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Ah, spring is here which means baseball has started.  Sure we're two games in for most teams, but does two out of 162 really mean a lot?  The Stack is here with the 2013 MLB preview that most of you probably didn't demand though some of you did.  Nonetheless, you are reading it and there is a lot of good stuff in here with Cy Young and MVP picks not to mention division winners and a World Series champion so let's get right to the 2013 MLB preview in "the stack" for today, Wednesday, April 3:

2013 MLB preview

Hope springs eternal in spring as, at least for a couple of days, every fan base, every team thinks they have a chance to win the World Series.  This year, more like any year in recent memory, there are a number of different teams that could win the World Series let alone make it to the playoffs.  It's the dawning of a new era in Houston as the Astros, fresh with a new logo and new uniforms, join the American League playing in the AL West.  Both leagues now have fifteen teams meaning there will be at least one series between an AL and an NL team going on all the time.  That means no more interleague play.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes sense for the Astros to join the AL West.  The greatest closer in the game, Mariano Rivera, is beginning his farewell tour as this is his final year pitching.  He will be missed by the New York Yankees, their fans and fans of baseball in general.  Other storylines include whether or not the Anaheim Angels have the greatest middle of the lineup we've ever seen with Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.  It's certainly right up there.  Will Trout be AL MVP?  What about the Washington Nationals and all of their young talent?  Do they have what it takes to make a World Series run?  Is the AL East the most compelling division in baseball.  Can the San Francisco Giants repeat?  Will all of the money the Dodgers are spending pan out?  Is this the year the Pittsburgh Pirates finally finish a season above .500?  So many questions and we have six months to figure it all out.  Let's take a look division by division at how baseball will play out this year.

AL East

By far the most compelling the division in baseball, at least in my opinion.  Each team could very well finish in first or last, it's going to be that competitive.  Will the New York Yankees be able to overcome the slew of injuries they have early in the regular season and make a run not just at the playoffs, but the division too?  Honestly, I don't think so.  Derek Jeter is starting the year on the DL.  Mark Teixeira is out.  Curtis Granderson is out.  Alex Rodriguez, who knows what to think of him.  He says he's determined to come back and prove his doubters wrong, but does anyone truly think he can go back to the A-Rod of three or four years ago?  Doubtful.  He's a fraud in most people's views.  Can't count on the pitching outside of C.C. Sabathia.  Really, if the Yankees can find someway to stick around .500 by the time they get all of their guys back healthy and in a rhythm, it would be amazing.  If that's the case, the rest of the AL East should watch out because the Yankees are coming.

The team everyone is most intrigued by is the Toronto Blue Jays.  They made some big acquisitions in the offseason purging the Miami Marlins for pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle and shortstop Jose Reyes.  A lot of people are hyping the Blue Jays up, perhaps for good reason.  But doesn't this have the same sort of feeling like what happened with the Miami Marlins last year?  They just got a brand new park, new name, new logo and spent a ton of money in free agency.  How did that work out for them?  Last place and now a bunch of the Marlins are in Toronto.  If they stunk in the NL, what makes people think they'll do better in the highly competitive AL East?  Pitcher R.A. Dickey is an interesting pitcher with his knuckleball.  Will he and that pitch hold up against AL hitters? Tough to say.  Toronto is either going to be really good or really fail to live up the expectations.  I haven't even mentioned Jose Bautista until now.

Tampa Bay looks really good once again.  Superb pitching depth led by ace David Price.  The key to the Rays run at an AL East title and a shot at the World Series is the health of 3B Evan Longoria.  If he can stay healthy for the entire season, the Rays have a good enough offense to score the necessary runs to beat beat you every night along with their amazing pitching.  Without Longoria, the team is not nearly as good.  Longoria must stay healthy for the Rays to be the dominant team in the AL East.

Baltimore should once again be good.  Never underestimate manager Buck Showalter.  Their offense should be a little better and CF Adam Jones will soon be a household name if he keeps maturing and coming along as a player.  Dude is really good.  They were fantastic in one run games last year.  They rarely lost.  The Orioles were clutch.  Can the same thing happen again this year?  I have my doubts.

