2013 Predictions That Will Probably Be Wrong By June

openind day 13Spring Training has started and before you know the 2013 baseball season will be underway. Spring might be the best time for most teams, as everyone is filled with hope and think their team could be THE team. Yes, even some Houston Astros fans. Or not. Hope springs eternal and Spring gives team eternal hope, even when they maybe should be more realistic. With the season only six weeks away, I will go ahead and try to guess how the season will unfold. Just remember when June rolls around to not point out my bad predictions(or bad guesses, however you want to word it) and realize that very few so called “experts” can predict what will happen. That’s part of what makes baseball so great. So without further ado, here are my division predictions for 2013.

al east

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

1.Tampa Bay

2.Toronto

3. New York

4. Baltimore

5. Boston

This might be the hardest division to handicap. I literally could rotate most of these teams in any slot and wouldn’t really argue too much with the results. Tampa almost seems like the safe bet, since Joe Maddon and company always find a way to win and probably have the best rotation in the American League. I like what Toronto has done this offseason, especially with how their rotation will shape up. Dickey, Morrow, Buerhle, Johnson and Romero? If everyone stays healthy, that could be a lethal round of arms. The Blue Jays could also turn out like the Marlins did last year, so they might be interesting to follow. I hate putting the Yankees in third place, especially since they did nothing major this offseason and in fact lost talent, but they still have some good arms, and they are the Yankees. Unfortunately. Baltimore will slip, as no team can keep up the amount of luck this team had last year(especially in extra innings), but they still won’t be a bad team. Buck Showalter is too good of a manager for that. Boston is at the bottom of my list, but I do think they will be better than they were last year. Farrell will do fine in his first year in Beantown, but this team still doesn’t have the firepower they have had in the past. All in all, this division will be a fun one to watch, and might have the most depth of the bunch.

Royals-Walk-Off-Celebration-436x350AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

1. Detroit

2. Cleveland

3. Chicago

4. Kansas City

5. Minnesota

This pains me more than you will ever know. Let’s start at the top, with the Tigers. Detroit won the Central late last year, after Chicago held the top start for a good chunk of 2012. Not only did the Tigers get to the World Series, they have IMPROVED since last year. Detroit now gets Anibal Sanchez for a full season, Victor Martinez returns from injury and they added Torii Hunter to the team, which will help them offensively, defensively and in the clubhouse. No reason to think the Motor City will be giving up the reigns on the division anytime soon. I’m going ahead and taking Cleveland second, although you should be able to flip flop them and Chicago in all honesty. I really like the moves that the Indians have made this offseason and the biggest acquisition has to be manager Terry Francona. Francona alone makes that team better in 2013 and when you add in Swisher, Bourn, Stubbs, and Bauer, and the offense looks tons better than they did last year. The real question with Cleveland will be their pitching and whether or not they can get Ubaldo Jimenez back to being the guy who made NL batters look dumb. Chicago ran out of gas late last year, but they have a lot of quality young arms and somehow GM Kenny Williams always makes it work. It’s easy to say they will fall a bit this year, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they don’t. I’ve got Kansas City sitting in fourth place and I will go into more detail obviously when the season gets closer. To shorten up my thoughts, the Royals have a lot of ‘ifs’ going into this year and they are counting on a lot of things that didn’t work in 2012 to work in 2013. That is really expecting some major changes, when not as much has changed with this team as they have people thinking. Just saying, you might want to hold off on purchasing those playoff tickets, my Royal Blue brethren. Minnesota takes up the bottom of the league, but I have to believe they will be better than they were last year. If the Twins play this year like they did last year, I think Ron Gardenhire might blow a gasket and up and quit before the season is over. A part of me is leery to count out the Twinkies. They are THAT team, the one who never truly goes away. Just ask the Royals about that. I know everyone thinks the Central is the worse division in baseball, and they might be right. But it is already way better than it was this time last year.

