Spring Training baseball kicked off on Friday, so here we are. The football season is now in the rearview mirror as we prepare for a spring filled with sunny days (at least here in California) and the awesome sound of the crack of the bat.
Not only does the start of the baseball season completely turn the page from the previous year, in this case 2012, it gives everyone renewed optimism. Nearly gone are the ice-filled days, cloud covered mornings and bitter-cold nights. Instead, they are replaced with the smell of green grass, leather baseball gloves and ladies in more desirable attire than the winter.
Before you know it, we will be prepping for opening day. Not too far off are the long summer days, festivals in small towns, fireworks at fairs across the nation and the most romantic national holiday of them all, The Fourth of July.
Yes, this is America's pastime.
With that, I am going to give you our first predictions for the 2013 MLB season. Other eDraft writers, including my eDraft Sports Radio co-host Nick Slegel, will follow up with their own predictions in the lead up to April.
So, here goes.
Current eDraft Power Rankings
| Rank || Team |
| 1 || San Francisco Giants |
| 2 || Detroit Tigers |
| 3 || Washington Nationals |
| 4 || Cincinnati Reds |
| 5 || Toronto Blue Jays |
| 6 || Oakland Athletics |
| 7 || Los Angeles Angels |
| 8 || Atlanta Braves |
| 9 || Los Angeles Dodgers |
| 10 || Tampa Bay Rays |
| 11 || St. Louis Cardinals |
| 12 || Baltimore Orioles |
| 13 || New York Yankees |
| 14 || Philadelphia Phillies |
| 15 || Texas Rangers |
| 16 || Milwaukee Brewers |
| 17 || Pittsburgh Pirates |
| 18 || Arizona Diamondbacks |
| 19 || Boston Red Sox |
| 20 || Seattle Mariners |
| 21 || Chicago White Sox |
| 22 || Kansas City Royals |
| 23 || Cleveland Indians |
| 24 || New York Mets |
| 25 || San Diego Padres |
| 26 || Colorado Rockies |
| 27 || Minnesota Twins |
| 28 || Chicago Cubs |
| 29 || Miami Marlins |
| 30 || Houston Astros |
* Note: These are the rankings as of the opening of spring training. They are not how I view the season will go by the time October rolls around. Remember, some teams have higher ceilings (Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays) than others (New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies).
Toronto Blue Jays: Interestingly enough, teams that go out there and attempt to buy championships have been utter failures over the last decade or so. Yes, I am looking at the Red Sox and Yankees here. Seven of Toronto's nine projected opening-day starters are not home grown. In addition, four of its five starting pitchers aren't either. With that said, the talent level is rediculous here. The Blue Jays success will depend heavily on the ability of Josh Johnson to stay healthy and continued dominance from newly acquired R.A. Dickey.
Tampa Bay: Despite sending James Shields to the Kansas City Royals in a deal that brought them Wil Myers, among others, the Rays' pitching staff is stacked. David Price and Matt Moore headline a rotation that promises to be right up there with the best in the American League. Their success will rely heavily on being able to replace B.J. Upton in an ever-changing lineup. That being said, I do like Desmond Jennings and Yunel Escobar atop said lineup.
Baltimore Orioles: Sorry, but I am not sold on the O's here. J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Chris Davis all had career years in '12. Can Baltimore expect them to duplicate the combined 87 homers we saw from them last season? In addition, Baltimore doesn't have one clear No. 1 starter in its rotation. While Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen are solid middle of the rotation players, neither are top tier starters. I do like what Baltimore is building here, but it is a step behind the Blue Jays and Rays in the AL East. In addition, a minimum of one AL West team will take home a wildcard spot. Don't expect a return trip to the playoffs for this up-and-coming team.
New York Yankees: Age and a lack of a farm system is finally starting to catch up with the Yankees Ichiro, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira are all on the down side of their careers. Meanwhile, Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis haven't been above-WAR players over the last couple seasons. This doesn't even take into account Alex Rodriguez, who was the most disappointing player in '12 and will likely miss a majority of the '13 season. New York cannot rely on its rotation to win low-scoring affairs either. Outside of CC Sabathia, there isn't much to see there. The Yankees will finish closer to last than they will to first.
Boston Red Sox: It seems that Boston was on the verge of rebuilding once it sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. Instead of following what would have been a smart path, Boston decided to spend a great deal of money on average players this offseason. Does anyone realistically believe Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew and Jonny Gomes are going to be difference makers in '13? I didn't think so. Look for Boston to cellar dwell throughout the year.
Detroit Tigers: The defending AL Champions are back and fully loaded after acquiring Torii Hunter, retaining Anibal Sanchez and having Victor Martinez return from injury. If at all possible, Detroit is better than it was at this point last year. Expect the Tigers to run away with the AL Central and contend for a second straight league championship.
