I’m going to stray from my usual format and go out on a bit of a limb here. I have the itch to be candid right now. It may be due to my Opening Day jitters (I literally treat O.D. as a national holiday) but I feel the need to gush about baseball… specifically St. Louis Cardinals baseball.

For those who have read my column in the past, some of you have likely accused me of being a homer. And some of you have likely accused me of being too critical of our hometown squad. Fair enough. I have likely been guilty of both. That being said, I have some predictions for the 2013 season. These numbers aren’t based on complicated mathematical formulas or inside information from crusty veteran scouts that made their bones watching games when I was pooping my diapers. These are simply the thoughts clamoring around in my baseball-laden brain that keep me up at night and represent how I truly feel at this moment in time. Feel free to hold them against me in the future, as I will likely do that myself. Keep in mind this is just one man’s opinion.

That being said, here are my ten predictions for this season.

1. The Reds will win the division.
Fans won’t like hearing this, but the Reds appear to be the class of the NL Central this season. I think the Cards still enjoy some postseason success after securing one of the two Wild Card spots, but don’t see them catching the Redlegs in the regular season.

2. Adam Wainwright will have a huge year.
With the contract behind him and a clean bill of health I see the Cardinal ace returning to his Cy Young form. I predict he finishes no lower than fifth in the voting and winds up with a year that looks something like this: 210 IP, 18 W, 2.82 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 200 K, 48 BB.

3. Oscar Taveras takes over for an injured Carlos Beltran in May.
I’ve said this before and stand by it now on Opening Day, Beltran just won’t be able to stay healthy. The path that Lance Berkman blazed last year appears to have Beltran’s name on it, and the Cards top prospect will seize the opportunity. I could see Oscar getting 500 Abs this season and taking home Rookie of the Year honors.

4. Jake Westbrook loses his rotation spot.
Westbrook has a spot locked in to the rotation because the Cardinal brass feels silly about giving him a ridiculous contract extension last year. They don’t want us to know they feel silly about it, so they’re going to try and start him every five days. Eventually it will get to the point where they can’t keep up the charade anymore and have to bench him. Joe Kelly is the most likely candidate to take his spot.

5. Fans will complain about Matt Holliday.
It wouldn’t be baseball in St. Louis if a gaggle of knuckleheads weren’t pissing and moaning about how Matt Holliday makes too much money and can’t play defense. Despite all this Holliday will likely hit .300+ with 25+ HR 100+ RBI and a .920+ OPS. His defense in LF won’t be graceful, but it will be effective. People will still complain though.

6. Allen Craig hits 30+ homeruns.
I feel this is the year Craig finally stays healthy for a full season and puts up monster numbers. A perfect blend of AVG and power, I see Craig hitting .315 with 35 HR, 105 RBI and a .950 OPS. Assuming the Cards do snag one of those Wild Card spots, he will be very tough to ignore in the MVP voting.

7. Shelby Miller wins 14 games.
To paraphrase Winston Zedmore of Ghostbusting fame, he’s got the tools… he’s got the talent. Winning the fifth spot in the rotation was just the first step for the Cards top pitching prospect, but I see no reason why he can’t put together a fine season. Runs support shouldn’t be a problem, so the 14 wins is a realistic projection and I think Shelby manages to keep an ERA in the mid 3’s (3.40-3.60) with better than a strikeout per inning.

8. Jason Motte has Tommy John surgery.
The Cardinals have had terrible luck the past decade or so with elbow injuries, and this Jason Motte situation doesn’t seem the least bit promising. He’s starting the season on the DL with no timetable for a return to action, and with his violent delivery he’s a prime candidate for major injury. The medical staff will likely take their “tried and true” approach, calling for rest and then an eventual return to the mound, which leads to his elbow exploding and then surgery. Trevor Rosenthal is my pick to get the majority of the saves in Motte’s absence.

9. The Cards trade for Tulo in July.
I don’t see Pete Kozma being able to handle the shortstop duties all season and the Birds will definitely need an upgrade. Tulo is obviously the dream choice here, but the deal would make sense for both teams. WE have a bat (Matt Adams) and the young pitching that Colorado desperately needs. The only hangup would be Tulo’s massive salary. If the Rockies are willing to eat a significant chunk of that, I think this deal gets done.

10. Wacha cruises through the minors and joins the pen midseason.
I see Michael Wacha filling the same role that Rosenthal adopted last year. He tears up Double-A and then gets a jump straight to the majors. With the uncertainly of Motte and a likely hole in the bullpen, it will be the perfect opportunity for the young flamethrower to get his feet wet at the major league level.

So there you have it. Bold predictions for 2013. Maybe I’m right on and maybe I’m way off, but that’s why they play the games.

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# freaknastysugarcookies
Monday, April 01, 2013 6:24 PM
i will complain about Holliday when we make the postseason and when it gets to the point we really need him he once again has an "injury" and we go without him.

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