If you remember the predictions I made for the 2012 season, you know that they all turned out to be correct (as long as you have a very flexible definition of the word correct). And when I consider all the possibilities of the 2013 season, all of the potential built up between developing players and added talent, my mind goes on a wild rumpus. I see highlight reel catches in the outfield, players hitting for the cycle, and back-to-back homeruns between brothers. I see no hitters, and winning streaks, parades, and champagne. I’m doing my best to reign in the ol’ imagination and be realistic, but I make no promises. With that in mind, here are my official predictions for the 2013 season.
1) Julio Teheran and Kris Medlen will combine for 35 or more wins. Both starters have something to prove: Teheran needs to show that he is ready for a complete season in the bigs, and Medlen is out to validate his showing last season. There are still analysts and fans who see Medlen’s second-half performance from last year as a fluke or unrepeatable. I expect Kris to have a breakout season and silence the naysayers. Teheran has been brutally effective this spring. I know spring numbers don’t really matter, and that pitchers are typically ahead of hitters at this time of the year, but his overall progress is indicative of a rising star.
2) As a team, the Braves will commit the fewest errors of any National League team. Each everyday player on the club is a sound fielder. Even the third-base duo is capable of maintaining control of the hot corner. Nothing gets by Simmons at short, and Freeman stretches like salt water taffy. The new and improved outfield can cover tons of real estate and throw the ball with strength and accuracy.
3) Uggla will bounce back. Honestly, how can he not? 2012 was the worst season of his career, practically rock bottom. Even if Uggla bats .235 with 25 homers, that would show significant improvement. Hopefully he can continue to draw walks and earn a high on-base percentage.
4) The Braves will have another bumpy start. Last year they got swept by the Mets to begin the season. While I don’t expect the Phils to take all three in the opening series, the Braves may struggle to begin the year. The team is improved as a whole, but many new pieces are in place and it may take a few weeks for some players to find their grooves. A second-half surge will make up for it.
5) Hudson’s decline is on the horizon. Old Man Time shows leniency to only a lucky few, and Tim may not be one of them. Huddy isn’t exactly a workhorse type of pitcher, and he’s never been immune to injury. He won’t be a total black hole in the rotation, but he won’t be a consistent seven innings of low-scoring baseball, either.
6) The Braves won’t make a single trade during the 2013 season. Opening day is nearly upon us, and for once the Braves have a complete team, no glaring chinks in the armor. Bench players like Gattis and Schafer, as well as having a pair of serviceable third basemen, make the team deeper, more capable of absorbing an injury. Barring multiple significant losses, the Braves won’t need to make a deadline move to solidify the squad—it is already solid.
7) McCann will lead the team in homeruns. He won’t be ready in time for opening day, but when Brian does return he should finally be at one hundred percent health, something we haven’t seen from McCann in some time. It’s also the final year of his contract, meaning he needs to prove what he’s worth. I look forward to a robust, powerful McCann in the middle of the lineup.
8) The National League will win a fourth consecutive All-Star Game. A resounding 8-0 victory in 2012 showed the NL is no longer the inferior league. Look for the NL to continue their winning ways.
9) The Braves will sweep the Cardinals. There may be a bit of lingering bad blood between these two teams, or at least between the fans (remember the reports of the Cards chanting “Infield Fly” during the post-game celebration?). The Redbirds come to town for a weekend series in late July, when I expect the Braves to be finely tuned and on top of their game. A little extra incentive in the way of revenge never hurts.
10) The Upton Brothers will combine for 40 homeruns and 40 stolen bases. There’s no combination I love more than power and speed, which is what makes me so enthusiastic about the new outfield. A competitive brotherly spirit will help these two push each other and drive the Braves to a winning season.
11) Jason Heyward will be a serious candidate for MVP, but not win. With a strong supporting cast of teammates, much of the pressure and scrutiny is off of J-Hey. I see him making a big impact this season, with his bat, glove, arm, and even on the base paths. Imagining Heyward’s full potential makes me shudder.
12) Kimbrel will dominate his way to 45 saves. Don’t put too much stock in his spotty spring training appearances. He still has a killer fastball and nasty slider, good enough to intimidate and eliminate even the best hitters in baseball. I wouldn’t want the ball in any other hand come inning nine.
13) The Braves will win 95 games. The big-name signings, improvements to the rotation, bolstering of the bullpen—all of that will secure the team one more win than last year. We play in a strong division (ignoring Miami and New York), and 95 wins will not come easy. That number will land Atlanta in the dreaded one-game playoff. When I close my eyes I still see bottles and trash raining onto the field. It’s time for new memories. It’s time for a new season. Let’s go Braves!
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