It's time for MLB predictions for the 2013 season. While you’d never know by the weather in most areas, MLB Opening Day is just a week away.  You hear predictions on divisions, award winners, rookies who will shine, and veterans who will fade from most of the major MLB talking heads. Just about anything you can think of will be predicted. One of more interesting exercises in predicting the coming season is the “bold” prediction. Basically, it is a far-out notion that has a slight chance of happening, but needs a lot to go right.

Projecting Juan Pierre to hit 20 home runs with the Marlins at age 35 would be an example of taking it too far (considering he’s hit 17 in his entire 13-year career). Predicting his teammate Giancarlo Stanton to hit forty bombs wouldn’t really fit the spirit of the exercise either, as that’s pretty tepid considering he hit 37 in 123 games last year. In fact, I considered tabbing him for 50, and including it on this list of baseball predictions, even thought it didn’t feel all that bold.

I did come up with nine bold baseball predictions for 2013, three per division, for the National League. Each pick contains the perfect mix of actually being bold while still maintaining some plausibility that you can actually envision them happening in the right circumstances.

Here are my 9 bold baseball predictions and prophecies for the 2013 season.

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    Allen Craig Will Hit 32 Home Runs

    While this is just a 10-home run increase from his 2012 output, the real boldness is predicting health for Craig. It has eluded him throughout his career. He's had four stints on the disabled list the last two years and missed a handful of games with nagging day-to-day injuries. He has been one of baseball’s best hitters the last years with a .309/.357/.532, but just 194 of a possible 324 games played. His talent is not in question, but can his body give him six sturdy months from April to September? I’m betting yes. By the way, in this new era of lower offensive output, 32 home runs is elite-level. It was the 10th-highest total last year with only 19 hitters reaching that plateau.

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    Shin-Soo Choo Will Score 110 Runs

    Only one player topped 110 runs scored in baseball last year (Mike Trout - 129). The Cincinnati Reds haven’t had a 110-run scorer since Hall of Famer Barry Larkin crossed the plate 117 times in 1996. Choo scored a career-high 88 last year with the modest offense of the Cleveland Indians. He will now bat atop a lineup with Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Ryan Ludwick, and Todd Frazier behind him ready to power him across the plate over 100 times. Choo has a career .381 on-base percentage with full seasons of .394 and .401 in 2009-2010 so there is a good chance he improves his .373 mark from 2012 too.

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    Jeff Samardzija Will Have 220 Strikeouts

    Prior to last year, Samardzija was best known for scoring 27 touchdowns at Notre Dame as a wide receiver in the early-2000s. This was despite the fact that he had pitched with the Cubs for parts of the last four seasons from 2008-2011. Of course when you have 170 non-descript innings as a middle reliever under your belt, you can understand why people would choose to focus on his glory days as a Golden Domer.

    He changed that perception a bit last year, his first as a starting pitcher, but he will completely change the perception in 2013. Samardzija threw 175 strong innings for a poor Cubs team, striking out a quarter of the batters he faced for a total of 180 punchouts. Folks took notice despite his 9-13 record and 3.81 ERA. My prediction for the 2013 MLB season is everyone will take notice when he contends for MLB strikeout crown.

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    Paul Goldschmidt Will Hit 35 Home Runs

    The 25-year-old Goldschmidt skipped Triple-A and enjoyed a nice little 177-plate appearance debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011, but he really turned heads in his full season debut last year with a .286/.359/.490 line including 20 homers and 82 RBIs in 587 plate appearances. He even chipped in 18 stolen bases which is huge for a first baseman. He popped 35 and 30 home runs in High-A and Double-A during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Some of that was a friendly offensive environment at both levels, but a lot of it was thanks to the fact he's a 6’3, 230-pound beast.  Usually you’d see a progression from 20 to the mid-30s, but as he did with Triple-A, he’s going to skip a level and I predict he'll be one of baseball’s most prolific power hitters in 2013.