2013 al westAMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

1. Los Angeles

2. Texas

3. Oakland

4. Seattle

5. Houston

Another good division, with a number of teams that could contend for a playoff spot. It is also a division with one extra team this year, as the Astros move over to the American League and join the West. Granted, they were kind of held at gunpoint to move and really didn’t want to, but they are there now and a number of NL Central teams are a lot sadder because of it. Let’s start at the top with the Angels. I’ve got them in first, and will freely admit that it is partially because they are my second favorite team. Year two of the Pujols Project should help the team way more than last year, and they’ve even added that Hamilton guy to take some of the load off of Albert’s back. Oh yeah, and there is that Trout guy as well. I’ve heard he’s pretty good. Texas is slotted in second, but they just as easily could get first. One wonders if their early exit out of the playoffs will motivate them or let it linger as the season begins. Even though the Rangers have lost some key players(Hamilton, Young, etc.) I love the young talent that is shooting up the pipeline for the Rangers and think they will be just as lethal as they were before. Oakland is in third, but it is hard to bet against Bob Melvin and company. This team has no stars, and yet had over 90 wins last year. They still have the good pitching that guided them to the playoffs last year and an offense that buys into what Melvin and Billy Beane are selling. If the team makes a push at the traded deadline they could once again win the West in 2013. The Mariners are booked for fourth place and I want to like this team more. I think they have a some really good young talent, but I totally don’t know what they are thinking with the offseason acquisitions. I mean, does the team really need 253 outfielders/first basemen/designated hitters? They do realize that those three areas only cover 5 spots in the order, right? It just doesn’t make much sense. Lastly, the Astros will take up the cellar of the West. This team is completely rebuilding, and as much as they should be credited for it, it will make for a very, very long season in Houston. Good luck, Astros fans. You are going to need it.

NL-East-Batting-Practice-featuredNATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

1. Washington

2. Atlanta

3. New York

4. Philadelphia

5. Miami

The top of this division will probably have a couple of the best teams in the league. They also might have a couple of the worst. Washington looks to once again see October baseball this year, as they have both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper for a full season. This is just a really, really good team with lots of great talent and depth. Yes, depth will win you games, especially come postseason. Atlanta looks at a possible second place finish, although anyone who thinks they win the division might not be too far off. Great pitching, great offense, great defense and this team will probably be a wild card team when it is all said and done. The Upton boys will get a full season playing together and even with the loss of Chipper Jones might not slow down Atlanta as much as originally thought. I’ve got the Mets in third place, as this team seems on the verge of some really good seasons. It is a young bunch, but one with some great up and comers. I think they will be way better than anyone gives them credit for. Philadelphia takes up fourth place, and I am aware the team still has Halladay and Lee. But they also have a group of aging veterans(Utley, Rollins, Howard) and players who are bloated and overpaid(Delmon Young, Yuniesky Betancourt). Phillies fans, a lull is in your future. Embrace it. As much doom and gloom as the Phillies seem to be, the Marlins are in worse shape. Another rebuilding year. A rookie manager. A bunch of new, young faces. Don’t embrace this, Marlins fans. You deserve better.

pittsbNATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

1. Cincinnati

2. St. Louis

3. Pittsburgh

4. Milwaukee

5. Chicago

The National League Central hosts one less team this year. Unfortunately for the other five teams, they won’t have the Astros to feast on anymore. Let’s start with the Reds, who sit atop the perch of this division. Dusty Baker’s team was right on the verge of getting to the NLCS this past fall, but those pesky Giants took that dream away from them. It was kind of San Francisco’s thing this past year. Back to the Reds. They are basically bringing back the same team, and with it probably the NL Central title. If I had to find something that worried me, it would be the switch of Aroldis Chapman to the rotation. I don’t get it, but we’ll see how it goes. The Cardinals will make it interesting for Cincy, but the loss of Chris Carpenter for the year could cause the Cards to go out and pick up another starter, although using someone like Shelby Miller might do just as good a job. I totally think this is the year Pittsburgh FINALLY gets a winning season, even if it is just a few games over .500. The baseball Gods have to be looking out for those faithful fans that have stuck by that team for so long. With Andrew McCutchen leading the charge, I see good things in the Pirates future. Milwaukee takes up fourth, as it seems the team just doesn’t have the pitching to keep it in the hunt. Rounding out the division is the Cubs. Now, I completely think Chicago will be better this year, especially with the great offseason they had acquiring pitching. But the team is still fairly young and will go through some growing pains. Stay strong, Cubs fans. Your time is coming soon.

