Bold predictions for hitters 

July, 26, 2012
It's hardly being bold to predict that Los Angeles Angels rookie outfielder Mike Trout is going to end up as fantasy's top player this season. Trout currently sits atop the ESPN Player Rater, edging out Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen and Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. Being bold would be to predict that Alberto Callaspo, Clint Barmes or Nyjer Morgan is bound for fantasy glory, and I just can't do that.

Still, as we head to the final third of baseball's regular season, it seems a wise time to get a little bold with a handful of predictions, and I'll try to make them neither as obvious as picking continued greatness for someone such as Trout nor as silly as choosing an irrelevant fantasy option to suddenly shake the foundation of the sport. Well, unless I kind of believe it. On Thursday we'll go bold with the hitters; on Friday it will be the pitchers.

[+] EnlargeMark Trumbo
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesMark Trumbo is currently 14th overall on the Player Rater. Not bad for a player who was drafted in the 22nd round in ESPN standard leagues.
• Trout will be joined in the final top 20 (among hitters) by teammates Mark Trumbo and Albert Pujols. Trumbo is already there, and while everyone expects major batting average regression, I don't see it happening. He's hitting .288 in July. He doesn't walk a lot, but he makes enough contact to hit well, and he'll approach 40 home runs. Pujols, meanwhile, has been terrific the past two months, as expected after his slow start, and will continue to prove it to those who doubted him when he ends up a top-three overall first baseman (he's currently sixth). No other Angels hitter will end up cracking the top 100 for batters, including Torii Hunter, who currently is 99th. Oh, and the Angels will win the American League West, although since they have a better record than Texas since April, that's hardly bold.