Very Early Odds for Each Team to Win the 2013 World Series
There’s roughly one month remaining before pitchers and catchers report to spring training and yet, it’s still never too early to predict who will win the 2013 World Series.
The San Francisco Giants turned out to baseball’s best in 2012, sweeping the Detroit Tigers in four games to crown themselves champions for the second time in three seasons. But can San Francisco win two straight and three out of four, or will a new team rise to the occasion?
Plenty of teams have spent millions and millions of dollars during free agency in order to improve their clubs and other have tried to do so via trades—of both all-stars and top prospects. Some of the game’s best have found new homes during the offseason and will look to help their 2013 franchise contend for a spot in the postseason.
So which teams will be competing for the top spot in the playoffs and which will be competing for the top spot in the 2014 MLB draft?
It may be early, but let’s power rank each MLB team to determine who has the best shot at winning the 2013 World Series.
30. Houston Astros
The Houston Astros are moving to the highly competitive American League West and haven’t done much to prepare. Houston’s best addition this offseason has arguably been former Baseball Prospectus guru, Kevin Goldstein, who is now the team’s pro scouting coordinator.
29. Miami Marlins
The Marlins have used this offseason as a way to dump each and every player who was making significant money. Giancarlo Stanton is the lone soul remaining in Miami and even his strength won’t be able to get the Marlins out of the National League East cellar.
28. Minnesota Twins
Minnesota has made a couple of interesting moves this offseason, most especially trading away two of their starting outfielders. The Twins have to hope that Vance Worley wins the American League Cy Young Award and that Joe Mauer wins the AL MVP Award if they plan on contending in 2013—and even then it’s still a big stretch.
27. New York Mets
Good news is the Mets extended David Wright. Bad news—for Mets fans who want to win in 2013—is the Mets traded away Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays. Does that hurt New York’s chances? Absolutely, but they are definitely set up better to win in a couple of years with Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.
26. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies enter 2013 with virtually the same roster they had in 2012—a team that won the second-fewest games in all of baseball. Colorado has an above-average lineup that includes Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, but the starting rotation is very much below-average. Jorge De La Rosa might be the starter on Opening Day. That speaks for itself.
25. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners swung and missed on Josh Hamilton and haven’t made much of a mark during free agency. Raul Ibanez is a decent addition, but Jason Bay is a major question mark. Seattle was confident enough to send one of its best pitchers, Jason Vargas, to the Los Angeles Angels for power-hitting first baseman Kendrys Morales. Seattle is still a couple of years from competing.
24. Chicago Cubs
I think that a lot of people are underestimating Chicago’s starting rotation that is much improved compared to 2012. The Cubs have three new starters to add to Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija and the bullpen also has its strengths. The lineup, however, still lacks enough to play for a division crown. Chicago could still deal Alfonso Soriano and maybe the Cubs decide to trade Garza too.
23. San Diego Padres
Chase Headley is going to be a superstar for a long, long time, but outside of him and a very good bullpen, what else do the San Diego Padres have? The starting rotation is average at best and so is most of the projected lineup. Carlos Quentin could have a big year to help Headley out, but in the end, the Padres will finish fourth in the National League West.
22. Chicago White Sox
The 2013 White Sox seem to be very average. Chris Sale is already a star on the verge of becoming an ace, but the rest of starting rotation is inconsistent. Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn are still productive bats in the heart of Chicago’s lineup, but they aren’t getting much younger either.
21. Pittsburgh Pirates
As long as the Pirates have Andrew McCutchen on their roster, Pittsburgh has a shot at contending. But the Pirates will need a lot more help in order to make the playoffs. The starting rotation has gotten slightly better with Francisco Liriano, but the Pirates are without an ace-type pitcher. The bullpen is relatively solid and the lineup should be able to fend for itself. A lot of things still have to fall into place for October baseball to be played in Pittsburgh, though.
20. Kansas City Royals
Will 2013 finally be the season where the Royals live up to their potential? Kansas City can be a very dangerous team if its young players—Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer—live up to their potential. The additions of James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana will help their playoff chances and the bullpen is also very good.
19. Cleveland Indians
The Indians have the best shot at overtaking the Detroit Tigers for the division crown, but that’s still going to be very difficult. Cleveland has a new manager in Terry Francona and has also added a few key players for the short-term and long-term. The biggest question for Cleveland is whether Francona can do what he did with Boston, with the Indians. If he can, watch out.