San Francisco Giants v Colorado RockiesNATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

1. San Francisco

2. Los Angeles

3. Arizona

4. San Diego

5. Colorado

What a hot mess this division could turn out to be? Almost any of the last four teams could collapse and make for a rough season for their ballclubs. Or they could go on a hot streak and give San Francisco a run for their money. The Giants are not only the defending World Champions, but with their team basically kept in tact, could be a favorite for another world title. Their pitching alone should have the other teams in their league worried. The Dodgers have the chance of giving their rivals a run for their money, but it could go the other way. A lot of money spent does not guarantee one a playoff spot. Ask the Red Sox about that. There is a part of me that can’t wait until Zack Greinke implodes in LA, but how soon that happens is anyone’s guess. There is a good chance it won’t be this year. The Dodgers could be interesting to follow, just to see how the team chemistry is in that clubhouse. Also in the conversation is Arizona, but they also had a major upheaval. The team got rid of their best player, and got rid of any players who don’t live by manager Kirk Gibson’s hard nosed style. This will either be a team who is fun to watch, or one that has to scrap to score runs. San Diego will get a reprieve again from last place, mainly because Bud Black is really good at his managing job. I hope the Padres are paying attention, since that guy deserves a more competitive team. Last once again looks like it will be Colorado. Some changes have been made, and one is curious to see how first year manager Walt Weiss does. I have to believe that if Troy Tulowitzki is healthy, this could be a much better team. But like all things in this game, that is a big if.

So there you go, my predictions for 2013. I’m sure I will be forced to eat my words within a few months and you’ll want to point out where I was wrong. You’re right; I should have just gone with a Cubs/Red Sox World Series! I’m sure Major League baseball and the Fox Network would just love that. Now….LET’S PLAY BALL!

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Just When You Think the Market is Cornered on GRIT…

getzgordonFor the past two years, the brass of the Kansas City Royals have put a heavy emphasis on having gritty, hard-nosed players take up space on their roster. Manager Neddy(Frank) Yost and GM Dayton Moore seem to have a bromance with these players, almost to a laughable degree. But just when you think Kansas City is the only franchise who would rather have a player who gets his uniform dirty than having actual real talent, along come the Arizona Diamondbacks.

JUPThis past week, Arizona pieced together a massive deal to send star Outfielder Justin Upton to Atlanta, reuniting him with brother BJ. Arizona had discussed trading Upton for awhile now, which perplexed a lot of people within the game. Upton is only 25 years old and has an amazing amount of upside. Just two years ago, he put together a breakout season, hitting over 30 homeruns, an OBP of .369 and an OPS close to .900. Add in him cutting down his strikeout totals and seemed that Justin was starting to put the numbers up that Arizona expected when they drafted him back in 2005. But even as early as last offseason, the Diamondbacks were trying to deal him. Upton stumbled in 2012, and it just added fuel to the trade rumor flames. So why would Arizona want to trade one of the most talented younger players in the game? One word could probably sum this up: GRIT.

kirk-gibsonArizona manager Kirk Gibson was known for a variety of intangibles during his playing career. Maybe more than anything he is remembered for his hard-nosed, in the dirt type play and his win at no cost attitude. Right now you are probably picturing his walk off homerun in Game One of the 1988 World Series, limping around the bases and moving slower than former manager Tommy Lasorda. Gibson played the game like his hair was on fire, a model of the “take no prisoners” style of baseball. So it only makes sense that Gibby would prefer players that play the game the way he used to. There has been a thought that Arizona had a surplus of players that didn’t fit that mold. Chris Young was jettisoned early this offseason, shipped to Oakland. Stephen Drew: gone. Prospect Trevor Bauer was the most shocking trade this offseason, headed to Cleveland. Upton was thought to not fit the mold that Gibson wanted, as some within the organization felt he didn’t want to get his uniform dirty. Sure, Upton would spend extra time in the batting cage when struggling, trying to fix issues he was encountering last year. It’s not like JUp didn’t show a willingness to improve. He just wasn’t Kirk Gibson.