The Boston Red Sox are definitely turning over a new leaf.  New acquisitions RF Shane Victorino and pitcher Matt Dempster will be eager to headstart this team, but I don't think they have the pitching depth or the overall lineup to win the division this year.  Injuries killed them last year.  They have a decent chance to win the AL East, but I see too many other talented teams in the division.  If they win it, it would be something.  90 games is the over/under number I see it takes to win the division.  Every team is going to beat up on each other.  I liken it to the NFC East in the NFL.  Those four teams (Cowboys, Giants, Eagles and Redskins) all beat up on each other and wind up with a 9-7 or 10-6 record, not 12-4 or 13-3 like other teams.  Unless someone can jump ahead of the pack and really distance themselves, which would be something, I see this division being too close at the top throughout the entire year.

Projected AL East Standings

*1. Tampa Bay Rays

*2. Toronto Blue Jays

3. Baltimore Orioles

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

**= playoffs

AL Central

This division will not be nearly as compelling as the AL East.  It all starts and ends with the Detroit Tigers.  Plain and simple.  They have the best pitcher, perhaps in all of baseball in ace Justin Verlander.  They have two big bats who will send homerun after homerun into the stands in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.  And frankly, they just have the all-around best team.  Any other team winning the AL Central would be a little shocking.

The most intriguing team outside of Detroit in the AL Central is the Kansas City Royals.  Is this the year they can finally break through?  They made some big deals during the offseason, most notably trading top prospect Wil Myers to Tampa Bay for starting pitcher James Shileds.  He certainly will be a solid contributor to this team and the pitching staff in general, a position that has been very weak on the team for some time.  But the Royals didn't stop there.  They also got Ervin Santana from the Anaheim Angels as their number two guy.  The Royals seem committed to having a decent top two rotation.  The question is the offense.  LF Alex Gordon has been a mixed bag since he got to the big leagues.  1B Eric Hosmer showed potential last year and a lot of people expect him to have a big year this year.  He's going to have to.  He's going to have to carry the offense.  They Royals are that wild card team this year.  They have the potential to make a surprise run, particularly in this weak division.

The Chicago White Sox could also make some noise.  Some experts think that starting pitcher Chris Sale (from Florida Gulf Coast) is this year's breakout player.  He very well could be.  There are a lot of high priced guys on this team that haven't played up to their full potential in terms of the amount of money their getting paid for their play on the field and that is why they scare me a bit.   But they have talent.  They definitely could be a wild card team and would be the biggest threat to the Tigers winning the AL Central.

The Cleveland Indians will certainly be better this year under new manager Terry Francona.  Francona won two World Series with the Red Sox.  He knows how to put winning ball clubs on the field.  Nick Swisher should be a good addition.  The Indians are still a year or two away from competing for the division for the entire year, but they'll turn some heads.

The Minnesota Twins, I'm sorry but can you name another player outside of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau?  I didn't think so.  This team will be lucky to win 70 games.

Projected AL Central Standings

*1. Detroit Tigers

*2. Kansas City Royals

3. Chicago White Sox

4. Cleveland Indians

5. Minnesota Twins

AL West 

Looking for the best team in the American League?  They may just be in the west.  Anaheim is locked and loaded and ready for a great year.  Best middle of the lineup ever with Trout, Pujols and Hamilton?  Perhaps.  Who are you going to pitch around?  You can't.  This is going to make everyone in the lineup better.  Did you see what Mike Trout did in his first year last year?  He was almost the MVP of the league.  Some believe he should have been.  Can Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson be the solid starters for this team though?  That's probably the biggest question for the Angels this year, can the pitching staff hold up?  Maybe it doesn't need to.  This team is going to produce a lot of runs.  Pujols struggled last year in his first year transitioning from the NL to the AL.  He'll be more comfortable this year and the Angels, who failed to meet expectations last year will find their wings and have an incredible year.

The biggest threat to the Angels is Texas, but I'm not completely sold on this team.  Yu Darvish carried a perfect game into the ninth Tuesday night, but that was against the Astros.  Matt Harrison is a good pitcher, but Darvish is going to be what makes the Rangers a legit threat or not.  They have some bats in th lineup with Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre and Elvis AndrusLance Berkman is an interesting player.  As a DH, he could be dangerous.  For some reason though, I'm not buying this team.  Losing Hamilton and not having C.J. Wilson, I don't see Texas doing enough to make the playoffs.  

