Bold Predictions by Position

Bob Levey

Pleasant surprises and bitter disappointments at each position.

Catcher

Pleasant Surprise: Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates

Martin may see a small decline in power leaving Yankee Stadium but Clint Hurdle is the most run-happy manager in the league and his new catcher will benefit. Martin will lead catchers and corner infielders with 18 stolen bases in 2013 giving owners déjà vu from his early years with the Dodgers.

Bitter Disappointment: Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies

As foolish as one must be to get suspended a SECOND time for using an illegal substance (not to mention one for which you can obtain a subscription), that's not the reason Chooch makes my list. Ruiz had a BABIP forty points higher than his career mark in 2012 while striking out more and walking less. I don't buy into the power surge and I think Ruiz fails to hit double digit home runs again with a sub-.300 batting average.

First Base

Pleasant Surprise: Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres

It remains to be seen what effect the newly moved fences will have at Petco Park, but I believe Yonder Alonso will take advantage of the changes. He has a gap-to-gap approach but that doesn't mean he doesn't have power. He hit 39 doubles in 2012 and I think a few of those turn into home runs this season. I also think his 6.4% HR/FB rate increases and he hits 20 home runs.

Bitter Disappointment: Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

I don't think Hosmer is quite as bad as he appeared last year but I think those who are expecting him to rebound and build on his 2011 season will be left wanting more. This season he'll be a middle class man's James Loney with 15 home runs (thanks to a GB% over 50%) and a .270 average.

Second Base

Pleasant Surprise: Daniel Murphy, New York Mets

Daniel Murphy doesn't have gaudy home run totals nor does he rack up stolen bases. But he hit 38 or more doubles 2 of the last years in which he's been healthy and is a career .292 hitter. He'll be batting second behind Ruben Tejada and in front of David Wright and Ike Davis. I think Daniel Murphy goes 15/15 with 80 runs scored and 70 RBIs in 2013.

Bitter Disappointment: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds

Last season, Phillips walked in just 4.5% of his plate appearances and his K% rose for the fourth straight year. He's hit exactly 18 home runs each season since 2010 but he's swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone and making weaker contact. He has a career BABIP under .300 that, when coupled with his anemic walk rate, limits his ability to get on base. My prediction is that Phillips, at age 32, will fail to reach 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases this coming year.

Third Base

Pleasant Surprise: Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners

Some people are picking the Mariners as a sleeper this season and Seager is probably a big reason why. Seager hit 20 home runs and stole 13 bases last year. I'm projecting him to go 25/20 with a .280 average and more than 80 runs and 100 RBIs. He finishes the year as a top 5 third baseman.

Bitter Disappointment: Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox

I wasn't a huge fan of Middlebrooks as a prospect and I'm not buying into his 2012 performance. He strikes out way too much and I don't think the power he showed last year is sustainable. I see Will Middlebrooks struggling and Xander Bogaerts playing the role of Manny Machado before season's end.

Shortstop

Pleasant Surprise: Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers

Segura was the prize of the package the Brewers received for Zack Greinke and they wasted little time before seeing what they got. Segura showed strong on base skills (as he did in the minors) and stole 7 bases in 45 games. I predict 10 home runs and 30 stolen bases for the 23-year old shortstop.

Bitter Disappointment: Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers

After stealing 30+ bases every year since he entered the league, Andrus stole only 21 last year and was caught 10 times. He has 14 career home runs and has never scored 100 runs. Once Jurickson Profar gets the call, I see Andrus sliding to the nine-hole where his numbers take a huge hit. Andrus won't steal 20 bases or score 80 runs in 2013 and will be traded in the coming off season.

Outfield

Pleasant Surprise: B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves

It's hard to believe that Upton is only 28 and, with several years in which he came close to a 30/30 season, I think 2013 is the finally does it. He moved out of the Trop, is hitting in a better lineup and is in his power prime. He'll be more valuable than his brother in 2013.

Bitter Disappointment: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels/Michael Morse, Seattle Mariners

For some reason, these two players are bound together in my head. I'm not a particularly big fan of either one and I think the pair strikes out a combined 350 times limiting their fantasy production.

Starting Pitcher

Pleasant Surprise: Jason Vargas / Joe Blanton, Los Angeles Angels

The Angels made two underrated acquisitions this offseason adding two fly ball pitchers that will benefit from the all-star outfield in Anaheim. Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas are work horses that I expect to pitch 190+ innings with around 140 Ks each. The boldness in this prediction comes in that I think they both win 15 games and lead the team in wins.

Bitter Disappointment: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels

Weaver's fastball velocity dropped two mph over the past two years and his strikeout rate took a hit in 2012. Weaver's xFIP and SIERA were both over 4.00 last year and I believe his ERA will follow suit this year.

Relief Pitcher

Pleasant Surprise: Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins

Perkins improved in just about every way possible last year - he limited his walks, increased his strikeout rate and SwSt%, lowered his LD% and BABIP. The Twins won't be scoring many runs so the games they win will probably be nail-biters. Look for Perkins to lead the majors in saves.

Bitter Disappointment: Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals

Soriano was healthy again last year and looked great but a closer look removes a little of the luster. His slider was less effective in 2013 and he wasn't able to get batters to chase like he has in the past (30.4% vs. 30.2% O-Swing%). Davey Johnson learned from Earl Weaver so he'll play the percentages and I see the Nationals going to a closer-by-committee approach by May.

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