I'm going to be wrong about most everything I'm convinced of, so why not make that information available for ridicule? If you're going to be wrong, you may as well be wrong in public, and since Cincinnati Reds baseball gets kickstarted with pitchers and catchers reporting today, I figured there was no better time than the present. This way, you can all give me hell when these things go absolutely, positively the opposite of what I expect. That's what the internet is for after all, right?
Here are five predictions for 2014 that are less bold than the font used below:
1) Homer for Panda will prove to be a would-be amazing challenge trade. Thrice upon a time (or so), I've suggested that it would behoove both the San Francisco Giants (who needed pitching) and the Cincinnati Reds (who needed hitting) explore an overtly obvious, oversimplified, never-gonna-happen challenge trade involving Pablo Sandoval and Homer Bailey. Both are 27, both are in their last seasons of team control before free agency, and both are uncertain of their chances of re-signing with their current team. Sandoval is a buy low candidate who has struggled to match his breakout 2011 season, while Bailey may be a buy high candidate who has accrued 5.7 of his career 6.0 WAR in the most recent two of his seven seasons in Red. Why is this would-be amazing? Because I think they both have bonkers years. Sandoval stays (relatively) healthy, goes for 30 doubles, 20 honkers, a .300 average, and defense decent enough to be a 5 WAR player again; Bailey crosses 200 IP (again) while eclipsing 9.0 K/9 and dropping F-bombs all the way to a huge contract.
2) Devin Mesoraco will have a good year, but Yasmani Grandal will have a great one. I cringed when the Reds shipped Yasmani Grandal to the Padres as part of the Mat Latos trade two years ago. It wasn't that I didn't think highly of Latos (I did), it's more that I had higher hopes for Grandal than I did for Mes. I think Devin will see the uptick in BABIP needed for him to be a solid major leaguer, and I think that'll happen to an extent in 2014, but I'm still going to call for Grandal's first real "full" season foray into All Star territory following his recovery from steroids and knee surgery. 450 PA, .280/.355/.450 for Grandal, and keep your eyes open, because the Padres are going to be a solid club in 2014.
3) Nolan Arenado will finish 2nd in the NL in 3B WAR. You can see his numbers in the minors and tell me he's a younger Todd Frazier, and I can look at them and tell you I agree, but whatever. It's a hunch I've got, and I'm going to stick to it. Panda's going to lead the NL, but the young Colorado Rockies 3B is going to have a 2014 to remember. Sure, plenty of said WAR will come from his defense, but I still think he's got an offensive step-forward to take, and I think that happens this season. Panda first, Arenado second, David Wright third.
4) Starling Marte falls back to Earth. Marte is good, and he'll be good enough to be a thorn in the Reds' side for the near future in Pittsburgh, but he's not going to have a year like he did in 2013. His 4.4% walk rate gives me some skepticism, and his .363 BABIP does, too (despite his penchant for having high BABIP in the minors). A line of .260/.320/.400 is still valuable with his defensive ability, but it's not nearly as valuable as his 2013.
5) The Arizona Diamondbacks will finish last in the NL West. Didn't like their moves a year ago, and don't really like the recent version. There's regression written all over that squad, and I haven't really agreed with the moves made by Kevin Towers in recent years, either. I wish Bronson Arroyo the best of luck in the land where there's a Denny's on every corner and strip malls as far as the eye can see, but I'm worried about how he and his frisbee curve hold up in the dry desert air. The Rockies will be bad, yet improved; the Padres will be buyers at the trade deadline; the Giants will be a force again; and the Dodgers will be spraying shaved dollars at their foes from their money shredder.
6) The American League? I don't give a damn about the American League. That's six, anyway, and that screws up my math.
Book 'em, .gif 'em, do as you please. Christian Yelich won't be winning a batting title until 2015.