18. Milwaukee Brewers
The questions surrounding Milwaukee’s 2013 hopes are not about the offense. The Brewers’ lineup is very, very good, led by Ryan Braun who is an MVP candidate each year. The starting rotation is what will hold Milwaukee back in the upcoming season. They haven’t brought Shaun Marcum back—yet, as he’s still a free agent. Until they add another starter, they’re the third-best in the National League Central.
17. Arizona Diamondbacks
I think that the Diamondbacks have a very good team, but having to constantly play the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants is going to really hurt them. The starting rotation has a ton of potential in the coming years and the bullpen is great. Arizona will most likely trade Justin Upton or Jason Kubel before Opening Day, but still have a solid lineup. Too bad they can’t change divisions like the Houston Astros did.
16. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have one of the elite pitching staffs in baseball. The starting rotation is young, but still dominant. The bullpen is extremely close to the best in the game. But the lineup is relatively disappointing outside of Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings. The Rays won’t be able to compete in the American League East with Sam Fuld, James Loney and Jose Molina, among others, in the lineup.
15. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have made great strides this offseason to try and rebound after two very disappointing seasons. The first problem that Boston rid itself of was Bobby Valentine.
The Red Sox could not be successful with Valentine in the manager’s seat so they fired him and were able to acquire former pitching coach John Farrell from the Toronto Blue Jays. Farrell hopes to work with Boston’s pitching staff that underperformed in 2012—mainly Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.
Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal writes that as long as Boston has one or two All-Star-caliber performances—meaning an ERA+ of around 110—and average performances from the rest of the rotation—meaning an ERA+ of around 100—that will be enough to contend.
Boston has boosted its pitching staff by adding Ryan Dempster to the rotation and Koji Uehara and Joel Hanrahan to the bullpen.
The Red Sox’s lineup will also have several new faces in it in the upcoming season. Stephen Drew looks to be the everyday shortstop while Shane Victorino and Johnny Gomes are the likely corner outfielders. Boston has also added David Ross to be the backup catcher.
And then there’s Mike Napoli, who agreed to terms with the Red Sox in early December, but the deal has yet to be finalized. There seems to be glaring issue with his health going forward which could end up being a big problem for the Red Sox. The only in-house option Boston has at first base is Mauro Gomez, who would be a disaster as the starter.
Boston could have a surprisingly good season if a couple of things go its way. There is, of course, the chance that the Red Sox fall flat on their face again like they have the past two years.
14. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies came into the offseason looking for three things: a center fielder, a third baseman and a setup man. At this point in the offseason, they’ve accomplished all three.
Injuries took a toll on Philadelphia in 2012 as it finished with an even 81-81 record, good for third in the National League East. Still having a roster with plenty of potential to compete for a division crown, age and health is the only thing standing in the Phillies’ way.
The Phillies have three of the best pitchers in the National League in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. They ended up trading Vance Worley, which weakens the remainder of the rotation now that John Lannan is replacing him.
On the flip side, however, trading Worley may turn out to be a smart move as the Phillies were able to acquire Ben Revere in doing so. Revere will now hit between Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley in the lineup and provide great defense in center field—while also bringing his speed to the base paths.
If the season started tomorrow, you’d have a likely platoon of Darin Ruf and Laynce Nix in left field and Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr. in right field. It’s hard to imagine the Phillies starting the season with that collection of outfielders.
Other than that, the Phillies seem ready to roll. Michael Young is the new third baseman who should help out on both sides of the ball and Philadelphia was able to add Mike Adams in free agency to pitch ahead of Jonathan Papelbon.
As I mentioned, staying healthy will be a key factor in the Phillies competing in 2013.
13. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles came into 2012 as the underdogs and used that as fuel to make the postseason for the first time since 1997. Baltimore has earned some respect heading into 2013, but will expect the same result at the end of the year.
Baltimore is going to stick with the same plan as last season as well as nearly the exact roster. The Orioles haven’t made any moves that will directly impact their lineup or starting rotation, but have lost a couple of role players.
The Orioles allowed both Mark Reynolds to walk during free agency and traded Robert Andino. With Reynolds gone, Baltimore can now have Chris Davis at first base instead of the outfield and also have Manny Machado start the season at third base.
Andino’s departure doesn’t mean much since Baltimore claimed Alexi Casilla who will play virtually the exact role.
