So how did I do? Earlier this year, I tried to make some bold predictions that were pretty far out there. Most were absolutely wrong but I think I got others semi-right. I'd even consider a few of them to be completely right. Let's see how I did:
The new prevailing trend in major league baseball is a disturbing one. It is a trend of exponentially more frequent Tommy John surgeries. During the surgery, the ulnar collateral ligament is replaced by a different tendon from elsewhere in the body. As would be predicted, pitchers suffer from the injury much more than batters because they are constantly stretching their arm to full extension and pitching at high velocities. However, there are times when batters must have their UCL repaired. The unfortunate truth is that there is little data on what may happen to batters when they return. Most analysts report that the surgery has little to no affect on batters' performance. This isn't true.
High risk/ High reward predictions. You can choose to go right along with them or go completely against them. Some of them are bound to happen. Right? I'm not saying these are what I'd personally predict, but these are some things I would say if I wanted to go against the grain when it comes to these players. These are just some of my thoughts and bold feelings wrapped up into one prediction for every team.
The Yankees are in trouble. Alex Rodriguez was just sentenced to a 162 game suspension for all of 2014 including any possible playoffs. Getting into the steroid discussion is not the point of this article. The point of this article is to address who's playing third base. As it stands right now, Kelly Johnson is slated to man third base with little competition. Eduardo Nunez and Brendan Ryan may see some time but the job mainly falls on Johnsons' shoulders. The same Kelly Johnson that hit .235 and struck out in about a fourth of his at bats last season. While he was somewhat serviceable in Tampa Bay playing behind the starters and filling in for injured players, the Yankees are putting their trust in Johnson to man third and bat regularly this season.
Major League Baseball teams are constantly changing. In a short period of time, an entire team's rotation can be torn apart and rebuilt anew. Just two years ago, the Oakland Athletics rotation consisted of Dallas Braden, Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, Tyson Ross, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy. None of them are with the A's anymore. So many different transactions happen over the course of a season that a rotation could be completely different from one year to the next. On the other hand, the Giants have barely touched their rotation the past two seasons. With the ever-changing landscape of rosters, a rotation could be dynamically altered in just one transaction or deal.
Major League Baseball relies on competitive balance to maintain a fair playing field for all teams: no matter the economic strength of the team. A payroll in the MLB determines how much money a team can spend on their players for signings, extensions, and trade bonuses. Every team has a different payroll and that all depends on the location of the team. The more people that attend the games or buy related merchandise creates a better location because the sales will contribute to a higher payroll. The highest payroll belonged to the Los Angeles Dodgers at $216 million for 2013 and the lowest belonged to the Houston Astros at $24 million. The Dodgers could pay their players nine times the amount that the Astros can, thus greatly increasing their chances of signing better free agents and trading for better players. Team payrolls have been increasing drastically in the last few decades: The Miami Marlins spent only $14.65 million in 1999, but in 2012, they spent $118.1 million. The team went through a huge increase in only fourteen years, and with higher payrolls come higher salaries to players. Right now, 20 players actually have higher salaries per year than the entire Houston Astros team in 2013. Almost always, a higher team payroll in the MLB leads to more wins. However, there are certain nonmonetary aspects of the game that can lead to variances.
Yoenis Cespedes struggled at the plate this year for reasons unknown to most. Analyzing why he struggled in 2013 versus when he was deemed excellent in 2012 all comes down to sabermetrics. Cespedes biggest enemy is himself in fact. Throughout research and statistics, Cespedes swings at too many inside pitches in an attempt to hit more home runs. The pressure from his overshadowed rookie season came back to haunt him this past year. His batting average dropped from .292 to .240 and his OPS fell from .861 to .737 all because of a few changes Cespedes made at the plate. The statistics easily point out the causes for Cespedes' struggles and how he might be able to fix them for next season. Even though it may seem that Cespedes was a much worse batter in 2013, that is not the entire case. He actually was much better at making contact with pitches thrown to the outside of the strike zone, boasting an increase from 59.5 % to 63.7 %.
