Baseball's offseason is well under way, with trades, signings and much fun already, and there promises to be plenty more in the coming months. So, on the heels of last week's Bold hitter predictions blog, let's check out the players who make their living throwing the baseball. And remember, saying R.A. Dickey is going to have a good year isn't exactly bold. Saying Jon Niese will have that type of season is (not that I believe that!).
New York Yankees: It's not bold enough to say Mariano Rivera (knee) returns and saves 40 games, though he will. What else can I say? That Phil Hughes allows 40 homers? That's totally believable, but I'll say David Phelps holds down a rotation slot and provides 175 innings with a 3.75 ERA. He's better than most realize.
Baltimore Orioles: With his new strikeout rate looking legit, Jason Hammel overcomes knee problems to make 28 starts, winning half of them with a sub-4.00 ERA. He'll lead Orioles pitchers on the ESPN Player Rater, not their "pitch-to-contact" closer.
Tampa Bay Rays: Lefty Matt Moore will be a steal in drafts. He'll be taken well after the first 20 starting pitchers are gone, but provide the fine numbers that were expected of him in 2012. Look for 210 strikeouts. Oh, and I'm actually buying a "good" season from the new and improved Fernando Rodney, including an ERA around 2.40.
Toronto Blue Jays: Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle are nice additions for the Blue Jays, but a healthy Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero -- you can't tell me he wasn't hurting all year -- top the Jays' rotation. Morrow returns to the 200-strikeout level, while Romero, a major sleeper, returns not to his 2011 numbers, but the solid 2010 version.
Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox certainly did get something in the salary-dump trade with the Dodgers. Right-hander Rubby De La Rosa makes the team out of spring training and takes over at closer when Andrew Bailey gets hurt. You know that's coming. De La Rosa thrives as the closer, then moves to the rotation in 2014.
Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander has a Cy Young-caliber season yet again but doesn't win 24 games, so he is overlooked in the voting. Wait, that happened this week. OK, too obvious. How about I say a healthy Doug Fister matches Verlander's performance with a 2.75 ERA and 17 wins.
Chicago White Sox: After a rough couple of seasons, John Danks will be worth owning again in 2013. He'll post an ERA under 4 in his 30 starts. It was bad luck in 2011, and an injury in 2012. Sadly, I think Danks will make twice as many starts as Chris Sale. Be careful there.
Kansas City Royals: A sleeper strikeout guy to own for the second half of 2013 is right-hander Felipe Paulino. Definitely invest when he returns from Tommy John surgery. Also, spend an AL-only pick on Kelvin Herrera, the team's future closer.
Minnesota Twins: Man, there are some poor pitching staffs in this division after Detroit! Is it bold enough to state rookie Kyle Gibson, who isn't really an ace, leads the team with 12 wins and 140 strikeouts? The only Twins pitcher with 100 strikeouts in 2012 was Francisco Liriano, and he was dealt in July.
Oakland Athletics: Time for some of these rookies to break your heart as sophomores! Buy on Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. Sell on Tommy Milone and Dan Straily. Ultimately, Brett Anderson will throw 200 excellent innings and win 16 games, leading the staff.
Texas Rangers: Yu Darvish will be the ace, and a Cy Young Award contender at that, but watch Alexi Ogando deliver 175 strong innings, plenty of strikeouts and an ERA of 3.25, with no second-half fade this time.
Los Angeles Angels: New No. 3 starter Kyle Lohse continues to prove his late-career numbers are no fluke, as he wins 15 games with a 3.30 ERA. C.J. Wilson, now healthy and mechanically fixed, wins 19 games.
Seattle Mariners: Lefty Danny Hultzen shakes off his Triple-A control issues to make the staff in April, and throws a Buehrle-like 200 innings (and for the next 15 years), but with more strikeouts and an ERA of 3.50.
Washington Nationals: Nothing bold about giving the Cy Young Award to Stephen Strasburg, but he'll strike out 242 hitters, post a 2.38 ERA and win 21 games. Yeah, he's that good. And Gio Gonzalez will win just 11 games, though his numbers will look pretty similar to 2012. Hey, not all the bold stuff is positive!
Atlanta Braves: Well, everyone wants to know about Kris Medlen. He's not among my top 10 pitchers, but he should be solid enough for 200 innings, a 2.90 ERA, 165 strikeouts and 14 wins. Can't complain about that, right? And Julio Teheran makes the rotation and provides 140 worthwhile innings.
Philadelphia Phillies: Don't bet against Roy Halladay. He falls outside the top 20 starting pitchers on draft day but returns to posting Cy Young-level numbers. Oh, and Phillippe Aumont becomes a top setup man and saves 10 games when Jonathan Papelbon needs a DL stint for a strained ego.
New York Mets: Jon Niese, Cy Young contender! OK, I'll stop now. But he is actually getting better, and will post career bests of 210 innings, 175 strikeouts and a 3.10 ERA.
Cincinnati Reds: Aroldis Chapman makes the rotation, dominates in April, misses half of May because of elbow soreness, and then will be treated like Strasburg was in 2012, with an innings limit. And we'll all laugh. But those 172 innings will be terrific ones.
Milwaukee Brewers: Problems abound here. After Yovani Gallardo, no Brewers starting pitcher will be a must-own in standard leagues. Not Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta ... even closer John Axford will falter again. Jim Henderson saves 21 games to lead the team.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Speaking of closers, the Pirates wise up and trade Joel Hanrahan before it's too late -- he's merely a luxury when you have other pressing needs -- and rookie Victor Black (who?) saves 28 games.
Chicago Cubs: I love the Scott Baker signing. He doesn't pitch until May, but still wins 10 games with a 3.50 ERA. No other Cub will have an ERA that low and win double-digit games. Matt Garza gets traded to the Angels in December.
Houston Astros: Yes, I know they are now in the American League, but we're going in 2012 division order (and finish) here. It will be a long year in Houston, but Bud Norris does bounce back with 13 wins and 180 strikeouts, and Mickey Storey takes over closing duties and saves 20 games.
San Francisco Giants: I'm buying on Tim Lincecum (3.60 ERA, 200 strikeouts) and Ryan Vogelsong. And Madison Bumgarner, too. But not Brian Wilson. Rookie Heath Hembree takes over closing duties in late April and saves 36 games. Wilson's beard will finally have to be cut when a Matt Kemp line drive gets lost in it.
Los Angeles Dodgers: A rejuvenated Josh Beckett wins 16 games with a sub-3.00 ERA and 180 strikeouts. Enjoy that home ballpark, fella. And Kenley Jansen saves 40 games. Brandon League for three years? Really? Come on!
San Diego Padres: Andrew Cashner wedges in 24 starts around two disabled list stints, but man, those starts will be good. Expect major strikeouts. Casey Kelly, the top prospect two Adrian Gonzalez deals ago, also shows major promise in his 14 starts.
Colorado Rockies: First of all, their ridiculous starting pitcher strategy is eventually abandoned. Phew. Then Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin each win 12 games, with ERAs better than 4 and 150-plus strikeouts. No, really.