The Top 10 MLB teams in 2013
Time to see if your favorite MLB team is in the Top 10
Since the final out of the 2012 World Series, the focus of every team has been how they can be the team celebrating in October. To catch MLB fans up on news if they have been distracted following their favorite football teams; here in a nutshell, is what has been going on this offseason.
The Miami Marlins have decided they would rather play in AAA than compete with the big boys and had a fire sale; a sale the Toronto Blue Jays benefited from the most, making them one of the top teams, on paper, heading into the season. The Los Angeles Angels followed up their 2012 signing of slugger Albert Pujols, with the signing of this year’s top free agent, Josh Hamilton. Now the Angels have a lot of pop to go with a pretty decent pitching staff. In case fans have not noticed the LA on the dollar bills, the Los Angeles Dodgers now print their own money and spend it just as fast. The New York Yankees have more questions than Jeopardy and have decided they would rather save money than win baseball championships. Many players have changed zip codes, many teams have gotten better, and most importantly, every team has the same record in 2013 and fans have hope for a title from Boston to LA.
The 2013 season should be one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory, with so many teams having a legitimate shot at winning a title. Here is a look at the Top 10 teams that will put their mark on what should be a very interesting 2013 season.
10 - New York Yankees
The New York Yankees have always tried to solve every problem or weakness on the team with money; that is no longer the Yankee way. The organization may have picked a very bad year to do this, but the team is still pretty good and will be competitive in 2013. Derek Jeter is the heart and soul of the Yankees and his Hall of Fame career is coming to an end, so there is no way he will go down without a fight. Just having Jeter won’t be enough, but the Yankees do have a very high payroll for a reason and in 2013 those big names need to back up all those zeros on their paychecks. The Yankees have a very experienced team with a lot of power to produce runs, which should protect the weakness in the back end of their rotation. Robinson Cano needs to take his game to another level in 2013, he is in a contract year and will need to play like it. If Cano and Mark Teixeira can hold down the middle of the lineup and newcomer Kevin Youkilis can step in until Alex Rodriguez comes back, this should still be a very dangerous lineup. Brett Gardner will be back to a 100% and should lead off; giving the Yankees that much needed speed at the top of the lineup they missed last year. The Yankees relied on the long ball entirely too much last season and Gardner’s young legs could be exactly what the doctor ordered for this lineup to get going. The top end of the pitching staff has two future Hall of Famers and one great, experienced pitcher. CC Sabathia will again be called upon to be the leader of the Yankees pitching staff, but he has help behind him on this good, but aging pitching staff. Andy Pettitte will give the Yankees one more year and bringing back Hiroki Kuroda for another year will give the Yankees a solid starting three. The four and five guys in the rotation and the bullpen could be a concern, but having number 42, Mariano Rivera, coming back out to close games in 2013, after a freak injury in 2012, is something the Yankees will need to be a top team in the American League. The Yankees need all their superstars to come back from injuries and be the players they were to have any chance in 2013. If they do that, the Yankees could end up going farther than anyone expected, but if they don’t and the injuries hit hard again, this could be a painful season in the Bronx. As of right now they are healthy and worthy of the Top 10.
