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Monday, April 6, 2009
The Talented Mr. Roto: You Heard Me!

By Matthew Berry
ESPN.com

Oh sure, now he hits one.

As I write this on the opening night of the 2009 baseball season, I have ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" on in the background. And Jeff Francoeur has just gone yard. He has only 34 more homers to go to get to the number I predicted for him in this column last year. You know, a number he missed by 24 home runs last year.

Sometimes when you make bold predictions, you look like a genius. And sometimes you look like, well, the guy who spent all of last preseason talking about how great Francoeur would be. Sigh. Maybe I should just open up my mailbag.

Brad (Toronto): Hey Matt, can we expect a "You heard me" article any time soon? It's gotta be the best read of the year, regardless of how right or wrong it ends up being six months later.

Graham (Pelham): Mr. Berry, I must say that you have the easiest job in America. You sit at a desk on TV and say your opinions about who fantasy owners should and shouldn't start. Even if you make up something, people believe you and don't know you're lying. I want your job.

TMR: Hey, it's not as easy as it looks. Sometimes I have to stand when I'm on TV.

Between the scouting, the crunching of numbers, the research, the analyzing and talking with players, scouts, coaches and the like, I don't think either of you appreciate how much work goes into making a horrific call like last year's Francoeur prediction.

I can't determine the future, nor do I claim I can. But among my skill sets is I do have some cojones. Truthfully, Graham, if I wanted the easy way out, I would go right down the middle. Big years from all the stars. Stay away from the scrubs. I wouldn't have an article titled "I Hate Ryan Howard," that's for sure. And I certainly would not do an article like this one.

Sean Marshall
TMR's prediction for Sean Marshall: Last in the rotation but first on the Player Rater among Cubs starters.
Thus, these are bold predictions. Emphasis on bold. I'm going out on a limb because that's the premise. For example, I believe Sean Marshall is due for a big year. He's 26 years old, and his K/9 rate last year was just shy of 8.0, having increased for the third straight season. He needs to keep the ball in the park a bit more, but I think he'll take the next step this year. What I could have written below is that he'd win 12 games and rack up 150 strikeouts. What I did write is that he'll end the year as the highest-scoring Cubs pitcher on the ESPN Player Rater. There's the bold part. I don't like Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden is an injury risk, Ted Lilly is solid but doesn't have elite upside … that leaves just Marshall and Ryan Dempster, and Dempster is no sure thing in my eyes.

For those of you new to this article, the idea is that we would have the following conversation:

TMR: "Sean Marshall will end the season as the No. 1 Cubs starter on our Player Rater."
You: "What?! Are you nuts?"
TMR: "You heard me! Now pass the Pop Tarts."

So here you go. Some bold predictions -- about baseball and life -- for the '09 season.

You Heard Me!

