Tuesday, February 12, 2013

2013 American League Predictions

By Sean Gagnier

American League East

Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa pulled off a huge trade with the Kansas City Royals after last season, sending Wade Davis and James Shields to the Royals in exchange for top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Ororizzi to Tampa.

The Rays already had excellent pitching, so they were able to trade away some of it in order to fleece the Royals for their best prospects.

Tampa retained slugger Evan Longoria and added several key position players, such as Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar. If the Rays offense can get things rolling, their pitching will carry them the remainder of the season.

There may be a fight to be had with the Blue Jays or Yankees down the stretch, but this is Tampa's division to lose at this point.

American League Central

 Detroit Tigers

It's hard not to see Detroit winning this division for a third straight season, with the addition of Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez coming back from an ACL tear, this team is the best on paper going into 2013.

Hunter wanted nothing more than to join the Tigers this offseason, and he got his wish. He will lock down a right field in Comerica Park and provide a solid fixture in the No. 2 spot in the order ahead of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

Did you forget about them? The Triple Crown winner and one of the scariest bats in the game?

Offense will not be a problem for the Tigers this season, neither will pitching, as Detroit resigned Anibal Sanchez and made perhaps the strongest rotations in the game.

What will make or break the Tigers will be their bullpen. Just like in 2012, if the Tigers struggle to close out games then the Central will be a tight race, but if Bruce Rondon is what Detroit says, then this division could be wrapped up by July.

American League West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Angels are perhaps the most intimidating team, but after a lackluster year last season, it remains to be seen if they can put together a solid season.

Last year the baseball world was abuzz as the Angels brought in Albert Pujols, this year, they opened the checkbook again and brought in Josh Hamilton. Add those two to the impressive young duo of Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout and Los Angeles will scare any opposing pitcher.

Ryan Madson was brought in to fill the closers role for the Halos, but the starting pitching is what will propel this team in one direction or the other. Yes, the Angels boast Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, but after that, the order falls to Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas. Not exactly an All-Star lineup.

While the Angels have stocked up on big bats, they have let their pitching slump and have gotten slower on the basepaths. A traditional Los Angeles team is one that puts pressure on the pitcher with the threat of stealing a base, but with as many big bats as they now have, the base stealing numbers won't be as high.

If they can adapt to become a slugging team and get some solid pitching out of the bottom of their rotation then they will beat out the Oakland Athletics for the division.

American League Wild Card

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays pulled off two big trades in the offseason, netting R.A. Dickey, Mark Buerhle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Josh Thole and Mark Nickeas. Safe to say, they improved themselves.

Toronto's rotation now looks like this; Dickey, Johnson, Brendan Morrow, Buerhle, and Ricky Romero. Now that's a rotation that can compete in the AL East.

In addition to a much improved pitching staff, the Jays still have Jose Bautista's bat and Reyes' legs, not to mention the offseason signing of Melky Cabrera. If Cabrera can still mash without his PED's he will help make this Jays team quite formidable in the AL East.

Who knows, if the Rays can't get their offense going, the AL East crown could easily be heading north of the border in 2013.

New York Yankees

It hasn't been the best couple of months for the Yankees, first Derek Jeter breaks his ankle in the ALCS and then Alex Rodriguez becomes embroiled in yet another PED scandal.

That aside, this is still an impressive team on paper. Names like Jeter, Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano just jump off the roster at you.

The Bronx Bombers resigned Ichiro Suzuki, brought in Travis Hafner and should have a healthy Brett Gardner to start the 2013 season. In a bam-box like Yankee Stadium, those names will produce very lopsided numbers.

However, like last season, it will all depend on the pitching. Sure, C.C. Sabathia is back, but after that, the rotation leaves a lot to be desired. Following Sabathia is Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettite, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova.

Questions also surround the bullpen, that will have Mariano Rivera return, but his effectiveness is yet to be seen after season ending surgery last year. His mid-season  replacement, Rafael Soriano, has yet to find a home this offseason, meaning that should Rivera not be his old self, or should something happen to him, the Yankees will be scrambling for bullpen help.

New York could go either way, but will be in a fight with the Orioles all season to hold onto a wild card spot at the very least.

American League Champion: Detroit Tigers

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