Saturday, March 30, 2013
10 bold predictions for 2013 season
By Jim Bowden
Is Yankees skipper Joe Girardi staring at a last-place finish in 2013?
With Friday’s news of right-hander Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers agreeing to a record-setting contract, the drama of whether baseball’s best pitcher would see free agency in two years came to an end.
Some could say it was predictable in a sense. After all, the Tigers would look extremely foolhardy to allow Verlander to walk via free agency after his current contract expires after 2014. Saying Verlander was going to sign an extension at some point isn’t going out very far on that proverbial limb. It’s just not a bold prediction.
So, what craziness could happen in 2013? With Opening Day just around the corner, here are my 10 bold predictions for the 2013 baseball season:
It hasn’t happened in 22 years, since the Yankees finished 67-95 and seven games in back of the Milwaukee Brewers, but the Yankees could very easily go from first in 2012 to worst in 2013. And, with the American League’s largest payroll, there is additional pressure to win in addition to their own high standards of success.
Make no mistake, all five teams in the AL East have a chance to finish anywhere from first to last place. It is the only division in baseball to boast such parity. But given the injuries, age and lack of talent at the upper levels of their farm system, as well as a roster filled with no-trade clauses for the first time since 1995, the Yankees could lose more games than they win.
Since 2009, Teheran has been one of the top pitching prospects of the Atlanta Braves. He was rushed through the Braves' farm system, reaching the major leagues by age 20. However, in winter ball this year, he really took off -- his pitches were working with much better command in the strike zone. He continued to impress scouts in spring training, going 3-1 with a 1.04 ERA and giving up just seven hits in 26 innings with 35 strikeouts. This could be the year that he breaks out for Atlanta. Meanwhile, Halladay looks hurt, Lincecum can’t find his fastball command and Romero was optioned to Class A.
The Tigers were convinced that rookie Bruce Rondon and his 100 mph fastball were ready for the big leagues. They miscalculated, and Rondon was optioned to the minors. Detroit now will have to close by committee with Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel. All three are quality relievers and can get the job done short term but are better as setup men.
A potential 100-win club becomes a 90- to 92-win team without a closer. And as a team with aspirations of returning to the World Series, the Tigers need a designated closer, such as Street or Cishek. The Tigers have enough in the farm system to make a deal at the trade deadline.
One of the best shortstop prospects I saw all spring was Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians. With range and speed to both sides, a strong arm and a terrific swing, he reminded me of a young Barry Larkin. It’s only a matter of time before he’s ready. So while the Indians continue to rebuild, their best time to trade Cabrera is now, before he becomes a free agent after the 2014 season.
5. Yasiel Puig comes up as an injury replacement, and “Yasielmania” ensues.
Puig was the most dynamic player I saw all spring and reminded me of a cross between Bo Jackson and Yoenis Cespedes. I wrote about his tremendous abilities in my blog last week. A Matt Kemp/Puig combination has a chance to be the best power/speed tandem in the game. Puig’s at-bats will be must-see events, and he will electrify Dodger Stadium, bringing back the memories of “Fernandomania,” when Fernando Valenzuela routinely sold out Chavez Ravine during his starts.
The fact is that Trumbo has more raw power than any one of Hamilton, Pujols and Trout. But starting pitchers will be so careful trying not to make a mistake to the aforementioned trio that Trumbo probably will see some mistake fastballs. How the home run derby could shake out: Trumbo 42 home runs, Hamilton 37, Pujols 35 and Trout 33.
The last time the Pirates had a winning record was 1992, when they went 96-66 and finished in first place. Young stars Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, James McDonald and Starling Marte can end the drought. And after two years of playing winning baseball in the first half of the season, they should finally also succeed in the second half this season when their top two pitching prospects, Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, are ready to contribute at the major level. When they arrive in Pittsburgh, a strong second half will lead to an 82-80 fourth-place finish.
Ryan was one of the best defensive shortstops in the AL last year but lost the Gold Glove to the Baltimore Orioles’ J.J. Hardy. Offense is not supposed to play in the voting, but Ryan’s .194 average must have made a difference in the mind of voters. If so, then perhaps if he hits .200 this season, he'll win his first Gold Glove Award.
Young led the AL in hits in 2011 before slumping last year. After his trade to the Phillies this offseason, his bat should bounce back. His defense at third base should be adequate, but his range has deteriorated to the point that his best role is probably as a DH. I could see a team such as the Orioles or Tampa Bay Rays acquiring Young at the trade deadline, and he will somehow end up starting a playoff game.
The Phillies are certainly capable of winning 85 games, but GM Ruben Amaro will have to assess at the All-Star break whether the team is good enough to win the World Series. Philadelphia faces many questions regarding aging stars, injured veterans and untested rookies. If the team gets off to a bad start, Lee undoubtedly will be moved at the trade deadline, hastening the Phillies’ rebuilding project.