Cleveland Indians: After losing 94 games last season, Cleveland made a strong effort to revamp what was a talent-stricken major-league roster in the offseason. Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds and Drew Stubbs bolster what was a bad lineup a year ago. Meanwhile, Ubaldo Jimenez will look to return to pre-2011 form in Cleveland's mediocre rotation. As it is, this team is in no way ready to compete with the Tigers for the division. It could, however, make a deep run for the final wildcard spot.
Chicago White Sox: Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko in the middle of the lineup are real wildcards here. If they are able to provide power and get on base, Chicago's offense will be set. I am a big fan of Dayan Viciedo, who should start to flourish in his second full season in the majors. In reality, the White Sox' chances of earning a postseason spot will rely heavily on a return to form and health of one Jake Peavy as well as a solid performance by now vet Gavin Floyd. Do you like their odds there? Yeah, I didn't think so.
Kansas City Royals: Debate all you want about Kansas City giving up Wil Myers this offseason, but James Shields is a true staff ace and is in the prime of his career. The additions of both Ervin Santana and Wade Davis should also help fortify what has been a weak rotation. I really want to see Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon flourish before I can come to the conclusion that Kansas City can contend for a postseason spot.
Minnesota Twins: How the mighty have fallen. Justin Morneau just can't stay healthy, while it appears that the only two viable everyday power hitters are Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham. This doesn't even take into account the fact that Minnesota has to possess one of the worst starting rotations in all of baseball. Vance Worley and Scott Diamond atop its rotation isn't going to scare anyone. Expect 95-plus losses here.
Oakland Athletics: Billy Beane has built one of the deepest teams in all of baseball. Oakland now possesses five starter-caliber outfielders just a couple seasons removed from having just one or two. In addition, the acquisitions of Jed Lowrie and Hiroyuki Nakajima fortifies an infield that has to now be considered a strength. Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick should also be good for 30-plus homers in '13. Of course, Oakland's strength is its pitching. Brett Anderson and Jarrod Parker are both No. 1 types atop the rotation. Meanwhile, Tom Milone and A.J. Griffin will provide solid numbers a bit further down the line. As it is, Oakland is one of the favorites to capture the American League, right up there with the Detroit Tigers.
Los Angeles Angels: It simply doesn't get much better than Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton at key power positions for the Angels. In addition, Mark Trumbo continues to show why he has some of the best raw power in the entire league. The primary key here is whether No's 6-9 can actually get on base and drive in runs. If not, all that power may not matter a great deal. The same issue as it relates to depth arises in the Angels' rotation. Jered Weaver is among the top three pitchers in baseball, but what sits after him is a big question mark. Can C.J. Wilson return to '11 form? Are Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton decent options as No. 3 and No. 4 starters? If so, the Angels could take the AL West. If not, Oakland's depth will win the day. Either way, look for the Angels to earn a playoff spot in '13.
Texas Rangers: The Ron Washington-led Rangers are a step behind both the A's and Angels in the West after losing a whole bunch of key components in the offseason. I highly doubt that Lance Berkman will be able to even come close to matching the performance we saw from the recently departed Josh Hamilton. Heck, if Texas gets half of Hamilton's performance from Berkman, they'll be in good shape. It's the rotation that worries me the most here. Colby Lewis will be starting the season in the DL, while Neftali Feliz will miss the entire year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. If Texas can get more production from Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz, its lineup should be good enough to have the Rangers contend for the second wildcard spot in '13. Could we be looking at three playoff teams out of the West?
Seattle Mariners: If you look at where Seattle was just a couple seasons ago, general manager Jack Zduriencik has done an amazing job. While the Mariners are a step behind the top three teams in the division, they have a nice mix of young talent and veteran experience. Among those I am most interested to see this season are Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero, both of whom have 30-plus homer power. If they can take their game up a notch, Seattle should finish above .500. This doesn't even take into account the presence of Felix Hernandez atop its rotation. One of the primary concerns for Seattle is how its starting pitchers perform after Hernandez. That could be the Mariners real downfall in '13.
Houston Astros: There is no reason to believe that the Astros will be able to avoid losing 100-plus game in 2013. They move to one of the most difficult divisions in baseball and do so without much short-term hope. I love the trade that sent them Brad Peacock and Chris Carter from the A's in the Jed Lowrie deal. Still, Carter and newly signed Carlos Pena should account for 300-plus strikeout in the middle of Houston's lineup. That's not going to be good. Even worse yet, the Astros' starting rotation is just absurdly bad at this point.
Most Valuable Player
Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics: Why not? If Oakland does indeed capture the AL West in '13, Cespedes will be a primary reason why. I can easily envision a scenario where he hits .320 with 40 homers, 120 RBIs and steals another 30 bases. This doesn't even take into account Gold Glove caliber defense. The AL MVP race should come down to Cespedes, Mike Trout and Justin Verlander. You can pretty much take that to the bank.
