It’s finally here.
As these predictions hit The Internet, we are just three hours away from Opening Day 2013. While I am trapped at work and victimized by GameDay’s blackout rules, I will be sneaking out at 1pm to watch the first inning or so at a bar, and I’m already insanely excited. For us die-hards, today is better than Christmas.
That being said, I’d like to share with you some last-minute predictions for the 2013 season, split equally between Major and Minor league forecasts. Most of you will disagree with several of these points and odds are I’ll be wrong on at least seven of them, but that’d still make me an All-Star, and that’s what makes baseball so great.
Let’s have a hell of a season, guys.
1) Red Sox fans are about to learn the hard way that Jackie Bradley Jr. does not belong in the same conversation as a Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. Most rational fans know this but it’s become pretty apparent that a vocal minority doesn’t, and they’re in for an unpleasant surprise. Starting Bradley in the majors is a huge mistake, as there is no possible way he can create more value in 11 days than he could in an entire season six years down the line. It’s the first move that has me really doubting Ben Cherington, and it’s a decision that could really backfire.
That being said, I think Bradley will be pretty decent this season. As a matter of face, I bet he finishes third in the AL ROY race, behind the Rays’ Wil Myers and Seattle’s Danny Hultzen. Still, there’s nothing he can do between now and April 14 that will outweigh what he could do in 2019.
2) I wrote about this at my other home at The Dynasty Guru, but I think Jon Lester has a bounce back year in 2013. Expecting the dominant, Top 10 starting pitcher we all anticipated after his 2009 campaign isn’t fair, but betting on a return to above-average performance is perfectly reasonable. Lester’s always been workhorse, even in his down years, so let’s peg him for 210 innings, an ERA in the mid-3.00s and 14-16 wins. His K rate will bump back up to over a 8 batters per 9 innings, and Lester will finish with 4.6bWAR, making him the 9th-best starter in the American League.
3) Statistical Predictions
Homeruns: Mike Napoli (29), Will Middlebrooks (26), David Ortiz (23)
Batting average: Dustin Pedroia (.310), Jacoby Ellsbury (.288), Ortiz (.282)
Stolen Bases: Ellsbury (37), Pedroia (23), Jackie Bradley (18)
Quality Starts: Jon Lester (22), Ryan Dempster (21), Clay Buchholz (19)
Strikeouts: Lester (190), Felix Doubront (174), Dempster (165)
Saves: Andrew Bailey (19), Joel Hanrahan (13), Koji Uehara (3)
4) As you can probably tell from the above, I’m expecting Hanrahan to lose the closers role in June after a rough stretch where he struggles with command. This is going to be around the same time Mark Melancon starts closing in Pittsburgh, which Red Sox fans may mention once or twice.
5) Unless the Red Sox are within four games of a Wild Card spot in July, they will trade Jacoby Ellsbury to the surprisingly relevant New York Mets for a package including Michael Fulmer. The Mariners then sign Ellsbury to a contract for Michael Bourn money, falling well short of what might’ve been after Jacoby’s history 2011 season but still making him one of the highest-paid outfielders in the game.
1) Xander Bogaerts will not lose rookie eligibility this season. With Stephen Drew unlikely to miss a big chunk of time with his concussion syndrome and Jose Iglesias serving as a capable backup, the Red Sox aren’t going to rush their best homegrown product since Hanley Ramirez. Sox fans won’t want to hear this either, but there’s also a good chance Bogaerts hits a bit of a speed bump in Double-A, as his walk rate plummeted once he reached that level in 2012. Bogaerts will see the majors this season but it will be for a cup of coffee, and he’ll be rated by many as the best prospect in baseball headed into 2014.
2) The prospect who will have the second-biggest impact on the club this season won’t Bogaerts, Bryce Brentz or even Iglesias: it will be Allen Webster, who will get the call to the bigs once injury or opportunity strikes in late June. The mechanical adjustments Webster made this spring are extraordinarily promising, as the quality of his stuff has never been in question. If he can throw strikes consistently, he’s a workhorse No. 3 starter, and Webster will begin a long stint in the middle of Boston’s rotation in 2013.
3) Anthony Ranaudo is going to become relevant again. He’ll never regain the top-of-the-rotation stuff some saw during his Junior season at LSU, but he’ll do well enough to be considered a backend option late in the season, with an eye toward making a more serious contribution in 2014. Some may view that as a disappointment given the hype, but in reality it’s as much as the Red Sox can ask for.
4) Deven Marrero is going to appear on the back end of many Top 100 lists headed into 2014 after shooting through the low minors this season. He’s not a future star but his bat is better than many think, and he’ll prove to be perfectly capable of holding down a job as a Top 20 shortstop in the majors. Look for Marrero to end the season in Double-A, taking over the shortstop role left vacant by Bogaerts’ ascent.
5) This is more of a prediction for 2014, but one year from today, the Boston Red Sox will have Bogaerts, Bradley and Will Middlebrooks in the starting lineup, Iglesias and Brentz on the bench, Webster and Felix Doubront in the rotation and Rubby De La Rosa and Junichi Tazawa in the bullpen. That’s a whole lot of young talent, and the nucleus for the next great Red Sox team will have mostly arrived.