As part of our preview for the upcoming 2012 season, we’ll be doing a 10 Bold Predictions for 2012 series that will be featured between now and Opening Day. Our sixth prediction is that Justin Upton and the Arizona Diamondbacks are in for a long 2012 campaign.
Justin Upton was unbelievable last season. If it weren’t for J-Up and his motley crew that made up the rest of the band, what would we have possibly done with ourselves down the stretch run? As unheralded and unlikely as the Diamondbacks were, they came so very close to reaching the NLCS last fall.
Upton had a season that will always stand out on the back of his baseball card as his breakout performance. He finished 4th in MVP balloting with a .289 average, 31 home runs, 105 runs, 88 RBI, and 21 stolen bases. His slash line was a pretty .369/.529/.898, falling just short of that rare .900 OPS air. He was a 6.4 fWAR player at age 23, entering even more rare company.
And now it all comes crashing down for Upton, at least somewhat. A large part of his success last season was because he appeared in 159 names, such is always half the battle in putting together a big time season. We’re going to predict a season in which he has a production similar to 2010 (.273, 17 HR, 69 RBI, .356/.442/.799). And it’s going to be due to a catastrophic injury of some type that limits his playing time to less than 120 games rather than regression of ability. That’s the only thing that bring a talent like Upton’s to a screeching halt at this point.
It’s not due to any data or evidence either. Like with all of our predictions, this one deals with gut feeling. We don’t think it’s likely that Upton strings together another season in which he playas in over 150 games. Maybe it’s because we took him with our first pick in fantasy baseball in one of our most important leagues–and things like that just usually don’t work out for us. But we feel that something out there will keep Upton from staying on the path of becoming the next Junior Griffey type talent of baseball.
And such leads to the snowball of the Diamondbacks who will go as Upton goes in 2012, and they know it.
Kirk Gibson willed this team to 94 regular season wins in 2011, no small feat when your regulars were guys like Gerardo Parra, Ryan Roberts and Willie Bloomquist among others. A summer to remember it will be, especially when the Diamondbacks struggle to get to 75 wins in 2012.
Another guy we see the regression grim reaper coming for in a large way is closer J.J. Putz. He was a strength last year with 45 saves and a 2.12 ERA, but he’ll be 35 this season and last season’s remarkable performance came on the heels of three straight up and down campaigns for Putz. Expect David Hernandez to emerge as the closer by mid-season for one reason or another.
We think that Daniel Hudson will actually be a lot better in 2012, but there’s no way Ian Kennedy goes 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA again. Trevor Cahill, Joe Saunders, and Josh Collmenter won’t combine to do much for you after those two, either.
Everyone is predicting a breakout year for Paul Goldschmidt whom we love, but 30 homer projections are probably a year early at this point. Stephen Drew is banged up and the scab under the band-aid peels completely off this season, while guys like Roberts and Chris Young settle in to who they really are as players rather than having career years again.
This team will finish no greater than third in the NL West to pitching rich San Francisco and the underrated Rockies.