Preseason is a time for bold predictions. Before opening day, every team is tied for first place, thus springing forth eternal hope for the fans of all teams that this year could be their "year".
Chris Iannetta’s the man. He’s earned this title, he’s played like it and no one is disputing this. However, I believe that Iannetta will inevitably need some time on the DL given his recent past and the physical demands of playing catcher for the Angels. This will open the door for Conger to earn some playing time. I believe his defense, or more specifically his throwing will progress far enough that Scioscia won’t be afraid to deploy him in Iannetta’s absence. Conger’s ability to hit from both sides of the plate for average, some power and show good plate discipline will make him an attractive and dangerous option for the Angels. This isn’t to say that Chris Iannetta is going to be bad, quite the contrary, I think he’ll be even better in 2013 than he was in 2012. But a productive Iannetta/Conger timeshare is inherently a better option than any lineup featuring Bobby Wilson or Jeff Mathis on a regular basis as we’ve seen in the past.
2. Josh Hamilton will hit UNDER 30 HR for the Angels in 2013.
This isn’t a “dig” on Josh Hamilton. He’s a great hitter and will continue to be for quite some time. He may have hit 43 HR for Texas last year, but when we look at his career thus far, that appears to be an outlier. In previous season where he had played in 120 games or more, he hit 25, 32 and 32 HR’s. His .359 batting average from 2010 also appears to be an outlier. His strikeouts have since skyrocketed (though to be fair his walks have progressively increased as well). So playing for Texas, the norm was more like a .300 batting average with around 30 HR’s. But Hamilton is no longer playing in Texas. The tall wall in RF and the marine layer in Anaheim knock down their fair share of potential HR’s. Hamilton should still be a productive hitter, to the tune of a .290 batting average with 40 doubles and 25+ HR’s, but gone are the MVP caliber days.
Bold prediction? Not so much, but the manner in which it will occur will be bold. After questions concerning Albert’s age, health and productivity, in true Albert fashion he’ll silence critics with an offensive barrage rarely replicated before by anyone not named Pujols or Cabrera. His strikeouts will decrease, his walks will increase, his doubles will decrease, his HR’s will increase and as his knee becomes healthier and he won’t be pressing like he did early in 2012, Pujols’ batting average will again climb. By the end of the year, we’re looking at .300 with 35 doubles and nearly 40 HR’s. However, Trout will have a season for the ages that silences critics and puts statistical projection models to shame. As Trout begins seeing the same pitchers for the second consecutive year, his strikeouts will decrease. More batted balls in play is dangerous for any hitter, but is certain death on pitchers if it’s coming from Mike Trout. As we saw last year and this Spring, the power is real, and the more often he reaches base, the more often Trout will be stealing second. Trout will hit .320 with 35 home runs and 60 stolen bases in 2013. I don’t think that’s ever been done. Trout will win the MVP and Pujols will finish top three.
4. The Angels will take home three Gold Gloves in 2013.
The main entries for this contest are Mike Trout in LF, Peter Bourjos in CF, Josh Hamilton in RF, Albert Pujols at 1B and Erick Aybar at SS. After Trout finishing second in voting behind Adam Jones in 2012 and Bourjos finishing second behind Jacoby Ellsbury in Gold Glove voting for CF, both will win the prestigious award in 2013 (though I question the validity of this award). As for the third award, I’ll let you decide who wins.
5. Garrett Richards will be the Angels #3 starter by the end of 2013.
The Angels went out and brought in Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson this past offseason, effectively relegating Richards to the bullpen or AAA to begin the season. But through a variety of injuries and not performing up to expectations, Garrett Richards will get an extended look in the rotation. He’ll seize the opportunity and become a “season-saver” for the Angels with his gutsy performances. Armed with a 96 mph four seam fastball, 93 mile an hour two-seam fastball, sharp, wipeout slider, exceptional 12-6 curve and usable change up, Richards will appear downright unhittable at times for the Angels when they need it the most.