Opening Day of the 2013 Major League Baseball season is finally here, as the Texas Rangers welcome the Houston Astros to the American League. It has been a long spring training, since it was a World Baseball Classic year.
So, here are preview capsules for each team, along with predicted finishes, and then a World Series pick.
American League East
Toronto Blue Jays (Last year: 73-89, 4th AL East) – There is not a team in MLB who make a bigger offseason splash than the Blue Jays (the Braves are a close second). Here are all the players they brought in figuring to be major contributors in 2013: SS Jose Reyes, OF Melky Cabrera, 2B Emilio Bonifacio, 3B Maicer Izturis, RHP R.A. Dickey, LHP Mark Beuhrle, RHP Josh Johnson, and LHP J.A. Happ. Don’t forget this team already has RF Jose Bautista and 1B Edwin Encarnacion. The only question mark is whether John Gibbons is really the manager for this job. The Blue Jays have an opportunity to put the ‘world’ back in “World Series,” but John Gibbons has not proven he can lead a team to the playoffs. Despite that, the talent cannot be ignored, and the Blue Jays will make a deep run in the postseason, which will include winning the division.
Tampa Bay Rays (Last year: 90-72, 3rd AL East) – What could last season have been for the Rays if 3B Evan Longoria was healthy? The Rays finished with 90 wins without its franchise player in the lineup for a large chunk of the season. The lineup is solid, with the additions of SS Yunel Escobar, 2B Kelly Johnson, and 1B James Loney. LHP David Price returns to anchor the rotation, and RHP Fernando Rodney is back to close games out. The Rays will be a major contender in 2013, and will take one of the wild card berths.
Baltimore Orioles (Last year: 93-69, 2nd AL East, Wild Card winner) – Will this be the team that finally breaks the tendency for manager Buck Showalter? He always turns a team around, leads them to the playoffs, and follows it up with a mediocre season. However, the core of this team returns. In addition, 2B Brian Roberts and OF Nick Markakis enter the season healthy. 3B Manny Machado will man the hot corner all year, and C Matt Wieters is poised for another big year. The bullpen is solid, but the question will be if the starting pitchers can consistently pitch 6-7 innings every night. It was a breakthrough year for the Orioles in 2012, but some teams have gotten much better in the division.
Boston Red Sox (Last year: 69-93, 5th AL East) – It could be another long season in Boston, but at least this year, it will be done the Red Sox way. Bobby Valentine never should have been brought in as the manager, and the record showed that. John Farrell returns to the team that made him a hot commodity a few years ago. Offensively, this team has its stars, but it still could be a struggle to score runs. DH David Ortiz will start the season on the disabled list. Luckily for Boston, it has a great pitching staff. RHP John Lackey returns, and the team added RHP Ryan Dempster in the offseason. This team (keyword) will be improved, but will miss the playoffs again in 2013.
New York Yankees (Last year: 95-67, 1st AL East, best record in AL) – It would take an unbelievable season for the Yankees to repeat what they did last year. They just aren’t as good. The Yankees’ pitching staff is decent, it will have to win a lot of games for this team. The projected Opening Day lineup will be without OF Curtis Granderson, SS Derek Jeter, 3B Alex Rodriguez, and 1B Mark Teixeira, who all are out with injuries and will start the season on the disabled list. It is very rare when the question for a Yankees’ team is whether they will have enough offense to win, but that is the case in 2013. It will have to be Joe Girardi’s best season as a manager to get this team back to the playoffs. But it will be fun watching RHP Mariano Rivera’s retirement tour. The bigger question is whether he is the only Yankee on that tour.
American League Central
Detroit Tigers (Last year: 88-74, 1st AL Central, AL Champs) – Where will you go to find outs in this lineup? There is a hole here and there, but the addition of OF Torii Hunter and the return of DH Victor Martinez will make a huge difference. The rotation is solid, but the only big question mark for the Tigers is the bullpen. The team let once perfect closer RHP Jose Valverde leave in the offseason, and was hoping rookie RHP Bruce Rondon would step into that role. That’s not going to happen, as Rondon has been sent back to AAA. The Tigers will return to the playoffs, winning the division again in 2013.
