2013 AL East Champs – Tampa Bay Rays (86-76)
Note: Ace pitcher David Price (20-5 with 2.56 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 2012) heads a Rays pitching staff that ranked first in the majors with a team ERA of 3.19 last season.
|Blue Jays P R.A. Dickey|
Note: A big key to the Orioles new-found success is catcher Matt Wieters. The 26-year-old can handle himself at the plate, posting career-highs in home runs (26) and RBI (83) last season. But his impact being the plate is irreplaceable. There's a reason one of baseball's most maligned pitching staffs in the 2000's has become legitimate again. Following four straight seasons with a team ERA over 5.00, Baltimore cracked the 4.00-range in 2010 (Wieters' rookie season) and finished last season at 3.90 - the first time the franchise recorded a team ERA under 4.00 since 1997.
Note: Hitting behind Elsbury, Victorino, Dustin Pedroia and Napoli this season will be 24-year-old third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Boston's fifth-round draft pick in 2007, Middlebrooks made a splash with the Beantown faithful in an otherwise rough season last year. In 267 at-bats, the rookie infielder batted .288 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI. What type of an impact can Middlebrooks make this year? With a suspect pitching staff, the Red Sox could use all the offense it can get this year.
Note: Robinson Cano has entered a league of his own, in terms of Major League second basemen. Over his past four seasons, Cano has had a batting average above .300 with at least 25 homers every year. Along with the statistical success, the 30-year-old slugger has made three All-Star appearances, and won three Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers. With all the injuries the Yankees have suffered in the offseason, the weight of the team's offensive success will rely heavily on Cano. Too heavily. Replacing Mark Teixera, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Cranderson (at least to begin the season) will be Kevin Youkilis, Eduardo Nunez, Jayson Nix and Brett Gardner.
|Tigers RF Torii Hunter|
Note: Hunter adds another quality bat to Detroit's already potent lineup. Moreover, he brings much-needed defensive prowess (something Detroit has lacked), playoff experience and several intangibles to the Tigers clubhouse. In 14 Major League seasons, Hunter has won nine Gold Gloves, a Sliver Slugger, four All-Star appearances. Hunter has been to the postseason six times. This year he hopes to make his seventh trip and finish it off with his first World Series ring.
Runner-up – Kansas City Royals (82-80 - 22 GB)
|Royals 3B Mike Moustakas|
The bright spot is that the team finished third last year and has a roster full of talent capable of leading them to the unfortunately unfamiliar turf of the postseason once again.
First baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, designated hitter Billy Butler and outfielder Alex Gordon lead a strong, youthful Royals offense. On the mound, the Royals have added two quality veterans - James Shields and Ervin Santana - capable of being front-of-the-rotation pitchers.
Note: Moustakas - Kansas City's 1st round pick of the 2007 draft (the second overall pick) - made his highly anticipated arrival in 2011. In 2012, the agile 6-foot, 220-pound slugger has shown All-Star potential both at the plate and handling the hot corner. He made highlight after highlight with his play at third base and showed a progression of power at the plate (20 HR, 73 RBI in 563 AB last season; 5 HR, 30 RBI in 338 AB in 2011).
One of the main reasons the White Sox will decline this year is the departure of A.J. Piersynski. The catcher was more than just a catcher, he was the team's identity. He embodied a toughness that will be sorely missed in Chicago.
Outside of Sale, an aging team that overachieved last year shows its flaws this season.
Note: Sale is bound to be a bright spot for the 2013 Sox. The 24-year-old lefty was a highly promising prospect in 2010, when he struck out 32 batters in his 23.1-inning cup of coffee. Last season, Sale was a bona fide Cy Young contender - posting a 17-8 record with 192 K's, a 3.05 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. The rising Sox ace is sure to have for another spectacular season this summer.
Note: Catcher/first baseman Carlos Santana will be a key piece of Cleveland’s present and future success. Santana has yet to live up to his potential at the professional level; but the team still has high hopes for its 26-year-old prospect that posted back-to-back-to-back .290-plus BA, 90-plus RBI seasons in the minors from 2008-2010.
|Angels CF Mike Trout|
|A's RF Josh Redick|
The 2013 Rangers won't have enough guns to win the west this season. But the team will earn a wildcard and make its fourth consecutive postseason.
|Mariners SP Felix Hernandez|
|Nationals SP Stephen Strasburg|
|Phillies 1B Ryan Howard|
|Mets 3B David Wright|
|Marlins RF Giancarlo Stanton|
|Reds 1B Joey Votto|
|Cardinals C Yadier Molina|
Runner-up - St. Louis Cardinals (83-79 - 3 GB)
Third place – Milwaukee Brewers (82-78 - 6 GB)
|Brewers CF Carlos Gomez|
|Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen|
|Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo|
|Dodgers SP Zack Greinke|
|Giants SP Tim Lincecum|
Third place – Arizona Diamondbacks (83-75 - 1 GB)
After winning 94 games in 2011, the Diamondbacks took a step back in winning 81 games last year. The team has a quality pitching staff and quality batting lineup. But it’s hard to say it’s much higher than average.
|Diamondbacks 1B Paul Goldschmidt|
Fourth place – Colorado Rockies (75-87 - 13 GB)
|Rockies C Willin Rosario|
Fifth place – San Diego Padres (68-94 - 20 GB)