With opening day for the 2013 baseball season just weeks away, the Scout previews three teams with local ties.
Chicago White Sox
A season ago the White Sox just narrowly missed winning the American League Central Division finishing the year winning just four of 10 games. The Detroit Tigers won the central and went on to the World Series. Chicago looks to be a factor in the division race once again this season.
Chris Sale will once again anchor the White Sox pitching staff after his incredible 2012 campaign. The lefty won 17 games and had an ERA just north of three last season.
He will be joined by veteran Jake Peavy at the top of the Chicago rotation.
The Chicago offense will have a new look with long time catcher A.J. Pierzynski going to the Texas Rangers. But the lineup is far from bare.
Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Alex Rios add plenty of firepower to the middle of the order. Gordon Beckham hit just .234 last season but provided pop with 16 homeruns and 60 RBI.
It will be tough for the White Sox to beat out the Tigers for the division, but earning one of the two Wild Card spots is not out of the question.
The loveable losers are coming off a horrendous 2012 season in which they lost 101 games. The Cubs are in full rebuilding mode, but with second year General Manager Theo Epstein and some young talent the future appears bright.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo became a mainstay in the Chicago lineup after he was called up mid-season in 2012. He hit 15 homeruns and had 48 RBI. Rizzo has the talent to develop into one of the better first basemen in the National League and should be in the middle of the Cubs lineup for years to come.
Shortstop Starlin Castro is one of the best young players in all of baseball. He has all the tools to blossom into one of the best middle infielders in the game if he becomes more disciplined. He committed 27 errors, but brings tons of offense to a team that desperately needs it.
The Cubs improved its pitching this offseason adding Edwin Jackson. Chicago will look for a big season from Jeff Samardzija after a promising season last year.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Cubs finish with much more than 70-75 wins, but the team is heading in the right direction.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals led the Giants three games to one in last year’s National League Championship Series before losing the next three to the eventual World Series Champion.
It was a disappointing end to a great season. This year has already started off rough for St. Louis. Starting pitcher Chris Carpenter is likely out for the season with ongoing issues with his neck, shoulder and arm.
That is a major blow to the Cardinals starting rotation, who will also likely not resign starter Kyle Lohse.
St. Louis will look to Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia to lead the rotation.
But the strength of the Cardinals is its offense. The team scored the second most runs in the NL in 2012 and should have an offense just as potent this season.
Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig, David Freese and Yadier Molina give the birds arguably the best lineup in the NL. There isn’t an easy out up and down the order.
Second year manager Mike Matheny will rely on the offense to carry the team if the pitching is sub par.
The Cardinals should compete and be one of the favorites to win the NL Central in 2013.