Oakland has phenominal young pitching, but do they have enough good bats to produce runs necessary to beat the good teams in baseball?  I have my doubts.  LF Yoenis Cespedes is a solid young player.  I just don't trust them.

Seattle has arguably the second best pitcher in baseball, maybe even the best in King Felix Hernandez.  The problem is their lineup.  They struggled to score runs last year though in spring training, they were crushing the ball, hitting over .500 slugging percentage.  Mike Morse had six homeruns in spring training.  That needs to carry over the regular season.  Seattle has a chance in my mind to be the surprise team of the division.

Houston, welcome to the American League.  Enjoy your transition year.  It's going to be a struggle.  You might not win 60 games.

Projected AL West standings

*1. Anaheim Angels

2. Texas Rangers

3. Seattle Mariners

4. Oakland Athletics

5. Houston Astros

 

NL East

The best young team in baseball appears to be the Washington Nationals.  Pitcher Stephen Strasburg.  LF Bryce Harper.  Two of the best young phenoms in the game.  But the Nationals are more than just Strasburg and Harper.  There is depth behind Strasburg in the rotation.  Harper has plenty of other guys who can swing the lumber, though Harper did become the youngest player ever to hit two homeruns in an opening day game in the Nationals 2-0 win over the Miami Marlins Monday.  Great defense, great pitching, pretty good offense.  The Nationals have a lot of expectations on their shoulders and that may affect some of the youth on this team.  But they have a ton of talent and can more than live up those expectations.  Quite frankly, it would be very surpising if they do not win the division.

The team that could give the Nationals a run for their money is the Atlanta Braves.  Solid club with good starting pitching, a great bullpen led by closer Craig Kimbrel and some for decent bats in the lineup.  RF Jason Heyward is looking to have a better year than last year.  There are a lot of expectations for him.  The Upton brothers (B.J. and Justin) are playing on the same team and both of them have a great deal of talent.  Watch out for the Braves.  They may not win the division, but they are certainly a team with playoff expecations.

Philadelphia is interesting thanks to some of their additions including 3B Michael Young and CF Ben Revere, but I don't like the overall lineup and I don't know if their starting pitching can hold up.  Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay are getting up there in age.  Their still good, but can they carry this team?  If they can, the Phillies will surprise people and make a run at the playoffs.  The chances of that happening though aren't very good.

When ace Johan Santana went down with a shoulder injury that required season ending surgery, that's pretty much it for the New York Mets season.  At leas there is always 2014 and at least they'll be better than the Miami Marlins.

The Marlins will be awful this year.  Lots of young talent and the Marlins know how to scout young talent, but after last year's nightmare, the Marlins are in a definite rebuilding year.  They'll be lucky if they can get 10,000 fans per game in that beautiful new ballpark.

Projected NL East Standings 

*1. Washington Nationals

*2. Atlanta Braves

3. Philadelphia Phillies

4. New York Mets

5. Miami Marlins

*= make playoffs

NL Central

The St. Louis Cardinals always surprise not just in the division, but in baseball as a whole. Pitcher Adam Wainright staying healthy would be a huge bonus for this team.  3B David Freese is the hometown hero and will need to be a key contributor on the team.  Someone else always seems to step up for the Cardinals, whether that be a pitcher or someone in the field making plays on defense or at the plate.  Don't see that happening this year.  Still, if/when it happens, we shouldn't be too surprised, because after all they are the St. Louis Cardinals and they find ways to get the job done and win.

The most complete team in the division is the Cincinnati Reds.  Best offense with Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce.  LF Ryan Ludwick going down in the season opener with a dislocated shoulder hurts, but the Reds can overcome it.  Their starting rotation is stacked and pitcher Aroldis Chapman is a major weapon and a big wild card.  How will the Reds use him?  In the bullpen to start.  Closer?  Yes.  But could he eventually find a way to get into the starting rotation?  There's always that chance.  He is a great young talent and the Reds will be careful to make sure thye utilize him the best way possible.

