Bold Predictions: 14 Players Worth Gambling On

Posted by dave on April, 1st 2012

70+ steals or sent to the Minors by May?

We’re all looking for players with upside. That’s probably why there are 1.8 million search results for “baseball sleepers” on Google. To narrow things down to the guys with the best upside, we recently asked experts from several fantasy baseball sites to provide ONE bold prediction for 2012.
 
Two players with multiple mentions are Dee Gordon and Adam Dunn. Both players are pretty big gambles. As Matthew Berry and Tristan Cockroft recently debated, SpeeDee Gordon can single handedly win you a category or be a complete waste of a pick. Adam Dunn proved last year that there’s no such thing as a safe bet, giving his owners a .159 AVG and 11 HRs after several seasons of far superior results. Will he bounce back or was last year a sign of things to come?
 
The bottom line is that no risk = no reward. With that in mind, let’s swing for the fences…
 
Dee Gordon will lead the majors with 80 stolen bases. The Dodgers shortstop hit .304 and had 24 steals in just 56 games as a rookie – in addition to swiping 32 bases in the minors. With perhaps the game’s premier baserunning coach, Davey Lopes, on the Dodgers staff, Gordon will only get better. No one’s stolen as many as 80 bases since Rickey Henderson in 1988, but Gordon has the speed and the green light to approach that mark. All he needs to do is get on base – and he’s done a great job of that with a .382 average and .460 OBP this spring. Gordon and Matt Kemp give the Dodgers a pair of dangerous weapons that complement each other nicely.” – Steve Gardner, USA Today
 
Dee Gordon will steal at least 70 bases. It hasn’t been done since Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox did it in 2009, but if there’s one guy who can do it..it’s Dee Gordon.” – Reggie Yinger, Baseball Press
 
“Matt Moore and Yu Darvish will be better overall fantasy options, but Oakland’s Tommy Milone will finish with the lowest ERA and WHIP among rookie starters in 2012.” – James Meyerriecks, FantasyInfoCentral
 
Adam Dunn will hit 40 home runs in 2012. After seven straight seasons with 38-plus homers, it seemed logical that Dunn was a lock to hit at least that many after making the offseason switch to the hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. Instead he hit a career-low 11 home runs, none of which were against lefties but his RHP split (.187) was bad as well. Based on this year’s ADP (Mock Draft Central: 231), Dunn, who is hitting the ball better this spring, provides plenty of upside to fantasy owners betting on a bounce-back season.” – Kevin Hanson, EDSBaseball
 
“After a nightmare of a 2011 season in which he had a higher total of strikeouts than batting average (177 to .159) Adam Dunn, in his second season with the Chicago White Sox, will find his swing again and hit at least .265, 35 HR, and 100 RBI en route to MLB’s Comeback Player of the Year Award and a higher self-esteem.” – Zach Greubel, WinMyFantasyLeague
 
“Despite starting the season on the disabled list, Chase Utley accumulates over 500 PA, posting a .275/.375/.450 triple slash, 19 home runs, and 15 steals.” – Brad Johnson, The Hardball Times
 
Dan Uggla will win the National League MVP. Sometimes players struggle after signing major contracts. Uggla was no different. He was plain awful throughout the early part of last year. Once he finally settled in, Uggla hit 21 home runs and a .296 AVG after the All Star break. As soon as 2011 ended, I started telling all who would listen that Uggla was my good player that was ready to join the elite. First of all, he’s a second basemen that could hit 40+ home runs which is awesome ala Jeff Kent. Additionally, he’s actually carried over that elite power into Spring Training. His six home runs is tied for the Major League lead. Secondly, his .253 BABIP was eighth unluckiest amongst qualified hitters. He swings hard and doesn’t let his 20+ percent strikeout rate affect his elite contact rates. Power plus contact usually leads to good things, kids. Uggla actually hits right-handers better than lefties which is a plus for a right-handed hitter. Basically, there’s a lot to love. I have him as my number 22 ranked overall player, but you should be able to draft this 32-year-old much later.” – Ben Pritchett, The Hardball Times
 
“Finally freed from the Baltimore Orioles and the AL East, Jeremy Guthrie will win at least 15 games with a 3.75 ERA or better for the Colorado Rockies in 2012.” – Eric Radom, FansFantasy
 
Chris Young will go 25-25 AND hit .270 this season. A career .240 hitter, Young’s problem recently hasn’t been seeing the ball, it’s been making contact. The average difference between his OBP and his AVG each of the past three seasons is 93 points. With some mechanical adjustments at the plate this spring, Young is better seeing and making contact with the ball, to the tune of a .400 batting average and a tied-for-MLB-best .500 on-base percentage. Spring training has its annual share of mirages, but Chris Young’s new approach at the plate seems to be working and I’m banking on him posting a new career best in batting average in 2012, while still delivering the 20-20 goods we paid for in our drafts.” – Greg Smith, The Fake Baseball
 
