As a diehard Red Sox fan, I have to admit I was skeptical of Ben
Cherington spending $13 million per year over three seasons on the Flyin’
Hawaiian this offseason.  Shane had been a very solid and above average player in his days with the Philadelphia Phillies (averaging about a 108 wRC+ over 7 seasons). 
However, he took a major step down in 2012 with the worst season of his
career.  He posted a slash line of .255/.321/.383 with a career low 93 wRC+. 
His walk rate was only 8% and he had a career low ISO of .128.  At 32 years of age, I 
believed he would continue his decline.  In Shane’s defense, he did have to move
from hitter friendly Citizens Bank Park to pitcher friendly Dodger Stadium
midway through the season.  He was even worse in his time with L.A.  

As we sit here entering September of 2013, Shane Victorino has
absolutely proven me wrong.  His value to this Boston club has been extremely important and in my opinionoverlooked by many.  He is overlooked because a majority of his 2013 value comes from his defense, which leads me to my main question. Is Shane Victorino really the fifth best outfielder in all of baseball for 2013? According to Fangraphs, he is, as they have him listed with a 4.9 WAR.  This puts him ahead of some huge names such as Carlos Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, Shin-Soo Choo, Adam Jones, Josh Hamiltion and Justin Upton.  Let’s dig a bit deeper into the numbers to analyze further. 

I’ll bring up the fun part first…offense.  Victorino has no doubt had a tremendous offensive season, batting mainly out of the two spot for John Farrell. 
This still holds true even with him only playing in 102 games to this point in the year. According to wRC+, Shane has been an even more productive player than Jacoby Ellsbury, mainly because of a 30 point advantage in SLUG and ISO. One thing that does not go Shane’s way is walk percentage.  He’s walking just 5% of the time this year! With that said however, he doesn’t strike out (just 12%).  Obviously a few more walks would be beneficial however a player with his kind of speed that doesn’t strike out a lot and puts pressure on defenses can be sufficient.  He uses the speed when he’s on first base as well; stealing 18 bags while being caught only 3 times.  

There are 22 outfielders that are behind Victorino in WAR, but have a higher wRC+ than Victorino.  This is where defense comes into play in a big way.  With the all-star Ellsbury already manning centerfield at Fenway, Victorino was asked to play what is in my mind the toughest right field to play in all of baseball.  Right field at Fenway is very spacious and includes many different quirks.  You have Pesky’s pole, which is just 302 feet away from home plate, which then jets all the way out to the bullpens which are 380 feet away from the plate.  The Red Sox lead the American League in triples this season, and that is not all that surprising considering many of them come from looping around the warning track and fence in right field.  Shane, however, has been up to the challenge.  He currently leads all big league outfielders in defensive runs saved (DRS) with 24.  He has just 3 miscues in the outfield to go along with 10 assists.  His UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) is astounding this season at 25.4 in right field.  Victorino has been able to track down balls that others simply cannot get too.  I also believe that John Farrell has an effect on his outfield play, as
the Red Sox have been known for using various shifts in the infield and
outfield.  Simply put, more often than not, Victorino is in the perfect position to make a play before the pitch is even thrown.  

A majority of viewers pay much more attention to the offense.  However, defense plays a big role as well.  Limiting the opposition in runs scored due to terrific defensive play can make the difference in whether a team makes the postseason or not.  Therefore, with Victorino’s unbelievable defense and terrific offense, he is one of the best outfielders in
all of baseball for 2013. 

By: Nick Rabasco

Can the Giants make it 3 titles in 4 years?
Nick Rabasco's 2013 Predictions
Playoff Teams in bold

AL East: 
Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles
AL Central: 
Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Royals, Twins
AL West: 
Rangers, Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Astros
NL East: 
Nationals, Phillies, Braves, Mets, Marlins
NL Central: 
Reds, Cardinals, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs
NL West: 
Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies

WC: Blue Jays over Indians; Cardinals over Dodgers
ALDS: Blue Jays over Tigers, Rays over Rangers
NLDS: Giants over Cardinals, Nationals over Reds
ALCS: Rays over Blue Jays
NLCS: Giants over Nationals
WS: Giants over Rays

MVP favorite, Evan Logoria
American League Leaders:
AVG: Joe Mauer, Robinson Cano, Mike Trout
HR: Adam Dunn, Jose Bautista, Evan Longoria
RBI: Albert Pujols, Evan Longoria, Jose Bautista
OBP: Joe Mauer, Mike Trout, Ben Zobrist
SLG: Evan Longoria, Jose Bautista, Albert Pujols
OPS+: Evan Longoria, Mike Trout, Joe Mauer
WAR: Mike Trout, Evan Longoria, Robinson Cano

