MLB Predictions 2013: Bold American League Player Prophecies
Opening Day in MLB is here. It’s time for predictions. You will see predictions on divisions, award winners, rookies who will shine, and veterans who will fade. Just about anything you can think of will be predicted. One of the more fun exercises in MLB prediction season is the “bold” prediction. Basically, it is a far out notion that has a chance to happen, but needs a lot to go right.
Projecting Emilio Bonifacio to hit 20 home runs with the Blue Jays would be an example of taking it too far since he has a mighty seven in 1838 career plate appearances. Projecting his teammate Jose Bautista to hit 50 bombs wouldn’t really fit the spirit of the exercise either as that’s pretty tepid when you consider that he hit 54 in 2010 and 43 in 2011 – both major league bests. I did come up with nine bold predictions, three per division, for the American League that contain the perfect mix of actually being bold while still maintaining some plausibility that you can actually envision them occurring under the right circumstances.
Here are nine bold predictions for American League players in 2013.
Jarrod Parker Will Have a 3.00 or Better ERA
The 24-year-old righty for the Oakland A’s enjoyed an excellent debut last year posting a 3.47 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 181.3 innings of work. Instead of regressing, I think the Parker will take another step forward in 2013. Projected as a frontend starter throughout his minor league career, Parker wasted no time showing why he was a five-time Baseball America Top 100 Prospect finishing no worse than 46th. Parker’s strong 2012 was just a taste. The rising star will flirt with a sub-3.00 ERA this year and look for his strikeout rate to jump up near 22-23 percent, too.
Erick Aybar Will Score 100 Runs
This one might be more common sense than bold. Batting behind Mike Trout and just ahead of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton will make him the foremost resident of Fastball City. He smoked fastballs to the tune of a .317/.345/.497 line last year which was even better than his 2011 line of .319/.358/.472 against heaters. He is going to be on base often and with two of the game’s preeminent mashers behind him, he will be circling said bases frequently though he will often be able to do so at a slow trot. Scoring a hundred runs will eclipse his previous career high by 29 runs, set in 2011.
Yu Darvish Will Win the AL Cy Young
This one felt bolder back in December back when I first decided he would be my 2013 Cy Young pick (yes, I think about baseball that aggressively in December), but the bandwagon is starting to fill up a bit. That said, this still projects the second year major leaguer to thwart the likes of Justin Verlander and David Price – the last two winners – along with reigning NL Cy Young R.A. Dickey and perennial studs Felix Hernandez, C.C. Sabathia, and Jered Weaver. His season really turned last year when he started leaning on his cutter and if he does from the jump this year, the league is toast. I see something like a 20-5 record, 2.73 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 251 strikeouts in 224 innings.
Alex Gordon Will Hit .340 and Win the Batting Title
When he was taken with second overall pick in the 2005 draft, Gordon was instantly penciled in as the future George Brett, lofty standard for anyone to try and live up to the millisecond you’re drafted. He has fallen short of those outstretched expectations. In fact, for a couple years there it looked like he was going to be a flat out bust. Injuries and underperformance crushed him in 2009-2010 limiting him to just 123 games with a 684 OPS. His stints in the minors in those two years kept hope alive as he tore the cover off the ball similar to what he did in 2006, his pro debut. Things finally clicked in 2011 with a brilliant season and while he fell back a bit in 2012, he remained a very strong asset atop the Royals lineup.
Some still see a power surge coming, but that just isn’t a key component to his game. He can pop some homers, but he’s not a 30-home run guy. He is a gap-to-gap doubles hitter as evidenced by his 96 two-base hits the last two years, the most in baseball. I see a hit parade forthcoming more than a boost in power and I think Gordon contends for the AL Batting Crown as he eclipses the 200-hit mark for the first time in his career.
Carlos Santana Will Drive in 100 RBI and a .400 OBP
Santana has a 27 homer season on his ledger, so putting him down for 30 wouldn’t be anything too special so I went elsewhere with him. He has yet to reach even 80 RBIs so reaching 100 will be a career-best by 21 while the OBP prediction is actually an endorsement of him to improve him batting average. He has established an elite 15 percent walk rate the last two years, but some of that has been passivity at the dish as he lets hittable pitches sail by instead opting to go for the walk, but too often resulting in an out (see also: his .246 batting average the last two years). He started to fix that issue in the second half of last year hitting .278/.386/.486 from July on and I see another big step forward in 2013.
Doug Fister Will Have a Sub-3.00 ERA, 175 Strikeouts, and 17 Wins
Fister posted a 2.83 ERA in 2011 split between the Mariners and Tigers so simply projecting another sub-3.00 ERA season didn’t get to the heart of what I’m going for with this prediction which is that he will be a force this year. In 2011, his ERA was accompanied by just an 11-13 record and 146 strikeouts in 216 innings. His strikeouts have surged since becoming a Tiger, though he was again saddled with a modest 10-10 record despite pitching quite well in an injury-shortened 161.7 innings. This year he sets a new career-high in strikeouts with 175 throwing 210 innings with a 2.87 ERA and a 17-8 record.
Brandon Morrow Will Finally Have ‘The Season’
This one is a bit vague, though you know what I’m talking about if you’re at all familiar with Morrow. Everyone who plays fantasy baseball has been waiting on Morrow to put it all together for several years now. He continues to tantalize, but that transcendent season that his talent is capable of has constantly eluded him often due to injury. He has yet to eclipse 180 innings and his first two years as a starter saw him post maddeningly high ERAs of 4.49 and 4.72, respectively. He did with 28 and 26 percent strikeout rate, though, so everyone stayed on board. He finally dips below 3.00 a season ago at 2.96, but the strikeout rate plummeted to 21 percent and of course he threw just 124.7 innings.
So this is finally it. Morrow is going to combine 2012’s excellent ratios with 2010-2011 strikeout dominance for a 200 inning season with a 3.06 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 230 strikeouts.
Matt Moore Will Have 210 Strikeouts
Moore got better as the season during his rookie campaign yielding solid results, but it was a disappointment against lofty expectations. He remains one of the most talented young lefties in the game and he will build on that in-season improvement from 2012 to take a major step forward in 2013 improving across the board including a jump in strikeouts to 210.
Curtis Granderson Will Hit 40 Home Runs
Though he is slated to miss the first month of the season, the Yankees slugger will return with a vengeance in May and still manage his third straight 40-homer season with a two homer showing on game 162 to hit the mark exactly. After a huge 2011 in all facets of the game, Granderson regressed a bit in 2012 selling out for power at the expense of his batting average. He set another career high with 43 home runs, up two from 2011. The naysayers are out in full force enjoying the misfortune of the Yankees, but they will slowly add pieces to that lineup with Derek Jeter returning first likely followed by Granderson and he will waste no time pelting the short porch in Yankee Stadium with souvenir after souvenir.