Lucas Duda, not David Wright or Ike Davis, will be the Mets’ most valuable fantasy hitter in 2012. Duda, who hit .292 with 10 home runs, 50 RBIs and 21 doubles in just over 300 at bats last year will be manager Terry Collins’ starting right fielder this season. With the guarantee of regular playing time plus the shorter fences at Citi Field, I am looking for a big season out of the 26-year-old lefty, who is ranked considerably lower than both Wright and Davis. When all is said and done I think the Duda, who also has first-base eligibility in the majority of leagues, puts up something along the lines of a .280-25-90 line with at least 35 doubles and 70 runs scored. His 2012 numbers will have him finish among the top 120 players in all of fantasy baseball, which is pretty good given his current Expert Consensus Rank at FantasyPros is No. 217 overall.” – Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports
 
Madison Bumgarner will provide the most value of the Giants trio of starting pitchers. Bumgarner finished of 2011 on fire. Post All-Star break he pitched 100 innings to a 2.52 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. His surface stats were supported by a better than five-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio. He struck out nearly a batter per-inning, 8.91 K/9, and was stingy with his walks, 1.71 BB/9, in that time frame. He surpassed 200 innings last year, and should do the same this season. He’ll outperform Matt Cain, outright. What observant readers have probably noticed is that I have Bumgarner ranked as my tenth starting pitcher, behind Tim Lincecum, who is ranked fifth. While it’s possible Bumgarner will out pitch Lincecum outright, like I predict will be the case with Cain, his value is best measured by his average draft position (ADP). Bumgarner should post comparable statistics to Lincecum while getting drafted, on average, 46.5 picks later per Fantasy Pros composite average draft position information. On average, those in 12 team leagues will have to spend a third round pick to acquire Lincecum’s services. Conversely, Bumgarner highest ADP is 70.5 at CBS, placing him in sixth/seventh round territory. Lincecum’s draft value is fair. However, getting a burgeoning ace like Bumgarner as late as he is getting drafted is an absolute steal.” – Josh Shepardson, The Hardball Times
 
Michael Morse will be as valuable as Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton will now be able to knock Jose Reyes home, so he could have more RBI than Morse, but Morse will have a much better AVG than Stanton. I’m talking about a .300 AVG with 35 HR. If that happens, Morse is basically a contact hitting version of Giancarlo Stanton. We’ll call that version, Mike.” – Tim Young, MLB Soup
 
“Even with a limit of 160 innings, Stephen Strasburg finishes the year as a Top 12 SP. Some quick math, 160 divided by 7.25 Innings-per-Start equals 22 games pitched. He’ll get you into the fantasy playoffs, but you better have depth when the Washington Nationals shut him down.” – Joe Buccellato, FantasyLeagueGM
 
J.P. Arencibia is going to have a breakout year. After busting out with 23 HRs in his first full season, there is no reason to think he can build off that number as he is a more confident slugger in one of the best hitting teams in the AL. That means there will be a lot of RBI opportunities, and pitchers will throw good pitches to him to hit so he does not get on base for all the dangerous threats behind him. The batting average was ugly last season at .219, but he did hit over .300 in each of his last two seasons in the minors. It would not surprise me to see J.P. knock out 30 HRs and have over 90 RBIs, while bringing that batting average up to .260 by the end of the 2012 season.” – Muntradamus, Beast Dome
 
Cory Luebke will be a top-15 SP this year. This Friar foreshadowed a sick 9.92 K/9 ratio with a similar 9+ mark in just 17 innings in 2010. His plate discipline numbers were strikingly similar, with the major difference being that he hit the zone in 5% more of his pitches. The big southpaw has two plus pitches — including a nasty fastball — and a so-so curveball and change up to keep hitters off balance, and pitches in PETCO Park, which requires no further analysis. His peripherals are studly, his numbers last year were studly, his control is studly, and he still isn’t getting the love he deserves. I want him on every one of my teams this year — he has immense upside if he can reproduce his 2011 numbers over 180+ innings (which I think he can).” – Nick Fleder, The Hardball Times
 
“It is a well-known fact that Brandon Morrow has been a “sabermetric darling” in many draft kits–and that many analysts predict a bounce back season. I go further than that. Not only will this season be a colossal bounce back year, but Brandon Morrow will finish in the Top 3 of the AL Cy Young voting.” – Derek Gerberich, MidwestSportsFans
 
A big thanks to all our contributing experts. Be sure to check out their sites for more great fantasy baseball advice.
 
Enjoy opening week and remember to check back for the launch of our in-season tool called My Playbook. You’ll be able to import your teams and get custom news and advice from the top fantasy experts and sites on the web. Like all our other MLB features, My Playbook will be totally free.
 
Have your own bold prediction? Let us know in the comments below!
 
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