W: Jered Weaver, RA Dickey, Justin Verlander
ERA: Felix Hernandez, Jeremey Hellickson, Justin Verlander 
K: Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish
K/BB: Jered Weaver, Felix Hernandez, James Shields
IP: Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlaner, CC Sabathia
ERA+: Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Jeremy Hellickson 
WAR: Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Jeremy Hellickson

Full year in Blue for Gonzalez
National League Leaders:
AVG: Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez, David Wright
HR: Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp
RBI: Matt Kemp, Joey Votto, Ryan Braun
OBP: Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez, Buster Posey
SLG: Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp, Giancarlo Stanton
OPS+: Joey Votto, Matt Kemp, Matt Holliday
WAR: Joey Votto, David Wright, Matt Kemp

W: Cliff Lee, Adam Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw
ERA: Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg
K: Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee
K/BB: Cliff Lee, Adam Wainwright, Stephen Strasburg
IP: Cliff Lee, Matt Cain, Clayton Kershaw
ERA+: Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw
WAR: Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg

Wil Myers, ROY?

AL MVP: Evan Longoria
AL CY: Felix Hernandez
AL ROY: Wil Myers

NL MVP: Joey Votto
NL CY: Cliff Lee
NL ROY: Gerrit Cole

My new gig
By Aidan Flynn

Obviously, there hasn't been a whole lot of content going up here at BTP lately. Nick and I both play baseball for our schools and to say the least, our schedules have been packed. In addition, I have started a gig over at, which has taken up much of the time I have had to write. While that is no excuse and we certainly could have at least warned you of the declining content, we hope you understand our situations. This blog is just a hobby for us and while we certainly enjoy doing it, we obviously have other commitments. 

I don't know what the future is for BTP, but we will try to finish up the positional rankings and post our preseason predictions in the next week or so. After that, I know I can't promise much because of my other writing commitment in addition to playing baseball on practically a daily basis. Once again, we apologize for any inconveniences we may have brought and hope you've at least enjoyed our content up till now. Thanks

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The other day, I experienced a mid-day epiphany of sorts and came up with the idea to try a podcast for the website. This podcast will aim to just discuss baseball on a more personal level to our audience and get you more daily baseball coverage. With Spring Training fully under way, we figured this podcast would be a good tool so that we could preview every team in baseball. We will go through these rankings in alphabetical order, so tomorrow, we will begin with the Arizona Diamondbacks. As I said, these podcasts will try to be completed on a daily basis, so that you, the audience, gets a more dedicated and informative view on the happenings in Major League Baseball.

We are rookies when it comes to this stuff, so if we are leaving stuff out (not baseball stuff, just podcast etiquette stuff), we would greatly appreciate the response. I personally am not sure how all this will turn out, but I think its a fun project for both ourselves and our audience and we both look forward to beginning this with the team seasonal previews.

Once again, if there are any comments -positive or negative- that come with the podcast, we are all ears and are willing to do anything that can improve the process. Please remember, this is a process for us, and we will learn on the job just as we hope you can learn from us. Thank you and we hope you are as excited for this as we are!

Aidan Flynn

P.S: The above file is basically me saying all of this in audio form; let me know if it works/doesn't work, because this is how we're doing the podcast. Thanks!
Clayton Kershaw should make a run at 2013 CY
By Nick Rabasco:

The game of baseball is rich with very talented left-handed pitchers.  From Lefty Grove to Sandy Koufax to Steve Carlton to Randy Johnson, there is a long line of tradition from southpaw aces. Some are starting to close out their great careers, such as C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee.  Some young stars like David Price and Clayton Kershaw are quickly emerging, and look to have long and healthy careers ahead of them.  Although a majority of pitchers in the game are right-handed, 6 of the top 10 WAR leaders for pitchers in 2012 were left-handed, including 3 in the top 5.  Left handers are a rarity in today’s game, but prove to be very valuable to a team’s staff.  I understand we kind of wimped out of the hard rankings (just rank the top five pitchers in the game, regardless of handedness), but this allows us to discuss more players overall.  Nonetheless, the talent among southpaw starters is strong and should remain with the further development of the likes of Kershaw, Price, and the young phenoms Matt Moore and Chris Sale.

5. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies

With the exception of his 2009 campaign, Cole Hamels has been one of the most consistent arms in all of baseball throughout his career.  Over the past three seasons, his ERA’s have been 3.06, 2.79, and 3.05 respectively.  His ERA+’s have been 133, 137, and 131 over that same span.  It doesn’t get much more consistent than that.  He has also been extremely durable for the Phillies, as he has thrown at least 200 innings in 4 of the past 5 seasons.  Hamels also sports impressive strikeout and walk rates.  For his career, his BB/9 is at 2.2 and his K/9 sits at 9.  It looks like Hamels will be staying in Philly for a long time to come and he has deserved his contract extension.  You can expect Hamels to be just as productive as his 4 win season in 2012 next year. 