Baltimore’s starting rotation doesn’t have a lot of flashy names to it, but they will still win plenty of ball games. All the starters have to do is get the ball into the hands of the bullpen with a chance to win. Baltimore’s bullpen was one of the best in the game last season.
Whether Baltimore can replicate last season’s success will be one of the questions aimed at the Orioles heading into 2013.
12. New York Yankees
The Yankees are old and banged up, but that won’t stop them from trying to win their 28th World Series title. New York has also had a new strategy this offseason: not spending.
New York has only made two relevant moves this offseason. One was bringing Ichiro Suzuki back for second season and the other was signing former rival Kevin Youkilis to replace the injured Alex Rodriguez at third base.
It’s been a very unorthodox offseason to say the least, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post:
In this quirky new baseball reality, the Yankees have lost out to the Cubs (Nate Schierholtz), White Sox (Jeff Keppinger), Pirates (Russell Martin), Diamondbacks (Eric Chavez) and Mariners (Raul Ibanez) because they were either outbid or simply decided not to bid at all. And they never even considered retaining Nick Swisher (Indians).
Several of the Yankees starters are well into their 30’s and eventually will digress—or at least one would think.
Rodriguez is going to miss the start of the season with hip surgery. Derek Jeter had ankle surgery in mid-October and is questionable to start the season. Mariano Rivera missed nearly the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL. Will these injuries continue with some of the other Yankees players, too?
The Yankees have to stay healthy in 2013. If they don’t, they’re doomed.
New York will also be heading into a new season without much depth on offense. In fact, the Yankees haven’t really found a replacement for Martin. The best guess is that either prospect Austin Romine will get the nod or Chris Stewart, but that’s yet to be decided.
But back to depth, the Yankees saw many of their key players from last season walk during free agency. Ibanez and Chavez both played big roles for New York and haven’t really been replaced.
New York still has a fantastic starting rotation and bullpen, and its lineup is one of the best in baseball—when healthy. The Yankees could probably use another bat or arm here or there, but overall, they should be in great shape next season.
11. Atlanta Braves
For the first time in a long time, the Atlanta Opening Day roster won’t have Chipper Jones’ name on it. But the Braves are still in great shape even without the future Hall of Famer.
Atlanta’s success mainly comes from its pitching. The Braves have so much great pitching that they barely know what to do with it. Well actually, they do have some idea since they shipped Tommy Hanson to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Jordan Walden—but still, a pitcher for a pitcher!
The Braves’ rotation is headlined by veteran Tim Hudson and then several good, young arms follow including Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran. And then there’s the bullpen which is arguably tops in the league. Craig Kimbrel is a fantastic closer who will have Jonny Venters, Walden and a couple of other impact arms ahead of him.
Atlanta was prepared to have Michael Bourn hit the free agent market and instead of trying to bring him back, the Braves decided to go with B.J. Upton instead. The Braves would still like to add another left fielder, though, writes Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Ideally, the Braves would like to add a left fielder who can bat leadoff, although those options dwindled after some they pursued went elsewhere last week.
If the season began today, the Braves could go with Juan Francisco as a primary third baseman, and have Martin Prado split time between left field and third base instead of moving to third full-time as originally planned. Reed Johnson could also play plenty in left field.
As it turns out, Bourn is still on market if Atlanta wanted to make a big move, but a more underrated addition would be Scott Hairston. He would be able to play the infield and outfield for not too much money.
The lineup has its strengths and weaknesses, but will be much better once Brian McCann, who had shoulder surgery, returns. Gerald Laird is one of the few obvious weaknesses that Atlanta will be forced to start.
Atlanta has the best chance at upending the reigning division champions, the Washington Nationals. A wild card spot is not out of the question by any means and that’s probably a more realistic prediction for the Braves in 2013.
10. Oakland Athletics
No one expected the A’s to contend for the American League West title 2012. I’m not even sold that they thought they could pull off one of the biggest upsets in a long time. But somehow, they did it.
With plenty of heart and hard work—and some luck—Oakland knocked off the Texas Rangers to enter the postseason for the first time since 2006. They came into the season after losing two of their top two pitchers to trades—Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals and Andrew Bailey to the Boston Red Sox—but pitching was never a problem.
Many of the young pitchers behind Brandon McCarthy stepped up to the occasion and gave Oakland major wins down the stretch. The bullpen was nearly untouchable and the offense always provided a late-game spark.
