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Nico's Bull And Bear Predictions

It's posts like this that allow us to look stupid: Putting in writing predictions that will probably be half right, half wrong, allowing everyone to remember all the times you were wrong!

The question is: Which Athletics will exceed expectations for 2009 and which Athletics will fall short. My guesses, from a very cloudy crystal ball...

Bullish: Travis Buck. The guy is extremely talented with a track record of success, has shown he can perform at the major league level, and learned a lot from the adversity he faced in 2008. I see Buck pleasantly surprising those who were traumatized by his 2008 "season o' futility" and performing like a solid leadoff hitter. Yay, Travis!!!

Bearish: Daric Barton. I'm doing Daric a favor by predicting his failure, as last off-season I boldly predicted Barton would hit .300 in 2008 and he kind of didn't. So this year, I am ensuring his success by concluding that a lot of signs point to him struggling in 2009. First of all, he will get off to a late start due to his off-season hip surgery, and so he will begin "odd man out" in a "four players for three spots" scenario.

And as long as his leash was last year, Barton's leash will be short this year due to the combination of Giambi and a more competitive division race, so if Daric struggles out of the gate - likely enough given his late spring training and the pressure to perform immediately - he could easily find himself stashed in AAA until further notice.

Finally, I saw some of 2008 Barton's problems being a lack of maturity (and/or depth perception) and so I now see Daric as someone who will still be a solid major league player, but maybe not at as young an age as some of his teammates. I see Barton getting off to a late and slow start, and ultimately not "breaking out" as a big leaguer until 2010.

Bullish: Brett Anderson. I think Anderson is polished in a way that is more important than chronological age. He throws strikes, he knows how to pitch, and I think he is the best candidate of all the young pitchers to emerge at a young age. I see him opening lots of eyes in spring training, barely missing the rotation from the git go, being the first call-up from AAA and never looking back.

Bearish: Ryan Sweeney. Not because he's bad but because expectations are high and I'm not convinced Sweeney will meet them, at least in 2010. I really think he's a very average defender in CF and I don't see him having the foot-speed to get substantially better. As an average defender, he needs to do more than slap a lot of singles and that's what I expect from Sweeney: A solid batting average and lots of talk about how he'll hit for power someday that isn't today. And that will constitute a disappointment, if not a surprise.

Bullish: Eric Chavez. I just think the guy is going to be pretty healthy and as a result pretty darn productive. If Chavez turns in 120-130 games hitting .260/.360/.460 with 20 HRs and good old Chavy defense, I think most fans will be thrilled. I think he can do it.

Honorable mentions...Bulls Trevor Cahill and James Simmons may be closer to being ready to pitch in the big leagues than bears Gio Gonzalez and Vince Mazzaro...Bull Jack Cust may show that eye exercises and protection are real, while bear Mark Ellis may show that coming back from surgery is no quick or simple matter...

Disclaimer: Everything I just said may be utter baloney. Your turn!