4. C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees

CC Sabathia is heading his fifth season of his long seven year deal with the New York Yankees.  Through the first four years, he has proven to be very successful in the pinstripes.  C.C. is most known for being a workhorse, as he has compiled 200+ innings in each of his last 6 seasons, including at least 230 in 5 of his last 6. He also has not had an ERA above 3.38 in his past 7 seasons.  His ERA+ has never dipped below 100 in any season, and is at 125 for his entire career.  However, C.C. is coming off a season that shows he may be declining just a bit.  He still had a great year, but his WAR of 3.3 was the lowest it has been since 2006.  He also was limited to exactly 200 innings, which is at least 30 less than 2009, 2010 and 2011.  Sabathia will be 32 years old in 2013, but he still figures to be the leader and ace of the Yankees staff in 2013.  I would expect him to give his usual 200 innings with an ERA in the mid 3s again for New York. 

3. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies

Cliff Lee won six games in 2012.  That was all he was able to muster in 211 innings and 30 starts.  Some would be ignorant enough to just look at that number and think that Lee was a failure and had a down year in 2012.  This is false, as Lee was actually one of the better pitchers in all of baseball.  He threw 211 innings and had an ERA of 3.16 with an ERA+ of 127.  He also struck out 207 batters and led the league in BB/9 (1.2) and SO/BB (7.39).  To further look at Lee’s unbelievable control, he did not hit a single batter in 2012 and let loose just 4 wild pitches.  Lee has been extremely durable and consistent since his Cy Young campaign in 2008.  He has thrown at least 200 innings in his past 5 seasons and hasn’t had an ERA above 3.22 in any of those 5 years. I expect more of the same for Lee in 2013 and should be around a 4 win player for the Phillies.

2. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays

At just 26 years old, David Price has emerged as one of the top pitchers in the game of baseball.  Price won the American League Cy Young award in 2012 after he finished as the runner-up in 2010.  Last season, Price compiled 20 wins with an ERA of 2.56 and an ERA+ of 149 in 211 innings for the Rays.  He also had impressive strikeout and walk rates, with a K/9 of 8.7 and a BB/9 of 2.5.  Durability seems to be a key with these pitchers, and Price is no exception.  He has thrown at least 200 innings in each of his first 3 full seasons.  He has also struck out at least 200 batters in each of the past 2 seasons.  Price was a 6 win player in 2012 so it would be tough to expect that kind of production again next season, but I still believe he will be around a 4 or 5 win player in 2013.

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw is just 24 years old and has already established himself as one of, if not the most, elite pitchers in major league baseball.  He has led the league in ERA in the past two seasons at 2.28 and 2.53 respectively.  He has thrown at least 200 innings in each of his last 3 seasons, including 227.2 in 2012.  He led the league in strikeouts in 2011 with 248, and followed it up with 229 in 2012.  Another stat he led the league in for 2011 and 2012 is WHIP, at 0.97 and 1.02 respectively.  Kershaw gave up just 6.7 hits per nine innings in 2012 which again led the league.  His ERA+ for his entire career is staggering at 138.  Clayton seems likely to cash in on a monster contract at some point, given his track record and young age.  He was a 6+ win pitcher in 2011 and 2012 and I would expect around 6 again for 2013. 

Honorable Mention:

Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers

Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals

Video evidence of Kershaw's dominance
Ben Cherington (left) and John Farrell (right)
By: Nick Rabasco

In 1965, the Boston Red Sox hit the century mark in losses, going 62-100.  2012 marked the worst season Boston has had since that abysmal year in 1965 by going 69-93.  This breakdown in 2012 goes without mentioning the worst collapse in baseball history in 2011 when the Red Sox failed to hold a 9 game September wild card lead.  The list of problems for this team in the past two campaigns is a long one.  The clubhouse seemingly fell apart in 2011 and that carried right into 2012.  Bobby Valentine replaced two-time World Series champion Terry Francona, proving to be a huge mistake for Boston.  Valentine and his players had ongoing conflicts all season long, and he was quickly dismissed the day after the 2012 season mercifully ended.  These clubhouse conflicts were just part of the problem, as the players were either injured or just simply underperformed.  With that said, Ben Cherington was on a mission heading into the 2013 offseason.  This tall task for Ben was certainly not an easy one, having to find a new manager and players who can not only produce on the field, but be leaders in the clubhouse. 

