Last year was a crazy season in the American League. The Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics shocked everyone by making the playoffs. The kings of the prior offseason, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, missed the postseason.
Up was down, left was right, white was black. It was madness, I tell you, madness!
Will things return to normal in 2013? Probably not. With a slew of teams making big splashes in free agency and several young teams looking to hit their primes this season, we could once again see a season of upheaval. And at least one perennial postseason team will be home in October this year.
But which team? Will offseason kings be crowned, or will they suffer the same fate as the Angels of last year? The answers to these questions and more shall be revealed below.
AL East: Toronto Blue Jays
After adding Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Melky Cabrera this offseason, the Blue Jays are absolutely stacked.
This team already had some pop, with Jose Bautista raking before he got hurt and Edwin Encarnacion having a career year. And adding the three starting pitchers listed above to a staff already boasting Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow arguably gives the Blue Jays the strongest starting pitching in baseball.
This is the year for the Blue Jays to make their move. The New York Yankees are old, the Boston Red Sox are a mess, the Baltimore Orioles can't possibly replicate their magic from a year ago and the Tampa Bay Rays are always a threat but are not as talented, at least on paper, as Toronto.
I'm expecting big things from the Blue Jays this year.
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
We know with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder anchoring the lineup, this team will hit. Plus, Victor Martinez will return after missing all of 2012, a huge addition to a team that made the World Series. And Torii Hunter was a savvy free-agent signing.
Yes, this team will definitely hit.
The question is going to be the starting staff behind Justin Verlander and the closer role, where unproven Bruce Rondon will try to replace the departed Jose Valverde.
But outside of the Cleveland Indians, it's hard to see any team challenging the Tigers in this division.
AL West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
With one signing, the Angels dramatically improved while the team's division rival, the Texas Rangers, were weakened.
I'm talking, of course, about the addition of Josh Hamilton, who alongside Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Marc Trumbo will give the Angels one of the most feared lineups in all of baseball.
The Angels aren't without question marks, of course. Jered Weaver is an absolute stud and C.J. Wilson is an excellent second option in the rotation, but will Tommy Hansen, Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas be able to replace Zack Greinke, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren?
Will Ryan Madson be able to recover from missing the 2012 season and be a steady closer for the team?
The Angels are going to score a lot of runs, but they'll probably give up quite a few, too. They'll be fun to watch, and I'm guessing they'll hit enough to steal this division.
Wild Cards: Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians
On one hand, I have my concerns with the Rangers this year. It's hard not to after the team lost Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, Mike Adams (so many Mikes!) and Koji Uehara.
On the other hand, Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski were nice if hardly sexy signings, Joakim Soria and Joe Nathan should hold down the eighth and ninth innings, the rotation is solid and the core of the lineup—Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz—is still dangerous.
Don't count out the Rangers just yet.
The second slot was far more difficult for me to choose, though I ended up giving the Cleveland Indians the smallest of all margins over the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays (sorry, Yankees' fans, but this will be a down year. They'll be this year's version of 2012's Philadelphia Phillies).
While I love Oakland's young pitching and the bats of Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick, the Indians have such a nasty lineup, highlighted by burgeoning star Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds.
And if Drew Stubbs plays up to his potential, look out.
Yes, there are questions about the staff and bullpen. But with that lineup and Terry Francona taking over the reins, I'm predicting big things for the Indians in 2013.