Josh Hamilton is with the Angels. The Upton brothers are with the Braves. The Marlins have sent their good players to Toronto. The Yankees aren’t spending money. The National League has taken over the Twins rotation.
Baseball is back, and there are new faces everywhere. Teams made various moves of various impacts in hopes of taking that next step in the playoffs, reaching the playoffs or, in the Twins’ case, returning to competitiveness.
With the first week of the regular season over, here is one scribe’s attempt to show off how great he is at predicting the future:
How the races will wind up
AL East champ: Toronto.
The Blue Jays made big moves during the offseason, accepting Florida’s latest roster purge while adding Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.
AL Central champ: Detroit.
The Tigers upgraded from Delmon Young to Torii Hunter in the outfield, and Victor Martinez is healthy. They will add a closer before it’s over.
AL West champ: Texas.
Letting Hamilton walk will not hurt this team in the long run. Yu Darvish was fabulous in his first outing on Tuesday.
AL wild cards: Tampa Bay and Los Angeles.
NL East champ: Washington.
The Nationals might be the most complete team in the league. They have the arms. They have the sticks. They have Denard Span to bat leadoff.
NL Central champ: Cincinnati.
The Reds added Shin-Soo Choo to top their lineup. Joey Votto will lead this team to the postseason.
NL West champ: Los Angeles.
The lineup is stacked, and the Dodgers will spend what it takes to fill any holes.
NL wild cards: Atlanta and St. Louis
AL champion: Detroit
NL champion: Washington
World Series champion: Washington. Ace Stephen Strasburg will get to pitch in the postseason. Bryce Harper will take the next step to stardom. Detroit will fall just short once again.
AL MVP: Mike Trout, Angels: He fell just short of the award last season, but he won’t be denied in 2013.
NL MVP: Votto, Reds: One of the smartest hitters in the game will win his second MVP award while leading the Reds to the postseason.
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Tigers: Armed with a new deal, Verlander will win for the second time in three seasons.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: I see a pattern. Kershaw also will win for the second time in three seasons.
AL Rookie of the Year: Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox: Like Aaron Hicks, up from Class AA. Unlike Hicks, can break in as the No. 7 hitter.
NL Rookie of the Year: Jedd Gyorko, Padres: Infielder with pop could form nice duo with Chase Headley.
What about the Twins? The starting rotation — with Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey over from the National League — will be more productive. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau will have good seasons. Hicks might need a pit stop at Rochester but should end the year positively. Trades will be made at midseason. When it’s all said and done, the Twins will win 78 games.
The White Sox delayed giving Tyler Flowers his shot at catcher for a couple years while keeping veteran A.J. Pierzynski around. With Pierzynski now in Texas, Flowers is getting his chance. Flowers homered twice in Chicago’s opening series against Kansas City, scoring the only run of the game on Opening Day. Chicago also has been pleased with his development defensively. “Being a catcher, your job is behind the plate,” Flowers said. “What you do at the plate hitting is a bonus. ... You can’t be hanging your head out there and call fastballs, or know that a guy is sitting on a breaking ball and [call for] a breaking ball. You still have to be 100 percent attentive, because every pitch decides the game.’’
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By winning Thursday, the Royals avoided being swept in their opening series for the first time since 2001. That includes two-game series against the Twins (2002) and Tigers (2006).
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Cleveland improved its lineup by adding Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher in the offseason, but skeptics looked at the pitching staff and didn’t consider the Indians contenders in the division. But the Indians took two of three games at Toronto during opening week thanks to strong starts from Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. Both righthanders allowed one run over six innings. A year ago, the two combined to go 20-32 with a 5.15 ERA. If they can turn that record around, the Indians could be relevant. The Indians were very encouraged by Jimenez’s start Wednesday in Cleveland’s 3-2, 11-inning victory. “His secondary stuff, his direction to the plate, he was down with everything,’’ manager Terry Francona said, “and his changeup was really good.’’
Three observations ...
• The Tigers might trade for a closer anyway, but it’s a good move for them to take a look at Jose Valverde, who reportedly is in better shape than he was last season.
• It’s dangerous to draw conclusions after one week, but Seattle’s Mike Morse looks ready to top his career high of 31 home runs.
• Toronto’s Jose Bautista is asking for it if he continues to complain the way he does about ball/strike calls.
... and two predictions
• Look for Denard Span to score 100 runs with the Washington Nationals.
• The Dodgers will trade Andre Ethier this summer, and eat some salary, to make room for Yasiel Puig.