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Can Joey Votto lead Cincinnati back to a Reds October? (photo: Craig Turley, 2/22/13)
February Predictions For October BaseballPlayers are still getting used to the daily routine of Spring Training, but with games about to start, it is never too early to give a look at what the standings might look in October. While there are two Wild Card teams in each league, for now the focus will be on the division winners.American League East – New York YankeesWith the Blue Jays going all in, and the Rays and Orioles stocked with great young talent, many people are ready to write off the New York Yankees as being too old to compete. It just seems as though this core group of guys will have one more run in them. Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter are expected to return to full strength by the beginning of the season, and if Michael Pineda can begin pitching by the middle of the season, they could have a solid #2 starter. They might not be built for the playoffs, but they win a hotly contested American League East.American League Central – Detroit TigersDetroit might have the best rotation in baseball, and their lineup can score a lot of runs. It is easy to see why they are the pick in the Central. This division has been known as one of the weakest in baseball the past few years, but the four other teams are making some moves with an eye on the future. Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera are reason enough to buy into Detroit.American League West – Los Angeles AngelsAfter their spending spree a season ago, the Angels finished behind the Rangers and the A’s in their division. The response? Go spend more money. Josh Hamilton joins an already potent lineup with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout that will strike fear into the rest of the league, it has an almost https://www.fanduel.com/fantasy-baseball”>fantasy baseball look to it. There are still some pitching questions, but Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton could all add some depth to the rotation this season.National League East – Atlanta BravesThe Nationals exceeded expectations a season ago, but there are some question marks surrounding them heading into 2013. They might be able to land a Wild Card spot, but the division will go to the new look Atlanta Braves. Gone is future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, and in is Justin and BJ Upton.Atlanta made a name for itself in the 1990s by relying on solid pitching. Their rotation looks decent on paper, but their offense will have to carry them if they want playoff success. National League Central – Cincinnati RedsMuch like last season, the Cincinnati Reds are just built to win a lot of games. That has not translated to the playoffs very well, but that mostly has to do with their lack of a true ace. Offensively, few teams can match Cincinnati when you step back and look at things.Shin-Soo Choo joins an already potent lineup this season, but the key to their success will be to see if Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos steps up to be that go-to pitcher the Reds need. Neither one has been able to come through just yet.National League West – Los Angeles DodgersThe defending World Series champions won’t be too happy about this, but the Dodgers have emerged as the best team in their division. The one-two punch of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke is scary for any opponent, and their offensive firepower is among the best in baseball as well. Health is always a concern for any club, but they should be able to put together a great season overall due to their depth.