Mostly MLB Notes: A 2013 Season Preview

Editor’s note: I wanted to get this posted much earlier, but I had my first kid recently (well, technically my wife had her), so that’s my excuse for the delay.

National League East

1. Washington Nationals
2. Atlanta Braves (WILD CARD)
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. New York Mets
5. Miami Marlins

Comments/Fantasy Predictions: Both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are top-15 fantasy players, while Dan Haren is a top-25 starting pitcher. Ryan Zimmerman proves to be a better pick than Evan Longoria, while Drew Storen records 15+ saves. The Nationals finish with the most wins in major league baseball…B.J. Upton is more valuable than his brother Justin, while Dan Uggla bounces back and looks like a bargain in hindsight. Mike Minor is a top-30 starter, while Kris Medlen is top-15. Craig Kimbrel, who allowed one double and one hit with runners in scoring position all of last season, remains fantastic, but Aroldis Chapman is the most valuable closer in 2013. Julio Teheran is solid but doesn’t live up to the crazy spring training hype, as teammate Paul Maholm has more fantasy value. Andrelton Simmons solidifies himself as the best defensive player in baseball, helping those who invested in Braves pitching, especially Tim Hudson.

Magic Clerk - Easter edition.

The fears surrounding Roy Halladay are warranted, as he severely underperforms and/or misses time. Cliff Lee is a top-five pitcher, while Chase Utley is a top-five second baseman. Ryan Howard provides comparable value to Adrian Gonzalez, while Ben Revere swipes 50 bags, although the first homer of his career still eludes him…The Mets finish with the lowest combined outfield WAR in the league by a wide margin (fun fact via Jonah Keri: the two highest paid Mets outfielders this year are Jason Bay and Bobby Bonilla). Bobby Parnell runs away with the closer’s job, and Ike Davis becomes an undisputed top-five round pick in 2014 drafts. Matt Harvey’s WHIP isn’t elite thanks to too many walks, but he lives up to the hype, recording more than 200 strikeouts while finishing as a top-30 starter…A league-worst lineup hurts his counting stats, but Giancarlo Stanton leads baseball in home runs nevertheless.

National League Central

1. Cincinnati Reds
2. St. Louis Cardinals (WILD CARD)
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Chicago Cubs

Comments/Fantasy Predictions: While the curious decision by the Reds to move Aroldis Chapman back to the closer’s role gives him a higher fantasy floor, his ceiling definitely dropped. Joey Votto is the best hitter in baseball right now, and if that results in “only” 25 homers for your fantasy team, he’ll likely lead the league in batting average. In fact, something crazy like a .350 BA in 2013 shouldn’t be ruled out. Shin-Soo Choo could go nuts in the NL and playing in GAB, but it remains a big question how he’ll handle center field. Ryan Ludwick isn’t quite as good as he was last year (.275/.346/.531) but hitting cleanup in between Votto and Jay Bruce makes him an underrated fantasy asset. Billy Hamilton doesn’t get called up until September, but he swipes 15+ bags in that month alone…Adam Wainwright is a top-seven fantasy starter, while Mitchell Boggs and Trevor Rosenthal combine for more saves than Jason Motte. Oscar Taveras is up by June and makes an immediate impact, especially in batting average.

This China Bus Driver has amazing reflexes that saved his life.

Marco Estrada is a top-30 fantasy starter, finishing with more value than Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, Josh Johnson and Jake Peavy. Carlos Gomez is a top-20 outfielder and a common member among winning fantasy teams…Pedro Alvarez hits 35+ home runs, making him one of the better picks for those who wait on a thin third base position…I almost picked the Cubs to finish ahead of the Pirates, but Matt Garza’s and Scott Baker’s injuries combined with the team’s likelihood of continuing to make moves/trades with eyes toward the future changed my mind. Still, Jeff Samardzija emerges as a true ace in 2013, while Edwin Jackson remains an underrated innings eater. Carlos Marmol has a 1.45 WHIP over the past two seasons, thanks to a hideous 6.47 BB/9 ratio, but he’s also managed a 3.76 ERA over that span thanks to a 11.9 K/9 rate. He’s two years removed from a season in which he posted a 2.55 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and a .147 BAA. Marmol’s velocity was back up last year (94.0 mph), and he’s still just 30 years old. Having said that, Kyuji Fujikawa leads Chicago’s pen in saves this year, while Starlin Castro is an undisputed top-15 fantasy pick in 2014, ahead of Jose Reyes.

