Baseball's Most Improved Teams in 2012

Baseball's Most Improved

By Paul Grossinger

Los Angeles Angels:

The Los Angeles Angels made the most significant offseason jump for 2012. Signing Albert Pujols will boost the whole offense.

Although stat-heads will tell you his average WAR has decreased over the last three seasons to only 5.4, he remains an elite-level individual player and his presence in the center of the lineup will elevate the Angel's other middling hitters. The Angels also added C.J. Wilson and he should become a top complimentary starter in their rotation, which is now the best in baseball. Although I am not sure the Angels are objectively better than the Rangers, who may make a spectacular addition of their own in Yu Darvish, they have made the right moves to once again compete annually for the division title.

Chicago Cubs:

New Cubs President Theo Epstein finally did the deed; he is executing a full team down operation on the Cubs major league roster and rebuilding the team from the ground up for sustained long-term success. The Cubs best assets are Rookie Ball and High A prospects pitcher Dillion Maples, LF Dan Vogelbach, 3B Jeimer Candelario, and 2B Javier Baez so Epstein has two-three years to clear dead money off the roster and add other impact prospects. He began that process this offseason by shipping off troublemaking former ace Carlos Zambrano, adding top 1B prospect Anthony Rizzo, and trading for intriguing upside starters Travis Wood and Chris Volstad. If the Cubs can ship of Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd in the right deals and trade Garza for significant assets (Detroit prospects pitcher Jacob Turner and 3B Nick Castellanos would be exceptional) then the team could be well on its way to contending in the Central Division by 2014.

Anthony Rizzo
San Diego Padres first baseman Anthony Rizzo (27) waits for a ball to be hit his way during an MLB baseball game between the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California

Cincinnati Reds:

Credit Walt Jocketty for recognizing his team needs and just going for it. The Reds had the National Leagues' best hitting and near-worst pitching staff in 2011, which convinced Jocketty to keep his offense intact and trade for young ace Mat Latos, top left-handed reliever Sean Marshall, and sign elite closer Ryan Madson. The Reds pitching will now be above average and, if their offense remains dominant, will contend in 2012 and have a much better chance of signing MVP first baseman Joey Votto to a new long term deal.

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