MLB divisonal previews

When the snow melts and the weather is warm enough to sit outside, is there anything better than knowing it’s the beginning of the baseball season?

Less than a week since the MLB opener, we’ve already seen Washington Nationals’ phenom Bryce Harper homer in his first two at-bats, Texas Rangers’ ace Yu Darvish fall one out short of a perfect game and the Cubs won a game so that all of their fans think this is finally the year.

While most teams still have 159 games left in their season to make a run at the postseason, here are my 2013 MLB predictions:

AL East (in predicted order of finish): Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees.

Doesn’t it feel weird to see the Yankees at the bottom of the standings? Injuries and old age has finally caught up with them after all of these years. Tampa Bay has the most complete team in this division, and has the firepower to compete with anybody in the league.

AL Central: Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox*, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins.

Detroit only fell four wins short of winning a World Series last October. Now, they’re team is even better by grabbing Torii Hunter in free agency and getting Victor Martinez back. I don’t see any scenario that they don’t win this division by at least eight games. The White Sox have fallen under the radar, even though they would have made the playoffs last season barring a September collapse. I think they earn a wild-card spot in the playoffs, as Chris Sale and Jake Peavy are a deadly duo on the mound.

AL West: Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners*, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros.

The Angels have the best lineup in all of baseball with Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton  Unfortunately they don’t have the starting pitching or bullpen capable of winning enough games to make the playoffs unless their bats score five runs each game. The Rangers may have kept a low profile last offseason, but they still have a balanced team and for the first time won’t have the pressure that they’ve had the past few seasons. I love the Mariners to surprise this season. They grabbed bats in the offseason, and their pitching is much better than everybody assumes.

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals*, Atlanta Braves, New York Mets and Miami Marlins.

While everybody loves the Nationals, this will be the first time for many of their players to play with a target on their back. It’s not easy to play with pressure all season, and with so many young players, I think they will struggle a little bit. I like the veteran Phillies squad to surprise teams. The main thing for them is to just avoid injuries.

NL Central: Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals*, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs.

The Reds proved that they could win the division last year, and I think they will do it again. With a healthy Joey Votto, this team is even better. The Cardinals are another team that’s quietly under the radar, but they have so much talent from their young players where they can survive injuries throughout the season. Sorry Cubs fans, they won’t have a chance to compete until 2015.

NL West: San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres.

The defending champions bring nearly all of their players back, and in a division with a lot of question marks they will stay on top. While the Dodgers spent all that money, they still have a lot of question marks in their pitching rotation, especially with Zack Grienke already facing elbow problems.

 

Bobby Nightengale is a senior sports communication major from Bloomington, Minn. He is the Scout assistant sports editor.

Direct comments, questions and other responses to rnightengale@mail.bradley.edu.