There is no true off-season in baseball. It is simply some down time to make adjustments to rosters, to reflect on past stats, and make predictions for the future. Baseball is never over in the heart of the fans, and now it is almost time again for the first pitch of the regular season.
2013 is going to be interesting. Numerous changes have been made to many Major League rosters. Some seemingly revamping their whole team. I think this season, teams that may not have been thought of as strong have made themselves good contenders to snag that division title. And other clubs that are expected to always be the leader, might suffer.
The Toronto Blue Jays gained a lot of solid veteran players over the off-season making them seem unapproachable for the rest of the AL East. As long as they can handle the pressure and do not burn themselves from the stress, they will be dangerous. They just need to stay focused, and not get swept away by all the talk of high hopes swirling around them. If they can pull this off, the Red Sox, the Rays, and the Orioles will have a hard time keeping up with the Blue Jays this year.
The Yankees… Oh the Yankees… They seem to be on a steady decline with the injuries they are facing. Healthy Yankees have always been a threat, but right now they seem to be scrambling. If they can pass the injury issues, they can once again be capable of making it to the playoffs.
The Twins lost both Denard Span and Ben Revere over the off-season which will slow the team down considerably. They both have tremendous hustle and now Minnesota is lacking in that category. They made some much needed upgrades to their pitching, and they do have a little bit of pop in their line up, but I do not think it will be enough to replace the loss of these outfielders. They will likely fall to the retooled Cleveland Indians and the up and down Chicago White Sox. Even the Royals will be a stronger competitor than the Twins, with the improvements they made this season.
I expect the Detroit Tigers to be as impressive as last year. Adding leader and weathered outfielder Torii Hunter to the team will increase the power in their already dominant line up. And if Victor Martinez can stay off the disabled list, they could be unstoppable. And not to mention Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez in their starting rotations. As long as having no dedicated closer does not make this team crumble, I think the Tigers will be in the post-season.
The Astros will not make a smooth transition over to the American League. They will be a fish out of water this season. Once they get acclimated, they may increase their skills, but for now it will just be a learning period.
The Angels and the Rangers will, as usual, be tough to beat this season. They both have well-rounded teams with some scary defensive talent. The Rangers lost Josh Hamilton to the Angels which might not be that big of a blow, as the rest of the team is capable of picking up the slack. And now the Halos have that added power to their roster. These two teams are comparable.
The Oakland Athletics are a favorite for being the scrappy underdogs, but they will have to rely heavily on their pitching to defend their division crown. Newcomers, Chris Young and John Jaso will not be enough to put fear into their rivals.
The Mariners will once again try to build around their ace Felix Hernandez. However, I feel that they will not be a serious contender for the division title. They might get a little more adrenaline after facing the Astros, but there will not be much change for Seattle this year.
The Atlanta Braves have a fierce line up with the Upton brothers and Jason Heyward, but I think they might not excel as much as expected. Justin Upton has major potential to win an MVP award in his career and still has yet to show everything he is capable of, but the initial excitement of playing with B.J. Upton might be more of a distraction than a motivator. Eventually, these two will tear up the NL East, maybe even toward the end of this season in a push for the playoffs. But I think they might be too amped in the beginning to reach the standards that everyone is anticipating. The Braves do have some bullpen talent that can rescue them in any inevitable jams. This team will certainly make their name known this year.
I am not sure what the Marlins were doing over the off-season. It seems that most clubs were making improvements and Miami had a different plan. This will not be their year. They may put up a fight… or perhaps a squabble. But I do not think they will make much of a dent in opposing teams. The Mets will surly dominate them with Shaun Marcum in their starting rotation.
Between the Nationals and the Phillies, both teams could give a strong push to the playoffs. Both have offensive depth, but the Nationals will have an edge over the Phillies with their strong pitching rotation. With Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg as starters, the Nationals could take the division title.
With young stars like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, there is reason to be excited about the Chicago Cubs. Having said that, I feel they will not make much of an impact yet in their division, especially competing against Andrew McCutchen and the upstart Pirates.
The Brewers could be a worthy contender for the playoffs if they were not facing the Reds. Milwaukee has some dependable bats, but their pitching is lacking. And the Reds have too much offensive ammunition for the Brewers to tame.
The question is: can the Cardinals take on the Reds? The Cardinals play hard, always come hungry, and seem to excel at the most important times. They are healthy competition for the Reds. Both teams have offensive talent and their pitching matches up fairly evenly.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are trying to rely too much on big names to carry them through the season. Chemistry is important. Big names are not everything. If these guys can figure out how to work together, they can be merciless to their opposing teams. But everything has to click seamlessly. And I am not sure the Dodgers are quite there yet. They have ample pitching with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, and a powerful offense. They look good on paper, but may need a year to get more settled.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a proficient pitching rotation with Ian Kennedy and Brandon McCarthy starting. And their bullpen is jam packed with solid relief options. They made many adjustments to their positional players as well, to create a unique team. They were average last season, but this time around they might have the formula to increase their game. Competing against the Colorado Rockies, who are an average team, and the San Diego Padres, who will actually put up a fight this year, the Dbacks have a chance at making their team stand out.
The Giants have kept most of their team intact from last year. The World Series Champions will likely still be a strong competitor in their division, and now they have Tim Lincecum back on the mound which can increase their pitching depth considerably. They will be the team to beat in the NL West.
So what will actually happen this season? Every one has an opinion, but we all know anything can happen in baseball. That is the beauty of the sport. And it is almost time, once again, to play ball.