Now that Opening Day has finally arrived, every team has an equal chance of achieving glory in October. However, while they all start the season on equal ground, the dog days of summer will separate contenders from pretenders and playoff caliber teams from cellar dwellers.
Let’s take a look at each of the divisions heading into the 2013 season:
The National League East could be one of the most interesting divisions in baseball. After years of waiting, the long rebuilding process the Nationals undertook is starting to pay off. The young core of Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg should keep the Nats competitive for years to come. While the Braves can now boast that they feature the most Uptons on the field at any time, they still have question marks. The Phillies will hope that their once mighty group of players can fight off Father Time and continue to produce past their prime. At the bottom of the division, the Mets will continue their methodical rise into relevance and the Marlins will navigate the turbulent waters of another firesale — and I’m calling it now -— while Mike Redmond is an interesting manger choice, Bobby Valentine will be sporting a hideous Miami Marlin jersey by mid-year.
In the National League Central, it is clear the Reds have the strongest roster top to bottom. The trade for Shin-Soo Choo should shore up their outfield and give them a needed boost to head deep into October. The Cardinals will continue to overachieve and should be in the hunt until the final weeks of the season. The Brewers and Pirates didn’t make any significant moves over the offseason and should keep with their ever-so-average records at seasons’ end. At the very bottom, Cubs fans will dream of a brighter future as Theo Epstein continues his rebuilding process.
Out west, the Yankee-like spending Dodgers will bank on their big money investments panning out, but their roster features so many big names, it’s hard to see them finishing anywhere but in first place. The reigning champion Giants are mostly intact from last season, meaning they should have no trouble staying in the playoff race. After trading Justin Upton, the Diamondbacks will miss having a young core piece in the middle of their lineup. The Padres and Rockies should shore up the bottom of the western division as they continue to tinker with their underwhelming rosters.
In the American League, no division looks more topsy-turvey than the Eastern Divison, which should take a complete reverse in standings from what fans were accustomed to a decade ago. The Blue Jays are the real deal and should reap the benefits of their spectacular offseason. You can never count the Rays out with their pitching staff — even without James Shields. The Orioles probably won’t continue the magical play they conjured last season, but should finish with a respectable record. The Yankees are showing the cracks in their armor without their stars, all of whom are declining in skill rapidly. This team looks washed up. Up in Boston, the Red Sox, despite their many offseason additions, are clearly using the next few years as a stop gap to let their younger players develop.
The Tigers should have no problem dominating the American League Central division, as they possess the best lineup in the league and one of the better pitching staffs. The Royals made some moves that should shoot them back into relevance, but a few more pieces are needed before they can become a serious threat. The White Sox should be much the same as last year, but with the competition from the Royals, a second place finish seems unlikely. Even with Terry Francona and their new outfield additions, the Indians need more depth on their roster before they can succeed. Meanwhile at the bottom of the division, the Twins will need a miracle to finish with anything higher than 70 wins.
Josh Hamilton will help shore up an already potent Angels lineup, but if the team doesn’t win soon, all of the money spent in the last few off-seasons will be wasted. The A’s added some intriguing players to their already solid roster and could continue to build upon their surprising 2013 season. Despite all of their efforts this offseason, the Rangers were unable to land a true force to add to their lineup and as such, should fail to keep up with the other teams in the division. The Mariners are slowly getting better, but they should wait for their young pitchers to reach the majors before they truly make a run for contention. But, one of the biggest story lines of the last part of the season will be if the Astros will break the 1962 Mets record of 120 losses in a season. It’s not out of the question with this team’s roster.