  1. Shin-Soo Choo, Luke Scott and Elijah Dukes will each hit 25-plus home runs.
  2. Despite not currently having an every-day starting job, Ty Wigginton will hit 20-plus home runs.
  3. Speaking of the O's, Koji Uehara will win 10 games this year and post a sub-4.00 ERA.
  4. Dustin Pedroia will not hit more than 15 home runs.
  5. Brad Penny and John Smoltz will end up making more combined starts than Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield.
  6. Brett Gardner will steal 40 bases, and Johnny Damon will steal 30.
  7. Alex Rodriguez will play fewer than 81 games.
  8. Same thing goes for Joe Mauer.
  9. A.J. Burnett will win fewer than 12 games and post his highest ERA and WHIP since 2003.
  10. Matt Joyce will hit 20 home runs.
  11. David Purcey will strike out 150 batters and win 12 games. Yeah, David Purcey.
  12. My Lakers will win the NBA title.
  13. B.J. Ryan will keep his closer gig all year long and save 30-plus games.
  14. Paul Konerko will hit 30-plus home runs.
  15. Alexei Ramirez will hit 25-plus homers and steal 20 or more bases.
  16. Big Fat Bartolo Colon will win 10 games and strike out 150 guys.
  17. The following third basemen will hit more than 30 home runs: Josh Fields, Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Reynolds, Adrian Beltre.
  18. Jim Thome will hit 40.
  19. I will appear on a reality dating show. It makes for a funny outtake or two, but I don't actually meet anyone.
  20. That said, I end up in a significant relationship this year and no longer have good stories to write about my dating life.
  21. But I do date at least one crazy chick before that happens.
  22. Asdrubal Cabrera will hit 15 homers and steal 15 bases, and also hit .280 or better.
  23. Kelly Shoppach will finish higher on our Player Rater than Victor Martinez.
  24. Gerald Laird will finish as a top-10 fantasy catcher on our Player Rater.
  25. Josh Anderson will steal 35-plus bases.
  26. Armando Galarraga will be the only Tigers starter to finish with a sub-4.00 ERA.
  27. Mark Teahen will finish higher on our Player Rater at second base (he'll gain qualification there) than Dan Uggla.
  28. Miguel Cabrera
    Two words for you, Miguel Cabrera: Triple Crown.
  29. Miguel Cabrera will win the AL's Triple Crown.
  30. A scandal involving at least one current "American Idol" contestant hits the news. Here's hoping it involves a tape and Megan Joy!
  31. Ron Mahay leads the league in holds.
  32. Joanna Garcia is also hotter than Megan Fox. That's right!
  33. Francisco Liriano will win the American League's Cy Young award.
  34. The Twins will finish with six players who steal at least 15 bases.
  35. Kelvim Escobar will lead the Angels in wins and strikeouts.
  36. Juan Rivera will hit 25 home runs.
  37. Kevin Jepsen will become this season's Jose Arredondo because …
  38. Jose Arredondo will end up with more saves than Brian Fuentes.
  39. Eric Chavez will hit 15 home runs. Yes, that Eric Chavez.
  40. Brett Anderson will be the AL's Rookie Pitcher of the Year.
  41. I'll make another appearance on ABC Daytime.
  42. Kenji Johjima will hit 15 home runs.
  43. Erik Bedard will strike out 175 batters.
  44. Chris Shelton, currently in the minors, will finish higher on our Player Rater than either Russell Branyan or Mike Sweeney.
  45. Nelson Cruz hits 30, Elvis Andrus steals 30, Frank Francisco saves 30.
  46. Jeff Francoeur also will hit 30. Sigh. What the hell.
  47. Derek Lowe will win 15 games and post a sub-3.50 ERA.
  48. Ricky Nolasco will finish as a top-10 pitcher in our Player Rater.
  49. Gary Sheffield will hit 20 home runs and post a .275 average or better.
  50. Samantha Ronson gets back together with Lindsay Lohan (if the stories of their breakup are true), marries her, then divorces her.
  51. Raul Ibanez will finish with 25 home runs and 120 RBIs.
  52. Elijah Dukes goes 25/25. Lastings Milledge goes 20/30.
  53. As previously mentioned, Sean Marshall will end the season as the No. 1 Cubs starter on our Player Rater.
  54. Jared Burton will end the year as a top-10 relief pitcher among non-closers on our Player Rater.
  55. The Reds will get double-digit wins from all five starting pitchers: Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez and Micah Owings. Their combined ERA will be lower than 4.20.
  56. Sign up today for the most customizable free fantasy baseball game out there. You set the rules, scoring, everything. Sign up today!
  57. Ramon Hernandez will hit 20-plus home runs. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce will each hit 30 or more homers.
  58. Kazuo Matsui will steal 35 bases and hit .300.
  59. Wandy Rodriguez will strike out 175, win 14 games and have an ERA below 3.75.
  60. Yovani Gallardo will finish in the top five in NL Cy Young Award voting.
  61. My name will be mentioned in about 24 different blogs over the next 12 months. At least one of them will be a positive remark.
  62. Prince Fielder will lead the NL in home runs.
  63. Paul Maholm and Ian Snell both will finish as top-30 starting pitchers on our Player Rater.
  64. Chris Carpenter will win 15 games. David Freese will hit 20 home runs. Jason Motte will save 25 games. Rick Ankiel will hit 30 homers.
  65. Stephen Drew and Troy Tulowitzki both will hit .300 and have at least 25 home runs. They finish in the top five among fantasy shortstops on our Player Rater.
  66. Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge De La Rosa both will win at least 12 games and have ERAs under 4.00. Jimenez will strike out 200-plus guys, and DeLaRosa 175-plus.
  67. Dexter Fowler will end up with double-digit home runs and steals.
  68. Jake Peavy will have an ERA over 4.00 and won't win 10 games.
  69. Adrian Gonzalez will hit 40 home runs.
  70. I will break my own (13-plus-hour) chat record.
  71. Randy Johnson, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum will combine for 800 strikeouts.
  72. Travis Ishikawa will hit 20-plus home runs.
  73. Pablo Sandoval will not play 10 games at catcher.
  74. This article gets brought up for the next six months.
Matthew Berry -- the Talented Mr. Roto -- is on Twitter as "TheRealTMR." He might or might not be entertaining. He is a five-time award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers' Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend