MLB: 5 Dark Horse MLB Teams to Keep an Eye on in 2013
With MLB players starting to report to spring training, fans can smell baseball in the air and John Fogerty's "Centerfield" playing in their ear. It's exciting to hear that baseball is back and less than two months away from Opening Day.
Big offseason moves helped some teams and shook up other teams. There were also other teams that didn’t make any major offseason transactions. We will see if that is going to end up hurting these teams in the long run.
However, there are some teams that under-performed last year, but should have a breakout season this year. Also, major offseason moves put some of these teams in position to win their division and possibly make a run in the playoffs.
Here are five dark horse MLB teams to watch out for in the upcoming season:
1. Toronto Blue Jays
R.A. Dickey hopes to make his mark this season on the Blue Jays
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Last year, the Toronto Blue Jays finished in fourth place in the AL East with a 73-89 record. They were not even close to making the playoffs and haven't been in the conversation since the early 1990's. But, this year things will be different because of the players added in the offseason.
The Jays clearly had one of the best offseason’s of any MLB team. They acquired four-time All-Star Jose Reyes, four-time All-Star Mark Buehrle and two-time All-Star Josh Johnson from the Miami Marlins. All of these players should help out the Blue Jays immediately.
Finally, the biggest addition for Toronto was trading for NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. Dickey had an unreal season last year because he was practically unhittable with his knuckleball. If Dickey can continue to pitch the way he did last year, then the Jays should be in good position to make a deep run in the playoffs.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates
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The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't had recent success, but their future looks bright. The last time the team made it to the playoffs was in 1992, when outfielder Andrew McCutchen was six years old.
McCutchen is hoping to be the player to change the bad luck. Last season, McCutchen showed the country how good of player he really is. He won NL Most Outstanding Player, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger.
The Pirates made offseason moves to help their chances of making it back to the playoffs. They traded closer Joel Hanrahan to the Boston Red Sox for relief pitcher Mark Melancon, infielder Ivan DeJesus and outfielder Jerry Sands.
Also, the Pirates signed catcher Russell Martin and starting pitcher Francisco Liriano. Liriano might be a risk because of his recent injury, but the Pirates are hoping he can have the success he had in 2006.
The NL Central has some major depth and the Pirates could be in the thick of things, as long as they don't have last years finish.
3. Kansas City Royals
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It's been over 20 years since the Kansas City Royals made the postseason, but this might be year to do it. Last year, the Royals finished in third place in the AL Central, which was their best finish since 2003.
Billy Butler has been one of their shining lights on offense. Last year, Butler led the Royals in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. He won the Silver Slugger Award and earned a spot on the All-Star team.
However, the Royals had problems making the playoffs because of their starting pitching. The good news is that the organization made some offseason moves to bolster their rotation. The Royals acquired James Shields and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Finally, the Royals traded for Ervin Santana and resigned pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. These four pitchers will really help out the pitching rotation right away and could make them a dark horse in the American League.
4. Philadelphia Phillies
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The Philadelphia Phillies haven't had many bad seasons under manager Charlie Manuel, but last season they finished third in the NL East with a .500 winning percentage. The roster is loaded with talent and the Phillies added more depth this offseason.
The Phils traded two players to the Minnesota Twins for Ben Revere. Revere is a quick outfielder that will add hitting to the lineup. Then, they traded reliever Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla to the Texas Rangers for Michael Young. Young's addition gives the Phillies one of the best infield's in baseball.
Also, the Phillies signed pitchers John Lannan and Mike Adams, as well as outfielder Delmon Young.
The Phillies made some very good offseason moves, which should help them compete with the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves at the top of the division.
5. Cleveland Indians
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The Cleveland Indians are another AL Central team that could be a dark horse this year. They had a really poor 2012 campaign, but offseason transactions have made them possible contenders in the American League. First, replacing manager Manny Acta with Terry Francona is going to make a major difference.
Next, the addition of talent from offseason moves will help right away. The Indians signed Mark Reynolds to a one-year contract and Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56 million deal.
Then, the Indians traded away Shin-Soo Choo and received young, up-and-coming pitcher Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw in return.
Finally, the Tribe recently signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a four-year, $48 million contract.
All of these moves should really help out the Indians and give them a shot at being one of the top teams in the American League.