AL preview: Time for Blue Jays to rise?

Jose Reyes , left, and Maicer Izturis, right, will help Jose Bautista try to take the Blue Jays back to the playoffs this year.

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Jose Reyes , left, and Maicer Izturis, right, will help Jose Bautista try to take the Blue Jays back to the playoffs this year.

Boston Globe baseball writer Nick Cafardo previews the 2013 American League season, with teams listed in their predicted order of finish:


1. Toronto

On paper, the best team. They have speed, power, pitching, and defense. If there’s a shallow area, it could be the bullpen. The Jays traded their major prospects to bring in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, and R.A. Dickey, and gambled on Melky Cabrera. Jose Bautista remains The Man.

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Chemistry rating: 3 out of 5 — Ex-Marlins come from bad chemistry, but mix with Bautista’s leadership.

2012: 73-89, 4th; Manager: John Gibbons (1st year)

SSJose Reyes1157.287.780
LFMelky Cabrera1160.346.906
RFJose Bautista2765.241.886
1BEdwin Encarnacion42110.280.941
CFColby Rasmus2375.223.689
DHAdam Lind1145.255.729
3B Maicer Izturis220.256..634
CJ.P. Arencibia1856.233.710
2BEmilio Bonifacio111.258.645
RHR.A. Dickey20-62.738.91.053
RHBrandon Morrow10-72.967.81.115
LHMark Buehrle13-133.745.61.171
RHJosh Johnson8-143.817.81.280
LHJ.A. Happ10-114.799.01.403
RHCasey Janssen222.549.50.864

2. Baltimore

They have a starting rotation that works even without a true No. 1 or 2 starter (with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman in reserve), a fabulous bullpen, and a lineup that is expected to have a healthy Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, and Nolan Reimold. They have one of the best managers who brings it together and a maturing core of Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Manny Machado.

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Chemistry rating: 5 — Nice mix, starts with Buck Showalter.

2012: 93-69, 2d; Manager: Buck Showalwter (4th year)

2BBrian Roberts05.182.415
RFNick Markakis1354.298.834
SSJ.J. Hardy2268.238.739
CFAdam Jones3282.287.839
CMatt Wieters2383.249.764
1BChris Davis3385.270.827
DHNolan Reimold510.313.960
3BManny Machado726.262.739
LFNate McLouth720.241.694
RHJason Hammel8-63.438.61.237
LHWei-Yin Chen12-
RHChris Tillman*9-32.936.91.047
RHMiguel Gonzalez9-
LHBrian Matusz6-104.877.41.561
RHJim Johnson512.495.41.019

3. Tampa Bay

The pitching factory will keep them alive even if their offense is below average. They have one of the best at the top in David Price and the best at the end in Fernando Rodney. They have starters Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, and Alex Cobb ready to take the next step to 200 innings. Shortstop Yunel Escobar is key to their improved infield defense.

Chemistry rating: 5 — Joe Maddon creates the great chemistry.

2012: 90-72, 3d; Manager: Joe Maddon (8th year)

CFDesmond Jennings1347.246.702
LFMatt Joyce1759.241.769
3BEvan Longoria1755.289.896
RFBen Zobrist2074.270.848
DHLuke Scott1455.229.724
SSYunel Escobar951.253.644
1BJames Loney641.249.630
CJose Molina832.223.640
2B Kelly Johnson1655.225.678
LHDavid Price20-53.528.71.100
RHJeremy Hellickson10-
LHMatt Moore11-113.818.91.348
RHAlex Cobb11-
RHJeff Niemann2-
RHFernando Rodney480.609.20.777

4. Boston

There are rotation questions after Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Some of their success will be measured by how Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront, and John Lackey perform. If the pitching is improved (27th in team ERA last year), they may be able to withstand the uncertainty of David Ortiz’s health. Can vets Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli recover from down seasons?

Chemistry rating: 5 — Good guys, but can they play?