Oakland will return most of its 2012 roster with the exception of McCarthy, who signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Brett Anderson will likely head the Athletics’ rotation in his absence and then Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Daniel Straily will follow.
The A’s improved their depth in the outfield by acquiring Chris Young from Arizona for Yordy Cabrera. The move gives Oakland four viable options in the outfield—Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick.
Oakland has the talent to contend again in 2013, but it won’t be as easy to make it into the postseason. The Texas Rangers are still very dangerous and the Los Angeles Angels have made a few key additions.
The A’s need Cespedes to put up even bigger numbers than he did in his first season in green and yellow. They need Hiroyuki Nakajima to make a smooth transition from Japan and for guys like Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick to keep shocking the world.
There’s a decent chance that Oakland doesn’t replicate last season’s magic. There aren’t many big names on the roster and truly relied on teamwork to push them into the playoffs. They have to hope that that’s going to be enough again in 2013. It’s possible, but don’t be shocked if they miss the playoffs.
9. Texas Rangers
The Rangers seemed to have lost some of their swagger. Texas crumbled late in the 2012 season to lose the American League West crown and then fell to the Baltimore Orioles in the inaugural American League Wild Card Game.
And this offseason, the Rangers have also lost some of its top talent. The Rangers were unable to bring slugger Josh Hamilton back during free agency, saw starters Ryan Dempster and Scott Feldman walk away, Mike Napoli agreed to terms with the Boston Red Sox, Mike Adams and Koji Uehara left the bullpen and they even had one of their top young players taken in the MLB Rule 5 draft.
That’s a big hit to take. And yet, the Rangers still have a great chance at winning the division and the World Series in 2013.
Texas has added Jason Frasor and Joakim Soria to pitch in front of Joe Nathan and two veterans—Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski—to fill voids in the daily lineup.
The Rangers still have one of the top rotations in baseball, led by Japanese ace Yu Darvish and plenty of power in the batting order. They still have Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar who could make immediate impacts for the Rangers, but don’t necessarily have a place in the lineup just yet.
Texas could end up deciding to trade either of them to acquire another outfielder to replace Leonys Martin. Justin Upton and Giancarlo Stanton are two obvious big names, but the Rangers could easily decide to hang onto their top young guns.
Although Texas’ starting rotation could carry them to the playoffs, the infield will determine whether the Rangers can contend for a title. Mitch Moreland will likely be the starter at first base and needs to step up in a big way. Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre need to keep putting up All-Star-caliber numbers as well.
I think that if those four infielders can together make up for the loss of Hamilton, the Rangers will be just fine. They just have to play a full 162 games, something that they struggled with last year that caused an early exit in the postseason.
8. St. Louis Cardinals
If it weren’t for a red-hot San Francisco Giants team, the St. Louis Cardinals would have been the ones playing for the 2012 World Series—but unfortunately, they did run into them and fell in seven games.
And St. Louis will enter 2013 with a very similar look and a chip on their shoulder. Outside of Lance Berkman, Skip Schumaker and possibly Kyle Lohse—who is still a free agent—the Cardinals’ roster is nearly identical to the one that was on the field in October.
There also aren’t a lot of places where St. Louis is weak. The lineup is extremely dangerous, the starting rotation is very good and the bullpen is great.
Starting with the lineup, the Cardinals are in the driver’s seat. From top to bottom, each batter knows how to get on base and drive in runs. Rafael Furcal should be ready to go for the start of the season, but Pete Kozma will be waiting to see, just in case.
Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran are a scary 3-4 punch that can erupt at any moment while Allen Craig, Yadier Molina and David Freese hitting around them is more than sufficient. Daniel Descalso is arguably the least threatening, but he still gets the job done when he needs to.
There’s still time to add Lohse back to the rotation, but do they really need him? It could be argued that St. Louis would benefit from signing him to a long-term deal since some of the starters are aging quickly, but in 2013, they could do without him.
Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter still headline the rotation and with Jamie Garcia, Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn to follow, the Cardinals are in great shape.
The bullpen stayed intact this offseason, but St. Louis did add another impact left-hander in Randy Choate. There isn’t one weak link in the bullpen that’s anchored by Jason Motte.
Overcoming the Cincinnati Reds in 2013 is going to be difficult, but the Cardinals are absolutely more than capable of doing that. If they can stay healthy, they have a great shot at a World Series.
