MLB: Ranking 15 Early Favorites to Win 2013 World Series

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Top 15 Teams to Win 2013 World Series

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Kim Klement - US PRESSWIRE

The San Francisco Giants pulled off a shocking four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series, giving the Giants their second world championship in three seasons.

Pitching was again the story for the Giants. Matt Cain emerged as the ace of the team, going 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA, starting for the National League in the All-Star Game, and throwing a perfect game. Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong posted identically strong numbers, and even Barry Zito turned in his best year in awhile.

Tim Lincecum’s struggles were well-reported throughout the season but he was remarkable when the playoffs started, tossing 17.2 innings with a 2.55 ERA, just 14 baserunners allowed, and 20 strikeouts. And the bullpen had a slew of talented relievers consisting of Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, and George Kontos – and that’s even without Brian Wilson, who spent the year rehabbing.

All five of the Giants’ starting pitchers are under contract for next season, as is the majority of their dominant bullpen.

That doesn’t mean the team is a lock for the NL West title again; after all, the Los Angeles Dodgers really put up a midseason fight to win it, and they should be a 90-win team in 2013.

And a full offseason of opportunities for other teams will be room for near-contenders and even pretenders to turn into all-out contenders.

The great thing about major league baseball is that any given team can win a World Series in any given year. I doubt too many people projected the 1997 Florida Marlins to win it all or the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays to make the Fall Classic. But the following 15 teams look like odds-on favorites to emerge as world champions in 2013 if all goes according to plan.

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15. New York Mets

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Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

The New York Mets have the making to be a surprise contender in 2013. They have an underrated pitching staff that could be among the best in the game if R.A. Dickey re-signs and Johan Santana returns to full health.

Dickey was a Cy Young candidate and Santana was at his best for the first half of the season. Top prospect Zach Wheeler may be ready to contribute next year and 22-year-old Matt Harvey already made a huge impact in his first 10 big league starts. Factor in solid lefty Jonathan Niese, and that’s a darn good pitching staff.

The bullpen will be key, as the unit ranked 29th in the major leagues in ERA (4.65) this season. They absolutely cannot survive another year with Frank Francisco (5.53 ERA, 4.5 BB/9) as their closer, so they will need to pick up a big name in free agency like Ryan Madson or Rafael Soriano.

Meanwhile, the offense ranked sixth-last in the majors in runs scored, so picking up David Wright’s option was definitely the right move. They’re going to need more production from players like Jason Bay, Andres Torres, Lucas Duda, and Ruben Tejada. But if the San Francisco Giants showed anything this year, it’s that pitching can take a team far.

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14. Oakland Athletics

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Kim Klement - US PRESSWIRE

The 2012 Oakland Athletics shocked the baseball world by winning 94 games and securing the AL wild card spot.

They did so off of a moneyball style of pitching that managed to squeeze successful seasons for little to no cost out of players like Tommy Milone, Brandon McCarthy, Jarrod Parker, Bartolo Colon, Dan Straily, Travis Blackley, and A.J. Griffin.

Whether those guys can repeat their success remains to be determined. But they had a 3.50 team ERA that rated second in the American League, and their bullpen had six players with an ERA under 3.00.

The problem is their offense and they are going to need players like Daric Barton and Jemile Weeks to keep pace with Yoesnis Cespedes and Josh Reddick.

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13. Chicago White Sox

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Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

After holding the lead in the AL Central for most of 2012, the Chicago White Sox fell apart down the stretch. They lost 11 of their final 15 games, turning a three game lead into a three game deficit to the Detroit Tigers.

The offense was mostly to blame during that stretch, as the team averaged just 3.6 runs scored per game. But they have an extremely talented group when they all produce – Paul Konerko, A.J. Pieryznski, Dayan Viciedo, Alex Rios, and Adam Dunn all hit 25 or more home runs, with Dunn topping 40. And they did finish seventh in the major leagues in runs scored during the season, and they were third in the American League in home runs.

Jake Peavy probably won’t be back considering he has an outrageous $22 million option. But Chris Sale and Jose Quintana were pleasant surprises in the rotation, and Gavin Floyd is a solid number three to four starter. They’re going to need a more efficient closer than Addison Reed (4.75 ERA), but as of now, they remain in the top half of teams heading into the 2012 offseason.

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12. Philadelphia Phillies

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Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

This team took a huge step back in 2012 after five consecutive NL East titles. The Philadelphia Phillies finished with just 81 wins, a full 21 fewer than they had in 2011.

Then again, the team was struck hard with injuries, as Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, and Carlos Ruiz all missed extensive time.

The pitching staff of Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels is tough to beat, and they have a legitimate closer in Jonathan Papelbon. Some more help in the bullpen would be nice, as the unit finished just 21st in the major leagues in ERA due largely to the fact that relievers like Phillippe Aumont, Joe Savery, and B.J. Rosenberg took up many of the innings.

