Bold predictions are done by nearly every single sports outlet that one can find. Whether they be truly bold, outrageously bold, or even bold predictions for fantasy baseball purposes, they are a fun topic to do before every baseball season. This one may not be that different from what else is out there, but here goes.
Hanley Ramirez plays 140+ games and wins the NL MVP
Last season, it wasn't just the spark of Yasiel Puig or the absolute dominance of Clayton Kershaw that led the Dodgers to a division championship, there was also the sheer hitting display put on by Hanley Ramirez.
A slash line of .345/.402/.638 along with 20 HR, a .442 wOBA and a wRC+ total of 191 produced a 5-win player (5.0 WAR) in only 86 games (336 PA). The greatness of Ramirez has been seen before he came to LA. If those numbers are closely replicated over the stretch of a full season, the MVP is his to lose.
Mike Trout and sabermetricians everywhere can finally celebrate as he wins the AL MVP
Taking into account his overall play (offense, defense, and baserunning), there is absolutely no doubt that Mike Trout has been the best player in all of MLB over the last two seasons. Sure, Miguel Cabrera won the MVP in both 2012 and 2013, but Trout was robbed, plain and simple, all because the players around him were just not good enough as the players surrounding Cabrera.
Say Trout puts up a .320/.400/.510 slash line, hits 25-30 HR, steals 30 bases, and has a wRC+ around 190. For argument's sake, say Cabrera puts up around the same stats he has the last few seasons. The Tigers make the postseason once again and the Angels do not. But, this year, no matter how the Angels finish, Trout will finally get what he has deserved all this time.
Salvador Perez will be a top 5 candidate for MVP at the end of the season
Oh, you still don't know who he is? Ask around.
Salvador Perez is Yadier Molina in the making. A 2013 AL All-Star and Gold Glove winner, he's pretty much already the best catcher in the AL. If you remember, Yadier Molina was doing similar things defensively when he was young, all everyone said he needed to do was become a better offensive player, and he's exactly done that, becoming, quite possibly, a top 5 player in the NL.
Salvy's 2013 may not look astounding (.292/.323/.433), but considering he's entering his age 24 season and has accomplished quite a bit in a short period of time, one would have to assume this may be just the beginning. He was a big part of the Royals' success last year and if they are really are destined for a spot in the postseason, expect Salvy to be a main piece in making that happen.
Stephen Strasburg will lead the NL in K and wins the NL Cy Young
Year after year ever since he arrived on that June day in D.C., fans and the league have wondered when Stephen Strasburg will finally live up to the hype.
Now his 2013 campaign cannot be discounted, he was really good for the Nationals, even though the team severely disappointed as a whole. He struck out 191 batters in 183 IP, allowed around one baserunner per inning, all while posting an ERA of exactly 3.00. He's entering his age 26 season, around the time that most star pitchers really begin to emerge and this right-hander should be no different.
Young talent for the White Sox and Twins will play a major role in the AL Wild Card race
Byron Buxton. Matt Davidson. Adam Eaton. Kyle Gibson.
These four players are some of the young talent being developed in the Chicago White Sox (Davidson, Eaton) and Minnesota Twins (Buxton, Gibson) organizations. Some tend to think that the White Sox might be able to take a step back in the right direction after a horrid 2013, but don't quite expect that to happen right away. The Tigers, Royals, and Indians should command the AL Central in 2014 and the Twins and White Sox, come August and September, will not make the division race easy for any of those three. The rest of the AL will need to watch out for these teams as well, as both teams have series with teams like the A's and Rays, two teams expected to compete for a playoff berth, that could be deemed as crucial come August and September.
The Yankees big acquisitions will not pay off...this season
Masahiro Tanaka: 7 yr/$155 M
Brian McCann: 5 yr/$85 M
Jacoby Ellsbury: 7 yr/$153 M (Baseball Prospectus)
Carlos Beltran: 3 yr/$45 M (Baseball Prospectus)
All the dollars the Yankees spent on outside free agents (not to mention the $20 M just to bid on Tanaka) could be what Yankees' fans had hoped the team would do to try and return to glory, but it just will not be enough. The Red Sox and Rays are coming off postseason berths and are poised to get back there once again. The Blue Jays and Orioles may seem a tad weaker, but they both still have very potent offenses that could make hay in the AL East. The Yankees do not have as stellar of an offense or pitching staff as the other teams in their division and will lead them to come up short in 2014. 2015 could be a different story, but that is a discussion for another time.
Billy Hamilton will be the deciding factor in who wins the NL Central
Will he hit enough to stay in Cincinnati?
This has easily been the most common question asked about the young Reds' centerfielder and it could mean even more than what was once thought. The Cardinals will be good once again it seems, but how good the Reds and Pirates will be in 2014 doesn't have as clear of a picture. One or even both teams could take a major step back this year, but the Reds have something the Pirates don't. Sure, the Pirates have young guys like OF Gregory Polanco and RHP Jameson Taillon that could make an impact as early as mid-2014, but with Billy Hamilton starting the year in Cincinnati, his impact could be that much greater.
If he hits/gets on base at an average clip (around a .300-.320 OBP), he will be even more lethal on the basepaths than expected, as seen in September last year. Could he make an MVP-like impact? Maybe in terms of what he actually will mean for the Reds' success and likely a very good shot at being the NL Rookie of the Year, but don't get carried away just yet in thinking he will break completely into the NL MVP conversation.
The San Diego Padres will emerge as one of the two NL Wild Card teams
Led by manager Bud Black, the Padres really made an impact on the playoff races in 2013, although they did not quite compete for a playoff spot themselves. There's more talent on this team than most would think. Names like Will Venable, Jedd Gyorko, Everth Cabrera (yes, he was suspended last season for PED use), Yasmani Grandal (yes, him too), Tyson Ross, and opening day starter Andrew Cashner will be part of the nucleus that puts this team over the hump in 2014.
They have a bit of everything: power, speed, power pitchers, groundball pitchers, and a fairly solid defense and bench. Expect this to all be put together and equal meaningful October baseball for the Padres.
All statistics and salaries in this article are from Fangraphs unless stated otherwise.