Welcome to my annual predictions — or, as I like to call them, The Answer Key.
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At the start of the 2010 postseason, I said the San Francisco Giants would beat the Texas Rangers in the World Series. My colleagues snickered. But who was laughing after Game 5 in Arlington?
The next year, I delved into an even more difficult realm of forecasting: individual awards. I said Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw would win the Cy Young in their respective leagues. I was right.
And as the regular season came to a close in 2012, I nailed yet another prediction: Giants over Tigers in the World Series.
It’s true that I had a change of heart right before the Fall Classic. The Tigers had swept the Yankees convincingly in the American League Championship Series. I figured they would be better prepared for the long layoff before the World Series than they had been six years before.
Mostly, though, I listened to the pleas of my mother — a lifelong Tigers fan. If you wish to fault me for that, well, I’m sorry. I’m Italian. When my email account tells me to change my password, I call Mom and ask what she thinks I should do.
So, by my count, I’ve been right on two-and-a-half high-profile baseball predictions in the last three years. My esteemed colleague Ken Rosenthal, meanwhile, makes his picks based on the color of the bow tie he happens to be wearing that particular day. Who are you going to trust?
Here are the definitive 2013 Major League Baseball predictions, straight from the guy who said Harvard was a dangerous first-round matchup for New Mexico.
Blue Jays: Believe the hype. Josh Johnson will be dominant this year. Jose Bautista might drive in 130 runs thanks to Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera.
Orioles: They weren’t a fluke in 2012. Baltimore is here to stay, with franchise players Matt Wieters and Adam Jones in the middle of their primes. Dylan Bundy and/or Kevin Gausman will help the rotation this year.
Rays: While they’re going to miss James Shields and B.J. Upton, most of the majors’ best pitching staff is back. Fernando Rodney will fire plenty of imaginary arrows this year.
Red Sox: Lingering questions about David Ortiz’s health will keep the Red Sox from climbing much higher than this. But the resurgences of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are encouraging.
Yankees: Sure, it’s jarring to see them this low. But with all their injuries and age, can you argue persuasively that they’re better than anyone in the division? The answer is no.
Royals: The rotation is vastly improved, the bullpen is deep, and young stars Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are ready to flourish. To those who say the Royals can’t get this good, this quickly … what about the ’08 Rays, ’12 Orioles and ’12 Nationals?
Tigers: The Tigers couldn’t afford to let their internal pitching turmoil become a confidence-builder for the rest of the division. But that is precisely what has happened, thanks to Bruce Rondon’s spring struggles. “Closer by committee” often portends chaos.
Indians: A thin starting rotation will keep them behind the Royals and Tigers, but the Indians are relevant (and entertaining) again, thanks to the additions of Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and manager Terry Francona.
White Sox: They missed their chance to win the division last year, when Jake Peavy and Adam Dunn enjoyed bounce-back seasons. Now John Danks — a bellwether for the pitching staff — is back on the disabled list. A.J. Pierzynski’s presence will be missed.
Twins: I’m eager to see Aaron Hicks in center field, and it’s great for the sport that Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are healthy again. But their pitching just isn’t good enough to compete.
Angels: The Halos should be able to outslug their numerous pitching concerns, and their above-average defense will help. Look for Howie Kendrick to emerge.
Rangers: As long as Texas is .500 by the end of April, this team will be fine. Reinforcements are coming in the form of rehabbing pitchers and possible trades.
Athletics: Hard to bet on the same group of young starting pitchers in back-to-back seasons, although a stout bullpen should compensate for that. Yoenis Cespedes is an MVP candidate.
Mariners: They will be better, even if their record doesn’t show it. The lineup is a wild card, between the new veteran hitters and altered fences at Safeco Field.
Astros: This is the wrong division, of the wrong league, in which to begin a rebuilding effort. Sportswriters, start banking those quotes from the ’62 Mets.
Nationals: The best all-around team in baseball, with power bats, power arms and athleticism. And they have something to prove after last year’s NLDS collapse.
Phillies: Cliff Lee is about to get a ton of run support, according to the law of averages. If Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are healthy, the Phillies will contend again.
Braves: I’m eager to watch Justin and B.J. Upton on the same team. But I’m concerned about the losses of Chipper Jones, Martin Prado and Brian McCann (to injury, at least temporarily).
Mets: Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard could headline a playoff-caliber rotation, just not this year.
Marlins: The charismatic Mike Redmond has the ideal personality for a very difficult job. The Marlins might be outdrawn by minor-league franchises on some nights this year.
Cardinals: The Cardinals are the best organization in baseball, as I wrote earlier this week. Prospects Shelby Miller and Oscar Taveras are ready to make big impacts in the major leagues.
