Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE
The Red Sox won't be garbage again in 2013. Probably, anyway.
24. New York Mets
For now, let's assume that the Mets will retain R.A. Dickey and David Wright for 2013. If so, Dickey will remain part of what was a quietly effective starting pitching staff, and Wright will remain the key cog in the club's lineup. It's just too bad the rest of the lineup stinks; the Mets have no bullpen, and they play in a very tough division.
23. San Diego Padres
I'm excited to see what Chase Headley can do for an encore, and I think San Diego's pitching stands to get a lot better, but the Padres still have the look of a team that has some more rebuilding to do. It doesn't help that they're miles below the Dodgers and Giants in terms of overall talent.
22. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have holes in their rotation, their outfield and at first base, but they're built around a strong core of hitters and have brought in a manager who should be able to fix Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and John Lackey. They're not as awful as they looked at the end of the 2012 season, and you just get the sense they're planning something big for the winter.
21. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners are my dark-horse pick to be the Oakland A's of 2013. Their offense, which finished fifth in the AL in runs scored on the road, should be a lot more consistent with the fences at Safeco Field coming in.
Pitching wise, Felix Hernandez is awesome, and Jason Vargas and Hisashi Iwakuma are both better than they get credit for. If the Mariners need help later in the season, they have more than a few talented youngsters who are just about ready to contribute.
20. Kansas City Royals
The Royals have added Ervin Santana, but their starting rotation still needs a lot of work. However, they have a strong offense littered with talented young hitters, and they had the most underrated bullpen in baseball in 2012. Offense and great relief work did wonders for the Orioles in 2013. Maybe the same formula could work for the Royals.
19. Pittsburgh Pirates
Andrew McCutchen is a stud and has two quality partners in crime in Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez. A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez are both dependable, and James McDonald showed in the first half of 2012 that he has plenty of upside.
But I'll be damned if I'm going to believe in the Pirates so long as Clint Hurdle is running the show and men who think Navy Seals training is good for prospects are calling the shots.
18. Milwaukee Brewers
Ryan Braun is a beast, and he has a solid group of hitters around him in the likes of Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Jonathan Lucroy. I just worry about whether or not the Brewers have enough depth in their rotation or in their bullpen to challenge the Reds and the Cardinals in the NL Central.
17. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks are a pretty tough team to figure right now. Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley make for a strong starting trio, and Daniel Hudson will come along eventually as well. So could any of the club's top pitching prospects.
The D-Backs also have a strong offense based around Justin Upton, Jason Kubel, Aaron Hill and the underrated Paul Goldschmidt. But the D-Backs had a strong core in place for much of 2012 too, yet they never really got on track. As such, I'm skeptical.
And for what it's worth, my guess is that Upton will be traded soon.