codyrossThis brings up a bigger question, and one that will show whether or not Arizona GM Kevin Towers and Gibson are correct. Which is more important, an all-out balls to the wall attitude or actual talent? In some ways, I am torn on this subject. I will admit I enjoy watching the players who dirty up their uniform and play the game like there is no tomorrow. But most of the time actual talent trumps a player who gives 200% out on the diamond. Sure, Gibson was a player who played the game with a lot of GRIT. But he also had talent. Same for Pete Rose. Now, let’s not act like the Diamondbacks didn’t get any talent in return for Upton. Prado is a former All-Star, and Randall Delgado is a top of the line future starter. The Snakes have also added some quality guys this offseason, as there is no reason to sneeze at guys like Cody Ross and Eric Chavez, along with the prospects they have picked up. The argument is that Justin Upton isn’t just a future star. Upton very well could be a future MVP and a guy to build your team around. Instead, Arizona has valued a mindset over tools.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Kansas City RoyalsArizona isn’t alone in this thinking. Over the past couple years, the Royals have gone out of their way to acquire players they think(and sometimes very heavy emphasis on the ‘think’ part)are hard-nosed, gritty players. The difference is that while the Diamondbacks have Prado and Ross, the Royals get Chris Getz and Jeff Francoeur. That is the difference between a team that can realistically make a go of the playoffs, and a team on the outside looking in. It is NOT the worst thing in the world to have players with those intangibles. It is bad when you don’t realize that talent will get you farther than the guy hitting .235 but gets his uniform dirty every game. I guess that begs the question: which would you rather have, Justin Upton, a guy who could be a future MVP, or Jeff Francoeur, someone who won’t even be an All-Star, but is a good character clubhouse guy(and someone who will deliver pizza to your fans)?

celebrate2013 will show whether Arizona was correct to build their ballclub around “Gibby Ball’ or they will have the proverbial pie in the face from traded talent like Bauer and Upton. Hey, it might work. If there was ever a guy I would trust to will a team to the playoffs, it’s Gibson. Talent is still there in Arizona, just no one player who can be the focus of the team. if it doesn’t work, Kirk Gibson’s head could be on the chopping block. If they feel like they aren’t quite there, Kevin Towers could always call the Royals. I’m sure Getz and Francoeur could be had for the right price.

Wednesday Notes-11/07/12

It’s been a pretty slow past week in baseball, as teams get prepared for the Hot Stove season to begin. So to tide you over until the real action begins(the wheeling and dealing. Not counting Dayton Moore, who always shows up early to the party), here are a look at some players who are on the market and won’t be signed by the Royals(I think;get back with me in 2 months).

Milwaukee bound?

Maybe the biggest free agent out there this winter is Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. Hamilton is a one of a kind talent that can carry a team on his back and take them to the promised land. The problem is he also comes with a cargo plane full of baggage. Everyone knows of his drug and alcohol past and how it cost him a number of years on his baseball career. He’s had a few relapses over the past couple years, so his past looks to continue to haunt him. Add in his lackluster play late in the season, which at times seemed almost lethargic, and his age(31) and you can see a few of the obstacles any team has if they are interested in bringing Hamilton into the fold. Supposedly Josh is looking for a seven year deal, which seems like a lot considering age, a long injury history and the aforementioned baggage. Milwaukee has been the team mentioned the most in the Hamilton sweepstakes and there is a link there, as the Brewers hitting coach, Johnny Narron, is Hamilton’s former “accountability coach”. It’s easy to see how they might target Hamilton, as Narron gives him a comforting spot. The Rangers have acted very lackluster on their interest in bringing Hamilton back, while the Giants have been mentioned as a “dark horse” candidate. Hell, one GM mentioned they thought Kansas City  could be in the hunt. I got a good laugh out of that. Hamilton is at a crossroads in his career and needs to prove to people he wants to play. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with a 4 or 5 year deal for over $20 million a year.

Untapped potential?

