2013 is an important year for the Astros. This year they switch leagues to the AL West and hope to avoid losing 100+ games for a third consecutive season. Not much has gone right for Houston since the glory days of the killer B’s, and their projected payroll for this season (lowest in all of baseball) doesn’t give the fan base much confidence. Bud Norris is their opening day starter with a salary just north of 500,000 for the 2013 season. The playoffs are a long way a way for this team. (Glenn Coyle)
After going on a September run and winning the division last season, their is optimism in Oakland this season. Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes anchor a young but talented lineup. The A’s expect Brett Anderson to return and lead the rotation. It will be tough to top last years season but the A’s will be fun to watch again this year.
Though the Mariners’ 75-87 mark in 2012 doesn’t sound like much, it was an eight-game improvement over their 2011 record. In 2013, once again the main attraction is the elite (and now filthy rich) Felix Hernandez. Seattle added a little more pop this season with Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, and Michael Morse to go along with younger players like Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Jesus Montero. Unfortunately, the pitching staff beyond Hernandez doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. And while they can expect more run production from their offense, battling the likes of the A’s, Angels, and Rangers several times will make it tough for the M’s to improve a whole lot on last year’s 75 wins. Hey, at least they’ll be better than the AL West’s newest arrival, the Houston Astros. (Matt Sherman)
The Rangers just couldn’t bring themselves to break the vault for Josh Hamilton. 2013 will be fairly or unfairly seen as a litmus test for that decision but the Rangers were more than just Hamilton. Adrian Beltre is aging but showed little sign of it last season when he was one of the best hitters in the American League. The pitching situation will have some question marks with injuries and youth sprinkled between Yu Darvish and Derek Holland. Up the middle the Rangers remain solid in the infield with Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus. They also gain a catcher in AJ Pierzynski who will get under the skin of opponents while providing serviceable offense and defense. Texas may under-perform in 2013 without Hamilton but only time over the next 2-3 seasons will tell if they made the right decision. (Michael Bedard)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
It is a win or else season for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Heads could roll following the 2013 season if the Halo’s don’t improve on the disappointing 2012 campaign. The addition of Josh Hamilton was the premier power move of the offseason and should provide the Angels with one of the most formidable lineups in baseball. Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Josh Hamilton will provide plenty of issues for pitchers across the league. Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson provide a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the rotations while Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson provide serious talent at the back end of the rotation. Health pending, the bullpen could again be a major strength in Los Angeles as Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett, Ernesto Frieri and Scott Downs have the potential to shut down opponent from the 7th inning on. The pressure is mounting as opening day approaches because the Angels and their increasing payroll must win this year. General manager Jerry Dipoto, manager Mike Scioscia and even the Rally Monkey might start getting nervous if things don’t get off to positive start. (Michael Orzechowski)