A 9-minute guide to the 2013 MLB season
Posted March 29, 2013
Yes, I know it is the heart of the NCAA tournament right now, and if you are a Duke fan, you are still fully invested. But this weekend is also the start of the Major League Baseball season and for those with fantasy teams, favorite teams or at least a half-hearted interest, I have a nine-minute breakdown of what you missed during the offseason and what to expect over the next eight-plus months.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Getting the pearl
For those unfamiliar, the “pearl” is a fresh game ball – so let’s look at starting pitching.
Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg, who was held out of the postseason last year because of an innings pitched limit and forced to watch an epic collapse from the bench, will have no such limit this year. Nat’s fans are immediately optimistic.
Staying in the NL East, Mets pitcher Johan Santana re-injured his shoulder and may miss the entire season if he opts for surgery. Career-ender? Perhaps.
Pitchers on the move include knuckler R.A Dickey, who heads north to Toronto along with Josh Johnson and Mark Bueherle. Kansas City also stocked up getting James Shields and Ervin Santana. The last of the big moves saw top free agent Kyle Loshe sign with the Brewers. Moves that could also pay off include Zack Greinke in Los Angeles, Edwin Jackson going to the Cubs, Shaun Marcum joining the Mets and Dan Haren helping the Nationals.
Big contracts went to the big names. Felix Hernandez signed a 7-year, $175 million deal to stay in Seattle and Adam Wainwright got $97.5 million over two years to lead the Cardinals. Oh, and just today, Justin Verlander got a record $180 million contract. Seriously.
Those following former D.H. Conley and UNC pitcher Alex White, he figures to be in the rotation for the lowly Astros as they transition to the vicious AL West.
Hit and run
Athens Drive product Josh Hamilton changed addresses but not divisions as he joined the Angels. A lineup that now boasts Albert Pujols, Hamilton and Mark Trumbo hitting consecutively is downright frightening. Also penciling-in a nightmare lineup is the Tigers who added Torii Hunter to their arsenal of Austin Jackson, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera.
The Yankees are old and getting older with the additions of Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner. The latest acquisition: Vernon Wells.
Staying in the east, Toronto bolstered by getting Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera, the Red Sox added Stephen Drew and Shane Victorino and the Rays picked up James Loney.
Atlanta, trying to keep pace with Washington in the NL East, united the Upton brothers, B.J. and Justin, to compliment Jason Heyward.
There is no clear-cut Bryce Harper or Mike Trout this year, but people want to talk up a few players anyway. If you want that scouts edge, I have a few names for you.
Right here in Durham, you will get a first-hand look at Will Myers – but you better get your tickets fast. The Rays top prospect, Myers is a power hitting outfielder that surely won’t be in the minors long. A close-cut for the opening day roster, the former 3rd round pick combined to hit 37 home runs in the minors last year.
Thought of by many to be the best prospect in all of baseball, Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar will open in Triple-A, as will Cardinals outfielder Oscar Tavaras. Each will undoubtedly get MLB service in 2013.
The first names to know as far as the top-crop young arms: Gerrit Cole in Pittsburgh, Dylan Bundy in Baltimore and a future closer in Detroit, Bruce Rondon. All three should get their cups of coffee this season.
A fourth name that you already know is Clayton native Chris Archer. Expect the Rays to call him up first if their rotation has a vacancy.
My dark-horse prospect to make an impact before the year’s end: Adam Eaton. The 22-year-old outfielder in the Diamondbacks organization can straight fly on the basepaths and hits for a high average, too.
Playing the numbers
ESPN.com and the AP each reported that Alex Rodriguez will make more than the entire Astros team this year. A-Rod will make $29 million this season – and he might not even play because of his injury (which injury is irrelevant because even bubble wrap can’t keep him in the lineup these days). The Yankees will be the highest paid opening day roster for the 15th – yes, 15th – consecutive year. Meanwhile, the Astros opening day, 25-man roster will make a combined $19 million, the lowest since the Marlins payroll totaled $16 million in 2006.
On the bench
Terry Francona has found a new dugout in Cleveland. I doubt he can help the Indians to the postseason, but at least he will bring in a few more fans early on.
The same forecasted success can be said for new Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss. The former UNC shortstop who played with the with the A’s, Braves, Marlins and Rockies makes his home in Denver and just last year was coaching at a high school in the Denver area. Unfortunately, the Rockies made zero offseason moves to help the new guy out.
Two other new faces with first-time jobs that have nowhere to go but up are Bo Porter in Houston and Mike Redmond in Miami. I personally like Porter’s upside, but both teams will be terrible.
Enjoying the stadiums around the league, you will see a few changes, most noticeably in Seattle where they are moving the fences in. The spacious Safeco Field will get a hitters helper as the left-center field gap comes in 17 feet and the deepest point in center comes in an additional four feet. The Mariners aren’t skimping on visuals either as they announced plans to construct a Dallas Cowboys-esque video board measuring 201.5 feet by 57 feet.
Elsewhere, the Miami Marlins find themselves in a lawsuit after putting up a billboard-style advertisement in the sight lines of season ticket holders - like they needed any more reason to turn away fans.
Call to the bullpen
Mariano Rivera is back. David Robertson will set him up. The problem will be the Yankees getting a lead into the late innings with the worst roster they have fielded in a decade. Joel Hanrahan has moved to Boston to close, but the Red Sox are in the same boat as the boys from the Bronx.
Two closers to watch closely: Aroldis Chapman in Cincinnati and Ernesto Frieri in Anaheim.
I will leave you with these items…
My World Series prediction is Detroit over Cincinnati in 5 games.
The best record in baseball will go to the Tigers and Verlander will notch another Cy Young. MVP: Joey Votto.
The worst record in baseball will go to the Rockies who edge out the Astros by a game for futility. Still, Weiss should get a second season and hopefully they make some moves for 2014.
The most improved team and likely to exceed expectations: the Royals. Don’t be surprised if they claim a wild card spot.
I still hate the designated hitter and do not approve of the expanded playoff format even though the Cardinals were overwhelmingly benefitted by it last year. The unbalanced leagues creating year-long interleague play is a horrible idea that I cannot fully support either.
With that, Play Ball!