Silver Chips Online

2013 MLB Preview

Rankings and analysis of all 30 teams, complete with postseason predictions

By Jacob Buchholz, Online Sports Editor and Michael Gerbasi, Online Sports Editor
April 2, 2013
Opening day has arrived and that means that the NBA, the NHL and even March Madness can take a back seat as America’s pastime retakes its place at the center of our attention. For one day everybody is in first place and anybody can win the World Series. But because that will not last, we at SCO have broken down the season from start to finish, in order to give you a sneak peak at what lies ahead. There is a good chance that you will like what you are about to see.

National League

If all goes as planned, this time the Nationals will be celebrating more than just an NLDS walk off. Courtesy of AP
If all goes as planned, this time the Nationals will be celebrating more than just an NLDS walk off.
East Division

1. Washington Nationals
2012: 98-64, first in NL East, lost in NLDS
For the first time in their brief history, the Nationals come into the season with high expectations. A preseason World Series favorite, the defending NL East champions have arguably the best all around team in baseball, void of noticeable flaws. The offense is powered by a Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche 3-4-5, with newly acquired centerfielder and leadoff hitter Denard Span to set the table. The Nats also return Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler from the league’s best rotation. Top to bottom, the Nationals look like a contender and in the words of Manager Davey Johnson it is “World Series or bust.”

2. Atlanta Braves
2012: 94-68, second in NL East, lost in NL Wild Card Game
While the Nationals are the division favorites, there is no doubt that the Braves will be just as competitive. Through two separate offseason acquisitions the Braves brought together brothers Justin and BJ Upton to form a high-speed, power heavy outfield, along with Jason Heyward. All three outfielders will hover around the 30-30 home runs and stolen bases mark, as well as provide great defense. The Braves pitching should not be an issue either as they return closer Craig Kimbrel and starter Kris Medlen will be ready to go from opening day. If the Uptons can coexist productively in Atlanta, the Braves will be vying for more than just a division crown.

3. Philadelphia Phillies
2012: 81-81, third in NL East, did not make playoffs
The Phillies are on their way down and try as they might, they appear unable to change course. The once vaunted pitching staff, while still among the better ones in baseball, is no longer as daunting as in previous years. Offensively, injuries continue to plague the Phillies. Ryan Howard is returning from an Achilles injury and Chase Utley has been dealing with knee issues for a while. Age will also be a factor as their opening day two through five hitters are all 33 years or older. With an injury free year, the Phillies could take a wild card spot but that is a lot to ask for and more likely than not, the Phillies will be watching from home come September.

4. New York Mets
2012: 74-88, fourth in NL East, did not make playoffs
The Mets finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2006 and while 2013 certainly won’t be the year to change that, it is not too far off. The major league team is young and the farm system is strong. The Mets can look to the future with top pitching prospects Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard as well as super-prospect, catcher Travis d’Arnaud. While Harvey will be the only one to start the season in the majors, late season call-ups are likely for all three of the others.

5. Miami Marlins
2012: 69-93, fifth in NL East, did not make playoffs
The Marlins will be awful and no one is to blame but themselves. After another house cleaning the Marlins are left with a virtual minor league team plus Giancarlo Stanton. It is going to be a long year for Stanton as he pads his stats waiting for the day that he gets his ticket out of Miami.

In any role, Chapman will be a force for the Reds. Courtesy of AP
In any role, Chapman will be a force for the Reds.
Central Division

1. Cincinnati Reds
2012: 97-65, first in NL Central, lost in NLDS
The Reds look a lot like the Nationals. With a well-rounded, deep lineup as well as an equally deep pitching staff and bullpen, the Reds are poised to contend. Coming off a 97-win season expectations are sky-high in Cincinnati and with franchise cornerstone Joey Votto at the helm, the Reds should be able to cash in. Aroldis Chapman’s progress in the bullpen will be a story to follow as the Reds, as well as the rest of the world, watch to see where the Cuban fireballer eventually ends up. Whether it is the bullpen or the rotation, the Reds will likely end up in the playoffs battling it out for a pennant or even a World Series.

