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Batter Up! Maxim’s 2013 Baseball Preview

The Nationals are favorites, the Red Sox are rebuilding and the Astros are in the American League. What the hell is going on with baseball? To help wrap our heads around the madness we tapped an MLB Network brain trust of analysts - Sean Casey and Eric Byrnes, and the co-host of “Intentional Talk” Kevin Millar. So who will prevail this year? Read on and find out.



AL East
Sean Casey - Tampa Bay Rays: They still have unbelievable pitching led by David Price, who will take his arsenal to another level this year. 
Eric Byrnes - Toronto Blue Jays:  I am drinking the blue Kool-Aid like everybody else. 
Kevin Millar - Toronto Blue Jays: They have strong starting pitching and a healthy bopper in Jose Bautista. What’s not to like?
Maxim – Tampa Bay Rays: With the Yankees and Red Sox no longer in evil empire mode, the Rays have what it takes to climb to the top. Having the best manager in the game will do that.

AL Central
Sean Casey - Detroit Tigers: Even with only Cabrera and Fielder, they had a solid lineup last year. Now, they’ve added Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez is back. Look out!
Eric Byrnes - Detroit Tigers: World Series losers a year ago get even better with the return of Victor Martinez and the addition of Torii Hunter.
Kevin Millar - Detroit Tigers: Not only did they add Torii Hunter, but their rotation after Verlander is flying under the radar.
Maxim – Detroit Tigers: Cabrera, Fielder, Hunter and Martinez in the middle of the order is just nasty. Having the best pitcher in the game is gravy.



AL West
Sean Casey - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Mike Trout will avoid the sophomore slump and put up ridiculous numbers with Josh Hamilton now part of the lineup.
Eric Byrnes - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels landed the top free agents in last two off seasons with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, and they have the best player in the game in Mike Trout. 
Kevin Millar - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: I know people say that Fielder and Cabrera are the best three-four combination in the game, but I’ll take Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. Oh, and I forgot, they have Mike Trout as well.
Maxim – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: We’re tempted to penalize them because of the annoying name (is it LA or Anaheim?!? Make up your minds!) but you can’t argue with a team that has three legitimate MVP candidates in Pujols, Hamilton and Trout.



AL Wild Card
Sean Casey - Boston Red Sox: I like how Boston added grinders in Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes. These guys are not only good ballplayers, but they’ll create good chemistry in the clubhouse.  
Eric Byrnes - Kansas City Royals:  This is not a joke. I strongly believe Kansas City gets into the Postseason for the first time in 28 years.
Kevin Millar - Texas Rangers: Before last year, they went to the World Series for two straight seasons. I think Yu Darvish has an even better year and gets Texas into the Postseason.
Maxim – New York Yankees: Sure, the team is starting the season with $80 million on the disabled list, but once everyone’s healthy they’ll be back.



NL East
Sean Casey - Washington Nationals: People forget how good their rotation is after Stephen Strasburg. This team is loaded.
Eric Byrnes - Washington Nationals: The Nationals are the most complete team in baseball, led by Stephen Strasburg. 
Kevin Millar - Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg has no limits this season and they have the best bullpen in the bigs.
Maxim - Washington Nationals: The prospect of full seasons from Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper should have the rest of the league shaking in their cleats.



NL Central
Sean Casey - Cincinnati Reds: The Reds have needed an extra starter or two to put them over the hump the last few years. Homer Bailey will deliver that for them this year. 
Eric Byrnes - Cincinnati Reds: They have a strong lineup and solid starters, but their bullpen can be the difference maker down the stretch.
Kevin Millar - Cincinnati Reds: This is a scrappy team and Jay Bruce may wrestle the MVP Award away from his teammate Joey Votto.
Maxim – St. Louis Cardinals: The Cards always seem to show up when you’re least expecting them.

NL West
Sean Casey - San Francisco Giants: Tim Lincecum is going to bounce back and Pablo Sandoval will really become a force in the lineup. 
Eric Byrnes – Los Angeles Dodgers: Capitalism prevails and their record payroll should pay off. 
Kevin Millar - San Francisco Giants: Until you see the defending Champions get beat, you can’t pick against them. Buster Posey and company will be back. 
Maxim – Los Angeles Dodgers: The upside for this team is almost as big as the payroll.

