Happy New Year everyone.
If you’re a Blue Jays fan, 2012 was the best of times and the worst of times and you’re probably dying for the 2013 season to get underway.
We’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions, but predictions? They’re a lot more fun than resolutions and you feel much less guilt-ridden when they don’t work out.
Here’s a few based upon some of the biggest burning questions heading into 2013.
1.) How will Aroldis Chapman fare as a starter?
At the end of the 2012 season the Reds told their Cuban closer to come to spring training prepared to start.
And why not?
The 24-year-old lefty was dynamite at the back of the Reds bullpen in 2012, posting a 1.51 ERA over 71.2 innings while averaging 15.3 K/9. He simply abused left-handed batters, striking out 52 per cent of them while holding them to a ridiculous line of .108/.195/.135/.330 in 82 plate appearances.
The Reds, like the Nationals a year ago, are legitimate World Series contenders and how they manage Chapman’s innings will go a long way to determining their 2013 success. But as for how he will perform as a starter? When he takes to the mound in 2013 there might be no one better.
2.) Is A-Rod finished?
Sometime this month the Yankees slugger will undergo surgery to a repair a torn labrum on his left hip which is expected to keep him out of the lineup until mid-season, possibly longer. The fact that the suddenly luxury-tax conscious Yankees forked out $12 million for Kevin Youkilis on a one-year deal should give you an indication of how confident they are that A-Rod can bounce back quickly.
Torn labrum or not, the sight of a 37-year-old owed $114 million over the next five seasons waving meekly at 90 m.p.h. fastballs in last fall’s playoffs must have had some Yankees supporters quietly hoping the three-time AL MVP calls it a career. Given his age and the nature of his injury, we believe the A-Rod era is coming to a close.
3.) Will the Dodgers big investments pay off?
In last August’s trade with the Boston Red Sox that netted them Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, the Dodgers took on $250 million in salary commitments between 2012 and 2017. Toss in another $121 million for Zack Greinke and $82.5 million for Andre Eithier over the same period and Magic Johnson and Co. will be forking out $453 million to five players over the next five seasons. Oh, and sometime in 2013 they’re also likely to sign Clayton Kershaw to a contract extension in the neighbourhood of $140 million.
There’s no doubt the expenditures have helped make the Dodgers World Series favourites in the eyes of some, but will it be enough?
You can’t buy a World Series, but thanks to the extra wild card berth the Dodgers, at the very least, have purchased themselves a playoff spot.
4.) Will the Blue Jays make the playoffs?
Yes, if — and it’s a big if — the team gets at least 50 combined starts between Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson. The Blue Jays offence is deep and talented enough to weather some injury storms, but the rotation? It’s talented alright, but probably not deep enough behind projected No. 6 starter J.A. Happ to contend in the fiercely competitive American League should both right-handers miss significant time in 2013, which their medical charts suggest is entirely possible.
The 28-year-old Morrow has battled various injuries throughout his career and managed just 21 starts in 2012. As for Johnson, also 28, he toed the rubber 31 times in 2012, after making just nine starts in 2011 and 28 in 2010.
As it stands, the Blue Jays depth chart in the rotation behind Happ includes the likes of Justin Germano, Chad Jenkins, Deck McGuire and possibly Brad Lincoln. In the AL East, the healthiest squad might be the one that comes out on top in 2013.
5.) Who will be this year’s surprise team?
The Cleveland Indians.
A year ago, the Tribe lost 98 games and fired manager Manny Acta at the end of the season, replacing him with one of the best skippers in the game in Terry Francona. The Indians have also been busy this off-season, dealing Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati in a three-way trade with Arizona that netted them a potential front of the rotation starter in Trevor Bauer. They also added some much-needed pop in the form of free agents Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher to a lineup that still boasts Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera.
Bauer joins a talented, if underachieving, rotation that includes a pair of bounce-back candidates in sinkerball specialist Justin Masterson and the enigmatic Ubaldo Jimenez. A playoff berth is likely out of the question, but don’t be surprised if the Tribe push 85 wins in an underwhelming AL Central.
Off the wall call: Three Yankees greats will retire
Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera will be 39, 38 and 43, respectively, in 2013 and all three are coming off significant injuries. A-Rod’s health issues were documented above, while Jeter suffered a broken ankle in Game 1 of last fall’s ALCS against Detroit and Rivera missed most of 2012 after tearing his ACL while shagging fly balls during batting practice.
The Yankees have the talent to win it all, but Father Time will finally catch up to them in a big way in 2013, as they finish third in the AL East, well behind the wild card winners. The three stars will decide to call it a career at the end of the 2013 after battling nagging injuries and declining production throughout the season.
Pitchers and catchers report in six weeks.