2. St. Louis Cardinals
2012: 88-74, second in NL Central, lost in NLCS
The Cardinals could not be happier with the state of their team or their organization as a whole right now. At the major league level they have a young team, comprised of power hitters and pitchers. The lineup is among the best in the majors with Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig, David Freese and Yadier Molina. Holliday and Beltran are the only two position players in the starting lineup over the age of 30 and young stars Matt Carpenter and Oscar Taveras, MLB’s number 3 overall prospect, are waiting in the wings ready to take their places when need be. The rotation is above average and will only get better as top prospects Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly work their way in.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates
2012: 79-83, fourth in NL Central, did not make playoffs
The Pirates came three wins away last year from their first winning season since 1992. Unfortunately they did very little over the offseason to bolster their roster and another disappointment could be on the horizon. While Andrew McCutchen has transformed himself into an MVP candidate, finishing last season with a .327 batting average and 31 homeruns, the rest of the team lacks pedigree. If top prospect Gerrit Cole is able to pitch effectively in the big leagues and McCutchen has a repeat of last year than the Pirates might be able to end the winning drought, but they will need support from a young lineup that has yet to prove itself in the majors.

4. Milwaukee Brewers
2012: 83-79, third in NL Central, did not make playoffs
The Brewers have a top-heavy lineup featuring Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez but a big drop off after them. Their rotation is reliable but not outstanding and with John Axford closing, the bullpen is erratic and potentially a weak spot. The Brewers remain a mediocre team that has not bounced back from the loss of Prince Fielder and is unlikely to compete for a playoff spot. A .500 finish should be the goal for the Brewers as they need to start looking ahead to the future.

5. Chicago Cubs
2012: 61-101, fifth in NL Central, did not make playoffs
The Cubs are one of five teams in the majors that can say from day one that they have no chance of making the playoffs. Seventy wins would be outstanding for this Cubs team, which looks truly hopeless. On the bright side, shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo could be stars someday. On the not so bright side, all five of their starting pitchers have career ERAs over 4.00 and Carlos Marmol is still their closer.

The defending NL MVP will look to defend both his titles as the Giants fight for a World Series. Courtesy of AP
The defending NL MVP will look to defend both his titles as the Giants fight for a World Series.
West Division

1. San Francisco Giants
2012: 94-68, first in NL West, won World Series
The Giants return an almost identical team to last season’s World Series champions and they are poised for another run. The pitching staff is dominant top to bottom, and with the return of Jeremy Affeldt the bullpen should be a strong point as well. Buster Posey is coming off an MVP season and he is supported by Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt, which could be enough to lift the offense and make the Giants an all around great team and a major threat in the West.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers
2012: 86-76, second in NL West, did not make playoffs
If everything goes right, the Dodgers will be the best team in baseball but that is a huge if. While the skill level of this team is through the roof, their track record while playing together is shabby. Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez should both be in the MVP race come August and Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the NL. Add Zack Greinke, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez to the mix and you have a deadly, yet volatile roster, ripe with talent and strife. A World Series title is not out of reach for the Dodgers, but then again neither is a third place finish and a sub .500 record. It should be an interesting year in LA.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks
2012: 81-81, third in NL West, did not make playoffs
The Diamondbacks overhauled their roster this offseason coming out with an all around solid team that is not about to blow anyone away. Centerfielder Adam Eaton is a rookie of the year candidate and they have a plethora of good starting pitchers. Overall, the front office has built a team perfect for manager Kirk Gibson to make his own. The Diamondbacks will be a hard working, well-coached team but the lack of star power will leave them trailing the Giants and the Dodgers in the West.

4. San Diego Padres
2012: 76-86, fourth in NL West, did not make playoffs
For the first time in years, this Padres team may have to rely on their bats, not their gloves, to get them wins. While their rotation is among the worst in the league, their offense could be a steady producer with Chase Headley coming off a breakout season, Carlos Quentin looking to return to form and Yonder Alonso stepping into the spotlight and fulfilling his potential. That being said, it is highly unlikely they will score enough runs to make up for their woeful pitching and they are looking at another losing season in San Diego.

5. Colorado Rockies
2012: 64-98, fifth in NL West, did not make playoffs
The Rockies have Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Wilin Rosario and not much else. Incredibly, Todd Helton will start at first base in his seventeenth year in Colorado even though he hit .238 last season and Jeff Francis will return to his former home after a two year hiatus. The Rockies’ season will lack everything but sentimental value, as they find themselves sitting at the bottom of the NL West for the second year in a row.

