Throughout the week, I will be making my picks for the National League, the American League, the AL Central, and awards for the Twins. Here is a look at the schedule so make sure to stop in all week to get yourself primed for the season to come.
2013 Preview Week
Monday: National League Preview
Tuesday: American League Preview
Wednesday: American League Central Preview
Thursday: Minnesota Twins Awards Preview
Friday: Friday Links-N-Thinks
With a young core of players and a strong pitching staff, the Nationals look to be the creme of the crop in the National League. Bryce Harper will get a full season to show his potential. There also won't be an innings limit on Stephen Strasburg. Both of these players are driven to show they can be the best in the game. Washington will get plenty of push from the Atlanta Braves but the Nats should have enough talent to walk away with their second consecutive NL East crown.
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis has won two of the last six World Series championships and they still made it to the NLCS last year after losing Albert Pujols. They have arguably the best minor league system in the game and some of those young players will be ready to make an impact in 2013. Shelby Miller and Oscar Taveras will be knocking on the door to the big leagues. The Cards also have solid arsenal of talent at the major league level that will look to win the division for the first time since 2009.
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers ownership group has stepped up to the plate and made sure they have a contender on the field. Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke might be one of the best top of the rotation duos in all of baseball. Matt Kemp needs to put his injury-plagued year behind him and show that he is an MVP candidate again. Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford will look to add some pop to the line-up as the team looks to make the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Wild Cards: Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants
The Braves have a chance to battle the Nationals for the top spot in the NL East. The pitching depth of the Nationals will separate the two clubs so Atlanta will have to settle for a Wild Card spot for the second year in a row. Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and BJ Upton might form the best outfield in the game. Craig Kimbrel is a force at the back end of the bullpen and Heyward will put himself in the MVP discussion.
The Giants have won two of the last three World Series and they will be looking to go back-to-back in 2013. It is going to be a struggle for them to even reach the playoffs and they will fight with the Reds through the last week of the season. Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are two of the best hurlers in the game. Buster Posey will look to earn his second straight MVP but Tim Lincecum continues to be a giant question mark.
Wild Card Game: Braves over Giants
NLDS: Nationals over Braves, Cardinals over Dodgers
NLCS: Nationals over Cardinals
NL MVP: Jason Heyward, Braves
Heyward is only 23-years old and he is all around game makes him one of baseball's most exciting players. He won a Gold Glove last year so his defense might not be the thing holding him back from taking home the hardware. His batting average was only .269 so he would definitely need a spike in this department. If he gets close to a 30-30 season and sees an improvement in average, the award will be his.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Over the last two seasons, Kershaw has lead the NL in ERA, WHIP, and Hits/9. He won the Cy Young in 2011 and he finished second last year to RA Dickey. His win total was a little low last year and the improvement in the Dodgers offense should lead to more run support in 2013. He will only be 25-years old this season and he has been a workhorse over the last few seasons. The Dodgers are looking to make a statement in the NL and Kershaw is their ace.
NL Rookie of the Year: Oscar Taveras, Cardinals
Bryce Harper is a tough act to follow but Oscar Taveras might have just the perfect situation to find success. He is considered one of the best prospects in the game and the Cardinals will look to be a solid team in the National League. Taveras won't start the year in the big leagues but he will make enough of an impact in the stretch run to separate himself from some of the rookie pitchers like Zach Wheeler and Tyler Skaggs.
NL Manager of the Year: Mike Matheny, Cardinals
There are plenty of coaches that will be vying to take home this award but the Cardinals haven't won their division multiple seasons. Matheny did a good job guiding the club to a Wild Card birth in his first year at the helm. It is tough to step into the spot of a future Hall-of-Fame manager but Matheny has a solid organization around him. This will help him to standout above the crowd.