The team that is most interesting to me in the division is the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Is this the year they end the twenty year drought of not having a team finish a season above .500?  There is that chance though the schedule is pretty tough.   They've been knocking on the door the last couple of years, but can't quite break through.  Last year was their best chance.  CF Andrew McCutchen is a rising star both with his bat and his glove, not to mention his dreds.  The Pirates have a lot of young talent on this team.  They just have to figure out a way to completely come together and make that final push.  I'd love to see them in the playoffs.  Don't know if this is the year they can do it.

Milwaukee should be a pretty decent ball club this year.  They took starting pitcher Kyle Lohse away from St. Louis so that will help.  Ryan Braun, PEDs or no PEDs is still a good bat in the lineup.  It's going to be a roller coaster type year for the Brewers.  They'll show flashes of being a really good ball club and then frustrate the heck out of fans with their play.  Wonder if the season will end on a high note or a low note.

For Cubs fans, it will be another year of losing and no World Series, but GM Theo Eptsein is buidling a good ball club.  It's just going to take patience.  Next year they'll be a factor.  Not this year though.

Projected NL Central Standings

*1. Cincinnati Reds

2. Pittsburgh Pirates

3. St. Louis Cardinals

4. Milwaukee Brewers

5. Chicago Cubs

NL West

Perhaps only to the AL East, the NL West is the second most compelling division to watch this year in baseball.  Heck, it might be first to some and it probably is.  There are two really strong teams and one surprise in there.  Of course, the NL West also does boast the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, winners of two of the last three World Series.  Starting pitching is what wins games and the Giants have that.  Actually they have four, maybe even five.  Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito are all capable of putting up dominant numbers and shuting down an offense.  That's what has carried this team to two World Series championships.  The problem has been their bats though.  Good news for the Giants is that they get catcher Buster Posey back fully healthy for the year after he broke his leg in a home plate collision last year.  He'll carry the offense.  The Panda (Pablo Sandoval) also has a pretty good bat, but he needs to keep his weight down.  Hunter Pence is good.  This team has more than enough to win another NL West title.

The team that will give them the most trouble is the team that has invested a ton of money into getting good players ever since they purchased the team.  I'm talking about the Los Angeles Dodgers, under new ownership led by Magic Johnson.  They've traded for top talent like SS Hanley Ramirez, LF Carl Crawford and 1B Adrian Gonzalez.  They may have, ok, they definitely did overpay for pitcher Zach Greinke who has never liked pitching in pressure situations what with his anxiety and everything so that will be interesting to see how he performs.  But with guys like Matt Kemp and pitcher Clayton Kershaw who threw a complete game on Opening Day and hit a homerun, the Dodgers look like they have what it takes to de-throne the Giants.  There hasn't been this much pressure on a Dodgers team in a long time.  Hope they can handle it.

The surprise team in this division that could stun baseball is Arizona.  The Diamondbacks have a potential breakout player if he isn't already one in 1B Paul Goldschmidt.  They have good starting pitching and other bats that will drive in runs.  Arizona poses the biggest threat to San Fran and L.A. and when October rolls around, don't be surprised to see Arizona in the playoffs.

Colorado and San Diego, thanks for playing and bringing up the rear.  Better luck next year.

Projected NL West standings

*1. Los Angeles Dodgers

*2. San Francisco Giants

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

4. San Diego Padres

5. Colorado Rockies

 

AL Playoff teams

  • Anaheim Angels
  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Detroit Tigers
  • Toronto Blue Jays
  • Kansas City Royals

ALCS: Anaheim over Tampa Bay

AL MVP: LF Mike Trout, Anaheim Angels

AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

NL Playoff teams

  • Washington Nationals
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Cincinnati Reds
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Atlanta Braves

NLCS: Washington over Los Angeles

NL MVP: LF Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series

Washington Nationals vs. Anaheim Angels

World Series Champions

Washington Nationals

 

We'll see how it all pans out.  It's going to be one wild ride.  Enjoy the next six months of baseball.  Can't wait to see how it all pans out.  Disagree or agree with my picks?  Let me know.

 

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