What will ultimately decide the fate of the 2013 team will be GM Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s effectiveness in acquiring a third baseman and some outfielders this offseason, and the ability of Howard and Utley to rebound to full health next year.

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11. Los Angeles Dodgers

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Matt Clement - US PRESSWIRE

The 2012 Los Angeles Dodgers quietly pulled off an extremely underwhelming campaign. They traded for a slew of Boston Red Sox players at midseason – as well as Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton from the Philadelphia Phillies and Brandon League from the Seattle Mariners – but still missed the playoffs.

The Dodgers will have a pretty solid rotation next year with Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano, and Aaron Harang. They really will need their 26th ranked offense to step its game up, but now that they have Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford in addition to Andre Ethier and MVP candidate Matt Kemp, they should be around the middle of the pack.

That should be good enough for 90+ wins and a strong fight for the NL West title.

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10. New York Yankees

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Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

There’s a lot of reason to believe the New York Yankees won’t be nearly as talented in 2013.

Nick Swisher will almost assuredly leave in free agency and there’s a chance Curtis Granderson could be gone too. The Yankees will probably counter with a big offseason acquisition like Josh Hamilton but they still have to worry about an aging left side of the infield in Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez (if A-Rod stays).

CC Sabathia had offseason elbow surgery, which probably won’t affect him too much by the time April rolls around. But the Yankees got subpar seasons from both Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova, and who knows how long they can count on either Andy Pettitte or Mariano Rivera?

The Baltimore Orioles also made huge strides in 2012, even clinching their first playoff berth since 1997. They probably won’t be as good next year but they’re still a much tougher team. The Yankees may really struggle to even win 90.

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9. Tampa Bay Rays

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Walt Rodriguez - US PRESSWIRE

At this point, the Tampa Bay Rays may play in a competitive AL East and they may not. It depends on how strong the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles return in 2013, as well as whether the Boston Red Sox are able to jump back into the hunt next season.

What the Rays have going for them is an extremely impressive pitching staff. David Price, James Shields, and Matt Moore are a very strong 1-2-3 pitching punch. They will need to decide whether they want to bring back closer Fernando Rodney, who turned in a dream season in 2012 (0.60 ERA).

The Rays were in the bottom half of the league in runs scored, failing to even top 700 (697). B.J. Upton may leave via free agency as well, which would be a big blow to an offense that isn’t as strong as it was when the team went to the World Series in 2008.

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8. Cincinnati Reds

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Joey Lee - US PRESSWIRE

The 2012 Cincinnati Reds won their ballgames because of their pitching much more than their hitting. The offense scored just 669 runs, largely because Joey Votto missed extended time and the team got little production from center fielder Drew Stubbs, third baseman Scott Rolen, and shortstop Zack Cozart.

The rotation is a strong group, led by pitcher Johnny Cueto (19-9, 2.78 ERA) who emerged as the team’s ace this past year. The bullpen was an enormous strength as well, particularly closer Aroldis Chapman and setup man Sean Marshall. As a team, the Reds compiled an ERA of 2.65 out of the ‘pen, a mark that led all of the major leagues.

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7. Atlanta Braves

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Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

The Atlanta Braves were really hurt by the new wild card rule in 2012 – as well as a questionable infield fly call in game 163.

They should return as serious contenders though for the division next year. Chipper Jones will retire during the offseason if he’s true to his word and Michael Bourn may leave in free agency. The Braves do have top talent though in Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, and Brian McCann.

The pitching staff will be solid with Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, and Brandon Beachy. What will make or break the season is how the young pitchers like Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, and Randall Delgado perform in 2013.

The bullpen should be top-notch again with the unhittable Craig Kimbrel and tough lefty Jonny Venters.

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6. San Francisco Giants

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Kurt Rodriguez - US PRESSWIRE

This is a team that has managed to win multiple World Series in a three-year span doing it the old-fashioned way: pitching, pitching, and more pitching.

The 2012 San Francisco Giants received terrific seasons from Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong. Barry Zito turned in his personal best year in quite some time, and even Tim Lincecum – who really struggled during the regular season – played a pivotal role out of the bullpen during the World Series.

Lincecum saw some uncharacteristic control problems this past year that resulted in his leading the NL in losses, earned runs allowed, and wild pitches. He’s increased his walk total every year since 2009, while decreasing his strikeout total, and it really might be in the Giants’ best interest to continue using him as a closer in 2013. The Giants also have Sergio Romo, arguably the most underrated relief pitcher in the MLB.

The Giants have managed to win without much hitting other than catcher Buster Posey and third baseman Pablo Sandoval (and a juiced-up Melky Cabrera). They will have Hunter Pence though for another year, and first baseman Brandon Belt has started to make some strides at the plate.

