By Jake Greenberg

Detroit Tigers:

22-16 Record

The Tigers were predicted by many, as a World Series favorite, going into 2013. With their experienced core of players, the Tigers are going to be extremely hard to catch. The only question going into the season has had an unlikely resolution, in José Valverde’s return to Motown. Valverde has been nearly perfect, allowing just one baserunner in his 5 IP this season. The rotation has been just as good as advertised, with Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, and Doug Fister all pitching like aces. The lineup has also been terrific, Johnny Peralta, Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter, and Prince Fielder are all above the .300 average mark. There downside of the season so far is that the Tigers bullpen has struggled mightily, as they only have four guys who can consistently get outs: Josè “Papa Grande” Valverde, Drew Smyly,and Joaquin Benoit. Those guys will eventually get very tired, if they are the only three members of the pen who are reliable for Jim Leyland to go to in close games. Victor Martinez, and Alex Avila have gotten off to very poor starts, and Martinez looks like his game has begun to regress in his age 34 season. Detroit is surely a contender, but the race to win the division will likely be down to the wire, much like last season.

Verdict: Contender

Hot Out of the Gate: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Jhonny Peralta, Torii Hunter, Omar Infante, Austin Jackson, Jose Valverde, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez

Slow Starters: Alex Avila, Victor Martinez, Phil Coke, Rick Porcello

Cleveland Indians:

22-17 Record

Cleveland has gotten off to hot starts in both 2011, and in 2012, but this could be the year that Cleveland actually continues it. They went out in the offseason, signing both big names, including Nick Swisher, and Michael Bourn, and making big trades. In those trades, the Tribe acquired talents, such as Drew Stubbs, and prospect Trevor Bauer. One signing that has been the key to the Indians hot start was Mark Reynolds, who has stayed on fire, after hitting more HR last August and September, than he did in all other months combined. Reynolds already has 11 HR, and has been a force in the middle of the lineup. Carlos Santana has emerged as one of the games top catchers, and is finally doing what scouts have been saying he is capable of, for years. The difference between the past two Tribe clubs, that have dropped off after the break, and this team: The Indians have been winning, while their two best players from last year, Jason Kipnis, and Asdrubul Cabrera have been slumping, and they are finally beginning to heat up. Another factor that will contribute to their surge is the fact that Michael Bourn has missed a good portion of time. If the pitching can keep up the mediocre job that they are doing, then the Indians will win a ton of games, slugging their way into the race for a WIld Card spot, or maybe even a AL Central Division Title.

Verdict: Contender

Hot Out of the Gate: Mark Reynolds, Carlos Santana, Ryan Raburn, Nick Swisher, Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Entire Bullpen, Zach McAllister, Justin Masterson

Slow Starters: Asdrubul Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Ubaldo Jiminez

Kansas City Royals:

20-17 Record

Kansas City has put together its best team in a while, led by a strong pitching rotation. Many people questioned the large contract given to RHP Jeremy Guethrie, after he struggled mightily pitching in Coors Field in the 1st half of the season, before being dealt to the Royals at the Trade Deadline. Guethrie has came in, and pitched incredibly in 2013, mowing down lineup after lineup. Another questionable move was the trade for RHP Ervin Santana. Santana has silenced all critics, by pitching to a 2.36 ERA through 6 starts, in which he has averaged 7 innings/start. James Shields was also acquired via trade during the offseason, and has continued to pitch like an ace, but the other starter acquired in the trade, Wade Davis has struggled in his transition from the bullpen to the rotation. The bullpen has been dreadful so far, as Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland, Tim Collins, and JC Gutierrez all have ERA’s well over 3.00. The only two members of the pen who have gotten off to good starts have been right-handers Aaron Crow and Luke Hochevar. On the offensive side, Eric Hosmer, and Alcides Escobar have been decent, as they are both in the mid-.200’s batting average wise, and Escobar leads the team with a perfect 7 steals in 7 attempts. Mike Moustakas and Jeff Francoeur, on the other hand have been terrible, both hitting below .240, and they were supposed to be part of the core of the team. Instead, the core includes Alex Gordon, who is on pace to lead the MLB in doubles, for  third straight season, Lorenzo Cain, who is finally injury-free, and hitting .323, and Salvador Perez, who has lifted his season average up to .303, after an extremely sluggish start. The pen needs to step it up, for the Royals to stay in the hunt for 1st place down the stretch.

