The 2013 season could present a pronounced changing of the guard in the American League, especially in the usually-loaded AL East. Letís give our predictions on whatís likely to happen this season:
AL East: Iím taking the Tampa Bay Rays to win the division. They did trade some pitching to the KC Royals, but they got canít-miss Wil Myers and they still have David Price and a solid rotation. Theyíre not an offensive powerhouse, but they will score enough. The Toronto Blue Jays made voluminous headlines, benefiting from the Miami Marlinsí firesale, signing tainted All-Star free agent Melky Cabrera, and stealing NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets. Overnight super-teams donít always work out, the game is funny that way, but the Jays will tussle with the Rays all summer.
The Baltimore Orioles were an incredible 29-9 in one-run games last year and in a game that is based on ďregressing towards the meanĒ, that is unlikely to occur again. Iím not overly impressed with their rotation, either. Buck Showalter will keep them above water, but another playoff appearance is a long shot. The Boston Red Sox have cleared out the wreckage, probably wonít lose 90-plus games, but wonít contend either. As for the Yankees, watch out New York, this could be the worst season in a long time. They have the warmth of those 27 wonderful years to nurture them through the dark days.
The Detroit Tigers won a lackluster AL Central at a trot last season; this year the revived Cleveland Indians, bolstered Kansas City Royals, and always-tough Chicago White Sox will make life tougher for the Bengals, but likely not tough enough. The Tigers have questions at closer, but the return of Victor Martinez to their lineup, the addition of Torii Hunter and an excellent rotation means they will repeat. The Minnesota Twins, alas, look to be in rebuilding mode.
The AL West has an awful lot of star power, and a new addition in the Houston Astros. The Astros will provide a convenient punching bag as another 100-loss season is not out of the question. They will not present a quick turnaround.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made more news, signing Josh Hamilton from their rivals the Texas Rangers to go with a powerhouse lineup that includes Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo, but after Cy Young Award candidate Jered Weaver the rotation looks rather ordinary. They likely have enough in the tank to pass the Texas Rangers, still smarting after a late-season collapse and mourning the loss of Hamilton. As for the startling Oakland Athletics, who made East Bay baseball fun again, I see them in the mix until the very end. They brought in the fences at Safeco Field in Seattle, but the Mariners, King Felix or not, likely will finish fourth.
So I have the Rays, Tigers, and Angels with the Blue Jays and Rangers as the Wild Cards, but donít be surprised if the Aís sneak in. Next week weíll look at the National League.