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    Brandon Belt Will Hit .320 in a Full Season

    For a first baseman, the 25-year-old lefty isn’t quite the power source you generally see at the position. He had just 16 bombs in his first 208 games as a major leaguer. Instead, he generates his value via batting average and on-base percentage. He hit .275 last year, good for 11th among first basemen with at least 450 plate appearances, but I predict we see a big step forward in 2013. The Giants will need him to step up to cover the regression of Marco Scutaro and loss of Melky Cabrera. For this big season, he needs to improve most versus lefties, who held him to a .242 average last year. His .290 against righties was nice, but he will need to improve against them, as well. Look for the Baby Giraffe (one of the best nicknames in the game) to make the jump.

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    Josh Beckett Will Be LA’s Second-Best Pitcher

    This is another way of saying he will be better than Zack Greinke, though that has lost some of its boldness with Greinke’s elbow soreness. I don’t foresee a total implosion from Greinke, either, so this is a ringing endorsement for Beckett. Getting out of the toxic environment that was the 2012 Red Sox will suit him well. We saw a brief glimmer of the old Beckett when he got to LA in late-August and posted a 2.93 ERA in seven starts.

    I don’t think we’ll get a full year of sub-3.00 ERA work, but 190 innings with a 3.00-3.25 ERA would be huge for the Dodgers. The innings are perhaps more bold than the ERA prediction as staying healthy has been a struggle for Beckett throughout his career. He has reached or surpassed 200 innings just three times in his 11 year career.

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    The Braves Outfield Will Hit 90 Home Runs

    Most bold prediction articles will likely include something involving one or all three of Atlanta’s star outfielders. I just couldn’t help myself. I’m so excited to watch the brothers Upton and Jason Heyward wreak havoc on opposing pitchers at the dish while frustrating opposing hitters who think they’ve landed a double in the gap only to see one of the three Gold Glove-caliber outfielders snatch it out of thin air.

    Last year saw Heyward (27) and B.J. Upton (28) hit their career high in home runs while Justin Upton languished in Arizona as an organization that seemed to inexplicably hate him and a nagging thumb injury resulted in a meager 17-homer season. The latter was the main culprit, of course, but it can’t be fun to play somewhere you’re seemingly not wanted. So they will need to add 18 more homers to the 72 from last year to reach this goal, but I think they’ve got the chance.

    Justin had a career high of 31 set in 2011, Heyward is on the upswing as a 23-year old future superstar, and B.J. just needs to hang near last year’s 28. If he can add to his total, that will only make it easier for the trio to 90.

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    Kris Medlen Will Have a 3.50 Or Worse ERA

    The Braves were the only team to get two predictions including the only negative one, but there just isn’t much to discuss with the Phillies or Mets and I already discussed the only exciting player in Miami. I’m actually a huge Medlen fan, but his insane 12-start run from last year that helped him post a 1.57 ERA in 138 innings has many thinking he is some sort of ace-in-the-making and that simply isn’t the case.

    The undersized righty lives off of command and control as opposed to overpowering stuff and a full season of starting – which, by the way, will be his first as professional whether majors or minors – is going to show what he is: a solid mid-rotation arm who can miss some bats and keep the ball down making it easier on his defense to turn batted balls into outs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with 185 innings of 3.50-3.75 ERA, but on the fantasy baseball landscape he’s being treated like someone who is going to throw 200 innings with a 3.00 or lower ERA.

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    Jordan Zimmermann Will Contend For the Cy Young Award

    Zimmerman probably should’ve garnered a vote or three last year with his 2.94 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, but he was overshadowed by teammate and third-place finisher Gio Gonzalez. Zimm has the same uphill battle in 2013, especially since Stephen Strasburg should see 200-plus innings and get his own Cy Young consideration, but the 27-year-old Zimmermann is poised for a run of his own. He, too, should see 200 innings for the first time in his career and continues to get better each year.

    Unfortunately his 8-11 and 12-8 records the last two years have likely aided his low profile, too. The Cy Young voters have gotten away from focusing entirely on records, but when you’re in a pool of dominant ERA and WHIP totals, W-L record can be a tiebreaker and his don’t stand out at all so he will need some help from his offense and bullpen to push toward the 20-win plateau to help this MLB prediction come to fruition.

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