Reds: Aroldis Chapman is the closer. Glad that’s settled. But remember: The mere fact that the Reds tried Chapman as a starter suggests they aren’t entirely comfortable with the existing five.
Brewers: This feels like an 81-81 team. With Corey Hart injured, the lineup will regress after leading the National League in runs scored last year.
Pirates: Sorry, Pittsburgh fans. Consecutive losing season No. 21 is about to commence. You don’t have the Astros to kick around anymore.
Cubs: If the goal is to renovate Wrigley Field before the Cubs’ next World Series appearance, they could do it by hand with sandbox tools and have plenty of time to spare.
Diamondbacks: The late-spring injury to Adam Eaton will make the lineup less dynamic, but there’s more than enough outfield depth to compensate. The organization is pitching-rich, with Daniel Hudson set to return from Tommy John surgery at midseason.
Giants: They pitch superbly, they play together, and they score just enough runs to win. Tim Lincecum’s performance in his contract year will be fascinating to follow.
Dodgers: Profligate spending has yielded a roster of ill-fitting pieces. Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke will keep the Dodgers in contention, but this team needs an MVP-type season from Matt Kemp to reach the playoffs.
Padres: The momentum from last year’s second half has stalled, between Yasmani Grandal’s PED suspension and spring injuries to Chase Headley and Casey Kelly. The good news is that Jedd Gyorko will have ample opportunity to establish him as an everyday player.
Rockies: Four-man rotation, five-man rotation, six-man rotation — it wouldn’t matter. The Rockies don’t have enough good pitchers. But they will be watchable if Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are healthy.
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: With Reyes and Cabrera on base, and Edwin Encarnacion behind him, Bautista is poised to put up massive numbers. He’s a superb defender in right field, too.
Robinson Cano, Yankees: He’ll post huge numbers on what will be — dare I say — a bad Yankees team. My biggest concern about his season is how often he’ll see pitches to hit.
Adam Jones, Orioles: If the Orioles remain near the top of the AL East — as I expect they will — it will be because of Jones’ continued development into a bona-fide superstar.
Bryce Harper, Nationals: He’s the best player on the best team in baseball.
Jason Heyward, Braves: The Uptons grabbed the offseason headlines, but Heyward will prove this year that he’s the best all-around player in the Atlanta outfield. And he’s only 23.
Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks: Not a big name, but he’s a favorite of the sabermetric crowd. If he hits 30 homers and produces 100 RBI for a surprising division champ — all within reason — he will get MVP consideration.
Felix Hernandez, Mariners: With baseball’s richest pitching contract in his pocket, the King is due to win his second Cy Young.
Justin Verlander, Tigers: He easily could be the two-time defending winner. Another season of 200-plus innings with an ERA near 2.50 is in the offing.
Yu Darvish, Rangers: He’ll be even better in his sophomore year, having adjusted fabulously in the second half last season.
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals: It should make for a good year — $97.5 million contract in March, Cy Young in November.
Cliff Lee, Phillies: The baseball gods owe him a substantial payout after last year’s 6-9 record despite a 3.16 ERA in 211 innings.
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals: Even better, he’ll pitch in October.
Brandon Maurer, Mariners: He hasn’t received the same press as his peers in the Mariners’ farm system, but it was Maurer who won a job in the starting rotation.
Wil Myers, Rays: We know he’s going to hit. It’s just a question of when the Rays summon him from the minor leagues — and start his service-time clock.
Aaron Hicks, Twins: He won the Twins’ center field job with an impressive spring and could do for them what Austin Jackson did in Detroit three seasons ago.
Shelby Miller, Cardinals: He’s in the Opening Day rotation on a contending team with Yadier Molina behind the plate. Good recipe for success.
Yasiel Puig, Dodgers: A talent like him won’t stay in the minors very long.
Rob Brantly, Marlins: This award is predicated on opportunity as much as talent, and Brantly — offensive catcher — will get plenty of at-bats for the rebuilding Fish.
John Gibbons, Blue Jays: His homespun manner is precisely what the energetic Blue Jays need.
Ned Yost, Royals: Like general manager Dayton Moore, Yost must deliver on the Royals’ preseason hype. I believe he will.
Buck Showalter, Orioles: For the Orioles to finish second again, Showalter may need to be even better than he was last year.
Davey Johnson, Nationals: Voters love a narrative, and Johnson winning the division in his final season as a major league manager would be a great story.
Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks: He’ll guide the Snakes to a surprising division title.
Mike Matheny, Cardinals: The 42-year-old will make it two postseason appearances in as many seasons as a big-league manager.
Wild-card game: Tigers over Rangers
Division Series: Blue Jays over Tigers, Angels over Royals
ALCS: Blue Jays over Angels
Wild-card game: Giants over Reds
Division Series: Nationals over Giants, Cardinals over Diamondbacks