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The Pre-Season Predictions: 2013 Edition

March 29, 2013
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Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports claims to be able to call everything basically. I do not. Last year of AL playoff teams I called two entrants correctly the Tigers (whom I had winning the Central and Rangers whom I had being a wild card). In the NL, I fared better getting three of the five playoff teams correct (San Francisco and Cincinati correct as division winners and then picking Washington though having them as a wild card team). A year prior to that in the American League I guessed correctly one of four teams (the Yankees, who I had as wild cards but who won the East) and in the senior circuit I fared the same just correctly picking Philadelphia to win the East. In two years I have not picked a single season award winner. So with that, the 2013 predictions starting as always with the American League West:

American League West

1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – This is not an easy call to make. Obviously as an A’s fan I want to believe. I want to believe everything can go right, the A’s can repeat, the additions will work out etc but there is too much up in the air to bank on the defending champions. I am really not even crazy about the Angels’ offseason additions in Josh Hamilton, Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas and more. The outfield should be incredible with Hamilton joined by the always underrated Peter Bourjos and the incredible talent that is Mike Trout. Albert Pujols is a credible hitter to say the least and the infield and offense remains formidable. The pitching staff isn’t stellar, but is above average as is the bullpen. This division is not an easy one to win and I think anyone picking the Angels, Rangers or A’s to win it is being reasonable, I just go with the Halos.

2. Texas Rangers – This is not an easy call to make either. The Rangers had a pretty disappointing offseason missing out on their key targets and not really making moves that necessarily improve them. Lance Berkman does not offset the loss of Michael Young or Josh Hamilton. I like A.J. Pierzynski but he does not offset the loss of Mike Napoli. Ryan Dempster isn’t someone I write home about but there is no one to offset that loss. With Jurickson Profar so close to being ready I wonder why the Rangers keep Elvis Andrus around and don’t shop him to shore up some weak points but this team is a diminished talent. That said, they are still good. Good enough to repeat their second place finish.

3. Oakland A’s – There will be a more extensive A’s preview but basically my belief they finish in third is predicated on the fact that their pitching rotation is such a huge question mark. Brett Anderson is legit, but can he stay healthy? Bartolo Colon is old and allegedly not on PEDs, can he stay productive? Does he get burned with a 100 game suspension in relation to Biogenesis? Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and A.J. Griffin may be great but they have a combined two and a half years of pro baseball between them. That is flimsy. The offense too has its question marks while there are “sureish” things like Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick, will Brandon Moss come anywhere near replicating 2012? Is Hiroyuki Nakajima worth anything on an MLB team? Is second base or third base just an offensive black hole?

4. Seattle Mariners – The M’s are much improved. While I think they gave up a solid pitcher in Vargas they got a good guy back in Kendrys Morales. Signing Joe Saunders offset that loss. Michael Morse is a nice addition and if guys like Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero can turn a corner in 2013 this could be a decent little ballclub. Felix Hernandez anchors a solid staff, but the front office needs to be more savvy than they’ve shown in recent years. There are too many ballplayers who’ve been dealt for nothing, Shin-Soo Choo, Cliff Lee and they can’t afford to make these mistakes. This could be a team though that causes others fits.

5. Houston Astros – They are going to be the worst team in baseball. But not for long Jeff Luhnow’s plan is a solid one and even if it gets derision now, in a few years when Houston is winning and can afford to keep those players in place, he will be vindicated. For now aside from maybe Jose Altuve, Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell, there isn’t much worth watching on this team. If there is a witness protection program for baseball players it is certainly being on the Houston Astros roster. For those who expect this to be an all-time worst along the lines of the ’62 Mets or ’03 Tigers, I doubt it. This team somehow scratches its way to 57 wins.

American League Central

1. Detroit Tigers – The Tigers won the American League last year and with a good starting five and very strong offensive club they look poised to win perhaps baseball’s easiest division again in 2013. The pitching is deep with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello. The biggest question mark is the bullpen and their closer by committee, but they have enough interesting arms there (Joaquin Benoit, Al Alburquerque, Octavio Dotel) to figure something out. The offense has some question marks, Andy Dirks, an aging Torii Hunter but when you have Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder back-to-back there is really no more fearsome duo in the game.

