Ten Bold Predictions Based on April's Small Sample Sizes

#darvished

As of about 10 hours ago, April is over. This means we can start focusing less on who's off to the hot start and focusing more on who we can trust going forward. In 2006, Chris Shelton of the Tigers hit .326 with 10 HR in April. He only hit 8 more major league home runs in his career after the calendar flipped to May. In 2008, Cliff Lee had an 0.96 ERA, 0.56 WHIP and 32 K's in 37 2/3 IP during the month of April. After that, he became the Cliff Lee we now know and love. Obviously, these are two extreme examples of what can happen after the mystique of April ends, but it's time to have some fun with April sample sizes in 2012.

1) Yu Darvish will not only be a top-10 starter, but he'll finish in the top-3 in the AL Cy Young voting

Last night made two dominant starts in a row, as Darvish just had his way with the Blue Jays lineup (E5 excluded). From a pure pitching perspective, it's just silly what he can do with a baseball. He just looks like he's toying with hitters out there. From a fantasy perspective, the Rangers are going not only win a ton of games behind their offense, but their defense has been great -- posting the 4th best UZR in baseball so far this season. I know the popular theory is that he'll melt in the Texas heat this summer, but I'm not buying it.

2) As everyone predicted, Edwin Encarnacion will be the most valuable 3B on the Blue Jays

Yes, over Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie. Right now, E5 is the top 3B in fantasy baseball. I don't expect him to finish the season that way, but it's hardly an insult. Through last night's games, Encarnacion is on pace for 52 HR and 26 SB (assuming 150 games played). Bautista still has his great batting eye, but if he only hits 30 HR, how valuable is he? Lawrie's power hasn't showed up yet, and I still think he doesn't make it to 20. Right now, if I had to choose one for the rest of the year, I'd still take Bautista, but I don't think he outperforms E5 enough to climb out of this hole.

More to come after the jump..

3) Derek Jeter will win the AL batting title

I admit this one is pretty bold, even in comparison to the other predictions, but hear me out. Not only does Jeter have a very nice .413 BABIP fueled start to the season, but if his 11.4 K% rate through 105 plate appearances holds up, it will be the lowest of his prestigious career. And while a .413 BABIP may seem extraordinarily inflated (which it is), it's less inflated when compared with Jeter's career .355 BABIP. In fact, the lowest BABIP he's ever registered in a single season was .307 back in 2010.

4) Edwin Jackson will be a top-30 pitcher

I'll give you a guess as to what stats I'm going to throw out here. So far this year, E-Jax has a 9.1 K/9, a 2.1 BB/9 and a 55.2 GB%. Believe. #holytrinity

5) Fernando Rodney will record 30 saves

Why not? It's not like I expect Kyle Farnsworth to be back any time soon. And even if he does come back in the next 4-6 weeks, who's to say that Maddon will give him the job if Rodney continues to look like a new man? I mean, he's only unintentionally walked two batters in 9 1/3 IP and he hasn't given up an extra base hit. Sadly, his leash is longer in Tampa than probably about half the closers in baseball.

6) Matt Kemp will not hit 60 HR

Kemp's season so far has been so ridiculous, that this almost does seem like a bold prediction. Kemp is just about as locked in at the plate as any hitter I can remember seeing in a long time. In fact, he should be using this as his walk-up music.

7) Starlin Castro will steal 40 bases

This one really just comes down to how badly Castro (and the Cubs coaching staff) wants to do this. There's very little fire power in that lineup outside of Bryan LaHair and this could be the best way to jump start their offense. But the best news for Castro stealing more bases is the success he's been having. So far this year, he's stealing at a 77% clip -- which wouldn't be a huge deal if his career rate coming into this season wasn't 65% (which it was, sadly).

8) Jason Hammel will be a top-50 pitcher

This may not seem shocking when you consider Hammel is the 14th ranked SP so far this year, but this is also the same guy who may not have sniffed the top 140 heading into the season. Hammel has dialed up both his fastball velocity (93.4 average -- highest of his career) and his two-seam fastball usage (over 40%) and it's led to surprising success as his K/9 is over 8.4 and his ground ball rate is an astonishing 61.2%. But don't forget, Hammel was a good prospect and a trendy breakout pick as recently as last season.

9) Albert Pujols will be fine

I know you believe it too, but it's been a really tough April if you own him. Just take a few deep breaths and wait for things to get better. If I had him right now, I wouldn't deal him for anything less than another first-round type talent. Unless of course, you're in a league where you can also trade away the stats he's "accumulated" during the month of April.

10) Ubaldo Jimenez will finish outside the top-75 SP

Here are some Ubaldo facts. So far in 2012, he's got more walks (14) than strikeouts (13). His swinging strike rate is down to a career low 5.4% this year, and has decreased each year since 2009. His fastball velocity is a career low 91.9 MPH, and has decreased each year since 2009. Need I go on? Right now, he's the 111th ranked SP and I really don't see things getting that much better for him.

Follow me on Twitter at @tfw_bret

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