Look for Angels in outfield, infield


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Baseball is getting back into swing. Photo courtesy of Microsoft Free Images.

This year’s Houston Astros could be a historic team for many reasons. This is their first year in the American League, and some have penned them the “Disastros” due to their extremely lackluster lineup. But even the measly Astros put together a convincing win on Opening Night, showcasing that anything can happen this season. Yu Darvish came within one out of the MLB’s 24th perfect game, and it stands to reason that we will see one come this year, perhaps against the Astros. While the Astros are an easy consensus for worst team, this season will be a battle to establish the best.

Starting in the American League, the AL East has always been the division of the Red Sox or the Yankees, but this season should see a regime change. With almost the entirety of the Yankee’s starters on the DL, and the Red Sox in utter disarray, it is time for the Rays and Blue Jays to shine. Tampa has their ace, David Price, as well as balanced contributions from the rest of the pitching staff. However, not a single Ray batted above .288 last season, and they lack the punch at the plate that the Blue Jays have. A Wild Card spot is a safe prediction for Tampa this season.  Toronto was the beneficiary of a perplexing move by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and the Miami Marlins that sent All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes to the Blue Jays along with pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck and outfielder Emilio Bonifacio in exchange for practically nothing. They also picked up last year’s AL Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey, the knuckleballing pitcher, from the Mets. Behind these new contributors and old star Jose Bautista, look for the Blue Jays to win their first AL East crown since 1993.

Moving to the AL Central, last year’s AL pennant winners, the Detroit Tigers, look to have a clear path back to the playoffs. With Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, baseball’s first Triple Crown winner since 1967, and one of the best, if not the best, pitchers in the game in Justin Verlander, the Tigers are just a class above the rest of the Central. The Royals could make a Wild Card run, but are unlikely to challenge Detroit. Even in Sports Illustrated’s worst case scenario for the Tigers, “They win the division.”

The AL West was a bit of a surprise last season, when the Oakland Athletics took the crown, but this season the Angels look to put all the pieces together. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which translates to “The The Angels Angels of Anaheim, have a long name, and an even longer list of stars. Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton highlight the batting power, and CJ Wilson and Jered Weaver are the staff aces. Their star power is undeniable, with Trout, Pujols, and Hamilton being baseball’s equivalent of James, Wade and Bosh. The Rangers could give them some pressure, but The The Angels Angels should take the division handily.

In the National League, the Washington Nationals are finally becoming a force to be reckoned with. Their division, the NL East, could very well hold three playoff teams. Stephen Strasburg, with no innings limit this time around, and sophomore sensation Bryce Harper, who is already off to a hot start after hitting home runs in each of his first two at-bats of the season, will lead the Nationals to a second consecutive East championship. “Bryce Harper is a stallion,” explains Nick Hieb (12). The Atlanta Braves, led by the Upton brothers and Jason Heyward, and the Philadelphia Phillies, led by Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, alongside a dynamite pitching staff including Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, will fight for second place. In the end, they may play each other in the Wild Card Playoff. The Phillies could be a dark horse team for the World Series, said Alex Jefferson (12), “I’m biased but I think the Phillies will win. They have veterans with experience and young guys with talent.”

The NL Central looks to be one of the tightest divisions at the top, between the Reds and the Cardinals. Each team has a balanced lineup that can get contributions from any spot and any pitcher. The Central will be decided in the bullpen, and Aroldis Chapman is one of the best in the game for the Reds. The Cardinals have had bullpen issues in the past, and their closer, Jason Motte, is already facing injury struggles. Based on the bullpen, the Reds should squeak by the Cardinals. However, the Cardinals should fight the Phillies and Dodgers for the last Wild Card spot. For all you Cubbies fans, expect another year of “wait til next year” as the Cubs inexplicably still put their trust in closer Carlos Marmol and lack firepower at the plate or the mound.

Finally, the NL West, home of the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, looks to be a battle between the Giants and Dodgers. The Giants strong pitching staff of Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, and Barry Zito, presents a challenge to any team on any day. The Dodgers may have star power, with Matt Kemp, Zach Greinke, Josh Beckett, and Hanley Ramirez, but all of these stars are very temperamental players and can’t be counted on for consistency in a 162 game season. The Giants should cruise back into the playoffs.

As far as a potential World Series matchup, I expect to see the two sophomore stars, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper go head to head, as the Angels face the Nationals. Trout himself is the better player, and has a stronger supporting cast, thus the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will be the 2013 World Series Champions.