Which 2012 Rookie of the Year will fare better in 2013? Is Manny Machado ready to take his game to the next level? Who will be dealt at the deadline? Who will win the World Series? Baseball America editors Jim Callis, Will Lingo, John Manuel, J.J. Cooper, Josh Leventhal, Matt Eddy, Ben Badler, Jim Shonerd, Nathan Rode and Conor Glassey answered those questions and more to get you ready for the upcoming major league season.
WHICH TEAM HAD THE BEST OFFSEASON?
Callis: The Blue Jays. They traded for Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes and signed Melky Cabrera without giving up anyone who was going to be an integral part of their 2013 team.
Lingo: The Braves got a big jolt from the Upton brothers, and the Indians also should be significantly better, but it’s hard to pick anyone other than the Blue Jays, who went from afterthought to division frontrunner within a few months.
Manuel: It’s past time for the Blue Jays to be relevant again, and I love Dickey and Buehrle as key rotation pieces, plus Reyes as an offensive shortstop. Honorable mention to the Indians, who fleeced the Diamondbacks to get Trevor Bauer and made strong free-agent pickups in Michael Bourn, Brett Myers and Nick Swisher.
Cooper: The Dodgers. The deadline deals didn’t help L.A. nearly as much as it had hoped. But in the offseason, the Dodgers signed Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu to build baseball’s deepest rotation and along the way landed a TV deal that makes the Yankees look like a small-market team.
Leventhal: The Braves. Sure they overpaid for B.J. Upton, but they landed younger brother Justin in a bargain of a trade. A quality over quantity maneuver, the Uptons should add enough pop to the offense to avoid another late-season collapse in Atlanta.
Eddy: The Dodgers landed top two pitchers on market (Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu) and their TV deal puts them over the top, but this still is a team with major warts—defense at shortstop, low-watt offense at second, third and catcher—and little depth. (The Indians would be more enticing if they had a tronger rotation.)
Badler: The Blue Jays have leveraged a top-notch farm system quite well, which allowed them to execute a megadeal with the Marlins and still have a nice combination of young impact talent and legitimate depth in the minors.
Shonerd: The Blue Jays. With the Red Sox and Yankees falling back to the pack, the AL East is there for the taking. As much as I like some of the prospects they gave up, you can’t fault them for going for it while the window is open.
Rode: The Blue Jays. The front office saw that the division race was as wide open as it’s been in years with the Red Sox’s demise and aging Yankees so they cashed in a surplus of prospects for major league talent.
Glassey: It’s hard to argue against a team that added five all-stars to their roster like the Blue Jays did this winter with Reyes, Buehrle, Johnson, Dickey and Cabrera. I’m very excited to see how Reyes’ speed plays on a turf field.
WHICH TEAM HAD THE MOST DISAPPOINTING OFFSEASON?
Callis: The Diamondbacks. They traded two potential elite talents in Trevor Bauer and Justin Upton and didn’t get enough in return. They also sold low on Ryan Wheeler and Chris Young.
Lingo: Once Curtis Granderson got hurt, the Yankees moved ahead of the pack. Jeter is coming back from injury, Alex Rodriguez has become a millstone, Nick Swisher is gone, and they’re pinning their hopes on re-signing Ichiro and bringing in Travis Hafner?
Manuel: The Yankees. New York has lost a ton of power out of the lineup from last season and go into the year unsettled behind the plate. It seems odd for the Yankees to go the cheap route; it’s understandable why they did it, but it’s the first time in 20 years.
Cooper: The Marlins. It’s not as much that the trades they made were awful from a talent standpoint, but they nuked a market that will be paying for that stadium for decades to come.
Leventhal: The Marlins. They may have positioned themselves well for the future in their latest fire sale, but until then that new ballpark will hardly be the place to be in South Beach.
Eddy: I was tempted by the Phillies, but the Diamondbacks received plug-and-play assets in return, but they sold low on Justin Upton, Trevor Bauer and Ryan Wheeler and bought high on Tony Campana. Think of what they could have gotten for Upton and Bauer a year ago.
Badler: The Diamondbacks made a series of confusing moves, including the Bauer deal that could come back to haunt them. However, no team was worse than the Marlins, whose ownership group makes it difficult for anyone to be a Marlins fan.
Shonerd: Diamondbacks. You can make cases for the fireselling Astros, who’ve made a 107-loss team worse, and Marlins, who yanked the rug out from under their fans yet again, but I give the honor to Arizona, particulary for the Bauer deal. They have enough blue-chip pitching prospects that losing him doesn’t deplete them, but the return was a let down.
Rode: The Marlins. Sure they received some young talent— though they could have gotten more—but we’ve all seen it before from this franchise.
Glassey: The Marlins would be disappointing, but they don’t have any fans left to disappoint. The Orioles’ front office sat on their hands and doubled down after having what many considered to be fluky success in 2012.
WHICH TEAM WILL SURPRISE PEOPLE IN 2013?
Callis: The Blue Jays, and not in a good way. They’ll be the latest example of a team that imported a lot of name talent and didn’t get the results they expected. See the Angels, Dodgers, Marlins and Red Sox from recent years.
Lingo: If the Mariners’ young hitters can make their offense less atrocious, I think they could be better than most people expect.
Manuel: The Indians. I like the gambles they took with their pitching, particularly with Trevor Bauer, and like their young, up-and-coming lineup, particularly with the addition of Bourn.
Cooper: Blue Jays.
