Happy New Year
As we acquaint ourselves with 2010 and prepare for the expected confirmation of the Troy Glaus signing later today, let’s make a few predictions about what this new year will bring.
1) Chipper will bounce back: If Glaus can remain healthy, Jones won’t be hindered with the undue pressure that he placed upon himself during the 2009 season. The veteran third baseman hit .335 with eight homers and a 1.017 OPS through June 9. Other than a slight decline in power, his numbers were basically identical to those he’d produced over the previous 2 1/2 seasons.
While, I can’t say there’s one particular reason why he was so miserable at the plate over the course of the next four months, I think it’s pretty safe to say his skills didn’t just evaporate overnight.
2) Heyward will begin the year in the Majors: Some writers are already asking whether they should tab Heyward as their preseason NL Rookie of the Year prediction. For now, I’m just responding with the belief that this 20-year-old outfielder will indeed win a roster spot coming out of Spring Training.
Heyward will play right field on a regular basis. When going up against a tough left-handed pitcher, the Braves will likely choose to start the versatile Melky Cabrera in right.
3) McCann will gain a fifth consecutive All-Star selection: Hey I needed an easy prediction just to increase the odds of getting something right. Seriously, I basically threw this one out there to make the prediction that Mac’s batting average will rise above .300 again this year.
Considering that McCann hit .225 against left-handers last year, it may have been a minor miracle that he actually ended up hitting .281 on the season. One year earlier, he had hit .301 vs. RHP and .299 vs. LHP.
Last year marked the first time that these splits were considerably different for McCann. Now with his glasses put away and his eyes powered by a second Lasik surgery, we’ll see him once again find the consistency that will push his average back up above .300.
4) Yunel Escobar will gain his first All-Star selection: With Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzski, Jimmy Rollins and Miguel Tejada providing competition, it won’t be easy for Escobar to gain a spot on this club. But there were plenty of nights last summer when I would have said Escobar was just as good as any of those other shortstops.
Offensively, he can’t match what Ramirez and Tulowitzki offer. But when you factor defense, you can at least make the argument that Escobar is the NL’s most complete shortstop.
We saw Escobar show some enhanced maturity down the stretch this past season and if his peers around the league begin to see that he can be a likeable personality, then you’ll see him start to get some of the attention he deserves when opposing players and coaches vote for such things as All-Star selections.
5) Tommy Hanson will be a 15-game winner: This prediction could also easily apply to Jair Jurrjens, Tim Hudson or Derek Lowe. But seeing how Jurrjens is the “old” 23-year-old, it just seemed like this prediction about the “kid” would stir more debate.
Given that Hanson threw 56 more innings than he had during any previous professional season, there will be some who may predict that he won’t be as impressive as he was during his rookie season. But after watching him limit opponents to a .191 batting average in his final six starts and allow one earned run or less four times during this same six-start span, I’m taking the opinion that the “kid” wasn’t battling any kind of alarming fatigue issues that will carry over to this upcoming season.
There were a number of other predictions I could have thrown out there. But I don’t see any need to make postseason predictions and all of that until we actually see what transpires during Spring Training.