Speaking of available outfielders, BJ Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays is an interesting subject this offseason. Upton is only 28 and a former number one draft pick of the Rays. For years, people in the game keep expecting Upton to show his true potential, as it seems he has all the tools needed to be a top notch player. Unfortunately, he has only shown flashes of this talent, which has got to be frustrating for Tampa Bay management. It’s a pretty sure bet he will be leaving Florida, but to be honest I don’t understand why team’s are so high on him. Okay, I get WHY they are high on him. Scouts still think he will tap into his capabilities and be an All Star. The thing is, the numbers say otherwise. Since 2008, he has hit for more power, but his OBP has nosedived. To make a long story short, he is hitting for more power, but not getting on base as much, which is an important part of the game. In my eyes, Upton is what he is; a guy with pop in his bat, above average defensively, with a lack of plate discipline. Some team will overpay for Upton, and will be hopeful he will figure it out. But I wouldn’t put my money on that happening.

Maybe he should build a webpage with pictures of puppies, you know, to show his softer side.

Oh, Melky. The story has been told again and again, so we won’t get into his fall from grace this season. Instead, lets focus on what could happen with Cabrera. I’m pretty sure some team will sign him, but instead of a multi-year deal for over $10 million a year, Cabrera will probably get stuck with a one year deal for possibly as low as $2 million. Basically, Cabrera has a lot of goodwill to rebuild. Teams have to be concerned about a few things with Melky. For one, we don’t know how much of his success the past two years was hard work and how much was added substances. He will have to prove that the Melky we saw the first half of 2012 was for real. The other issue is the website problem that popped up after his positive test this summer. If it looks like Cabrera might have a court date in his near future, it will be less likely a team will want to take a flyer on him.  There is also the issue of his clubhouse presence. He has never been a favorite in the locker room over the years, but seemed to change the last two years. But when his positive test came out, he bolted the Giants clubhouse, which did not sit well with his teammates. Most felt he should have apologized to them in person instead of bolting. If a team can get around all of these obstacles, then Melky could be worth their time. A team like Seattle seems like a good landing spot for the Melkman, but only time will tell.

Dodging a bullet.

Last Friday, the Angels cut pitcher Dan Haren free, as a proposed deal with the Cubs fell apart at the last minute. Haren was actually a target of the Royals at one point before deciding on his teammate, Ervin Santana. To say I was relieved that Kansas City didn’t get Haren would be an understatement. Look, at one point Haren was an elite starter, probably one of the top ten in the game. I would even say if the trade was offered back before 2011, I’d be excited about acquiring Haren. Unfortunately, Haren struggled throughout 2012, and watching a couple of his starts, it seemed apparent that he was not healthy. Haren has had back issues in the past, which is a giant red flag for any team thinking of picking him up. Back issues are notorious for lingering, and could bother a starting pitcher for years. If you throw in all the innings Haren has thrown over the years, and it is very possible that he is on the downside of his career. Sure, Haren could go out there and prove everything I just said wrong. Or his back issues could linger throughout the rest of his career. When it is all said and done, signing Haren would be a gamble for any team taking a chance on him and even a bigger gamble for a team like the Royals. I will breathe easier knowing the Royals aren’t thinking about bringing Haren into the fold.

It will be weird if Soria is not wearing Royal blue come February.

Last week, the Kansas City Royals cut loose longtime closer Joakim Soria. This wasn’t really big news for us Royals fans, as we all knew the team wasn’t going to pay him the rate he was at, not after going through his second Tommy John surgery. Both sides have said they would like for Soria to come back and be a part of the Royals in 2013, but word came out this week that a number of teams are in the hunt for him as well. As a Royals fan, it would be great to have Soria back, as it only seems appropriate for him to only play for one team in his career. But I am also realistic and understand the Royals don’t NEED Soria. Greg Holland is the closer and proved that he deserves that job. Add in the plethora of young arms in Kansas City’s bullpen and you can see how the Royals could afford to lose Soria. I know I will be upset if Soria signs elsewhere, but I get it. No way should the Royals overspend on a guy who will be a setup guy at best. The Royals need to make their decision more with their head than their heart on this one.

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