9 - Philadelphia Phillies
This may be a little high of a ranking for the Philadelphia Phillies, especially since they haven’t really made any big moves in the offseason. Similar to the Yankees, the Phillies have a really good core and a great closer, but better than the Yankees, the Phillies have an amazing pitching staff. The Phillies staff is so deep and strong that their best pitcher, Cole Hamels, is the third guy in the rotation. The Phillies have a healthy Ryan Howard and Chase Utley to lead the heart of the Phillies lineup. The Phillies have one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball and are lucky they do, since they play in the sandbox called Citizens Bank Park, where even the best pitchers could accidentally give up a homerun. Rubén Amaro, Jr. in his time as the GM for the Phillies has built the team around pitching, which isn’t the worst idea especially with the park Philadelphia built for his team. In a recent interview, Amaro said he was far from done this offseason, but would not over spend because he has faith in the team he has. He went on to say by no means is he done and is looking for another bat to add depth to the lineup, as well as looking for a solid middle relief pitcher. The bridge from the three aces to All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon was one of the Phillies biggest problems in 2012. Amaro is not blind and will make a move to solidify the pen before the season starts. When a team has Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Hammels along with a power bat like Howard, they have a shot. The Phillies added two good hitters already to the lineup bringing in outfielder Ben Revere and five-time All-Star Michael Young, who can play multiple positions, adding some extra punch to a lineup that also has a very good leadoff hitter in Jimmy Rollins. The two biggest concerns for those in Philadelphia are the back end of the rotation and the bullpen. With the recent signing of John Lannan, the starting rotation is better, as some feared the trade of Vance Worley would short hand the top heavy rotation. The Phillies are moving in the right direction and should be able to compete with the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals. The key to the Phillies season could come from the arm of Kyle Kendrick. For the Phillies to have a legitimate shot in 2013, Kendrick, a relief pitcher turned starter, needs to continue to grow into the pitcher he showed at times he could be in 2012.
8 - Atlanta Braves
The 2013 Atlanta Braves may be ranked a little low, but for now they need to show what it seems they have with their team. The Braves will be forced to play without All-Star catcher Brian McCann to start the season which will hurt, and they have to replace the face of the franchise, Chipper Jones. Seeing how the Braves react to these missing pieces to start the season will be interesting, as well as tell a lot about what fans can expect from a very solid Braves team. The Braves didn’t just lose players in the offseason, they also brought in a very solid top of the order man in B.J. Upton, who with Martin Prado will give the Braves two great table setters for the power that will follow them. Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman will be the big bats in the middle and will have to carry the load until McCann gets back, but if Dan Uggla hits like he can, the lineup will be fine. The Braves do have some youth and some inexperience with Juan Francisco and Andrelton Simmons, but Simmons should be a pleasant surprise for fans of the Braves. The Braves rotation is always strong and 2013 is no different. Tim Hudson will be the Braves opening day starter, but he is followed by two pitchers that could be number one guys on another team; Kris Medlen and Mike Minor. The Braves rotation is rounded out with Paul Maholm and possibly the biggest concern for the Braves, Randall Delgado and his ability to pitch every fifth day. The Braves have an above average bullpen that is led by closer Craig Kimbrel. Will the Braves be good enough to compete with the Washington Nationals or hold off the Philadelphia Phillies, those questions should get answered early with how the team reacts to not having Jones and holding on without one of the best catchers in baseball, McCann.
7 - Baltimore Orioles
The team that surprised all of baseball in 2012, the Baltimore Orioles, will look to build upon their success last year and take a step forward and make it farther than the playoffs. Fans in Baltimore have been waiting for years for this team of young stars to come together and they now have. The Orioles also have a very good manager in Buck Showalter, who knows how to get the most out of the players he has. The Orioles are led by the man in the middle of their lineup Adam Jones, who had a break out year in 2012 and the team will expect more from their center fielder in 2013. He seems up to the task and with the young core in the lineup built around him, the sky is the limit for this team for years to come. The Orioles are expected to extend Showalter’s contract for three more years within the next few days, showing their confidence in his ability to handle this young team. A rookie that may have been overlooked because of so much young talent in 2012, Manny Machado, is expected to continue to progress and show he was no one-year wonder. Machado is a very talented hitter, but his fielding is almost as, if not more impressive, as he holds down the hot corner as good as anyone in the league. The Orioles added Nate McLouth last season and he and JJ Hardy will be the men at the top of the order for the Orioles. The two don’t just bring contact and speed up top, they also bring power, which is good for a team that plays in a division where there is no such thing as enough runs. Matt Wieters will again be behind the plate and is a good hitter, but he will have as big an impact calling pitches for the starting rotation. Jason Hammel will need to have an excellent season for the Orioles to be as good as they should. Hammel is the ace of the staff, but the strongest part of the Orioles pitching last season and again in 2013 is their middle relief and closer Jim Johnson. The Orioles could go very far in 2013, but the starting staff will need to step up and go more than five innings, as they did so often in 2012. Showalter did a great job managing last season and he has the bats, but if the Orioles do deserve a spot in the top 10, this starting staff will need to pitch more effective in 2013.