For the Red Sox, it all begins with pitching.  This was the biggest problem in 2012, so we start off with Ryan Dempster, the man Cherington went out and got to fill a spot in the rotation.  Dempster has proven he can eat up innings and has been an average pitcher for his career as a whole (99 ERA+).  However, since 2008, he has been an above average pitcher.  The numbers look good on Dempster over that span, however his age (36) and the fact that he is moving from the National League to the American League, and Fenway Park for that matter, raise some concern and are reasons why I think Dempster will be a middle of the rotation guy.  Everybody else in the rotation is a question mark for 2013.  John Lackey was historically bad in 2011 and is coming off Tommy John surgery.  There is no guarantee that he will return to his Angels form.  Felix Doubront had flashes of excellence in 2012; however, he was inconsistent.  He ended the season with an ERA approaching 5 even though he led the staff in strikeouts.  Doubront should improve if he can get deeper into games and limit his walks.  Of course these improvements are no guarantee and Doubront could regress.  As for the two leaders of the staff, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, improvement is as close as you can get to a guarantee.  I am not saying they will get back to being Cy Young contenders, but I am very confident, if healthy, that they will show great improvement.  From 2008-2011, Lester was one of the best and most consistent pitchers in all of baseball (135 ERA+ over that span).  In 2010, Buchholz led the league in ERA+ (187) and was second in ERA (2.33).  Both of them are still young, and their track records show they will not be as bad as they were in 2012 when Lester had an ERA+ of 90 and Buchholz was at 95.  If these guys can stay healthy, I expect a better 2013.

As far as the bullpen is concerned, I believe what the Red Sox have put together has the potential to be amongst the best in all of baseball.  First of all, they have more than enough depth.  They have added Joel Hanrahan to close out games for the Sox in 2013.  He has put up some impressive numbers over the past 4 seasons with ERA+’s of 244, 112, 203 and 138 respectively from 2009-2012.  However, his walk rates are a cause for concern.  He walked over 5 batters per nine innings last season and his career BB/9 is 4.3, well above league average.  His career WHIP is also 1.38, which is high for a reliever. 
With Daniel Bard coming back to the bullpen after a failed experiment in the starting rotation, Hanrahan will be joined by him, Andrew Bailey, Andrew Miller,  Junichi Tazawa, Alfredo Aceves, Franklin Morales, Craig Breslow, Koji Uehara, Mark Melancon and Clayton Mortenson. This tremendous combination allows the Red Sox flexibility and many options for left handers, long relievers and the back end of the bullpen.  Aceves, who has had more success as a starter or a long reliever figures to be the long man along with Morales and Mortenson.  The Sox added Uehara this offseason on a one-year deal, and he figures to work in the 7th and 8th innings along with guys like Tazawa, Miller, Bailey, Melancon, Breslow and Bard. 

An extremely important statistic to look at for pitchers is WHIP.  Inconsistency with pitch location, whether it means missing out of the zone or in the zone, was obviously a huge problem for Boston in 2012.  Limiting base runners not only leads to less runs allowed, but it aids in preserving pitch counts and allows guys to get deeper into games.  It is no coincidence that in 2004 and 2007 (World Series champion seasons) the Red Sox as a staff led the league in WHIP as a team.  In 2012, the sox staff finished 10th in the AL in WHIP.  I believe the Red Sox staff will be much improved in 2013; however, I still do not believe it will be quite enough to be able to win the division compared to the pitching staffs of teams like Toronto and Tampa Bay. 

Offensively, the Red Sox should be near the top in the league again.  With Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks and David Ortiz at full health, it already improves the offense from a year ago.  Ellsbury played in 74 games in 2012, with Ortiz at 90, Middlebrooks at 75 and Pedroia at 147.  Although Pedroia stayed on the field, he played through a thumb injury for about half the season.  These four players will go along with several additions to the lineup.  Mike Napoli, Johnny Gomes, Shane Victorino and Stephen Drew were picked up by Cherington this offseason.  Starting with Napoli, he will not replace the production of Adrian Gonzalez at first base, offensively or defensively.  Health is a huge concern for Napoli as he has only played in 140 games once in his 7 year career (114 is the second most games he’s played).  Playing first base, instead of catcher, should aid his health.  When he is on the field, he is a very productive player.  Although he will not hit for a high average, he gets on base and hits for power.  He has hit at least 24 home runs in each of the past 3 seasons.  Expect him to be a 25-30 home run guy for the Red Sox with the help of the green monster.  He has also posted a career .356 OBP, which bodes well for what the Red Sox are trying to do in 2013.  Even today, the importance of OBP remains underrated.  The Red Sox lead the lead in team OBP in 2003, 2004, and 2008 and were second in OBP in 2007, just 4 points behind the league leader.  They reached the 7th game of the American League Championship series in all 4 of these seasons, winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007.  In 2012, the Red Sox won 69 games and finished 10th in the AL with a team OBP of .315.  Again, this is not a coincidence.  With guys like Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz, and Napoli healthy, that team OBP should rise significantly.  Shane Victorino took a step back last season with the Phillies and Dodgers.  He batted just .245/.316/.351 with an OPS+ of just 85.  He will provide good defense for the Sox in right field; however he needs to be able to get on base at a higher rate in order to utilize his speed.  He has a career .341 OBP so I would expect it to certainly rise from his horrible .316 mark in 2012.  Jonny Gomes is a guy who put up very solid numbers in 2012, although it came in just 99 games.  He batted .262/.377/.491 with an OPS+ of 140 and 18 long balls.  These kinds of numbers are all above his career marks, however if he can put up production that is even close to this for a full season, Red Sox fans would be very satisfied.  He is however, in completion with guys like Daniel Nava to get playing time in left field.  Gomes has struck left handers very well over the course of his career and figures to get all of the playing time against them in 2013.  Stephen Drew is coming off a major injury, but figures to be at full health come spring training.  This is a move that I like a lot for the Red Sox.  They were able to get him for only one year, which works out well with guys like Jose Iglesias and Xander Bogaerts needing more time in the minors.  Drew has a career line of .265/.328/.433 and an OPS+ of 96.  His 162-game average for home runs is 15, and if he can put up a number like that, the Red Sox would be very impressed.  These additions will be nice additions to a lineup that includes Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz, and Middlebrooks, and we all know what those guys are capable of doing.  These guys are also proven to have been great in the clubhouse which may be just as important as production on the field considering the problems the Sox have had in the past couple seasons. 