2012: 69-93, 5th; Manager: John Farrell (1st year)

CFJacoby Ellsbury426.271.682
RFShane Victorino1155.255.704
2BDustin Pedroia1665.290.797
DHDavid Ortiz*2360.3181.026
1BMike Napoli2456.227.812
3BWill Middlebrooks1554.288.835
LFJonny Gomes1847.262.868
CJarrod Saltalamacchia2559.222.742
SSStephen Drew*728.223.657
LHJon Lester9-144.827.31.383
RHClay Buchholz11-84.566.11.326
RHRyan Dempster12-83.388.01.197
RHJohn LackeyINJURED IN 2012
LHFelix Doubront11-104.869.31.447
RHJoel Hanrahan362.7210.11.274

5. New York

It’s all about how they hang in and recover from injuries to four major players — Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, and Derek Jeter. They have a strong starting rotation (the best in the AL East last season) but Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte are long in the tooth. One more season for Mariano Rivera, who is still very good.

Chemistry rating: 4 — Mariano, Jeter, and Pettitte offset a splintered roster.

2012: 95-67, 1st; Manager: Joe Girardi (6th year)

SSDerek Jeter*1558.316.791
RFIchiro Suzuki955.283.696
1BMark Teixeira*2484.251.807
2BRobinson Cano3394.313.929
CFCurtis Granderson*43106.232.811
3BKevin Youkilis1960.235.745
DHTravis Hafner1234.228.784
CFrancisco Cervelli00.000.500
LFBrett Gardner03.323.804
LHCC Sabathia15-63.388.91.140
RH Hiroki Kuroda16-113.326.81.165
RHPhil Hughes*16-
LHAndy Pettitte5-42.878.21.142
RHIvan Nova12-
RHMariano Rivera52.168.60.960


1. Detroit

They’ve added Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter to an already potent lineup. Justin Verlander headlines a decent starting rotation. The issue is at closer, where 22-year-old Bruce Rondon will begin the season in Triple A. Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, and Phil Coke could share the duties. Fifth starter Rick Porcello needs to be solid.

Chemistry rating: 5 out of 5 — Together team gets even better with return of Victor Martinez.

2012: 88-74, 1st; Manager: Jim Leyland (8th year)

CFAustin Jackson1666.300.856
RFTorii Hunter1692.313.817
3BMiguel Cabrera44139.330.999
1BPrince Fielder30108.313.940
DHVictor MartinezINJURED IN 2012
LFAndy Dirks835.322.857
SSJhonny Peralta1363.239.689
CAlex Avila948.243.736
2BOmar Infante1253.274.719
RHJustin Verlander17-82.649.01.057
RHDoug Fister10-103.457.61.194
RHMax Scherzer16-73.7411.11.274
RHAnibal Sanchez9-133.867.71.267
RHRick Porcello10-124.595.51.531
RHJoaquin Benoit23.6810.61.667

2. Chicago

John Danks will start the season on the DL, but this could still be a good team with good arms in the rotation and bullpen. The lineup has power with Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn. Alex Rios became a complete player last season and must show consistency. Tyler Flowers has taken over for A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate. Jeff Keppinger should be a good addition.

Chemistry rating: 4 — Konerko keeps it together.

2012: 85-77, 2d; Manager: Robin Ventura (2d year)

CFAlejandro De Aza950.281.760
3BJeff Keppinger940.325.806
RFAlex Rios2591.304.850
DHAdam Dunn4196.204.800
1BPaul Konerko2675.298.857
LFDayan Viciedo2578.255.744
SSAlexei Ramirez973.265.651
2BGordon Beckham1660.234.668
CTyler Flowers713.213.708
LHChris Sale17-
RHJake Peavy11-123.378.01.096
LH John Danks*3-45.705.01.491
RHGavin Floyd12-
LHJose Quintana6-63.765.31.350
RHAddison Reed294.758.81.364

3. Cleveland

There’s a positive vibe with Terry Francona, but what can he do with a $76 million payroll? New players like Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Mark Reynolds improve the offense and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall appears primed for a breakout season. But the problem is the starting rotation — Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez combined for 32 losses last season.

Chemistry rating: 5 — Francona, Giambi, Swisher create the mood.