6 - Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds will have the majority of the players back that dominated the NL Central in 2012. After adding a few players in the offseason they should again run away with the division again in 2013. The Reds added a very key piece to their lineup with the signing of Shin-Soo Choo, who will lead off an explosive lineup. Choo is a solid contact hitter, who gets on base with consistency and has a lot of speed. Choo’s presence will take a lot of pressure off Brandon Phillips, who is one of the league’s best hitting second basemen. The middle of the lineup will again be led by All-Star Joey Votto and clean-up hitter Ryan Ludwick. The Reds are in one of the weakest divisions in baseball, so it is very hard to gauge if they are that good or that they just dominate the bad teams in the NL Central. Either way, the Reds will be a good team, but to get over that hump they will need solid pitching to make it anywhere in the playoffs. Flamethrower Johnny Cueto is the Reds ace and again needs to carry the Reds, shaky at times, rotation. The rest of the Reds starting staff needs to show more consistency, guys like Matt Latos and Bronson Arroyo need to have better years for the team to do more than just win their division. The Reds have a beast in closer Aroldis Chapman, who lights up the radar gun every time he steps on the mound. In order to have the type of season this team expects, the Reds have to find guys to get holds in order to get to Chapman to close out games.
5 - Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers are an interesting team because they could easily be atop this list or they could not be on it at all. It is almost impossible to predict chemistry. One very good ingredient the Dodgers have going for them to make it all work out is Manager Don Mattingly. Mattingly will play as key a role in his team’s success, as any manager in baseball. He should be accustomed to dealing with a group of overpaid super stars, having played on the New York Yankees his entire career, but it will be interesting to see if the owners who spend money like it grows on trees can actually buy a championship. The Dodgers, without a doubt have the players and will probably add more before the start of the season, but as of right now, a spot right in the middle seems most fitting for this team. The Dodgers have as solid of a lineup as any team in baseball, with Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Either to just name a few. The Dodgers will need their role players like Mark and A.J. Ellis to be consistent bookends to this all-star lineup. The pitching staff should be solid, with an actual pre-magic ownership, Clayton Kershaw leading the rotation. Kershaw will be followed by Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett and the joker card of the bunch, 25 year-old Hyun-Jin Ryu, who will be pitching his first season in MLB. The Dodgers may end up winning it all, but it is hard to put them anywhere but the middle because buying a team rarely ever works out.
4 - Toronto Blue Jays
The owners may not be spending as fast and as much money as the Dodgers, but they are without a doubt spending a lot to bring a championship north of the border. The Toronto Blue Jays in a sense took the majority of the Miami Marlins and added a few others in free-agency like Cy Young pitcher R.A. Dickey in their quest to take over as the team to beat in not only the American League East, but in all of baseball. The Jays have a lineup that is as solid as their leadoff man Jose Reyes, who is one of the Marlins additions. Not often does a team’s previous season ace drop to the third man, but when a team brings in a CY Young winner and Josh Johnson, that will happen. The Jays already had an above average lineup that boasted Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Colby Rasmus and youngster Brett Lawrie. In addition to adding Reyes, the Jays grabbed Melky Cabrera to hit second. Cabrera is coming off a year which started out better than anyone could have expected, but ended with a suspension for use of PED’s, so it may be hard to figure out if he was that good or had some help. The Jays rotation was good a month ago, then they add Dickey and now it may be the best in baseball. Also in the rotation are last year Jays starters Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero. Rounding out the staff is another of the guys who left the Marlins, Mark Buehrle. This team is a force, but like the Dodgers, it will be interesting to see if chemistry even matters in sports anymore, or if money can buy a team a championship.