National League West

1. San Francisco Giants
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. San Diego Padres
5. Colorado Rockies

Comments/Fantasy Predictions: Hunter Pence somehow accrued 45 RBI over just 219 at-bats despite hitting .219/.287/.384 with the Giants last season. Expect a rebound at the plate in 2013, and he’ll continue to hit in the middle of SF’s order. Brandon Belt becomes a very good if not great hitter, but AT&T Park masks this when it comes to his cosmetic stats. Tim Lincecum doesn’t bounce back with a big year, although he remains in the rotation thanks to zero internal alternatives and is a league average starter. Ryan Vogelsong had a 2.36 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with a 6.3 K/9 and 2.2 K:BB ratio before the All-Star break last season. Afterward, he posted a 4.78 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP with a 9.2 K/9 and 3.0 K:BB ratio. It’s perplexing, but Vogelsong was dominant in the postseason, allowing three runs over 24.2 innings. Expect him to be plenty valuable in fantasy leagues, even if few believe he’s for real…Kenley Jansen is one of the five best relievers in baseball, but Brandon League holds onto the Dodgers’ closer’s job nevertheless. Adrian Gonzalez’s power doesn’t return, as while he’s not a bust, he finishes outside the top-10 among fantasy first basemen.

Guy who harasses street performer gets rightful punishment.

Song(s) of the week: Here’s a group called Chvrches: “The Mother We Share,” “Recover" and “Lies."

Martin Prado was the 88th most valuable fantasy player last year according to Baseball Monster, while Starlin Castro ranked 85th. I bring up Castro because Prado is shortstop eligible in 2013, and while the former is much younger and further growth can safely be expected, the latter has moved from a neutral home environment to one of the best hitter’s parks in all of baseball, and he’ll be playing a defensive position that makes him less likely to get hurt. Hopefully you took advantage of this eligibility. Brandon McCarthy, who has a 4.0 K:BB ratio over the past two seasons, stays relatively healthy and finishes as a top-40 starter…Carlos Quentin finishes with at least 10 more home runs than Chase Headley, while Cameron Maybin combines for 50 homers/steals. Don’t forget about Luke Gregerson, who’s terrific, plays in baseball’s best pitcher’s park and is behind one of the more injury prone closers in the game…The opposite of Petco, I get how Rockies pitchers should be treated with a hefty dose of context mixed in, but I still can’t get behind them somehow having the second best relief pitching in MLB. Speaking of which, while I wouldn’t avoid Rafael Betancourt altogether, his K rate has dropped each of the past two years, he’ll be 38 this season and is a major trade candidate on a team likely to finish in last place. Those in deeper leagues should stash Wilton Lopez. Unfortunately, injuries once again prevent Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki from being top-10 fantasy assets, while Josh Rutledge’s poor plate discipline makes him a fantasy bust.

American League East

1. Toronto Blue Jays
2. Tampa Bay Rays (WILD CARD)
3. New York Yankees
4. Boston Red Sox
5. Baltimore Orioles

Comments/Fantasy Predictions: Edwin Encarnacion had shown flashes in the past, but he had never hit more than 26 homers, recorded more than 76 RBI or scored more than 75 runs in a season during his seven years in the majors before last season, when he hit 42 homers, recorded 110 RBI and scored 93 runs (while also adding a career high 13 steals) at age 29. This career-year came with an impressive 94:84 K:BB ratio, and it’s worth noting it was a rare season in which he was given a full-time job. The artist formerly known as E5 now plays first base (or at times DH) and projects to hit cleanup in a lineup that looks loaded. Encarnacion’s 0.67 GB/FB ratio ranked second lowest in MLB last season (Josh Reddick was No. 1 at 0.59), so his power looks real, and if that batted ball profile drops in 2013, it then stands to reason his low .266 BABIP will rise. Paying for career-years isn’t ideal, but EE didn’t cost nearly what his 2012 stats were at draft tables. The Blue Jays run away with the division, while Jose Bautista and Encarnacion combine to hit 80 homers. Adam Lind goes down as the best late round pick among first basemen, and while Brett Lawrie doesn’t go crazy, he reestablishes himself as a future star. R.A. Dickey is the real deal, and his knuckler works great in a dome, so despite the switch to the A.L. East and some natural regression, those who drafted him aren’t disappointed.

Here’s a Magic kissing card trick.

Pudding surprise! As someone who just had my first kid as mentioned earlier, this is especially funny.

Desmond Jennings improves, but Tropicana Field prevents him from being a fantasy star – something Matt Moore becomes when he finishes as a top-12 starter. Alex Cobb is a more valuable starter than Jeremy Hellickson, while Wil Myers is an immediate contributor once he’s called up, but that doesn’t happen until mid June. Phil Hughes makes the leap and is a top-40 starter, while Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano both disappoint. Mariano Rivera returns as a top-five closer, while Ichiro Suzuki posts a highly valuable .310-100-12-65-30 type line…Jonny Gomes finishes with more homers than David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks, while Mike Napoli is a top-five catcher thanks to playing full-time at first base. Jon Lester bounces back, but Boston’s closing situation fluctuates throughout the year. Jacoby Ellsbury has a big season entering free agency, as he finishes as a top-20 player. Matt Wieters finally truly breaks out, finishing as a top-five catcher, while Nick Markakis continues to be overdrafted. Brian Roberts is surprisingly helpful over 450 at-bats, while Chris Tillman is the team’s best starter. J.J Hardy is a top-10 shortstop.