Overall, the Red Sox have certainly improved.  Offensively they have added some nice pieces along with getting their regulars back healthy.  I also believe their bullpen and the amount of depth they have will prove to be successful and help the team win close games.  However the biggest and most important aspect to watch out for in 2013 is the starting rotation.  If they can stay healthy, give the team innings, and just flat out pitch better than last season, this team can compete for a postseason spot.  I do not believe they will win the division because the competition is so heavy in the game’s best division.  I am going to predict an 85 win season for Boston in John Farrell’s inaugural season as manager at Fenway.  

Matt Kemp and his rare power-speed blend makes him one of the best in the game
 By Nick Rabasco:         
          Center field has become one of the best positions in baseball today. Young players have come in and made a huge impact right away.  In 2012, we witnessed two of the greatest rookie seasons in major league history from Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, both of whom saw a significant amount of time in center field.  Even with those two most likely switching to left field in 2013, we still see a tremendous amount of talent.  In the past two seasons, we have seen 5 center fielders finish in the top 5 for the MVP voting.  This position shows a tremendous combination of both power and speed.  Guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Kemp, Mike Trout, and Andrew McCutchen have proven to excel with this rare combination.  We also see huge power numbers from guys like Curtis Granderson, who has put up at least 40 bombs in each of the past two seasons.  This position requires great defense as well, needing a ton of ground to be covered and being the leader of the outfield.  We saw great defense from guys like Michael Bourn and Mike Trout in 2012 and that certainly should continue.  With a great mix of different guys providing power, speed and defense, center field is absolutely one of the brightest positions in the game right now

5. Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

Adam Jones has been getting better and better since he came over to Baltimore in a lopsided trade that sent Erik Bedard to Seattle.  The 26 year old center fielder played in all 162 games in 2012 and was a huge reason why the Orioles were able to jump into the postseason.  Jones batted .287/.334/.505 with 32 big flies, 39 doubles, 16 stolen bases and an OPS+ of 125.  Every one of those numbers were career highs for Jones.  One thing that he struggles just a bit with is patience and striking out.  He walked just 34 times and struck out 126 times in 2012 and has a career OBP of just .323.  Nonetheless, Jones was a well above average offensive player in 2012 for the Orioles and I expect him to have another fabulous season.  Defensively, Jones picked up his second career gold glove in center field, despite saving -16 runs in 2012.  He also had 7 outfield assists and 8 errors.  Overall, Jones was a 3.4 win player in 2012 and I’d expect him to be around that number again in 2013.  

4. Michael Bourn, currently a free agent (Braves in 2012)

Michael Bourn was about an average offensive player in 2012 (99 OPS+).  He batted a pedestrian .274/.348/.391 with 9 home runs, 26 doubles, 10 triples and 42 stolen bases.  The element of speed is what makes Bourn such a feared leadoff hitter.  He has stolen at least 50 bags 3 different times in his career.  The knock on Bourn is his strikeouts.  He struck out a career high 155 times in 2012, which is way too high for a guy who can better utilize his speed by simply making contact and putting the ball in play.  What puts Bourn this high in the rankings is his defense.  It can be argued that he is the best, if not one of the best, outfielders in all of baseball.  Bourn saved 24 runs in 2012 for the Atlanta Braves, and committed just 2 errors with a fielding percentage of .995.  A decent offensive player combined with a tremendous defensive player was good enough to make Bourn a 6 win player in 2012.  Although the defense is expected to come down from his superb 2012, he should still be very productive and a 4.5+ win player in 2013 even though he will be 30 years of age next season.  

3. Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers young center fielder broke out and had his best season in 2012.  Jackson hit .300/.377/.479 with 16 long balls, 29 doubles, a league leading 10 triples, 12 stolen bases and an OPS+ of 130.  Jackson’s stolen base rate, however, declined as he failed to steal 20 bases, which he had done in both 2010 and 2011.  Detroit’s leadoff man, Jackson also cut down on his strikeouts.  He worked with Jim Leyland and hitting coach Lloyd McClendon with creating less movement in his load with his front foot and leg kick and it paid off big time.  Jackson still struck out 134 times, but that was 47 less than what he had in 2011.  He also established a career high in walks with 67, which is a good sign for Tigers fans.  Defensively, Jackson has never saved less than 5 runs, and has saved 47 for his career.  This is extremely impressive being in the spacious outfield in Tiger Stadium.  Jackson was a 5.2 win player in 2012 and I’d expect more of the same again for 2013.  

2. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

Matt Kemp has emerged as one of the best players in the game today, and some can argue that he is number one.  Kemp was bit by the injury bug in 2012, but in 106 games he still put up outstanding numbers.  He batted .303/.367/.538 with 23 home runs, 22 doubles, 9 steals, and an OPS+ of 147.  When he played a full year in 2011, he finished as the runner-up in the MVP voting.  That year, Kemp batted .324/.399/.586 with 39 home runs, 33 doubles, 40 stolen bases, and an OPS+ of 172.  Kemp has been a bit below average in center field however, saving -55 runs for his entire career, despite winning 2 Gold Gloves.  Kemp is still just 27 years old, and coming back at full health in 2013, I expect him to have a monster season for the L.A. Dodgers.  He was a 7.8 win player in his MVP caliber 2011 and I would expect him to be around 6 wins in 2013.  

1. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

Andrew McCutchen broke out in a huge way in 2012 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, finishing third in the National League MVP race.  He batted .327/.400/.553 with 31 home runs, 29 doubles, 6 triples, 20 stolen bases and an OPS+ of 164.  These numbers are all well above his career averages and it only figures to get better for him as he is still just 25 years old.  Even with 132 strike outs, McCutchen was still able to shatter his career highs in a lot of major offensive categories.  On defense, McCutchen was just below an average fielder for the Pirates in 2012, saving -5 runs.  He did however commit just one error and boasted a fielding percentage of .997.  Andrew was a 7 win player in 2013 and it is hard to expect another season like that.  McCutchen has all kinds of talent and I’d expect him to be just under a 7 win player at around 6-6.5.  

Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox
Angel Pagan, San Francisco Giants
B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves

Cliff Lee, 2013 NL CY?
By: Nick Rabasco

Continuing with our fun little prediction exercise, here are my BOLD predictions for 2013.

1. Josh Hamilton will fail to hit 25 home runs.

     In my opinion, there a several contributing factors as to why I believe the Angels new $125 million man will fall short of the 25 home run mark one year after popping 43.  Number one is Hamilton’s health.  He has a track record of being injury prone, as from 2009-2011 he failed to play in more than 133 games.  Next, the change of scenery from Texas to Los Angeles poses two additional problems for the 31 year old slugger.  Even if he does stay on the field for a full season, he is going from the best hitters park in the American League to a notorious pitchers park.  In nearly the same amount of games played, Hamilton hit 83 home runs at home for Texas compared to just 59 on the road.  Also, Hamilton has to deal with playing under a lot of pressure.  First of all, he is in the first year of his mega-deal, and that can cause a superstar like Hamilton to press.  Second, he struggled mightily down the stretch and in the wild card game for Texas.  Josh will want to prove to his new teammates and new fan base that he is the real deal and that can cause major problems especially for a guy like Hamilton who will swing at almost anything. 

2. Buster Posey will lead the Giants to another title and earn his 3rd ring in his first 4 years.

     A dynasty will be born in San Francisco in 2013.  Even after coming off a championship, all the attention will be on the new look Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.  However, I believe the Giants can match up with their talent, and have one of the best overall teams in baseball.  It all starts with pitching, and the Giants have it.  With Matt Cain leading the staff, I believe Tim Lincecum will bounce back to have a season closer to his Cy Young years.  Those two guys will go along with Ryan Vogelsong (3.37 2012 ERA), Madison Bumgarner (3.37 2012 ERA) and Barry Zito (4.15 2012 ERA).  Zito is in the final year of his long contract and is coming off a brilliant 2012 postseason that will give him confidence heading into 2013.  If these guys can stay healthy, it is one of the top rotations in baseball.  The Giants also will have one of the deadliest bullpens in all of baseball.  With guys like Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, and George Kontos all coming of great years in 2012, the Giants should excel late in games.  They also will put together a nice looking lineup in 2013.  Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro should pose as two guys the Giants can rely on to get on base for guys like Pablo Sandoval, NL MVP Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence.  Brandon Belt will also provide some pop in the lineup after gaining more experience at the big league level in 2012.  Overall, I like the Giants as a team and believe they can make a run at a third title in four years. 