3 - Los Angeles Angels
The Dodgers are not the only team in California and may not even be the best team in LA. The Los Angeles Angels were very good last year and should be even better in 2013. Last season the team brought in the best free-agent in Albert Pujols, so this year they thought they would one up themselves and do it again by adding this year’s top guy, Josh Hamilton. Some may argue Hamilton brings baggage with him, but those who argue that probably have some luggage of their own. Hamilton is an exceptional outfielder and can crush the ball all over the park. He will also take a lot of pressure off Pujols, who seemed to have a hard time adjusting at the start of last season. With those two in the middle, and Rookie of the Year Mike Trout leading off, the Angels will not have that hard of a time scoring runs. Trout’s performance last season was, to say the least, unbelievable, especially for such a young guy. Trout played the game like a 10 year veteran, not only on the field but how he conducted himself. From a baseball standpoint, giving up a single to Trout is as good as a double most of the time and with Hamilton and Pujols in the middle, the scoreboard will be lighting up all season for the Angels. The pitching staff is solid as well, with maybe two question marks at the backend. The aces, because to call one of these guys the ace would be disrespectful, are Jered Weaver, the day-one starter, followed by C.J. Wilson and Tommy Hanson, who came over from the Braves. Also in their first season with the Angels are the guys that will make or break this team’s chances at a ring; Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas. The Angels lineup will definitely be the strength of the team, but the pitching staff is very strong as well, however, the lineup will need Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick to have a solid season. If this all comes together, the Angels have as good a chance as any to win the World Series.
2 - Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers are ranked this high because they have that chemistry; this team has gone to battle in the playoffs and just about won it all. Also, it would be nice to see that owners need more than just a ton of money to win a championship. Watching the Tigers play, offensively, they have very few weakness and they have the ace of all aces in Justin Verlander. The Tigers did bring in Torii Hunter, an experienced player, to help at the top of the lineup as well as in the outfield. Hunter will help leadoff man Austin Jackson more than stats will show. Hunter has been in the league a long time and should help Jackson learn how to be the leadoff hitter he is capable of being, which would really help out the powers in the middle. Last season the Tigers brought in Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez to help Miguel Cabrera and that worked out pretty good, even though Martinez missed the majority of the season with an injury. The difference between the Tigers coming up a little short or winning a World Series will be the pitchers behind Verlander. The Tigers need to have Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and their bullpen to be more reliable. If the pen and the four and five starters can be slightly above average, this could be the last team standing in October.
1 - Washington Nationals
Surprise, surprise, the Washington Nationals are the top team going into the 2013 season. The Nationals are what so many fans love about baseball, that any team at any time can get good, the difference with the Nationals is they found the right manager in Davey Johnson and used all their years of bottom feeding to grab excellent players in the draft. The king of all those picks is the leader of the pitching staff and the team, Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg is not just some great pitcher, this kid has been hurt, came back, and never lost a step. He is extremely talented and is an easy 20 game winner for many years to come. The Nationals somehow snagged lighting in a bottle two times in the draft getting another amazingly talented star in Bryce Harper. Harper may not be as mature yet, but that does not take anything away from his exceptional natural baseball skills. To go with Strasburg, the Nationals have an ace on just about any other team in baseball Gio Gonzalez. Following Gonzalez will be Dan Harren who is coming over from the Angels; he brings with him a lot of talent, but more important, experience to help guide some of those younger pitchers. Some may argue the Nationals fourth and fifth day guys aren’t that good, but after the top three, not many pitchers would look that good. Jordan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler are good pitchers and will be above average and that’s all the Nationals will need as they may have more than two 20 game winners at the top of the rotation. The guy that closes games out for the Nationals is an ace in his own right, Drew Storen. Storen does not blow many games, and has the composure and poise to be a legit closer for many years to come. How young and talented this team is may be a phrase MLB hears for many years to come; also it will be one fans of other teams in the NL East will get tired of hearing. If in fact this Nationals teams finds its way to the top of the mountain in 2013, it may be a long time until they come down. The Nationals lineup isn’t anything to look past either, their pitching may get your attention, but the lineup will determine if they deserve to be the top team. Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse to go with Harper and Ian Desmond is a force to be reckoned with. The NL East will be very competitive, but if this young team can stay healthy and their pitchers can have the season everyone in baseball expects, this will be the team with champagne spraying all over their locker room and then maybe the people in the Nations Capital will actually take notice that they have the best team in all of baseball.