The 2013 season is officially getting under way, with the new-to-the-AL Astros having already played the Rangers on Sunday night. It's time to have some fun with a few bold predictions -- bold predictions that could come true, despite seeming outlandish on March 25. Hey, if I told you both the Athletics and Orioles would win 90-plus games and qualify for the postseason at this time last year, what would you have said? All right then. Time for the first set of bold predictions:
The Marlins will not be the worst team in the NL.
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Can the hang-dog, strip-mined Marlins possibly avoid finishing with the worst record in the National League this season? The people say: Yes!
To be sure, this isn't a reflection of some hidden promise on the part of the Marlins. Rather, it's a commentary on the other weaklings to be found in the senior circuit. The Rockies, for instance.
Last season, the Rockies limped to a record of 64-98 (five games worse than the Marlins). If injuries once again befall Troy Tulowitzki (pretty much a historical imperative), and Jhoulys Chacin isn't able to overcome his platoon weaknesses and fly-ball tendencies, then the wheels could come off. Yet again.
Also not to be overlooked is the possibility that the NL West will yield four teams with records of .500 or better -- the Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and steadily improving Padres (42-33 in the second half). Over in the Marlins' NL East, just the Nationals and Braves profile as winning clubs (sorry, Phillies). As such, the Rockies, thanks to the unbalanced schedule, are going to face a much tougher docket of opponents than the Marlins are. That, of course, will exact a price in the standings.
Let's not forget the Cubs. Although the North Siders have a far brighter future than the Marlins, they finished eight games back of them in 2012. And, unlike Miami, they still have useful veterans to part with. Will the 2013 season see the Cubs part with the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Matt Garza (if healthy), Carlos Marmol and others? If so, then that could make for a fairly ugly stretch drive.
As for the Marlins themselves, let's not forget the lavishly gifted Giancarlo Stanton is still in the fold. Additionally, highly regarded prospects like Christian Yelich, Jose Fernandez and Jake Marisnick should be ready to contribute at the highest level later this season. That's to say nothing of the upside provided by current rotation members Jacob Turner, Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi.
For all those reasons, Miami won't finish with the worst record in the National League in 2013. Pinky-swear. -- Dayn Perry
The Astros will not be the worst team in the AL.
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has not been shy about trading his useful big leaguers for prospects since taking over last winter, so much so that his team this year will be Bud Norris, Carlos Pena and a collection of part-timers and failed top prospects. And they still won't be the worst team in the AL.
Enter the Twins, who went 66-96 last year before the other teams in the AL Central improved. The Tigers added Torii Hunter and a full season of Anibal Sanchez. The Royals added James Shields and Wade Davis. The Indians added Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds, Brett Myers, Trevor Bauer and Nick Swisher. The White Sox replaced a collection of third basemen who posted a collective 61 OPS+ last year with Jeff Keppinger (127 OPS+).
The Twins added ... Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey? Those two -- 78 ERA+ and 93 ERA+ since 2010, respectively -- are supposed to fix a rotation that pitched to a 4.77 ERA last summer? Vance Worley is pretty good (career 112 ERA+ but 95 in 2012), but he is only one man. The rotation needed an overhaul, and it got a Band-Aid. Not a regular Band-Aid either, one of those cheap plasticy ones that keeps falling off.
Offensively, they'll count on Aaron Hicks to replace either Denard Span (105 OPS+) or Ben Revere (40 SB). I like Hicks and think he'll be pretty awesome some day, but not yet. When the team's official site lists the starting middle infield as Pedro Florimon and Brian Dozier, you know things are bad. At least Jose Altuve and Ronny Cedeno have some big league chops.
Remember this as well: The Astros already sold off nearly all of their big league parts and are in the process of adding young players to the roster. The Twins could still move impending free agent Justin Morneau at the trade deadline, maybe even Josh Willingham if they wise up and cash in one of the better trade chips in baseball. Houston already hit rock bottom and is now starting the process of coming back up. Minnesota still has some falling to do. -- Mike Axisa
Fun Fact: Baseball Prospectus currently projects the Astros to finish one game ahead of the Twins this season.