It’s so close to Opening Day at this point (12 hours!), you can almost taste the Rangers beating the heck out of the Astros. And here at The Dynasty Guru, we’re celebrating the march to Opening Day by having every contributor come up with 11 bold predictions. Yes, we know that people do this at plenty of other sites, but goddamnit it’s fun. And we’re allowed to have some fun around here.
The biggest difference between our predictions and the predictions from “those other guys”? Ours go to 11.
And since this there’s really nothing else important that can be said to set up a bold predictions piece, this seems like an appropriate to end the introduction. Here are things which will happen in the future according to me, Bret Sayre:
1. Alex Gordon blows the doors open and hits over .320 with 27 homers and 15 steals, finishing in the top-5 of MVP voting in the American League.
I’m a big Alex Gordon believer, you guys know this already – and I think this is the year he takes that step forward into superstardom. Well, superstardom on a national level, as in reality, he’s been worth 12.4 wins above replacement over the last two seasons. Gordon has reduced his strikeout rate every year of his career since 2009, and his 8.5% HR/FB rate will jump back up to the 12-13% range it’s been at the last three seasons. It’s going to be fun to watch.
2. Adam Wainwright finishes 2013 as a top-5 starting pitcher.
Wainwright, fresh off inking a nearly $100m extension, was his usual self last season from a skills perspective; just not from a raw stats perspective. He struggled with his command following a return from Tommy John, which was to be expected, but his strikeout, walk and ground ball rates all remained right in line with his peak level of performance. He’s my NL Cy Young pick, and think he leads the Cardinals back to the playoffs again in 2013.
3. Xander Bogaerts hits at least seven major league home runs this season.
Bogaerts will start the season in Double-A Portland, but with only Stephen Drew ahead of him, it’s not crazy to envision a scenario where he reaches the majors in August, a la Manny Machado, who hit 7 homers in 2012. And he won’t need a ton of playing time to smack enough dingers to make me look particularly prescient. The Red Sox will be better than people think and will be in the hunt for a Wild Card spot into September (though they will ultimately be unsuccessful).
4. Andy Dirks outperforms Torii Hunter in every 5×5 category, except for runs scored.
Hunter is on the way down in his career and Dirks is on his way up. I wrote about Dirks being one of my favorite endgame targets this past week at BP, and think he could be a 15-15 guy this season. Hunter has been money in the bank over the past decade, but his 2012 success was elevated by a crazy .389 BABIP, which he will not be able to repeat.
5. Matt Harvey strikes out more than 200 batters.
Two hundred is a very tough number for a young starter to hit because they are generally building up workload, but the combination of Harvey’s 170 innings from 2012 and his 10.6 K/9 (or 28.6 K%, if you’re into that) makes him worthy of being the exception. In fact, in the last 20 years, only eight pitchers have struck out more than 200 batters in either their first or second year in the majors – and that number becomes five if you exclude Japanese imports. The list: Tim Lincecum, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Roy Oswalt and Barry Zito. Pretty heady company. He may not win a ton of games, but if you’re strikeout hunting after the first 30-40 starters are off the board, Harvey should be circled on any list.
6. Justin Morneau outperforms Paul Goldschmidt in every 5×5 category, except for steals.
It’s no secret that I’m not a huge Goldschmidt guy, but this is more about believing in Morneau than anything else. Staying healthy last season was a far bigger deal than people seem to think, and he is finally 100% entering a season for the first time in three years. He can hit .280 with 25 homers and 100 RBI – which is better than what Goldy will put up if he doesn’t “bust out” (which I don’t think he will).
7. Jean Segura steals 35 bases and finishes the year as a top-10 shortstop.
All Segura does is put the bat on the ball. In his 166 plate appearances, after jumping over Triple-A, Segura only struck out 13.9% of the time. And this Spring Training, he’s struck out only twice in 56 plate appearances. Of course, that part doesn’t mean much, but he’ll make enough contact that he should be able to hit at least .280, which will essentially make him 2012 Alcides Escobar, who finished 7th among shortstops in value – with upside to spare.
8. Josh Donaldson has more fantasy value than Todd Frazier.
I’m just about all in on Josh Donaldson at this point. I’ve written about him here and here and here. It’s starting to become a little much, even. The other side of this is that I’m skeptical that Frazier will be able to maintain his 2012 level of production – and while a .260 average with 20 homers is pretty good, Donaldson should be able to match the raw numbers with a higher batting average.
9. Zach Britton wins more games than both Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.
All three of these Orioles starters are on the outside looking in at the rotation to begin the season, but don’t sleep on Britton. He needs to rediscover his control, but starting pitchers with a 60% ground ball rate and 20% strike out rate don’t exactly grow on trees.
10. Trevor Cahill takes another step forward and finishes as a top-25 starting pitcher.
I was all set to write about Derek Norris here and how great I think he’ll be, but Ian stole him from me (I kid, I kid) – plus, he was more bold than I was going to be. Instead, I’ll go back to the well with Trevor Cahill, who has a 60% ground ball rate and has increased his strike out substantially over the last three seasons. This is the year he throws 220 innings, wins a whole bunch of games and gets comped to Brandon Webb WAY too much.
11. Gary Brown steals more bases in the major leagues (this year) than Billy Hamilton.
This is more about opportunity than anything else, but there’s a much better chance that Brown will usurp Gregor Blanco in San Francisco than Billy Hamilton doing the same with Ryan Ludwick (who I believe will continue to hit well in Cincy). He doesn’t have anywhere near the same stolen base acumen that Hamilton does, but given 350 at bats, he could steal 25-30 bases.
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