In making predictions, one has to be bold. No one, with the possible exception of Farhan Zaidi, would especially have predicted Brandon Moss to slug .596 in 2012. By the same token, anyone predicting Coco Crisp to bat .175 last year would have been labeled a "Coco hater" rather than "right on the money".
Injuries, drops off of cliffs, stance adjustments, sudden maturity, and inexplicable yips, are among the thousands of factors that can cause a player's numbers to be surprisingly good or bad. So be bold, and drink whatever alcoholic beverage that is which uses "Be bold" in its advertising.
The tl;dr version of this post is that I am bullish on bears. That is, I am predicting the two Cal Bears alumni -- Marcus Semien and Mark Canha -- to break out in 2016. Not because they are Bears, mind you, and not because I am a graduate of UC Berkeley, but simply because those are the two guys I believe will take a big step forward in 2016. Others...not so much....Read on...
Semien has many qualities that lead me to believe he is still only going to get better. One is his consummate coachability seen first-hand in his willingness, but also ability, to soak up Ron Washington's fielding tips and to put them into action.
I also like his swing and saw him "just miss" a lot of pitches in 2015 while he was so utterly focused on his fielding. In the minors, Semien showed the ability to take walks and he has some legitimate power, at least to LF.
I see Semien relaxing in 2016, mashing LHPs and holding his own against RHPs. My fearless prediction: A slash line of .270/.340/.420 with 16 HRs with average defense. That's a really good player.
From the time I first saw him in spring training, I have liked Canha's swing and its ability to produce what I termed "easy power". His swing actually reminds me a bit of Josh Donaldson's, if a tad longer and more violent. But I also liked Canha's approach in 2015, including his ability to shoot balls to RF with two strikes and the power he displayed to all fields.
Canha will always strike out a lot and this will keep his batting average lower. As he is recognized more and more as a big power threat he will likely draw a few more walks from pitchers being careful, but his calling card is going to be his slugging. I see him as a Josh Willingham type, sans the exceptional plate discipline Willingham brought to the table.
From his 2015 season, I see Canha's roughly repeating his line against RHPs but surging against LHPs. Unfortunately, like Willingham I think Canha's offensive contributions come at the expense of below average LF defense, though I expect it to be only "a tick below average" if he plays there every day.
My fearless prediction: A slash line of .250/.330/.480 with 26 HRs and slightly below average defense in LF.
The Bullbears who are Bearbullish
Let's hope that Mark Kotsay's influence on Burns is to make him more like Kotsay was. No one took better routes in CF, or played the position with more intelligence, than Kotsay. Burns has a way to go to turn his speed into defensive excellence, even if his occasional web gems offer the illusion of a good CFer.
Offensively, I see multiple signs that Burns will increase his walk rate in 2016. For one, his minor league track record showed quite the ability to draw walks, though a portion of that was undoubtedly his discomfort batting left-handed which led him to troll and pray for a base on balls.
Additionally, though, you have a hitter who saw an inordinate number of first-pitch fastballs and punished them to the tune of a .500 average when he put the first pitch in play. One would presume that pitchers will not be offering so many first pitch cookies in 2016, that more of Burns' at bats will go deeper into counts, and that the result will be fewer (first pitch) hits and more walks.
Finally, Burns' skill set, as displayed in the big leagues last season, offers a good recipe for walks: He fouls off a ton of two-strike pitches, commonly running counts from 1-2 to 3-2 in the process, and this is one way hitters coax their fair share of walks.
I don't see Burns as a career .300 hitter -- few batters are -- but I see his OBP holding steady as the supply of first-pitch hits give way to more 10 pitch walks.
My fearless prediction: .280/.340/.360 with 28 steals in 36 attempts, 1 HR and average CF defense.
This may sound dumb, but I factor it in when a player seems so genuinely excited to join your team. I feel like it can only bring out the best a player has to offer and in the case of Alonso, he has plenty to offer. Power, unfortunately, is not among the offerings and is why I put him in the "medium" category.
I do, however, think that Alonso will be an on-base machine who provides excellent defense. Look for Alonso to get the lion's share of his at bats against RHPs and to replicate his recent success against RHPs.
My fearless prediction: .280/.360/.380 with 5 HRs and plus defense.
It's unlikely that Valencia, having struggled against RHPs all his career, has suddenly become a force against everyone. More likely, he enjoyed a pleasant SLG boost in the small sample of 2015, one which will normalize in 2016 if he is given an every day job. And it looks like he has been given unfettered access to the 3B job.
On defense, Valencia made all the routine plays but did not get to many balls that required lateral movement. I see him playing a slightly below average 3B in 2016 and disappointing with a pedestrian slash line bogged down by an overexposure to RHPs.
My fearless prediction: .240/.290/.380 with 15 HRs and too many frustrated comparisons to "Brett Lawrie without the range or speed".
Please let me be wrong. Let Hahn be healthy and able to pick up where he left off at the outset of 2015. The guy can really pitch -- if he can pitch.
Best case scenario is that rest finally heals the tightness in Hahn's elbow. Second worst case scenario is that Hahn gives in to the knife, undergoing his second Tommy John surgery. Worst case scenario is what I will predict: Hahn tries to pitch in 2016 until it becomes glaringly obvious that he can't, then goes under the knife.
My fearless prediction: 1-4, 7.55 ERA in 7 painful-to-watch starts before giving up the ghost. However, if I'm wrong and he's healthy let's go with 13-9, 3.55 ERA as a "solid #3, maybe even arguably a #2!" Kind of like he was in 2015 until he wasn't.
Your thoughts on my predicted bulls and bears? Your own bull and bear predictions? Discuss!