American League

Jose Bautista finally got the support he was looking for as the Blue Jays bolstered their roster this offseason. Courtesy of AP
Jose Bautista finally got the support he was looking for as the Blue Jays bolstered their roster this offseason.
East Division

1. Toronto Blue Jays
2012: 73-89, fourth in AL East, did not make playoffs
The Blue Jays have the most talented roster in the majors along. They feature Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, R.A Dickey and Jose Bautista among others. Their lineup contains a great balance of speed and power and will be dangerous. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion each hit well over 35 homeruns last season. They spent a lot of money in the offseason and it is about to pay off. Their rotation is stacked with solid starters and their lineup has had a complete face lift. The Jays should take the AL East by storm.

2. Baltimore Orioles
2012: 93-69, second in AL East, lost in ALDS
The O's surprised a lot of people last season when they made an appearance in the postseason for the first time since 1997. This year they bring back second baseman Brian Roberts and outfielder Nick Markakis from injuries. They also resigned outfielder Nate McLouth and their young core players like Manny Machado, will have more experience under their belts. Not to mention a guy named Dylan Bundy who can hit triple digits on his fastball. At this point, the Orioles can only get better from last season. It was no fluke.

3. Tampa Bay Rays
2012: 90-72, third in AL East, did not make playoffs
No doubt the Rays have the best pitching staff in the business. Tampa Bay has plenty of good young arms like Matt Moore and Alex Cobb to back up Cy Young winner David Price. The only question mark for them is the production of their offense. Having Evan Longoria healthy for an entire season could put the Rays into contention.

4. New York Yankees
2012: 95-67, first in AL East, lost in ALCS
The Yankees have been hurt big time by the injury bug. Their season is going to be far from a typical Yankees year. The starting rotation is in question after CC Sabathia and the offense has lost a lot of their firepower to injury and age. After Sabathia they have Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova neither of whom has proven himself. Regarding hitting, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez (out indefinitely), Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira all fit into the category of old or injured or both and the addition of Kevin Youkilis will not be enough to fill the void. The bullpen could also be an issue for New York, all riding the question if Mariano Rivera can come back to his old self after ACL surgery. This year’s New York Yankees are not the Yankees we have become accustomed to. They will have to make some major mid-season acquisitions if they want to compete.

5. Boston Red Sox
2012: 69-93, last in AL East, did not make playoffs
The Boston offense is going to be very mediocre. The loss of Adrian Gonzalez in the blockbuster trade last season marked the decline of the Red Sox offense. Since that trade their runs per game and team batting average dropped significantly. This year should be not much different. They do have Jacoby Ellsbury who was great last season but he is not the player yet that can carry an offense by himself. For much of the pitching staff last year was a large down year. Guys like Jon Lester and John Lackey had very subpar years, and they are being asked to get back into shape and perform like they did two or three years ago. Overall, I don’t think expectations should be too high for the Boston pitching staff. They will have a year of poor play much like that they experienced at the end of last season.

Central Division

Cabrera won the triple crown and the MVP, now he wants a ring. Courtesy of AP
Cabrera won the triple crown and the MVP, now he wants a ring.
1. Detroit Tigers
2012: 88-74, first in AL Central, lost in World Series
The Tigers basically return their whole team from their deep playoff run last year and there is no reason that they shouldn't take the AL Central again. They have that same 1-2 punch of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. They also add Victor Martinez who was injured for all of last season. Of course for their pitching staff Detroit retains Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer, their three best arms from last season. Expect the Tigers to dominate the Central.

2. Kansas City Royals
2012: 72-90, third in AL Central, did not make playoffs
Look for the Royals to contend for a playoff spot this upcoming season. Eric Hosmer should have a better season coming off his sophomore slump. Also, the Royals have a lot of promising bats in the lineup including the always reliable Billy Butler. Pitching was the downfall of this team last year but the addition of former Tampa Bay Ray James Shields should improve the staff significantly.

3. Chicago White Sox
2012: 85-77, second in AL Central, did not make playoffs
Chicago could drop off a little this season. Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Paul Konerko, Chicago's main sources of offense last year, are aging. The pitching staff still should be solid with the emergence of Chris Sale and the resurgence of Jake Peavy. They will still likely be over the .500 mark.