NL Wild Card
Sean Casey - Pittsburgh Pirates: I’m going with Pittsburgh as my sleeper team. Garrett Jones is ready to bust out and Russell Martin is going to bring veteran leadership to the staff.
Eric Byrnes - San Francisco Giants: These World Series Champions aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. 
Kevin Millar - Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers could be as good as ever. They’re going to take some time to gel, but Don Mattingly is the right manager to guide the ship.
Maxim – San Francisco Giants: Don’t count out the defending champs, especially if the Freak returns to form.

AL Rookie of the Year
Sean Casey - Wil Myers (Rays):  Myers is going to help Evan Longoria in the Tampa Bay lineup and carry them into the Postseason.
Eric Byrnes - Aaron Hicks (Twins): The Minnesota Twins traded away two center fielders to clear the path for this stud from Long Beach.
Kevin Millar - Dylan Bundy (Orioles): Buck Showalter has a way of getting the most out of young players and Bundy will fall right in line. 
Maxim – Wil Myers (Rays): He may start the season in the minors, but that didn’t stop Bryce Harper or Mike Trout last year.



AL Cy Young
Sean Casey - Jered Weaver (Angels): A 20-game winner last year, his numbers can be even better this year with the help of a great defensive outfield.
Eric Byrnes - Justin Verlander (Tigers): He’s the most dominant pitcher of this generation.
Kevin Millar - Justin Verlander (Tigers): He’s the best pitcher on the planet so if he stays healthy, he’ll add another Cy Young to his resume.
Maxim – Justin Verlander (Tigers): Until further notice, you can pencil this guy in every season.



AL MVP
Sean Casey - Prince Fielder (Tigers): Heading into his second season in Detroit, he’ll be more relaxed and he has extra protection in the lineup. Fielder is going to have a monster year.
Eric Byrnes - Mike Trout (Angels): He’s 21-years old and he’s the best player in baseball. Life isn’t bad for this kid.
Kevin Millar - Albert Pujols (Angels): You can mark it down that he won’t hit .190 again this April. With Josh Hamilton now in the lineup, Pujols is going to rake.
Maxim – Mike Trout (Angels): He should have won last season, but will make up for this year.

NL Rookie of the Year
Sean Casey – Julio Teheran (Braves): He’s been lights out this spring and he’s got a strong chance to carry it over into the summer.
Eric Byrnes - Adam Eaton (Diamondbacks): Eaton is a late-round pick from Miami (Ohio) University, who has a career .456 OBP. 
Kevin Millar - Shelby Miller (Cardinals): The thing that impresses me with this kid is that he can command all his pitches which is rare for a young pitcher. 
Maxim: Adam Eaton (Diamondbacks): After torching Triple-A last year, Eaton’s ready to put big league pitchers on notice.



NL Cy Young
Sean Casey -  Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): As a former left-handed hitter, I’d have little chance facing Kershaw. Kershaw’s stuff is filthy and he’s headed into the prime of his career.
Eric Byrnes - Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): There is no better pitcher, let alone left-hander, in baseball.
Kevin Millar - Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers):  He’s got the best hammer in the game with his curveball.
Maxim – Stephen Stasburg (Nationals): With a full season of work, St. Stephen could reach 300 strikeouts.



NL MVP
Sean Casey - Joey Votto (Reds): Votto is an animal and if he didn’t get hurt last year, he might have won the MVP. If he stays healthy this year, he’ll collect his second trophy. 
Eric Byrnes  - Matt Kemp (Dodgers): A 40/40 season backed up with the NL West crown should lock up the award and get him whatever he wants in Hollywood.
Kevin Millar - Matt Kemp (Dodgers): He’s not only one of the best looking players in the game, but he’s a rare five-tool player.
Maxim – Matt Kemp (Dodgers): As long as he’s healthy, Kemp’s as good as it gets.

World Series
Sean Casey - Reds against the Angels with Cincinnati winning in six games. Cincinnati gets back to October glory behind a strong rotation and a nasty bullpen like the good old days.
Eric Byrnes - There will be a Fall Classic in Southern California with the Angels and Dodgers. There won’t be a Kirk Gibson fist pump this time, but the Dodgers will get what they paid for. Dodgers in six.
Kevin Millar - Washington Nationals over Detroit Tigers. The Nationals got a little taste of Postseason baseball last year, and they’re going to take that experience and use it to their advantage deep into October.
Maxim - Dodgers over Tigers. And Donnie Baseball finally gets his ring.

And if you still haven’t satisfied your Opening Day cravings, tune in to MLB Network for 15 hours of live coverage.

Check out more of Maxim's Sports Coverage:
The Biggest Winners and Losers of Spring Training
Behind The Walls at ESPN