MLB Bold Predictions For 2012

Opening Day begins for many teams on Thursday. Here are just a few predictions from Josh Helmuth to watch for.

Josh Helmuthby Josh Helmuth

‘Opening Day’ is finally upon us and in that brings much anticipation as to what the 2012 season will bring. The following is a list of my bold predictions for the new baseball season.

 

The Angels finish with the best record in baseball.

Many of you are thinking this may be a no-brainer, considering they signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson during the off-season. However, with the Rangers coming off back-to-back World Series appearances, many analysts are selecting the Rangers as the favorites in the division this year, let alone all of baseball.

The Angels already had superior pitching before adding Wilson with Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. Now that they have sophomore slugger Mark Trumbo, Pujols and possibly a healthy Kendrys Morales, the Angels will have every bit a deep of a lineup as anyone else in baseball.

This team will win 100 games.

 

The Red Sox win the AL East.

Again, most are thinking: ‘this is a bold prediction??’ But unless you’re an avid follower of baseball, you’ve seen nothing but the trendy picks in this division: the Yankees and Rays. Literally no one is considering the Sox to win this division.

The Red Sox were well on their way to another playoff birth last season until one of the most epic collapses in the history of the sport, only winning a hand full of games in the final month.

Because of the 2011 implosion, they have a new motivator in manager Bobby Valentine. He’ll see to it they  utilize their talents to their greatest potential. How would you feel as a pitcher going against the heart of this lineup? D. Pedrioa, J. Ellsbury, A. Gonzalez, D. Ortiz, K. Youkilis.

If Beckett, Lester, Buchholz and Bard pitch to their potential, the Sox can re-capture this division, no problem.

 

The Cubs finish last in the NL Central.

That’s right. I’m that guy. The guy that will inevitably be labeled as the ‘Cubs hater’ for posting this. But in all honesty, I think it’s true. I just don’t think the Cubs have it this year. Theo Epstein and Co. are obviously in re-building mode and while I think the Cubs can win some games, I think they’ll be at the bottom of the barrel, most likely winning around 74 games.

The Cardinals, Reds, and Brewers will compete for the division crown, that is no question. However, the Pirates won 72 games last year and will only improve with their plethora of young talent and addition of veteran starters Erik Bedard and A.J. Burnett. That leaves us with the Astros and Cubs at the bottom, and with Houston having decent pitching in Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ and Bud Norris, Chicago could be just an injury away from falling below the ‘Lastros;’ who will be moving to the AL West after this season.

Matt Garza is the only starting pitcher I would have faith in as a Cubs fan, which means in order for the Cubs to stay competitive, Ryan Dempster and Jeff Samardzija must have career-years.

 

Chris Sale becomes the ‘ace’ of the White Sox rotation and finishes in top 5 of Cy Young vote.

He’s been touted as the team’s best prospect for the past two years and this year it all finally comes into fruition. In relief duty last year, Sale threw 71 innings, only allowing a .203 batting average against him while tossing 79 strikeouts; which of course is more than a ‘k’ per inning. His ERA was 2.79 and is WHIP was an impressive 1.11.

He’s an intimidating 6-foot-6 lefty who has an exponentially higher ceiling than teammates John Danks and Gavin Floyd, which says something. Look out for big things in a break-out year.

 

Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner wins the NL Cy Young.

Cain has been one of the most under-rated pitchers in the game for the past couple of years. His 2.88 ERA was under 3.00 for the second time in three years and his 1.08 WHIP in ‘11 ranked 7th in the league.

Bumgarner is on pace to have a huge break-out year. He had a few rough starts to begin the season last year, but from May through September he was stellar. From June 26 on, he ranked second in the NL in strikeouts, third in wins, and seventh in ERA. He’s the first Giant pitcher since Mike McCormick (1960) to pitch 200+ innings in age 21 season.

In the AL I like Felix Hernandez of the Mariners.

 

Joe Mauer wins the batting crown.

Almost everyone seems to be skeptical because of one injury plagued season. I’m saying ‘c’mon!,’ this is a future Hall-of-Famer who has a career .323 average.

In the NL I like Matt Kemp of the Dodgers.

 

David Freese finishes in top 5 NL MVP vote.

Yep, I’m calling it. The dude not only won the NLCS MVP, but the World Series MVP. He shattered almost every single post-season record last year en route to the Cardinals’ World Series championship. He’s always hit around .300, he’s just had a problem staying off the DL. If he finally does so in 2012, he could finish with a line of .300/25/100 hitting after Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.

For the MVP in the NL I like Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, while in the AL I like Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox.

 

Tigers over Braves in the World Series.

I think it’s finally the Tigers’ year. They’ve fallen short so many times and with the addition of Prince Fielder and the durability of Justin Verlander, I think they capture their first title since 1984.

Detroit won 95 games last year and I feel their lineup and rotation will only improve. Austin Jackson, Ryan Raburn and Brennan Boesch have all been raved about this spring. Doug Fister is a tremendous no. 2 pitcher, with Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello set to improve on last year’s numbers.

I don’t feel the Angels and Red Sox can quite go all-the-way within their first season of new acquisitions and I think the Yankees are not only aging, but their starting pitching will let them down as we approach the late months of summer. (ie. Michael Pineda was awful down the stretch as a rookie in Seattle last year).

I like the Braves to take the NL. To match the Giants and Phillies, they have one of the best rotations in baseball if they can stay healthy. But they have something San Francisco and Philadelphia does not: big bats and speed in their lineup.

 

Anything can happen in the marathon that is the Major League baseball season. There could be injuries, failed drug tests, trades….who knows. And we haven’t even mentioned how the addition of one more Wild Card team will effect the playoff picture.

I could be completely wrong about all of these predictions. But the fact that I could be completely right makes it that much more fun, doesn’t it?

So get your popcorn, sunflower seeds and Twitter ready. It’s going to be a wild ride.

 

Josh Helmuth is the lead baseball writer and sports editor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JHelmuth or subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.