2011 Bold Predictions-Part 4

I’m still pretty wiped out from a huge fantasy baseball weekend so I’m going to post the NL bold predictions now and add the commentary tomorrow.  I figured I’d give you something to chew on as we inch closer and closer to Opening Day.  Notice that as with the AL predictions, the ERA-based ones give a .25 spread to cover a bit of random variance.  After I add the commentary to these predictions, I’ll do my season preview starting tomorrow and continuing through the weekend.

Atlanta Braves:

Tommy Hanson throws 225 innings with a 2.50-2.75 ERA and 210 strikeouts – These would all be career highs for Hanson and this would be a Cy Young-caliber season, which is exactly what I’m intending to predict.  He burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2009 and regressed a little once the league caught up last year, but he re-adjusted to improve as 2010 progressed and that impressed me a ton.  I think he consolidates his skills for a huge season.

Mike Minor throws 160 innings with a 3.75-4.00 ERA and 165 strikeouts – Yes, Brandon Beachy won that 5th spot out of spring, but that hardly leaves Minor destined for AAA all year long.  In fact, Jair Jurrjens is already nicked up and could create an opening for Minor pretty quickly.  His skills were excellent in his 41-inning debut last year despite a near-6.00 ERA.  Keep him on the radar and NL-Only leaguers might want to buy cheaply if your league allows bidding on minor leaguers.

Florida Marlins:

Mike Stanton hits 51 home runs – There’s otherworldly power in that bat and this projection suggests it all comes together this year which would require a cut down in his MASSIVE strikeout rate.  He struck out 123 times in 100 games and he will need to tame that to reach this goal in just his second season.  If not, pitchers will just throw him 56-foot curveballs that he’ll dive out in front of all day long.  This is a bet approach improvement, the skill is already there.

Javier Vazquez throws 200 innings with a 3.30-3.55 and 175 strikeouts – Last year was far & away his worst season since… yep, his last stint in New York.  I’m not sure what the Yankees were really expecting.  There is concerns over his velocity drop from ’09 to ’10, but one year isn’t a trend.  Yes, he’s getting older (34 in ’11), but I’m willing to give a guy of his caliber the benefit of the doubt on one bad year in a place he’s already sucked before, especially when he’s moving back to the league he dominated in just two years ago.

New York Mets:

Jose Reyes hits .326 with 71 stolen bases, 19 home runs and 75 RBIs – He’s 27 years old though it’s been a slow grind for him to comeback over the past two years, I am not sure why so many seem to think he will never be great again.  His combined 2009-2010 was essentially a season’s worth of games (169 games) and he was just above average with a 103 OPS+ and 41 stolen bases.  I’m projecting a return 2006-2008 greatness.

Scott Hairston hits 25 home runs – He hit 10 in 100 games at PETCO Park last year so he’s used to pitcher-friendly parks.  Plus, with mixed data in the two years of existence, we’re still not sure exactly sure how Citi Field plays.  It had a 1.1 HR park factor in 2009 and 0.7 last year.  With a full season of at-bats for the first time ever, I think he sets a career high in homers.

Philadelphia Phillies:

Cole Hamels throws 225 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA and 228 strikeouts – Last year I made a wins-based prediction for Hamels and I was disappointed because his excellent season went unrewarded.  This guy is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but even a great season might be overlooked in terms of Cy Young voting because of his rotation mates.

Jose Contreras saves 30 games – Brad Lidge is already hurt and set to start the season on the DL.  Manager Charlie Manuel is leaning toward Contreras right now and it could be because Ryan Madson just hasn’t shown the fortitude to pitch in the ninth as well as he does in the eighth.  I know some disagree with the notion of a “closer’s mentality”, but there do seem to be cases where great eighth inning guys fail repeatedly in the ninth.

Washington Nationals:

Jordan Zimmermann throws 175 innings with a 3.50-3.75 ERA and 180 strikeouts – After Stephen Strasburg burst onto the scene last year, I was so excited for 2011 with Strasburg & Zimm as Washington’s 1-2.  I wasn’t expecting a division title, but major losing streaks were like to become a thing of the past in the nation’s capital.  Alas, we all know what happened to Strasburg and he will miss the season.  That leaves the uninitiated to get accustomed to Zimm’s greatness and begin looking forward to ’12 with those two atop the rotation and A.J. Cole fast approaching.

Ian Desmond hits 24 home runs and steals 29 bases – He and double play partner Danny Espinosa are popular sleeper picks for 2011, but it’s with good reason.  They are both very talented youngsters.  Desmond’s got a full season under his belt whereas Espinosa has just 28 games on his ledger so I lean toward Desmond for the improvement.

Chicago Cubs:

Carlos Pena hits 41 home runs with a .265 average – How funny is it that a .265 batting average is bold?  Honestly, neither prediction here is terribly bold as Pena would simply re-achieve a mark he has touched before in his career.  But too often we see overreactions to one year for better or worse from a player so a regression to the mean the following year is seen as a surprise.  Pena is going to enjoy some lazy flyballs that find their way out of Wrigley on the windier days this summer.

Geovany Soto hits 33 home runs – He was in the midst of a career-best season last year that would have topped his 2008 rookie campaign, but injuries limited him to just 105 games.  Still it was a nice bounce-back from his down 2009 when the league clearly adjusted to him. Now he’s become more patient at the plate and seems to have a firm grasp of what he’s doing up there.  Given his price, he is one of the best catchers available in the game.

Cincinnati Reds:

Chris Heisey hits 22 home runs with a .285 average – The simple fact is that Jonny Gomes should not be an everyday player for the Reds, his OPS is 132 points lower against right-handers.  Even though it’s too small of a sample to say Heisey can’t hit lefties, he was awful against them in 100 plate appearances last year so at the very least the Reds should have a platoon with the two leaving Heisey more ABs to reach these totals.  Are the Reds smart enough to realize this?  Or are they just going to send Heisey down as soon as Fred Lewis gets off of the DL?

Jay Bruce hits 39 home runs and drives in 112 runs – His home runs are creeping up slowly year over year and he’s just 24 year old.  His first two 20+ home run seasons came in under 110 games while last year he surged with 15 home runs in the last two months.  He’s got star written all over him and 2011 could be the first of several great years.

Houston Astros:

Bud Norris throws 180 innings with a 3.75-4.00 ERA and 160 strikeouts – He’s got nasty enough stuff to put a season like this to shame eventually, but at 26 there is plenty of room for growth both with his control and his work with runners on base as well as continued development of his third pitch (a changeup).

Milwaukee Brewers:

Ryan Braun hits 43 home runs with 130 RBIs – This would require a severe reversal in a growing groundball trend, but obviously I believe that is possible.  Despite four excellent seasons under his belt, he’s just entering his physical prime technically speaking having turned 27 in the offseason.  When your down season is 25 bombs and a .304 average, you’re quite a star.  Braun’s flyball rate will head near back up around 40% and with it comes more home runs.

Chris Narveson throws 185 innings with a 4.20-4.45 ERA with 170 strikeouts – Strong skills in 168 innings were a bit hidden by a near-5.00 ERA leaving him undervalued in fantasy leagues and overlooked at the backend of Milwaukee’s rotation.  I worry about the Milwaukee defense especially if Narveson keeps slicing his flyball and inducing more grounders, but I like the strikeout ability and solid control in this emerging profile.  We might still see some ups & downs before a really big season, but definite improvement is coming.

Pittsburgh Pirates:

James McDonald throws 160 innings with a 3.00-3.25 ERA and 160 strikeouts – There wasn’t very good odds for the bettor on whether or not a McDonald prediction was coming since it was a sure thing.  I went a little conservative on the innings just because I’m not sure how the Pirates will play it with McDonald.  New manager and the first worthwhile arm under this front office make it kind of a new thing.  This IP count would be 30 more than last year.  I’ve loved his talent for years and 2011 is the first full year it will be on display.

Jose Tabata hits 17 home runs and steals 41 bases – Feel like he’s been around for a while despite being just 22 years old?  It’s because he became a pro in 2005 at age 16.  He still has plenty of physical maturing to do, but I think it begins in earnest in 2011 with mid-teens power surge.

Charlie Morton throws 175 innings with a 4.00-4.25 ERA and 135 strikeouts – I know, this seems positively ludicrous, but I’m telling you the skills are there for this kind of season and maybe even better.  He was horribly unlucky last year.  He got hit in all three major “luck stats” with heavily skewed LOB%, HR/FB and BABIP rates that were all absurdly below league averages.  That confluence of events masked an otherwise strong skill set of 6.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 47% groundball rate.  I’m telling you, throw a buck on him in your NL-Only or deeeeep mixed league and it could pay off.  Or you can probably monitor him a start or two to see what happens before having to invest.

St. Louis Cardinals:

Colby Rasmus hits .300 with 31 home runs and 94 RBIs – I could be a year early as he is just 24 this year, but I think this is a star in the making and his growth from year one to year two was mighty impressive.  I think we see another leap in 2011.

David Freese hits .327 with 16 home runs – A post-hype (not that there was a ton in the first place) under the radar guy whose improvement in his first full season would go a long way toward the Cardinals getting by the loss of Adam Wainwright.

Arizona Diamondbacks:

David Hernandez strikes out 110 batters in 80 innings of relief work – I had a prediction of him getting 150 strikeouts as a starter last year, but he shifted to the bullpen after just eight starts and really excelled prompting his new team to leave him there full-time.  He’s also a sneaky pick for some saves if J.J. Putz struggles with injuries all season long.

Stephen Drew hits 24 home runs and steals 21 bases – I’m kind of bummed about this one.  I write these down in my little notebook throughout the offseason as they come to me (several hit the cutting room floor upon further research) and I added Drew to list in January.  Now in spring Kirk Gibson comes out raving about his speed making this look like a bandwagon pick.  I’ll freely admit when I’m hopping on a train already in progress, but this isn’t such a case.  I just see three straight seasons of double-digit triples and growing steals numbers in the same span and feel like a true breakthrough has to be coming for him.  Imagine if he and his brother met their full potential for their entire careers.

Colorado Rockies:

Seth Smith hits 28 home runs with 93 RBIs – Here’s an easy to case for “BABIP luck” because you have two seasons of equal samples (133 games) with just 11 plate appearances separating the two and his skills are essentially intact year over year yet his average dropped from .293 to .246.  In 2009 his BABIP was .324 while it dipped to a paltry .256 last year.  Now with a full-time job in his possession, I think the BABIP regresses and with it comes a power surge and plenty of run production.

Esmil Rogers throws 160 innings with a 4.00-4.25 ERA and 150 strikeouts – Another strong profile covered up by an ugly surface ERA of 6.13 in 72 innings.  He has huge groundball and strikeout rates that will play well for this off-the-map fifth starter sure to be a big time waiver pickup early in the season.  This endgame flier could turn into a real diamond as regression improvement sets in over the course of a larger sample.

Los Angeles Dodgers:

Chad Billingsley throws 215 innings with a 2.65-2.80 ERA – His recently signed extension strikes me as a major bargain.  Paying $10 million a year for three years for a guy with his stuff and resume?  I was surprised that some were panning the deal.  I think it’s very smart and will no doubt pay dividends considering how much pitchers command on the open market.  I limited the prediction to ERA because the rest of skills are already at a rather high level so being bold with them would require being unrealistic.

Matt Kemp sets another career high with 34 home runs and steals 41 bases – His “down” year last year was largely overblown and tied almost entirely to batting average.  He wasn’t as good as his draft position, but he was hardly a bust either as he still produced a ton and played all year.  Busts are guys who massively underperform (Jason Bay last year) or get injured and miss most of the season (Grady Sizemore), not guys who play 162 games and hit a career-high 28 home runs.  Look for a monster 2011.

San Diego Padres:

Tim Stauffer throws 175 innings with a 3.00-3.25 ERA – Great skills combined with a great park, great supporting bullpen and full-time starting gig lead to a big season.  He was a pretty trendy pick this offseason which is somewhat expected with the PETCO Push, but pricing was still pretty modest compared to what he can realistically accomplish this year.

Brad Hawpe hits 24 home runs – In nearly equal samples home and away, Hawpe has OPS marks of .886 (in 417 games) and .839 (in 414 games), hardly an egregious difference compared to most Coors Field products.  In a smallish, but still somewhat viable 175-plate appearance sample in PETCO Park, Hawpe has a .281/.371/.451 line with five home runs.  I don’t see any sense in burying him after one bad season at age 32, especially after four straight seasons of 120 or better OPS+ marks.

San Francisco Giants:

Mark DeRosa hits 26 home runs – Everyone’s favorite former utility darling, DeRosa lost his multi-position eligibility after a 26-game season in 2010, but I don’t think he lost his talent with it.  A spot will open up somewhere allowing DeRosa to get his at-bats and make up for last year by setting a career high in home runs.

Brandon Belt hits .292 with 14 home runs in 400 ABs (might seem modest, but consider that he’s played exactly one season as a pro) This might seem really modest now since he’s been given a spot on the roster for Opening Day between the original posting of these predictions and the commentary fill-in.  I don’t really know where to go with him across a full season.  I really loved what I saw for him in the Arizona Fall League in November, but I know 2011 will have ups and downs.  I’m not sure he offers significant power this year so I’d be more apt to project a .324 average this year than a 25-home run season even in 500+ at-bats.  I’ll still with what I’ve got here since an Opening Day roster spot doesn’t guarantee an entire season roster spot.

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5 Responses to “2011 Bold Predictions-Part 4”

  1. Check Tabata’s groundball rates again… Those would be some very well-placed grounders resulting in 9 inside-the-park homers 😉

    • LOL, yeah I know he’s a heavy GB guy, but his profile is hardly set in stone as his age. I was also paying some heed to his talk of focusing on lifting the ball a bit more this year. These are bold, so they don’t always follow a player’s trend profile to a t. See also: Braun, Ryan. I hope you enjoyed reading them, though.

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