While the Yankees, Tigers, and Rangers were all predicted to at the very least make a run at qualifying for the playoffs, teams like the A’s and Orioles weren’t even on MLB bettor’s radars just a short season ago.
Here’s a look at some of the teams that I believe have a shot of making things real interesting in the chase for the AL pennant.
Favorites To Win A.L.
Toronto Blue Jays (15/4) The Blue Jays have finished in fourth place within the AL East each of the L/5 seasons behind the usual suspect Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. Though the club managed to win just 73 games a year ago, manager John Gibbons’ squad is now favored to win the AL pennant after the front office went out and completely changed the face of the team by making some blockbuster trades in the offseason. In is Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, and Emilio Bonifacio. Toronto had no problem mashing the ball a season ago (198 HR), but its starting pitching was exceptionally poor due to a myriad of injuries and a head scratching campaign from Ricky Romero. That weakness looks to be shored up now with the new additions. No doubt about it, Toronto means business in 2013!
Detroit Tigers (4/1) While the Tigers toyed with the emotions of those that expected them to cruise to the AL Central pennant all season long, when it mattered most, manager Jim Leyland’s troops ended up getting the job done. Though their journey ended after a bitter sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, fans of Detroit are no doubt giddy about the potential for the upcoming season. With a solid starting staff anchored by Justin Verlander paired with the deadly 1-2 punch of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, the Tigers have the pieces in place to once again represent the AL come October. It would however be a solid bonus if the team could solidify the question marks in the back end of their bullpen with Ron Don.
Los Angeles Angels (9/2) The Angels got out to a horrendous start in 2012 winning only eight of their first 23 games; then Mike Trout happened. With the rookie installed into the everyday line-up, the Halos went on to win 18 games in the month of May and then another 17 in June to propel themselves back into the AL West playoff chase. Though Albert Pujols got out to a bothersome start, he rebounded nicely to finish with a .300 BA, 34 HRs, and 115 RBI. His stick was one of many that saw the Angels tally an average of 4.73 RPG (#4) and launch the 9th most long balls in baseball. Unfortunately, the pitching is what ultimately came back to bite this team in the rear (4.02 ERA) with the bullpen blowing 22 saves (#26). While Josh Hamilton was brought in to improve an already potent offensive attack, the starting staff is top heavy and the additions of Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett might not ultimately cure their ails; this club could be fool’s gold for the second straight season.
Dark-Horse Picks To Win A.L.
Oakland A’s (16/1) With a starting staff comprised of some exceptional young talent and an overall roster that refuses to quit, how can you not take a stab with Billy Beane’s squad in 2013 after shocking the baseball world by coming out of nowhere and stealing the AL West from both the Rangers and Angels last season? This team won 94 games a year ago, and now gets to take some of its frustrations out on a defunct Houston Astros franchise that’s nowhere near ready to deal with the ultra-competitive AL West.
Baltimore Orioles (20/1) No team impressed me more last season than the Orioles. What looked to be a flash in the pan early turned out to be anything but, as the O’s took advantage of a down Boston team and outdid the Rays by winning 93 games. That play-in win at Texas in the postseason solidified my belief that this is a team on the rise and not a one-year wonder. Though no eye-opening moves were made in the off-season, I’m interested to see Manny Machado grow in his first full season, but I’m even more excited about seeing this team grow under the stern eye of manager Buck Showalter.
Cleveland Indians (40/1) You’re probably better off taking a match to the Franklin you’d throw down on this future wager, but what the heck, it’s only money! Cleveland did its best impression of the Yankees and threw a bunch of money at a number of free agents to help shore up some of the problem areas the team’s struggled with over the L/5 seasons. It also brought in a heck of a manager in two-time WS winner Terry Francona to help lead the Tribe for many years to come. The dark cloud that’s hung over this frugal franchise might just finally be dissipating!