2. Kansas City Royals – I still am high on the Royals. They made improvements to their pitching adding James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis. Jeremy Guthrie shouldn’t be a number two starter but, he won’t be horrid like he was in his half season in Colorado. This bullpen is truly talented however and very fun to watch. With Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen in the bullpen they have some flexibility should the rotation falter. Alex Gordon is one of the most unheralded players in baseball and should Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas continue to develop along with Billy Butler this is a decent lineup. Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar‘s performance really can sort of cause this team to soar or sink. There are some serious deficiencies (second base, right field) but with a weak division second place should not be out of reach. This team could be a come out of nowhere team and be in the playoffs, but they could also tank.

3. Cleveland Indians – The Indians made a lot of notable moves surprising for a team with such historically tight-fisted spending. They added Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds and Brett Myers but also made a bunch of very interesting MiLB signings, namely Jason Giambi and Scott Kazmir. This team could be good, but I just feel there are way too many question marks to say their moves will pay off at least this year. Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis should continue to improve but for the Tribe to contend they’d need strong seasons from Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez which are things I don’t see coming to fruition. This is a team that could be good in a few years but 2013 won’t be that year.

4. Chicago White Sox – This season is a weird one, really aside from three clubs (Houston, Minnesota and Seattle) you can make a strong argument that any given club could finish above .500. I feel that way about the White Sox despite having them in fourth place in a weak division. The White Sox have a great starting three in their rotation with Chris Sale, Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd. They have some interesting bullpen pieces. They have an above average lineup . That said, they don’t have enough to really go anywhere other than hang around the .500 mark.

5. Minnesota Twins – The Twins will finish in the Comedy Central cellar yet again. Aside from Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau they don’t have anyone in their regular lineup that a casual baseball fan in say Topeka, would really recognize. Aaron Hicks could be something special and he won the starting center field job following the offseason trades of both Denard Span and Ben Revere. Trades that I think will hurt – even longer term. The starting rotation leaves much to be desired as it is anchored by Vance Worley. Glen Perkins is an interesting closer, but how many opportunities will he really get with this offense-poor and pitching-poor team?

American League East

1. Toronto Blue Jays – I am joining many others in the common fault that is preseason predictions: you find the team that makes the most dramatic changes, wins the offseason on paper and then expect big things. But I think it is justified. The biggest move of the offseason was clearly the big deal with Miami in which Toronto acquired: John Buck, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio, Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes. The second biggest deal saw Buck on the move again this time to Flushing where he and others net the Jays: R.A. Dickey, Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole. Let’s put that into perspective for a second, a team’s second biggest trade of the offseason net them a defending Cy Young Award winner. That topped off with a reasonably priced signing of Melky Cabrera to add to a lineup that includes Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus makes for a pretty darn good team. There are legitimate questions about the bullpen for this team but the offense and starting pitching should be enough to get Toronto to the top of this division where really any team could be a fair champion.

2. Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays aren’t as good looking as they may have been recently, but they are still very good. Their pitching looks great, the acquisition of Roberto Hernandez (formerly Fausto Carmona) looks like the sort of savvy move that can keep them in play. The Rays will play well under Joe Maddon and if anyone in the rotation or bullpen falters they have so many great pieces waiting at Durham like Chris Archer, Alex Colome, Mike Montgomery or Jake Odorizzi. The front office here is always making smart moves so I wouldn’t count them out to make good necessary adjustments over the course of the season. A big year from Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist and this team is easily a division champ.

3. New York Yankees – Everyone is hating on the Yankees. They are old. They are slow. They are bloated. All those things are true. Yet year-in-year out they make a go of it somehow with these factors working against them. Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Brennan Boesch aren’t the splashy additions of yesteryear but watch them somehow turn water into wine with one or more of these guys. Derek Jeter has lost a step, the starting rotation is solid if not breathtaking, and this is a club that still has a lot of talent. Robinson Cano is one of the best players in the game and this is the year the Yankees become his club.

4. Baltimore Orioles – I can’t imagine a team with Jason Hammel as their Opening Day starter being a contender but the Orioles somehow are. Everyone in this division is, who’d of thought that a few years ago? The Orioles have a solid core with Matt Wieters and Adam Jones. They have some serious question marks (pitching, pitching, pitching) but Dylan Bundy should make himself known by midseason and they probably can hang tough like they did last year. They won’t be an easy win anymore but the Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees aren’t either. Buck Showalter gets the most out of his clubs but I am not ready to give a playoff appearance again to a team highly dependent upon a strong year from Nate McLouth or Brian Roberts.