4. Cleveland Indians
2012: 68-94, fourth in AL Central, did not make playoffs
The Indians of this year are completely different from the Indians of last year. They added big bat Nick Swisher, outfielder Drew Stubbs and accomplished manager Terry Francona to name a few. They certainly have a lot of talent but my concern is that they will not mesh as a team well enough. They might not be contenders this year, but next year could be a different story.

5. Minnesota Twins
2012: 66-96, last in AL Central, did not make playoffs
The Twins have arguably the best catcher in the game in Joe Mauer. The problem is they really only have Joe Mauer. Justin Morneau has had a couple down seasons now and Josh Willingham can drive in runs but hits for a pretty low average. Mauer alone cannot do it all especially when their pitching is as shaky as it is. Expect another off year for Minnesota.

The stars are aligned for the Angels as they hope to make a playoff run. Courtesy of USA Today
The stars are aligned for the Angels as they hope to make a playoff run.
West Division

1. Los Angeles Angels
2012: 89-73, third in AL West, did not make playoffs
All the Angels did during the offseason was build up their lineup. They now have a potential middle of the lineup of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Their offense was deadly last season, but will be one of the best in the majors this time around. Also with Jered Weaver back again, one of the best starters in the business, the Angels are poised for a run.

2. Oakland Athletics
2012: 94-68, first in AL West, lost in ALDS
The A's were perhaps the biggest surprise last year. They won't be as much of a surprise this year. They have their whole core of pitchers back from last year that posted one of the best team ERA's in the league. In addition, Yoenis Cespedes has another year under his belt and will likely improve on his impressive rookie showing. The X-factor is Josh Reddick. If these two can anchor the Oakland offense, they will have another solid season.

3. Seattle Mariners
2012: 75-87, last in AL West, did not make playoffs
The addition of Michael Morse over the offseason will greatly aid this struggling offense of last year. In terms of pitching, Seattle has a dominant ace in Felix Hernandez. He will likely have another good season and hold down the pitching staff. If Morse can have another productive season and a couple other bats can come alive for Seattle like Michael Saunders, the Mariners could surprise and maybe contend for the postseason.

4. Texas Rangers
2012: 93-69, second in AL West, lost in AL Wild Card Game
The Rangers will be greatly hurt by the loss of Josh Hamilton. They still have some good bats in Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler, but are now forced to start a lot of inexperienced young guys. Their offense will not have the same punch. Their pitching staff will be very mediocre similarly to last year and Texas will not have enough gas to drive into the postseason.

5. Houston Astros
2012: 55-107, last in NL Central, did not make playoffs
The Astros are nowhere close to competing for a playoff spot. Frankly, the Astros will be the worst team in the MLB once again. Especially with the loss of J.A. Happ they will not be a threat to contend.

Can Bryce Harper live up to the hype? Courtesy of Washington Post
Can Bryce Harper live up to the hype?
Playoffs

National League
(x) division leader
1. Washington Nationals (x)
2. Cincinnati Reds (x)
3. San Francisco Giants (x)
4. Atlanta Braves
5. St. Louis Cardinals

American League
(x) division leader
1. Los Angeles Angels (x)
2. Detroit Tigers (x)
3. Toronto Blue Jays (x)
4. Oakland Athletics
5. Baltimore Orioles

NL Wild Card Game
Atlanta Braves vs. St. Louis Cardinals

AL Wild Card Game
Baltimore Orioles vs. Oakland Athletics

NLDS
Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves

Cincinnati Reds vs. San Francisco Giants

ALDS
Baltimore Orioles vs. Los Angeles Angels

Detroit Tigers vs. Toronto Blue Jays

NLCS
Washington Nationals vs. Cincinnati Reds

ALCS
Los Angeles Angels vs. Toronto Blue Jays

2013 World Series
Los Angeles Angels vs. Washington Nationals
Mike Trout and Bryce Harper battle it out on baseball’s biggest stage.

World Series Champions: Washington Nationals
This is not playing favorites. The Nationals truly are the best team in baseball and after this season they will have a ring to prove it. They tasted success for the first time last year and now it is time for Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and co. to show the world what they can do.

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