Kansas City Royals (Last Year: 72-90, 3rd AL Central) – 2013 will be a make-or-break-year for the Royals and its manager, Ned Yost, and general manager, Dayton Moore. If everyone remains healthy, there is no reason to believe this team cannot contend in 2013. 3B Mike Moustakas and C Salvador Perez are both stars in the making, and along with LF Alex Gordon and DH Billy Butler, should provide plenty of pop for Kansas City. The major upgrade for the Royals in the offseason was bringing in RHP James Shields and RHP Wade Davis, which will significantly bolster an otherwise weak rotation the last few seasons. This team probably ends up being on the outside looking in, but will contend in 2013. However, if this team gets off to a bad start, Yost won’t make it through the season.
Cleveland Indians (Last Year: 68-94, 4th AL Central) – If the season ended in July, the Indians would have been in a good spot last year to make the playoffs. However, August and September sealed Manny Acta’s fate. So after a year off, Terry Francona returns to the dugout, hoping that he can resurrect one of the top franchises in the 1990s. This team, surprisingly, has one of the best lineups in baseball, especially with the acquisitions of OF Michael Bourn, 1B Nick Swisher, DH Mark Reynolds, and OF Drew Stubbs. The bullpen is one of the better ones, with RHP Chris Perez and RHP Vinnie Pestano closing out games. The one weakness, is the rotation. However, if they live up to their potential, the Indians could surprise some people in 2013.
Chicago White Sox (Last Year: 85-77, 2nd AL Central) – At the start of each season, you want to be able to see how a team improved through the offseason. For the White Sox, there was no major improvements. The two biggest offseason acquisitions were 3B Jeff Keppinger and RHP Matt Lindstrom. This is still a solid team, but while others improved, the White Sox did nothing. It’s not a rebuilding situation for Chicago, but it leaves you scratching your head and wondering where they are going. One suggestion, not to the playoffs in 2013.
Minnesota Twins (Last Year: 66-96, 5th AL Central) – It is probably not going to be pretty for the Twins again in 2013. They do have a solid heart of the lineup, when everyone is healthy, with C Joe Mauer, LF Josh Willingham, and 1B Justin Morneau. But there is really nothing else exciting about this team, other than players building up service time. For many other teams, a lot of the players that will make the Twins, would probably be competing for jobs.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Last Year: 89-73, 3rd AL West) – The Angels are likely on top of the list of teams that have underachieved the last few years. The pieces are in place again in 2013 to make a run. OF Mike Trout will try to duplicate his rookie year, and will be joined in the outfield by OF Josh Hamilton. That’s not even bringing up the name 1B Albert Pujols yet. This is a deep rotation, especially if everyone pitches as well as they are capable. The one weakness may be the bullpen, which will start the season without RHP Ryan Madson. Anything short of a division title will be a disappointment.
Texas Rangers (Last Year: 93-69, 2nd AL West, AL Wild Card winner) – The Athletics’ surprise was the Rangers’ demise in 2012. One of baseball’s best during the entire season, struggled down the stretch. This team will have to try and cope without OF Josh Hamilton, who went to a division rival. However, this team will be right in the thick of it all, with DH Lance Berkman and 3B Adrian Beltre in the heart of the order. The rotation is still as solid as it gets, with LHP Matt Harrison, LHP Derek Holland, and RHP Yu Darvish. Though it will be interesting to see how Darvish does in year two.
Oakland Athletics (Last Year: 94-68, 1st AL West) – What a surprise it was to see the Athletics make the playoffs in 2012. More impressively, they claimed a division that had Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton playing in it (on separate teams, then). As for 2013, most of the same pieces return, so many players have the experience of last year. It would be another huge shocker if Oakland can return to the playoffs in 2013, but that is the same thing we said last year.
Seattle Mariners (Last Year: 75-87, 4th AL West) – The Mariners won’t make the playoffs in 2013, but will make a difference in who does. This is an improved team, with several guys starting to figure things out, especially 1B Justin Smoak. It will also help having DH Kendrys Morales and OF Michael Morse make up the middle of the lineup. Pitching, other than RHP Felix Hernandez, will be a bit of a concern. Thankfully for the Mariners, they won’t be the worst team in the division.