That’s enough that the Giants have to be seen as serious threats to go to the World Series once again next year.

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5. St. Louis Cardinals

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Carlos Belt - US PRESSWIRE

The St. Louis Cardinals managed to come within a game of the World Series again in 2012 despite losing Albert Pujols in the offseason and not having Chris Carpenter or Lance Berkman for much of the season.

What the Cardinals have though is an impressive offense that scores runs behind Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, David Freese, and the incredibly versatile combination of Allen Craig and Jon Jay.

St. Louis ranked second in the National League in runs scored last year and first in both hits and on-base percentage.

The pitching will be getting Chris Carpenter back (assuming he can stay healthy for 2013), along with Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, and Lance Lynn. Kyle Lohse will probably leave in free agency because he will be a fairly hot commodity, but he’s the type of player the Cardinals will be able to replace with relative ease.

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4. Texas Rangers

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Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

Texas Rangers had been to consecutive World Series in 2010 and 2011, and they seemed to be well on their way to representing the AL once again in 2012. Then they collapsed at the end of the year, backed in via the wild card, and lost the play-in game to the Baltimore Orioles.

Texas will return a very strong team in 2013 though. They’re likely going to lose Josh Hamilton in free agency, but they have two incredibly talented prospects waiting in shortstop Jurickson Profar and third baseman Mike Olt.

Their lineup is still loaded with Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, and Nelson Cruz. The pitching is what concerns me to a certain extent. Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison are a solid group of starting pitchers, as is Derek Holland, although his numbers dropped off in 2012.

The Rangers are going to need Colby Lewis to stay healthy and if they choose to re-sign Ryan Dempster, a 5.09 ERA isn’t good enough. If Joe Nathan can duplicate his success from ’12, that will go a long way for the Rangers. They have good bullpen guys in Robbie Ross, Mike Adams, Mark Lowe, and Koji Uehara, as well as Alexi Ogando, who can pitch out of the rotation or in relief.

The Rangers do have an extremely difficult division, as the Oakland Athletics won the AL West in 2012 and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim project to be a 95-win team or better next season.

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3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

I think the 2012 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were one of the best non-playoff teams in a long time.

They have a ridiculous offense, led by Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, and Mark Trumbo. The Angels scored the fourth-most runs in the major leagues last year, and they were helped by strong contributions from nearly every member of the lineup (Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Torii Hunter, Kendrys Morales, etc).

Their pitching has a legit bonafide ace in Jered Weaver and a great number two in C.J. Wilson. They have decisions to make about Dan Haren and Ervin Santana for 2013, and if they let Zack Greinke go too, they’re in the need for some pitching. Closer Ernesto Frieri was magnificent at the start (perfect 0.00 ERA and .096 slugging percentage allowed in first 26.1 IP with Angels, then 4.50 ERA in 28 IP afterwards).

The Angels will need to make some moves in free agency, particularly for their pitching staff. But with that kind of a lineup and the up-and-coming Trout, they have to be taken seriously as a contender.

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2. Detroit Tigers

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Howard Smith - US PRESSWIRE

The Detroit Tigers quietly grabbed the AL Central division title from the Chicago White Sox late in the season, then swept the New York Yankees in the ALCS to qualify for their second World Series appearance in seven seasons.

Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera make up arguably the most lethal 3-4 hitting combination in the game. Austin Jackson adds speed at the top of the lineup, and they have a solid catcher in Alex Avila (who needs a better 2013).

Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in the game, is their ace. Having him gives them a legitimate shot at winning every fifth game, and considering Verlander has averaged 19.5 wins since 2009, they’re probably going to get another terrific season in 2013.

Max Scherzer is a strikeout machine and Doug Fister was a terrific addition from the Seattle Mariners a year and a half ago. They will have to decide what to do about now-ineffective closer Jose Valverde, who is also a 34-year old free agent. Maybe they can put Phil Coke as the closer though, considering the ridiculous success he displayed in the postseason.

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1. Wshington Nationals

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Stephen Ross - US PRESSWIRE

s may seem premature but the 2012 Washington Nationals were probably the best team in the National League all year.

ir rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmerman rivals that of the Philadelphia Phillies’ for the best three starting pitchers in the game. And don’t forget that Strasburg didn’t pitch in the postseason, or they very well could have/would have advanced further.

lineup should be formidable, with Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, and Michael Morse in the outfield, as well as an extremely underrated infield that includes Wilson Ramos catching and Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, and Ryan Zimmerman. They can hit both lefties (.604 winning percentage) and righties (.605 winning percentage).

they have a bullpen that ranked third in the NL in ERA, despite not having Drew Storen in his regular role for a majority of the season.

that is missing now is a World Series run.

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