5. Boston Red Sox – Baseball’s best last place team the Red Sox made a bunch of moves this offseason that I am sure make Red Sox fans miss Theo Epstein. Shane Victorino for three-years at $39M? Yikes. David Ross two-years at $6.2M? Yikes. Stephen Drew for a year at $9.5M isn’t looking so great anymore. Mike Carp and Joel Hanrahan highlight the offseason trade bounty. Not impressive stuff. That said, the Red Sox have Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks, some real exciting talent. The rotation looks like it could go either way, but Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz should be dependable, Ryan Dempster is the quintessential third or fourth starter type and the bullpen ought to keep leads and Andrew Bailey and Hanrahan could form a very nice shutdown 8th/9th option. That said in a very strong division, there is too much Boston needs to go right, and so much that can go oh-so-wrong.

National League West

1. San Francisco Giants – The Giants are defending champs and they are still good. While in 2010 it seemed like they had a fairy tale everything went right sort of season, 2012 proved they are just a solid team with good players. The same should be true of the 2013 squad. They won’t be flashy, they won’t steamroll opponents but, here I’ll say it, a gritty team that does all the little things right and is a solid conservative performer will be enough to win the Giants the 2013 NL West crown. Buster Posey is legit and though aside from him there are quite a few fair question marks on this team, the pitching is what carries San Francisco. Matt Cain is not recognized for what he is, one of the best pitchers in baseball. Madison Bumgarner is rapidly becoming just that too, while there are questions now surrounding Tim Lincecum, most teams wouldn’t mind having him in the three spot and Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong are great rounding out the front five. The bullpen is phenomenal and Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti maximize them.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers – Baseball’s favorite billion dollar team has a lot of new and newish faces namely Zack Greinke and Hyunjin Ryu along with the first full season of everything they acquired from Boston last summer.  That said, this is a club that has spent huge and will start the season (care of an injury to Hanley Ramirez) with Luis Cruz and Nick Punto in their starting nine. The rotation is impressive, Greinke won’t start the season due to injury yet it still will feature a fifth starter who will be one of Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang or Ted Lilly. Most teams would be happy with them further up in the rotation. Josh Beckett has to be one of the best fourth starters around and Clayton Kershaw is obviously incredible and a true ace. But the flashy Dodgers aren’t up to overtaking their solid and consistent rivals to the north.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks – The Diamondbacks had a flurry of moves this offseason and have a very nice team. They should be good and could – if injuries plague San Francisco or Los Angeles (or even if they don’t but those clubs falter) – win this division. I really like their rotation, maybe it is because it features Brandon McCarthy, but I think Ian Kennedy is good, Trevor Cahill is capable and Wade Miley should continue to improve. The bullpen is solid, but I like their versatile bench with some nice options for late inning subs namely Eric Hinske and Eric Chavez. Aaron Hill, Miguel Montero and Paul Goldschmidt make for a nice middle of the lineup. Like the Giants, the Dbacks are a team that won’t wow anyone but they just seem to be good (though not great) everywhere and don’t have many particularly glaring holes.

4. San Diego Padres – I always heap love on the Padres but this year that will not be the case. Jedd Gyorko in place of the injured Chase Headley ought to be interesting to watch but does anyone else on this team really turn heads? Not really. The pitching staff drops off precipitously after Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard (not that either of them are exactly anything to gush over) though Eric Stults could blossom into something better. Luke Gregerson and Huston Street are nice in the bullpen but how long do they stick around come the trade deadline?

5. Colorado Rockies – The Rockies are pretty uninspiring. The ace of this staff is Jhoulys Chacin. They have a total of maybe four players on offense I’d really covet: Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler and Michael Cuddyer. Their bullpen has some good pieces like Rafael Betancourt but this team won’t be very good. Not much to see in Denver this year.

National League Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals – I never like the Cardinals. St. Louis is a great baseball city with insightful fans, but despite that I’ve never liked the Cardinals as a fan of the sport let alone as a team destined for success. This year is different. Perhaps because I’ve been burned by them so often and perhaps because to me the solid, not flashy but good approach is what I think will pay off, I am picking St. Louis to finish first in this division. The rotation is led by Adam Wainwright who I respect as a top flight pitcher, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook and Shelby Miller round out an impressive rotation. The bullpen should be solid. The lineup is solid all around. Can’t really find much to complain about Mike Matheny will have this team playing like a group of professionals and that will win them this division. The Cardinals are the Yankees of the Midwest.

