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April 2, 2013

Fantasy Freestyle

10 Bold Fantasy Predictions for 2013

by Paul Singman

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Making bold predictions for an upcoming season isn’t a novel idea. In fact, if you look across the interwebs, you’ll find plenty of other people’s lists of daring prognostications. The only difference here is that mine will actually come true. Levity aside, I’ll be sure to revisit this list at the end of the season. My hope is that by that time, around two or three of these will have been fulfilled.

Here are 10 wild and crazy things I believe will take place over the course of the 2013 season:

1. Bryce Harper hits two home runs on Opening Day.

1. Justin Morneau connects for 35 homers.

For a guy who has reached 30 bombs three times in his career, this may not seem like that big a reach. But considering that his ADP is near 200—I got him with the 189th pick in the Razzball league—clearly, most people aren’t expecting anywhere near this kind of production out of Morneau. Finally past the concussion symptoms and the various other injuries that have limited him in recent seasons, I am betting that the 32-year-old can return to his slugging ways and deliver another productive year.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury finishes as a top-15 player.

Two of the past three years for Ellsbury have been ruined by injuries. The one that hasn’t is, of cours,e his ridiculous 2011 season, in which 32 homers and 39 steals accompanied a .321 average. Crazy stuff. Most people would agree that a healthy Ellsbury can still hit .300, steal 30-40 bases, and reach 100 runs. The biggest variable here, then, is his power, and I’m betting that 2011 wasn’t a total fluke. If John Farrell’s light on the base paths shines as green as it historically has, around 20 homers will achieve my desired top-15 result. It may not be probable, but it’s not impossible, either.

3. Chris Davis hits 40 home runs.

Davis smashed 33 homers during his breakout 2012 campaign, and he accomplished that feat with the third-best HR/FB rate in the league. But his fly-ball rate, which came in at 38 percent, was only slightly above the league average. Assuming that Davis’s raw power holds, a slight adjustment that enables him to loft the ball more often could send his power totals soaring to the next level.

4. Dexter Fowler leads the National League in runs.

In his four-year career, Fowler has yet to receive a full season’s worth of at-bats. Based on his progress last year, this could be the season in which he finally accrues 650 plate appearances and delivers the loaded fantasy line for owners have long been waiting. I’m not saying he will steal 20 base; that would be ridiculous. But Fowler is good at getting on base, has some pop, and is hitting in front of a potent Colorado lineup. All of these factors, combined with everyday playing time, make for fertile grounds for prodigious run totals.

5. Melky Cabrera finishes the year as a top-25 player.

I’m not sure about his exact ranking, but at the time of his suspension last year, Melky was around the top 25. Even though Cabrera lacks elite power or speed, his league-leading batting average and run total carried his value. San Francisco isn’t a great place for hitters, both in terms of the surrounding lineup and the home ballpark, but Toronto should prove more beneficial in both areas. If PEDs weren’t a significant factor in his success last year, I’m envisioning a season with a .300+ average, 20 homers and steals, and a boatload of runs. Top 25 indeed.

6. Collin Cowgill steals 30 bases.

Cowgill was once a polished prospect rocketing up the D’backs minor-league system, but then, he was traded to the Athletics. In his year with the A’s, his development froze as he lost his feel at the plate. It’s understandable; the A’s seem to have that effect on lots of young batters.

Fortuitous events have landed Cowgill in New York, where the Mets have given him the leadoff spot and a center-field pasture all his own. He has stolen 25 bags in a Double-A season and 30 in 98 Triple-A games, making him an under-the-radar source of speed. In 12-team mixed leagues and deeper formats, I’d take a chance on him if he hasn’t been scooped up already.

7. Nolan Reimold is a top-50 outfielder.

If Reimold could stay on the field, his name would be much more familiar to fans and fantasy player. Sadly, major Achilles and neck injuries have limited the otherwise-promising career of this Orioles outfielder. Wilson Betemit’s recent injury has opened the designated hitter slot for Reimold, providing him with everyday playing time without the injury risk of playing the field. With a nice spring under his belt, Reimold could still have a 25-homer, 10-steal season in his grasp.

8. Anthony Gose reaches 40 steals.

Gose is obviously blocked at the major-league level by Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, and Melky Cabrera. Bautista and Cabrera aren’t going anywhere, but Rasmus is no fixture in center, having batted below .230 the past two years and just .170 this spring. It’s not too difficult to envision a scenario where Rasmus’ playing time is gradually reduced, and after a strong start in Triple-A, Gose is recalled to the majors. Emilio Bonifacio and Rajai Davis would continue to present obstacles, but Gose would have a decent shot to win out in this scenario. Given enough at-bats, 40 steals are almost a given for the speedy 22-year-old.

9. Andrelton Simmons finishes as a top-five shortstop.

Sometimes, being in the right place at the right time is everything. One year removed Double-A, Simmons finds himself in a highly envious position, leading off the Upton-fueled Braves lineup. Plenty of at-bats and run scoring opportunities should follow as a result. He also brings the ability to bat for a high average and steal 20+ bases. Simply put, the pieces are in place for a breakout year for the Braves’ young defensive wizard.

10. Paul Maholm is the Braves’ most valuable starting pitcher.

Accomplishing this would require Maholm to top the steady veteran, Tim Hudson, and a trio of trendy pitchers in Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, and Kris Medlen. None of the latter three have sustained success over a full season, while Maholm has quietly been a mid-3.00s ERA pitcher the past two years. He may lack a blazing fastball, but his effective use of various offspeed pitches allows him to succeed without premium velocity. Maholm may be the last player from this staff to go off the board in your drafts, but that won’t preclude him from being the best option by the end of the season.

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