The 2013 Major League Baseball Season kicked off last night, but opening day across the rest of the league is today, so below are SportSmasher.com’s 2013 Major League Baseball Predictions and Picks:
East: Tampa Bay Rays – If Evan Longoria stays healthy, look for a monster year, combined with a breakout season for Desmond Jennings. Pitching and managing will be excellent as always, and his batch young players will develop into value as the season progresses.
Central: Detroit Tigers –Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder will be the key pieces on this team, but look for the returning Victor Martinez and new edition Torii Hunter to play big roles on the best Tigers team we’ve seen yet.
West: Los Angeles Angels –An absolutely loaded lineup featuring Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mike Trout help the Angels cruise to a divisional title this season. Their starting rotation is solid, and I think one of the safest bets of the 2013 season is the Angels winning the division.
Wild Card: New York Yankees – Robinson Cano needs to put the team on his back until Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeria get healthy, but if they can win with pitching and run production until then the Yankees will sneak into the playoffs.
Wild Card: Oakland A’s –The Wild Cards in the AL are tough to pick, but if we have learned anything in the Billy Beane era, it is never discount the smart and gritty A’s. When you look up midseason and realize how well they are playing, it is time to stop being surprise, expect it.
East: Washington Nationals – I expect a huge season out of phenoms outfielder Bryce Harper and ace Stephen Strasburg. You have to love the Nationals roster from top to bottom, including their pitching depth, although the Braves and Phillies will put up a fight I expect them to win what might be the best division in baseball.
Central: St. Louis Cardinals – With pitching, aging stars (Holliday, Beltran) and role players, I expect the Cardinals to once again challenge for the NL Central Crown. They have a lot of lineup depth and have many players that will contribute, as well as ace Adam Wainwright, who I expect to have a shot at the Cy Young.
West: Los Angeles Dodgers – A loaded offensive lineup led by MVP candidate outfielder Matt Kemp, and an improved pitching staff led by Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw will help the Dodgers cruise to a division win. They have spent a lot of money this offseason and it’s time to cash in.
Wild Card: Atlanta Braves –Maybe the most talented outfield in baseball, with the Upton Brothers (Justin and B.J.) and Jason Heyward will score a lot of runs, and their talented pitching staff and deep bullpen will make them contenders. I just think the Nationals are better all around, but the Braves will be in the hunt.
Wild Card: San Francisco Giants – The World Series champs had to retool a bit this offseason, but I expect them to win in their typical style, with outstanding pitching and contributions from all over the lineup. Expect a breakout season from Brandon Belt.
American League Champs: Detroit Tigers
National League Champs: Washington Nationals
World Series Champs: Detroit Tigers
AL Surprise Team: Cleveland Indians – The Indians boast a talented lineup, and they have Terry Francona at the helm, the pitching will not be good enough to carry them to the playoffs but they will be better than projected. I expect them to finish second in the AL Central.
NL Surprise Team: Philadelphia Phillies – They will fall short of the playoffs, only because they are in an extremely tough division, and both the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves should be excellent. I expect them to be in the Wild Card race until the very end and will be in contention for the divisional title.
AL Disappointing Team: Toronto Blue Jays – There is no doubt that the Blue Jays lineup is incredible and they should score a ton of runs, but their pitching staff will struggle, and it will cost them a playoff spot. R.A. Dickey will struggle in the AL, especially within the division, where teams are used to seeing knuckleballers. They are relying heavily on the oft injured Josh Johnson to stay healthy, which will not happen.
AL Disappointing Team: Texas Rangers – They will miss Josh Hamilton, but that is not why they will disappoint, it is the lack of starting pitching that will kill the Rangers. Their pitching staff is decimated by injuries as Joakim Soria, Martin Perez, Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz all start the season on the disabled list. These injuries will be tough for the Rangers to overcome.
NL Disappointing Team: Cincinnati Reds – The Reds will be in the hunt, but in the scenario above, they fall short of the playoffs. I expect huge year out of Reds first baseman Joey Votto, however I do not feel comfortable picking the Reds to win the division with Johnny Cueto as the staff ace. The NL is deep, and I would not be shocked if they won the central, but anything less than a playoff berth has to be considered a disappointment in Cincinnati.
AL MVP: Evan Longoria – Third Baseman, Tampa Bay Rays – Longoria is very talented and one of the best hitters in baseball when he is healthy, however he struggled throughout an injury plagued 2012 season, and was below expectations. The Rays are poised to make a run at the World Series this season, and I expect a huge season out of Longoria, who will carry them offensively.
NL MVP: Bryce Harper – Outfielder, Washington Nationals – The most talented prospect we have seen in a long time, Harper is an absolute stud, and I expect him to put all of that talent to good use in 2013. It may be a little early, but this kid is an excellent contact hitter with unreal power, I expect monster numbers out of Harper this season.
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers – The best pitcher in baseball will win the award in 2013, and he will deserve it, after just signing a huge contract offer Verlander will put together a Cy Young worthy season in 2013. I expect him to lead the AL in strikeouts while winning over 20 games. David Price of the Rays will give him a run for his money, but in the end, it’s Verlander.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers – Kershaw won the award in 2011, and I argued he should have won the award last season, despite R.A. Dickey being a great story Kershaw was the best pitcher in the NL. He will lead the NL in strikeouts, and he will lead the Dodgers to a division win this season, which earns him a Cy Young.