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Thursday, March 28, 2013

2013 MLB Predictions

It's that time of year where predictions are due.  With that in mind, I'll present my non-scientific and most likely completely wrong picks for 2013.  However, my predictions were not terrible last year (view them here), I nailed 3 of 6 division winners, 6 of 10 playoff teams, the AL Cy Young, the ALCS, and the WS NL representative.  So overall, not terrible.  Here they are for the '13 season (Bold = Division Winners, Italics = Wildcards):

AL East:  Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees, Orioles, Red Sox
AL Central:  Tigers, White Sox, Indians, Royals, Twins
AL West:  Angels, A's, Rangers, Mariners, Astros

NL East:  Nationals, Phillies, Braves, Mets, Marlins
NL Central:  Cardinals, Reds, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs
NL West:  Giants, Dbacks, Dodgers, Rockies, Padres

ALDS:  Rays vs Tigers, Jays vs Angels
NLDS:  Phillies vs Nationals, Cardinals vs Giants
ALCS:  Jays vs Tigers
NLCS:  Giants vs Nationals

World Series:  Tigers vs Nationals

World Series Winner:  Tigers

AL MVP:  Mike Trout
NL MVP:  Bryce Harper
AL Cy Young:  Justin Verlander
NL Cy Young:  Stephen Strasburg
AL Rookie of the Year:  Jurickson Profar
NL Rookie of the Year:  Zach Wheeler

A look at the AL East:  There is definitely a changing of the guard going on here.  The Yankees are old.  The Red Sox don't have strong starting pitching in a division that now has a lot of it.  Meanwhile, the Jays were the offseason darlings.  The Marlins can attest that doesn't always pay off and the Jays are made of a lot of the players that failed in Miami but they're likely the best all around team in the AL East and should win the division.  The Orioles, coming off a surprising 2012 where they made the playoffs for the first time since I was in high school, didn't do anything this offseason.  That's too much reliance on the status quo for a team that was very lucky in 2012.  I expect them to fall back.  The Rays churn out starting pitching year after year, despite losing James Shields.  If Longoria stays healthy all year, uber prospect Myers comes up at some point, and Fernando Rodney replicates even a shade of what he did last season, the Rays should be a wildcard contender.

A look at the AL Central:  This is the Tigers den.  All the other AL Central teams are flawed in some way.  The Indians offense should score plenty of runs but they have really poor starting pitching.  The White Sox are well balanced but their offense relies heavily on soon to be 38 year old Paul Konerko and 33 year old big whiffer Adam Dunn.  Not to mention they have two guys at third base Giants fans are familiar with - Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie.  Not fantastic options at the hot corner.  The Royals made a big splash by getting James Shields but I still don't see enough pitching for them to finish any higher than 3rd place.  And if Hosmer and Moustakas don't bloom the Royals are in for another tough season.  The Twins are a step up from a minor league team but they're not close to contention.

A look at the AL West:  Is the Rangers window closing?  They still have a lot of talent in their farm system, highlighted by #1 prospect Jurickson Profar.  Yu Darvish had an impressive "rookie" year.  But they didn't replace Josh Hamilton's bat and struck out on almost all the free agents and trade targets they pursued.  With Hamilton teaming up with Pujols in Anaheim, it looks like the Rangers short reign of terrorizing the AL West is ending.  Will Rangers fans look back on 2010-2011 as the glory years when Texas made it to back to back World Series before choking away a division title in 2012 to the A's in the last game of the season and then falling on their face in the AL Wildcard round?  They might.  Right now the Angels look to challenge the Tigers as the best team in the American League while the A's are full of young pitching talent that can make them contenders for several seasons much like the Rays in the AL East.  With the Mariners lacking punch in the line-up and the Astros looking to be the worst team in baseball in 2013, the AL West is likely the Angels and Athletics division to take. 

A look at the NL East:  The top 3 teams figure to be in for a dogfight for the division crown.  The Mets are in the middle of their rebuild and the Marlins are a joke.  That leaves the Braves, Nationals, and Phillies as the three legitimate teams in one should be a hotly contested division race.  The Nationals on paper look to have the best team in the National League.  They have above average starters in their first 4 rotation slots.  Their ace has no innings restrictions this season and he's primed for a big year.   The pitching is complemented by a line-up that can and will score runs.  They're anchored by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman but they filled a huge void by acquiring centerfielder Denard Span to bring Gold Glove defense and legitimate leadoff hitting capabilities to the line-up.  Not to mention they have three guys who could be closers on other teams in their bullpen.  In short, Washington is stacked and should not only win the division but should have the best record in the National League.  They'll face competition from a Braves team that retooled with the Upton Bros but unlike some, I'm not sold on the Braves starting pitching.  Tim Hudson has been Mr. Reliable but Kris Medlen could have been a fluke and Mike Minor, Paul Maholm, and Julio Teheran are not sure things.  The Braves do have the best closer in baseball at present but can they hold off a resurgent Phillies team?  The Phils are the biggest wildcard.  They're healthy.  They're a bit old.  But they still have immense talent in their rotation with Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee and their line-up should still cobble together enough runs to support the staff.  They should be in the hunt.