American League Central

1. Detroit Tigers
2. Kansas City Royals
3. Cleveland Indians
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Minnesota Twins

Comments/Fantasy Predictions: Max Scherzer has an elevated injury risk, but he also has the upside to finish as a top-five fantasy starter. While spring training stats should almost always be ignored entirely, Rick Porcello had a 21:0 K:BB ratio over 24.0 innings and is still just 24 years old. The extreme groundballer has to deal with a poor Detroit defense, but it wouldn’t be crazy if he takes a nice step forward in 2013. Jhonny Peralta rebounds and becomes useful in mixed leagues, while Alex Avila bounces back as well. Detroit wins its division with ease, but not one pitcher records more than 20 saves…The Indians’ outfield defense really helps the team’s pitching, but the most intriguing starter (Trevor Bauer) in the organization begins the year in the minors. Fun with selective end points: I’m personally more of a believer in Jason Kipnis’ first half stats from last year (.277-53-11-49-20) than his second (.233-33-3-27-11) and yet I’m buying Carlos Santana’s second half (.281-41-13-46) more than his first (.221-31-5-30). Criticize this at will. Anyway, this is an intriguing lineup with plenty of upside, but the battle is for second place in this division.

In honor of the news about Tim McCarver’s next season with Fox being his last: check out this and also this.

The struggle: A Man Facing Addiction

Billy Butler and Alex Gordon remain par for the course, while Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar all take steps forward, especially Hosmer. Greg Holland has elite skills, but it remains to be seen how much the change in scenery (home park and defense) affects James Shields. I don’t believe in the every other year theory with Alex Rios, because I’m not crazy, but the difference in his price tag following each campaign is a direct result to whether he ends up on my teams or not. There was nothing fluky about Chris Sale’s performance last season, and I’ve always been a Jake Peavy fan, but it’s safe to expect regression in 2013, thanks mostly to durability issues (not to mention the difficulty of repeating such high performances in an extreme hitter’s park). I had a hard time ranking Joe Mauer vs. Carlos Santana as my No. 2 catcher, but as thin as power has become in recent years, batting average might be even scarcer, so I ultimately gave Mauer the nod.

American League West

1. Texas Rangers
2. Los Angeles Angels (WILD CARD)
3. Oakland A’s
4. Seattle Mariners
5. Houston Astros

Comments/Fantasy Predictions: Lance Berkman stays healthy in a DH role, resulting in top-15 fantasy value among first basemen. Derek Holland breaks out, while Yu Darvish wins the AL Cy Young. Mike Trout finishes higher in the fantasy ranks among anyone who was drafted ahead of him, while Mark Trumbo is a huge bust, and Howie Kendrick is more valuable than Jose Altuve. As if the extra foul ground wasn’t enough, Oakland’s outfield defense results in some extreme pitching numbers. Brett Anderson posted a 2.57 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with a 25:7 K:BB ratio over 35.0 innings after returning from Tommy John surgery last season. It was obviously a small sample, but it also included a GB/FB ratio (3.59) that would have led major league baseball by a wide margin (Jake Westbrook led with a 2.77 rate) had he qualified. Fun fact: the A’s led MLB in runs scored and home runs after the All-Star break last season.

Here’s the world’s worst burglary attempt. It’s even funnier to me since this took place in my wife’s previous hometown.

Longread of the week: A look at Google Glass, which inevitably appears to be a part of our future whether you like it or not.

Bonus Longread of the week: Meet The Man Who Sold His Fate at $1 a Share.

It remains to be seen what the effect will be with Seattle moving its fences in, but there are some intriguing offensive options who will come cheap regardless. Dustin Ackley put up a pathetic .226/.294/.328 line last year yet still scored 84 runs and produced 12 homers and 13 steals – he’s just 25 years old and even a modest improvement would make him plenty valuable if he were to maintain the pace in those categories. He might even make a major leap, and the lineup around him should only get better as well. Mike Morse has hit 64 homers over the past three years (in a modest 1,194 at bats) and clubbed nine bombs over 56 ABs in spring training, so he’s a cheap source for power. Jose Veras finishes with 25+ saves for an awful Houston team, while Chris Carter approaches 30 home runs, finally staving off his stigma of only catching touchdowns.

NL MVP: Joey Votto
Long shot: Ryan Zimmerman

AL MVP: Albert Pujols
Long shot: Edwin Encarnacion

NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg
Long shot: Matt Harvey

AL Cy Young: Yu Darvish
Long shot: Brett Anderson

NL Rookie of the Year: Oscar Taveras

AL Rookie of the Year: Jurickson Profar

My six favorite Over/Under bets:
1) Nationals OVER 92.5
2) Dodgers UNDER 91.5
3) Cardinals OVER 86.5
4) Rangers OVER 87.5
5) Braves OVER 87.5
6) Marlins UNDER 64.5

NLCS: Nationals over Reds
ALCS: Tigers over Blue Jays

World Series: Nationals over Tigers

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