2012: 68-94, 4th; Manager: Terry Francona (1st year)

CFMichael Bourn957.274.739
SSAsdrubal Cabrera1668.270.762
2BJason Kipnis1476.257.714
1BNick Swisher2493.272.837
CCarlos Santana1876.252.785
LFMichael Brantley660.288.750
DHMark Reynolds2369.221.763
3BLonnie Chisenhall516.268.741
RFDrew Stubbs1440.213.610
RHJustin Masterson11-154.936.91.454
RHUbaldo Jimenez9-175.407.31.613
RHBrett Myers3-83.315.61.224
RHZach McAllister6-
LHScott Kazmir INDEP. LEAGUE IN 2012
RHChris Perez393.599.21.127

4. Kansas City

There’s more optimism in KC than there’s been in almost two decades. The reason? A retooled pitching staff led by James Shields. While there may be questions with the rest of the starters, the staff is better than it has been in years. Billy Butler leads what could be a productive offense. The Royals need a comeback by Jeff Francoeur.

Chemistry rating: 4 — A team that’s grown up together and adds a few new faces.

2012: 72-90, 3d; Manager: Ned Yost (4th year)

LFAlex Gordon1472.294.822
SSAlcides Escobar552.293.721
DHBilly Butler29107.313.882
3BMike Moustakas2073.242.708
CSalvador Perez1139.301.798
1BEric Hosmer1460.232.663
CF Lorenzo Cain731.266.734
RFJeff Francoeur1649.235.665
2BChris Getz017.275.672
RHJames Shields15-103.528.81.168
RHJeremy Guthrie8-124.765.01.409
RHErvin Santana9-
RHWade Davis3-02.4311.11.095
RHLuis Mendoza8-
RHGreg Holland162.9612.21.373

5. Minnesota

The Twins are retooling. They still base their offense around Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau and have an exciting young CF in Aaron Hicks, but this team will be starved for runs. Consistency could be a problem in the starting rotation. Vance Worley, acquired from the Phillies, didn’t have a good camp. Mike Pelfrey is coming back from Tommy John surgery.

Chemistry rating: 3 — New faces, but Mauer/Morneau set the tone.

2012: 66-96, 5th; Manager: Ron Gardenhire (12th year)

CFAaron HicksMINORS IN 2012
2BBrian DozierMINORS IN 2012
CJoe Mauer1085.319.861
LFJosh Willingham35110.260.890
1BJustin Morneau1977.267.773
DHRyan Doumit1875.275.781
RFChris Parmalee520.229.671
3BTrevor Plouffe2455.235.756
SSPedro Florimon110.219.579
LHScott Diamond*12-93.544.71.243
RHKevin Correia12-
RHVance Worley6-
RH Liam Hendriks1-85.595.31.574
RHMike Pelfrey0-
LHGlen Perkins162.5610.01.038


1. Los Angeles

A championship lineup with Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, etc. But will the rotation let them down? After Jered Weaver and the helter-skelter C.J. Wilson there could be issues (Tommy Hanson’s numbers have been on the decline). At some point Ryan Madson becomes the closer but until then the unpredictable Ernesto Frieri is the man.

Chemistry rating: 4 out of 4 — Talent over chemistry.

2012: 89-73, 3d; Manager: Mike Scoscia (14th year)

LFMike Trout3083.326.963
SSErick Aybar845.290.740
1BAlbert Pujols30105.285.859
RFJosh Hamilton43128.285.930
DHMark Trumbo3295.268.808
2BHowie Kendrick867.287.725
CChris Iannetta926.240.730
3BAlberto Callaspo1053.252.692
CFPeter Bourjos319.220.606
RHJered Weaver20-52.816.81.018
LHC.J. Wilson13-103.837.71.344
RHJoe Blanton10-134.717.81.262
LHJason Vargas14-113.855.81.178
RHTommy Hanson13-104.488.31.454
RHRyan Madson*INJURED IN 2012

2. Oakland

Do we expect a dropoff? Sort of, same as the Orioles. The A’s have an excellent, young starting rotation and top talent in the lineup in Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick. But can they repeat what they did last season? They have added the oft-injured Jed Lowrie to play third and Coco Crisp has also been prone to injury.