A look at the NL Central:  The Reds have a very good team.  For all intents and purposes, they should have knocked off the eventual World Champion Giants in the Division Series.  They return essentially the same team, only subbing out Drew Stubbs for Shin-Soo Choo, which is an upgrade offensively and a bit of a question mark defensively.  Aroldis Chapman returns to the closer role where he's dominant and Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier both have room to grow.  They will be a force.  Unfortunately, the St. Louis Cardinals just know how to win.  On paper, the Reds have the better team overall.  But the Cardinals have some young players that can come up during the season that can shore up some deficiencies.  They also have promising young arms in Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, and Trevor Rosenthal who all might make appearances in the rotation if any incumbents struggle.  St. Louis always finds ways to score runs and their culture of winning should allow them to sneak past Cincinnati for the division.  The Pirates look to end their 20 year losing streak and may finally have a team that will do it. The Pirates are a dark horse to contend as they have up until the latter months in both 2011 and 2012.  In 2013 they may be able to complete the season with a winning record thanks to the efforts of talented youngsters Gerrit Cole and Pedro Alvarez.  Cole has been mentioned as a possible Verlander type talent and Pirates fans will be clamoring for his call-up.  He could be a difference maker in the division and could impact the wildcard races.  The people in Pittsburgh may finally have baseball to watch in the fall instead of just waiting for Steelers season to begin.  The Brewers line-up is potent as always but Ryan Braun has PED questions lingering and the pitching, even with the addition of Kyle Lohse, is likely not good enough to beat the other teams in Milwaukee's own division.  The Cubs are rebuilding and likely will be big sellers at the trade deadline.   

A look at the NL West:  The two time World Champion San Francisco Giants (that never gets old) reside in this division and they're looking to become a dynasty by defending their title.  No team has repeated titles since the Yankees won three in a row in 1998-2000.  The Giants return their entire starting line-up, rotation, and bullpen that won it all in 2012 and hope they'll get steady improvements from shortstop Brandon Crawford and first baseman Brandon Belt.  They'll be challenged by the new rising Evil Empire, the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Dodgers have admitted their goal is to have an All-Star at every position and they are not far off from that goal.  However, health will have a say.  Hanley Ramirez will miss the first 2 months of the season and the Dodgers have to be concerned about Zack Greinke, who was troubled with elbow issues in Spring Training.  As their basketball brethren have demonstrated, it's not all about the talent.  The Dodgers have World Series or bust expectations but despite all their spending, they may not be a championship calibre team quite yet.  Manager Don Mattingly will have to live up to expectations and manage egos.  If the Dodgers hit on all cylinders, they are no doubt a threat not only for the NL West title, but the pennant.  However, I see them falling short due to health issues and a lack of genuine chemistry.  This will open the door for the Diamondbacks to contend for both the NL West and one of the wildcard spots.  The Dbacks traded their mercurial star Justin Upton to the Braves and now their outfield, which looked like a strength in the offseason, is more of a question mark.  Can Jason Kubel repeat his 30 homer performance of last year?  Can Cody Ross stay healthy?  The Dbacks will need their outfielders to hit to complement up and coming stud first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and power hitting second baseman Aaron Hill in the line-up.  Ian Kennedy and Brandon McCarthy aren't typical aces but they are smart, competitive pitchers who know how to win ballgames.  Wade Miley likely would have been Rookie of the Year if there wasn't some guy named Harper in his rookie class and Miley is only one of a few young starting pitchers the Dbacks have coming up.  Tyler Skaggs is waiting in the wings and Daniel Hudson could be back by mid-season.  Had the Dbacks not traded Trevor Bauer, my pick for Rookie of the Year last year, they may have had a rotation that could have challenged the A's for best young starting pitching.  Instead, 2/5 of their rotation are ex-Athletics.  But regardless, the Dbacks have talent and should be in the thick of both the division and wildcard races.  The Rockies are still trying to figure it out and will struggle to be a .500 team.  They have the offense but their pitching is a mess.  Meanwhile, the Padres, forever scrappy, will likely occupy the cellar as their pitching has declined the past few seasons and they don't have the offense to make up for it, especially true since they're missing two of their best hitters in Chase Headley and Yasmani Grandal for the first part of the season.  

2013 is sure to give us plenty of excitement just as 2012 did.  The Giants have a legitimate shot at repeating but they will have a lot of competition.  Even with two wildcards, there is a clear line between the haves and the have-nots and the Giants staved off 6 elimination games to hoist their trophy.  Those teams that fell will be hungrier this year.  The target is upon their backs yet again.  It should be a fun ride.