3. Cliff Lee’s bad luck changes, wins 20 games and captures the NL Cy Young Award.

      Cliff Lee started 30 games in 2012, threw 211 innings, and won 6 games.  By looking at that, one may think Lee had an “off year.”  Wrong.  Cliff Lee was in fact one of the best pitchers in all of baseball in 2012.  He was 9th in the National League in ERA (3.16) and 7th in the league in ERA+ (127).  Also, with 207 strikeouts and just 28 walks, Lee led all of baseball in K/BB ratio (7.3), which is far and away ahead of the next best (4.4).  The 2008 AL Cy Young winner was also tied with Cole Hamels for 7th in the National League in WAR for pitchers (4.2).  Lee won 6 games, had a 4.2 WAR and Hamels had a 17-win season with the same exact WAR as Lee.  Lee was just a victim of horrible run support and a pitcher is unable to control that.  Lee did more than enough in 2012 to be successful, and he was successful despite picking up just 6 wins.  Because his luck was so bad a year ago, I believe Lee will again be dominant, only this time his luck will change and he will have the wins to prove it this time.  I predict Lee will get to the 20 win mark for the second time in his career, while capturing his second Cy Young. 

4. Miguel Cabrera will fail to be in the top 3 in the AL in any one of the triple crown categories.

     Miguel Cabrera has consistently been one of the top players in the game of baseball for the past 10 years.  Heading into 2013 he will be a two-time defending batting champion in the American League.  Not to mention he was first in all three categories in 2012, winning the first triple crown baseball has seen since “Yaz” in 1967.  Cabrera hit a career-high 44 home runs in 2012, however his 162 game average over his career is 34 home runs.  I believe Cabrera will return to a home run total in the mid-30s.  Cabrera has also been the batting champion the past 2 seasons.  He hit .344 and .330 in 2011 and 2012 respectively and it would be a daunting task in 2013 to hit for an average that high.  With runs batted in, Cabrera will have to rely on his teammates getting on base in front of him.  Austin Jackson had a breakout season and did not strikeout nearly as much as he used to.  I look for Jackson to regress a bit, and not be on base as much for Cabrera.  In 2012, his 139 RBI was 12 more than his previous career high, and I expect him to go down in that category as well. 

5. Indians acquire Jacoby Ellsbury at deadline, he helps them secure the second wild card position.

     Like the Orioles and A’s before them, I like the Cleveland Indians as a sleeper pick for a postseason spot in 2013. Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds will be key in a Cleveland lineup with already some good looking young players.  I think guys like Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Michael Brantley will all have solid seasons as well.  As far as pitching, I am going to predict that Ubaldo Jimenez comes back and has a great year and will be the staff’s leader.  He will go along with Justin Masterson, who looks to return to his 2011 form, newly acquired Brett Myers, Zach McCallister and Trevor Bauer.  I do not believe that is enough to compete with the Tigers, however if healthy this could help the Indians contend all summer long.  I believe they will be looking for one more bat to help make a push in the final 2 months, and with the Red Sox willing part ways with all-star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, a trade will be worked out between the two clubs.  Ellsbury, the 2011 American League MVP runner up, will add a rare dynamic of power and speed to the Indians lineup and will carry them into the wild card game.  

                Shortstop is without question one of the most important positions on the diamond.  In the 1990s and early 2000s, we witnessed a tremendous crop of shortstop that were never-before-seen offensive forces.  Guys like Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Barry Larkin, Derek Jeter, and Cal Ripkin Jr were stars in the league at shortstop because of this offensive prowess.  Nowadays, that offensive power has shifted back to the other 3 infield positions.  A-Rod was moved to shortstop and Derek Jeter is at the back end of his career. Hanley Ramirez is another guy who was moved from shortstop to third base. Many of these moves were based on having other guys to man shortstop already; however teams now are looking for a great defender with speed and range to play the shortstop position on an everyday basis, even while sacrificing the offensive firepower.  There are some great looking young shortstops that have either already arrived in the show, or will be there very soon.  Established guys like Elvis Andrus and Starlin Castro have already produced all-star caliber seasons. On the farm, top prospects Jurickson Profar, Xander Bogaerts, and Francisco Lindor should be names we will be hearing about for a long time to come.  Overall, the future of shortstop looks bright, possibly once again providing us with a golden age at the position.

5. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

     Derek Jeter will go down as not only one of the greatest Yankees ever, but one of the greatest players in history.  The Yankee captain will eventually add his number 2 to the already long list of Yankee retired numbers with his career .313/.382/.448 slash line and five world championships. Derek is coming off a tremendous 2012 with his bat, hitting .316/.362/.429 with a 114 OPS+ and notching his 8th career 200+ hit season.  His bat should be productive again in 2013; however his age and defensive abilities are what have hurt Jeter.  Jeter will be 39 this June, and he has only saved a positive number of runs one time in his 18 year career.  His 9 career gold gloves may be a bit misleading, as Jeter has saved an atrocious -142 runs for his entire career.  His defense again will haunt him in 2013, but his bat is good enough to make him a top 5 shortstop for 2013 and I would expect around a 3 win season from Jeter. 

4. Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays

      After signing a big 6-year contract with the new-look Miami Marlins in the 2011 offseason, Reyes was quickly shipped off to Toronto in a major blockbuster trade after a dismal season for the 2012 Marlins.  North of the border, Reyes will provide a huge spark in a lineup that already includes a lot of firepower.  Reyes, just one year removed from a batting title, had another good season offensively.  He batted .287/.347/.433 in 2012 with an OPS+ of 111.  Along with hitting for a high average and getting on base at a solid rate, Reyes brings 40+ stolen base potential, having done so 5 times in his career, including 2012.  Despite his good speed, Reyes struggles on the defensive side of the ball.  He has not saved a positive number of runs since 2007 and -18 DRS for his 10 year big league career.  He has also committed at least 15 errors in each of his past 3 years.  Regardless, Jose was a 2.8 win player in 2012 and I look for him to be around 3 or 3.5 in 2013. 

3. Ian Desmond , Washington Nationals

      The Nationals' 26 year old shortstop broke out in a big way for the National League East champions in 2012.  He batted .292/.335/.511 with an OPS+ of 126.  His power stood out as he blasted 25 big flies while playing in just 130 games.  He also brought the speed factor into his game while stealing 21 bases in 27 attempts (78%).  It is fair to say Desmond did a little bit of everything offensively in 2012 and we should expect more of the same in 2012 as he enters his age 27 season. Defensively, Desmond saved -6 runs at shortstop and is at -19 for his career.  In spite of his defensive shortcomings, Ian should be about a 3.5 win player in 2013. 

2. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays

      Ben Zobrist has been a super utility man throughout the majority of his career.  However, with the Rays plans to keep him as a primary shortstop in 2013, Zobrist fits into to the second spot on our shortstops list.  Zobrist has been nothing but consistent throughout the past 4 seasons at the “Trop.”  He’s played in at least 151 games in each of those years.  Although he does not hit for a particularly high batting average (.260 career), Zobrist is able to be a very productive offensive player.  He has a career .354 OBP and had a .377 OBP in 2012.  This is a result of his great patience at the plate as he has walked at least 91 times in 3 of his past 4 seasons.  He also hits for decent power, coming off a year in which he slugged .471.  He has also mashed at least 20 home runs in 3 of his last 4 seasons.  Stealing bases is not a huge part of his game although he has been able to swipe at least 14 in each of his last 4 seasons.  Defensively, Zobrist has been fantastic no matter where he plays as he has saved 60 runs over his 7 year career.  Ben has very impressively been able to compile a WAR of at least 5.5 in 3 of his last 4 seasons and has even reached 8 in 2 of them.  Any man who can be an 8 win player should be considered for MVP because of the overall value he brings.  Zobrist just simply makes the Tampa Bay Rays a MUCH better ball club than what they would be without him.  Look for Zobrist to be a 5-6 win player again in 2013. 

1. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

      Despite playing in just 47 games in 2012, “Tulo” has proven he is absolutely the best overall shortstop in all of baseball.  With Tulowitzki having played full seasons in 4 of his last 5 seasons before 2012, we will mainly focus on his production before last year. Expecting full health for 2013, it is very reasonable to expect the type of numbers he put up before his injury because he has been so consistent.  The 28-year old had an OPS+ of at least 130 each year from 2009-2011.  In those seasons, he never hit below .297, never had an OBP of under .372, and never slugged less than .544.  He also hit at least 30 home runs in 2 of those 3 years.  Speed wise, Tulo was able to swipe 20 bags in 2009, but that number dropped to just 9 in 2011.  After his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2007 at the age of 22, Tulowitzki has not disappointed.  Along with his tremendous offensive production, Troy is one of the best defenders in the game.  He saved a whopping 31 runs during his rookie year, and taking away his injury plagued 2012, has never saved a negative number of runs and is at 68 for his career.  Tulo is without a doubt a superstar at shortstop. He has been a 6 win player 4 times in his career, and I would expect that number to be the same in 2013.  

By: Nick Rabasco