New York Yankees – The Yankees finished the 2013 season with a record of 85-77, which was far better than their Pythagorean record of 79-83. This current Yankees roster certainly has its flaws, but it is much stronger than last year’s team. After off-season additions of Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka, the roster still has multiple holes in the infield. Nevertheless, this is a much stronger roster than the team that won 85 games in 2013 and should be able to contend for a playoff spot, especially since their Starting Rotation is much improved with Masahiro Tanaka and a healthy Michael Pineda. The biggest issue facing the Yankees is their lack of depth beyond their starting players, in large part due to their weak farm system.
Seattle Mariners – The Mariners were not as successful as the Yankees in 2013, as they managed just a 71-91 record. Their offense was anemic, as they ranked 12th in the AL in Runs Scored. However they made numerous additions over the off-season in order to improve their offensive output. Among their additions was top Free Agent, Robinson Cano, as well as Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, who are all offense-first players. These players represent a shift for an organization that has focused on defense-first players in recent history. Injuries to Starting Pitchers Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton certainly hurt, but once they return the Mariners will certainly be contenders in a competitive AL West.
Los Angeles Angels – The Angels have been a major disappointment in each of the last two seasons, as they have failed to reach the Postseason after adding Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. While it is clear that Pujols is no longer the MVP-caliber player that he was in St. Louis, the Angels have other players that are ready to contribute. In 2013, both Hamilton and Pujols underperformed and it is realistic to expect each to rebound, even if not all the way to their best years. The Angels also have the best all-around player in the game in Mike Trout, who can anchor their lineup. Considering the expectations for better performances from their two most expensive hitters, it is no surprise the Angels are poised to contend in 2014, even after failing to reach the Postseason in 2013. However, it is not just their offense that looks likely to improve, as the Angels have also improved their rotation through the additions of Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago. Despite the injury to Hamilton that will leave him out of commission for 6-8 weeks, this is still a very talented team that is more dynamic than its previous two teams.
Texas Rangers – In 2013,the Rangers missed the Playoffs by one game, as they lost Game 163 to the Tampa Bay Rays. They went into the off-season determined to ensure that did not happen again. GM Jon Daniels swapped 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler to Detroit in exchange for Prince Fielder, which will certainly increase their offensive production. They also signed Left Fielder Shin-Soo Choo to a 7-year, $130 Million deal. The greatest obstacle for the Rangers is their health, as they have already had multiple Starting Pitchers go down with injuries. Fortunately, Yu Darvish returned from his injury, but Matt Harrison and Derek Holland remain on the DL. While their pitching depth is being tested early on, this is still a team that will contend for a Playoff spot, especially if Holland and Harrison can pitch well upon their returns.
Washington Nationals – I’m sure it is not surprising to see the Nationals on this list, as they were picked by many pundits to reach the World Series last year, yet failed to even reach the Playoffs. This is a very similar team to last year’s; however, that roster was also very similar to the team that won 98 games in 2012. They are considered one of the most dynamic teams in the league with great pitching and fantastic offensive output. While the addition of Nate McLouth may seem minor, it gives them a great fourth outfielder in the event that one of their starters goes down with an injury, which really hurt them last year, as both Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth spent time on the DL. Once Doug Fister returns from the DL, their rotation will be another quality starter deeper than it was last year. The loss of Ryan Zimmerman for the next 4-6 weeks will definitely hurt, but this is a deep enough roster to contend without him, especially if Danny Espinoza can return to his previous form.
Milwaukee Brewers – The Brewers finished the 2013 season with a 74-88 record, which ranked them 4th in the NL Central. The Brewers were inactive for the majority of the off-season, until they handed out their first MLB contract of the off-season to Matt Garza. They also brought in platoon partners Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay to play 1st base, but they made few other additions this off-season. They actually traded away leadoff hitter, Nori Aoki, in exchange for Relief Pitcher Will Smith. Despite their quiet off-season, the Brewers are poised for a rebound season, especially if they can get a full season out of Ryan Braun. Adding Matt Garza to the rotation is also a significant upgrade to their rotation, which should naturally improve if Yovani Gallardo can rebound from a down season. The Brewers are off to a great start so far, with a record of 8-2. The most significant concern for the Brewers is their lack of depth throughout their team, which will be an issue if they have to deal with too many injuries.
San Francisco Giants – After winning the World Series in 2012, the Giants finished 2013 with a record of 76-86. They have not been a great offensive team in recent years, but their pitching has always been good enough to carry them. However, last year, their Starting Pitching was much worse than expected, as both Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum experienced down seasons. However, this season their pitching should be back to its previous level, as Matt Cain’s BABIP should return to normal and the addition of Tim Hudson will have to stabilize the back of the rotation. The Giants did not only rely on a rebound from their pitching, however, as they went out and signed Michael Morse to play Left Field and provide some much-needed pop to their lineup. It is beginning to seem as if the Giants will be a good team every-other season.