The weather is getting warmer. The days are getting longer. Spring training is in full swing, and you can almost smell the freshly cut grass, hot dogs and peanuts of your local ballpark. The Rangers and Astros will kick off the season in just a few short weeks, and it is now time for a round of useless division predictions so we can all start getting our mind out of basketball mode and into its baseball preset. If you saw the Orioles finishing in second place in the notorious American League East or the Oakland A’s winning the AL west, then these projections aren’t useless. As it stands, we never know what twists and turns will take place over the course of 162, but we’re going to try to look into the future and see where things will stand come October.
American League East:
Baltimore Orioles, 5th place
Falling back into the same trap I did a year ago, picking them to finish last. But I feel more confident this time around. Kind of. Similar to the Oakland A’s, I refuse to believe Buck Showalter and Co. can repeat the magic of a year ago. Wei-Yin Chen will lead the way on the mound for the Orioles, and he’ll have to repeat his stellar campaign from 2012. Matt Weiters, Adam Jones and Chris Davis are also going to have to continue to build on their 2012 seasons, and while one or two of them may, I don’t see all three sustaining that performance. Like I said, I picked them to finish dead last a year ago and they won 93 games, so maybe that is their good luck charm.
Tampa Bay Rays, 4th place
For the first time in awhile, the Rays will start to fall back to Earth. David Price is still the best pitcher in the American League, and Matt Moore is going to be great too, but Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings cannot do all the heavy lifting for the offense. The pitching should be strong, which will give them a chance, but the offense will rank up there with one of the worst.
New York Yankees, 3rd place
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Karma is good when it finally hits the right people, isn’t it? The Yankees will start the season looking more like a M.A.S.H unit than a baseball team following the injuries of Mark Teixera and Curtis Granderson in Spring Training, not to mention they probably won’t have Alex Rodriguez for most of the year. That’s probably not a negative though. Derek Jeter is working to recover from the broken ankle he received in the ALCS last year, and the best closer to ever live, Mariano Rivera is on the comeback trail from injury as well. C.C. Sabathia at the top of the rotation along with Robinson Cano should give them a fighting chance until everyone returns from injury, but it may be too little too late. The Yankees may eat up one of the two wild card spots when the marathon finishes, but right now, things look bleak for the Bronx Bombers.
Boston Red Sox, 2nd place
How forgettable was 2012? Probably not as forgettable as the choke job of 2011, but it was pretty rough. 69 wins and a major salary dump can do that to a fan base that has been spoiled for the last decade. However, the Red Sox should bounce back to prominence in 2013 if John Lester can return to his ace form and Clay Bucholz can put together an entire season. The tip of the offensive spear doesn’t change from years past, led by Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia. The addition of Mike Napoli should provide a boost as well. Napoli has had success in the 19 career games he has had at Fenway, posting a .306 batting average along with seven homeruns. If the Red Sox can avoid the injury plague they caught a year ago, they could be in a good position coming down the stretch.
Toronto Blue Jays, 1st place
Yeah, I’m taking the bait. The unanimous winners of the winter, the Blue Jays added Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey, and Mark Buerhle. Taking a glance at the Miami Marlins of a year ago, this blue print doesn’t appear to work very well, but the AL East is down for the first time in almost two decades, and the Blue Jays are in shape to make a serious run for the first time since they won back-to-back World Series titles in ’92 and ’93. The rotation looks solid, and the lineup looks potent with Reyes at the top, followed by Cabrera and super sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. They could follow the exact same footsteps of the Marlins a year ago, since they did acquire half their roster, but on paper, this team looks sexy, and I’m buying.