Verdict: Contender

Hot Out of the Gate: Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, Jeremy Guethrie, James Shields, Ervin Santana

Slow Starters: Mike Moustakas, Chris Getz, Jeff Francoeur, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins

Minnesota Twins:

18-19 Record

Minnesota has always had a very well-managed ball club, but they didn’t show the important side of that, which is executing on the field, over the past couple of seasons. The core from the Twins during their Postseason run from 2009-2010 is almost all gone, as Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are the last men standing, as expected. Morneau has been plagued with injuries over the past few seasons, and frequently hasn’t played nearly as well as he did early in his career, in which he was awarded AL MVP in 2006. Joe Mauer has also been injury-prone over the past few years, and in 2011, looked like he completely lost his swing. Mauer, now no longer the everyday backstop for the Twins went down to the finish with Miguel Cabrera, for the batting title in 2012, but lost, as Cabrera secured a triple-crown. Now to 2013, Two injury plagued stars batting 3-4 in the lineup, has resulted in tremendous prediction. The “M&M brothers” have put together similar seasons, both currently hitting above the .300 mark. Morneau is on pace for an 100 RBI season, despite being on pace for a 8 HR season. It would be nice if these reestablished superstars could get a supporting cast, which has been the Twins problem in 2013. Rookie Oswaldo Arcia has shined since being called up mid-April, and looks like a key piece to the future Twins teams, but Josh Willingham has struggled immensely, as has Brian Dozier, Chris Parmelee, and Ryan Doumit, who were all supposed to be part of the core of the team. Pitching has also been an issue, as Starter Kevin Correia is the only pitcher on the staff who has an ERA under 4.00. A team who has quickly rebounded from their two-year stretch of being absolutely dreadful, the Twins have a promising team, and once Prospects Kyle Gibson, Alex Meyer, Miguel Sano, and Byron Buxton get called up, the Twins will be exceptional, but they are still a year, or two away from being a contender

Verdict: Pretender

Hot Out of the Gate: Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Oswaldo Arcia, Kevin Correia

Slow Starters: Josh Willingham, Brian Dozier, Aaron Hicks, Chris Parmelee, Ryan Doumit

Chicago White Sox:

17-21 Record

The White Sox have been absolutely terrible to start the 2013 season. After losing Catcher AJ Pierzynski to, as well as 3B Kevin Youkilis, to free agency, the “South-siders” bats have gone completely silent. Their consistent stars, including Paul Konerko have been very bad, as well as Adam Dunn, who looks like he is in for another season like 2011, in which he hit .159. Jeff Keppinger and Tyler Flowers have been just as bad as Dunn, and are on pace to lead the Sox to a high draft pick in 2014.It is sad, seeing a team who battled it out with Detroit down to the finish in 2012 unable to score runs in 2013. Chris Sale, and Jake Peavy have both been good, but nothing compared to what they were last year. The only improvement from last year’s team  is Addison Reed, who has been nearly perfect, converting 11 saves in 12 opportunities. The Sox will be selling at the deadline.

Verdict: Pretender

Hot Out of the Gate: Cole Gillespie, Dayan Viciedo, Alexi Ramirez, Alex Rios, Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, Addison Reed

Slow Starters: Adam Dunn, Tyler Flowers, Jeff Keppinger, Paul Konerko, Gavin Floyd



Filed under: Jake Greenberg, MLB, Uncategorized

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