7. Cincinnati Reds
Speaking of the Reds, here they are. Cincinnati is going to be very, very good in 2013. They had a great team last season and have only improved since.
Cincinnati’s 2012 World Series hopes were destroyed by the eventual champions, the San Francisco Giants, but there’s no doubt that the Reds will be back in October this upcoming season. They’re much too talented to miss out and a lot of things would have to go wrong.
Despite having financial issues, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes how the Reds still had a good offseason:
The Reds went into this offseason with a pretty ambitious shopping list. They needed to add a middle-of-the-order bat, a leadoff man, a closer and a couple of bench players. The tricky part was that they had virtually no money to work with. But the club was able to re-sign Ryan Ludwick, trade for Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald, re-sign Jonathan Broxton and sign Jack Hannahan.
That’s certainly a lot of talent coming to—or staying in—Cincinnati for a team that didn’t have a lot of money going into the offseason.
Each of those moves will prove to be important heading into next season as well. Ludwick, is one of the Reds’ biggest bats in the heart of the order who has the job of protecting Joey Votto. With Jay Bruce hitting behind him, Ludwick also has a great chance at scoring each time he gets on base.
Choo is now the hitter the Reds needed to hit leadoff and will also play center field in the absence of Drew Stubbs. Although Choo isn’t a true center fielder, the Reds will try him out and see what happens. Worst comes to worst, Bruce and Choo will switch spots.
Hannahan and Donald are both great bench options, but re-signing Broxton may be the most impactful move all season long.
If Reds weren’t able to bring him back, Cincinnati wouldn’t be able to move Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation full-time. Sure, they still could have gone out to sign another late-game arm, but re-signing one of their own who they knew they could rely on was essential.
Now Chapman is the backend to a dangerous starting rotation. Despite being a little right-hand heavy, the Reds have the guys in the rotation that they need to win games—and each starter is more than capable of winning 15.
Are the Reds the favorites to win the National League Central? You bet, but they aren’t World Series champions just yet.
6. Detroit Tigers
The thing about the Tigers is that they could win the World Series just through their starting pitching. But if that wasn’t enough, they still have a near unstoppable offense as well, making them seriously contenders.
Detroit didn’t have to bring Anibal Sanchez back this offseason, but it wanted to and now the Tigers now have arguably the top rotation in the American League—and possibly baseball. Justin Verlander could win the Cy Young Award each season. Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello each have the ability to do something special each time they step on the rubber.
The Tigers bullpen will look just a little different going into 2013 since Jose Valverde with no longer be closing. Instead, it looks as if Bruce Rondon will take the ball in the ninth for Detroit, that is unless the club decides to sign someone like Rafael Soriano. But the rest of the bullpen is in good shape with guys like Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit in it.
The Detroit lineup has a decent power hitter in the heart of it. Just kidding, of course. Detroit has the best hitter in baseball in the heart of its lineup in Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera won the American League MVP and Triple Crown last year, finishing the season leading the league in hitting, home runs and RBI. Doing that alone speaks for itself.
But Cabrera will also have some more help in the upcoming campaign. The Tigers went out and signed Torii Hunter to man the outfield instead of Delmon Young, and Victor Martinez will also return as a healthy catcher and designated hitter. And there’s also the beast that’s Prince Fielder hitting behind Cabrera who could easily win the AL MVP too.
The Tigers have an elite pitching staff and a dangerous offense. Do you know what that means? That means that it’s going to be extremely difficult to knock them out of the postseason, just as we all saw in 2012. It’s going to take a perfect team to get the Tigers out.
Detroit will cruise to another American League Central crown? Yep. Winning the pennant in 2013 won’t be as easy as last season though.
5. Los Angeles Angels
Sorry, but does any other team in baseball have a better lineup than the Angels now do? I think not and that’s going to be the reason they contend for a World Series in 2013.
The last three seasons for Los Angeles have ended in disappointment, missing the postseason each time. But as we look toward next season, is it even possible to not be playing baseball in October?
Let’s start with the pitching staff and get to the beast of an offense later. Los Angeles has lost Zack Greinke to free agency, but that’s perfectly fine. Jered Weaver is an American League Cy Young Award candidate each season and C.J. Wilson is more than capable do win the coveted award as well.
The Angels traded for two starters to boost their rotation this winter, Tommy Hanson from the Atlanta Braves and Jason Vargas from the Seattle Mariners. They also added Joe Blanton via free agency. That might not be the best rotation in the AL, but it’s certainly up there.