Eddy: The Blue Jays won’t be playoff contenders down the stretch. They won’t regret trading prospects they did . . . but the players they’re counting on include a knuckleballer, two injury-prone stars (Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson), a finesse lefty (Mark Buehrle) and a player coming off a PED suspension (Melky Cabrera). Plus, Edwin Encarnacion is unlikely to duplicate career year.
Badler: People are hitting the panic button on the Yankees over the age of their roster and A-Rod hysteria. They’re still one of the best teams in baseball.
Shonerd: The Royals finish second (albeit a distant second) in the AL Central.
Rode: The Blue Jays. Everyone knows they made moves to win now, but I don’t think everyone is used to it not being a Yankees-Red Sox race anymore.
Glassey: This is the year the Pirates will snap their 20-year streak of losing seasons.
THIS SEASON’S BREAKOUT STAR WILL BE . . .
Callis: Matt Moore. After a solid rookie season, he’ll take the next step and contend for a Cy Young Award.
Lingo: Manny Machado is a good choice, but I think this is the year Eric Hosmer becomes a monster.
Manuel: Matt Moore. Freshman year is over. Time for Moore’s premium stuff to produce premium results.
Cooper: Manny Machado.
Eddy: Manny Machado.
Badler: Matt Moore. He has the stuff to win a Cy Young Award—don’t be surprised if he’s in the mix for the honor in 2013.
Shonerd: Brett Lawrie. Lawrie held his own as a 22-year-old last year and should be in the spotlight plenty if the Jays rise to the top of the AL East.
Rode: Dylan Bundy. The Orioles made the playoffs on a patchwork rotation in 2012. If they expect to return, it’s time to lean on the prospects that make their future outlook bright.
Glassey: Dustin Ackley’s first full season in the big leagues was disappointing. But with a fully-healed ankle, I think 2013 will be the year he shows everyone the tools that made him the No. 2 overall pick in 2009.
THE BIGGEST STORYLINE OF THE 2013 SEASON WILL BE . . .
Callis: The money generated by regional sports networks, further dividing baseball into haves and have nots, and not just along lines of market size.
Lingo: Daily interleague play will take some getting used to, as will the realignment of the Astros into the American League. We’ll see if it affects the game much. I also think greater use of instant replay will continue to be an issue.
Cooper: The coming bubble in regional sports rights fees. At some point, the ever- growing per-subscriber fees are going to cause a big backlash.
Leventhal: Big market busts in Boston, New York and Los Angeles.
Eddy: Bosch clinic & other similar PED scandals with players linked to facilities.
Badler: The ease with which players are rou- tinely beating drug tests.
Shonerd: You hope not, but there’s always another PED scandal around the corner.
Rode: War on Drugs: MLB Theatre.
Glassey: With interleague games happening every day, commissioner Bud Selig will announce that the DH will come to the National League in the near future.
THE BIGGEST NAME TO BE TRADED IN 2013 WILL BE . . .
Callis: Roy Halladay.
Manuel: Jacoby Ellsbury.
Cooper: Justin Morneau.
Leventhal: Robinson Cano. After the A-Rod debacle, even the Yankees may be reluctant to give a long-term deal to a player entering his 30s.
Eddy: Giancarlo Stanton after the season because his salary could approach $10 million in arbitration.
Badler: Jacoby Ellsbury.
Shonerd: Jacoby Ellsbury.
Rode: Giancarlo Stanton.
Glassey: Roy Halladay.
WHICH PLAYER WILL BOUNCE BACK IN 2013?
Callis: National League MVP Justin Upton.
Lingo: No way Tim Lincecum has an ERA north of 5.00 again this season.
Manuel: The Red Sox will struggle, but Jon Lester won’t go 9-14 again.
Leventhal: Justin Upton, who should be both happy and motivated in Atlanta.
Eddy: Eric Hosmer.
Badler: A healthy Brett Anderson is a No. 2 starter.
Shonerd: Justin Upton.
Rode: Albert Pujols. He bounced back from a terrible start in 2012, but he’s better than a .285 hitter.
Glassey: Ricky Romero.
BETTER IN 2013: MIKE TROUT OR BRYCE HARPER?
Leventhal: Harper can handle the pressure and expectations, he’s been doing it since he was 15. On the other hand, following a breakout debut, Trout opens the season as the biggest story on a team that includes Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
Eddy: Harper for 2013; Trout for career value.
Glassey: Harper. I’m worried about Trout’s added weight. Harper looks possessed to prove that 2012 was just the tip of the iceberg.
2013 WORLD SERIES PREDICTION?
Callis: Cardinals over Rangers.
Lingo: Dodgers over Rays.
Cooper: Reds over Rangers.
Leventhal: Rays over Reds.
Eddy: Rays over Nationals.
Badler: Nationals over Rangers.
Shonerd: Nationals over Angels.
Rode: Nationals over Tigers.
Glassey: Tigers over Nationals.
THE TEAMS WITH THE TOP 3 PICKS IN THE 2014 DRAFT WILL BE . . .
Callis: 1. Astros. 2. Marlins. 3. Twins.
Manuel: 1. Astros. 2. Rockies. 3. Mets.
Cooper: 1. Astros. 2. Twins. 3. Mets.
Leventhal: 1. Astros. 2. Marlins. 3. Cubs.
Eddy: 1. Astros. 2. Twins. 3. Marlins.
Badler: 1. Astros 2. Twins 3. Marlins.
Shonerd: 1. Astros. 2. Twins. 3 Marlins.
Rode: 1. Astros. 2. Marlins. 3. Twins.
Glassey: 1. Astros. 2. Marlins. 3. Twins.