Friday, March 8, 2013

Triple-R Game 2013: Rebound

(If you don't like that picture, something is wrong with you.  Courtesy of Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News)

We weeded out the regressors on Wednesday, we identified the guys expected to remain where they are yesterday, so today it's time to look at the players who are going to rebound from their 2012 seasons and offer up improved production in 2013.  Obviously some guys coming back from injury factor in heavily here, as do players whose 2012 results were way down from their usual standards.  But there are also a few surprises included, a few guys who I just have a good feeling about.  After the jump, check out the players I'm predicting rebound years for this season.

- Kevin Youkilis- There's not much statistical support for this prediction, but I'm a believer in the Dr. Long School of Swing Mechanics.  If anybody can resurrect bat speed and power it's Kevin Long, and as it was with Swish, C-Grand, Cano, and A-Rod, the work he's done to tweak Youkilis' mechanics this spring have been geared towards doing just that.  Youkilis still has a great eye at the plate to work counts and draw walks, and he could benefit health-wise from Teix's injury if he gets moved to first base for a month or more, so I'm counting on the swing changes to result in production better than his .328 wOBA from last year.

- Curtis Granderson- As much as I've lamented C-Grand's transition to an all-or-nothing hitter, I thought this was going to be the year where he re-adjusted his approach to try to balance power and contact and cut some of the hacks out of his game.  A contract year would have been the perfect time to do it and he's already shown the ability to adjust from his first swing rebuild session, but now I don't know what to think after his injury.  I'm going to stick to my guns, trust that he'll use his rehab time to work on shoring up his approach on offspeed pitches, and predict an overall bump up from last year's wOBA and wRC+ numbers.

- Brett Gardner- I'm calling this a two-fold rebound for Gardner in 2013.  He's going to stay on the field and play more than the 16 games he played last season, and he's going to bounce back from his 2011 production levels and get closer to where he was in his career year of 2010.  Gardner has looked very good this spring, taking walks and making a lot of good contact, and to bat Ichiro over him anywhere in the lineup would be a crime.  If Gardner can stay healthy enough to play 150ish games, I wouldn't be surprised to see another 5-6 WAR season from him.

- Phil Hughes- Back issues aside, I'm a big believer in 2013 being the year that Phil finally puts things together.  He got himself on the right track last year by eliminating the cutter, working more with his curveball and changeup, and adding the slider to his mix.  As I mentioned in my analysis of his HR allowed in 2012, a big key for Phil this year will be changing up his early count pitch selection and not being so predictable with his fastball, and now that he's gotten more comfortable with his offspeed stuff I expect that to happen.  Hughes is always going to be a flyball pitcher, but I think we'll see fewer of them flying over the fence this year and see his slash line come down as a result.

- Ivan Nova- Another guy who needs to work on his fastball location and selection, Nova is already off to a great start on that front this spring.  He's hitting his spots better, his velocity is good, and he's generating a lot of groundballs in his first two ST starts.  Even if he isn't as good as he was in late 2011, Nova also isn't as bad as he looked last year.  He's still putting polish on his repertoire and this season should show the results of the work he's put in.  There will still be some rough outings here and there, but a slash line in the low 4.00s isn't out of the question at all.

- Joba Chamberlain- Similar logic to why I'm predicting a rebound for Gardner.  I like what I saw from Joba in his limited comeback work last year, I like what he's done in camp, and he's fully healthy.  What reason is there to not expect better numbers this season?  Add to the mix the fact that Joba is in a contract year and has already advertised himself to the market as a starter and closer candidate and this one's a layup for me.  We're never going to see 2007 Joba again, let's get that clear.  But a return to 2010 Joba, with over a K per inning and a sub-3.00 FIP?  That'd be pretty damn good.

- David Phelps- By no means am I saying Phelps' rookie year was bad.  I, like many others, was thoroughly impressed with how he handled himself on the mound, how seamlessly he seemed to switch from role to role, and the results he generated.  Phelps got a little snake bitten on HR balls and walked more batters later in the season than he did in the first half, but with a year of experience under his belt and a solid offseason/ST, I think the situation is set for him to improve upon his rookie year performance and carve out a bigger role for himself on the 2014 roster.

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