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers: Are you surprised that I have the most dominating starting pitcher of this generation as the odds-on favorite to capture another Cy Young? Verlander is as close as it gets to being untouchable. I see no reason why he can't run away with this award.
Rookie of the Year
Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles: There is no reason to believe that Machado cannot come in as a rookie and hit 20 homers and drive in 80. He did a solid job in limited playing time with Baltimore last season and translates better to the majors than what we saw in the O's minor-league system.
Manager of the Year
Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics: I will go out on a limb and say that Melvin wins this award for a second consecutive season. If he can lead what is all of a sudden a stacked A's team to the AL West with a payroll of just $60.7M, I see no reason why he shouldn't win the award.
Washington Nationals: In my opinion, Washington was the best all-around team in the NL last season. While it blew it against the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs, it is bringing back some major talent. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman lead a pretty solid lineup from tom to bottom. Make no mistake about it, Washington's success will depend heavily on the best starting rotation this side of San Francisco. The addition of Dan Haren, should he return to form, makes that rotation absolutely scary for the rest of the NL East. Look for Washington to challenge the 100-win plateau once again.
Atlanta Braves: I seriously contemplated picking Atlanta to come out of the NL East. The additions of the Upton brothers really does give this lineup a new dynamic. They will join an already elite crop that includes: Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann. It all depends on if Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, and Mike Minor can each put up a minimum of 30 starts, Atlanta should cruise to 90 wins once again, which will be enough to compete with Washington for the division and grab a wildcard slot.
Philadelphia Phillies: The New York Yankees of the NL, these Phillies just aren't the same team that we have seen in the past. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are coming off injury-plagued '12 seasons and are entering their mid-30's. Meanwhile, Michael Young just doesn't have what it takes to be a No. 5 hitter, which Philadelphia will be asking of him. In addition, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are past their primes. This has the makings of a down season for the Phillies. If all their veterans, however, have one year left of above-average play, they could challenge for a playoff spot. I wouldn't bank on it.
New York Mets: Finally, New York has made the decision to go with the youth movement after avoiding free agency in the offseason. While it will not pay off in '13, the Mets are in a good position moving forward. I am intrigued to see how Ike Davis performs in the middle of the lineup. In addition, 2013 should represent a growing process for youngsters such as: Zack Wheeler, Travis d'Arnaud and even Wilmer Flores. The Mets are stacked with young talent.
Miami Marlins: What an absolute joke this franchise has become. After trading away a ton of talent in yet another firesale this past season, Miami may challenge the Houston Astros for the worst record in baseball. Not much to see here outside of Giancarlo Stanton, who will be traded once he hits 40 homers and drives in 120.
Cincinnati Reds: If at all possible, Cincinnati improved a roster that was pretty darn scary last season. The acquisition of Shin-Soo Choo to hit leadoff is going to do wonders in front of the likes of: Brandon Phillips , Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. This is a lineup you just don't want to have to face on a consistent basis. Meanwhile, Aroldis Chapman moving to the rotation has to be a scary proposition for opposing pitchers. After all, he struckout out a ridiculous 122 batters in just 71 innings last season. He joins Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos to form one of the better rotations in the NL. Even with the huge hole left at closer after Chapman's move to the rotation, Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall should be able to shoulder the load. This is one of the easiest picks I could have made.
Milwaukee Brewers: While we don't hear a whole heck of a lot about Milwaukee outside of the crazy Ryan Braun PED talk, this is a young team with a solid core of youngsters. Braun will be joined by up-and-comers such as: Carlos Gomez (a personal favorite) and Hunter Morris to fill out a decent lineup. Jonathan Lucroy as well as Aramis Ramirez should also put up some solid numbers. Milwaukee's shot at earning a wildcard spot, however, depends heavily on its rotation. If the top three in its rotation, mainly Yovani Gallardo and Mike Fiers , can build off of previous success and take their games to a new level, Milwaukee will be in the midst of postseason contention come October.
St. Louis Cardinals: It really is hard to put into words how much the retirement of Chris Carpenter hurts this team. He was being banked on to be a No. 1-type in 2013. As it is, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia are above-average top of the rotation guys. My primary concern here is the Cardinals' lineup. Can Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday continue to have success in their mid-30s. If so, St. Louis could surprise a great deal of people. If not, it will sit in third in the central.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Yet another young team with a bright future. Andrew McCutchen was one of the top candidates for the NL MVP Award in 2012 and is coming off a stellar performance that saw him hit nearly .330 with 31 homers and 107 runs. If he can repeat those numbers, Pittsburgh could continue to surprise. In addition, the likes of Starling Marte and Pedro Alvarez form what has to be considered one of the best young lineups in the league. As with most "contenders," Pittsburgh's success will rely on its starting rotation. Can A.J. Burnett fill the ace role at the advanced age of 36? Will James McDonald take his game up another level and challenge the 15-win plateau? Can Pittsburgh find a solid No. 3 in the form of Wandy Rodriguez or Francisco Liriano? This will dictate whether the Pirates can contend for a playoff spot. As it is, they are a step behind the top three teams in this division, so it will take a lot.