Chemistry rating: 5 — Loose, confident team who play together.

2012: 94-68, 1st; Manager: Bob Melvin (3d year)

CFCoco Crisp1146.259.742
SSJed Lowrie1642.244.769
RFJosh Reddick3285.242.768
LFYoenis Cespedes2382.292.861
1BBrandon Moss2152.291.954
DHSeth Smith1452.240.754
3BJosh Donaldson1933.241.687
CJohn Jaso1050.276.850
2BEric Sogard27.167.480
LHBrett Anderson4-22.576.41.029
RHJarrod Parker13-83.476.91.263
LHTommy Milone13-103.746.51.279
RHA.J. Griffin7-
RHDan Straily2-13.897.31.322
RHGrant Balfour242.538.70.924

3. Texas

What's life like without Josh Hamilton? The Rangers are about to find out. They also didn’t do enough to replace Mike Adams and Koji Uehara in the bullpen and their starting rotation could use another body. Can prospects Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt replace the production of Michael Young and Hamilton? The addition of A.J. Pierzynski brings fire and lineup help.

Chemistry rating: 3 — Losing Young may create an imbalance.

2012: 93-69, 2d; Manager: Ron Washington (7th year)

2BIan Kinsler1972.256.749
SSElvis Andrus362.286.727
DHLance Berkman27.259.826
3BAdrian Beltre36102.321.921
RFNelson Cruz2490.260.779
LFDavid Murphy1561.304.859
1BMitch Moreland1550.275.789
CA.J. Pierzynski2777.278.827
CFLeonys Martin06.174.605
LHMatt Harrison18-
RHYu Darvish16-93.9010.41.280
LHDerek Holland12-74.677.41.221
RHAlexi Ogando2-
RHNick TepeschMINORS IN 2012
RHJoe Nathan372.8010.91.057

4. Seattle

The offense is much improved with acquisitions of Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales, and injury-prone Franklin Gutierrez made it through spring training healthy. Michael Saunders was MVP of his WBC pool playing for Canada. Felix Hernandez signed a seven-year extension, eliminating a potential distraction during the season.

Chemistry rating: 3 — New faces need to jell, but losing Ichiro was a cleansing breath.

2012: 75-87, 4th; Manager: Eric Wedge (3d year)

CFFranklin Gutierrez417.260.729
3BKyle Seager2086.259.738
DHKendrys Morales2273.273.787
LFMichael Morse1862.291.791
1BJustin Smoak1951.217.654
CJesus Montero1562.260.685
RFMichael Saunders1957.247.738
2BDustin Ackley1250.226.622
SSBrendan Ryan331.194.555
RHFelix Hernandez13-
RHHisashi Iwakuma9-
LHJoe Saunders9-
RHBlake Beavan11-114.434.01.260
RHBrandon MaurerMINORS IN 2012
RHTom Wilhelmsen292.509.91.109

5. Houston

The other four teams in the division are thrilled to welcome the Astros. A good year would be 100 losses. They still have righty Bud Norris, but he could be traded. They have a chance on days he pitches. Carlos Pena and Erik Bedard can revive their careers and then be shoveled off at the trading deadline for more young talent.

Chemistry rating: 2 — Guessing that 100 losses won’t be good for chemistry.

2012: 55-107 (NL Cent.); Manager: Bo Porter (1st year)

2BJose Altuve737.290.740
1BBrett Wallace924.253.746
LFChris Carter1639.239.864
DHCarlos Pena1961.197.684
CFJustin Maxwell1853.229.764
CJason Castro629.257.735
3BMatt Dominguez516.284.787
RFRick Ankiel515.228.694
SSRonny Cedeno422.259.741
RHLucas Harrell11-113.766.51.358
RHBud Norris7-134.658.81.372
LHErik Bedard7-
RHPhil Humber5-56.447.51.539
RHBrad PeacockMINORS IN 2012
RHJose Veras13.6310.61.507

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