Well folks, it’s that time of the year once again. Let me climb out onto a limb and pontificate on my boldest predictions for the upcoming season.
If you’re curious about my predictive prowess, feel free to check out my column from last offseason where I made my bold predictions for 2011.
Let me first clarify that these aren’t necessarily what I absolutely believe will happen, hence bold predictions.
Adam Dunn hits 35+ home runs: Many fantasy players and prognosticators are predicting a rebound of sorts for Dunn in 2012 (how could he possibly be any worse?). While most project him for a 20-25 homer season, I think that he regains most of his previous power form.
Even during his abysmal 2011, he still managed a nice walk rate (15.1 percent) and flyball rate (47.5). The culprit for the drop in homers was simply the weak contact he made, leading to a homer-per-fly rate of only 9.6 percent (atrocious by Dunn’s standards). While you can’t place too much stock in offseason fluff stories, Dunn has by all accounts worked extremely hard. He swung a bat over the winter for the first time in his career and is in fairly good shape (for his body type, at least). I think we see the Grande Mule of old in 2012. I expect Dunn to look in vintage form, hitting 35-plus home runs with a .240 average.
Jason Motte finishes as the No. 1 closer in baseball: In terms of pure stuff, Motte is an off-the-charts talent. With Mike Matheny settling into the managerial role and naming Motte his closer, he doesn’t have to deal with the psychological mind games from Tony LaRussa any longer and can focus on dominating National League hitters.
His strikeout-to-walk rate has improved each of the last three seasons, as has his homers-per-nine rate. Hitters facing Motte last season managed only a .198 batting average against him. Pitching for a competitive Cardinals team, there should be plenty of opportunities for him to rack up saves. Combining 45 saves with outstanding ratios and solid strikeout numbers, Motte finishes as your top closer this year.
Mat Gamel hits 30 homers and drives in 100 runs: Mmmmm, post-hype sleeper. Gamel has always had the pedigree for stardom and now he finally looks poised to receive his first real shot at extended playing time. I have a feeling that Gamel will start off hot and settle comfortably into the fifth spot in the lineup behind Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, providing him with ample RBI opportunities.
He’s made significant progress in his plate discipline, cutting his strikeouts each of the last three seasons in the minor leagues, putting up a very respectable 15.4 strikeout percentage last season. If he can bring that with him to the major league level, he will have a major breakout season in 2012.
Francisco Liriano wins 15 games and strikes out 200-plus: Maybe I’m a sucker, but I’m completely buying the hype and what I see out of Liriano this spring. His velocity is good and his slider looks sharp. Most importantly, his control has been outstanding with an 18/2 K/BB ratio in 13 innings pitched. It looks like Liriano is poised to have a very nice season, provided that he can stay healthy enough to log 180 innings. Don’t be surprised when he posts the best season of his still young career.
Yonder Alonso hits .300 with 20 home runs and drives in 100: Here’s a guy who is extremely undervalued in drafts right now. He’s always displayed solid hit tools and the ability to drive in runs. Many people are devaluing him with the move to Petco, but I think it’s a mistake. Playing in San Diego, he’s assured of getting full time at-bats, and should hit in the middle of the order. While he doesn’t provide prototypical power, he’s a “professional hitter.” I expect big things from this young hitter in 2012.
Well, there you have it! These are just a few of my bold predictions for 2012. If you agree or disagree with any of these, I’d love to hear about it. Leave your comments here or find me on twitter @DaveShovein.