Monday, March 25, 2013

AL Central & West 2013 preview

With a week before the start of the season, we will continue our previews by covering both the AL Central & West divisions in this chapter.

AL Central:

Detroit won its 2nd straight division title last year virtually on the last day, then reached the World Series, where they were swept in 4 by San Francisco. The Tigers do not return intact , however, as outfielder Delmon Young left via free agency to Philadelphia. Closer Jose Valverde is gone as well, and for now, manager Jim Leyland will go with a committee of potential closers, including veteran Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke, who was part of the deal that sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees. Offensively, the Tigers remain solid, even with Young gone.

Cleveland is making noises, having picked up Nick Swisher (Yankees) & Michael Bourn (Atlanta) via free agency, while Shin Soo Choo moved to Cincinnati. Chicago remains a threat, but they're not making all that much racket with the same group that came within an eyelash of the title last year. Kansas City made a big trade with Tampa Bay, netting pitchers Wade Davis & James Shields, and if the preseason is a barometer, they could be a sleeper. Minnesota picked up pitcher Mike Pelfrey (Mets) in the offseason, but didn't get much help for the offense.

Projected order of finish:

1. Detroit.
2. Chicago.
3. Cleveland
3. (tie) Kansas City.
5. Minnesota.

AL West:

Oakland showed what could happen when you don't buy your way to the top. However, no one's going to be surprised by the A's this year. Texas is finally showing signs that they are no longer the class of the division, after getting run out in the wild card round by Baltimore. Josh Hamilton is gone, taking most of the offense with him to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, where he joins Albert Pujols and Rookie of the Year Mike Trout. Hamilton may be the last piece of the puzzle that owner Artie Moreno needed to take the Angels over the top. Houston joins the division this year, just to give everyone a punching bag to play with, as they're nowhere near ready to contend. Manager Bo Porter (Washington) may as well hear the theme from Mission: Impossible play before home games, although the increase in in-season games vs. Texas will boost attendance. If what happens in March meant anything, Seattle would be considered a sleeper threat, as they've blown out some teams in the Arizona sunshine. However, with Ichiro Suzuki having gone East to the Yankees last summer, they're lacking a drawing card at the box office.

Projected order of finish:

1. Angels.
2. Texas.
3. Oakland.
4. Seattle.
5. Houston.

We'll cover the NL East in part 3.

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