In keeping with the theme of the week at Fake Teams, here are my 10 bold predictions for the 2013 fantasy baseball season.
1) Jeff Samardzija will be a top-25 pitcher -- Samardzija bolted the bullpen for the starting rotation last year and finished 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA (3.38 xFIP; 3.40 SIERA) with 9.27 K/9 and 2.89 BB/9 in 174.2 innings of work. He had the second highest fastball velocity (95.1 mph) in the majors behind David Price, and his splitter is probably the best in baseball. He'll punch out 200 hitters if he reaches 200 innings, and the Cubs will muster enough offense to get him 15 wins.
2) Adam LaRoche will lead the Nationals in home runs (again) -- Sorry Bryce Harper. Sorry Ryan Zimmerman. Washington's home run leader will be the first baseman that the team almost let get away. From 2008-2010, LaRoche hit exactly 25 home runs per year, and in 2012, he hit a team leading 33. Harper, meanwhile, will struggle to hit 20, and Zimmerman will end up shy of 25.
3) Nelson Cruz hits more home runs than Giancarlo Stanton -- Cruz shakes off the Biogenesis report and hits a career-high 36 home runs, while Stanton hits 35 and becomes best buddies with Juan Pierre.
4) Carlos Marmol saves 40-plus games for the Cubs and Tigers -- Marmol had a streak of 19 straight saves from May to September last year with a post-All Star break ERA of 1.52. Everyone's avoiding him for now, but if he starts out hot and the Tigers are struggling in the ninth, Marmol makes for a perfect fit in the Motor City.
5) Yu Darvish finishes outside the top 30 starters -- Darvish finished No. 30 on ESPN's Player Rater last year, but he's currently being drafted as the No. 10 starter according to FantasyPros.com. Darvish's 4.19 BB/9 was sixth worst among qualified starters in 2012, and his struggles with control will continue in 2013.
6) Josh Rutledge never establishes himself as the Rockies' everyday second baseman -- Pretty much everyone is all over Josh Rutledge's jock after he hit .274/.306/.469 in 291 plate appearances last year. Well I'm not. It's hard to play every day with a 3.1 percent walk rate. If he is tabbed the starter at second on Opening Day, it won't take him long to lose his gig.
8) Danny Espinosa leads the league in strikeouts -- Espinosa's 28.7 percent strikeout rate was seventh worst in 2012, and his 189 strikeouts were third most. Only Adam Dunn (222 strikeouts) and Curtis Granderson (195) had more strikeouts than Espinosa last season, and Granderson is already hurt. Dunn has almost 100 pounds on Espinosa, but Espinosa finds a way to score the strikeout K.O.
9) Michael Bourn beats Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and B.J. Upton on ESPN'S Player Rater -- Yeah, here's another "bold" prediction of something happening that already happened last year, but seriously, would you bet on this happening again? (By the way, Heyward finished one spot behind Bourn in 2012.)
10) Jon Niese is the Mets lone All-Star representative -- This can be interpreted as I don't think the Mets are going to be very good, and that's partly the case. But I also think Niese is in line for his best season ever -- 15 wins, 8 strikeouts per nine with a 3.25 ERA good.
Alex Kantecki is a contributor at Fake Teams, Big Leagues Magazine, Dobber Baseball and Vigilante Baseball. Follow him on Twitter at @rotodealer.