American League East
1.Toronto Blue Jays- After years of obscurity in the AL East behind the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays, the Blue Jays decided to make a splash this off-season, trading for the likes of Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and last year’s NL Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey. The Jays also signed Melky Cabrera and added Jose Reyes and valuable utility-man Emilio Bonafacio to their already potent offense. If Edwin Encarnacion (.280, 42HR, 110RBI) can prove that his breakout 2012 season wasn’t a fluke, and the arms of Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow can stay healthy, there’s no reason the Jays can’t make a run at a division crown in 2013.
2.Tampa Bay Rays- Despite only 74 games played by star 3B Evan Longoria, the Rays found a way to win 90 games in 2012. The reason? Pitching. The Rays led MLB with a 3.19 ERA, led by a historic season by journeyman reliever Fernando Rodney (0.60ERA, 48 saves). In 2013, the Rays will have to find a way to make up for the losses of James Shields—who they traded this off-season to the Royals for outfield uber-prospect Wil Myers—and BJ Upton, who they lost to the Braves in free agency. However, with one of the best managers in the game in Joe Maddon pushing all the right buttons, the Rays should find a way to be in the playoff hunt deep into 2013.
3.New York Yankees- The Yankees had another typical season in 2012, winning 95 games en route to the AL East crown and ending up with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Living up to their Bronx Bombers nickname, they led MLB with 245 home runs, 31 more than any other team. Coming into the 2013 season, however, the Yankees are expected to open season without players who hit 201 of those 245 HR in 2012. The Yankees are another year older, which isn’t a good thing for the oldest team in the league already (30.3 avg age). The injury bug has already been biting this spring. Derek Jeter’s ankle hasn’t fully healed, Curtis Granderson fractured a forearm that should sideline him until May, and Mark Teixeira is out until June with a wrist injury. The Yankees will be in contention (after all they are the Yankees), but they might take a step back in 2013.
4.Boston Red Sox- After a historic collapse to finish the 2011 season, the Red Sox never fully recovered in 2012. The starting pitching and bullpen were abysmal (27th in MLB in team ERA), and by August, they gave up, sending Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers for prospects and their worst season (69-93) since 1965. This off-season the Red Sox opened their wallets again in free agency, and signed Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Joel Hanrahan and Ryan Dempster among others to fill big holes on the team. In 2013, if the starting pitching gets back on track, and some luck, the Red Sox could become a contender again. One catastrophic injury to a key player, however, and it could be a long season for the Sox.
5.Baltimore Orioles- Everything went right for the Orioles in 2012. They compiled a 29-9 record in one-run games, good for the third-best winning percentage (.763) in MLB history en route to 93 wins and a wild-card playoff berth. They were second in the majors in home runs (214) and five players (Reynolds, Hardy, Davis, Jones, Wieters) had 20+ dingers in 2012. Buck Showalter’s club should be fun to watch again this year, but with the competition in the AL East at it’s strongest and an expected loss in late-inning magic, the Orioles may have to settle for last in the division in 2013.