Houston Astros (Last Year: 55-107, 6th NL Central) – Welcome to the American League West, Houston. That’s about the only exciting statement when talking about the 2013 Astros. This was the worst team in 2012, and will be competing for that title in 2013. Bo Porter will be tasked with trying to avoid that as the new manager. Like with the Twins, there are a lot of players that would not be on an Opening Day roster without being in the Houston organization. Although some interesting players to watch with Houston include 2B Jose Altuve, DH Carlos Pena, RHP Philip Humber, and LHP Erik Bedard.
AL Wild Card: Rays over Rangers
ALDS: Tigers over Rays, Blue Jays over Angels
ALCS: Blue Jays over Tigers
National League East
Washington Nationals (Last Year: 98-64, 1st NL East, Best Record in NL) – The Nationals were good in 2012, and managed to get better for 2013. Washington filled two major needs by bringing in OF Denard Span and RHP Rafael Soriano. These moves put the players who were filling them into roles that better suit this team. RHP Stephen Strasburg will not be worrying about any innings limits this season. The Nationals got a taste of being in the postseason last season, and will look to go even deeper in 2013. This team will make a deep run in the playoffs.
Atlanta Braves (Last Year: 94-68, 2nd NL East, Wild Card Winner) – The Braves made the second biggest offseason splash by bringing in both Upton brothers to play the outfield. This Braves teams will certainly push some offensive records, specifically runs and strikeouts. The only weakness in this lineup is at third base, trying to find Chipper Jones’ replacement. The season will start with a platoon between Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson. The rotation is solid, and the bullpen is as good as it gets, as long as everyone is healthy. The Braves should make the playoffs again in 2013.
Philadelphia Phillies (Last Year: 81-81, 3rd NL East) – The Phillies likely will miss the playoffs for the second straight year, but that is not saying they won’t compete. This is a solid team, but they play in the same division as Atlanta and Washington. Philadelphia brought in 3B Michael Young and OF Ben Revere to help the lineup, and will both play key parts in the Phillies’ lineup. The concern remains pitching. The Phillies spent some money to improve the bullpen, but it might prove not to work.
Miami Marlins (Last Year: 69-93, 5th NL East) – Let’s just pretend last year didn’t happen for the Marlins. It was a disaster. Management cleaned house, including replacing manager Ozzie Guillen with Mark Redmond. Miami is trying to go back to the Florida Marlins’ way of winning baseball, as opposed to the spending spree from last year. This will actually be a fun team to watch, because they have some good young talent. With that said, this team is still not very good.
New York Mets (Last Year: 74-88, 4th NL East) – This team is not very good. The Mets will have to out-score its opponents offensively to win, because the pitching will not hold its opponent off. That’s also saying that the Mets will get enough offense. Like the Astros and Twins, there are a lot of guys that might not have major league jobs on Opening Day, if it wasn’t for the Mets. It’s going to be a long season.
National League Central
Cincinnati Reds (Last Year: 97-65, 1st NL Central) – This is a solid team, and should make the playoffs again in 2013. This offense will score runs, and it will be helped with OF Shin-Soo Choo coming over from Cleveland. The decision to put LHP Aroldis Chapman back as the closer is absolutely correct. It certainly makes the bullpen stronger, and doesn’t really hurt the rotation. This is a good team, but are they a great team? Only time will tell.
St. Louis Cardinals (Last Year: 88-74, 2nd NL Central, Wild Card winner) – Much like last year, you look at the make-up of this team and wonder how they will compete in 2013. However, what St. Louis always does right is they find baseball players, which can’t always be said about other teams. A healthy 1B Allen Craig will make a huge difference. Getting a healthy 3B David Freeze will make a bigger one. Pitching could be a struggle for St. Louis. Closer RHP Jason Motte will start the season on the disabled list, and RHP Chris Carpenter is likely to miss the entire 2013 season. But St. Louis always finds a way to win.
