With the first pitch of the 2013 regular season just 19 days away, there will surely be plenty of journalists making picks and prognostications for teams and players.
In the American League, the Angels and Blue Jays have become trendy picks with the addition of Josh Hamilton in LA and Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, among others, in Toronto. I'm not convinced either team will have the success they are hoping for.
In the National League, the Dodgers have eclipsed the Yankees as baseball's highest-spending team but I don't necessarily see their high payroll correlating to a high win total. On the opposite coast, I see a team from the NL East winning the most games in a season since the 2001 Mariners won 116.
Instead of giving insight for each of the 30 MLB teams, here are my bold predictions for five teams whose records may not be what many expect.
Prediction: 84-78 (third place, AL Central)
The Royals haven't been above .500 for a season since 2003 but I think they'll get over that plateau this year.
The Wil Myers-for-James Shields trade gave the Royals an excellent starting pitcher, the likes of which they haven't seen since they lost Zack Greinke. They also acquired Wade Davis, who is one of baseball's better young starting pitchers, in the deal.
If Ervin Santana, acquired from the Angels over the winter, can regain his form after a rough 2012, the Royals will have a very good starting rotation with Shields, Davis, Santana and Jeremy Guthrie.
They're all in line to have a pretty good offense. Eric Hosmer has hit well so far in spring training and I think he will have a breakout season. Having Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas and Billy Butler, the Royals' lineup will score some runs.
The Royals aren't yet in the same class as the Tigers but they're a good team and will only get better as their younger players develop.
Prediction: 89-73 (second place, AL West)
The Angels won 89 games in 2012. With the additions of Josh Hamilton, Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton and Ryan Madson over the winter many are expecting them to win more in 2013. I don't.
The star power they have in their lineup is undeniable. Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout represent perhaps the best trio of hitters in the league, and the rest of their offense is solid. But I have major concerns about their pitching.
Consider their rotation: Jered Weaver is a legitimate ace but missed time in 2012 with injury and has seen a decrease in the velocity of his fastball the last couple of years, which makes me wonder if he'll be the same pitcher in 2013.
Jason Vargas, acquired from the Mariners, has been an average starter in one of the best stadiums for starting pitchers. In fact, Vargas has a career 3.49 ERA at Safeco Field and 5.23 at all other parks. What will his numbers look like when he's not pitching half of his games in Seattle?
At age 26, Tommy Hanson has great potential but has only made more than 30 starts once in his four seasons in the majors. Joe Blanton is an average starter at best and will be the Angels' fifth starter.
If anyone gets hurt, which is probable over the course of 162 games with a couple of injury-prone starters, the team's starting pitching depth is poor and a subpar option would have to start games against good offenses like the Rangers and Athletics.
The Angels are going to score runs, but I don't think they have the pitching talent or depth to stay in the race with the Rangers. I still think they'll finish ahead of the Athletics and with a chance to play in the AL Wild Card playoff, but I don't believe the addition of Josh Hamilton puts them over the top in a strong division.
Prediction: 84-78 (tied-second place, NL West)
The Dodgers are the new Yankees of baseball, becoming the first team to hold the highest payroll other than the Bronx Bombers in years. But it won't work out.
Both the Dodgers' lineup and rotation are top-heavy. Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier are great, but Mark Ellis, A.J. Ellis and Luis Cruz are just average players, while Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez are huge question marks.
The rotation boasts Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but any other options the Dodgers have carry considerable risks. Hyun-Jin Ryu has never pitched in the majors; Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett and Ted Lilly carry injury risks; and Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang are veterans whose potential are uncertain. Meanwhile the bullpen is filled with question marks.
It's possible things will click for the Dodgers and they'll bring glory back to Los Angeles baseball. More likely, I think, is that they disappoint and finish behind last year's world champion San Francisco Giants and tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Prediction: 84-78 (fourth place, AL East)
The Blue Jays were the biggest story of the winter, making several major acquisitions in an attempt to take over the AL East with the Yankees and Red Sox likely to have down years. There's no question the team will improve upon last year's 73-89 disappointment but I still see them finishing in fourth place in a crowded AL East, ahead of only the Red Sox.
The two main offensive additions are Melky Cabrera and Jose Reyes. Cabrera has major questions surrounding him (and has the potential to derail a team with off-field distractions) due to his PED suspension last year and I would be surprised if Reyes can make it through a full season on a turf field injury-free.
While the rotation is revamped with R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson crossing the border, none of the three is guaranteed success. Dickey is the reigning NL Cy Young winner, but he is 38 years old and is moving to a much more difficult division than the NL East. It's also worth pointing out that while knuckleballers traditionally can pitch well later in their careers, Dickey is not a traditional knuckleballer. His pitch is thrown much harder than normal and his velocity may not stay the same with age.
Buehrle is a good pitcher, but he has a career 3.82 ERA and is now entering the AL East for the first time.
Johnson is a stud but has only once thrown more than 200 innings in a season. His health is a major question mark.
There's no doubt that the Blue Jays are an above-average team but I still see the Orioles, Rays and Yankees finishing ahead of them in 2013.
Prediction: 107-55 (first place, NL East)
Winning more than 100 games in baseball is difficult, even with the best teams. The Mariners tied a major league record by winning 116 games in 2001, but since then the most a team has won in a season is 105 (the 2004 Cardinals). The Nationals will eclipse that in 2013.
Coming off a 98-64 season, Mike Rizzo added to a star-studded roster by trading for Denard Span from Minnesota to play center field, signing Dan Haren to start and signing Rafael Soriano to close.
Those additions, combined with full seasons from phenoms Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, will add to their already impressive 2012 win total.
They also have the advantage of playing almost 40 games against the Mets and Marlins, who are likely to be bottom-feeders in the NL East.
Many are picking the Nationals this year but not all are picking the Nats to win as many as 107 games. Even for excellent teams, which most agree the Nats are, winning that many games takes both extraordinary talent and staying healthy. I think they will.