Picking division and award winners
March, 28, 2013
By Keith Law | ESPN.com
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsJason Heyward is poised to become an MVP candidate in 2013.As usual, I've sketched out my win-loss predictions for all 30 teams and winners for the six major postseason awards. I've tried to include at least one thought on each team that explains my predictions, as well as notes on some key players or possible impact call-ups. Awards predictions follow the division picks.
The Toronto Blue Jays made headlines this winter, mostly for the right reasons, but their lack of depth behind the shiny front line of recognizable stars has already been slightly exposed with the demotion of Ricky Romero. As good as they could be, the Jays slide in behind the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays have a history of exceeding expectations, perhaps due to their lack of name value, and they have reinforcements sitting in Triple-A ready to help by June or so, including top prospect Wil Myers.
The Boston Red Sox's offseason scored low marks from me -- the Shane Victorino contract was the worst of the winter -- yet it's still a solid team and a much better one than last year, especially if the improved looks from Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester hold true into the season.
The New York Yankees' run of injuries -- funny what happens when your team's core gets old -- could drop them to last place or sub-.500 territory, although the team they'll run out there in April should keep them afloat until Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson come back.
The Baltimore Orioles' 2012 season was a great story but was built on an unsustainable foundation of luck and bullpen performance. They did nothing to upgrade the team this winter and may be overreliant on players who are likely to deliver less value this year. Their best hopes for a step forward are Chris Tillman, whose stuff was better in the second half, and Matt Wieters, who is about two years late on that big offensive breakout I had predicted for him.
The Tigers should run away with this division, but they should have done so last year and won it by just three games, falling seven wins short of the 95 I predicted. This year's club is a little stronger on paper, thanks to Anibal Sanchez, Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez, with ninth-inning relief duties the only question mark -- and a wildly overblown one at that.
The Royals' pitching staff overhaul isn't likely to push them to the playoffs, but that plus a bounce back from Eric Hosmer could give them their second winning season in the last 20.
Cleveland overhauled its lineup, and its outfield defense could be a beautiful thing to watch. But the rotation is a major weakness, and the team doesn't have the in-house depth to help if one or more of its established starters goes down.
The White Sox are also looking at a lack of depth, with John Danks a disaster this spring and probable regression coming from Paul Konerko, Alexis Rios and Adam Dunn.
The Twins are in full rebuild mode as they wait for the arms in the farm system to start boosting the major league rotation, with Kyle Gibson likely the first arrival by the middle of this year. Watch out for former first-rounder Aaron Hicks in center field, a plus defender with a tremendous arm, above-average speed and the chance for power down the road but who has jumped to the majors straight from Double-A.
The Los Angeles Angels' pitching staff scares me, and I admit I'm out on a limb projecting them for 94 wins, but I do think their offense and defense are both among the top crews in the league. If nothing else, they've assembled a rotation that fits well in their ballpark, along with the gloves they'll run out there most nights in the outfield. Even Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton could post superficially better performances thanks to Anaheim's spacious park.
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