1. Washington Nationals
2. Atlanta Braves (Wild Card)
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. New York Mets
5. Florida Marlins
I have to go with the Nationals to win the East. A lot went right for them last season, so they could take a step back, but they are still very talented. With a little luck, the Braves could win this thing. I still think the Braves are up there as the third-best team in the league and will take a Wild Card spot. It’s more likely that the Nationals win a close race. The Phillies are a popular pick to bounce back but with Roy Halladay dealing with his velocity issues, it will be tough for them to keep pace. The Mets are Marlins are both rebuilding.
1. Cincinnati Reds
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Chicago Cubs
The Reds may be the best team in the National League. They have quality at every position, a deep rotation and a bullpen second only to the Braves’. The Cardinals are a notch above the Brewers and Pirates, and the Cubs are a close 5th. The Reds should with this division fairly comfortably.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Francisco Giants (Wild Card)
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. San Diego Padres
5. Colorado Rockies
Not only do the Dodgers have talent, they have the money and the ownership has the will to do what it takes to win now. The Giants are still very good but have some aging players. They jumped from 86 wins to 94 wins, so I think they’ll take a step back in 2013. I’m still picking them for one of the Wild Card spots. The Diamondbacks and Padres seem somewhat similar and neither seem to have the talent to match Los Angeles or San Francisco. The Rockies are trying to get back to relevancy.
1. Tampa Bay Rays
2. Toronto Blue Jays (Wild Card)
3. Boston Red Sox
4. New York Yankees
5. Baltimore Orioles
For the first time in recent memory, the Yankees lack the star power to win the East handily, thanks to a rash of injuries and the age of some key players. Every team in the division has noticeable weaknesses but every team has a reason to believe they can win it. I’m going with the Rays. They have the depth and they always seem to get the most out of their roster. The Blue Jays got plenty of attention for their big offseason moves. They are a good team but they may be over-hyped a bit. Remember all their key additions were members of a last-place Marlins team. Still, I think they earn a Wild Card spot. The Red Sox made some nice moves to get solid players at almost every position. John Ferrell may help their pitching staff. For as bad as it seems for the Yankees, they still have Robinson Cano and a quality pitching staff. They’ll be better than most people might think but that’s still fourth place in a tight division. I don’t buy the Orioles just yet. We all know about their extremely good records in one-run and extra-inning games. They have plenty of young talent to contend soon but they are due to fall back in 2013.
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Kansas City Royals
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Minnesota Twins
The Tigers are a strong team in the weakest division in the game. If every team in baseball somehow played a balanced schedule, I have a hard time seeing the Indians, Royals, White Sox and certainly the Twins playing .500 ball. I don’t know that the Tigers are an overwhelmingly great team but they are certainly in the class of teams like the Braves, Nationals and Dodgers, which could mean a lot of wins in a rather weak division.
1. Texas Rangers
2. Los Angeles Angels (Wild Card)
3. Oakland Athletics
4. Seattle Mariners
5. Houston Astros
Though the Blue Jays and Tigers are getting all the hype, I still believe the Rangers are the best team in the American League. The run out good players at every position, have the depth and have the pitching. The Angels are close but there are some question marks about their pitching after Weaver and C.J. Wilson. Any staff with Tommy Hanson penciled in at number three should be worried. Everything seemed to go right with the A’s last season. After finishing with no more than 81 wins the previous five seasons, it’s hard not to view 2012 as somewhat of a fluke. Still they have some talent and there’s no reason to expect them to finish behind the Mariners or Astros. The Mariners are starting to climb as a franchise. The Astros appear to be stripping down to reload their farm system, save money for when they are ready to contend and to get that first overall pick again. They are pulling a Marlins but hopefully, for their fans, with more consistent results in the long term.
NL MVP: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
Voters love players on winners. Votto will hit in the middle of the lineup for possibly the best team in the National League, if not baseball.
AL MVP: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels
Pujols is as good a candidate as any to bounce back to a MVP level. The Angels will win a Wild Card spot and I can see the writers giving Pujols the credit as a steady, veteran presence on a team with high expectations.
NL Cy Young: Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies
Last year Cliff Lee had a great season. No one noticed because he went 9-6. But he had the fewest walks per 9 IP, the 9th-best ERA, the 4th-most strikeouts and the 7th-most innings pitched. Unlike Strasburg, Lee is old enough and seemingly healthy enough that no one is going to care about pitch counts or any sort of innings limits.