2. Cincinnati Reds – The Reds should win this division. They are the better team on paper than the Cardinals. But paper championship flags don’t fly forever. The Reds have a very nice lineup, with Shin-Soo Choo atop it (and in centerfield an experiment I don’t think will work), Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick and the always overlooked Jay Bruce this is a very good team. They compliment it with very good pitching Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey make for a good four top pitchers and Aroldis Chapman in the pen along with former closer Jonathan Broxton make for great duo to finish off ballgames. Dusty Baker‘s decision to keep Chapman in the closer role will pay dividends as that is where he is best used. Cincinnati will cause everyone in the NL fits in 2013.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates – This is the year the Pirates finish above .500. Andrew McCutchen has become one of the best players in the game. But the small but significant signings of Russell Martin, Brandon Inge and Jonathan Sanchez and acquisitions of the likes of John McDonald and Mark Melancon are what will push this team over the break even point. A.J. Burnett has pitched well in Pittsburgh, Wandy Rodriguez is a good pitcher, and they will lead a decent rotation. Clint Hurdle will get the most out of this team that will hopefully avoid the August and September swoons of the past two years.

4. Milwaukee Brewers – I like the Brewers. I do. The signing of Kyle Lohse gives the Brewers on of the most under-the-radar great rotations in baseball. As always I am a huge fan of Yovani Gallardo who should get more respect from people around baseball. Furthermore if anyone in the rotation shall falter (probably well regarded Wily Peralta) Michael Fiers is a great option to be put in. So why then am I down on Milwaukee? There is just too much uncertainty regarding Ryan Braun. Even if he isn’t slapped with a 50-game PED suspension, this team is wholly dependent upon Braun for success (sorry to Rickie Weeks or Aramis Ramirez) and him having this cloud over his head and his potential loss for a fifth of the season spell disaster for Milwaukee.

5. Chicago Cubs – One day the Cubs will be a team worth watching in September. Today is not that day, well I guess that is because it is March, but this September won’t have any of those days either. Jeff Samardzija whom I watched play football against my Spartans when he was with Notre Dame leads a rotation of respectable but non-eye popping hurlers. Alfonso Soriano seems like he will be playing elsewhere come August, leaving Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro as the best players to watch on this team. I’d also expect David DeJesus and Carlos Marmol to be gone before 2013 is through. 

National League East

1. Washington Nationals – The best team in baseball. Dan Haren is their fourth starter. Adam LaRoche is arguably the fifth best regular. This is a good team top to bottom. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler round out one of baseball’s top rotations. The bullpen as always is just staggeringly good with new closer Rafael Soriano, joined by Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard. The bench is deep. Prospect Anthony Rendon waits in the wings. Is there anything the Nationals can’t do? Washington is the clear favorite to win the World Series. That rotation in a short series is downright scary. Davey Johnson has this team ready to take it to the next level, hopefully no more silly decisions like having Strasburg sit out games when they matter most. If they want to watch his innings – and I haven’t seen anything suggesting that plan will be implemented – watch them in April or May.

2. Atlanta Braves – I am again not crazy about Atlanta. They have the new all Upton outfield feature Justin Upton, B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward (-Upton). Andrelton Simmons is good, Freddie Freeman should continue to get better and despite some real question marks on their team, I really do like the starting pitching. Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Paul Maholm and Julio Teheran are good and solid. The bullpen too is pretty impressive, though Jonny Venters being on the DL to start the year will be a significant loss. Atlanta is a team like others I’ve mentioned, do a lot of things well, few things great.

3. Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies, oh how the mighty have fallen. The rotation, once the envy of all of baseball looks a little more tarnished these days as Roy Halladay ages, Cliff Lee underwhelms and well, Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan just don’t have that same ring to the liberty bell that Phillies rotations of yesteryear had. Cole Hamels is the class of the bunch and he will be solid. The offense backing up this aging club will not particularly impress. Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Michael Young are all far from the ballplayers they once were. Ben Revere is a nice addition but he does little infuse what is a lackluster team. Mike Adams is a good pickup but for what? Why do the Phillies need a guy to help end games in the eighth inning when their offense won’t keep them in it prior?

4. New York Mets – Johan Santana looks done for. The Mets do too. Jon Niese is a decent enough pitcher, Bobby Parnell is fun to watch,  but aside from David Wright who really brings anyone out to CitiField? This is a team that will be both anonymous and bad. It is sad because they should have the resources to excel but they don’t. Sandy Alderson should be doing better than this.

5. Miami Marlins – Jeffrey Loria has ruined this team and baseball in Miami. This team won’t do anything to get fans back. Giancarlo Stanton is as good as gone, might as well deal him while the value is highest. That said, Adeiny Hechavarria and Rob Brantly are two guys I could see winning the Rookie of the Year Award this year.

American League Most Valuable Player

Mike Trout is my candidate here. He is a great player, playing on a great team. That is sort of all you need to win the MVP isn’t it? Last year had Trout’s Angels been in the playoffs it might not have been Miguel Cabrera bringing the hardware home (as justifiable or not as that is). Trout is a complete player. I really wanted to go with Robinson Cano but with the Yankees missing the playoffs I give Trout the edge.

American League Cy Young Award

Felix Hernandez. Never bet against Felix. He has a big new contract. He has a team that will earn him a few more wins this year but it is his other numbers as always will be what makes him special and his numbers will again be standout.

American League Rookie of the Year Award

I am going with the Twins’ Aaron Hicks. Hicks will get the time to play and that is a key component of winning this award. That along with the fact he is pretty darn good. The jump from Double-A is a big one, so there is some risk in this pick, but really this pick is sort of a crap shoot anyhow right?

American League Surprise and Bust Players

Vernon Wells will drink from the Yankees’ fountain of youth and will be better than anyone expected. He won’t be great but he won’t be the write off we’ve all come to think of him as. Michael Bourn is a decent ballplayer and a good get for Cleveland. But a top notch free-agent he was not and he will show that in Cleveland. His diminishing speed means diminishing returns.

National League Most Valuable Player

Joey Votto is such a good player. If he stays on the field all season long he is your MVP no question. Nothing more needs to even best said.

National League Cy Young Award

Stephen Strasburg will be the young ace of baseball’s best team. That gets noticed. He will get a ton of wins to satisfy the traditionalists and his eye-popping stats will get the sabermetricians. Matt Cain should be considered another candidate for this but ultimately Strasburg with a full season into October will prove his worth.

National League Rookie of the Year Award

Adeiny Hechavarria of the Miami Marlins will get the playing time. A good glove, solid bat will help him take home this award as one of the lone bright spots in the sparkling South Florida sun this summer. While Yasiel Puig is the sort of hot pick right now. I just don’t see him getting the playing time with that full Dodgers outfield.

National League Surprise and Bust Players

The surprise for NL viewers will be Brandon Crawford. He sort of needs to be for Giants fans too. I think he ups his game in 2013 to become a real key piece of this Giants team. On the flip side the bust is going to be Adrian Gonzalez of the rival Dodgers. Gonzalez looked great in that San Diego lineup but maybe that was because he stood out so much in San Diego? In Boston he wasn’t exceptional and in Chavez Ravine he won’t be either helping aid the Dodgers to their second place finish.

The Wild Cards

In the second year of the two wild card and play-in game format in the American League it will be Tampa Bay and Texas which is exactly how I picked things last year. In the National League I like for it to be the Cincinnati Reds and the Atlanta Braves however I wouldn’t be surprised if those clubs find themselves tied or close to the Dodgers come the end of the year.

The Divisional Series

The Angels will beat the Rangers in their opening round series while the Tigers will dispatch the Blue Jays reviving a great rivalry of the 1980s. In the National League, the Washington Nationals will triumph over the Atlanta Braves, while the San Francisco Giants will take care of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The League Championship Series

The Tigers will top the Angels based upon their superior pitching. I feel especially in October the pitching rules the day as San Francisco has demonstrated these past few years. In the National League, Washington makes relatively quick work of San Francisco in what really should be the best series of the offseason.

The World Series

The Tigers will lose their second consecutive World Series on their way to becoming the Buffalo Bills of baseball. Washington is just such a great team in every regard and the lack of a DH really impacts the Tigers while the addition of one really benefits the Nats. Two relatively even pitching staffs and this will be a fun series but one that ultimately will see the Nationals crowned as champions.

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