Milwaukee Brewers (Last Year: 83-79, 3rd NL Central) – This isn’t a bad team, just really isn’t good enough. Injuries became a big story last year, and already are this year for the Brewers. Any offense that has OF Ryan Braun leading it will be a force. It will be even better once it gets 1B Corey Hart back from the disabled list. The team signed RHP Kyle Lohse to fill out its rotation right before the regular season, and he will help RHP Yovani Gallardo lead the staff. The back-end of the bullpen is solid, but getting it to closer RHP John Axford could be an issue. The Brewers will contend for most of the season, but might come up a little short.
Pittsburgh Pirates (Last Year: 79-83, 4th NL Central) – This team is very similar to the Brewers, not too bad, but just not good enough to realistically contend. This team will make a difference in who does make the playoffs. OF Andrew McCutchen is the star of this team, and needs either or both OF Starling Marte and 3B Pedro Alvarez take the next step in their development. The rotation is solid, but the bullpen has a whole lot of unknowns. The Pirates keep showing the potential of breaking through, but keep coming up a little short.
Chicago Cubs (Last Year: 61-101, 5th NL Central) – The bad news for the Cubs is that the Astros aren’t in the division anymore to keep them from finishing last. The good news is that this team won’t be as bad as last year’s team. 1B Anthony Rizzo should take the next step in his development. This team will need offense, because there is not a lot of pitching to save the Cubs. The biggest story will be whether OF Alfonso Soriano is traded during the season.
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers (Last Year: 86-76, 2nd NL West) – It was amazing how well the Dodgers competed with all of the off-the-field issues from last year. Once that was cleared up, they made some really big deals, and spent a whole lot of money. Based on those acquisitions, this team should be one of the favorites to win the National League. Like the Blue Jays, the question will remain whether manager Don Mattingly is the right man for this job. If this team isn’t on top early, it would not be shocking to see an early move. One way or another, this team should make the playoffs.
San Francisco Giants (Last Year: 94-68, 1st NL West, World Series Champs) – The Giants are poised to make it back-to-back championships, with just about the same players they won it all with in 2012. There were no major changes in the offseason, just bringing back some of the key players from 2012, like 2B Marco Scutaro. The pitching staff is mostly still together, with the exception of former closer RHP Brian Wilson. RHP Tim Lincecum is penciled in the rotation, but will have a short leash. The Giants should return to the postseason in 2013, but another championship will be tough.
Arizona Diamondbacks (Last Year: 81-81, 3rd NL West) – The Diamondbacks will compete in 2013, but they probably won’t have enough to make the postseason. Like the Brewers and Pirates, this is not a bad team. They acquired 3B Martin Prado in the offseason, which will be a big boost and solidify what has been a revolving door at third base. Several of the pitchers will have to prove that 2012 was not a fluke. However, if everything goes right, a playoff run is not out of the question.
Colorado Rockies (Last Year: 64-98, 5th NL West) – The Rockies underachieved in 2012, making new manager Walt Weiss’ job even tougher to get the best out of this team. This is a solid lineup, especially when OF Carlos Gonzalez and SS Troy Tulowitzki are healthy. The biggest question, as it usually is with Colorado, is whether there is enough pitching. The back end of the bullpen, RHP Rafael Betancourt and RHP Matt Belisle are proven pitchers. However, everyone else, including the entire rotation, will need to prove themselves early in the season. The other story-line with the Rockies: perhaps 1B Todd Helton’s final season.
San Diego Padres (Last Year: 76-86, 4th NL West) – The Padres will have some problems if they can’t score, and can’t keep opponents from scoring. 3B Chase Headley is out to start the season, so it makes that lack of offense issue a little more glaring. Without Headley, it makes it easier to pitch around the other top hitters in the lineup, 1B Yonder Alonso and OF Carlos Quentin. The top of the rotation and back end of the bullpen are good, everything in between is adequate at best. This could end up being another long season in San Diego.
NL Wild Card: Braves over Giants
NLDS: Nationals over Braves, Reds over Dodgers
NLCS: Nationals over Reds
World Series Pick: Nationals over Blue Jays, 6 games.
The team that used to be from Canada, beats the only team in Canada. The Nationals are poised to bring a championship back to the nation’s capital. Last year provided a taste of what postseason success can taste like.
Now, obviously, this is a guess. That’s what makes baseball so great. On Opening Day, every fan from every team thinks that theirs can win a World Series.
Happy Baseball Season!!