The bullpen is also one of the league’s best. With Ryan Madson now closing and Ernesto Frieri as the main setup man, can opponents really make late-game comebacks? Just in case one opponent tries, Los Angeles signed free-agent left-hander Sean Burnett to handle that situation. The Angels also still have Kevin Jepsen, Scott Downs and David Carpenter to lend a hand when needed.
Now, to the offense.
There is no better offensive trio in baseball than Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and the prize of the offseason, Josh Hamilton. There just isn’t. They’re the best. There’s a chance that they all finish in the top five of the AL MVP Award vote next fall. That may be hard to picture since spring training hasn’t even started yet, but it’s certainly doable.
Those not named Trout, Pujols or Hamilton in the Angels’ lineup aren’t too shabby either. Los Angeles got rid of Kendrys Morales since there wasn’t much of a spot for him anymore after the Hamilton signing, but there’s still Mark Trumbo, there’s still Howie Kendrick and there’s still Erick Aybar. There are minor, if any, weaknesses to Los Angeles’ batting order.
The Angels will have plenty of competition in the American League West from the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics, but they should be able to handle it. Los Angeles will most likely cruise to the ALCS, where they may run into some trouble. But overall, they have a fantastic chance at winning it all in 2013.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
As of now, the Dodgers pretty much have an All-Star team. Seriously, at least 10 players currently on Los Angeles’ roster could end up playing in New York in July for the chance to lock up home-field advantage in the World Series.
It all started late last season when Los Angeles decided it would be worth it to take on some payroll in order to acquire a few stars. The Boston Red Sox dealt Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto the Dodgers for not much, outside of a couple of good prospects.
Gonzalez is a great addition to the Dodgers’ lineup and when healthy, Crawford could be one of the game’s best. Beckett is a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy and Punto isn’t a bad bench option.
But by adding those guys to the players Los Angeles already had—and acquired this offseason—that’s why they’re the fourth-best team in baseball.
Matt Kemp is the centerpiece of the lineup. He’s arguably the most feared hitter in the National League and will end up having Crawford and Gonzalez hitting around him, which should make him even better. Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier are both great hitters who will end up shifting down lower in the lineup, but still continue to put up big numbers.
The offense will put plenty of runs up on the scoreboard and the starting rotation will definitely keep the opposition from doing so. Clayton Kershaw is an ace and the Dodgers went out during the offseason and got themselves another one: Zack Greinke.
Los Angeles also thought it would be a good idea to test the international waters and land Hyun-Jin Ryu. With those three, Beckett and Aaron Harang, I don’t see the rotation giving up many runs this season.
Brandon League should be able to hang on to any lead the rotation gives him while Kenley Jansen, J.P. Howell and Ronald Belisario will also be in the bullpen helping out.
If the Dodgers live up to their potential, they could easily win the World Series. They have the talent, they just have to perform. A great team on paper doesn’t necessarily always translate to a great team on the field. For now, I’m deeming them the fourth-best in baseball with the opportunity to prove me wrong.
3. Toronto Blue Jays
Let’s now move on to the most improved team in baseball: the Toronto Blue Jays. No one thought that the Blue Jays would make much noise this offseason. They’d make the moves they make each offseason, but nothing out of the ordinary. Wrong.
Toronto went all-in this offseason, acquiring as much talent as possible to win the 2013 World Series.
First, let’s talk about how they traded for one of the best pitchers in baseball. The New York Mets had a dilemma with R.A. Dickey and instead of extending him, they wanted to trade him. Toronto stepped up to the plate and gave New York the prospects they wanted to get the deal done. Now, the Blue Jays have a veteran knuckleballer who just won the National League Cy Young Award atop their rotation.
A minor addition to the lineup before the Dickey deal went down was formerly suspended outfielder Melky Cabrera. Cabrera sat out 50 games for the San Francisco Giants last season after a tremendous start to the year. He even won the All-Star Game MVP Award. Now, he’ll play left field and hit toward the top of Toronto’s lineup.
And then there’s the trade that really shook things up around the major leagues. The Miami Marlins sent half of their team to Toronto in exchange for players of primary lesser value. Miami dumped all of its salary and Toronto was willing to pick it all up.
The Blue Jays acquired Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle from Miami. Those are two starting infielders will All-Star potential and starting pitchers in the middle of the rotation. That’s progress if I’ve ever seen it.