Ranking and predicting all of the free agents expected to hit the market this season is never going to be perfectly correct and certainly won't be anywhere near perfectly correct. Therefore, I am here to preview this season's crop of batters and pitchers that may end up on different teams. Before I rank the players, I want to provide a list of all available free agents arranged alphabetically. After the ranking table, I will provide reasons for my decisions and state some predictions on how a player's possible transition would work out in the team's scheme.
I want to detail some of the scariest injuries of the 2013 MLB season in this article because Halloween is coming soon and it seemed fitting. Some of these injury videos may haunt you, so I advise discretion before watching any of them. The first injury that came to mind when I thought of the idea for this article was J.A. Happ's. Happ was hit in the head by a line drive early in the season and required months to recover from lasting effects. There seems to be a growing debate on pitchers being hit with line drives and if the MLB should institute some form of protection for pitcher on the mound. The injury is all to eerily similar to last year when Brandon McCarthy was hit in the head by a line drive. Alex Cobb was also hit in the head this year and lost months of his best season yet. Happ's injury video was included over Cobb's just because it happened earlier in the season. Happ had to be carted away on a stretcher, never knowing if he would ever be the same again. In the end, Happ suffered a skull fracture and actually sprained his right knee upon falling to the ground. Happ was hit on May 7th and did not return for three months and ultimately finished the season with a 4.56 ERA over 92.2 innings.
This article highlights the little known about rookies that had real effects on a team but were not appreciated by most. Many MLB rookies have had good seasons this year, possibly more than any other year. Take a look at some rookies worthy of consideration for your appreciation but maybe not a ROY vote:
Marcell Ozuna, MIA - Hit .265 with 3 HRs and 5 SBs over 291 plate appearances for the Miami Marlins. He seems to be one of their building blocks for the future in the Miami outfield. Unfortunately, his season ended in late July to repair a fracture in his left thumb.
Nolan Arenado, COL - Hit .269 with 10Hrs over 503 plate appearances for the Rockies at third base. He has showcased excellent fielding and is probably their third baseman of the future unless they decide to move Arenado to first following Todd Helton's retirement.
Anthony Rendon, WSH - Hit .261 with 7 HRs over 386 plate appearances. He was recalled in April to fill in for the injured Ryan Zimmerman but saw much more action when he replaced the struggling Danny Espinosa at second base. Rendon was considered one of the top prospects in baseball and will most likely keep his spot at second base after being brought up as a third baseman.
Yoervis Medina, SEA - Maintained a 2.96 ERA over 67 innings while serving as a relief pitcher for the Seattle Mariners. Even though he has a very high walk rate, he is a valuable part of the Mariners future and should receive a starting nod in spring training because of his minor league career as a starter and the lack of starting pitching in Seattle.
Oswaldo Arcia, MIN - Hit .251 over 378 plate appearances with 13 HRs. He posses a very strong outfield arm and made two double plays this year from left field. He may end up seeing Twin's prospect Byron Buxton beside him soon, so long as Arcia raises his batting average slightly.
Evan Gattis, ATL - Despite only hitting .238 over 372 plate appearances, Gattis will most likely see increased time at catcher next season even if Brian McCann returns to Atlanta. Gattis provided 20 HRs (projected 31 HRs if Gattis saw a full-time role at catcher) to a team that seems to value power over percentage. A sensation in April, he hasn't seen much attention since because of his low average and McCann's return.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD - A former Korean star made big news in Los Angeles as he maintained a 2.97 ERA over 188 innings as a starter for the Dodgers. Behind Kershaw and Grienke, Ryu is another starter for the future in an amazing Dodger's rotation. He seems to enjoy stardom wherever he pitches because of his vast following.
Jedd Gyorko, SD - A spring training star, Gyorko made his debut under the injury of Logan Forsythe. He hit .249 over 516 plate appearances with 21 HRs at second base for the struggling Padres. A very strong fielder as well, Gyorko simply needs another season to acclimate to major league pitching to raise his batting average.
Alex Wood, ATL - Maintained a 3.16 ERA over 77 innings while serving as a relief pitcher or starting pitcher for the Braves. He started eleven games down the stretch while filling in for an injured Tim Hudson, but a bad September took him out of the rotation. Wood had the third lowest ERA in August for any rookie since 1995.