves to another NL Central title—though it certainly won't be easy.

Jim Leyland Wins Fourth Manager of the Year Award

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    The Detroit Tigers came close to making another World Series appearance in 2011, falling just short at the hands of the Texas Rangers.

    With a strong lineup and the best pitcher in the league in place for 2012, the Detroit Tigers look like definite favorites to run away with the AL Central and just might have what it takes to give their skipper top honors come the end of the season. 

Defending World Champions Miss Playoffs

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    The St. Louis Cardinals made one of the more improbable postseason runs in years and gave baseball fans everywhere quite a show along the way.

    When the dust settled with the Cardinals as World Champions, the team turned its attention to re-signing franchise superstar Albert Pujols to a long-term deal.

    They failed to make the move as Pujols has made Los Angeles his home, and while the team still has great pitching at the top of the rotation, they may find themselves on the outside looking in come next year's postseason.

Stephen Strasburg Wins NL Cy Young Award

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    After debuting to much fanfare during the 2010 season, Stephen Strasburg's time was cut short with Tommy John surgery in order.

    He returned late this season going 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA and looked like he was his old self again.

    If Strasburg can remain healthy, 2012 should be a breakout season for the young fireballer.

Grady Sizemore Wins Comeback Player of Year Award

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    From 2005 to 2008 Grady Sizemore was the staple of consistency for the Cleveland Indians. He played in at least 157 games each season and batted .281 while hitting more than 20 home runs each season.

    He's averaged only 70 games per season since then and has seen his average drop nearly 50 points.

    With a lot to prove and a 2012 contract filled with incentives, Sizemore has every reason to give everything he has.

Pujols Wins AL MVP in First Season with Angels

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    In what has been the biggest move of this offseason, the Los Angeles Angels signed one of the best players of our time to a 10-year megadeal, effectively ensuring he ends his career as an Angel.

    After seeing career lows (if you can call them lows) in a number of different areas, Pujols will tear up American League pitching in 2012 en route to AL MVP honors.

Matt Kemp Wins Triple Crown

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    After narrowly missing out on NL MVP honors this season, Matt Kemp probably has somewhat of a chip on his shoulder this offseason as he prepares for 2012.

    With Albert Pujols out of the National League and Prince Fielder possibly on his way out as well, Matt Kemp stands out even more as an offensive powerhouse and may very well see career numbers in 2012.

Despite Trout Regaining Eligibility, Moore Runs Away with ROY

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    For awhile it looked like his time had passed, but as it stands Mike Trout will have a chance to contend for AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2012.

    Despite his impressive appearances in 2011, it looks like Trout will have stiff competition in Matt Moore.

    With a fastball in the high 90s and control over his pitch selection, Moore looks like he will be an important part of the Rays rotation in the near future.

Marlins Play in NLCS

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    With pieces falling into place in Miami, the Marlins are looking like they could be a serious contender in the National League.

    They may not yet be done making moves this offseason, and assuming they're in a good spot when July rolls around, I wouldn't put it past them to make a move at the deadline.

    An appearance in the NLCS seems like a very real possibility.

Tigers Make Repeat Appearance in ALCS

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    The Detroit Tigers made a strong push through the 2011 season behind the outstanding efforts of league MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander.

    Despite coming up short, the Tigers have set the table for a repeat performance in 2012, and with strong all-around play they could find themselves playing in the fall classic.

Yankees Return to World Series...

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    With the pressure on Joe Girardi to succeed in 2012, the New York Yankees will step up and once again pave their way through the postseason en route to their first World Series appearance since 2009.

    In what many billed as the most-likely World Series matchup in 2011, the Yankees will face the Philadelphia Phillies in a highly publicized series starting in the Bronx. 

...and Lose to the Phillies

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    Despite the high-powered offense that a team like the Yankees throws at the Philadelphia Phillies, their starting rotation is simply too dominant as Roy Halladay leads the way for the team to exact its revenge in a rematch of the 2009 fall classic.