Toronto already had a lethal combination in the heart of its lineup with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus, and now can add Reyes and Cabrera to that mix. The Blue Jays also now have a great rotation, top to bottom. There’s basically an ace or former ace in each slot which will make series extremely difficult to win for opponents, especially in the American League East.
Toronto doesn’t have the postseason experience that many of the other talented teams in the American League do, but now, on paper, the Blue Jays have the best chance at winning the pennant. Will they be able to top the best team in the National League, though? I’m not so sure.
2. San Francisco Giants
Who better to win the World Series than the reigning champions themselves? Well, as of now, they’re the second-best team in the league behind the club on the next slide. But the Giants do make a compelling case.
Not many have been able to solve the puzzle that is the San Francisco Giants. Winning two World Series titles in three seasons is extremely difficult to do, but they’ve done it. I think a third title in four years will be even more difficult.
The starting rotation for San Francisco has a lot of talent, but as ESPN’s Buster Olney writes, there are a few questions surrounding it:
Rival scouts though Matt Cain showed signs of wear and tear by the end of the postseason, and wondered if he was pitching through fatigue. Madison Bumgarner completely lost his delivery in parts of the postseason, and Tim Lincecum struggled enough to lose his spot in the rotation in the playoffs. But you figure between that trio and Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito, the Giants’ rotation will be one the best, again.
I think that the Giants will be fine regarding the rotation, but a lot of their success depends on how Lincecum rebounds from a tough year. This is a guy who back-to-back National League Cy Young Awards and then just completely flopped this season. If the Giants are going to repeat, they need a good year from The Freak.
The players who tossed out of the bullpen during last season will look the same, and despite not pitching in 2012, Brian Wilson probably won’t be back with the Giants. Sergio Romo proved during the postseason that he’s a viable closer and the Giants are one of the best at situational pitching.
San Francisco’s lineup is above-average, but not one of the league’s best. Sure, Angel Pagan, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval are each great reliable hitters, but that’s only half of the lineup. Marco Scutaro came out of nowhere last season and Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Gregor Blanco are all inconsistent.
If the bottom three in the order can hit like the rest of the lineup does, the Giants will be unstoppable. I’m just not so sure that they’ll be able to pick up the slack.
The Giants now have more competition in the National League West with the revamped Los Angeles Dodgers, but I still believe San Francisco has the stronger team. Unfortunately, I can’t foresee the Giants even appearing in the World Series in 2013 because of how good the next team is.
1. Washington Nationals
Surprised? The Washington Nationals are the team to beat in 2013. They finished the 2012 regular season with the league’s best record and were shocked during the postseason. They have just as much talent as any other team and in 2013 they will show why they’re the best team in the Major League Baseball.
The Nationals have the best starting rotation in the National League—I’m still going with the Detroit Tigers as having the best in baseball. Stephen Strasburg will likely not be under an innings cap this season and if Gio Gonzalez is a leader like he was last year, there are two Cy Young Award candidates right there.
And after the two aces, there isn’t much of a drop off for the next three starters. Jordan Zimmerman and Dan Haren are proven winners and Ross Detwiler could end up winning 12 to 15 games. This is a starting rotation that could end up winning more than 80 games alone next season—Strasburg (19), Gonzalez (19), Zimmerman (16), Haren (15) and Detwiler (14).
The Washington bullpen has also been proven to be very good. Drew Storen is a sturdy closer who is reliable late in games and those in front of him don’t tend to give up many runs. Tyler Clippard is one of the top setup men in baseball and once he gets the ball, the batter can pretty much forget about getting on base or driving in a run.
Washington hasn’t been able to re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche who had an incredible season in 2012, but they might be fine without him, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney:
Regardless of whether Adam LaRoche re-signs or if Mike Morse winds up playing a lot of first base, Washington with have a complete lineup, with on-base percentage (Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper), power (Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa), balance (possibly three left-handed batters and one switch-hitter in the everyday lineup) and speed (Denard Span, Harper, Desmond, Werth).
This is the most complete and balanced teams that you will find. I recently wrote about why the Nationals will be unstoppable next season and if you think about it, they really will be. Does any other team have as much talent as they do?
Last season the Nationals failed to meet postseason expectations. They were sent home earlier than they wanted and now have something to prove in 2013.
The Washington Nationals will end up being the 2013 World Series champions.