Chicago Cubs: By far the worst team in the NL Central, Chicago has nearly zero chances of finishing outside the cellar in '13. In reality, there just isn't much here. The top of its lineup is the weakest in baseball and Alfonso Soriano is nowhere near the player he was four or five seasons ago. Two bright spots as it relates to the Cubs' lineup are youngsters Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, who should have mighty fine '13 campaigns. As it relates to the Cubs' pitching staff, not much to see here. Matt Garza hasn't turned into the true staff ace that Chicago had hoped for, while another veteran, Edwin Jackson, is far too inconsistent to be counted on. Look for 100 losses here.
San Francisco Giants: The defending World Series Champions didn't do much to add to its roster in the offseason, but did retain a couple key components in the form of Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan. The strength of this team, however, is its starting rotation where Matt Cain leads the best starting group in baseball. The Giants have five capable starters, which speaks volumes about their ability to build talent from within. Look for another deep run into the playoffs, especially with Buster Posey looking every bit the part of the MVP.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Free agency and trades mean nothing in the grand scheme of things if a team cannot be cohesive on the field. The Dodgers may be the most talented team in baseball, but they need to put it all together on the field. Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier batting 2-6 is pretty ridiculous. In addition, a starting rotation headed by Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke is enough to scare the collective jockstraps off of opposing hitters. The question here is how good will Don Mattingly's club mesh on the field come April?
Arizona Diamondbacks: I really like what Arizona is building here. Youngsters Adam Eaton and Paul Goldschmidt headline what promises to be a vastly improved lineup that includes five players capable of hitting 20-plus homers. The table setter will be recently acquired Martin Prado, who will be batting between Eaton and Aaron Hill at the No. 2 slot. New Addition, Brandon McCarthy should fit in well with Trevor Cahill and Ian Kennedy atop a vastly improved starting rotation. Arizona could be a true wildcard in the NL West race this upcoming season.
San Diego Padres: It finally appears that San Diego has a decent lineup to work with entering '13. Chase Headley is coming off a career-high 2012 season that saw him hit 31 homers and drive in 115. He has what seems to be an improved Carlos Quentin batting behind him. The key to San Diego's success on offense is going to be the continued progression of Yonder Alonso at first. One major downfall for this team is going to be a lackluster starting rotation. Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard and Jason Marquis really are not going to cut it atop San Diego's rotation, even at a pitcher-friendly ballpark.
Colorado Rockies: Expect a ridiculous amount of high-scoring games. Colorado has a lot of strong bats in its lineup and absolutely zero solid starting pitchers in its rotation. If Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki can stay healthy, Colorado will pile up the runs. Youngsters such as Josh Rutledge and Wilin Rosario should be solid contributors as well. The issue here is that Colorado will not win many games with all of its starting pitchers in the high fours or low fives in terms of ERA.
Most Valuable Player
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds: While Votto did see his power numbers decrease a lot in '12 from the previous season, he is still capable of putting up 35 homers and 110 RBI's while hitting over .330. Those are MVP-caliber numbers right there. If Cincinnati finishes with the best record in the NL, a likely hood, Votto will get a lot of MVP play.
Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals: Why not? It looks like Washington will let Strasburg pitch into October this season. If so, you can expect 240-plus strikeouts and a 20-win campaign from the elite young pitcher. He has the most electrifying stuff in the NL and will be playing behind what promises to be an outstanding lineup. In fact, there is some who will conclude that he wins 25 games, if healthy.
Rookie of the Year
Adam Eaton, Arizona Diamondbacks: A true five-tool player if I have ever seen one. Eaton is slated to start the regular season as Arizona's leadoff hitter this season. The former first-round pick played less than three full seasons in the minors and excelled at nearly every stop. He hit .375 with 44 stolen bases in 130 minor-league games last season. Expect a plus .300 average with 40 steals as a rookie.
Manager of the Year
Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals: Yes, I am going to the well again. If Washington finishes with the best record in the NL in 2013, there is no reason to believe that Johnson will not capture the award for a second consecutive season. What he has done in terms fo connecting with a young roster is nothing short of amazing.
Detroit Tigers over Oakland Athletics in Seven Games
Washington Nationals over Cincinnati Reds in Six Games
World Series Prediction
Washington Nationals over Detroit Tigers in Five Games
Note: Stay tuned to eDraft Sports Radio as we continue to break down the upcoming 2013 MLB Season. In addition, get ready for our fantasy baseball preview magazine set to come out some time next month. It should be outstanding.